“It’ s okay to be small as long as there is music” JESSE（RIZE, The BONEZ）
How was today’s live?
“It was just the right time of the day. The sunlight shining through the trees was changing every minute. We could only see the audience’s eyes since they were wearing masks, but their eyes are amazing!”
You can feel their expressions.
“I’ve never done a live performance with so much eye contacts before. I really wanted them to sing and dance along, but this time, it was not possible, so I purposely didn’t add any percussion. I wanted to do it alone and freely. It worked perfectly.”
Yes, it was a really good live performance. Both of JESEE’s bands, The BONEZ and RIZE, used to have the audience mosh and dive and enjoy the music, but now they can’t do that. How do you feel about that?
“This spring, The BONEZ did a nationwide tour, and before we started, I was actually a little scared. The reason was because we were going to perform at a venue where we would never be able to perform at our maximum like before, so I thought, ‘There’s no way we can be better than before.’ I faced it thinking I don’t want to be disillusioned by it, and then smack in my face.”
What do you mean?
“In the past, it was important for the audience to go wild, scream loudly, mosh, and dive……. But instead, when I started focusing on thinking, ‘I can sing more!’ ‘How can I make my next words resonate more comfortably with everyone?’, it became so much fun. Previously, I was just running thru my performance, but now, it feels good to cherish each word. It’s the same with today’s performance. That’s why Coronavirus is already ‘It’s all right’ for me. I thought I was robbed of everything by Coronavirus, when I lost a lot 2 years ago.”
(LOL). Yes, indeed.
“In fact, everyone was supposed to be way ahead of me, but they all stopped because of this Coronavirus situation. So, I was able to catch up. And I think I’m actually starting to outrun them. Regardless of whether you’re famous or not, there are people who want to perform live but can’t, but we are doing it. There is no choice by to keep building on. As we continue to improve ourselves in this way, I feel the only thing we can do for our friends is to hold more events like this one.”
It’s nice to have an outdoor concert of this size, isn’t it?
“As mentioned in the MC, I hope there will be more outdoor events for hundreds of people like this. But in order to do so, we would need support from the neighborhood, ward, and city. If we do guerrilla events, people will say, ‘I knew rock music is no good,’ or ‘music is no good.’”
“For us, rock and music are necessities. We are told to stay home and refrain from going out unnecessarily, but for us, it’s as necessary as going out. However, if we continue to do so without permission, it will lead to the destruction of the music scenes which we have built over decades. But today we have officials as well as me, who’s been arrested 2 years ago (LOL).”
“And there’s also KenKen, Mari-chan (Mari Kaneko), and my dad (Char). My parents’ generation is here, our generation is here, and since I brought my kids today, there are three generations enjoying the music. Looking back, it’s so diverse and wonderful. It would be great if events like this could be held in parks all over the place. Then, the music will reach people walking on the city, and more people can enjoy the music. I’m also working on a project called ‘Bring the HOPE project’ where we play music in parks.”
What kind of project is it?
“When Haiti was hit by the earthquake in 2010, I held a free live concert on May 4th at Togoshi Park in my hometown, Shinagawa Ward, and sent the video to the people in Haiti instead of money. At that time, I said, ‘I won’t announce it, but every year on May 4th, I’ll be doing a free live here, so please come. The more HOPE there is, the more HOPE will spread.’ The following year, despite the Great East Japan Earthquake, I think 40-50 people came. And two years ago, in 2019, the audience grew to 1,000 people.”
“This year, I broadcasted from the rooftop of my parents’ house because of the Coronavirus crisis situation. So, when I heard about ‘Solarism,’ I thought it was very similar. Today we all brought our own equipment and lighting, and although it’s not like a large-scale festival, people who came are moved by the music. It’ s okay to be small as long as music is there. That’s why I felt ‘Solarism’ was in a good way, very ‘this year’, and I felt close to it, so I wanted to liven it up together. I’m not an expert in anything, but I do think musicians has a role in lighting the candle in the dark.”
