UNLIMITS Interview (Jun Gray Records)
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Recent interview with four-piece melodic punk(?) outfit UNLIMITS from their own website per Perdition 's request. No hard questions, since it's their own interviewer, but the deteriorating relationship with their previous label (Sony) comes up a lot, if that's of interest to you. Also the new album, lyric writing and contrails(?). Long read, so get a coffee first!

UNLIMITS

4th Full Album

INTERVIEW BY Daichi Yajima (MUSICA)

4th full album "amethyst" release commemorative interview. Vol.01 / The never before revealed story of UNLIMITS setbacks and conflicts

■While keeping the good balance in the variation of songs that UNLIMITS has put out until now, what you wanted to do with the current four members and wanted to convey with the music in extremely clear in the current work, I think.

Yoko Gunjima (Dr & Vo) It’s an album that we take as a return to our origins, but it was not simply returning to that point but also the major label and other experiences, so it is a little packed isn’t it? I think that it is an album that involves thought.

■This! The minor chord melodic punk is becoming even stronger while there are also straight pop songs and danceable rhythms, and it has become your musically broadest album yet.

Naokazu Ishijima (Ba) That's so, isn't it? Most importantly, I think we wrote the album with a relaxed and open attitude. But I feel like we put in the things we have absorbed so far. Amongst ourselves, I don’t think there was any feeling of having to force things.

Yoko Shimizu: Certainly, even if I listen to it myself, I think that it’s rich in variation. However, I also thought that it was an album that all seemed to be very much like UNLIMITS. Of course there was pain of production, but there were many songs that were written with honest feelings. For example, until now, it took at least a week to write the lyrics for one song, but this time I could write lyrics in about an hour or do something like "Lily" with the lyrics written first...... such smooth things continue to happen miraculously. So, when you listen to it yourself it's refreshing as I feel "I finished this so easily"

■Why do you think you can produce the song lyrics so quickly now?

Yoko Shimizu: From our beginning in the Indies with only ourselves, we’ve also experienced being on a major label, where there are many elements of music we’ve absorbed and studied, and now I feel that it is easier to convey what I want to tell you isn’t it?

Yoshitaka Otsuki (G): Above all, I think that there’s a sense of accomplishment in that we’ve completed our strongest work ever by our own hand. So, as I said at the beginning, I think that it became a work that clearly conveys what we wanted to do and what we wanted to sing about. There was really nothing like "You must do this" ... and that’s why, as you were told by Gunjima, I think that it was a case of returning to our origins.

■ I think that there are many potential meanings to the phrase ‘returning to one’s origins’, but as one of them, I wonder if the return to the Indies is a big part?

――(The door of the room suddenly opens)

Jun Gray: Wow! Nice to meet you!

■!!!

Yoko Shimizu: Hahahaha! Jun! (Laughs)

■Um......... does mean that you rushed here to greet our guest? Jun Gray Records, label producer Jun Gray (Laughs).

Jun: Nice to meet you (Laughs). Well, I do like to talk occasionally (Laughs)

■ I understand (laughs). I have the feeling of going around in circles, but as Jun is here, I'd like to ask you what was the course of events led to this work being released by Jun Gray Records.

Yoko Shimizu: At the start…...just when our contract with the major was expiring, you invited us to Akita performances of Ken Yokoyama’s tour.

Jun: It was around December 2012, wasn’t it? At that time, I didn’t even know that UNLIMITS contract with the major label was ending.

Yoko Shimizu: Because it’s hard to say! (Laughs). I can’t tell you "We're out of contract ♪" as soon as we meet!

■Hahahahahaha!

Yoko Shimizu: (Laughs). So, after that day’s live show we were poking around in a dumpling pot, and I told Ken, "I’ve been told that our contract with the major label has expired" in a light-hearted way. Then, I thought it seemed that Ken was really more worried than I. So, when Ken’s band were back in the studio, Ken said to Jun "I’ll release UNLIMITS myself"

Jun: Oh yeah, not restricted to UNLIMITS, I’ve always liked girls bands or female vocalists, so Ken has long been saying "If you like girls' bands, you can just create your own label and release them". I was talking to Ken about it for a long time saying "I’m especially pushing for UNLIMITS." And then when we played together in Akita the UNLIMITS live show had got really good. Even though there were many customers who had come just to see the Crazy Ken band, there are a lot of guys singing together, and I thought “What a great high point!” watching it. But, in fact, at that time their major contract had expired.

