In the Eyes of Others: Goofy Mori-san
Goofy Mori, 10 Years with Fukuyama Masaharu (2000)
Mutual Trust. The essence between an artist and his Producer. Fukuyama Masaharu’s Producer, Goofy Mori-san talks about his “10 years with him”
■ When and under what circumstances did you get to know Fukuyama-kun?
G: The first time I met him was on 1991.02.16 in the narrow waiting room of the Eggman. I felt like I was tricked by the Amuse guys to go watch him perform, yes, that was the first time (laugh). I said, “Hello” and he replied “Hello” and that was the end of our meeting.
■ What did you think about that concert? And your first impression of him?
G: “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a musician still insist on using black Les Paul or Les Paul-copy guitars.” That was my impression. Visually, the last time I saw anyone play the Les Paul guitar in such a cool way, was probably Ayukawa-san (Ayukawa Makoto, guitarist, composer, actor, member of Sheena & the Rokkets)*1.
Amuse had been looking for a Project Manager*2 for him. They came to ask me as well, calling me non-stop morning, afternoon and night “Do you know of any?” In the end, I said “I’ll do it myself already!” That was just about the time for the album “BROS”which was being produced by Goto Tsugutoshi-san*3 and they were half-way through the recording. They needed to start work on his image and publicity. So I asked “How many do you expect to sell?” I remember they told me “1,200 copies” (laugh).
Our first formal talk was at the recording label. I thought, since we’re going to be working together, I’d need to have a talk with him in person, so we met. That man almost didn’t say anything in the one hour. Whatever I asked, he’d reply “Yes, ah…….I’m not sure.” He was quiet throughout, and even had his shades on, the room was very dark already. In the end, I had to ask him “Fukuyama-kun, whatever the reason, what don’t you take those shades off?” Then he said in a very small voice “Because, it’s very embarrassing.”
I really liked that statement. I thought, this kid is going to be fun. And that one sentence made me want to work with him.
■ From the time you met, it’s been almost 10 years now (year 2000), in the eyes of his Project Manager*2 Goofy-san, what is Fukuyama-kun like?
G: This man is just like a sponge. Sometimes, he’ll sop up all the water and essence that’s been spilt before him. Not only in music, but also in TV drama; CMs; radio broadcasts or visual images. In a nutshell, his ability to take in new things is very strong, like a heavy duty sponge, absorbing more and more without even a leak. This, I think, is his greatest asset. And because of this trait, the creative people like him very much.
People who cross over multiple disciplines are never being taken very seriously. And because he became an actor very early on, when it comes to music, the world will just assume that he is two-timing between the two. But from his side, the curiosity to take up anything (that comes his way) is very strong. He wants to enjoy the process of creation; he wants to get involved in amusing ventures; he wants to try new things, I believe it is because he has this heart in him that he is able to get in sync with the creative people.
■ In baseball terms, how would you describe your relationship in the process of music creation?
G: If the artist is the pitcher and the Project Manager*2 is the catcher, then in terms of the Giants, Fukuyama would most likely be Saito (斎藤) or Makihara (槙原)*4, initiating the pitching signals and deciding what to throw after due communication with the catcher. This style of working means he is the type of person who can manage things very smoothly without a hitch. Young artists usually declare “I want to pitch like this!” They say they want to throw a fast ball and end up hurling a curveball. There are many like that. But Fukuyama is an artist who gives the impression that he is one with the creative people.
■ I want to ask about the 2-year suspension of music activities starting from 1996…..
G: In computer terms, it was a “freeze”. There were many factors leading to the freeze, of course part of it was from the artist and part of it was from the team as well. With all these factors influencing each other, we couldn’t understand the real problem, so we stopped all activities. In order for him to be able to strip open the layers to find the true reason behind the freeze, those 2 years were necessary. To understand what was wrong, I think he did many different things.
When you’re standing at the apex of the entire project, and there are many other people involved as well, if your stance is unsure, and you cannot bring everyone forward together as a leader, then we might very well end up back down the path to another “freeze”. I think he himself was best able to understand this principle. If he hands over the decisions to someone else, we’re probably going to get small freezes popping up in various places and eventually the problem will fall back on his own shoulders.
■ In other words, looking back now, in order to shape the artist Fukuyama of today, that was a very important period?
G: Yes, looking at it now, that was something that definitely needed to happen. But we feel very sorry to the fans. I believe it was because of that period of rest, that we have today, that is for sure. Although it was a very difficult time to explore what caused the “freeze”, but I could see him slowly mature and grow up in those one or two episodes of continual self-exploration.
■ Well, this year (2000) is Fukuyama-kun’s debut 10th anniversary, a memorable year. Can Goofy-san please tell us about this past year, starting with the super hit song “Sakurazaka”…….
G: That was just plain luck. (laugh) I don’t think there’s anyone who would plan to get No.1 on the charts and can get there for sure. There should be an element of luck with anybody who gets the No.1 spot. And “I hope we are lucky enough to get No.1” did happen after his come-back. It’s probably a bit strange to put it all to “luck”, I think it’s experience too. Only by knowing what to do and how to do it, can we have the ability to target for that “luck”, isn’t it? Although we might still miss, but the chances of “being lucky enough to clinch the top” will then be that much bigger, right? I guess that’s how those big brand names do it too.
