What I can do, what I can create, and what I can communicate under the situation
I hear that LUNA SEA’s tour has been cancelled because of the Coronavirus.
“It was the 30th anniversary tour of LUNA SEA scheduled with more than 30 performances, but all except four concerts were rescheduled. There was a general mood from the start (of the tour) that ‘this is bad,’ so we had been asking the audience to take precautionary measures such as wearing face masks. I honestly felt a little relieved when they were postponed. It was very risky to hold the events knowing the possibility of transmission, and I was asking myself, ‘Can we actually go on like this?’ when considering our fan’s safety”
The infection kept spreading day after day, prohibiting not just the tour but also other activities. What were you thinking at the time?
“I was looking for what I can do, what I can create, and what I can communicate under the situation. As the people all over the world were feeling anxiety and invisible fear, our band wanted to deliver a new song to energize people. So, we hastily created ‘Make a vow’ completely through remote work. We wanted to provide this song for free rather than charging, because everybody was under financial challenges. As a next step, we were thinking of holding a charity event featuring this song, when Lady Gaga held ‘One World: Together At Home.’ *1 We thought, ‘this is great, we want to do a Japanese version of this and made a move to hold ‘MUSIC AID FEST. –FOR POST PANDEMIC.’ *2 So, I was busy all through the stay-home period, planning, offering and producing such events.”
Were you ever overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness?
“When there were disasters like earthquakes or floods in the past, we were able to rush to the spot immediately and help the affected people or the community. This time, we are confined, and even if we rush to the spot, there is no way we can support the healthcare workers for lack of qualification and capability. There is nothing we can do, so I will be lying if I say I didn’t feel powerlessness. And something has been bothering me all along. Isn’t this a man-made disaster? Although there has been no use of force, I think this is essentially the same as a war. The citizens are led by the media to believe that coronavirus is scary, that we must refrain from activities and wear masks. Major countries don’t give a damn about what the Japanese government is up to, and the government is just dithering about, most policies are off the mark, and above all, not meeting the needs of the citizens. As a citizen, I was staying at home obediently because I knew that I should act with common sense, but I was boiling inside, filled with this frustration and strong desire to change this society with too much inequality and the unjust politics which doesn’t care for peoples’ lives.”
*1 “One World: Together At Home” … A charity concert to praise and support the medical workers who are saving lives from COVID-19, held by World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Citizen, curated by Lady Gaga, on 19 April 2020.
*2 “MUSIC AID FEST. —FOR POST PANDEMIC—” … An online charity event held by LUNA SEA for supporting all the front-line workers including those in healthcare. It was broadcasted and distributed live on Fuji TV One and FOD on 31 May.
I sympathize with those seriously wanting to change the world
Even if our beliefs are opposite
I had an impression that there were a lot of charity activities through music in Europe and the US during the Coronavirus crisis, but there were not so many in Japan other than ‘MUSIC AID FEST. ―FOR POST PANDEMIC―.’ Why do you think this was the case?
“Since the 80’s, it has been common in Europe and the US for all sorts of creators, not just musicians, to get together and do something for charity. There were some famous ones like ‘LIVE AID’ *3 and ‘We Are The World,’ *4 or ‘Sun City’ *5 as anti-apartheid movement, and ‘LIVE 8’ *6 in this century. As musicians, our role is to overcome our different positions or gains and create a big movement like that. That’s what I believe, but this has not rooted in Japanese culture. I kind of know why. Probably this will not change unless we change everything including education.”
You think so too?
“Yes. It all started when GHQ emasculated Japan after the war. They ensured that we won’t be native English speakers, and don’t question society. And they made the people ignorant with propaganda through excessive use of television, which was so successful that we have what we see today. In a way, through education, we have been brainwashed not to be committed to the society, so things won’t change fundamentally unless we make a change there.”
Artists these days are becoming unable to make such remarks or expressions if they want to “sell.”