■ For UNLIMITS, what kind of feeling did the show at that time give you?

Yoko Shimizu: Well, the idea was simply to recklessly have fun ...... a feeling that our armour was being thrown away ... after all, when us four decided to leave the major label, we seriously discussed the direction of the band from now on. Anyway, without these minor difficulties to think about it was a story about enjoying the sights and sounds and making light of things. And then people there told us that the show seemed different somehow. Especially, I think the live performances in Akita with the Crazy Ken Band seemed straight from that kind of feeling.... it might have been like we took off our armour.

Yoko Gunjima: It seemed being released or being freed....... when a lot of people were involved, we had to perform while also thinking about those people. When it became only us four again, I thought that it got much easier and our energy increased.

■The more you think of ways to make UNLIMITS even better, the more opinion of the band on the outside goes up.

Yoko Gunjima: I agree. Because of that, I’ve learned that I have to look at the band from various angles, but ... there were so many things to do and think about in our heads at the time we were with the major label.

Naokazu Ishijima: Regarding the band itself and our songs as well I think that we felt that the more opinions we got, the more we tried to follow them all. That’s now gone, and we felt like trying to compete straightforwardly with what comes out from within. Without becoming big-headed about it, we became able to express ourselves naturally, that might have been around when we worked with Ken’s Band.

Yoshitaka Otsuki: ...... on the good side, I think that during our period with the major label we were really well supported, and I think that we were able to do what we couldn’t achieve by ourselves alone. But, I think that it became frustrating that even if we just wanted to do a single event it needed to go through such a lot of processes. It would’ve been necessary for us to match what our stature and standing position was felt to be within the company, but we felt that it was quite difficult to do that. After all that, all of a sudden there was a feeling of release.

■From the 2012 performances with the Crazy Ken Band tour around Akita, how did it go for UNLIMITS until the release of this work?

Jun: We were told “They’re not going to continue with the label” and "Well then, what will they do now?” We heard that UNLIMITS was going to go it alone by themselves... first of all I planned to gather my favourite bands and put out an omnibus ("And Your Birds Can Sing") . So, talking with Otsuki I asked him what he thought they were doing next year, because I was trying to make an omnibus, and I want him to think about it being in it.

Yoshitaka Otsuki: However, it wasn’t possible to give an immediate response of “OK” (Laughs)

■Why was that?

Yoko Shimizu: I already told you, we were deciding whether to continue the band or quit.

■Eh?

Yoko Shimizu: When it was decided that the major contract had expired, honestly, we were extremely downcast. We thought "We're going end here" or "I want to give up." I think that each of us was considering what we should do with our lives. But, then we got a call from Jun Gray Records, and I felt like we were going to chase a dream again. That's why the determination of us four hardened, and we could write an album with that kind of feeling. When we played with Ken’s Band at the end of 2012, we were right at the point of leaving our label right then, so it didn’t feel real when I was talking to Ken or Jun.
Jun: So when the year was over and I talked with Otsuki in 2013, Otsuki says "We're thinking about whether to continue as a band" ... Anyway I continued to try to persuade him. It's not like I said “Do it on my label or not” as I knew the potential of UNLIMITS as a fan.

■That's right. Even at the official interview at Jun Gray Records, he was saying "They come with gutsy Showa songs in 2-beat punk" and he passionately talked of UNLIMITS's charms.

Jun: Yes, yes. So, after another two or three years, I was still trying to persuade them with “It’s still not too late to give me an answer?” I wanted to release them myself.

■So, having been so wooed, how was Mr. Otsuki?

Yoshitaka Otsuki: Well, I told you that it was not a quick response ... but as a matter of fact we did not want to be distracted. So, after eating a meal with Jun, Ken also called me and I was really being chased hard. ...... for some reason, it seems that we were very reluctant (laughs)

■Hahahahaha!

