Bros#85 “Hi, this is Fukuyama” (2009.12)
2009 has ended. As we step onto the stage for 2010,
I’m trying my best to “turn up the volume”.
How are you all? This is Sakamoto Ryoma. Ah, no! It’s me, Fukuyama.
At the time of writing, it’s early December. The “Ryomaden” filming is proceeding very smoothly. It’s been two months since we first started shooting on location. We’re at the peak of filming now, endless scenes being shot, schedules tightly packed every day. Looking back at my past drama experiences, it probably takes me the first few weeks to fully immerse into my role. That transition period has long passed and I am now entirely in character with “Ryoma” for this series.
We’ve just finished the Episode 1 Preview Conference. Response was pretty good, and that has made me feel better. Since this is a historical drama, and an NHK Taiga, to be honest, it’s an area I know nothing about. If I need to be very frank about it………..and I’ll say it only here, and because it’s the truth, I’ll say it with my head held high (what a long intro….) in fact……I have never watched any Taiga drama before! I’m so sorry! I haven’t done enough homework!
So during the preview conference, there seemed to be a lot of talk about “certain things never being seen in Taiga before.” But even if you tell me how different it is, I wouldn’t……..(laugh)
Having said that, there are many avid Taiga fans around me, who look forward year on year to the latest Taiga drama. Amuse Chairman Osato is one of them. In particular, many corporate directors and business people, seem to revere the historical periods like the Bakumatsu and Sengoku* (戦国 warring states). Which means this Taiga will also be closely monitored by society and corporate leaders. But one thing is for sure, to those Taiga buffs, it’s very likely this will not be the Ryoma they have in their hearts.
There is a great working atmosphere on site, and as the start of the year-long filming, it made this Fukuyama-Ryoma (i.e. not the Ryoma in popular view) feel right at ease. I have one description for the filming mentality of an NHK drama – “large scale, top quality”. And I don’t mean commercial TV stations have no quality! (laugh) What I’m saying is their attitude in the face of competition, is entirely different. In terms of sporting events, it felt a bit like I was taking part in the Olympics! On the contrary, there is always a sense of apprehension on the sets of commercial TV stations, because their programmes survive on the basis of competition.
Oh yes, when I watched Episode 1, I was once again reminded that there are no commercials on NHK (laugh)! That’s why they can make good use of this full hour in their production methods to create tidal waves, while the feeling you get from commercial stations is “not even a small ripple before the commercial” (laugh) The difference in production methods was something very new to me and I was very happy to have discovered that.
To enable you to fully enjoy the Jan 3 broadcast of “Ryomaden”, let me walk you through the things we need to prepare beforehand.
Firstly, to better enjoy the drama, “please read up a bit about the Bakumatsu period!” In the peace and prosperity of Edo, the Black Ships arrive. The Bakufu is requested to “allow free foreign trade” and to “open up the country”…… If you could try to understand what it was like in those times, I believe you’d be able to feel more involved as you watch. After all, it was a time when Japan had to undergo a great change, a very interesting time. Of course, the background was also discussed in detail within the drama itself. But if you had checked up on it beforehand, you’d probably find it easier to appreciate the relationships between the characters and the meaning behind their lines. And you’ll enjoy this deep human drama more. Although there’s not much time left, please try your best!
In any case, the Bakumatsu wasn’t that long ago. It shouldn’t be impossible to understand. I know there aren’t any “ifs” in history, but if we didn’t open up the country at that time, I guess we would still be wearing kimono, keeping swords at home and living in traditional Japanese houses…….maybe you’d get the same feeling too. Even in the modern times, “Sakoku” (鎖国 national isolation)* still exists in other countries. So should they open up? I don’t think that just by opening up the country, everything will be fine…….This would also be a good opportunity for us to think about the world we live in.
And then, to watch Fukuyama-Ryoma, “please take note of the Active Fukuyama”. Yes, I think that’s the word. I run about, I move a lot, I’m very active in this.
Also, however you look at it, it’s “very loud”. Not because I wanted to make it so, but this is the Bakumatsu era. From the moment we shouted “Joui!” (攘夷 Expel the foreigners!), everyone had been yelling out their opinions at the top of their voices. To face the impending crisis, to illustrate the changes that would come from the reforms, it was necessary for them to cry out, or they could not have communicated that sense of urgency to the audience. And because of this, there will be quite a lot of belligerently vocal scenes. The voices of the Bakumatsu, are 50% louder (than other NHK drama).
Please look out for the shouting Fukuyama!
Ah, I’ve been going on and on about Ryoma. There’s something else we shouldn’t forget in the Fukuyama Masaharu composite world of entertainment – release of “Hatsukoi” to wrap up the year of 2009. What did you think about this single?
Creation for this song began with the word “Memories” for a commercial. To represent the love that remains in our memories, I used (the words) 「はつ恋」 (Hatsukoi, First Love)……….I started from there. And that was in the midst of my tour. I wrote the music during the concerts, completing the chorus part first. I will never forget having to record the Demo Tape backstage, after finishing the Nagoya concert (cry). Then when the tour ended, and in conjunction with the filming of Ryomaden on-location, I finished the rest of the song and the recording……….(sigh).
