Kadokawa Mook FM Special: Part 2
The 20th Year Sign Post
Continued from Part 1 - here.
■ The latest original album was released after a long gap from the last one. It’s called “Zankyo”( 殘響 Reverberations / Echoes in the Heart). Perhaps he wanted to close off a chapter, now that he’s reached his 10th album. Things with sounds; things which were left behind (in his heart) – through the album, we could feel what Fukuyama himself was feeling inside. Comparatively, the discography of this album was more diverse than his previous ones.
F: Because I am a singer-songwriter*, when I write songs for myself, I don’t think I’m ever in a happy state of mind, you could call it a bit depressed even (laugh). (* Masha has said before that songs he writes for himself have to come from inside and reflect what he really means. But whenever he looks inside himself, he only remembers the unhappy times. That’s why he said he really enjoyed working on the KOH+ songs since he didn’t have that restriction.)
So words like “Kiss Shite” (KISSして Let’s Kiss) will never appear (in the songs I sing). That was a song which I did for KOH+ as a songwriter. Though I’d sometimes want to write these songs for myself, my stance would invariably have turned outward in the end (and he won’t be singing what he really feels.) So, as a singer-songwriter, when reflecting on what’s inside me, I couldn’t possibly come up with songs like “Kiss Shite”. If I could write something like that when I’m feeling depressed, that would be incredible (laugh).
And because it’s an original album this time, my homework was for me “to face myself”. Now, not only for songwriters, but for any of our working population - when you look back on your past, I guess you’d feel regret and shame at your own areas of impotence and ugliness. I believe most people actually do not enjoy what we call “absolute bliss”. So, naturally as I have more songs which reminisce on the past, feelings of regret will emerge even when I’m looking at happy instances. Like you can’t retrieve lost love, it has passed, the damage is done…….. thinking back about this invariably makes me feel downcast.
I’ve actually tried to avoid doing it all along, it’s embarrassing for me as well (laugh). On the contrary, I was full of that (reminiscing) mood at the time of my debut, but I just didn’t have the skill to express my feelings out. That’s why I had to work with my producer Shirahama Hisashi-san (白浜久) on my debut album. Shirahama-san was the one who taught me how to write a song. He’s truly my mentor. It is only because of him that I would start writing music.
But the first and second albums I recorded didn’t sell at all. I couldn’t go on like that. I had to come up with hits or I wouldn’t be able to continue in this line of work. It was a very critical time for me. I was racking my brains to think of what a good song should sound like, one that people would say “not bad” or “I like it”. The song “Good Night” was a turning point. It was written for the TV drama “Ai wa douda” (愛はどうだ). Under the guidance of producer Kizaki Kenji-san (木崎賢治), I was able to come up with something I had never done before, a love song. I kept thinking “Can someone who can’t even say ‘I like you’ or ‘I love you’ in real life write a (convincing) love song?”
I had no idea how to compose love songs at that time. But the theme was already decided for me. “This song is about you walking your girlfriend (character) back home. You feel strongly for her but you’re too nervous to voice it out. Tell us what you’re feeling at that time.” That’s what the drama director Tamaki Endo-san said to me. I had taken on this job because of my work, but I was dreading it “Love songs…”
I can still remember, the lyrics were written in a restaurant in Shibuya Dogenzaka (道玄坂)**.
Kizaki-san asked me “If you have someone you like, what’s the first thing you’ll want to do?” It was just like an interview.
So I said “If I have someone who’s very important to me, I’d want to do a lot more things for her.”
“Good, well said, now write that into your song.” Kizaki-san replied.
The more you mean to me, The more I want to do for you
“Good, then what else do you want to do?”
“Um…..I guess I’ll want to let her understand me a bit more.”
“Oh, that’s not bad!”
So you can understand me more (僕を分かってもらおうとする)
“To do that, I’ll probably take her to see the places I like.”
“OK, that’s a good way! Write it down!”
So you can understand me more, This time I’m going to take you to my favourite place
“Yes, not bad, see you got it.”
That’s what Kizaki-san said. (laugh) And that’s how I wrote my songs at that time.
But even after I completed them, I still had my doubts “How good is this…… truly? It sounds like a kid writing his vacation diaries.” (laugh) “Today I woke up at this time, I went to the hills to catch cicadas and I got a lot of them. When I got home, my mother made me a hamburger, it was delicious. That’s my day.” Just like a diary (laugh). But people started calling this a good song after I sung it out. I was amazed, “Really?” and so that became one of the benchmarks for my songwriting.
We often hear how “music has infinite possibilities, each person looks at it differently and there is no absolute correct answer (to what makes a good song)”, but if you ask 10 people to listen, and 7 say it’s good, isn’t that a good song already? So I’d come to realize that hit songs all have a style that caters to the taste of the majority. That’s why all along, I’ve tried to avoid the style that I’m using this time in Zankyo.
Even if people say you probably won’t find 7 out of 10 who would think Zankyo is a good album, I won’t bother myself with that anymore. After all, it’s my 20th year. And this album was created after I broke away from my old style of thinking.
■ Fukuyama songs frequently deal with topics which are imaginary, exhibiting a tone of creativity one might say. In other words, he is not the type who would “speak his mind” in a song. Although the Zankyo album was created based on his own mentality, the stance of never easily opening himself up remains unchanged.
F: I’ll never fully open up myself (laugh). You have to be as vague as lace underwear. (laugh) With skill and experience, you show some and hide some. But since the beginning, I had never considered writing highly emotional songs. I don’t think most people would accept those, would they? Although I hope they would, but at this moment, I do not intend to write any songs that the audience have no interest in, and I don’t think I will in future either.
So what songs would you like to hear? What songs would you be ready to accept from this 40-year old? If I were a listener, I would be thinking about “the things I’d want to ask a 40-year old man”, and I’d want to know “what he’s really thinking about”. I’d want him to tell me clearly and truthfully. Not the good and bad things, not the wonderful or awful things he’s done, or the things he could or could not achieve. How shall I put it……I guess it’s the stuff he’d mutter to himself, his grumblings and feelings.
OK, this illustration I’m going to give you may sound a bit strange, but when I was small, I never did ask my parents what they felt inside though I had really wanted to, even now I still do. My mother, my elders, what are they thinking about? At work, I’d want to check out the boss’ opinion. But in practice, we don’t get that much opportunity to really ask them of course.
In fact, be it musicians or artists, once you’ve been in the job for a long time, your skill and technique will get better and better, but at the same time, it also becomes harder and harder for you to see through people. Sometimes, I can’t tell any more if a person’s song is sung from the heart or not. But, as a fan, I’d like to know what, say, Bob Dylan is thinking about and I’d like to hear it from his songs. Or to go and ask Bono from U2 what’s on his mind? With the way he flies all over the world, I’d really want to ask him “aren’t you feeling exhausted?….” (laugh)
Because of that, this time I want to state frankly what’s on my mind. Whether it’s about regrets, whether I have expectations, I’ll want to sing it out. The older you get, the more you tend to harbour a fear of being taken as childish. But if I were a fan or a member of the audience, I guess as long as these are the artist’s true thoughts, it wouldn’t matter even if they were really childish or not. as these are the artist’s true thoughts, it wouldn’t matter even if they were really childish or not.
~ Continue to Part 3 (end)~
Translated from the Chinese version in Fukuyama Honne (Articles 7016, 7026 and 7033), with reference to the original Japanese article.
The English song lyrics for “Good Night” were taken from Kiwi Musume’s Jpop Page
This English translation was first posted on MashaPlus [dot] Info Forums. (Registration required to enter.)