If music gives up on “dreams or future,” it’s over
Mr. TOSHI-LOW, what have you been thinking during the Coronavirus crisis?
TOSHI-LOW: After all, it is obvious from history that it’s oftentimes the case that we encounter new difficulties while we are making a way towards the future. It’s been the case so far that, every time we were making a way to the future, something like a new incurable disease or so came out. Thinking that way, it was just waiting to happen. All we can say is “sure, of course”. There is a price we pay for any convenience we newly gain, and unexpected things happen, as we have thrown away various things and the speed of change has accelerated. In a way, it’s like we became to die due to the speed because we invented cars. If we didn’t have cars, we couldn’t die in car accidents. It’s the precariousness we humans have that we exchange our lives for convenience. So I think it’s better to stop to think what we should really treasure, but it’s not easy.
Even at the time of 311 (earthquake of 2011), many people thought that we had to change, but we actually didn’t change. So, after all, I do not think we will change this time either.
TOSHI-LOW: I have the eschatological perspective in the first place. Maybe if I say this, it’s too up to the point, but I think that “when we perish, we perish.” Including myself. It’s our own faults. If everyone is going to die together, there’s nothing we can do about that. After all, we die because of what we have made. It’s the same as pressing the nuclear button.
Indeed. If the world weren’t connected by all these means of transportation, there would not have been this worldwide pandemic.
TOSHI-LOW: Yeah, but since the means of transportation and the tools are becoming so widespread, it seems that people can be more forgiving, but this isn’t what’s happening at all. As a matter of fact, people are becoming more nationalistic and more discriminative based on race or country. What is happening is the exact opposite of what we have been saying, like “skin color and eye color don’t matter,” or “peace.” So what should happen is that, well, if it’s time to perish, then it will be so. Though I’d do my best to survive until the last moment. By the way, you don’t have to include this part.
I want to include this.
TOSHI-LOW: No way. This is the side of me that I have been hiding all along. I have the “sales face” that I’m trying to keep, haha.
This is the part I want you to say the most.
TOSHI-LOW: No. If music gives up on dreams or future, isn’t it all over?
I used to wonder if some kind of a common enemy against the human race appears, then everyone will become more united. But having seen all the discriminations coming up this time, I thought that was impossible.
TOSHI-LOW: Or rather, people seem to just think about themselves. Maybe the ratio of such people hasn’t changed all along. For instance, “Non-national Uncles” who had been nosing around calling people “non-national” in the Barefoot Gen, suddenly became a “Democratic Uncle” on the day the war ended. Like weathercocks. There’s always a certain number of people like that.
So I think it’s partly the issue of education. What else could be the problem? For example, art and beauty can be spread through imagination, not through social values. We feel some kind of ecstasy or comfort in ourselves when we see those works of art. I guess it means that there may be many other things that can satisfy ourselves in the world than things we can create ourselves or control directly. I guess it becomes our hope. But such kind of brain might have withered due to today’s education, such as teaching that what doesn’t make money is meaningless.
For the question “what are you doing music for?” I’d like to ask why you’d ask that shit. I play music because I want to, and I sing because I want to. Naturally, that should be enough. I think it’s the way human happiness should be to find his own goodness. Yet, the values of happiness have been replaced with the values of success, like having money, having fame, and living an unnecessarily long life. It’s far from the original value of happiness that we had.
So that’s it. ……Ah, there you are, Mr. Hosomi.
Hosomi: Sorry for the wait.
TOSHI-LOW: I’ve already talked about most of the crux, the conclusion being that the world will perish.
But we can’t use that part, right?
TOSHI-LOW: That’s right. It’s what I’d been hiding all along, haha.
There absolutely is something we can learn from this situation.
Mr. Hosomi, what did you first think during the self-restrain period?
Hosomi: I was thinking how hectic my life was. I have been working like a dog after ELLEGARDEN was suspended and the HIATUS began. I was able to have some break in January and February, but during the (music festival) seasons, I could rarely take a day off, like once a month or so. And that continued for more than ten years. It is hard to articulate, but I simply thought that I should live thinking more about how to use my time. Of course, it was better if I could have realized it before the negative incident like this virus, but it’s difficult to realize such a thing unless some situation forces us to do so. I should think about that even after the coronavirus settles down. There are ways to save some time for myself other than slowing down the pace of my music activity.
