GYZE OFFICIAL INTERVIEW by Kyosuke Tsuchiya #1
GYZE finally released a new album NORTHERN HELL SONG. The title and cover artwork of the album represent Hokkaido, the place where they were raised, while the songs perfectly reflect the identity of GYZE as a band.
Ryoji (vo＆gt), Aruta (bass＆vo), and Shuji (dr) are getting rave reviews from all around for creating such a strong album. What steps did they make to achieve it and what was on their minds? I had a chance to take my time and listen to the story of these 3 artists just before they went on an expedition-like Europe tour. This interview will exclusively unveil some yet unknown truth, and the words said will reveal true GYZE personalities. Now I want to share with you the first part of this valuable interview.
Interview by Kyosuke Tsuchiya, illustration by NAIMEIIEMIAN
¬ So, let me start by asking how do you now feel about the finally completed album NORTHERN HELL SONG. I think you must have great expectations about it, right?
Shuji: Talking about the 3rd album, even though at the moment public evaluation is considered to be the most important thing, I think that for us more important is that in this album GYZE signature style became more prominent. It feels like all songs were put together to create a fantastic masterpiece, our best work so far. And now our hearts are welled up with joy and happiness because of it.
Aruta: Actually, it took much longer than planned to release this album. We really wanted to release it as soon as possible and wanted people to listen to it, that’s why by now our desire to play these new songs in front of people has become very strong. Of course, it is obviously our best work so far. So our shows will also become even better. I believe that this album will make our live shows shine!
Ryoji: We have these feelings because the recording itself has finished about a year ago (laughs). At that time we were putting all our knowledge, skills, feelings, and all the efforts into this work and probably at some point and to some extend it comprised our first and second albums. And I think that the 3rd album can show best what kind of band GYZE are. Our work has finished a year ago and I feel that since then we’ve developed our skills even more; it might be in my character, but I already want to take up the next challenge (laughs). So first of all, I am relieved to have an opportunity to finally show our work to the world.
¬ What kind of album did you as a band want to create?
Ryoji: As Aruta said before, we wanted to make this album sound great when played live so that later we could play all the songs at our shows. In addition to that, all songs were made in Hokkaido so each and every one of them gives you a unique feel that you can’t get when listening to any other band……This album has something Japanese in it, but also all the songs together make you feel like traveling to some northern, cold, frosty land.
¬ Oh yes, even the album title shows it. Why did GYZE decide to focus on the place the band was created at, Hokkaido?
Ryoji: We’ve been through a lot, and there were good things, and bad things too. And among them I would highlight the experience when you want something you don’t have, but you can’t get it as easy as that. And at those times I thought that I should get over the state called longing and desire. But this time I thought that we should put the spotlight on the things that no one but us knows and only we feel. Until now if there was a piece of music that I was convinced and moved by, I was adopting it, but this time it is different. We made songs that can really explain to the listener what kind of band we are. Of course, it would be great to have an opportunity to share them with people all around the world. And having some experience overseas would definitely help us in it.
¬ Talking of which, in 2015 you played with CHILDREN OF BODOM and some other bands in China, then you left your mark at LOUD PARK, last year you performed at such festivals as SUMMER BREEZE in Germany and MORE//THAN//FEST in Slovakia. What are your impressions of your overseas activity?
Aruta: Of course, I think we’re only making our first steps overseas, but as for me, I don’t have any special feelings just because it is abroad. Of course environment differs from that of Japan but things we do are the same, so no matter where I am I do my very best and put in maximum effort.
Ryoji: I totally agree with Aruta’s opinion. For me every single show is special. For example, the special small event for fans last year at Higashi Koenji 20000v was also great, as every time all we do is giving all of GYZE to audience. But at the same time, sometimes I think “if only we had one more show, if only at least one more fan came”… and that’s when I think we should switch our focus to overseas activity. And as a result of the scrupulous preparations aiming to make it true we can go on real long Europe tours starting from this year.
¬ From the very beginning GYZE wanted to become a world-wide active band, right?
Ryoji: Yes, you’re right. It was our dream. So right now we’re on the way to making our dream come true.
¬ It seems that GYZE is the band that transforms dreams into goals and then achieves them bringing dreams to live. (laughs）
Ryoji: Exactly (laughs). And at the moment we have some new bigger dreams in front of us. For example: some time ago playing at some big festivals felt huge, but now we want something even bigger. But mysteriously, when I feel this way we don’t get any such offers.
Shuji: I agree with my brothers’ opinions. No matter in front of whom we perform, how many people are there, whether it’s just a rehearsal or work in studio, I always have the same feeling, I’m dedicated to doing my best. But actually sometimes it feels refreshing and new, for example like it was at SUMMER BREEZE. Though, what I wanted to say – I think there really is no wall of national borders between us. Just one of the differences – at the end of our stage at European festivals I usually looked at the crowd, and to my surprise I noticed that the audience was very young. And at that moment I thought that it would be great to spread this young metal culture and bring it to Japan.