But all that hard work was well worth it. At this point in time, the Chaku-uta downloads are showing pretty good results, thank you all very much. I was worried at the beginning because this was a rather heavy song, but it turned out you all liked it (laugh)
And this song “Hatsukoi” has a ‘first’ in the history of Fukuyama singles. What is this ‘first try’? In my 20 years in this business, this is the first time I composed in Minor Chord in a single. Did you notice that?
Actually…. nobody had said that to me before – “You must use Major Chords in singles!” but I had this fixed in my mind all along. “No, no! I must not use Minor!” (laugh). Even I don’t know why I would think like that. Perhaps I was influenced by the bright sunny Western and Japanese songs of the late 80’s because that was what the music industry was like when I made my debut.
And we also included the pure instrumental 「アンナイトの夢」(Ammonite no Yume, Dream of the Ammonite) in this single. I never imagined that I would release a single with instrumental music in it. This time, I have broken two of my taboos. I feel released, free of bonds now. Really! I can actually do it, see! (laugh)
Something else to tell all of you in Bros, a part that I’m particularly fond of – please listen to the music. I played guitar riffs with prog-rock (progressive rock), and I’ve incorporated the same idea as “Stairway to Heaven”* (天國への階段). This was another one of my past “things that Fukuyama Masaharu could not do”. In fact, the intermezzo / bridge in 「vs.〜知覚と快楽の螺旋〜」(vs.~Chikaku to Kairaku no Rasen~) also had riffs along the lines of “Highway Star”*.
I guess I can do it now, because I have reached the age where I can “absorb what I hear and evolve it into something of my own.” I have entered the adult phase of my (musical) development. If you could also notice the changes, depth and intricacies in the music, that is good enough for me. Even though I’m Ryoma now…….(laugh)
While we’re on it, the other song “ON AND ON 09” was also one that we had wanted to do for a long time. After Inoue Akira-san became our band captain, we’d been re-arranging the old songs performed in the concerts, we really paid attention to detail in the music. If they were just used for the concerts, they would end with the concerts, but if we could release them on CD, then the latest rearrangements could be used as the new formal version (of the song) going forward.
We’re in the 21st century. When “ON AND ON” was first released, some of my fans may not have been born yet! I really want to let them listen to these modernized versions of old tunes. Just like those redevelopment projects on old houses. (laugh) Where possible, I will continue to do this. Please keep a look out for it in future.
With the release of “Hatsukoi”, I shall be taking part in the Kouhaku Uta Gassen (Red & White Song Contest) as a closing to 2009. It’s been 16 years since I was last in Kouhaku and I don’t know when my next time will be. So it should be a memorable performance. I’m working on it with my Team now, please wait and see.
On Other Matters
And for this Fukuyama entering into the year 2010, my health is still tolerable (laugh). Having said that, I had a cold a couple of days ago. Whenever I have a cold……..problems start cropping up everywhere – my neck hurts, oral infection, swollen lymph nodes, tonsils get affected, symptoms of bronchitis……..honestly, I had the full course. But Ryoma was still very loud, because it was the Bakumatsu.
Anyway, I’m sure now that I have the type of physique that cannot withstand the cold. I always feel it freezing, especially from the ankle upto the calf, and around the waist. So whenever I feel cold, whether in sleep or on the set, I’d put leg warmers on now. Thank goodness for leg warmers! I’m not embarrassed about it at all. Because I know which is the weakest part of my body and that’s very important!
When I think about it, “Keshin”; “Zankyo”; “Hatsukoi”; the National Concert Tour; Inasayama; “Ryomaden” and Kouhaku Uta Gassen, this was really a very busy year (2009). Ah no, there’s more to come (laugh). But in front of me, there is something that everyone in Bros; all the fans across the country and all Taiga fans are waiting for. This is my motivation to keep working hard, even my voice can be louder. Sometimes, I’ll have some single malt whisky or junmai (rice only) sake to relax.
Even though I am still shocked by the prices whenever I buy vintage single malt whisky, I can’t afford to get drunk on such a tight schedule. So, it’s something very important to me, to be enveloped by that half-tipsy feeling and to wake up feeling good. And to be able to experience something “wonderful”, thereby raising my spirits is crucial too. Obviously, I’d wonder if there isn’t “any good stuff that’s inexpensive?” But at this moment, that “stimulation” brought about by the expense, is also vital.
There is a western saying “Do Good and Forget”*, meaning do something well and then forget about it. Forget the good things past, just think about “what I want to do next”. In other words, let go of the past year and work towards doing “good” (well) ahead. Because there are many things I still want to do.
Thank you so much, everyone, for this year (2009). As a musician, as Ryoma-san, I want to try to go a bit higher and further in the next year. Let’s do this together in 2010!
Wishing everyone a good year ahead!
Extract from Bros Magaine [どうも福山です] 2009.12
~ The End ~
*1. Sengoku Period (戦国) - more info
*2. Sakoku (鎖国) - more info
*3. “Stairway to Heaven” is a classic by Led Zepplin, voted #3 in VH1’s “100 Greatest Rock Songs” in 2000 - more here
*4. “Highway Star” by Deep Purple is known as one of the earliest speed metal songs, voted #15 in Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Guitar Solos” - more here
*5. From the Paradoxical Commandments aka “Anyway” - The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.