It was really non-stop.
Hosomi: I felt like I had to keep doing something. And, in this kind of situation, we have more contacts from people who we are not merely business-related. There are many people that I can’t see because I’m not traveling around Japan for concerts any more. Then, it becomes clear who are my real friends and who are not. I’m happy when people call me for no reason. In a way, I was able to see what I could not see when I was living a busy life.
TOSHI-LOW: Right on. The coronavirus is only a trigger. The earthquake (of 2011) and the nuclear power plant accident that happened before the coronavirus made us realize how important our friends are who can make possible what’s impossible when attempted by a Japanese musician by himself or herself. I think the same is true for the coronavirus.
We don’t have any time for ourselves when we are shooting live concerts while making albums. And our music seems to gradually become superficial when we keep doing things the same way. After all, music is only like a sectional view of humans. Although my early songs are crooked, there are people even today who say they like those songs. I think that is because the things I kept inside myself until then were extremely dense.
You mean your approach run was long?
TOSHI-LOW: So long so that it was almost like I’ll jump someday.
Hosomi: And what you wanted to say was intense.
TOSHI-LOW: In that sense, isn’t it a good timing to regain that density? I’ve once said to someone doing a concert, “you should take a break once.” And also “why do you have to do it every year? It’s okay to do it again after saving energy for two or three years.” So actually, I’ve been thinking that we need to pause once. This time, the force-quit button has been pressed. So I thought “isn’t it worth considering?”
It might be true that we got the time to stop and think for the first time.
TOSHI-LOW: So, I think it’s a good thing that we are at a pause now. The Chinese character for “right（正）” consists of one (一) and stop (止). So as a matter of fact, we are not “right”, because we have never stopped. We have been moving all along. And, when “human (人)” is combined with “moving (動),” it becomes “work (働).” In our current situation, we aren’t working. You cannot have a truly touching experience if you aren’t working. So, though it’s contradicting, it’s right to keep moving all the time as the migratory fish. We have to start moving at some point, but now, I think is, the time to stop and to recognize what’s “right.”
Hosomi: To keep people from misunderstanding, I’d like to say that, of course, TOSHI-LOW and I are not happy with the coronavirus. No way, haha. But I have this mentality that I want to somehow find the positive side of any incidents, and, even if we look only at the negative side, there’s nothing we can do to solve it by ourselves anyways. Obviously, I cannot make the vaccine myself. So I believe that there are definitely things we can learn even in this extraordinary situation. Otherwise, this unfortunate event would end up being merely an unfortunate event. But there is this trend that makes it difficult to casually talk about such a thing. I get lambasted if I say “there is something that we can learn from the coronavirus.” They say “there are people who are dying.” With due respect, of course I understand that. I do not think that, when people say “there is nothing we can learn from the war,” that is what they mean. Of course, it’s a big problem if there’s somebody who starts a war in order to learn something. But I believe that we must learn from the coronavirus, which has already occurred, and it’s very meaningful to pass the knowledge onto the next generation.
TOSHI-LOW: I think that’s true in any situation. In an extreme case, even if we are talking about a war. The reason why we think this way is because we have the will to “survive through any situation” in the first place. It’s not that we are viewing this situation optimistically; we just have the mentality that “we have to survive no matter what,” and also the mentality that “if it’s over, then it’s over” at the same time. We will die if we are hit by a bullet, and if a bomb happens to be dropped in front of our houses, nothing can help us. But we will try to do something until the last moment that the bomb hits the ground. It’s the same thing. We cannot get rid of coronavirus. If there is nothing you can do in this situation, isn’t it perhaps a good idea to watch the 100 movies that you wanted to watch? You might have some discovery “that the method I saw in the movie might be worth trying.” That’s good enough.
I always say, “we should enjoy this moment,” but in the end, we will die. That moment might come tomorrow. So, I am saying that we have to enrich this very moment, not the past, or not the far future, and which now may connect to the eschatological story I mentioned in the beginning, haha.
I think now I understand a little about what underlies your thoughts, Mr. TOSHI-LOW.