Ryoji: I want to add that the locations were also great, especially if we talk about MORE//THAN//FEST. It was located in mountainous area in nature’s lap, in a really remote countryside. And not only audience was young, also among the staff there were young boys-volunteers who helped with organization of the fest. We really wanted to bring this style with us to Japan when going back. And we thought “what if next year we could organize such a festival in Hokkaido?”. So we’re now discussing it with different people.
¬ Some time ago you did mention that you wanted to organize an open-air festival in Hokkaido.
Ryoji: Yes, I really said so. It’s still a pie in the sky, but I was thinking to invite bands not only from Europe or America but also from Asia. There are many good bands in South-East Asia, China and Taiwan too. Also I though it would be interesting to have some bands from, for example, Russia and Oceania, and I think all of this can be held in Hokkaido.
¬ It feels like you’re steadily climbing up a new ladder with new challenges.
Ryoji: I hope we can accomplish it… And if we do, future feels to be exciting. I think that we are a band for which enjoying what we do is very important. But I always want to develop my music, my skills and improve the quality of everything I do. Talking about the most important things, when I think what band and music are about, I think they’re made to fill listener’s life, to enrich it. Of course, enjoying what we do ourselves is important, but we also must share the best of joy with our listeners. It’s become my strong belief recently.
¬ Was there any particular reason for you to start thinking so?
Ryoji: Sort of. Originally I’m a person with low self confidence. Even though I’m a musician I always hit the walls. Also I always meet barriers in interpersonal relationships. That’s why, I am sometimes struggling with doubts thinking “what am I as a person who is doing music, what am I as a musician?”. Not to mention that recently, when I was studying classical pieces sheet music, I was thinking: “this perfect music was written already 200 years ago, so why, after so many years, are we still exploring and digging through it?!”. But now I have my band members around, and we’re doing our best as a team doing one thing together. Such thoughts used to suddenly come to my mind in the middle of the night. At such times I wanted to come to some conclusion……the thing is, music is not among the three human primitive desires, which means that basically I can live without it. Thus it seems to be something made for fun, something for enjoyment. And somewhere deep inside me I came to a conclusion that, as I said before, music is made to make one’s life shine brighter than it does without it. And with this feeling we want to continue doing our best, growing as people and showing how we’re pursuing our dreams. That’s what would be great.
Shuji: Actually, moments when I don’t believe in myself happen about twice a day (laughs). That’s why every day is sort of a turning point for me (in a good sense). To tell the truth, in the dreary periods of time when I have no concerts, I worry about my income. But, at such times, thinking “Is it OK to go on like this? Will I be able to earn my living?” I realize that if I change how things are now I will lose. At this stage of my life I think a lot about what kind of life I would truly enjoy. This means that now is the most important turning point for me. However, I think I will find some new things I want to do and some new source of joy in the upcoming Europe tour, also the unity and connection between members will become stronger and I will understand the true meaning of everything. I think this experience will help me to develop as a person so now I’m really excited about the tour. I will make the best stages and hope GYZE will benefit through my efforts.
¬ Aruta, you joined GYZE on the midway, so did your point of view on GYZE change after you became a band member?
Aruta: Frankly speaking, no, it didn’t change. If not taking into account the turning points, I’m rather a tolerant, or, maybe it’s better to say, a suitable person: I’m the type of person whose first thought is “oh, I see, so, that’s how it comes out…”. So even when I joined GYZE as a support bassist, I already felt that it’s a huge deal and I also thought “oh, and that’s how it is, that’s how such bands work”, and now nothing really changed for me.
¬ So you mean that GYZE advances as a matter of course, just by doing what you are supposed to do?
Aruta: If putting it bluntly, maybe it really is so. The current state of things is the result of many things piling up. Ryoji already mentioned personal development, so I think GYZE is just being freely brought up in this routine.
¬ Such point of view is itself one of the special and interesting GYZE features. There should be some difficulties, but all the band activities seem to go smoothly, in a relaxed natural way.
Ryoji: Uh. Maybe it is so.
¬ Usually to put something into practice artists need some help and support, but, curiously enough, somehow you find your way and successfully advance. And you don’t seem to have a great financial support either. Such bands are really rare.
Ryoji: One thing is that, having confidence to never lose to anyone, I’m super lucky to encounter good people. When I think that there might be a problem, the very same moment a hero-like somebody appears and solves it. It is true for both personal and band issues. To tell the truth, it can even become a good plot for some manga. When something bad or dramatic happened, even though it’s not an RPG, every time I met someone. Personally I think that such pattern is interesting and funny. Of course, as I’m not a kid any more and when sometimes I need to deal with everything myself and take on responsibility I enjoy it. And it seems that the “relaxed, natural attitude” that you’ve mentioned before is to the point.