“Many of them are blindfolded and prohibited from thinking. That’s why we have to provoke them. I sympathize with those seriously wanting to change the world, even if our beliefs are opposite. The saddest are the people who would never go near these topics. But many are like that. So, artists like us need to stimulate and shake them. For example, when I make some provocative comments on SNS, like hyenas, everyone becomes a critic, but I think it’s a good thing that peoples’ thoughts and opinions are stimulated like that. It can open the door to new finding. What I am doing is like giving a boost, I don’t want everyone to follow my opinion. Of course, it would be nice if there were many people with same consciousness. What is important is that people who never had interests in these matters have their thinking stimulated a little. It is okay if our beliefs are different. People who oppose me may be picky and try to catch me blunder, but I can also learn from them, and think “I see, that’s how they put it. Well then, I must put together a more solid thought.” So, I sometimes follow and read their opinions. Of course, insults and scorns can make you feel terrible, but there are more to learn from them.
But if I may complain about one thing, Nikkan Sports paper makes my tweet into news article every time. I mean, it’s nice, but they are just copy-pasting what I tweet. Why don’t they contact me and write something themselves? Aren’t they news reporters? And don’t use that photo of me looking hideous (LOL). Can’t they use a more decent photo? There has to be malicious intent for using that… (LOL).”
*3 “LIVE AID” … The biggest charity concert in the 20th century held in London and Philadelphia on 13 July 1985 for collecting fund for famine relief in Africa. Queen, Paul McCartney, U2, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan and others took part.
*4 “We Are The World” … A charity song released in 1985. Superstars of the US got together to produce the charity song for famine relief in Africa. Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Bruce Springsteen took part among others. The entire royalty was donated.
*5 “Sun City” … A music released in 1985 by the project ‘Artists Against Apartheid’ founded by Steve Van Zandt. Bono, Jackson Browne, Miles Davis and others took part.
*6 “LIVE 8” … A charity concert held simultaneously at cities including London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Philadelphia and Tokyo on 2 July 2005. It was held to appeal for support to Africa as G8 Summit was to be held from 6 July.
First forgive and acknowledge yourself
I think the Coronavirus has revealed various problems. What do you think of this?
“Unfortunately, these several months have revealed ugliness of people. As if the dark side of the people was brought into the open. I tried not to be overwhelmed by that, but I couldn’t be calm with the moves made by the government, and I was often upset, thinking ‘that’s impossible!” Because what they are doing is the same as abandoning their citizens. They are just saying, unfortunately only those who can survive under the situation can survive, and those who cannot, won’t. The weak will be abandoned and only those who can win now will be treated favorably. If this is the outcome of capitalism, the social structure itself may be the problem.”
We thought capitalism would make everyone rich, but it was actually a system to abandon the weak.
“After all, those who have power will win, and those who don’t will lose. Those who have more will gain more, and those who don’t will lose. Unless we get out of this loop, this civilization will not have a future. Unless we create a society where everyone can make choices for their true mental balance and real happiness, being born only results in endless struggle.”
Is music necessary for gaining true mental balance and real happiness?
“Not just music. Any form of expression is indispensable to our living. Of course, food and shelter are the most essential life supports, and ensuring environment to survive is the priority, but once they are secured, people will die if there is no culture. Can you think of a life without art or entertainment, like music, theater, films, literature, painting, fashion, or sports? What we do makes sense only after our lives are secured, but I think these things are most critical for people to be happy.”
Did you create anything inspired by the Coronavirus crisis?
“I am working on the next album right now, and it is going to be an ambient work, the theme being post-pandemic. We were originally supposed to be at the peak of recording the next album around this time. The album was to center around sessions with jazz and soul musicians in and out of Japan, and there were plans to go to London for recording, and Paris and Nice for photo-shooting, but everything has been postponed. So, I switched to something I can create alone. It started right in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, so I want to create a music of forgiveness and relief, which will heal everyone when the crisis is over. I want to come up with something gentler than anything we have ever made.”
What do you mean by “forgiving?”
