Interview by David Cirone
February 1, 2013
URBANGARDE’s visual design is fond of polka-dots. Did you see any URBANGARDE-style polka-dot fashion in France at TGS?
YOKOTAN: TGS is a game-themed event, so there were many cosplayers at the show just like at a Japanese comic market. URBANGARDE fans in France had our goods, but no one was dressed in my style like we see at our Japan lives. But there were many girls who dressed up to show they like URBANGARDE. They were very fashionable and cute. Maybe they didn’t have the idea that they want to dress just like the artist as fans do in Japan. Since we haven’t had a one-man live in France, we may see a different scene at a one-man live. I want to paint France with red and white!
Early in URBANGARDE’s career, Tenma had the job of protecting Yokotan’s virginity. How’s that going? In the PV for “Umaretai Mitai,” it looks like someone got past your defense.
TENMA: Yokotan became pregnant as a virgin. Just like the Holy Mary. Her virginity is never-ending.
In your one-man live shows, URBANGARDE makes a really big mess of the stage. You must have a lot of fun doing that. How you get ideas about making the show so wild?
YOKOTAN: Anyone can do that, if you’re just looking to make a mess. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to do that, if there’s no aesthetic or logic behind it. I can easily imagine how I want to color the stage, according to the songs and stage production we’ve set up.
TENMA: I ended up in music after I built up experience in theater, poetry, visual art, and video, so I may have a twisted view of music, in a sense. To say it in an extreme way, I don’t have love for music. This is why I can search for music as a composite art, and I can search for musical method that’s compelling. I need to make create music that’s necessary to live, not just something for us to like or dislike. So our stage show is an extension of that compulsion to go past the normal live music experience.
Let’s talk about subculture. Is it URBANGARDE’s mission to destroy boring, generic pop music?
YOKOTAN: I don’t know if pop music is necessarily boring, but there are times when I feel that my personal taste in music makes me an outsider. Right now in Japan, subculture is no longer “sub” and it’s completely become main culture. There are many more people who are intoxicated with the image of themselves as “part of the subculture.” Subculture is not a status. It used to be a tiny niche that was very personal and few people understood. I have to say that I have doubts about the recent subculture “religion.” This is why I think that it’s my mission to protect the minimum standard where “Good things are good,” not the music that wants to be promoted by those subculture wanna-be’s just so they can look cool.
TENMA: I love subculture. This is why I’ve felt uneasy for the last few years where “subculture” has been shortened into “sabukaru” and made into a neat little category. As rock musicians, we’re involved in the current state of rock music, and rock music has a death sentence right now. We feel the need to explode the deadlocked subculture. “Pop” music should literally be music to “bursts!” It’s not pop if it’s made just to be liked by everyone.
URBANGARDE – “Yameru Idol” (MV)
What’s the main idea behind your song “Yameru Idol?”
TENMA: In the Japanese music industry, we’ve been in the “Idol War Era” since about 2 years ago, and idols have become more popular than bands. It’s supported by CD sales aimed for handshake sessions and fan meetings and the complete hands-on approach. In this “War Era,” I felt that bands need to send a response, and I came up with “Yameru Idol.” However, we’ve done things that can be done by many of the idols who sing positive, happy songs. That is, the lyrics of this song focus on mental illness. We needed to express the emotional darkness that lies beneath the surface of show business. Also, it’s a direct challenge to the shallow idol industry.
YOKOTAN: Simply, I wanted to do something regular bands don’t. Many musicians have meaningless pride about playing music. When I was at live shows with other bands, there were times that I felt that they’re in a higher position because they can play instruments. On the stage, the important part is for the audience to “enjoy each person” whether it’s someone who doesn’t play instruments or idols who sing and dance. Putting someone in a higher position “because he/she can do this or that” shouldn’t be a question at all. Those people tend to make fun of the people who are selling and popular. I wanted to destroy the negative equation. None of the members of URBANGARDE can allow ourselves to believe that concept, either. It’s the audience that decides whether it’s fun or interesting or not, not us. Last year, I had many chances to meet some of the current idols, and from them I felt dedicated, solid positiveness. I think that people in “regular” bands should learn some of that dedication and positive attitude from them.
Do you have any superstitions?
YOKOTAN: “Words you say out loud always come true.” It’s the power of words. I believe it’s true.
There are others, but I forgot. According to the situation, words often come into my heart, but sometimes I keep them to myself.
If one of your fans goes to sleep listening to URBANGARDE’s music, what will they dream of?
YOKOTAN: I don’t think they can sleep.
TENMA: It’s simple — a nightmare!