Yoshitaka Otsuki: After all, it was quite a high pace in our major label period, so when we were thinking about what to do in 2013, I thought that we didn’t want to have to keep up that pace of releases. I thought that there were also parts written where we felt under the whip...... I was thinking that it would be nice if we could do it more slowly but now I think that it was very good timing that I got a call then. After all, when I was in my early twenties, I thought that I should just do everything in front of me, but now I’m getting older, so as long as whatever the label is lets me perform and I feel good about it, you can’t just use intuition any more. There become too many things to think about. As I get older, I wonder what kind of stance I should move towards taking with the band.

■ What were Ms. Gunjima and Mr. Ishijima thinking about when you started talking about continuing the band or not?
Yoko Gunjima: I thought that I wouldn’t be in the band anymore

■And like that you made up your mind?

Yoko Gunjima: Yes. I was about 95% certain that I would quit. I’m already over thirty years old...... Ishijima is 40 soon (laughs)

■You thought you were too old (laughs).

Yoko Gunjima: (Laughs). It’s not a second life, but as a human, what will remain with me when the band ends in the future? Or, I thought I wanted to think about it properly.

■”I want to be in a band" was itself the purpose at the start, but while experiencing life on a major label, it became your living and a big part of your daily existence.

Yoko Gunjima: I agree. After all, I started thinking about that 'previous life' I guess when I was about 30. It might just have overlapped with the timing of leaving our label. I didn’t think about UNLIMITS the band itself as it’s probably not needed.

Yoshitaka Otsuki: If I look back calmly on it now, I feel like I became somewhat possessed when I was with our label. Apart from that, it was fun if I was told that it was not fun, and the live shows weren’t bad as we were having fun with the fans....

Yoko Gunjima: Yes, I understand. Perhaps if felt like we had somewhat lost our soul.

■ Watching the major label period of UNLIMITS which Gunjima described as a time when they had somewhat lost their soul, did Jun see it that way?

Jun: Listening to the UNLIMITS of those days, frankly I thought that they were trying to absorb too many things at once. That’s not just musical things, but including the way the band was presented. I can say that because I've also been on a major label, but you forget the feelings you had when you started in the band and feel a sense of duty to do the things that you are told even though you’re unable to digest them properly.

Yoko Shimizu: I myself really like the major albums, and I think that the main thread of "I want you to listen to a good melody" came through without blurring at all. I think that UNLIMITS leaves a strong impression of "a fast and dark melodic punk band", but I keep thinking that at its core I want you to hear a good melody perfectly. For example, I believe that the album "Neon" has become a magnificent work, in that work also, for me, I think that the work held the line properly.

Naokazu Ishijima: I agree. I also think that I’m proud of all our work in any period. However, such feelings as "I want to do better" and "I want to exceed the previous work", in technique and such, were all in the direction of the things that did not come from within us. So if you ask the producer, for example, it does not come from ourselves and that happened more and more. Just do it as you want to do it, I felt like I was steadily getting fatter and fatter. So the things that I was doing rapidly headed off in many directions at once. At the time, I think that I just steadily crammed technique with my desire for growth as an artist. So, I was now over-armed with technique, but it seems that it became hard for us to listen to the feelings at our core ... that’s what I think now.

■That core is what Shimizu said "I want to straightforwardly listen to a good melody” part.

Naokazu Ishijima: Yes, That's right.

Yoko Shimizu: In any event, I think that it’s very important to continue as a band for a long time, but I think that it’s necessary to set definite goals in order to avoid becoming redundant. Therefore, I want to continue to aim for them by driving ourselves onward. But when I was thinking that the band was hard work, I also disliked going on tour and that was a frustration in my life. That was the story amongst the other members. Saying that, I didn’t expect that we would be involved with Jun Gray Records..... (PIZZA OF DEATH label), there was a major feeling of "It's funny, don’t you think?" After all if Jun and Ken found us interesting, I think there was a part of us that was excited about it.

Yoko Gunjima: That was amazing. I think it was probably easier to quit, and whilst there were fun moments in the band, I think that we had come to have a sense of being herded along a path by it. Even though it seems that the band is messing around having fun at first sight, wasn’t it always following us around somehow? It was the same writing a work, there was always a countdown to the next live event. It was constrained, and I thought that I would like us to be released now, but as Shimizu said, it seemed like this would be interesting, didn’t she? Of course, we produced some cool seeming work at that time, but it’s not that we were able to present ourselves as "We’re like this!" because the feeling that we must respond to the expectations of the others around us was stronger, “Let's make something good" was so important. I wondered later if what we put out was what we really wanted to put out. So I think that Jun and Ken became the ones who let us stand up again.

