Monday, 3 October 2011

Rock and Read vol 025. Shuu [Girugamesh] Interview Part 2 of 3

It's been a week since I started this blog. Oh my! I've decided to update every Monday. I'm hoping that will give me incentive to translate faster than I am now. 八(^□^*) Anyway. I hope everyone enjoys the second part of this Shuu interview. This section focuses more on his high school days.

If anyone finds any mistakes or anything, please let me know. Enjoy~!

Do you remember what the first CD you bought was?
It was “Seesaw Game”* by Mister Children. I got it when I was in elementary school.

That’s very different (smile). So, since you had an acoustic guitar at home, was it natural for you to start picking out songs on it?
Yeah. My friend next door had an older brother who liked the same music as us. He’d play a piece and we repeated it back.

So was it around that time you formed your first band?
Yeah. At the time I played songs like “Rosier” by Luna Sea and “Winter, Again” by Glay on guitar. The girl I liked back then loved Glay (laugh).

How manipulative! (Laugh)
I did it so we would have a lot to talk about, but I don’t know if it worked (laugh). After that I’d play The Spits and Mister Children. At the time most of the songs I learned were on acoustic guitar.

You covered a broad music genre, didn’t you?
I don’t think I do that now. It was by no means my number one goal. I did want to change places, though.

So you weren’t limited to just your favourite bands.
Yeah. My dream was instantly unfolding, but once I really thought about it, it fell apart quickly.

But you continued being in the middle of band activity?
I personally thought it was great. The band weren’t satisfied though. I kept buying CDs after that. There was a lot of shit that I didn’t bother with, but it made me wonder why bands had bassists if you couldn’t hear them. Especially in heavy music, you couldn’t hear people play the bass at all (laugh). Because of that, I found pop music to be more interesting when it came to the bass.

Is there ever a time where you’d listen to music just for the bassist now?
Oh, that’s usually the case when I listen to music. When I have to write a bass line I’ll whistle along (laugh).

Okay, so you have a lot of memories from middle school and of forming a band too, of course. 
Yeah. Most of the kids who played an instrument were Yanki, but I don’t know if I was associated with them (laugh). But, if you did anything that seemed bad to them, like say or do something, or look at their friends for too long, the older kids would beat you up. I even got beaten up once. My whole second year in middle school was pain. The third years would beat me and my whole face would swell up in bruises like something from an anime.

What did you do to get beaten up?
I didn’t do anything. They got me to go over to them; they probably mistook me for someone else who I hung around with.  And, even though I didn’t do anything, for some reason kids from a different middle school came through the school gates. What the hell? And all my friends went home the back way; I was dumbfounded they didn’t come (dry smile).

Why didn’t you say “it wasn’t me”?
I did at first, but I stopped because they thought I was being a smartass (dry smile). At first it was a vicious beating, but then it turned into a lynching! It was ten against one. It was really frightening.

Sounds like your school was full of Yanki!
Of Course! It was a school in Chiba! (Laugh) There was a strict pecking order.

So did you ever get back at the kids who beat you up?
No, I didn’t. My dad told me to, but my mum would always say “you’re your father’s son”. I used to see my parents fight with each other so I didn’t know what to do when they were being nice (laugh). I was used to always hearing nasty things from them ever since I was little.

Were your friends ever concerned?
Not really. Maybe sometimes, we were all very close. But I’d never say anything if I felt down or anything.

So you were always hiding part of yourself?
Yeah, the useless part (dry smile).

I don’t think you’re the only one who did that though.
Yeah. Everyone in the class was like that.

So, back then did girls and boys group together separately?
Yeah. I didn’t think about love interests, but even the girls would talk about them a lot.

Were you shy?
Hmm. Teachers liked me because I was always quiet in class.  I was quiet but attentive. I could always pick up on the subtleties in a person’s character (smile). People would open up to me but I’d always keep my own thoughts to myself. But I really liked school and my friends. Of course, I hated being a home.

There was a serious gap between your home and outside life, wasn’t there?
I think that every time my parents went to a parent teacher meeting, the teacher would always tell them how cheerful and sociable I was, and how good I was at sports, and my parents would say there’s no way that was me.

You never let your parents see the outside you?
No, they never did. Even now I don’t know why. When my teacher would call over to our place, I was always completely silent.

