|(Photo: [L to R] Gt. AOI, Ba. REITA, Vo. RUKI, Ds. KAI, Gt. URUHA)|
the GazettE. Whoever hears those words either thinks of this prolific Japanese rock band or their local newspaper. Today, we are here to discuss the band, but those who thought otherwise are in for a huge surprise – and possibly a sort of musical revelation.
If you're already up to speed with the GazettE, you can probably skip these next one or two paragraphs. If you're really excited, you can probably just skip them all and go right into the interview.
For those that did not know, the GazettE (formerly ガゼット) formed in 2002 and originally hails from Kanagawa, Japan with a total of 33 releases in their discography. These five guys have long since made a name for themselves in the visual scene, influencing many along the way. Whether it's using smooth female vocals to replicate the soul in R&B (e.g. Stacked Rubbish) or experimenting with dubstep and EDM to find their own sound (e.g. DIVISION), the GazettE is definitely one band to have tried it all. Despite that range, they manage to remain true to their slick "psychedelic" theme. Garnering more and more fans (a.k.a. Sixth Guns), the GazettE managed to make their first overseas appearance during their 2007 European Tour Pulse Wriggling To Black 1.5 following the release of their album Stacked Rubbish. Unfortunately, the world would not see the band perform outside of Japan again until 2013.
That's not to say that the GazettE didn't see any success amid those years between. They not only provided the opening song to Black Butler II, but also began distributing their physical albums overseas via JPU Records among other notable accomplishments. In 2013, they managed to return to their overseas audience once more by performing at the Kubana festival in Russia. They shared the stage with Bullet For My Valentine, System of a Down, and many more. This festival only served as a precursor to their world tour in September that same year, hitting South America and Europe along the way, but when these guys go home, they go even bigger. In what we at VKH could document from their FINAL CODA at Yokohama Arena in early 2014 and this year's sold out DOGMATIC FINAL at Yoyogi Stadium, the GazettE have proven over and over that they have what it takes to take on the world. Of course, no band can make it internationally without dedicated fans – I mean, they've won the international J-MELO Awards' "Most Requested Japanese Artist" four times.
And for all of you fashionistas, they even have their own brand. You can learn about that by clicking here: [Rad Market]
Now, the GazettE involves the world in their current venture: PROJECT:DARK AGE. Made to celebrate their 13 "OMINOUS" years as of 2015, it began with the release of their latest album DOGMA as the first of many "movements" to come, landing the band #3 on the Oricon charts. As it comes closer to the end with the next three "movements", they return overseas once more in their upcoming world tour DOGMATIC -TROIS-. All the while, they make us more and more curious about what that GRAND FINALE just might be. Read on to see what these five highly respected and influential rockstars in the visual scene have to say regarding their tour, musical direction, and more!
VKH: In your 14 years of activity, this is the first time you’ll be able to do a full world tour that includes the U.S. and Canada. How do you feel about performing in front of your North American audience for the first time?
Vo. RUKI: I have no idea what’s in store for us but we try to put on the best shows no matter what country we’re in, so in that sense it won’t be any different. I’m looking forward to seeing how pumped we can get the audience.
Gt. URUHA: Performing shows in North America is right up there among the top things I want to experience. I’m really looking forward to it.
Gt. AOI: This is something I can honestly say I’ve wanted to do for a while now, so I just wanna get out there and show them what we’ve got.
Ba. REITA: The U.S.A. and Canada are two places I’ve always wanted to play so I’m looking forward to it.
Ds. KAI: Looking forward to it.
VKH: As with every début, there will be some people who do not know you. With a style as dynamic as yours, how would you describe your music to them?
RUKI: That’s a tough one... Let’s just say we’re more “dynamic” than what you’re expecting so please come to see what we’re about.
URUHA: We’re not your typical, middle-of-the-road rock band, but the rock we know and play as artists active in Japan’s visual scene is our own and hard to define.
AOI: That’s a tough question! We might have a heavy sound but we’re also conscious about having dramatic development and lyrics and things, and we hope that fans will be able to appreciate that side of it, too.
REITA: Melodic and heavy.
VKH: All of your activity up until this point is centered around PROJECT:DARK AGE. For example, your single UGLY was the third of many "movements" in the project, each bringing you closer to a GRAND FINALE. What was your goal when you first announced it?
RUKI: We wanted to introduce our band staff as members too because they’ve been here supporting us the whole time. Just be like, “Look at all these awesome people here.”
URUHA: Besides tying up everything DOGMA-related into one project, it was about putting the focus on staff in each department who has played an important role.
AOI: I think that back then, it was simply us wanting to introduce all the talented people who work with the GazettE, but at the same time with this strong sense of putting it out there that, hey, this is how amazing the people we’re creating things together with are!
REITA: It was just this feeling of wanting to take on the unknown!
KAI: We want people to know the band the GazettE on a deeper level.
VKH: When your next big anniversary comes around, how will you be able to top PROJECT:DARK AGE?
RUKI: PROJECT:DARK AGE will go on hiatus at the end of our DOGMATIC TOUR. To start on our next project.