■ Did Jun’s previously stated feelings of wanting to release UNLIMITS in the future come above that part of him that wanted to establish his label?

Jun: Speaking truthfully, I think that was a big part. Previously Ken had been saying "Let’s make a label" for a long time, but actually doing it! I thought that it was the right timing when I saw the situation of UNLIMITS was wavering. Then, when I said to Otsuki "Let's do it! If you are going to continue, what would you like to do?” and he said "I want to cut out only the parts that we don’t need from the things I have learned with the major label". So, although I was shaking, I thought that I knew what I should do, and that's why I thought I wanted to start a label.

Yoshitaka Otsuki: In any event, I thought that there was a good part and a bad part amongst what I was set on absorbing myself. I really thought hard about leaving only the good part of it. For example, thinking about the good points, I think that our individual skills have improved greatly in the major era. On the other side, I think that there was a part where the activities of the band were too tightly controlled...... That's why what we had to put up with led us each to have impatient thoughts like "I wonder why that happened?” or "What did we put up with that for?" and naturally we were wondering what we wanted to do now. If I’m asked specifically what it was like, it’s difficult to put it in words… but even if you cancelled a single tour or, taking it to extremes, the way you took a single photo. If the band is going to change, I think that thinking "Just keep only what we need" is important.

Jun: To tell the truth, even if neglected the band will still think about band things, after all. But if you try to teach anything too much or care excessively, shortly the band will lose sight of what they should be doing themselves. So, if they came back to the Indies in this way and do their own thing, I thought that naturally the real UNLIMITS would reappear.

■From there you went into making the music of “Amethyst”. What kind of things did you intend to disseminate through that?
Yoko Shimizu: "From the musical point of view, I didn’t want to write something exactly like that ... but when I went to a training camp for the song writing, I was able to write the lyrics of "Lily" first," and I thought “This is good! Go for it!" It was great on my own, wasn’t it?"

■I think that "Lily" is really a masterpiece. The melody is really nice, and the music and lyrics draw a simple world view in a glittery 8 beats and I thought that it projected the outstandingly good sense of balance UNLIMITS have had up until now.

Yoko Shimizu: Well, I think that "Lily" is quite new ground for us. So the impetus when we put it all together again in the band was great. In such a way, the songs we wrote ourselves became our own self-confidence. Besides, for example "Dream of Anemone" is the first song Gunjima has composed.

■ I see. "Dream of Anemone" is also a fresh song involving a danceable rhythm and a slightly melancholy melody that seems to be very like UNLIMITS.

Yoko Shimizu: I really like that kind of songs, right? Perhaps because of the new possibilities that came out in such, it proves we can still do it. That seems to be the impression that we’re gradually getting anyway. I would say we did up while recovering.

Yoko Gunjima: I didn’t think about ‘renewal’ especially at the time of writing the song. I was more worried about what I was able to do in actually arranging the song. That is to say, for example, I think that I was only able to do so because we made best use of the technical skills taught to us by the producer from the time of "NeON".

■ Among the things you have absorbed, it seems it has become possible to select what you really need by yourselves.

Naokazu Ishijima: I agree. As you we told you earlier, we’re deciding what to do in an environment where only we make the decisions, so we were able to go with the choices which we thought cool. And when it’s in the shape we can let ourselves say "We were right after all" In doing so, we rediscovered our own style, I think, didn’t we? We were told “Lily” was great by a number of people, and now we’ve become accustomed to being in a very good situation.

■ What was Jun’s position when UNLIMITS was writing this work?

Jun: In relation to UNLIMITS, it’s a band that has been working together for years, and I’m also learning new things......... I’ve tentatively become a label producer, but I'm don’t think I’m doing much actual production myself! (Laughs)
Naokazu Ishijima: Hahahahaha!

