[Alexandros] (ex-[Champagne]) interview (2013.05)
The Japanese indie-rock foursome [Champagne] (which, since the interview, the band changed its name to [Alexandros]) played its first ever overseas show in London on 2013.05.15 at The Pipeline club, so, as I was in the city anyways, I dropped a message to Tom from Japan Underground who was organizing the show (as part of a long line of similar shows in the UK during the last few years) and asked if there is a chance for an interview. He said yes, so I sat down with the band an hour before the show and asked them (well, actually the two of them, who were fluent in English) about their past, present, future, their music style, their influences… and about Schwarzenegger.
This your first time in Europe, so how do you feel about playing here?
Yoohei (Yoohei Kawakami – vocals & guitar): Yes, as a band, it is our first time and we feel totally overwhelmed about all this!
Hiroyuki (Hiroyuki Isobe – bass & chorus): Yes! It is such a pleasure to be here! Honestly! Ever since 2001, we always wanted to come to play in the UK, this was one of our biggest goals… so, you are witnessing a dream come true!
So, it all started back in 2001?
Yoohei: Yes, when I was still a university student. We had a few line-up changes, then Masaki (Masaki Shirai – guitar) joined the band in 2007 and Satoyasu (Satoyasu Shoumura – drums) in 2010.
Hiroyuki: And I joined back in 2001, so the two of us are the oldest members.
Yoohei: Yeah, so we’ve been playing together for 13 or 14 years? But basically it was me who started the band originally with five members, but all four of the others left… or more like, ran away, when they realized that I am really serious about the band. *laughs*
And ever since the beginning, your music was influenced by the UK music scene quite a lot…
Yoohei: Yes! Especially by Oasis, Primal Scream and all the other britpop bands. Like Pulp, Supergrass. And Radiohead, of course.
And even your bandname came from a classic britpop song.
Yoohei: Yes, from Champagne Supernova by Oasis.
So, your main influence was britpop, but how would you describe your own music?
Hiroyuki: While we are mostly influenced by UK bands, we also do metal, jazz and so on. But you know, the way we do music works kind of like an mp3 player. Or as if we were playing DJ maybe. I mean, like when we play this 8-beat UK rock, but then we are like “OK, let’s put some metal to the chorus!” We like lots of music, especially from the ’90s, so we mix it all up. So, basically, our music is a new kind of mixture.
Yoohei: And a very free, freestyle mixture. Everything we like put together. Like he said, it is like playing a DJ set, with all songs and styles mixed together. That’s how we make music.
And how about the lyrics?
Yoohei: Ahh, the lyrics! Well, my lyrics doesn’t really have any meaning, because if they would, the listeners could not put their own feeling into the song. So, I make them kind of empty. If it sounds nice, that’s fine for me.
Hiroyuki: He lets the listeners imagine things.
Yoohei: For me, that’s the difference between poems and lyrics. If you are writing a poem, you put meaning to it, but when you write lyrics it is different, it is all about the sound.
After releasing three albums so far and playing countless shows, by now, you actually became quite successful in Japan, right?
Yoohei: Weeell, yeah. We can make a living by playing music, so, if you call that a success, then yes, we are successful.
Hiroyuki: But we are not the most successful band in Japan, so… we are not big enough yet! *laughs*
Yoohei: What we call a real success is to be the number one band in the world, so we have a long way to go!
Now, that your dream of playing in the UK came true, do you plan to concentrate more on the international market?
Yoohei: The States! We wanna play in the US!
Hiroyuki: Yes and as I used to live in LA, I would especially love to go to play there.
Yoohei: And I used to live in Syria. But I don’t wanna go back there! *laughs* It became the most dangerous contry in the world.
Hiroyuki: And your country, Hungary of course! Actually, we would love to play each and every country in Europe. Or all over the world.
Yoohei: Except Syria!
Hiroyuki: Except Syria? No! I personally include Syria as well. Just out of curiosity.
Yoohei: No, please don’t, I am not going there!! *laughs*
So, maybe a Hiroyuki solo show for Syria?
And could you tell us about the indie-rock scene in Japan nowadays?
Yoohei: It is getting kinda bigger. I mean, ten years ago indie bands were all really underground. But now they can get signed to a major label, like we did finally, three years ago. Back then no indie band was invited to play at tv-shows, but it changed and we can also play the same festivals as the big, major bands. So, there are no boundries between major and indies bands anymore.
And what was the point in your life, when you decided to become a full time musician?
Yoohei: When my brother gave me an album from Guns N’ Roses, when I was just nine years old.
Which album was that?
Yoohei: Appetite For Destruction, the one with Welcome To The Jungle. At first I didn’t really like it, I was like what the fuck is this? Because it was too hard for me at the time, but then later I was like, “Hey, wait a minute, this is actually cool!” It was then, when I thought that this is the kind of music I want to listen to. But then, when I was about 13 years old, I listened to Oasis and they just changed my life once and for all.
Hiroyuki: To me it was when I met Yoohei. I always liked music ever since I was young and I was the kind of guy who likes to stand out, who always dreamt of being on stage and so on. And when I listened his music, that’s when i thought that with him, it all can come true.
Your next album will come out early this summer. What can we expect, will there be any significant changes compared to your earlier releases?
Yoohei: Yeah, I think so. We changed a few things, like we use piano now, a lot of piano actually… even though none of us can play the piano! And I think we put the melodies more at the front now, so people can sing along with us. This is something that didn’t really happen before. At the gigs, the audience were shouting and going “waaaahh!!”, but did not really sing along, but now, when we play our new songs, which have the melody more at front, they started to do it.
Hiroyuki: Earlier, we kind of buried the melody with arrangements, but for this album, we changed this and we let the melody stand out a lot more.
And where do you see the band in five years? What are your long-term plans?
Yoohei: We want to play at Glastonbury one day! That’s basically the biggest goal that we have. I mean, we would like to play all over Europe and the US, but Glastonbury, that is our real dream. Of course everybody says that naah, you can’t do it, you are stupid to even dream about it. But that’s the thing about dreams, they have to be big, you know.
Well, afterall, you are playing at a UK festival tomorrow (at the Great Escape festival in Brighton, which was the second and last date of their UK “mini-tour”)!
Yoohei: Yes, so, that is like a first step for us on our was to the big dream.
And one last question is. It is just something I was kind of curious about… it is the title of your last album. It was “Schwarzenegger”.
Yoohei: Well, yes…?
Why? I mean like, really, why!?
Yoohei: Ahh! *laughs* Ohh, well, actually it was just the sound of it, I though that it’s cool, so, that’s all. There isn’t any special meaning behind that!
OK, so, thanks a lot for your time and enjoy your time in the UK!
Thanks a lot for Tom who made this interview (and the gig) possible!
Disclaimer: this interview was originally arranged for soundofjapan.hu.
The Pipeline (2013 May 15) setlist
09.Don’t Fuck with Yoohei Kawakami
11.You’re So Sweet & I Love You
[Champagne]: starrrrrrr (Live @ The Pipeline, London)
Shortly after the interview, the new album, called Me No Do Karate hit the stores on the 26th of June and around the same time, they also released two promotional videos, so check these below to see what they meant when they said that melodies became more prominent in their songs.