Could you tell us your plans for the future of the “Bring the HOPE project”?
“The year 2020 was our 10th anniversary. Actually, for 10 years from the 11th year was to perform live in parks, camping facilities, and places where camping cars could park all over Japan, then go to a different country and finally return to Togoshi Park for the 20th year – that was my original dream. But I haven’t been able to do that from my 11th year because of the Coronavirus.”
But you’re going to start moving again, aren’t you?
“Absolutely. Next year, I need to start doing things even if I get scolded. When I started music, I was told, ‘You dare to play this kind of genre,’ or ‘You’re just Char’s son,’ and there was no easy path to follow. Waiting for government’s OK sign doesn’t start, so I want to do it with morals and show them that my audience has morals.”
Building trust while moving.
“Even for the Togoshi Park project, the ward office kept saying ‘NO’ at first. In the end, they said, ‘You have a lot of things you want from Shinagawa Ward Office, including the use of the park. What can you offer in return that the ward office doesn’t have?’ And I thought, ‘What shit is this guy?’”
“I thought, ‘nothing but human power,’ but I discussed it with everyone. Then we realized the park is designated as a disaster evacuation zone, so if a lot of people come to the park, we can get statistics. If we hold an event with 1,000 people and there’s a huge crowd, we’ll know if an entrance will be jammed, and when that happens, where we should direct people. When I suggested, ‘Shinagawa Ward doesn’t have such statistics, right?’ they let me do it.”
“I think this approach will work elsewhere. I’m sure other parks and evacuation zones don’t have such statistics. So, I think it’d be great to have more and more events like this in the parks to collect statistics and make use of them in times of disasters. It took us a long time to get there. I should have said it sooner (LOL). But now I can share my experience in order to expand ‘Solarism.’”
Sharing is important, isn’t it?
“Normally many things can only be solved with money, but I think now is the time when we can unite with manpower rather than money. I feel that everyone is doing their best where money is not relevant. That’s why I’d like to collaborate with ‘Solarism’ and ‘Bring the HOPE project’ in various ways.”
“Coming here might help us understand what music really is.” Char
Currently, many restrictions are placed on live performances, but how do you feel this is changing music and the music industry?
“The music scene definitely has changed, for both the performers and the audience. There have been crises like this in the past, but we never thought we’d be facing such a global epidemic in our own lifetime. So, we all didn’t know how to react.”
“There were many things that I thought about, but I came to the conclusion that since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been doing whatever they want, destroying nature, and as a result, we are now vulnerable to things we can’t see. On the other hand, there are more birds around my house, stray cats are doing their best, these guys are strong. I used to think that humans were the greatest creatures on earth, but now I know for sure that’s not the case.”
“But among all the other creatures and animals, only humans can specialize and enjoy music, right? In other words, only humans can feel joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure. It’s not about education, but even if you don’t speak the language or understand the lyrics, you can feel sadness from a sad melody and cheerfulness from a cheerful melody. That is universal, isn’t it? Why is this so? I think the reason lies in our DNA. Perhaps the greatest talent we humans have is music.”
Do you mean that the ability to enjoy/feel music is a talent that all human beings have in common, regardless of our skin color, language, or religion?
“Yes. That’s why I think now is the time to face the power of music. Why did I think the Rolling Stones and The Beatles were good when I was a kid and didn’t even understand English? It’s because they transcended language. Of course, the emergence of the electric guitar, which was a new instrument at the time, might have also been the reason. But I don’t think rock music was originally meant to be played in stadiums.”
Should it be done within earshot of the people?
“Nowadays, we can play in big venues because of the development of PA and various technologies, but I think it’s really meant to be played in places this size, for people who like it to gather and have fun. The performers can see that they are being listened to.”
In your words, Char, are you saying that we should take this opportunity to return to the human DNA level and think about music?
