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SUGIZO Exclusive Solo Interview 2012 - About Solo Projects and Inspiration

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-- SUGIZO Exclusive Solo Interview 2012 - About Solo Projects and Inspiration

On October 24th, SUGIZO has just released his latest DVD "STAIRWAY to The FLOWER OF LIFE", which features his 2011 solo performance at Zepp Tokyo and on top, he had just released two digital singles at the end of August and the beginning of September this year. When we meet the guitarist in the middle of October in the studio, he was busy recording with LUNA SEA, still on crutches from his previous injury.

Nonetheless, SUGIZO took his time for MJP to talk with us about music and his inspirations, his many projects and how he is able to keep them all apart from each other.

-- On September 17th, you played your solo show at AKASAKI BLITZ called "ASCENSION to The CONSCIENTIA", please tell us your impressions on the performance.

SUGIZO: First of all I had this big problem with my ankle, which was the hardest for me at that time. However, I had to do my best in either case. I think the feeling of the live itself was very good and also the feeling connected with my band members was very special. They were excellent and they supported me very well. They saved me. Also, the audience, the crowd, they knew of the problem with my ankle and the accident, but their attitude was very positive and active, they saved me as well. Together we created great energy and a great atmosphere. That's my image of the performance.

Still I had problems to play, because of my left ankle. You know, I couldn't play well, because my balance is very important on stage.  Of course my fingers are doing very well, but if my legs are having any problems, I can not balance my weight and keep a good form. It was very frustrating.

-- I am sure the audience felt differently, but I guess this is the impression of the artist.

SUGIZO: I hope so.

-- Until this performance in September you hadn't performed solo for a very long time.

SUGIZO: Yes, I think nine months.

-- You have so many projects going on at the same time, why did you choose this timing to perform live again on your own? Did you want to make the audience feel your new songs?

SUGIZO: First of all, I wanted to release my new songs of course. It was good timing, I think. Until the end of last year, I had released so many singles already and two albums as well. After that, we released a new singles with LUNA SEA and my DVD project was going on. There was so much going on. However, my core is of course my solo project. I think that this timing was just right; not too late, not too early, not too busy either for me.

-- In September, about the same time of your solo performance at AKASAKA BLITZ you have also performed with SYSTEM7, who participated in the making of your previous single "FINAL OF THE MESSIAH Remix by SYSTEM 7" (Release: 2012/08/29), in Osaka and Tokyo. How did it feel to play with someone you have admired for so long?

SUGIZO: It was a great honor and pleasure to me, because I am a big fan of theirs. Maybe SUGIZO has been interesting for them as well. This relationship to them right now is like a dream to me, and at any time I have been greatly stimulated by their works. Whenever I meet them, I can learn something new. I feel like a student of theirs.

-- You once said that SYSTEM7 chose the song "MESSIAH" to do the remix for, however, if you yourself could choose a song, which one would you like them to remix for you?

SUGIZO: Since their style is very smooth techno with more ambient elements, and I had the chance to choose a trance, I imagined that their sound would fit "CONCENTIA" or "ARC MOON", which originally has more ambient elements and incorporates psychedelic trance as well. I thought that would be a good match for them, however, they chose a very hard tune. It was very interesting, as their remix turned out to be very hard techno with rock styles.
Of course it's very exciting to me, but it was also very different from the image I has at that time of the SYSTEM7 sound.
For me it was just a great honor, since Steve Hillage also played the guitar for me. So I stood on stage with Steve and it was the dream twin guitar for me on the record as well.
It was fantastic.

-- Apart from Steve Hillage and SYSTEM7 you are working with a great number of artists nationally and internationally. What makes you take the step to collaborate with someone?

SUGIZO: It depends on the situation. For me JUNO REACTOR is a very important partner, so at that time I approached them first for my remix project maybe six or seven years ago. I really wanted their remix. That was the first contact at that time.
After that our relationship has gotten a lot closer and all of a sudden they needed a Japanese guitarist for one of their performances in Tokyo.
Of course it is fantastic for me to play with them, but it was very sudden, when they asked me three days before the show. They were like: "Please SUGIZO, play for us! The show is in three days!" I did my very best and before that, I practiced their songs for 20 hours in one day straight.
At that time, they played at one of the biggest Tokyo Dance Music Festivals in 2006.

Whenever I feel like I want some artists to join me or play for me, I do approach them, but sometimes they approach me as well. I really like any kind of collaboration with any kind of artist.