TOSHI-LOW: And, I also think it’s useless to look back because things are over when they are over. For instance, I couldn’t do anything when my favorite restaurant went out of business. I guess it wasn’t enough to help them to have ordered home delivery just twice… But, it’s not like the restaurant would have kept its business if I ordered three times. The owner of the restaurant might have been looking for the right timing to quit. And, the owner might live in a new place to spend his retired life reconsidering his life, or he might need to go through some other difficulties. Isn’t that how life goes? Either way, as long as we are alive, life goes on as things swing back and forth. I think a “fulfilling life” is the one in which we fall down, scratch ourselves, and nevertheless stand up, and maybe think “should we try a little more?” while putting a band-aid or something on the wound.
I want them to take the plunge and change to survive
Since the two of you have been performing in live houses for a long time, being unable to do any concerts may make you “being incomplete” as artists. What do you think of that?
Hosomi: But our purpose is not about performing for the general public in the first place. We start when we feel “oh, this is fun,” then people begin to gather, but eventually some stupid people appear and make it boring, so we quit. We’ve been repeating this over and over again. Live houses haven’t been so, miraculously. So we have always been coming up with fun games one after another, and live concert is only one of them. For us, live concerts is not work, it is more like for fun. So, I’d continue to play the games that I want to play, and simply find new places and new games if the old places can’t be used anymore. Of course, since I have so many friends in live houses, I’m always thinking how to lead people to them so that some money will be dropped for them too. But I won’t think “we’re going to lose our place of expression if the live houses are closed” because I’d originally never lived a life in a way that I’d get into trouble due to the lack of ideas.
TOSHI-LOW: Of course, live houses are important places. That’s why I think they should change in some ways if that’s necessary. I want them to take the plunge and change, so that they can survive. We’d like to help where we can, but the parts we can help out are limited. I think it’s important to be an artist that people want on the stage, instead of just doing something for the live houses. Well, but something like BRAHMAN is more like music created by the three Cs…
Hosomi: Yeah, there is no physical distance at all.
TOSHI-LOW: Of course, we may do live streaming concerts at live houses in a way that we can keep physical distancing. We’ll be fast once we find out the possible way. But, on the other hand, I think there is no choice but to quit BRAHMAN if we won’t be able to see the view we saw again in our lifetime. You know, that’s one way of thinking. I have no regrets because I was able to do the last live concert with MONOEYES. Because, in the first place, I’m doing every concert thinking this will the last. And I don’t think the matter of the coronavirus came suddenly. I just think it happened to be here at this point, and simply due to that, our intent will be over halfway through. I’m okay with that.
Hosomi: Right. TOSHI-LOW has always been like that. When I’m at the live house during BRAHMAN’s concert, he always calls me to the stage. Some audiences might think “why does he do the same thing every time?” But we’re not doing it only for the audience. If TOSHI-LOW’s doing a live concert, and I’m nearby, then of course I’m gonna go. TOSHI-LOW said that “there might not be many chances left to be able to call you up on the stage just because our concerts were held at the same time on the same day we actually count. So we’d like to do this every time we have such a chance.” He has been saying this even before the coronavirus.
I think it’s tough if someone suddenly becomes unable to perform when he was thinking “I can do this for another 10 years.” But we haven’t been thinking that way ever since we began. I’d been thinking “It’s okay if this becomes the last” every time, and I still think so.
TOSHI-LOW: Conversely, I doubt how we can think that it’s possible to continue for another 10 years. We could suddenly get sick. Who knows, right? When there is future, there are also risks to that extent. There’s no guarantee that you will live long in good health. So, I think being able to deal with anything in any kind of situation is the way of preparing for the future. I think Gandhi’s saying, “live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever” is really true.
Hosomi: To begin with, Japan was peaceful for a while and the economy wasn’t bad. That the situation being gone in a moment, or the world suddenly changing drastically is, uhm, I’m not sure if I’m saying this in the right way, but I have lived so far with a thought that such things could relatively happen. For instance, even if a company’s income for about half a year or a year is completely lost, that is normally a possible situation for our job. So, we had been always prepared, and have always been saying “let’s make this moment the best time. But, sorry, we can’t assure how long it’s gonna last haha,” and “if something unexpected happens, we can’t deal with it if we idle away.”
You two went to support people when disasters, like the earthquake (of 2011), occurred in many places in Japan. Did you find it frustrating that you cannot actually go support the people in need of help during the coronavirus crisis?
