Yoko Yazawa – Interview (2013)

Interviews J-Rock

Yoko Yazawa
Interview by David Cirone
February 4, 2013


On your new EP ROUTE 405, you cover Suzy Quatro’s song, “Wild One.” When did you first get the idea to record it? Did you ever perform the song live before recording it for ROUTE 405?

Yazawa: I’ve been performing “Wild One” at live shows for about 2 years. I got so many comments from people saying, “You should record it,” that I finally decided to put it on this new mini-album.

Why are you so attracted to the rock genre? If you’re a female singer in Japan, isn’t it safer to sing light, happy pop music?

Yazawa: While I was living in Los Angeles, all I listened to was big hits on TV. I moved back to Japan to go to university, then my friend coincidentally introduced me to what’s called “Mentai Rock” (unique rock bands from Kyuushuu area) such as THE ROOSTERS, THE MODS, THE ROCKERS. I was unbelievably shocked. I was so attracted to the choice of the words for their lyrics and the speed of the songs. It was like “This is it! Nothing else!! I’ll devote my life to this!!” (laughs) Since then, I’ve listened to so much rock music from 1960’s to 2000’s, including oldies.

Why did you collaborate with The Plasmars for ROUTE 405? Was there anything different in your songwriting process this time?

Yazawa: My “Senpai’s” have been saying to me “Why not do this as a band?” and “It’s hard to tell you’re doing rock or something else when you’re solo.” The final decision was made when I was at a live show with Guitar Wolf in August last year. Seigi-san said “OK! I will name the band! THE PLASMARS!!” and it was decided at that moment. (laughs) This time, I wrote all of the songs with the band members including the arrangements, and we were always saying “Not like this! Not like that!” to each other. It was really fun.

In your music videos, you’re often seen wearing leather jackets. Are they an important part of your fashion style?

Yazawa: I wear leather jackets at live shows, too. The moment I put on a leather jacket When I’m backstage, my feeling changes instantly, like “OK! Let’s do this!” It’s become a really important item. Right now my jacket’s covered with the pin badges that different bands have given me.

I think your albums ROUTE 405 and GIVE ME!!! are similar to heavy 80s rock. Would you agree with that? Are you influenced by that decade?

Yazawa: The music I’m deeply influenced is mainly rock and punk from the early 80’s. But I try not to make my music as heavy as that. But sometimes it gets close.

What’s your favorite part about performing live?

Yazawa: The smiles of the audience. I think that live shows bring you into a fantasy world. There, everyone smiles when they forget their daily lives, they shout out loud, and become united.
The smile a person shows when he or she kicks away the shyness is sort of addictive. That moment is the greatest.

How do you get ready for a live show?

Yazawa: Putting spirit into it, that’s all. As I get up on the stage, I keep my feelings strong and large. Also, I try to leave all of that on the stage, so that I don’t have any regrets. When I can’t stand up after the show, that’s when I know I’ve done it right.

I recently saw a great live video of your performance at Rock in Taichung in Taiwan. Was this your first time performing outside of Japan? What were your feelings about the live show?

Yazawa: This live show in Taiwan was my first show outside of Japan. But rock’n’roll isn’t about words or languages. It’s about passion. I was really nervous, but I thought I just had to perform as usual and I got out to the stage. Seriously, I spoke just a little of the local language. The rest was momentum. After the show, I was even more convinced that rock’n’roll doesn’t rely on words. I was really happy and I built up even more power as more people came in during the live show.

You spent some of your teenage years in California. How did your experiences in America affect your music style?

Yazawa: Subconsciously, I like happy music. I’m pretty sure that’s influenced by California! (laughs)

In your promo photos, you have a “tough girl” image. Does the “tough girl” side of you come out in your real life, or is it only for stage performances?

Yazawa: I’m not focused on being a tough girl, but it’s like I don’t want to be weak. I always say what I want to say, because I feel that I have to speak my mind clearly. But, I’m not a scary woman, really!