Gara & Mao Interview

2007 Fool’s Mate N.303; Gara (Merry) & Mao (SID) Interview

A Dream Encounter

Monopolizing the dialogue! Two great new-generation vocalists finally make first contact!!
While being encouraged by their predecessors, and establishing their own originality for themselves, here’s Merry and SID, representatives of a new generation of earnestly creating high quality musical compositions.
Will they open up about their striding stances and the support they got as kids with musicianship that differs from the simple approach to the scene?
A first talk session commemorating statements from these two like “Unrelated to genre”, and “It doesn’t matter how we’re seen by people around us.” Of course this is a music conversation where they show true character, down to their tastes in fashion and food, in a 90-minute match.
A special talk that you can only read in Fool’s Mate!

―First of all, please tell us about how you two first came to know about each other’s existence.
Mao: Before SID began, I was listening to various albums and Merry was amongst them. I was thinking, “Ahhh, this is cool!” when it was on a free distribution album at a shop.
Gara: How I knew about SID was because Tatsurou (MUCC) invited me as usual, “There’s a really cool band, let’s go together.” That was certainly a little before SID’s oneman at Quattro… afterward, I listened to the CD “Renai” for the first time.

―And when you actually got to know each other?
Mao: When we were both performing bands at Beauti-Fool’s Fest 04 live.
Gara: At that time we just exchanged greetings.

―What kind of first impressions did you have?
Gara: Looking at things like the lyrics, I was thinking about how it seemed like I was meeting the same vocalist, but I was acquainted with the bassist, Aki-kun, before that. At that time I had a bright impression of Aki-kun, thinking “Is everyone in SID like this?” But I was wrong. (laughs)When I actually saw them live, I knew they were a band with a strong atmosphere. Because up until then we hadn’t chatted much.
Mao: I couldn’t speak at all when we first met.

―What was your impression when you met Gara?
Mao: I kinda felt like “Waah! It’s Merry! The real thing!” (laughs) When I was searching for and listening to various bands’ albums I thought “ohhh!” so I was a little nervous.

―Mao-kun you said “I like Merry” before, didn’t you?
Mao: I’ve said it quite a while ago.
Gara: Thank you very much. (bashful)
Mao: One way or another I’d say it in Fool’s Mate too. (laughs)
Gara: Ahh, I see! (laughs)

―One way or another you finally did. (laughs) This time for a dialogue with the vocalists of two unconventional bands within the scene, I think I’ll ask questions from various angles. First of all please tell us about why you chose to be vocalists.
Mao: I’ve gone to karaoke with my friends, and being told “You sing really well” made me feel good, so I decided to be a vocalist.

―Were there any vocalists you admired?
Mao: There were. Such as Kiyoharu-san, but, it was my chance to be attracted to the vocals of that person.
Gara: That’s something we have in common. When I thought that I also want to be in a band, it was of course vocalists that I saw. How long has it been since you’ve liked Kiyoharu-san?
Mao: Around “Ice My Life”.
Gara: Ah, me too!
Mao: Watching the PV, I thought, “Ah, no way!” After that I bought the CD.
Gara: The CD is wonderful isn’t it?
Mao: Pretty much.
Gara: Another album I like is “Feminism”, so I started to delve in from there. I thought that was a person I want to meet if I’m ever in a band.
Mao: Ahh, I understand.
Gara: And then if I say “I like Kiyoharu-san” in Fool’s Mate it’s probably okay. (laughs)
Mao: Ahh (laughs)
Gara: And I was a roadie for other bands while I was in a band, that’s how I got on the path.

―Mao-kun, do you have experience being a roadie also?
Mao: I did.
Gara: In our time, experience as a roadie was the way you start a band.
Mao: Yeah, it was good to be a roadie.
Gara: I don’t think the younger people do the roadie thing anymore. For Merry, we came to understand from looking at the existence of our senior bands, “Ahh, being in a band is like this.” But we had to make the best of it.
Mao: It was like that for me too. It was absolutely during my roadie experience that I got the know-how, wasn’t it? But I think it’s done differently than that now.
Gara: In the past there were a huge amount of things to experience from not being in an office.

