Interview by David Cirone
September 29, 2015
Your most recent song is about a dark, real-life subject, “Coin Locker Babies.” It seems to me that URBANGARDE breaks the mold of Japanese pop by speaking so openly and consistently about politics, sex, dark psychology. Don’t you think Japanese fans want pop idols instead? Why are those taboo themes so important to URBANGARDE?
Temma: Even Japanese punk bands seem to steer away from those topics. They don’t touch the Japanese social problems, and I always think that’s strange. Why isn’t anyone singing about it, why isn’t anyone expressing this feeling, and so we’re looking to create the channel to express these concepts that no one else will touch.
How does that connect to the image component of URBANGARDE? Does it have to be outrageous to get people’s attention?
Temma: We’re not trying to dictate a point of view or even cause a debate, but I feel like it just has to be said.
Yoko: It’s real and it exists in the world. So we have to say it.
What’s the most shocking concept you’ve created for your music videos? Has anything ever seemed too crazy?
Yoko: We all sort of think about it together, so because we grow the idea collectively from the start, there’s never been a moment where an image or concept has caught me by surprise. But if I’d seen one of our videos without knowing what was coming, I might have been a little shocked.
Temma: A lot of the “shock value” stuff isn’t so shocking anymore, honestly, compared to when we first created those concepts. Things like flying sperm or even kissing a mannequin, those things or even things more shocking are already out there, so we’re not aiming to shock anymore, at least not for it own sake. We think about whether the image fits the message, and that’s how it emerges naturally.
The message comes first.
Temma: Right. For me, there’s always a theme of loneliness that seems to come through. A girl cutting her wrist and the blood dripping down onto white, creating the Japanese flag, that kind of thing. Sometimes we’ll have an image in mind that guides the lyrics when we’re creating the song, and that will lead to more images. Or sometimes an image comes from a strange place. The flying sperm in “Mizutama Byou”, those were inspired by the movie “Look Who’s Talking”. I thought, here’s a chance for us to connect to pop culture!
For each of you, what’s the best part of being a member of URBANGARDE?
Zeze: I get to play the guitar! (laughs) Coming here to an anime convention like this, usually there are pop bands or rock bands or visual kei bands, but URBANGARDE doesn’t really fit into just one of those categories, so it’s exciting to play our kind of music that no one’s ever played before. Being a musician is rough sometimes, but it’s cool to be part of something new.
Kei: I get to play any kind of genre, or use any kind of playing style that I want. There’s no limit. URBANGARDE has a big, big plate to choose from — if I want to do heavy metal one day, I can do heavy metal. If I want to do French pop, I can do French pop. The ability to choose whatever I want and really go with it, that’s really fun.
Temma: For me, I was always engaged in different creative pursuits. I was doing theatre, I was writing books, I’ve been involved with art, things like that. With URBANGARDE, it’s the chance to be involved in all of those things at once. Even though it’s music at the end of the day, I’m still thinking about the whole package, like the MVs or the jacket art, so it’s a chance to grab all of these passions together at once.
Yoko: There’s not one particular thing, really. Or maybe it’s everything. It just feels like URBANGARDE is me.