■Yes, do it yourself! Jun's production method (Laughs)

Jun: Yes (Laughs). They’re a band that has been arguing with a lot of external people up to now, so on the contrary, I thought it was 100% necessary for them to do it all alone. Also, before they actually started recording, when I listened to the new songs they wrote at the training camp - "Eternal", "Lily", "Starlight" and so on, you could definitively say these were good ones, so I was convinced.

■”Eternal" is a song in which the so-called UNLIMITS-like impetus towards frankness runs through the song, “Lily” seems like a pure melody-like song and "Starlight" has a pop song-like chorus. UNLIMITS has expanded its musicality which comes out well in the balance of songs.

Jun: Yes, yes. That's why I was relieved. We only recorded twice…

Yoshitaka Otsuki: Once.

Yoko Shimizu: Hahahahahaha!

■ (Laughs). In talking you mentioned the song at the beginning of the album "Amethyst", "Eternal". It’s a song that runs in a minor chord with a fast beat. It’s the first time in a long time since such a so-called UNLIMITS-like melodic punk came out of your head. In any event it left the feeling that an impulsive thing had exploded and come out of you?

Yoko Shimizu: Certainly, I mentioned the words "return to our origins" and "our initial impulses", but this song here ... honestly, I was worried (Laughs). The initial impulse was the initial impulse, but I thought that I must exceed the previous songs like that.

■ Because, for sure, it’s the most impulsive and straightforward "That’s UNLIMITS" song, was the hurdle set high?

Yoko Shimizu: I agree. It's an initial impulse, but only that would just be boring. So for "Eternal" both melody and chorus were repeatedly reworked, and it was rather difficult birth (Laughs). "Amethyst" is also a very short song, but I reassembled it almost like a different song from just before. I was able to do only the intro arpeggio, but since I tried to cram as much UNLIMITS into it as can be packed into one minute, that was great.

■ Your approach to writing songs has not changed since long ago?

Yoko Shimizu: No, it hasn’t. I always produce fragments of the songs and melodies. This makes combining them together like a puzzle. But, as for the 11th song "The story you read", it was wholly completed in the equipment car. I put piano in this but, between Tokyo and Hachinohe, the GarageBand app goes pishipishipishi (Laughs)

Naokazu Ishijima: For about nine hours (Laughs)

Yoko Shimizu: Yes, yes. Then, I play it back while coming down the highway, "Oh, that’s good" (Laughs). Simply, but in the past I didn’t write in the equipment car, did I? Perhaps my time management is moving more towards writing songs

■ It was the story of your lives before for sure, but now there is a feeling that it’s beginning to become more about the music?

Yoko Shimizu: Oh ... sure. It seems it’s steadily getting better. It was totally messed up in the early days. That’s the reason why I could not use GarageBand or MTR, I always sang and played the guitar to be listened to by the members, so it was always rather painfully transmitted to rest of the band (Laughs). Moreover, even though I thought that it was nice when I produced it by myself, there were many things that made me frustrated when so doing. I don’t want to continuously change the way that I work.... but, going to a training camp and having the members listen to the material sooner, I think that was good. In places you have trouble with previously there are moments in the training camp where you can start again. For "Lily" also, when I was becoming troubled, Gunjima came up with some lyrics, and 10 minutes later I had some inspiration for the song. I think it’s important to get into such a mode.

■In creating songs like that, what was the thing that most concerned you and what were the criteria used by the other members?

Yoshitaka Otsuki: It’s already been spoken of just now, but especially when we were with the major label, part of me thought, 'It's cool to do difficult things'. Then, doing simple things tends to make you become uneasy. For example, if something is done only by playing a single chord, it may be cool, but it's too simple. You think "Is this OK? Do I have to do it better?” You pick up such bad habits. Now, it’s so easy to say “Even if it is simple it will be fine if it matches the song!” It’s especially important for the guitar, that’s the number one thing for me. I think that we need to remove such things.

■ Mr. Ishijima was also saying that if you worked to absorb what you didn’t have up to now and build from that, then this time you can work to produce the music with what you have.

Yoko Gunjima: I agree. In the course of getting here, our choices multiplied. There’s a feeling of “I wonder how we should use these choices to make our work represent us effectively”

Naokazu Ishijima: Perhaps, personally I think that "the initial impulse" is what we do ourselves. It breaks down the many options and we do it in our own way. I think that is returning to our origins. We’ve become able to control it well. I think that we’ve come to be able to understand what we feel comfortable with properly and that the accuracy with which it can be used has increased.

