Ryuichi Kawamura's new album is decisively titled “Life”. This is the first of his solo albums to stand in opposition to the “ROCK” that he has worked so hard as a vocalist throughout his life to tirelessly create, going back to his roots. How does this Ryuichi Kawamura view “rock” now as a man of such substance in the genre? We will find out in this interview...
■”Perhaps within myself, I am climbing toward rock-classical.”
■”I want to do the rock I love with integrity.”
──Frankly, what is the concept behind your new album?
Ryuichi Kawamura（hereafter、Kawamura）：Until now, I had decided to do nothing with my solo work that LUNA SEA had already done, keeping my adventurous spirit close at hand; but for this album, even though I've never done the music on it before with LUNA SEA, it feels like it's very close to what we have done before. I wanted to make an album with a whiff of that to it. Generally, when an artist breaks away from their main band to do solo work, that's the first kind of album they make, I think.
──A work that, while a little different from your band, still keeps the same flavor of rock.
Kawamura：Yeah. I tried to make that kind of album for my tenth one.
──So, that means, you can say that this album is the closest to the RYUICHI in LUNA SEA.
Kawamura：Until this, I think a lot of people thought, “Is this an entirely different person?” because I had worked to make albums so different from LUNA SEA artistically, but since this one is titled “Life”, that's how it turned out.
──Because the title is referencing your life, after all.
Kawamura：My life is rock, and music; LUNA SEA is where I was born and raised, after all.
──Why do you think you created this album now?
Kawamura：You see, with solo, you can do anything if you just think of it as going out on an adventure. Like giving homage to all those rock classics that you love. Like U2, David Bowie, Doors, The Beatles and so on. I thought that I wanted to perform music that had a taste of the rock that I loved. Moreover, next year, it will be 25 years since the formation of my band (LUNA SEA). Even in those 25 years of activity, we've come back to those things over and over again, reviving the genre as we went along. Here we are at '80s rock again, we'd say, or our fashion is still the same as it was then, all of our activities as a band currently are connected back to that time. If that's the case, I thought, I wanted to try to make something without moving away from that. That's the way things are for Ryuichi Kawamura, who created this “Life” album, this is how his rock is. I think I could have made an album just like this ten years ago, and the arrangements will probably still be just as good ten years from now.
──In other words, you resolved to create a basic rock album. Why did you think to do this?
Kawamura：Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones haven't changed their sound much, have they? By not changing, they have times where they sound really old-fashioned, but they also have times where they sound amazingly new. I've learned to think of that as something warm and comforting. So, you can feel by listening that you can see the faces of the members, see their composition, believe that they're performing these songs live. Doing songs approaching the guitar work in the way I like to, it just doesn't produce a different sound at all. I tried my best to take out all the special effects, and just bring the songs together through the chord progressions. I made an album that placed real importance on the natural flow of music. I think that my guitar in particular really shows what era my music comes from. The genres in rock get split up, just depending on what era your music is playing like on a single guitar, I think. So, this time, I asked the guitarists whose work I like—starting with SUGIZO and INORAN and moving into Yuji Adachi (DEAD END) as well as others, to play for me, and I played a fair bit of guitar myself. So, with that guitar, all the songs ended up around the rock of the '70s, '80s and early '90s.
──Of course. Then, I think it's also a topic to note that both SUGIZO and INORAN have acted as composers even in LUNA SEA, and released work of their own. Did you ask them to compose something for you, or did that offer come from elsewhere?
Kawamura：When the three of us were all part of an event in Kobe, backstage I just said, “I want you guys to write songs for my solo work,” and they said “okay”. Since they asked me what kind of songs I wanted, I just asked them to write something rock that they think the Ryuichi Kawamura they see could look cool singing. Then, I wasn't expecting this, but what I got back from them both were songs that had already been arranged, so I just put my melody over the top of them. They both played guitar for me, too.
──What are the differences you can feel between the work you have as LUNA SEA and the work just from you that appears on this new album?
Kawamura：Probably, when we're doing LUNA SEA, I, as well as SUGIZO, INORAN and J, too, we all have sticky fingers, the four of us; I get the feeling we borrow from music we like, and make our songs thinking of them. If we listen to one of SUGIZO's demo tapes, we know, like 'oh, this sounds like something Shinya would play'. Because we've been together such a long time. But, this time, I've put in more musicians, outside from just me and SUGIZO, or me and INORAN. And so, even though I haven't heard this from the men themselves, I think that the expression of Ryuichi Kawamura as a soloist has expanded through this work. Since SUGIZO's song was actually played by Numazawa (on drums), the song is very rock, but danceable. There was a group in the '90s, Duran Duran, and I suppose people also say this of idols as well, but I think that kind of danceable rock works well for me. That kind of flavor comes out in that song, maybe?
──Ryuichi, did you like Duran Duran?
Kawamura：Yeah, they were pretty good. Then, didn't they also cause some changes in songs back then, like how David Bowie's “Let's Dance” did?
──That sort of urban dance thing.
Kawamura：Right, right. Though isn't that because David Bowie got his start in glam?
──Ryuichi, you went down that road, too.
Kawamura：I did, didn't I. But, when I listened to Bowie's new songs, of course, I really felt as if he had gone back to that place where he first really came out as an artist. “Aah, he came back to here,” I was saying. I listened to Depeche Mode as well, and of course I thought that way about them, too. I thought I wanted to make one album like that for myself too.
──That became a huge source of motivation for making this album, didn't it?
Kawamura：Yeah, it did. I think that this album was created because I walked the path I did as a rock artist.
──So, please let us hear your thoughts about some of the songs on the album in particular. First, the opening track, “Holy Song”. Were you thinking of it as having an urban sort of flavor when you wrote it featuring the horn section the way that it does?
Kawamura：When I listened to Roxy Music and David Bowie again, I thought the way they were using horns, sax and trumpet in rock was really cool, so I put the horns in last. I played all the guitar in that song, though. As for why I did that, that was because we had to choose minor key or major key. Whether you hit those major or minor keys in your chords was a technique used by the New Romantics, or decadent style of that time. If I played the guitar, not being a guitarist myself, I thought that sort of meaningful imperfection would come out. As a result, I think it turned out as cool rock. I wanted that feeling for the first song of this album. I made it thinking that it would be nice to have a song to open the door that says, “We're doing rock this time”.
──After that comes the title track, “Life”. That's the song you've worked so hard all this time to create, isn't it?
Kawamura：That's right. Though I wrote it on acoustic guitar. It's based in an eight beat time, but my own tendency to sing the verses a little before the beat actually drops came out in this one, completely. If I match my singing exactly to the drums, it's not really one of my eight-beat songs, is it.
──So that's the secret behind it. Moreover, when you sing those eight-beat based songs, it sounds as if your singing voice is sparkling in the verses. What kind of secrets are you hiding, there?
Kawamura：Um, I was just thinking of how important it is to sing songs like that while thinking, 'this song is fun', and then while I was singing it, I did think that all over again. For example, when I sing “Joyuu ~Kareba ni Ochiru Yasashii Ame no You ni~”, I sing trying to keep that sparkling quality to it as much as I can. Just by being aware of that, it changes in some way.
◆To【Interview】Ryuichi Kawamura、”My Life is Rock, and Music; LUNA SEA is Where I Was Born and Raised, After All.” Part Two