Interview with Koji Tamaki

Source: Orikaeshi Chiten, Kadokawa, May 1993.
Translated by Teruyuki Mihashi

This Interview has 4 parts, and it was featured on May 1993 issue of Kadokawa magazine, titled "Orikaeshi Chiten," a turning point. Disclaimers: This IS a copyrighted material. Mihashi San is translating this as a courtesy to all fellow Anchi fans. All copyrights are retained by the Kadokawa Pub. Company.

I. I want to "build" something in Hokkaido...relaxed.

Last year was the tenth anniversary of Anzenchitai, and we had a concert tour with just five of us, just like how we began. We all thought that if we are going to play our old songs, then we should play it by ourselves, without any aid from other supporting musicians. It's not that we had some nostalgic feeling that "before" was better, but since we all went through this long period together, we wanted to do this concert tour by ourselves. And you know what, it was great. It was like battling on the stage. The last concert of the tour was at Kanagawa, and it was December 26. We were singing "Ankoroe," the final song of the show, and without letting members (other 4 Anchi members), the staff made a snow flurry. You know, in kindergardens and elementary school plays, where you sprinkle a paper snow? Yeah, one of those. And that continued on for 20 minutes or so. And we thought, it is probably snowing back home in Hokkaido, and we couldn't hold back our tears. I was really happy that the whole concert tour went like this. When it was all over, everyone was in tears. It was a good way to conclude our tenth year. Now, it was the time to go back to Hokkaido.

I wanted to return to Hokkaido and continue my music career at that time. It's been ten years since we came down to Tokyo. It was about time to create "Hokkaido's Anzenchitai." You know, we have to live up to the expectation of the snow that fell during the concert tour (laughs). I want to "build" or "construct" things, all relazed, feeling mountains, sky, and wind around me. Live in Asahikawa, make an album, and then, if needed, go on a concert tour from there. Wouldn't that be great?

Our guys' wives are all from Hokkaido, but my wife is from Tokyo. Because of my job, it is difficult for me to live in Hokkaido now, but nevertheless, I would like to make music in Hokkaido. Hokkaido has such a big land that in the middle of the recording, I can go out and plow the field! (laughs)

My personal feeling toward music is similar to this. I feel good right now. I would like to keep on feeling good. There is a stream of feeling that is making me want to compose music, and that is what I want to listen to and follow. If I can show this in my music, I would be very satisfied.

II. An environment necessary to build something

I started feeling very good from last year. I started to feel doubts about 4 to 5 years ago. I never liked to think of music as a job. I tend to think of it as a thing I enjoying playing around with. Within it, I make the songs I like, sing them, and there are people who want to hear it... and if this works out as my job, then this is the best. But my play ends up supporting my life. Then there is a sense of "this is not quite what I had in mind..." I'm not a city person, so I cannot adapt to an environment made by someone else. I can easily ride my own wind, though. :)

I hate it when I know ahead of time the relationship between the sales of the albums and the income. So, I tend to schedule a release date and promotion ahead of time, and then force myself to adapt to it. This doesn't quite work out. At the end, I end up commenting on advertisement strategies, or Anchi goods sales strategies. Don't you think it's weird? The feeling of you can't do anything unless everything is set up. I started to feel doubts that this is not beneficial for someone who "builds" things.

Two years into the slump, and I decided to become a great person! :) Someone who can grasp the world trend and still have their own pace. Well, I wasn't that lazy, either. It was just that I was stuck. That is about the time when I met my wife. She believed in what I made. Or, we felt really good being together. We never talked about 'what we are going to do in the future' and stuff like that. But we felt good being together, so we got married. I was trying to have a more structured life. I felt that it was about time. :) One year has past. We live with her parents. At that time, I really enjoyed listening to her parents, because I felt like I was getting to know more about her. We go out for dinner, play golf, and travel and see things. We both love to travel to foreign countries. We feel a lot of things just looking at things. Therefore, at that time, I really needed this period. But since I am an artist, I feel like I am losing grip when I am in the midst of happiness too long. But still, I try to think of what can be done to keep this situation going. But this is equivalent for an artist to be dead. I mean, an artist in general, not just myself, has to be playing to produce something good. An art is another form of play. That is why we feel that we want to produce things until we are sick and tired of playing around. I think I asked "Will you let me play around?" She showed great understanding to that. This is our second year, but still, I do my own things only. Latter half of last year until now, I have not been at my house that much. When I am in Tokyo, I spend most of time in the studios, returning home in the morning. Yeah, I bet I'm causing a lot of trouble. :) But when I am making something, I would not want to rest at all. I would all of sudden realize, "hey, it is 7am!" Doing this, doing that, and then the album "Akogare" was made. It was after five years of slump, so you can say that this album took five years to make.