“I think ‘forgiving” is the most important word now. First, you need to forgive and acknowledge yourself. You are doing great under the circumstances. You are working so hard on the verge of limitation, so maybe it’s okay to take a rest once, right? I always think “there is more I can do,” but if you are always obsessed with the desire for self-improvement, you tend to end up feeling powerless or helpless. So, switch your mind once in a while and acknowledge that you are doing well, you are contributing to the world, and you are great. If everyone starts to do this, I think our society will turn a little more positive. Then there is “forgiving” of others. In essence, this is about ‘Hate the crime, not the person.’ However terrible a person or an issue is, I try not to be overwhelmed by hatred. Hatred only breeds hatred. Even Mr. Abe (Shinzo), Mr. Aso (Taro) or Mr. Suga (Yoshihide) may be charming old men if we drink with them. No matter how captivated they are with cruel and selfish power, they may be good people once you get to know them. I think so. It’s the same about racial discrimination issues. It is a fact that black people were treated terribly in the past, but I do not agree with ’treat them badly, the same way we have been treated.” Don’t you think it would be wonderful if everyone leaves the past conflict behind and say, ‘Let’s be friends from now on. I forgive you.” I think it would be great if everyone in the world gets to know each other and realizes that everyone is nice once we drink together. Maybe I am creating this new album because my mind wants this. Thinking like this, I can come up with a lot of things I want to create. Maybe I need to make two or three albums a year to cover them all. Whether good or bad, I am excited.”
That’s a great thing about a creator.
“I think it’s an instinct. Adversities leads to ideas. So, I had nothing like coronavirus depression. On the contrary, I am panicking with the need to do this now, learn this now, and communicate this now. I am using my brain too much that it is overheating.”
Our power is small, but we are not powerless
How is the refugee camp you support impacted by the Coronavirus?
“It is extremely dangerous. Refugee camps have more hygiene issues than normal towns, and the healthcare structure is weak, so the risks are high. Plus, countries like Bangladesh have many street children. In addition to the terrible hygiene and healthcare conditions, they have no home. There are so many children who cannot even stay home. After all, these situations put the weakest people under the highest risks.”
Japanese people have little interest in charity activities to begin with, and it is becoming even more difficult to ask for support these days. What do you think we should do?
“I think we have no choice but to wait until the pandemic subsides. No one will help others by sacrificing themselves. Before offering helping hands to others, we first need to live safely with no health anxieties.”
What was the most memorable event during the Coronavirus crisis?
“I think dismissal of the bill to revise Public Prosecutor Law was a meaningful action. We were able to prove that we are not powerless although our power is small. Do you know what happened after the use of that hashtag rose to an incredible number? The number of Twitter hashtags were not visible for some time.”
Was it because visibility caused a problem?
“I believe so. I can only think that people who control Japanese politics and entertainment are resisting. That’s why it is meaningful to raise our voices. Then someone will be a target, but I am okay being a target if it leads to changes for the better. Many people keep silent because they don’t want to take risks. Even if they have frustrations, they don’t voice it for worry about other people’s opinion. I wonder what the meaning of your life is if you don’t express yourself for fear of others seeing you negatively or bad-mouthing you. You don’t need to say things to insult or hurt others. Having such morals and ethics are most important. But you should make comments with positive intention for the society, the world, this country, and the planet.”
Lastly, what ask do you have for the readers of this article?
“I would say, ‘What is your true happiness? What happiness do you desire? What do you think will give you the happiness?’ When I think of myself, I cannot enjoy happiness if someone next to me is struggling. For me to feel the real sense of security and happiness, I want everyone, no, every life to be happy. I am working because I want all living creatures to be happy, what about everyone? Are you happy if only you, your family, and your country are happy? Don’t you think it would be wonderful if everybody in the world can be happy? I want to be a gear or a booster that helps realize the time when the society can enjoy true happiness.”
Composer, guitarist, violinist, and music producer. Active worldwide as a member of leading Japanese rock bands, LUNA SEA and X JAPAN. Also active as a solo artist, pursuing unique electronic music, as well as producing soundtracks for many films and theatrical performances. Along with music, also known as an activist, involved in peace activities, human rights, refugee support, renewable energy/environment, and disaster relief volunteer.
Interviewed by Joe Yokomizo on 15th July, 2020