Kadokawa Mook FM Special: Part 3
The 20th Year Sign Post
Continued from Part 2 - here.
■ But you’re basically an introvert. How do you handle your own emotions when you’re writing songs of the past that are so full of regret?
F: I let myself get as depressed as possible (laugh). It’s not exactly like the “Runner’s High”*1 that athletes experience. For me, you can call it a “Melancholy High”. Every day, I get the feeling that I’m “writing letters in the still of the night”. Even when I wake up in the morning, I’m still in that frame of mind: “night-time letter writing” (laugh). Once I reach that state, that’s where I want to be*2. But it’s a really depressing time getting there. As hard as if you were sitting in the Evangelion entry plug, waiting for the liquid (LCL) to fill up the cockpit (and your lungs)*3. But once it’s loaded, I’ll be fine (laugh).
The older I get, the more time it takes to enter that state. Although everything’s cool once you reach it, but getting there…….And once I’m in that frame of mind, I won’t be able to stop. I could write as many lyrics I want, it just gushes out non-stop. Unfortunately my schedule doesn’t allow me (laugh), so I have to break it up. If I were able to write continuously, I could have released a double album already. Because the ideas come surging out endlessly. So it’s such a waste whenever I have to strip myself away from that state, to get on with my other jobs.
Having said that, I don’t want to be stuck in that frame of mind all the time (laugh). If my inner world should surpass the real world, I don’t think I could ever come back into reality. If you get to that stage, most of the things you (think) you see will be illusionary. So I can understand how some authors would want to end their own lives because they were too caught up in their own worlds. But I don’t think I can bring myself to do something like that.
Whether in the Arts or in the Entertainment industry, there are those who would use “death” as a means to an end. Perhaps it is an ideal way to end your life at the peak of your creative form. Or if not to die, then another way is to retire. But the question is how are you going to spend your life after retirement? I find that is something I look forward to very much. So to end it all, would be a way of cheating. I cannot do something like that.
When I debut, I was not considered a creative talent by my management company or recording label. It was only with a lot of hard work and practice after my debut, that I started writing songs. I believe young people who debut as creative talents nowadays have a very hard time, I’ve seen lots of such cases. I was lucky to have been able to debut at the time when I was so immature and still unable to compose. It was not until my fourth album that I was able to write up all the songs myself. Though I wouldn’t say I had just started, I still feel that I’ve only been doing this for a short time.
And perhaps it’s not very good of me to say so myself, but I’m gradually getting quite good with the instruments (laugh). I was really terrible in the past! Now I can finally play out the sounds I hear in my mind. It’s only been in the past 5 years that I could do so on the guitar, but not at all before then. Maybe that was because I never really used to play the instruments during recording sessions. But I wanted to change the way I write music, so I tried going into the recording studio by myself. Although I didn’t know how to play drums, I asked for a set to be assembled for me to try, I even bought a bass guitar. Even though I didn’t know how to play the piano, I asked them to prepare a keyboard for me. That was how I started. During the course of my experimentation, I gradually found the music I wanted.
“Yes, this is what I want, this is my own music.”
It was only recently that I could really find my music. That’s why I can sense my possibilities now, not only musical phrases or guitar riffs, there are so many new frontiers for me to explore, to invent. And that of course, includes instrumental pieces as well.
■ He turned 40 this February. And coincidentally, his life as an artist was exactly half of his age. And the Budokan concert we mentioned before disclosed the audition tape that gave him his chance to debut.
F: When I saw my images again, I wanted to say how incredible my fans are, that they were willing and wanted to support someone like that. I just think they’re awesome. There must have been other better choices, right? Even if I look at the images (of other people) at the time of my debut, I’d still say the same thing.
■ In the audition clip, Fukuyama shouted out the entire Street Sliders*4 song. Although unrefined and immature, it was his rich resounding voice which led him to pass the auditions. Now 40 years old, does he know why the Fukuyama Masaharu 20 years ago was chosen?
