1. Thank you for accepting to interview you. It really is an honor for us. Could you please tell to our readers a few words about yourselves?
I’m a vocalist, dancer and sword performer.
I’m a Japanese traditional instrument Shamisen player, and I also play the four stringed, fretted musical instrument „Yomisen” which I invented.
Vocalist, guitarist and KAO=S’s band leader.
2. After it was founded in April 2011 , in the following years , KAO=S has conquered Europe and US in a blink an eye. Chicago, New York , Los Angeles , Frankfurt and London have been some of the cities where you played. Where would you like to return to ? How did it feel to play abroad ?
I would like to return to all of the places we visited before, but Austin is a special place for me. This is because Austin was the first place I visited in the United States, and whenever I go there I really get to experience the culture.
Frankfurt, Germany is the place that left the most lasting impression for me. I was a guest of a German family, and I felt they treated me like real family.
The audience is very different. Japanese audience is quiet, generally. The reactions of the audience from oversea are mostly rock’n’roll by comparison.
3. “ Japanism Rock band “ is it what describes your musical style? What does mean “ Japanism rock Band “ for KAO=S and what should it mean for those making contact with your music for the first time?
We were influenced by various music from around the world. Especially by the rock music when we were teenagers. KAO=S uses the shamisen (a traditional Japanese reed instrument) ,so the band’s sounds have a strong Japanese style in tone and scale. Furthermore, Kaori’s sword performance and dance gives an impression of Japanese art. However, those sounds and culture are natural to us, being Japanese. So, Japanism Rock or Japanese Art Rock for us means a mixture of the world music that influenced us, and our native influences.
4. I ‘d like to know which are the musical motifs behind your musical concept. Traditional and modern blend perfect together. Which should be the “ personal recipe “ of a musician from musical point of view regarding the composition?
Sadness, strength to return from sadness, and love of nature.
The theme of life. Even if you feel hopeless, you still have hope.
When I make music, I forget that the musical instrument which I play is a Shamisen. And I remember it at the same time. If I think too much about Shamisen, the expression of my music becomes typified. However, the limited characteristics of the Shamisen have less impact when I ignore what I’m playing. So ,I focus on balancing between having an original sound, and recognizing the unique advantages that the Shamisen has.
5. Personally , I can say I ‘m fascinated by everything that means Japanese culture and folklore . The storyline of your MV “ Ogre of The Cherry tree / Sakura no Oni “ it ‘s one that sends me back in the time, in the era when foxes and human beings lived together. In fact , what does the song speak about?
The theme of the „Ogre of the Cherry Tree” is „fight with the ogre within yourself, and be reborn.” The reason I use the mask of the fox is to show a self-identity. The fox is regarded as an animal of transformation in Japanese folklore. It could also be said that it has no certain identity. So ,I obtain a self-identity by taking off the mask in the song.
6.KAO=S ‘s popularity increased more and more . “ Taimatsu “ , one of the pieces of your new album “ Dawn of the Planet Chaos “ released this year in January will be featured in Addison Heath’s upcoming movie “ Mondo Yakuza “ . What is the plot of the movie and what ‘s the role of KAO=S ‘s in this “ world of yakuza “?
Taimatsu is a music that expresses fire. Because the revenge was the theme of the movie „Mondo Yakuza”, I thought the song would fit the movie. The movie’s director really loved it. KAO=S’s song „Jiware” also played in the film and I made some of the other music for „Mondo Yakuza”- Mondo Yakuza Official Trailer
Mondo Yakuza Plot Summary
Ichiro Kataki, a violent Yakuza gang member travels to Melbourne, Australia after his beloved sister Yuko is brutally murdered by a group of criminals. Hell bent on vengeance ,he teams up with Cassidy Arizona, a lady of the night with a vendetta of her own.
7. CNN took a like on your music too and they invited you to “ The Art Movement “ . It must have been a special moment for you . How have you ‘ve been received? Have you been nervous ?