AOI: PROJECT:DARK AGE is all about DOGMA, UGLY and UNDYING, the tours for those, and related artwork. So, when you ask us, “What’s next?” I don’t think there are a lot of people who will be seeing those contents. But it’s not about the next team—everyone we’ve worked with so far and everyone we’ll be working with in future, too, it’s always going to be an amazing team and that will never change.
REITA: Even we don’t know the answer to that yet.
VKH: Your latest album DOGMA conveys a strong message of rejecting other people’s standards, or dogma, in order to establish your own. What made you, as a band, decide to send such a strong message?
RUKI: When we were recording DOGMA there was this strong feeling of, “How are things, including the situation we put ourselves in, supposed to be?” It’s sort of like a philosophy for us, unchanged even now.
URUHA: It was also something we learned during our 2014 FC.HERESY tour. We took a close look at the GazettE—and by “we” I don't just mean the band members, but our fans too—over the course of a year and this was what it led us to in our search for an answer.
AOI: the GazettE has to-date tended to use a decently large amount of techniques to bring or give meaning to things. Even though the scene we call visual-kei is still very much a minor one even in Japan, it attracts a lot of young people and there is a lot of friendly rivalry going on. So that we didn’t get buried in all that, we felt like we had to clearly define our own narrative and vision, I think.
REITA: We want to be defined on our own terms.
KAI: It’s what it takes to make it as a band now.
VKH: As a successful major band who has remained true to yourselves throughout your career, what advice do you have for newer bands facing the temptations of “selling out” in the music scene (especially rock)?
RUKI: In a business sense, there’s nothing wrong with that. But then I think, could you just be dead to how you feel and keep making songs and music for the next ten years? There’s gonna come a day someday where you’ll ask yourself, “Is this even rock anymore?”
URUHA: I think it’s possible for anyone to start thinking “pop” in order to get more people to listen to them, especially when it comes to Japan’s visual scene. But you have to keep thinking about what gets lost when that happens. I think you should just believe that by letting your style come through and staying true to that instead, that music no-one was listening to before can become something that gets recognized by that wider “pop” audience.
AOI: Wanting to sell records isn’t a bad thing so it’s not like I should be giving advice on it, but their music might be a little lacking in something, you know? I mean, if you pursue the diversity or whatever of trying to be “interesting” and posting instant photos more than wanting people to really feel your music, there’s no need to be visual-kei in the first place, right?
REITA: Everyone’s got their own style so I’m not gonna try and deny other people that, but...I wouldn’t be able to sit down and have a drink with them. (laughs)
KAI: Individuality is what makes the music or band, I think. Music that just wants to sell isn’t music.
VKH: Fans have been wanting the GazettE’s style to return to something similar to DIM, yet DOGMA appears to be a drastically heavier style in comparison. Was the intensity of this album done in part as a response to those pressuring you to revisit your previous styles?
RUKI: If we were to do everything that the fans requested, we would have resigned as a band a long time ago. It’s not that it’s the same as DIM because both DIM and DOGMA are just a single part of who we are.
URUHA: We’re aware that each of our albums definitely has a different style but since we’re always doing our best through trial and error, using our skills and preferences at that time, we can’t respond to fans by producing music with the same feeling as our past works because that in itself no longer exists.
AOI: No, it’s not like that. For example, if a theater company always did the same musical for many years, would everyone keep going over and over to see them? For bands as well, even though we might have a successful style for doing shows, isn’t it better that we can put forward new ideas one after the other?
REITA: DOGMA is a response.
KAI: That’s incorrect. It’s us constantly exploring our potential.
VKH: In the three albums preceding DOGMA (TOXIC, DIVISION, and Beautiful Deformity), you experimented heavily with electronica and production effects, and successfully applied those effects to your core sound. How did those three albums affect how you wrote and produced DOGMA?
RUKI: As for the music genre, we don’t have any particular influences. It was just that the things we wanted to express in those three albums were different.
URUHA: Adopting lots of dubstep and electronic effects into the band’s sound was the only way we could really become aware of how a wide range of music tones compliment each other. But in order for the finished product to still be heavy, we had to change our fixed ideas of how the band should sound. It was difficult, but I think in the end we were able to enhance our consciousness of the band’s sound quality.
AOI: For DOGMA, one of our themes was to try our best and exclude the EDM-like elements and instead come back to a more authentic band sound. In that circumstance, we wanted to convey our respect for our past in the visual kei scene and show the natural power of the band as we move towards the future.
REITA: We did all of this for DOGMA.
VKH: Would you consider this darker sound to be your true core sound as a band, or is this another form of your experimentation with different genres?
RUKI: It’s not all dark. We’re just showing a single part of who we are. Of course, we also love poppy songs as well as ballads so you can expect to hear those in the future.
URUHA: For me, the darker sound is what I love the most so I’d be happy if we gained recognition from outsiders as representing this kind of dark sound.
AOI: Or rather, even though we challenged ourselves with DOGMA, the inclination was towards a dark sound. We’ve always been a band with a free composition style and that will not change. Our true sound only exists inside of our minds so you can still look forward to being surprised with great sounds in our future releases.