Have you ever startled your teacher in school before?
Yeah. I think even the teacher was surprised. I got a notification about Parents’ Day [6] , but I didn’t take it home to my parents. Because neither parent showed up, it looked like they’d abandoned me. Eventually it all got out and that was really bad. I should have done things differently. Thinking back on it now, it was really terrible (dry smile). 

I bet they wondered why, huh? Did it cause a lot of tension at home?
Why not, right? I was more my Grandmother’s child. Because I was what you’d call a Latchkey kid, I’d typically remember having to ask my granny before going out to play and I had dinner with her quite often.

So you and your grandmother were close?
Yeah. We used to talk a lot.

Do you still have this dual personality with your family and the rest of the world?
Ha, of course! Even now my family is very dismal. Even when I get a call from a family member, I hate how it’s all small, gloomy voices (dry smile).

When you entered high school, did you form a band?
Hmm, well… since most of the people from middle school weren’t there, I didn’t talk to anyone for a month. That was a difficult time. I lost 5 kilograms.

Wow! That’s amazing!
Yeah. I’d sit at the front of the teacher’s desk and eat alone. I’d meet up with the guys from middle school on my way home, my classmates were my enemies. Anytime I’d hear them laughing and joking I’d think, oh! They must be talking about me (dry smile). The students sitting behind me used to hit the back of my chair. That would really piss me off (dry smile). But after about a month, I found out there were a lot of guys interested in music, so I began to talk to them. We ended up forming a band in the first year of high school. There were five of us guitarists in this music club. So, as usual we played Janken [7] to settle it. I lost so I ended up as the bassist (dry smile).

So what did you think about having to play the bass?
Ah, it’s so simple (dry smile)! We only had a guitar at home, so I got a job so I could buy a bass. What the hell, right? But, because I was sociable, I could take a step back and get on well with my co-workers. Bassists are still, for the most part, the ones who are least heard, and that was the norm for most bands. There were about a hundred people in our music club at school, and everyone used to chat, so it was usually really fun.

Did the music club really take off in your school?
For the most part, yeah. The baseball and the soccer club had the most members. We were all crammed into a classroom, one which had some soundproofing, to practice. We even had a mixer, drums and bass.

Cool! So did you manage to get everyone lively and energetic during culture festivals [8]?
We had to audition for the culture festival. Third years were the main event, but first and second years had to audition. I managed to get through out of the whole year (smile).

Oh, did you play original stuff?
No, we were a cover band. Girugamesh didn’t form until second year, so for the culture festival I played in a cover band. In first year I played in a band that covered songs by Yellow Monkey and Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, and in second year I was in one that covered Yama Arashi and Dragon Ash songs. I was made do arrangements of popular songs too. The band I joined after that played a lot of Bump of Chicken and MONGOL 800. So, once I was in third year I’d been in about…. 6 bands? So I could play a lot if songs because of that. My main band was with a guy called Shimada [9] though (laugh). We played a lot of Three Michelle Gun Elephant and Limp Bizkit together (laugh).

This whole conversation’s been turned around. For the first month of high school you never spoke to anyone. Why didn’t you talk to anyone from your class?
Why? Hmm… That’s what being cool all is about, right? I didn’t know if they’d want to hang out with me. Maybe I was just being vain (dry smile).

Yet you’re so sociable.
Yeah. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a guy or I don’t experience things outside of my safe zone (laugh). Eventually, I stopped talking to the friends I kept from middle school, and eventually my high school friends too. I took about an hour to get home on my bike, so I’d listen to my MD walkman. That was the only enjoyable thing about the journey (dry smile).

That sounds tough. Were there any people in particular who broke through that silence?
That was the four other members in Shimada’s band.

It was a long time ago, but what kind of person was Shimada?
He was the vocalist (laugh).

Why didn’t you give the band a name?
We just thought ‘whatever’.  We were all in it together (laugh). We would always change who did what in the band and the line up. Members would usually go to school together and go home together. So all of the band members got to be friends. Eventually, we’d talk about ourselves. We were provisional members for a month and we were friends from the music club in middle school who see each other in the same classes together. That was Shimada’s band.

And it was around that time you began work on Girugamesh?
Yeah. At the time the vocalist was a classmate of mine in high school. We learned guitar together in middle school. When I was silent for that first month in my first year of high school, I’d go to his house to play guitar every day. His house was on the way to mine from the station. I would go to his house, we wouldn’t talk but we’d read manga, watch TV and listen to music. Then when I got hungry I’d go home. That’s what I did for that whole month.