¬ Now, unlike the times when you’ve just started your activity, people are supporting you not only in Japan but all over the World, am I right? Why are all those guys and girls attracted to and fascinated by GYZE? Of course, your music and live performances are amazing, but have you thought about it yourself and what are your ideas about it?
Ryoji: Actually for me it is more interesting not to know that. Though, maybe it’s because I’m the type that always feels the atmosphere. But it’s only regarding shows. I mean that when I’m writing songs or doing something else, I don’t really have such feelings; we want to keep looking for answers that would lead to achieving our goals, and these feelings are the most important. ”How deep can I study my art?”… I haven’t been fully satisfied with it even once so far, so I think it’s my life-long mission. Of course when playing shows I sometimes also want to find out why people come to them. Actually, it’s very interesting to watch reaction of different people in different countries. Some time ago my priority was to make everyone like me and show how cool I am. But after a short time I stopped caring about that at all. It might seem like if I was trying to sound cool, but now what I care about is becoming one, inoculating with the audience. Recently it’s the feeling that I’m enjoying the most.
Aruta: Now you said ”becoming one”, and I think maybe we are the band that can communicate with audience during the shows. If we’re going crazy on stage and enjoy it, fans also get this emotion from us and also enjoy the show. Bit by bit these feelings accumulate and as a result they grow into burning passion from both sides. Isn’t it awesome? If talking about live shows, I think it is GYZE’s main strength. Since the first show I played with GYZE, each time I feel that we surely did it! That’s why I thought “what an awesome band!” when I entered it.
Ryoji: But some unevenness also takes place sometimes (laughs). If something went not very well, maybe it was because I was trying hard to look cool as a frontman. But the band overall might have still been good.
¬ I think that looking cool is also one of the important parts of performing on stage. And there is also a method of focusing only on it to perform own roles on stage like actors.
Ryoji: I see, in movies everyone is likely to say own lines.
¬ Yes. And the way you fascinate everyone, which seems so natural, is also a sign of professionalism.
Ryoji: Talking about that professionalism that you mentioned, I’ve also made a decision regarding it. Inside my head I’m making some scenarios, so I’m acting according to them. But of course feelings are feelings. So I started using this method.
Shuji: In my case……I’ll tell you the truth. At times when I was playing with passion and in high spirits sometimes I was actually dragging the band down. –So I started trying hard to drum. When drumming for GYZE I am playing an important role of a time keeper so I must do well. Of course, I used to face dilemmas like: “but I wanna play more like this and not like that!”. But the way I was supposed to play turned to be better at the end and the voice in my head screaming “today was awesome!” was rather loud! And it means that our audience also enjoyed the show. But, frankly speaking, with every next show such dilemmas make it more and more difficult for me to communicate with audience.
The other 2 members of our band also really appreciate me and my work. “You did skill up”, “It was very easy to play today thanks to you”, they say. I’m glad to hear it because it shows that I’m important to them. If I could transform this energy and really enjoy myself, I think I will grow up and stand out as a cool drummer. Sometimes I think about how to stand out from other drummers, for example like Tommy Lee does.
Haven’t Motley Crue also had hard times, worries, and dilemmas similar to mine? Maybe Tommy Lee also thought something like ”I wanna play not Rock but Hip-Hop!” (laughs). Maybe at some moment their drummer also had thoughts like “I don’t want to drum without having connection with audience” but kept on drumming. And maybe this feeling was strong enough to want to quit any moment… But, no matter what, they made me, a person from the audience, think “AWESOME SHOW!”. So looking at them I thought – “I can be as good as them!”. It’s like when you don’t play catch really well but someone who doesn’t know it just looks at you and thinks “oh, he’s so great at it!”… isn’t it an awesome feeling? So no matter what I am struggling with, I want the audience to enjoy my performance and the whole show!
Ryoji: Yes, I agree! I think that for a drummer it’s a better idea to think like that, than to drum sloppy being driven by feelings and emotions. 17) If it hadn’t been for Shuji who is creating a foundation, mainstay, GYZE music wouldn’t have existed, and that is another great thing about it.
Shuji: I’m very glad that you think so. I want to say thank you to everyone. But I’m not that good yet.
¬ For sure GYZE desire to improve themselves and your ambitions made the band make a step up. And in a way thanks to some sublimated negative emotions the NORTHERN HELL SONG was born.
Ryoji: Yes, you’re right. But, to tell the truth, there are still more peaks to conquer and we already can see them (laughs). That’s why it’s definitely not the end as we want to grow and develop, and now I definitely want to write new songs. So I think about now as the beginning! When I was asked “What is GYZE?” I would think about such songs as DESIRE or NANOHANA …so I used to answer with the names of our songs (laughs), but if talking about albums, like I said before, it is the work that accumulated all our progress up until now – NORTHERN HELL SONG. So if I need to explain what GYZE is I think it’s better just to give this CD – Northern Hell Song.