―You didn’t hate being told by your senior band?
Mao: Since I liked that band. But if I wasn’t interested or it was a band I didn’t like, I’d be thinking, “What are you saying?!” Since I felt like following in that person’s footsteps I wouldn’t hate him no matter what was said to me, even if it hurt. I was happy even to be asked things like “Go buy my cigarettes.” (laughs)
Gara: I memorized a lot of things as they became familiar to me. Like “Ahh this is how to do makeup” so I was diligent about learning those things from the beginning. I think having that helped me with my own vocals and style. And things like the mindset as a vocalist… I learned various things.

―How about the themes in your lyrics?
Mao: I’m the type to seclude myself in my room with things like books and movies, I’m not influenced by those as much as I write from my own memories though.
Gara: But just from reading your lyrics, Mao-kun, you must be able to see scenery?
Mao: Yeah. But there’s places I haven’t been to… they’re fantasies.
Gara: You write from real personal experiences?
Mao: Not much… I guess. But lately those kinds of lyrics are increasing. How about you, Gara-san?
Gara: Lately I’m writing lyrics from real personal experiences too. I’ve often considered how to play around with lyrics. Even when Merry first started, I thought it’d be no good to be the same as other people, even people more skilled and more cool than myself. Therefore I was writing with the thought that anything goes. Even at lives there’ve been times when I sing without lyrics.
Mao: Is that so?
Gara: Has SID had songs like that before?
Mao: We have. I’ve heard and wrote things like that many times but since I’ve sung songs that others have wrote before, it wasn’t like I’m extremely picky about the lyrics. But when SID started, there was a wonderful reaction to the words I wrote myself… I’m weak to praise (laughs)
Gara: I’m also the type to grow with praise! (laughs)
Mao: (laughs) So, when we’ve been told things like, “I like Mao-san’s lyrics” I’m thinking, “No way, me, a poet?” (laughs) After that I plunged into it and came to love writing lyrics.
Gara: Do you usually accumulate writings you haven’t published?
Mao: Well lately I made a box for “lyrics I won’t use for the band”…
Gara: Will you someday publish it as a poetry anthology?
Mao: No, no, you don’t understand. (laughs)
Gara: Mao-kun I want to know what kind of music you listen to, but I don’t know whether it’s something you can even read in a magazine interview.
Mao: Nothing in particular. (laughs)
Gara: In any articles I read you’ll write “My hobby is sleeping.” (laughs)
Mao: It’s really sleeping. (laughs) But lately I also go shopping a little. So… I’m thinking lately I want to try fishing too.
Gara: Fishing?
Mao: Thinking about genuinely fishing, I’ve found it’s something I want to try to do. My juniors are guys who really like fishing, and when they talk about fishing, it seems really fun. So, up until now if I’ve heard a fun conversation about games I’d think “That sounds kinda boring” but just listening to their conversations about fishing seems really fun. (laughs) So I want to try it too.
Gara: Our drummer also likes fishing, and he likes to go during breaks in recording, but fishing bait is smelly isn’t it?
Mao: The meal stuff?
Gara: Yeah, yeah. He leaves that stuff in the office and it stinks. (laughs)
Mao: Ahahaha (laughs) For now I’m just going to go along and buy the gear, but it’ll be sooo fun.
Gara: It’s good if you catch something, but what will you do while waiting?
Mao: Something different. I’ll put on a vest.
Gara: (laughs) I see, I see.
Mao: I think if I do that everything will be perfectly in order.
Gara: Will you go about it the way you heard from those people?
Mao: I’ll do it when I do it. I played games for a while but it was no good to continue with it. I’d get really into it for a moment and 10 hours would pass. My eyes would hurt and I’d have to stop, soon they’d be burning but then cool down.
Gara: Our 2 guitarists like games, and I don’t like them much, but sometimes I win at Pachinko during tours and I’ve thought to buy PSP for them before. (laughs) Do you gamble at all?
Mao: I play slots. A little while ago I was addicted to it with our drummer but lately I seem to go occasionally to relax. Do you gamble?
Gara: I really like Pachinko, it’s my dream to put out my own machine.
Everyone: (laughs)
Mao: Would it be Merry’s machine?
Gara: No, my machine. (laughs)

―Like a CR Misora Hibari?
Gara: That’s right! I’ve decided I want for myself a character Pachinko machine with reach action. Now I just have to wait for offers to come.
Mao: Gara-san, will you put one out?
Gara: Yeah. When I talk to the LCD screen, reach mode with the 100% bonus flag comes up and it’s a sure win.
Everyone: (explosive laughter)