At the same time, I believe he’d also put in all he had. I think he truly sensed that he is finally back at work, and after the big success of his concert tour (1998 We’re Bros), he still had the drive left. After he released “Heart” and the experimental “Peach!!” it was like he’d just finished a full study course and he was finally feeling exhausted. Then because of one question “Do you want to write some music that would help people feel relaxed?” he wrote up “Sakurazaka” in Los Angeles, during the preparation stage before the next job. The use of this song in various channels like the movie version of “Mirai Nikki” (未来日記 Future Diary)*5 all helped to make it a hit.
■ And after that, he had his Arena Concert Tour (the last one was 5 years ago) as well as the Inasayama concert.
G: We had a really hard time on that concert tour! (laugh) He really likes to hold concerts. Only in the concerts can he get direct response from the audience and see in person the people who have been supporting him. Out of his many different jobs, he likes the concerts best.
As for Inasayama, I think he’s always had the thought in his mind “If I can still be working after 10 years, I must go to Inasayama….”. After he wrote the song “Yakusoku no Oka” (約束の丘), I remember having said to him “This should be a song to sing after 30, don’t you think?” I thought when he reaches the right age for this song, and holds a big event with it, that would be very interesting. To leave something tangible behind on his 10th anniversary, he was finally able to materialize this wish at Inasayama. What an emotional moment!
■ Over 10,000 people gathered on that hillside in Nagasaki from different corners of the nation. That alone was a clear statement of the public appeal of this artist.
G: He’s always attempting new things, but he doesn’t like to talk about it at all. Because he’s very shy. What I’m going to say is probably something that people don’t know about. Like the record for the top sales by a solo artist in a maxi single, up to now is still being held by his “HELLO”. And that single doesn’t have any words at all on the CD cover, this was also a first for the industry. He’s frequently a pioneer of new ideas in small detailed areas. And whatever he does, he never brags about it. The decision to hold the concert in Inasayama was only because he thought this would be quite a good arrangement. Also the compilation classic album “Magnum Classics”…..
■ And, he also participated in the Sydney Olympics as a (photo) reporter!
G: Because it was a totally new field, that’s why he wanted to give it a try. As a solo singer branching out into multiple disciplines, I’m sure he’s committed to heart the belief that “You can only see yourself clearly if you (return to) stand in the same spot.” The reason he can frequently challenge himself in new dimensions successfully is probably because he bears that principle in mind.
From different perspectives, I can see he’s getting more and more conscientious. And in fact, he’s becoming more strict in his creative work, whether in music, TV drama or CMs, it seems like he feels he has to continuously come up with new things. That’s a task he’s given himself.
■ Finally, what is Fukuyama-kun’s direction for the 21st century?
G: Because he is involved in many disciplines, it’s very hard to keep a fresh view all the time. How is he going to keep up the novelty? Maybe he’ll start asking himself – “Is it good to just maintain my market unchanged within the country?” New markets which have yet to be explored include movies, overseas etc. To retain the freshness, “what type of job am I going to do next?” I don’t think it has to stay in music. If he doesn’t develop new directions, if he doesn’t try out jobs which keep up the novelty, I don’t think he will have much growth in his music either. I guess he knows that too. So, it’s not a bad idea, for example, to debut as a magician in Las Vegas. (laugh) Or maybe as a Chief Editor in a magazine, say I don’t know……..maybe Chief Editor of Pati Pati. (laugh)
~ The End ~
Extract from 2000 Pati Pati, Interview with Goofy Mori (Manager of the Fukuyama Project)
*1 Ayukawa Makoto is a member of the band Sheena & The Rockets (Home page andmore info)
*2 The official title for Goofy-san is “Producer” (for the artist). I have used “Project Manager” to distinguish him from the Album Producer. In Japan, an artist’s Producer is similar to the Manager elsewhere, whereas their “Managers” are the equivalent of the Artist’s assistants.
*3 Goto Tsugutoshi - home page. He is a member of the Sadistic Mika Band.
*4 Masaki Saito (斎藤 雅樹) and Hiromi Makihara (槙原 寛己) were among the best pitchers with the Yoimura Giants.
*5 Mirai Nikka originated as a manga and then had it’s own TV and movie series - more info
Here are some numbers for the singles and albums mentioned in this interview:
- released 1991.11.06 (20 thousand copies) age 22
Yakusoku no Oka (single)
- released 1992.10.28 (92 thousand copies, Oricon debut #15) age 23
- released 1995.02.06 (1.9 million copies, Oricon debut #1) age 26
- released 1998.04.30 (570 thousand copies, Oricon debut #3) age 29
- released 1998.11.05 (263 thousand copies, Oricon debut #4) age 29
- released 1999.11.17 (904 thousand copies, reached Oricon chart #1 in its 5th~9th week) age 30
- released 2000.04.26 (2.3 million copies, Oricon debut #1) age 31