Yoko Gunjima: Probably, I think that I became insensitive before, didn’t I? If I said “This is cool”, I thought about why it was cool, and before I might think that it feels good, but I must say “this feels good” if I think "it feels good". Now I’m doing it more honestly.

Naokazu Ishijima: In the past, I was trying to select more difficult techniques from the range of choices. By doing the songs simply, it may have become much easier for each of us to see what we should draw out of the knowledge we have.

■ The time up until this current work was also the period in which each of you was able to organize what they have absorbed?

Yoko Gunjima: Oh...... Listening to the previous works. I felt "This is cool, but it is not our internal rhythm", well, it was a real discovery that we were doing new things, but it didn’t come close to my true self. It might just be that you understand what you feel comfortable with.

Naokazu Ishijima: Certainly, in making things simple means perhaps that these things were accumulated individually.......now I think we talk.

■I felt that in regards to this idea of doing things simply, I got the impression that is especially true for "Lily" in both song and lyrics, I think. Choosing from amongst the many options, as you mentioned above, it was written so that it is simple in melody when you listen to it, I thought that maybe this Is the "new ground" that you mentioned earlier?

Yoko Shimizu: I thought that the place where I repeated the word “Blue” was really novel and I came to like it. Somehow...... perhaps until now UNLIMITS had too many complicated lyrics I think?

■ Many of them conveyed the imagery of very beautiful scenery, but there were a lot of analogies.

Yoko Shimizu: Yes, yes. I think that there were a lot of metaphors. However, it’s said that that kind of thing gets through. The meaning of the lyrics as a whole is also very good, I thought that the word <Blue> really fitted and left a good feeling and it seemed like Rock.

■ When Gunjima came up with the lyrics, I heard that the melodies and songs came to mind immediately, but, was there a way in how UNLIMITS wrote new songs that draws out the song's novelty?

Yoko Shimizu: Yes, that’s true. Especially since there are a lot of words in the A melody, by tailoring the words to the rhythm, it may have led to a way of singing that was a little speech-like. More specific than actually making a speech to someone...... I feel like I sing the words very carefully. Rather than just singing to a very beautiful melody, it’s also fresher to have a folk-like rusticity....... from the lyrics to the songs I’ve written on my own previously there are many famous songs. For example, "月アカリサイレース”, "七色の記憶" and "Sayonara Butterfly" ....... So, when I’m able to write "Lily", I thought “This is great!” (Laughs). That wasn’t in the previous work "NeON", and that had our previously fastest melodies, so it was a miraculous thing, and I was really impressed. So, I sang the melody for the other members to listen to, and we were soon in the studio, saying "Let's do it," then we immediately got it done just as I’d seen it. Indeed, there wasn’t a lot of discussion with the other members at all (Laughs)

■I see. But, for example, lyrics like “Let’s go from this place / A story that starts with you" from "Starlight" are striking, but as a whole the words you choose to sing to people in front of you mostly become feelings.

Yoko Shimizu: Oh, for "Starlight" the hook was written first, then in doing the live performance, a scene came to mind there. Surely it gives the impression that people are raising their hands energetically. The rest of the song I could write without much trouble. The lyrics are images that you can sing well live, right? After all, when you are live, you hope that people who are coming to see you also shine. So, the sparkling words "starlight" are the audience. I wrote the song from that image.

■As you said earlier, when you were about to do the band again, you were saying "I think I want people to come to the show first," but even so all the songs of this work convey an image of a live show, was that there in a lot of songs that you did from before?

Yoko Shimizu: Oh, it was there. “How about someone who listens at the live show?” was the image clearly held in mind when writing. By the way, that was something that was not at all present at the time of "Mugen Syndrome" (Laughs). At that time, I had no sense of sharing the music with fans.

■Do you wish to lose your own negativity and darkness through music?

Yoko Shimizu: Yes, yes. Although I felt like secluding myself in my room. However, lately, I’ve experienced a lot of tours and live events and I was able to visualize the faces of the fans.