“Yes. You have to think in terms of a one-to-one sensibility, or where the music is established as a conversation. Of course, it’s fine to have likes and dislikes. It’s not something to force everyone to empathize. But I think we need to go back to our roots, not only in music, but in sports as well. We need to rethink what music originally was. Today, between the loud Taiji Sato’s guitar and the MCs, the evening cicadas were making a beautiful sound.”
“I enjoyed the live performance itself, and during the silence, I could hear the murmuring of the river and the chirping of insects and birds. That’s not possible in my daily life, even though we’re also in Tokyo. I thought this event was great because the children playing on the riverbank today were unconsciously feeling the sounds of nature.”
I think so, too.
“I believe music started out by imitating the sounds of birds and lions. So, in other words, today we went ‘back to the roots.’ I can understand wanting to perform at live music venues like before, but coming here might help us understand what music really is.”
Have you yourself been thinking about what music is during this Coronavirus crisis?
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. Because music can never surpass the sounds of nature.”
Even you, Char?
“Well, our kind of music can’t be done without electricity, right? And if all the lights were turned off in this venue, it would be pitch black and we would be scared to even go home. We humans are at that level. Knowing that, I think it’s about doing something advanced.”
I see your point.
“I want you to take no note as its old man speaking, but right now I’m worried about things that’s not war. The other day it rained heavily in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and they hadn’t seen anything like this in a hundred years. When I see and hear things like that, I think we need to take it seriously. Today, JESSE brought his children, which means my grandchildren are here, and I thought that I cannot deny the possibility of them wearing protective gears, not to mention masks when they reach my age.”
You are right.
“There are many things that makes me think, but at the end, music is just joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure for everyone. Although it doesn’t directly provide one’s living, there’s a big difference between having music in our lives and not having it. Nowadays, it has become too commercialized, and people think, ‘If you do this, it will sell.’ But you have to start with, ‘Can I sing to this person in front of me or not?’ We need to think about music from the point of ‘for you’ perspective again.”
Yes, after all, music is communication.
“About that, today I had a session with Taiji, but musicians who can do a session like him are getting fewer and fewer. What I mean by being able to do a session is having a minimum common language. For example, the minimum is what I do with my grandchildren, telling them, ‘Just play whatever you want on the guitar. I’ll play along with it,’ and my grandchildren saying, ‘Wow, this is fun.’ Simple things like that. But just like not listening to people when you’re big-headed, you end up in a session where you don’t listen to what the others are playing. If that happens, it’s boring. In that sense, Taiji still has a lot to learn (LOL).”
“It’s okay for Taiji to feel good playing his guitar. But I always tell him that he still doesn’t understand that he doesn’t have to play (LOL). So, I think I need to open up a kind of cram school and teach people how to play instruments as a conversation. Sessions are an ensemble of people. I don’t think anyone teaches that at music schools, so I have to teach it to the professionals first. If bands can play like that, I think there will be more bands that could win gold medals, and will increase the band’s originality.”
I feel that this applies not only to bands, but also to the Japanese people and society.
“In the end, Japanese people don’t use the first person in their speech. They use ‘we,’ ‘us,’ ‘the company,’ and so on. When this happens, we cannot understand the feelings of each individual. Isn’t that what the Japanese people need to change right now? From ‘We’ to ‘I’. We should use the first person. Even in the music industry, people use ‘we’ as the subject, like ‘We as the TV station’ or ‘As the record company’. After all, if it becomes ‘We’ or ‘Us’ and there is no ‘I,’ there will definitely be a limit on the freedom of expression. That’s also something we should think about at a time like this.”
“I think it’s important to have fun and get results” Takeshi Arai（the band apart）
“Last April, when the Coronavirus crisis had just started, I received a DM on Instagram from a member of a Korean local band that I met when I performed in Korea about two years ago. At that time, we talked about doing a cross-country music project to support people who lost their jobs due to this Coronavirus crisis. Although it didn’t come to fruition, I was inspired by the fact that there were people working hard in a neighboring country at a time when we were occupied with domestic issues, and I actively participated in supporting live music clubs after that. This raised my awareness.