III. Walking for 380 km with my father

The major cause of myself wanting to make something I like is my father. The image I had when I composed "Akogare" is my father's. He's been spending all of his life in Hokkaido. Well, last year, I walked with my father for 380 km, from the tip of Soya peninsula to our home in Asahikawa. He was working at an education committee, and because he sat for a long time, he injured his hip. The doctors recommended him to walk to improve his health. Everyday, his distance got longer. Finally, his ambition became to walk across Hokkaido. "Start from the Soya peninsula, overlooking Sakhalin, and then walk back to Asahikawa." When I heard him say that, I was touched. Everyone said it would be too dangerous, but I decided to go along with him. It actually dangerous because there is no sidewalk along the route. But when I thought about it, I never had time to talk to my father recently, and I wanted his dream become true. I could only take a 10-day vacation, so we had to complete our trip within ten days. That means we have to walk about 35km a day. Because there are bears around, we can only work during the day. His pedometer calculated that we would have to walk at a rate of 4 to 5 km/hr. You now, this is pretty intense! :) It's much harder than I thought. But then I realized how much I slacked off....on a human. I realized that I have forgotten something important. Now I know why we have hikes and fieldtrips in elementary schools. By the way, my father is 64 years old.

He reflected back on his life, and wondered what he has done... So, he wanted to do something so that his grandchildren will remember him. I heard him say this in the middle of the trip, and that enforced my determination to complete this trip. When we finally got back home, my father exploded into tears from his happiness. We were touched much more than I expected.

When we stay at an inn, they ask us why we are doing this. "Well, I don't know," is a typical reason I give. But all the mass media will hear this somehow, and starts following us. We ask them to leave us alone, but they still come. And my colleagues videotaped this trip for us. I wanted this trip to remain, so I wanted to videotape it anyway, but since this is 380 km trip, this is quite long. And since it gets too long, they edited for us. I took a sneak peak at this, and I love it. It's almost an art. They put their heart in this video when recording. You might see a large picture of Hokkaido with two of us in the center, really small... Hokkaido is portrayed really well. I thought I really had a great trip.

And try mixing "Akogare" songs into this picture, and you just can't beat it. I felt that this is what it is to be making something. And you are the one who is in this work. I see myself struggling, so who cares what people's mine. With this idea, I wanted to make a movie...I am currently thinking about making a picture for it.

Starting this year, I am also interested in making movies. Actually, I started thinking about it earlier. I made people listen to my music, so now I wanted people to see my movie. Since I am an artist, I will make a good one. I am about to finish my script. I don't know how much it will cost, but I will make it anyway. Then show it to my friends and see what their reaction would be. If they like it, that would be great. And if everyone wants to see it, even better. I think we can make a real movie out of it. Whether it's a music or movie, I don't want to make them in the business (lucrative) perspective.

The first movie I want to make is titled "Something I am looking for." This is about Tokyo and the hometown, but this is intense! I think it would be difficult for people to see this. It's about everyone having something that they are searching for. Is that enough for this topic?

IV. WineRed no kokoro and two incidents

When I try to build something or express something, there are parts where I just cannot separate my hometown from. It's not that I always think about Hokkaido, and nor do I just stress being from Hokkaido, but this is something I just will never forget. For example, before going to sleep, I can feel my cells yearning for my hometown. My body "circuit" enjoys it. It's like the scenery affecting not just your emotions but your entire body. Of couse, emotionally I appreciate it, but it is true that we cannot return to those days. So, when I try to create songs about Hokkaido, the result tend to be totally opposite of what I intended. A result is songs about losing self in the city.

When I think about my origin of my music career, I would have to say it is "Wine Red no Kokoro." 13 years ago, we came to Tokyo, and played for Inoue Yosui for three years. We thought of returning to Hokkaido, but we still wanted to do something, so we decided to debut. We released a few singles about Hokkaido, but of course, they don't sell! It was about that time when that song emerged. Yosui-san, whose hometown is in Kyushu (southern island of Japan), wrote and gave us the lyrics.