■A little while ago, Gunjima said that "When the major contract expired, I thought that what we had done up to now became meaningless", but she also said that she was invigorated after that. I guess she didn’t forget there were people waiting. It seems that is your meaning, it also seems that songs of this work are also oriented to live venues.

Naokazu Ishijima: Yeah ... (big nod)

Yoko Shimizu: Honestly, if we hadn’t experienced tours or live performances in varied places so far, we may have already quit.....when was this, I wonder? At the time of the closing party, Gunjima said "I think I want to do it again, because I don’t want to let down those people still waiting after all." When I heard that, I thought "She’s on the rebound......" (Laughs)

Yoko Gunjima: …that’s what I said!

Yoko Shimizu: Eh, I forgot!? (Laughs)

■But it’s in the dialogue (Laughs)

Yoko Gunjima: No, no. (Laughs), but I think that was my genuine feeling at the time. It was probably because my mind was almost made up to quit because the idea of people waiting for me to perform was not in my head then....... I thought that I didn’t want to betray them after all.

Naokazu Ishijima: When we talked about quitting the band or not quitting, I thought about what it was that made me think I can’t quit and it was that people were waiting for us in many places, after all. This conclusion Gunjima and I put in the lyrics of our joint work "Aeroplane cloud", but it’s exactly what we wrote about in the song, the thought of the faces of people waiting for us. "There was this person in Hokkaido, if Aomori it was this man......" I wrote the names in turn. It seemed like that for me, it’s the people that are important.

Yoshitaka Otsuki: I also thought about it a lot. But, if you say there are people waiting for us, can the band go anywhere? It’s not necessarily so......perhaps that problem may also be there from now on, but it’s an ordinary issue in running a band. I thought that I wanted doing the live events to become the most important thing and the people waiting on the other side. So, I think that we were strongly conscious of writing this album while thinking about the live events.

■ Is the part you wrote in "Lily"’s lyrics of <Let's go home again / I will return to that place> referring to going back to where the people who are waiting for you?

Yoko Gunjima: Oh, I didn’t notice that (Laughs). That’s a really personal lyric, but I was remembering when I was in fifth grade of elementary school. The child who sat in the seat behind me died and I was singing about that girl. Everyone is gathered in the schoolyard, the beauty of the sky as I looked up at that time and the contradictory feelings of sadness are put into the repeated word <Blue>

■Thinking about it, I thought that "A Story that you Read" is also a key song. I think that it was a great thing for UNLIMITS to write the words "I want to say thank you" to be applicable to anyone and not more specific in a rock ballad.

Yoko Shimizu: I’d agree. I think this was a song that I could never have written if I was my old self. No way could I write the words "thank you" without shame at the beginning of the hook....... (Laughs). But this is the way I really feel now and I wanted to sing it.

■ In a past interview, it was the time of a “Tranquilizer”, Gunjima said, "It’s still embarrassing for us to sing “I love you”-like words, but it is very cool to sing as much of the language as possible. Well, I think that it is the final goal in some sense."

Yoko Gunjima: Yes, yes, yes (Laughs)

■The thanks being sung of here is not 'I Love You', but it’s very frank words.

Yoko Gunjima: Oh, yes. Yeah, I think it's good (Laughs)

■ Because it was a time when you thought about ending the band, it must have seemed like it would be a lie if you could not sing honest words as they are.

Yoko Shimizu: Truly, I think it’s cool for those who can say such words frankly. But even with a shy smile strangely attached they can still be cool. I think that came out clearly in "The story you read"......for example, it was not at the beginning of the production that such a short and dark song should be the first song on "Amethyst". However, the guy doing drum tech at the time of recording asked "Isn’t this the first song?”. In this way when I was back with the band again, I shook off the darkness and it was okay I think.

■I think that such a feeling also appeared in the words "Let's not miss the moment of now" of "Starlight". It’s because you’re a band that has an image of your own end, the places where you can shine now is important for you.
Yoko Shimizu: Oh ... those are the words that I wrote very much for the live show, but I think it's still true.

■So, I think that it is really nice that the last song is "Aeroplane cloud". Aeroplane clouds (Note: Contrails) are a path one has taken or footprints. When it says <Gathering all aeroplane clouds / I will deliver you to the city you live in> I mean that there’s a strong feeling that the song delivers that failure is a relative to us all.