―That’s quite a premium reach.
Gara: Since I have no hobbies aside from that. And I can’t touch fish. I’m a sushi shop son but I can’t eat raw fish at all.
Mao: Ahahaha (laughs) Well that’s no good! You can’t even eat sushi?
Gara: I can’t eat it. Moreover, there’s a meat shop next to my parents’ house and I also can’t eat meat.
Mao: Well what do you even eat?
Gara: Nothing but ramen. There are lots of types of noodles, but when I get tired of the flavour of convenience store spaghetti I can only eat half of it. This conversation is springing around, but, I usually drink sake. Are there any Western-style brands of clothing you like?
Mao: Things like Comme des Garcons.
Gara: But you’re an adult… (wry smile)

―But it’s expensive. (laughs)
Mao: It’s expensive isn’t it?
Gara: I like second-hand stores in Koenji, and I often go to flea markets.
Mao: I also like old clothes.
Gara: I like old clothes, but I’m a clean freak…
Mao: Seriously? (laughs)
Gara: But if it’s coats, sneakers, or hoodies, it’s okay…
Mao: T-shirts are no good?
Gara: T-shirts are no good, and in the past jeans were also no good. I’d think “Has someone worn this?” and get itchy.
Mao: But you wash the jeans?
Gara: That’s right!
Mao: And yet it’s automatically no good. (laughs)
Gara: When I buy jeans, I’ll wear it if it smells like my own house. If it smells like someone else’s house, I absolutely won’t wear it.
Mao: Isn’t food at other houses tasty?
Gara: I’m not good with things like that… don’t you have likes and dislikes, Mao-kun?
Mao: Of course I do. I don’t eat things that adults eat. Things like wasabi, mustard, ginger… things that make my nose reel are no good.
Gara: Well, don’t you eat stimulating things?
Mao: Just curry and 7-spices.
Gara: What about Chinese food?
Mao: I’ll eat it if it’s not extremely spicy.
Gara: You might be the opposite of me there. Spicy curry is no good, and I have a lot of likes and dislikes but I really like things like wasabi and ginger.
Mao: Eh, you’re a strange person who can’t eat sashimi but you like wasabi.
Gara: No, pure wasabi is tasty.

―I can’t really imagine something that both of you can eat. That would be something mysterious wouldn’t it?
Mao: Lately I like going to family restaurants by myself. So, I’ll order 2 side dishes. When I look at the menu there are always 2 things I want to eat so I’ll eat both myself.
Gara: What’s your favourite family restaurant…?
Mao: I like Denny’s.
Gara: It’s Royal Host for me. (laughs) But when I decide on something to eat, it’s always pork fried with ginger or Parco noodles.
Mao: Ahaha! (laughs) There are things like steak too you know.
Gara: I can’t eat anything but lean meat. Things like fried chicken, if there’s even a little bit of blood I can’t eat it. What do you eat, Mao-kun?
Mao: I’ll start with Hamburg steak. In the past I had a part-time job at Royal Host. I was always thinking like, “That’s expensive!” (laughs)
Gara: Right. (laughs) Turning the conversation back to music, but I think SID is a band for which having a good melody is important. When I listen I think your musical compositions make the best use of putting the melody first, and you’re also diligent about your concept.I just listen to music in the beginning, and the second time I look at the lyrics. Since the scenery appears when I listen while following along with the lyrics, I’m wondering things like how the lyrics are written? That’s on my mind no matter what kind of music I listen to, but SID’s songs are broad aren’t they?
Mao: That’s right. From the time SID started, we didn’t limit ourselves in terms of melodies. We didn’t think things like “We’ll stop using this song” or “They won’t get this song.” Even though the band image is related to our visuals, everyone’s interests are scattered with regards to music, so no matter what kind of song we bring up we’ll be starting from a point. Originally there were genres I disliked without having tried it, but after a certain member made songs like that, it seemed like “This is kinda cool?” so there was a wonderful balance.
Gara: I can’t put it into words but the song’s atmosphere and the imagery of the song are probably consolidated amongst the members, right? That’s a great thing. Even though there are bands with surprising appearances now, I think there are a lot of bands whose sound is a little hard to understand. We might also be included in that classification, but I strongly feel that we diligently want to make music.
Mao: There are times you won’t understand that when you’re in a band. We have times like that too. A band is what makes music, but the relative importance of that is strange, I think. And then I should say it’s like whiplash all at once. Otherwise I think it’s like something delicious floating before our eyes because we’re human. But it’s not what way now. What kind of music do you usually listen to, Gara-san?
Gara: Just things like folk songs, and popular music. I don’t listen to foreign artists because I can’t understand what they’re saying. In the past I listened to foreign artists too, but even though the songs were cool, when I looked at the printed lyrics and thought “This is what he’s singing” I felt a gap. After that I don’t listen as much. Lately I’m thinking, I like punk of course. A single song that seems to be divided into 2 parts, and has a catchy tune besides. I like Japanese punk a lot.
Mao: Me too, I’m the same way. I don’t understand foreign artists, and I always listened to punk from middle school to high school.