We got the interview offer from CNN International in September 2014. They found an article about KAO=S’s performance at SXSW on the internet, and then contacted us through our official website.
I remember that the lighting was beautiful. It’s very different from the lighting style in Japan. I was excited, because it reminded me of the interview scenes that I had always watched on TV. I enjoyed it very much.
I didn’t feel that „this is a CNN interview!” when I had the interview in Tokyo. But it really blew my mind when I watched the video. I was very honored because many people watched it throughout the world.
8. Turning back to folklore, Japanese culture and music became popular also in the European countries. How do you feel about it and how do you think would evolve things in the future concerning this ?
Japanese subcultures such as Anime, Manga and Cosplay are popular in around the world thanks to the internet. I think that is wonderful. However, J-POP or Japanese music is not so popular, yet. Some musicians, including Baby Metal, are popular globally. However, as a whole Japanese music is not so popular internationally. I hope musicians with originality and a unique sense of Japanese culture become more popular in the future.
9. Kaori , your dance performances with the katana are amazing and your moves are neat and perfect.Everyone would like to know how much practice is necessary to put in to get to such a level. What other movies aside from “ Captain Harlock “ did you star in ? Which was your favourite character and from what movie?
I have studied sword performance (called „Tate” in Japanese) for around ten years. I also learned Kung Fu and ballet, and other martial arts as well.
My favorite character is FINAL FANTASY XIII’s Serah Farron, because she was the first character I played in Mocap.
10. The album “ Down of the Planet Chaos “ is it related by chance to the Tohoku incident?
Shuji and I did a session together for the first time on March 11th 2011, so the band has a deep connection with that earthquake disaster. KAO=S was founded in Tokyo, out of the turmoil that followed the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
I wrote „ONE” just after the earthquake, the song from our album „Dawn of the Planet Chaos”. It is a song for the people who died in the disaster. It’s also the story of a man who recovers after losing his town and family. It is a song with hope and prayer.
11. What do you want to transmit through your lyrics to the people?
Be yourself. Everything is connected, and you are also a part of the universe.
The power to overcome. Accepting what comes.
Hope for everyone.
12. Shuji , you described KAO=S ‘s story through a promotional manga. Is it the manga still available? Could you share with us a few ideas about that manga?
Our fans said that they want to read KAO=S’s Manga when KAO=S went to the US in 2012. So ,I made a story and one of my friends, an illustrator, drew the Manga. You can get it on Amazon books and iBooks. The band’s popularity spread thanks to that Manga, I think. I may make another KAO=S-themed Manga.
13. Jack , in 2014 you participated to a world competition of Tsugaru Shamisen and you won a silver medal . Will you take part to a new competition ? When did your passion for this instrument start? At what age ?
The Shamisen competition is held every year in Aomori. Because Tsugaru is an old name in the Aomori area. I have participated consecutively for seven or eight years in the competition. But I was not able to participate this year because of a schedule conflict. I may participate again next year, but I ‘m not sure yet.I listened to Shamisen songs on the radio when I was a high school student. One such was a song by Hiromitsu Agatsuma ,who is very famous and unique Shamisen player. He mixed pop music with Japanese traditional style using the Shamisen. It was something very cool and exciting for me. I really wanted to play the Shamisen ,so I bought a shamisen at the age of 20 years old. I started the shamisen lessons in my home town’s shamisen studio. It was the start of my Shamisen career.
14. We reached the final of this interview. Which is your message for Ajia no Tengoku and our readers?
Thank you for reading our interview. Please listen to KAO=S’s music. Also sing with us KAO=S’s songs, if we visit your country. Please support KAO=S.
Hello Ajia no Tengoku and readers. I’m Shamisenist JACK. I was very pleased to be interviewed from Romania. Please enjoy KAO=S’s music and look forward to our visit. We will go to Romania in the future.
I hope KAO=S will have an opportunity to go to Romania to perform live and meet you all. Please check out our music on YouTube or iTunes.
*Thank you to KAO=S and their PR for the cooperation *