F: If it were upto me now, I wouldn’t have selected him. (laugh). If I have to say he’s strong on something, that would probably have been his determination and spirit, and it all came together somehow at the right time, right place. I think it’s the same for other lines of work too. People with more fire in them tend to be the ones who get to stay on. Or you can call it energy instead.
And the one (good example) closest to me would be Kuwata (Keisuke)-san. The intensity of the fire in him is no simple matter. A while back, he reworded the lyrics for a Beatles song and sang it on his “Music’s Tora-san” show (音樂寅さん Ongaku Tora-san)*5. I thought it was incredible after I heard it and sent him an email to say:
“That was great! Taisho!” (大将 Captain / leader / key player in a team)
He replied “Thanks! But it took me 2 months to finish it.”
I would never have spent 2 months, to be more exact, I wouldn’t do a job if it would take up so much of my time. I’d rather use the 2 months to work on my album, don’t you think (laugh)? The energy and zeal that Kuwata-san puts into (the things he does) far exceeds anyone else. And his talent, of course. I think he’s a genius. But talent alone is not enough to keep you in this industry, it also depends on how much passion you have.
If I must find a reason why I was allowed to come into this entertainment world, it’s not likely to be because of talent. I can only say the fire inside me at that time was ignited and burning. Looking back at my past self, I don’t think I’m one of those people with extraordinary zeal and passion. I was just a bit more enthusiastic than others. With that level of enthusiasm, it would have been sufficient to keep me going.
As an example of this, I’ve been taking weight training on an ongoing basis and they have a programme that can change your body shape in 3 months. Because of individual differences, some people would give up very quickly and they won’t come back any more. But for me, I have increased my weights bit-by-bit, slowly and gradually. With a bit more commitment than others, I have carried on with this training non-stop for 7 years now. I’m that type of person, it’s part of my character I guess. And it’s probably the only way that suits my physique and personality as well. If you lift up something too heavy in one go, you’ll end up hurting yourself. It’s not healthy at all.
I believe the spirit is very similar to the body in that sense. Your heart can never be that strong. On the contrary, because you know where your weakness is, you can take greater care to remind yourself as you’re doing your work. I guess the mind is the same too, it’s not infallible. By knowing your own limitations, you can proceed slowly so you can overcome them step-by-step.
Likewise with concerts, I don’t want to have concerts in large-scale venues back-to-back, I don’t think it’s right for me physically and mentally. If I force it through, there’s bound to be a mess up somewhere. And we’ll end up having to return to the drawing board and redo everything again. That’s why we have to keep our feet on the ground, and we need a goal. Because when we have a goal, we won’t feel discouraged with our failings. All we need to do is to work on overcoming our limitations. That will give people a sense of objectivity. Once we have a goal or target, we can face up to our own weaknesses. But if we don’t address it properly, we’re only going to sink into desperation eventually. And that wouldn’t be good for the mind either.
I believe it’s the same with recording an album. It is because we have the output (as the target) that I can carry on with the task of “facing my inner self”. Otherwise, I wouldn’t want to do that at all. (laugh) I want to have an easier life…….and forget all about those troubles and pain.
■ My final question - Do you think you’re suited for this line of work?
F: I think I am. But I’m always asking myself, whatever job I do, in whatever line of work, if I am enjoying myself in it. It’s not a matter of self-confidence , but rather how I can use “my own way” to do things. I believe there is always a way!
■ Fukuyama Masaharu is using his own way, to search for his own music and to let it sound out to the world.
~ The End ~
*1 Runner’s High - more info here
*2 I have taken a slightly different interpretation from the Chinese translation. Masha said “こっちのモンですね” (kocchi no mon desune) which I gather is a slang that means “that’s THE Thing”, the place to be. I take it he means he has to go through all the melancholy to reach his “high”.
*3 Neon Genesis Evangelion - more info here
*4 Street Sliders - more info here
*5 Kuwata Keisuke’s “Music’s Tora-san” - more info here (first part)
This English translation was first posted on MashaPlus [dot] Info Forums. (Registration required to enter.)