―What are you fussy about when it comes to live performaces? I think your 2 bands have both extremes. Gara-kun doesn’t do MCs and performs as though he’s gone mad, and conversely Mao-kun does friendly MCs and carries himself like an intellectual.
Mao: When we performed at livehouses, I wanted to seem like a cool band to the guests way in the back, and in the past there were people who went pretty wild. But SID since SID’s style is good on both sides (Shinji & Aki) I can go wild with them like it’s a celebration. Now we’re a band with a “Stand up and sing” attitude, so there’s a part that can’t destroy that, a part that wants the limits of humanity, and I’ve gotten to feel really strongly about it.

―You make them listen more than you show them?
Mao: I think what I show is facial expressions, of course. And I think I convey something even when the people way at the back can’t really see my facial expression. Of course if my actions are big they should be big, so I do what I can, but expressions are important.
Gara: From the time Merry started, the atmosphere of the band was the most important for me. I think visuals were huge for us. I feel that we fussed over our appearance having a bigger impact than our music, and although we put out CDs, in the beginning the attitude was that lives and CDs were different, so I strongly thought ‘If they listen to the CDs will they go to lives?’ But, when I suddenly thought, ‘Well, what are we trying to convey?’ it was ‘Music of course.’ I went to see various lives, and what I would place higher was definitely the songs. After I noticed I wouldn’t be conveying it if I didn’t sing diligently, I thought more about how to bring it out. It honestly made me delighted to hear things like “That song was really good” from the people who listened. Now it’s not just atmosphere we fuss over, but things like the set and the illumination, too. I think there are things people wouldn’t notice at a live but they’ll notice on the DVD like “Ahh, that happened at this point.”

―And about the MCs?
Mao: MCs are scary.
Gara: I don’t know because I haven’t done any since starting in Merry. But in my former bands I’d talk and defeat.
Everyone: (laughs)
Gara: In Merry’s case, we solidified our concept with a bang and we wanted to test whether our songs would win or lose at lives while being an indies band? So we didn’t do MCs because of that. But… our drummer said that Merry’s lives are like explosions all night long. (wry smile) After that the drummer picked up doing the MCs instead of me, and it seemed like we could communicate with the guests. Anyway, I wanted to omit the excessive bits… Since our music is retro my idea was to have simple penmanship comments written atop a school desk.
Mao: How were the reactions to that kind of penmanship MC?
Gara: Lately the fans in the front are speaking up and reading to convey it to the fans in the back who can’t see well.
Mao: Hey~ That’s new, isn’t it? I thought nobody did that anymore? I want to take that idea from now on.
Gara: But, since I don’t talk there were a lot of misunderstandings. Things like “I’m in a good mood today” and “I’m in a bad mood today,” I think about how I’d express things like that. So to overrule that, I’m doing my best to express myself at lives. Besides, I can see that MCs bring the live to a climax and can deeply move them, and I long for that, but I don’t think I’m good at talking, myself…
Mao: So in a word, you’re changing the atmosphere, Gara-san. Although the flow of the live is good, in your case you might break it. The MCs I want to do are MCs that make a good flow have an even better flow, but afterward I get tired and don’t want to do it, so there’s a filler track. When I went to see bands I like I’m happy to hear those vocalists sing, but when they talk I have real feelings like, “Ahh, he’s genuine!”
Gara: Those are parts you can’t hear on the CD right?
Mao: But I want to get close to that too, so I generally do MCs.
Gara: Do you think about what to say beforehand?
Mao: It’s no good for me to think about it too much. In the past I used cue cards stiffly, and I would do it by reading from them. But now I don’t even write it down. I go with the rhythm of the situation. Therefore when I practice when there are no guests I don’t do MCs. I relate it to the guests.
Gara: I had a feeling the MCs were like that when I saw SID’s live before. There’s call and response with the guests. It’s not just limited to MCs, but since a live is a natural situation, I really think it’s scary.
Mao: It’s scary isn’t it?
Gara: For guests who have only been to the live one time, I don’t like for their image of us to turn negative. So even though I think we’re not really a band like that, in those situations it’s make it or break it.
Mao: That’s true.
Gara: What’s something you always do before a live performance?
Mao: I spend a little time alone. It can be just a moment, but it’s like my ritual. (laughs) What do you do?
Gara: Since our most recent tour, being backstage before the performance is like making my own world without anyone else, and I just do things like have a drink as a mild vocalist. It’s no good if I’m thinking things like “I’m a man born under the highest star!” before going on stage.
Mao: In the span of an hour before our stage opens, I often listen to the sound of people chattering in the venue and get nervous.