Yoko Gunjima: ………that was a really nice interpretation, I didn’t notice. No, not until you said.

■ When you notice after being told, maybe it’s because you can write with such an unfamiliar unaffected feeling. (Laughs).

Yoko Shimizu: Surely aeroplane clouds are footprints.

Yoko Gunjima: I agree. I wonder if there was a feeling that it was like our own steady forward movement up until then.

■Moreover, I felt that you were able to make that song a straightforward positive melodic hardcore just to express the “return to our origins” of a band formed in 2002, and to symbolize this album.

Yoko Shimizu: Indeed. It’s the origin of the origins. It was a melodic hardcore from that time which I clearly expressed in this song. I think the arrangement is also really simple. Perhaps it’s a song that takes us back to our origins before UNLIMITS formation.

Yoko Gunjima: Seen in that way, the lyrics of "Aeroplane clouds" are also so, but I guess once again it will become condensed at the live shows

Yoko Shimizu: Yes. I really think so.

■ At the time UNLIMITS appeared, I think there wasn’t a band playing melodic punk with female vocals?

Yoko Shimizu: Yeah, surely there wasn’t (Laughs).

■So in those days I thought that "Punk Rock with Girl’s Vocals" was the greatest strength of the band at the time, but more than that it is possible to say now that the journey that you’ve made itself is a unique asset I think.

Yoko Shimizu: That’s true. I think that it’s an album that we could produce because of our past experiences.

Yoshitaka Otsuki: Yeah, I believe it is a great honour to be published as “Girls' band label” Jun Gray Records’ first release......... Jun, are you listening? I said that it’s really good now!

Jun: ……Hmm? Oh, I was listening! (Laughs)

■Hahahaha! That's all. Thank you very much!

All: Thank you very much!

INTERVIEW BY Daichi Yajima (MUSICA)

Original interview here
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#2
Thanks a lot! This will probably take me some time to get through. Smile
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#3
In case anyone is curious what the 'dumpling pot' Yoko S mentions near the start of the interview is, it's Kiritanpo Nabe - a local delicacy of Akita prefecture:

Kiritanpo
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#4
Its kinda disturbing this band nearly broke up, but I guess this shows you what drives bands to all these "indefinite hiatuses". I'm sure this explains what happened to Ecosystem and Mass of the Fermenting Dregs (and why some members left due to "health reasons").

I honestly don't think Amethyst is a huge departure from the two albums before it - maybe more stripped down and natural, dunno. I'm glad Yoko liked their material on Sony, because Tranquilizer (and the EP before it) are my favorite releases by this band. This also explains to me why they got mathier on their Sony material (and that carried over to a couple songs on Amethyst). Seems weird having a major label make a band go more technical and whanot. They did get fairly diverse on the major lable material, but the 2 albums afterwards are quite varied as well.

Curious to see what they do this year, since they're on their 15th year anniversary. I notice Yoko Shimizu has been doing some acoustic solo gigs lately.
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#5
There's a lot of rather "sideways" language in the interview. Sorry if it sounds a bit obtuse at times, but's it spoken rather like that and I didn't want to clarify it all and make them sound rather different in character that they are. They seem impressed with the technical expertise of the Sony crew, but there's a lot of implications that they were far too "controlling" of the whole process. I guess independent musicians aren't really used to being treated as an employee, let alone the equivalent of a Japanese salaryman. Not an altogether happy experience by the sound of things, though some seemed to have taken it better than others.

Plus they seem rather "artsy" in comparison with the metal & rock musicians I've been doing up to now. Kind of expect it with mathy types I guess! I was doing a Yosuke Abe (Outrage) interview at the same time and, switching between the two, he seems so damn blunt in comparison it's funny Big Grin
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#6
I'm pretty sure they were going out of their way not to badmouth their former employer, but if their stay there nearly drove them to breaking up, it must not have been fun. At least they weathered the storm in one piece.

They're pretty much a punk band (more in the melodic side though), so it seems weird them being all artsy and stuff. Doesn't really shock me though. I shudder at what Amelie or Triampersandy would be like Laugh (Unlimits are friends with both those bands)
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