Well, at least you had the support of a friend during that difficult month (smile).
I know, right? (Laugh). After that, when we hadn’t seen each other for a while he’d ask “So what’ve you been up to lately? I’ve been playing guitar”. “Ohh, really? I’m playing bass.” Talking about the copy band led to us finding a vocalist in our second year of high school. There was a guy who lived near us who played drums who we played with so the four of us began playing as Girugamesh. We used to change the line up all the time. One time Ryo was the vocalist. We were all about 19 or so at the time. Before that, we hadn’t done any bookings for live houses. It was uncool to play as a high school band (dry laugh). We’d go to the live house in our uniforms, change, and then play the live.

Ah, so you were in Girugamesh and Shimada’s band at the same time?

Apart from the band was there anything else you did like study and activities?
Eh, I camped out with my band mates.

Camped out?!
I don’t really know, but we went to go camp out with glue sticks. We went to the beach to go flirt and stuff. As for study, when it came to tests and stuff we all did badly. We each had our respective part time jobs but essentially I and my band mates were always together. But we were always pretty bad at studying (laugh).

Did you also play at live houses with Shimada’s band?
No, we just did stuff like the school Culture Festival.

Ah, so the first time you played at a live house was with Girugamesh?

So that was the first time Girugamesh experienced real musicianship?
Our music is heavy now, and the focus is on the song. Before it was just about singing with a pretty voice.

So while you were playing stuff like Thee Michelle Gun Elephant and Blankey in high school, you were playing more Visual Kei style music with Girugamesh.
That’s right. We tried to sound like Dir en grey and Pierrot who were popular at the time, especially me (laugh). I didn’t mind it at all. We did our make up like theirs too. It was part of the fashion to wear black eye make-up and bleach your hair though.

What happened to the band with Shimada after high school?
In the summer of second year, when Girugamesh had only just started, Shimada went on a school exchange. We got on well with the other members so we hung out after that, and the band members went their separate ways. When Shimada came back after a year we played our last Culture Festival.

When your friends were realising what they wanted to do early on, like studies abroad, were you in a hurry yourself?
No.  It was a sad memory. I remember we were crying when we took him to Narita Airport (dry smile).

You really liked Shimada then!
I really did. He was an amazing vocalist. He talked a lot of nonsense and he was a pervert though (laugh). He did what other people couldn’t do so easily. For example, when we were in new classes in high school, we’d have to do self introductions. He got up and said “my favourite animal is girls” (laugh). When he wasn’t being scolded, he’d say stuff like “Teacher! I want to shit!” (Laugh). He had a great fashion sense too. Everyone wore loafers with their uniform but he wore blinged up sneakers. He had a backpack instead of the school’s bag too, [10] and he had a customised bicycle. He was an interesting guy.

He sounds eccentric, but not a bad guy.
Yeah, he wasn’t a bad guy at all.

Did he influence you in any way?
Well, I thought he was cool. He was really independent. Everyone in his band hated the same things, but he was the one in the middle of it all, standing out unique.

Did you worry about his future (laugh)?
He went to university and studied languages for four years to get a translating degree. He didn’t go to our live in Shibuya AX but the opening narration “Ladies and Gentlemen” was said by him. But even though he has a degree in translation, he plays in a band now. I’ve been asked to join him, but I don’t want to leave Girugamesh. His singing is still really fascinating.

He’s really not a person seeking stability (laugh).
Seems so (laugh).

Translator's Notes:

 [6] Where parents attend classes with their child to get feedback on their progress.

 [7] Japanese equivalent of Rock-Paper-Scissors.

 [8] An annual event in most Japanese schools where students perform and show off their achievements from school. Students get to play music and perform plays and things like that for their schoolmates and parents.

 [9] There’s a few readings for the name島田 (Shikuda, Shimata and Mimada) so I just picked what seems to be the most common. If anyone knows the actual reading of his name, please let me know. 

 [10] Japanese schoolchildren generally use a specific bag for school, usually with the school name and crest on it instead of a back pack used by western school children. Click for example~

* Thanks thaliane for correcting the song name. 


  1. I'm going to finish reading this some other time, but before I forget I want to comment on Mr Children's song "She's so Game", which I looked up and is supposed to be "Seesaw Game". XD I love how it's phonetically almost correct~

  2. Oops! Thanks for pointing that out. I'll change that now. ^^;;