Interview by David Cirone
August 3, 2011
exist†trace members Jyou, miko, Omi, Naoto, and Mally gave this interview on April 25, 2011, just 2 days after their debut American live show at Sakura-Con 2011.
In contrast to your normal heavy-rock style, your album “TWIN GATE” revealed a different side of exist†trace with the song “Cradle.” How did that song come about?
miko: I really challenged myself on this song. Recently, within myself, I decided I wanted to widen my desires, to try new things that I hadn’t considered before. In “Ambivalent Symphony,” there’s the song “Owari no nai Sekai.” That song was also a challenge. It’s a bright song, so writing it lifted off one of my chains. At that moment, I was able to think exist†trace can do anything. Up to that point I thought that we would only make dark songs, so I challenged myself even more with “Cradle.” I said to myself, “Make this!” The members were all supportive, but we all had questions, too. “How can we make this ‘exist†trace’?” And within the arrangement of the song, one by one we found our own ways to make it an exist†trace song.
Mally: Every time we play this song live, I feel that we’re growing.
miko: After the earthquake, we put comments on our website, and the music playing behind them was “Cradle”. Fans said they cried reading our messages with that music, that it gave them a lot of power. At that moment I was really happy that we made this song.
Jyou: Normally there are people that live their lives with a lot of worry. They’re sad and they can’t get back up. So there will always be morning. The imagery of “Cradle” is a mother bringing her baby to sleep with that reassurance. Honestly, if we went back in time to talk to ourselves at the time when we first formed the band and played “Cradle” for them, I think our old selves would be completely shocked!
How do you feel you fit into the visual kei genre? Do you think being defined as a visual kei band affects the perception of your music?
Jyou: In Japan, the popular music genres are really separated. There are people who won’t ever listen to visual kei just because it’s visual kei.
Mally: For us, for our band, we’re definitely identified with the visual kei genre. But we have a lot of regular rock fans, too. Sometimes we’ll go to do a live at a place where no visual kei bands normally play, and we go in just as we are and people are accepting of us as-is. No one’s looking at us weird because of how we’re dressed. They can honestly say our music is cool regardless of how we look.
miko: However, it isn’t a bad thing to be called a visual kei band. We like the power of this genre, and we like being able to surprise people with a song like “Cradle.” There are people that say they don’t believe a visual kei band made that song.
Jyou: Not everyone is like that. We’re still reaching new people, and we want to make fans from people who listen to all kinds of genres, but we want to do it without changing our style.
Do you feel you get more respect in the music scene because of your longevity?
Jyou: I wonder…? We’re just doing it the way we want to do it. There are people who accept us because of that, because we’re doing things our own way. But it’s really just up to us to do our best.
Naoto: I want to say “Yes” to that question. Because we’ve done so many live shows, people accept us. That’s a fact.
When the music business feels hard, what gives you the energy and hope to keep going?
miko: The fans. Recording is lot of work, and we use a lot of energy making our songs. But one fan might say it’s cool, and if they say that, we can forget all the suffering. We’re working towards that kind of moment, always. When I listen to a song even before the fans hear it, there are moments when I say the same thing: “Wow, that’s cool.” That gives me energy, too.
Naoto: I don’t know if many people are like this, but if I watch a sad movie or read a sad book, or when I hear a story of someone’s suffering, that gives me energy. I want to make my music for those people.
Jyou: The fans. Because they have an expectation. I want to do something more than they’re expecting, something like “Cradle” for example. Sometimes I really want to blow away their expectations, or give them something they’d never imagine. I think, “What’s their reaction gonna be?” and I imagine how much this is going to affect their impression of us. I get a lot of energy from that.
Mally: Of course I have to say the fans, too. If I shout at them during the live show, they shout back, and that’s awesome. Maybe some people in the back, behind the scenes, they’re saying “They’re just women,” or something to lower us down. Those types of people will never disappear. So I think, “I’m gonna show you, then! Keep watching!”
miko: It’s true. The people who oppose us, they add fuel to the fire.
Omi: My words and my music, I express them for myself, first. But all the fans are watching and I get a lot power from those fans, from the way that I think they each hear my expressions in different ways. The fans have empathy for our music, so sharing the same thought that we’re alive together… that is my power.