Hosomi: In the first place, I’m only doing what I want to do, and it’s not for someone else. So, There is no feeling like “I’m doing this for you.” Regarding travel restriction (to prevent infection), that’s very proper to me. Because I can’t take any responsibility if I passed the coronavirus to an elderly person and that person dies. If I was only to become the victim, then I might have gone even if someone told me not to, but I can’t do the reverse. I don’t want to do anything wrong that makes someone lose his (or her) loved one. I won’t go if I think I shouldn’t, and I will go, no matter what someone says, if I think I should. In that sense, I guess I’m not listening to the actual “requests” from the beginning, haha.
TOSHI-LOW: Regarding the self-restraining of concerts, we’re not minding what happens to us performers. But we don’t want to do anything deliberately if that might damage the audiences. In this kind of situation, we don’t need to bother doing something that might spread the infection. But, I’m sorry, we will do it when we want, even if someone says “don’t”.
Hosomi: That should be one of the options. For example, if there’s someone who says “the coronavirus is something like influenza, and we don’t need to be over cautious about this,” as long as that person thinks seriously and tries to take responsibility for what he says, we don’t have any basis to deny it. So, I don’t think “everyone should think like this” at all. For the same reason, I want to carefully think “then what will I do?” I’m about to finishing making my album, and after that I might want to play go out, drink alcohol, and go out to lots of places, but at the same time, I probably will think like “I don’t want to judge wrongly.” So, I will most likely ponder hardly to create a “playground” that fulfills both of my thoughts. Of course, we need to think out. Anyway, live concerts have been originally performed with (people’s) ingenuity and accumulation of cultures.
Overseas artist did a broadcast from Salar de Uyuni. The scenery is amazing and it changes over time.
TOSHI-LOW: I have just come up with an idea. The LOW-ATUS in one-way mirrored car.
The one you use in porn? haha
TOSHI-LOW: Right. We will play inside the one-way mirrored car. The car keeps moving, so the background will change.
Hosomi: I see. No one can see us from the outside.
TOSHI-LOW: I think it’s an invention, haha. We can go anywhere. Let’s do it.
Haha, Mr. Hosomi, are you listening?
Hosomi: You’re not gonna use this part in the article anyway, haha.
It will be good if something like a “new individualism” will be realized.
Regarding the story of eschatological perspective which Mr.TOSHI-LOW mentioned at the beginning, and the story of Mr.Hosomi about his thought in which he lives thinking it is within expectations that the world could change suddenly, I was wondering how you could come to think in such ways.
TOSHI-LOW: You don’t necessarily have to think this way, haha.
For example, Devilman came to my mind when I heard the eschatological perspective. Have you been affected by any of those culture?
TOSHI-LOW: Ah, Go Nagai. Well, superb artists are also superb predictors, for example, being another example. As well as John Lennon, Bob Marley, and Kiyoshiro (Imawano), to name a few. They know how the public will be like in emergency situations. In Devilman there is the scene in which the people who is doing witch hunting come to the house that the main character is staying at and massacre the family, and then cut off the head of the eldest daughter who is kind of a heroine figure of the story. There are people like us, who picked up the small seeds that those artists, having known who had known new such a risk, had sown. Isn’t it like that? I think we will, although small, continue to sow the seeds. Then not 100% of the world will become worse. It might be improved by one or two percent.
Hosomi: The daily life is something that perhaps can be over in a moment. I think it can suddenly be over without any gradual premonition of danger. Won’t it be different whether or not we prepare for the next, depending on if we had such an experience in the past? I have, to come to think of, these kinds of experiences, and I think TOSHI-LOW definitely has similar experiences.
You have not been thinking so by nature?
Hosomi: I’ m not sure can’t really tell. So those who, when younger, have experienced and managed to survive life upsetting events may have gained something positive in some respects, although it must have been tough at the time. Although my language might not be proper, they must have had to be strong and there must have been something they had to overcome. As TOSHI-LOW just said, in the works or stories created by those who have experienced such difficulties are, say, the genes of those experiences. In the lyrics of any music are things like the moment of truth and a trauma.
Is it because of music that you were able to withstand?
Hosomi: No, no. I was lucky. I met someone I can trust. Luckily, I met someone trustable. As you know, I’m not very sociable. But once connected, it’s for lifelong. It was very lucky for me to find a buddy like TOSHI-LOW after I’ve grown up. I really think I was lucky.
