Did you come to Tokyo alone?
Yeah, I came alone. Before, I worked hard and persevered for four years, trying to make things work. In that time period, a switch flipped in my head and it got me thinking. So I quit my band and moved back home with my parents. I went to a vocational school and got my degree. I reassessed my life from then on and thought I’d become a tax accountant (laugh).
It sounds very analytical.
Doesn’t it? (Laugh) I sent out job application forms and waited for about a month. At the time, a friend from my hometown who played with the band with me before was working on forming another band up in Tokyo. I hadn’t seen him in a while, so he convinced me to meet up and go drinking together. We got talking when we were drinking. My friend told me he hadn’t formed a band when he was in Tokyo, and the only time he played with a band was back home. That was how I got introduced to Reika. I liked visual kei, but that wasn’t the only think I liked. I have a good knowledge of other genres, not just visual kei. I loved Mr. Children. I used to always say “I want to play in a band just as profound as Mr. Children or Shiina Ringo”. But no one else thought the same as I did, and I thought that I wouldn’t find anyone who thought that way. But then I met Reika, who shared the same idea as I did. Things changed when I decided to go home and then met Reika. I quickly became really into the idea of forming and playing in this band. Even now I haven’t gotten even a little bored of the idea. We got really excited about all the music we wanted to play. I thought it must be fate. It’s been four years and it really doesn’t feel like work at all. Even within a month of not doing anything, I feel like all the members of D=OUT progress altogether. We’re all perfectly suited.
How did you meet the other members?
When Reika and I were playing together, we decided we needed someone on guitar. We needed someone to play lead. That’s how we met Hikaru. I was living with Minase at the time so I convinced him to join too. We wanted one more guitarist because a lot of bands we’d been listening to had a second guitar. So we started searching for another guitarist together, with that in mind. Then we found Ibuki. We let him know we wanted him. I knew that at the time that the band he was in was breaking up. It would be crazy to give up on him, so we made the impossible possible and got him to come with us. Our manager told us flat out, “If you call yourselves a band, how come you haven’t played live yet? You’re not a visual kei band unless you perform, so I want to see you at work.” Wetold him that we really wanted to play and he gave us the OK. We found a place who’s rental fee we could afford, and when we heard the complete fee, we went back to our manager and had a talk with him in his office. We asked him if we could afford to be charged that much. He never said “no, never” to us. He made us realise our potential.
Amazing! What a great manager.
I thought so at the time (laugh). Of course, I thought there was nothing like this kind of luck in the world. But it showed that it would be impossible to give up. People weren’t banging on the doors or anything, but we were definitely excited. We were so excited to play in front of about a hundred people. They didn’t really seem interested at all, but we broke even. That’s extreme, to me.
You’re a strong person, Kouki.
No, you just don’t see my weak points. I’m not actually a strong person, but I make it a point to never argue with other people, so I come off as strong. Fans often say that I’m strong or that I seem to be a carefree person, but they don’t see everything which isn’t that strong. My close friends know my faults, they’re the ones I let see my weaknesses. I think that’s why I stopped playing baseball. I don’t have any self confidence in batting, so I absolutely refused to stand in the batter’s box. But when I stood outside it, I’d tell myself that I should definitely be able to bat, but instead I wouldn’t. That’s what I’d think. People who saw that would stop thinking I’m so strong. I was torn between doing it or not. No one has anything but good intentions, and I think that can’t be helped in people. That’s the reality of being in a band too. You take the good times with the bad. But if you keep thinking of only the things that go wrong, it’ll just get progressively worse. So when we ask the question “what’s do we want from our music?” we have to all agree completely on the perfect answer. It’s only stressful if any of us see it as just that. Personally, I just can’t stop worrying about that.
What do you do to try an escape worry and stress?
I sleep. Especially at times where nothing can be done to solve things and I haven’t come up with a solution to a problem yet. In those times when I just can’t figure things out, I go to sleep and reset. This is especially true when I’m writing lyrics. When nothing’s working for me on that particular day, I give on for the day and sleep. When I get free time to do nothing but write, that’s the best timing, it works really well for me. Something awakens in me and gives me the strength to work.
I see. So did you move back up to Tokyo with Minase? Why did you live together?
Minase and I lived in the same area in Kansai. He went to Tokyo before me and managed to find me a part time job. We were co-workers and we got on well together so we decided to live together (laugh). Minase is very easy to get along with. In the six years we’ve lived together, we’ve only fought once. Our personalities are the exact opposite, so we work well together. I actually think that after all these years we’re like a married couple (laugh). I don’t think I can live alone now, at this point.
I get an image of you talking to yourself alone in a room.
So is it annoying to hang out with the other members of D=OUT?
No. We’ve only had one argument really. It happened recently, during the LAST INDIES Tour. I lost my voice and when I went to the hospital, they said I’d developed polyps on my throat  . I didn’t know what to do… It was really terrible. Because it was the Last Indies Tour, we could see that the fans were all really excited for it as well as the band ourselves. I realised that I wouldn’t be able to sing, which was upsetting. I went to Reika first, who’s our leader, and we argued. For me, it was quite distressing. For the last three dates I took steroids before the show, but they made me feel very nauseous and sleepy. Staff from the label contacted me asking if maybe I was pushing myself too far. Our fans were really worried for me, and to me, that shows the bond we have. Above all, it woke something in me that showed just how powerful words like ‘bond’ can actually be. Anyway, the effects of the steroid treatment were really getting to me, really making me feel sick, but when I got on stage and started performing, all that disappeared. It felt like a miracle to me. It really was a force of will. I wasn’t well at all. It was the strength and power lent to be by everyone that kept me going. Even though it was a really difficult personal experience, I think there’s meaning in the timing of it all. I still have polyps in my throat which can only be cured with surgery. They’re a danger, but I don’t think it’s anything I can’t overcome whatsoever. I’m not just one person; I have the support of so many others who help be to continue. They all help me to keep going. I’ll never give in because of that. This is just the beginning, right? So let’s keep going through the struggles.