-- Your latest single is a remix of your single "SUPER LOVE" with COLDFEET. The song itself, you released already 10 years ago. Where did the desire to recreate this song come from?

SUGIZO: At first I thought that this year actually is the 10th anniversary for "SUPER LOVE" and I liked its tune. However, ten years ago I couldn't perfectly realize what I imagined. I just couldn't create my favored image and the sound I liked. I believe I imagined it well at that time, I just couldn't create is as that according to my skill.

SUGIZO: Now I think I can actually do it and my music's style is going even more into the direction of techno styles. For "SUPER LOVE" I wanted a soul-full rock tune that meets SUGIZO's techno style with LORI's vocals. I really wanted this collaboration with COLDFEET. I am not quite sure why, but it was just part of my inspiration. I already had this plan about a project that would feature a great female vocalist and it came down to the first step of wanting to get together with them.

-- You have been pursuing the "SUGIZO sound" ever since you started your solo career as you said, do you think you have gotten close to your ideal yet?

SUGIZO: To me this is just inspiration. And also, I don't want to create any limit for myself and my music. If I ever create a limitation, it would be for other people. I often have to explain my music to other people, so that is when I have to categorize my music.

But honestly, limits have no meaning to me. My basics are those of a rock guitarist, but my routs are classical music. My hero is Miles Davis, the king of Jazz, and my favorite music is techno and trance.
This all is very natural for me, because all of my music styles and reasons are for me. I follow my inspiration, simply.
Sorry, that doesn't seem to be a very good answer.
-- So maybe you don't really want to find a certain thing or a certain sound, but just more inspiration?

SUGIZO: Yes, just inspiration.

-- How does the work with other musicians influence this search for your inspiration?

SUGIZO: That's very difficult. Just all of it is inspiration to me. I don't know why, but I can choose very good partners for me at any time; be it good musicians, good singers, good remix artist. Most of the time, I can just imagine, how they would work with my music. Like, "If she sang for me, it would be beautiful." I can just trust my understanding and view for beautiful things.

-- What is important for you when collaborating with other artists?

SUGIZO: Chemistry. Energy and stimulation are also important, but certainly chemistry is the most important power for creating. Sometimes, art is born from just one person, one artist, yet even one artist gets a lot of their inspiration from other things like history or any other thing around them. You can get inspiration from anything, right? I think this is also a kind of collaboration.
It's the same for collaborating with other artists. In either case, we can find great resources to make art. Collaborating (with other artists) is the strongest and most direct approach to create good chemistry for art.

-- Is there a certain artists you would like to work with in the future?

SUGIZO: Of course I would like to collaborate with other artists, but as of now I am not sure. Right now there is no one in particular. Currently I am making my remix album and I think I will be able to release this by the beginning of next year. It will be very, very good and I am 50 percent done.

SUGIZO: The first track will be the one with SYSTEM7, and then there will be a remix by DJ TSUYOSHI. He is a very famous Japanese trance DJ and his sound is called "Jojouka". There will be my own remixes and of course JUNO REACTOR's remixes as well.
I already have so many great and powerful remix tunes and I think this will be my best collaboration work.

-- You are incorporating a lot of different sounds and styles into your music, is there any kind of sound you would still add to your sound right now?

SUGIZO: Any element can go inside my own music and in the future I would like to incorporate even more of those elements to my sound. I have this image of metamorphoses concerning music, because as I said, there are no limits to art and anything can be mixed. There are no rules.

-- In mainstream music, the mix between pop, rock, hip hop and R'n'B is very popular, yet the mix of rock and techno is not so widely know. What are your thoughts on that?

SUGIZO: Some artists in that field (of rock and techno) are getting popular though, like Underworld. As for me, I just like underground sounds. Underground art is made by a minority, but I really like the power of these minorities. Some day of course I hope that any of the underground art will be bigger and more popular, more mainstream, but in general underground culture has great power and new identities.   

SUGIZO: They can experiment at any time, which is important.

-- Certainly, underground artists seem to be more independent.

SUGIZO: And from that, some things are getting popular, which is a first step. However, I just like this underground feeling as such; ever since I have been a teenager, really.

-- I see. The topic changes a little, but we have just watched your DVD and personally what I find interesting is that you can see, how the techno sounds are made with actual instruments like drums and guitars and trumpets. When you create a track, do you think in instruments or do you think in sound?