REITA: It’s both an experiment and the essence of the band.
KAI: It’s always experimental.
VKH: While DOGMA has a clear uniqueness in style, you have found ways to incorporate some familiar rhythms of the past into songs like “INCUBUS,” “LUCY,” and “GODDESS.” What are your plans moving forward for how you will continue to incorporate these darker and heavier themes into future releases?
RUKI: We’re not going to do the same thing. We plan to have yet another different approach
URUHA: On the contrary, I think that unless we have a reason to eliminate these themes, we will continue to express them.
AOI: This is the same point as my earlier response but bouncing ideas off each other like “What kind of theme should we create?” or “What should we do about the color scheme?” is one of the best things about being in a band. For future projects, I want the 5 of us to produce music, talk it over and then make a decision.
REITA: I think it’s going to become even heavier.
KAI: We will adopt whatever we think is necessary for the future.
VKH: You will be making your U.S. debut as part of your world tour. What songs from your expansive library will you focus on showing to audiences that have never seen you live before? Any chance the die-hard U.S. fans will get a taste of old-school fan-favorites like “LINDA” or “Kanto Dogeza Kumiai”?
RUKI: I can’t say that for certain.
URUHA: If the American fans are expecting it and the feelings are strong enough, I think there’s a possibility.
AOI: U.S. debut!? There’s no such thing, but it would be nice if that were true! But in the GazettE, since we have lots of tunings for the stringed instruments, in actuality it ends up really narrowing down the kinds of songs that we can choose. The other day we did a survey on Twitter, but songs like “LINDA” and “Kanto Dogeza Kumiai” didn’t really show up in the results.
REITA: As much as possible, I want to perform the songs that everyone is hoping for.
KAI: We’ll decide based on how we feel during the performance.
VKH: What kind of mark are you hoping to leave after your tour? Do you believe your societal messages and concepts will cross cultural lines, and become more global?
RUKI: I want to show our music to many people. In the same way, that music from overseas has reached Japan, I believe that Japanese music can definitely reach everyone overseas.
URUHA: I feel like more than wanting to leave behind some kind of achievement or imparting a specific message, if they were to just feel like “What the hell are these Japanese people?!”, that would be good enough so I want many people to come and experience the GazettE live.
AOI: Of course since we’ve crossed the ocean at long last, I want to do a tour that everyone will be happy with. Rather than us saying things like “we want to be global”, if we could give everyone the kind of tour they’ve been hoping for, I’ll be perfectly satisfied with just that.
REITA: If the fans who come can say that they had a good time I’ll be satisfied.
KAI: If we can build the kind of environment where we could go back at any time, I think that would be great.
VKH: You are well-known in Japan for your fantastic live performances. How would describe the atmosphere of your lives to fans in the U.S. and Europe who have never seen you live before?
RUKI: I think it’s aggressive but that alone isn’t the GazettE. We also want them to get the beauty of our melodies.
URUHA: It’s impossible for me to give an objective opinion, so for starters, please listen to the songs. And then during the lives, we'll attack the songs straight on.
AOI: In shows in Japan, the audience moves as one, and seeing it from the stage is one of the best parts. Overseas, compared to Japan, the atmosphere seems more like you can let loose and have fun. Singing along, moving your body and shouting. It looks like fun!
REITA: It’s a mass of immense energy.
KAI: It’s a concert where the bands and the fans can become one entity.
VKH: Are there any future plans that you would like to share?
RUKI: I want to keep steadily going overseas. Since most of our activities are in Japan, if we can make these days successful, that will be the key to deciding what we do in the future.
URUHA: First of all, we want to get to our GRAND FINALE this year. After that, I think we will announce our activities in order.
AOI: We began our activities for DOGMA over a year ago, so I want to carry it through to the end and have the greatest show without losing any of our motivation. Then when DOGMA is over, we’ll think about everything else!
REITA: We’ll think about it during the world tour.
KAI: It’s a secret.
VKH: Thank you so much for your time! Would you please send a message to your fans and our readers?
RUKI: I definitely want you to come to the show. It’s our destiny to allow you to experience that “this kind of music exists” with your own body.
URUHA: I’m so thankful for the miracle of being able to share our music with everyone through the GazettE. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone at the show.
AOI: At long last we’ll be having our first world tour in three years. We’re all really looking forward to it, so everyone please take this opportunity to come and see the GazettE’s show. I’m looking forward to the day when I can sing with everyone again!
REITA: I’m really looking forward to meeting our fans all over the world!
KAI: I’ll be waiting for you at the show so everyone, please look forward to it!
Special thanks to Agency for the Performing Arts, Backstage Project, and Sony Music Entertainment Japan for making this interview possible!
You can experience one of their highly acclaimed live performances on their tour DOGMATIC -TROIS-! Check to see if they'll be in a city near you:
the GazettE Tour Dates
You can also purchase their latest full album DOGMA, and pre-order their upcoming single UNDYING on iTunes and CD Japan!
14. OMINOUS (Lyric Video)
[DVD] (Limited Edition only)
01. "UNDYING" MUSIC VIDEO
02. MAKING OF "UNDYING" MV