Then, at last, please tell us any scene or word that left an impression on you during through the coronavirus crisis.
TOSHI-LOW: Well, probably it turned out that, no matter how much human beings being develop and things become convenient, it was toilet paper that was the most important thing, haha.
Hosomi: Yeah right, haha. And isn’t the “Abenomask” the most impressive thing for better or worse? I still have it at home.
Tens of billions of yen were spent on that from the tax money.
Hosomi: Well, while regarding that fact that the government is not acting ideally, I’d ask myself where on earth is there such a government. There are times when I think “we are even lucky that our prime minister is not Trump or Duterte” haha.
I’m somewhat interested in world politics and its related issues. So I still watch news about the world, and that eventually makes me face my own life. I’m confronted with the question “and how about myself?”
I of course have friends who are LGBTs, and won’t don’t judge people based on their nationalities alone no matter which country they are from the country is, because I myself don’t want to be discriminated against discriminated. Nonetheless, it bothers me to think everybody should think like myself. I mean, it ends up being the same. I think having the mind that everybody should think in a certain way is bothersome, and I will end up in the same place as the discriminator. It’s like “I want to be this way, just leave me alone.” So, if someone with a different opinion told me that me “those from such and such that country are not good,” I would think “shut up, I’m not you.”
TOSHI-LOW: Bottomline, we already have this sense of individualism that he just talked about, because our business is individualistic. Many people around us are like that too. So, the totalitarianistic idea the totalistic mind of, say, “let’s become one” seems more strange to me. But on the other hand, I realized that we cannot do anything alone. When I was younger, I was been thinking “I’m good alone, and I will die alone,” but I realized we are powerless alone. The turning point was the earthquake (of 2011) as I mentioned in the beginning, and now, I have this feeling that I can cooperate with my fellows. But it begins with the recognition that we are all definitely individuals, doesn’t it?
So you can cooperate with others because when you respect and recognize them.
TOSHI-LOW: But to respect an individual is not to say that “you can keep having prejudice” to those who have prejudice like “people from such and such country are bad because of this and that”. I have a strong reaction against lumping people together like “people belonging here are so and so.” As we have this many people in Japan, we even cannot lump together all the Japanese people in one category. So, I don’t like those insensitive people who can’t deal with individualism. It’s not simply black or white, is it? There are many types of gray in between, colors like yellowish-white within the range of white, and different intensities of black. So, I feel like “you only see black and white?” I think such insensitivity is a proof of inferiority as a person. I mean, the grade for arts and crafts of such a person is “F” haha.
You mean you dislike people that cannot see the gradation?
TOSHI-LOW: Yes. You can say I It is okay for me to dislike those people. Isn’t it okay to have likes and dislikes?
I wish for some “new individualism” to be born in this world soon. There are many politicians nowadays that succeed by exploiting the fact that many people do not go to the election. So, I think we need a new individualism based on a new form derived from democracy. I think that “living well” as an individual ultimately means to “live a good life benignly.” For example, you won’t throw away garbage away a garbage in front of your house. It is not only because you don’t want it to be dirty, but also because you have to think of your neighbors and people passing by. That is the point is, an individualism in the sense that it will improve the world based on your own benefit. I want the world with such a thing being more secure to have principles established. I will have Mi-chan (Hosomi) buy an island and establish that kind of place. And, eventually, I will live there when I become old.
Hosomi: We will never have currency on that island.
TOSHI-LOW: Yeah. We will live basically by trading our skills. I will live by singing songs and getting vegetables and such or something from the mainland in return.
Mr. Hosomi is the one to buy the island?
TOSHI-LOW: Of course. So, I will round off saying I want the next album to sell well.
Hosomi: True. Though the time that we could buy an island with record disk sales is already over, haha.
Born in Chiba prefecture in 1973. Vocalist and guitarist of the band ELLEGARDEN, the HIATUS, and MONOEYES.
Born in Ibaraki prefecture in 1974. Vocalist of the band BRAHMAN. Member of OAU (OVERGROUND ACOUSTIC UNDERGROUND) . Vocalist and guitarist of the LOW-ATUS.
Interviewed by Joe Yokomizo on 28th June, 2020