SUGIZO: I think in sound. I think instruments are just a method. The important thing is the image of the sound. Doing techno sounds with instruments comes very natural for me. For example, Yellow Magic Orchestra is one of my favorite artists ever since I was 13 years old and people believe them to be one of the biggest techno bands ever. Yet, they are also great instrumental players.
The same goes for JUNO REACTORE's Ben Watkins. He is the king of techno and trance music, but he is also a great recording engineer. Another king of techno for me is Youth, former bassist of the band Killing Joke. Therefore I think any creator of great techno dance music is also a great musician. 

SUGIZO: Of course many DJs can't play instruments, yet, they still have great ears for music as such. Simply, some techno creators are just great players as well. Both is right to me! Among them, I am a guitar play, a composer and a techno track maker.

-- Speaking of composing and you have mentioned it before, you are working on your remix album right now. What can fans expect of this album?

SUGIZO: There will be much harder techno sounds. It will be harder, more international techno stile. As my original album is only ever SUGIZO style, this album will have more to-the-core techno elements. It's not completely 100% SUGIZO style, since there are great collaborations.
I hope that many techno fans will love this album and the remix tunes. I really want to focus more on techno.

It will be my previous tracks and my guitar play, but still harder techno styles altogether - more spacey, trancier, more psychedelic elements.

-- So will this be a more grown-up sound for your fans?

SUGIZO: Rather than "grown-up", it more of a reincarnation of my sound. Or you could say, it's like an offspring.

-- For the rest of the year, you will be going on tour with LUNA SEA, but how do you manage such a busy schedule?

SUGIZO: There really is not much time to rest. I'm not sure how I do it, but I just work on many projects at the same time. Right now I should focus on LUNA SEA of course, but until two weeks ago, I had to focus on my own works.
So I just do it. (laughs)

SUGIZO: I have so many images for my own work, so much inspiration, still now, because I just can't stop playing music.

-- Also, the details for the single "The End of the Dream / Rouge" have just been announced. Can you tell us one little secret about the single?

SUGIZO: It's very hard stuff. As for my image, it is the core of LUNA SEA's rock sound, yet in a new kind of way. I also think that just these two tracks are best for our new stage. I really hope that LUNA SEA's fans will love the songs. It's hard core LUNA SEA rock'n'roll.

-- LUNA SEA is next to your solo works and your role as the guitarist of X JAPAN "just another project". How do you separate these projects?

SUGIZO: Their styles are very different, so I can focus on what is LUNA SEA's music and what is X JAPAN's music. It's all about the elements use. It's not really hard actually. So when I work for LUNA SEA, I just think about how to grow LUNA SEA's rock'n'roll and make it the most powerful of its kind. I just focus that. Then for X JAPAN, I just focus on how to play harder stuff, more technical heavy metal. It's very important and brilliant work to me.

SUGIZO: When I play my own music, my own image is like that of a scientist and I experiment, I learn and try. I just use what I like naturally.

-- I see. So I have one last and important question. What do you want to reach and achieve with your music in the future? You have already been in the music business for so long, inspiring so many young people. What are you aiming for?

SUGIZO: I just want to create this bridge for all elements in music, for any kind of work. I think that music and art is just one very important tool to connect people to each other. I think that sometimes, within music a kind of revolution is also important.
By connecting, we can maker better works and I think that we should do so and really agitate this for and with young people. I hope that any of my music, be it my own, LUNA SEA's or X JAPAN's will be a good trigger for them.

-- Thank you very much for your time and this interview. It was a great honor.

[Release Information]

Release Date: 2012/10/24
Price: 5,000 Yen (tax in) FTMS-12

Digital Single "SUGIZO feat. COLDFEET"
Release Date: 2012/09/11

Digital Single "FINAL OF THE MESSIAH Remix by SYSTEM 7"
Release Date: 2012/08/29

Double A-Side Single"The End of the Dream / Rouge"
Release: 2012/12/12

[First Press Limited Edition A] (2CD (SHM-CD) + Blu-ray)
Price: 2,980 Yen (tax in) UPCH-9820

[First Press Limited Edition B] (CD + DVD)
Price: 1,890 Yen (tax in) UPCH-9821

[First Press Limited Edition C] (CD + DVD)
Price: 1,890 Yen (tax in) UPCH-9822

[Regular Edition] (CD)
Price: 1,260 Yen (tax in) UPCH-5780