There were incidents which totally apalled me after arriving to Tokyo. At that time, I was practicing at Ikebukuro (part of Tokyo), and on my way back on Yamanote train line, there was a man poking a boy's cheek with his umbrella. What was shocking? Well, people who were there probably felt the same, but I was shocked that I could not do anything about it. I mean, blood was starting to flow from this boy's cheek. But still, nobody says anything... Then, about three stations later, some woman reported the incident, and the station employee took him away. But I felt so sad that I was not the one who reported it. Why didn't I say it? I really wanted to go back to Hokkaido. Another shocking incident happned later. I was short of money, and I had my family send me 50000 yen (about 500 dollars) into my account. I went into a coffeeshop called Hi no Tori (firebird) in Shibuya. Immediately, the door was shut behind me. This is daytime, for god's sake. Without myself ordering, they serve me a beer. I knew something was wrong, but it was too late then. I hadn't withdrawn the cash, so I told them "I don't have much money, so I was thinking about getting a coffee??" And they said "what are you talking about?" "Do you have an ATM card?" They threatened me and took my card and the PIN. 50,000 yen gone just like that. There was another victim right before me, and we were both scared for retaliation, so we couldn't go to the police immediately. I thought about it for one day, and finally went to police the next day, and by that time, the shop is gone. AT that time, there were shops like day it's in business and the next day, it's gone.

Wine Red no Kokoro and those two incidents are coinciding within myself. At that time, when I sang this song, I thought of that man poking a boy's cheek, and blood streaming down. A part of the song where it says "Anata wa sono sukitootta hitomi no mamade ano kiesouni moesouna Wine Red no kokoro wo utsushidashite miseteyo yurenagara" is addressed exactly toward myself. So, it's extremely difficult for me to sing this song. So, when we go to Karaoke bars, people ask me to sing this song, but I can't. It's not that I would if it were easier!

But Wine Red no Kokoro sold well, and then my life changed completely. A sense of disorientation, telling myself not to be affected that easily, and myself being dragged into this world... Well, I felt that I needed to remain in this world until I could prove myself. Then I tend to search for the easiest way out.

For myself, the easy way was making music with NON-Anchi members. AT that time, I thought it was appropriate. For example, when we sang "Koi no Yokan." We definitely needed a piano, strings... Remember, Wine Red no Kokoro is produced solely by ourselves. So, you can say that Koi no Yokan was a song that abandoned ourselves.

But "Koi no Yokan" connects to "Akogare." At that time, I already have "Akogare" in mind....very roughly. That's fine, but if we make songs that use non-Anchi members, then we have to have a similar group of musicians for concerts. So, sooner or later, we would have a huge "Anchi group." This is big....up to 15 members. You know what happens? We start to feel OK that guitarist would no longer play guitars. Drums will be handled by machines. This is NO band. This is no Anzenchitai! So, we decided to stop our activity for a while. This was about 4 1/2 years ago?

Then when we made the album "Yume No Miyako," we are telling each other to produce album by ourselves, but still their experience will lead to "let's use anything" kind of mentality. "It's all right" That kind of attitude. At any rate, we created "Taiyou." It was about that time when we started to return to Acoustic sounds. Right now, I am hoping to create an album by Anchi which is just like my "Akogare" album.

Breakup could have occurred anytime. When we first came down to Tokyo to play for Yosui-san, I am the most disappointed person. They can play instruments, but all I do is sing background chorus. But we are all from the same region, so we emphasize working together. So, even though I wanted to do that was good for myself, I ended up thinking about the whole group. But this was not a waste of time. They are my emotional support. They don't change and that comforts me. I am a type of person who creates the "wave," but they are always there, unaffected. So, no matter what happens, I want to live with them for the rest of my life. They are really a great bunch of people!

In that sense, my wife and Yosui-san also support me. It's hard to explain, but this may be a destiny that we met. And last year, I met another person whom I'm going to treasure dealing with, and he is Sudou-san . Last year, a lot of things happened.

One day, Yosui-san (without any notice) visited Hokkaido. One person I know got him to come over. This was great. I saw him, and I thought "He is THE Man." From then, he's Yosui-san to me. How can I explain? I just love this relationship. Sometimes he would call me and check to see how I am doing, and I am delighted to get a call!

Ever since I met my wife, I never thought too much about us. She used to tell me this, too. But we definitely were together sometime before....not just man-woman relationship, but beyond that. It is her that makes my life possible...where I can do what I want to do. I can live a life I dreamed.

We get requested to be on a commercial together, but we turn them down politely. We probably won't do it. I did a commercial before, but I think it is meaningless for me. I may get hundreds of thousands of yen, but that will keep myself from making things.

I am not what people call "tarento (multi-talent)." If I may exaggerate, my voice came from heaven. I was given a voice. But I am the one who will improve and polish my voice. So, if I improve my voice and present to people, I better be strict in quality. I want to labor the process. This is tough. I work hard, whether it is a concert or an album. If I get money doing something else, then that's not me.

I loved to make things from my childhood. My grandma loved folk songs (country tunes), and I was told that I started singing one of the tune "Akita Obako" at an age of three. I made songs and sang. My older sister remembers this and told me that I used to compose a song called "God, god" and sang it! :)

Last Update: April 4, 1999
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