Today’s event had a talk between an artist, a bureaucrat, and a live music club owner, which I think was a good stimulus for the audience. This is also great for the environment. Each music event has its own aspirations, but I think it’s important that those aspirations don’t become too serious. I think it’s important to have fun and get results. In that sense, ‘Solarism’ had the perfect balance of the message and fun. The band apart is also planning to hold an independent outdoor event in about two years. With the uncertainty of the future due to the Coronavirus crisis, I believe that these outdoor events will play an increasingly important role. I’m honored to be able to perform at ‘Solarism,’ which is a pioneer for such events.”
“It’d be great if more places become available for outdoor events” Omar Gaindefall, Yusuke Tsuda (Afro Begue)
Omar: Today’s event was awesome! The weather was great, and so was the audience! Since a live music club concert with a 100% audience will not be possible anytime soon, outdoor events like this are very important, and it’d be great if more places like this become available. There are plenty of parks and outdoor spaces in Tokyo.
If people get interested in Senegal when they hear Afro Begue’s music in the city or in parks, I think they will learn more about the world instead of just studying it, and it’s important to increase such experiences. I’d like to hold a ‘Solarism’ event with everyone again.
Tsuda: I’d like to see more events like this. But if you try to hold a live concert in a park or something in Japan, the noise would be a problem, wouldn’t it? Sometimes I hear people say, ‘I don’t want to live near a nursery school,’ but nursery school children’s voices are happy voices. Music is also a happy sound. But I think the problem is that there are many people who don’t think so. In Senegal, there’s a lot of music in the streets, but no one thinks it’s too loud, right? I wonder if this difference is from education?
Omar: In Senegal, music is everywhere: in nature, in the city, at ceremonies, and etc., and since everyone is exposed to it from a young age, I think that’s why almost no one thinks music is noisy.
Tsuda: The children in Senegal consider music to be a cool thing, not as a slogan of ‘preserve the culture.’ I think Japan is still a long way from it while shouting slogans, but I think it will change as events like these increases.
“People can hold small outdoor concerts in their own hometowns under the name ‘Solarism.’” Taiji Sato（THEATRE BROOK／ ‘Solarism’ Promoter）
“It was a great party! With this event, I feel like ‘Solarism’ is finally up and running. Therefore, I hope we can do this in various places. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it nationwide, and not just in Tokyo. And it doesn’t matter if I’m not in it. Like a copyright-free event, people can hold small outdoor concerts in parks or vacant outdoor spaces in their own hometowns under the name ‘Solarism.’ It’s important to change something within our own reach like that. If we do that, I think music in our daily lives will gradually change, as well as the form of music, and after that, there will be a kind of hope for the future. That’s what I felt today. Along with this hope, I’d like to spread‘Solarism’ all over the country!”
Born in Tokyo Prefecture in 1980. Founded “the RIZE” in 1997, and also active as a member of “The BONEZ” (originally named “JESSE and The BONEZ”) from 2012.
Born in Tokyo Prefecture in 1955. Started playing the guitar at 8, building his career as a background guitarist from his teens. Founded “SMOKY MEDICINE” in 1973. Made solo debut in 1976 after the band broke up. Releasing “Fret to Fret” on September 29, 2021, a new album featuring Char’s original music for the first time in 16 years.
Takeshi Arai（the band apart）
Born in 1978. Guitarist and vocalist for “the band apart” formed in 1998, also active as a soloist.
An afro beat band led by a Senegalese member, Omar Gaindefall. Members are Omar Gaindefall(Vocal, Djembe), Yusuke Tsuda (Guitar), Toshiyuki Sasaki (Drums), KenKen(Bass).
Born in Tokushima Prefecture in 1967. Founded THEATRE BROOK in 1986. Made a major debut in 1995. Aside from being a member of THEATRE BROOK, active as a soloist and in units.
Text by the editorial staff of “KIMINITOU”