―But when you’re on stage, Mao-kun, you don’t show that you have that feeling of mental strain.
Mao: But it’s not really mental strain so I don’t call it mental strain. But now when I stand on a big stage for the first time I’m really stiff. (laughs) I don’t even keep cigarettes in my pocket and I’ll be stylishly reaching into my pockets on stage as if a cigarette will come flying out into my hand. (laughs)
Gara: Hahaha! A long time ago, I had so much mental strain that I threw up. (laughs)
Mao: While performing?
Gara: Yeah, I was running across the stage and I felt free at that time. Partway through the last song I was thinking ‘Something’s wrong’ and I went backstage by myself, and I could see on the monitor that everyone is wondering how I was.
Mao: Ahahaha! (explosive laughter)
Gara: I drank some ink, so I really didn’t feel good.
Mao: Ink, that sounds good. I want to try that too. (laughs)
Gara: No, it’s gross. Because it smells like a cleaning cloth from primary school.
Mao: Eh, that’s harsh… but, the impact is that it’s ink.

―Well, for the end, is there anything you’re currently dissatisfied with about you’re seen?
Mao: No matter how I’m seen, it’s okay if it’s “like” or “dislike”. But not for “How do you feel about listening to SID?”, then either “I love SID” or “I hate SID” are fine. I think there are only a few people who know us to that extent. Therefore when it comes to how we’re seen, I’m happy if we’re remembered as a band. “Visual Kei is like this, so the contents are like that” isn’t something worth worrying about, so if someone likes or dislikes us based on only our visuals, that’s fine. I think people who judge ‘dislike’ or ‘like’ based on a photograph have strong feelings, and I think there are bands that like that a lot. I think there’s zero possibility that SID will become like that. But, the people who think, “Either is fine” will always think like that, so it’s surely because of that that I want to make something that can be seen as distinct.

Gara: From the time we started to use the band name “Merry” we had self-confidence no matter what, so it makes no difference that we’re called “Visual Kei”. Recently I’ve been told about various overseas things like “Ska/Punk Rock heroes” and “Metal” but I don’t fuss over genres. There are people who’ll dislike us based on only appearance, and if they listen to our music someday, there’ll be an instant where they think, “Who’s this?” “That’s Merry!” “Eh?” so that’s our victory. We don’t stick to genre, so it’s not that we’re called that by someone. Our stance is to portray ourselves as though we know that we’re cool. Therefore, even though there are pros and cons of mixing various genres, isn’t that part of who we are? I just think about that.

―I see. I hope for continued activity from you both, as new generation bands with your own firm stances on musicianship.
Gara: No matter what we say, what we’ll do is make music.
Mao: Yeah.

―I think you’ll want to be good role models for your junior bands.
Gara: That’d be nice, right?
Mao: When there are people who keep saying “I want to be Mao” that’s scary. (laughs)

―You’re over-blessed as musicians!
Gara: I get encouraged from that, I feel like “I can keep it up more!”
Mao: We’ll have good relationships with each other.

―As the party draws to an end, isn’t there anything you want to ask?
Mao: Um… your phone number…
Gara: Absolutely. (laughs) But, can I give it to you when we go?
Mao: Of course! (laughs)


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