[Cover Feature] KISAKI Special Interview

KISAKI's special interview photo 01 of MAKE

The eternal melody, the end brought by “Hakai”.
Speaking of the eternal time he’s walked through―

KISAKI, active in various roles such as the legendary bands Phantasmagoria and Lin, as well as the representative of Matina and UNDER CODE PRODUCTION, celebrates the 30th Anniversary of his band activities this year. He energetically marked this milestone year with BEYOND THE KINGDOM live performances in Tokyo and Osaka, announced the release of a trilogy of albums. He also anticipates releasing the mini album “Eternally” on 27th December. This magazine looks back at his 30 years in music industry, from the past to the present.
As a fan and the author, I have been eagerly looking forward to hearing his story.

KISAKI’s Origins

I was invited to play bass when a friend started playing drums. I simply wanted to make loud noise (laughs).
I first touched an instrument around the end of middle school. It wasn’t about playing in a band; it was just playing for fun. Honestly, I wasn’t initially into music; I was an active kid, into soccer and fishing (laughs).
I grew fond of music through Hideaki Tokunaga’s songs that my mother used to play. I listened to them over and over on my radio-cassette player. Back then, I was just a listener, not thinking about engaging in music. I thought about having an ordinary life with a job and marriage (laughs). I wasn’t good at asserting myself either.
But everything changed when I saw X (X JAPAN) on TV! At that age, the ‘bad boy’ look was cool.
Their look combined both rebelliousness and beauty, and they were great musicians with cool songs… I became captivated by X, especially by YOSHIKI. I was amazed how such a slender person could play such intense drums! I used to watch my friend who played drums.
I then tried to emulate YOSHIKI’s path, exploring bands like KISS, which he was influenced by. Still, I never thought I’d form a band; I believed it was impossible for me (laughs).
It wasn’t until my first year of high school that my parents bought me a bass. I started to enjoy practicing at home. That’s when I started wanting to play in a band and practice bass every day.
So, I decided to form a band. Surprisingly, the members came together easily. I began growing my hair for my first band.
Once we had some form, I asked a local live house in Wakayama how to perform there. Though I didn’t know how to compose, the manager gave me various tips. My first song was immature, recorded simply on a cassette player; it was just noise initially (laughs).
I didn’t practice much at home but spent most days in the studio with my bandmates after school. We never did cover bands; our first band played original songs.

The manager said, “You’re going to charge money for covers? That’s lame!” As students, we thought, “That’s how it should be,” and started composing by trial and error.
The manager was kind, offering us to use the live house even late at night. Today, that would be out of the question (laughs).
Then, with a five-song cassette tape, we distributed it to get known, even before our first live performance (laughs).

After our first concert, over 100 people showed up, even though there were no Visual-Kei bands in Wakayama, we were amazed. “How did you find out about us!?” (laughs).

With no photos yet, it seemed our flyers and word-of-mouth at studios and live houses spread the word. Not knowing any better, we thought drawing 100 people was normal.

However, the manager didn’t praise us, urging us to improve our performance. I’m grateful for his care, shaping us. If I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t have taken music seriously. That live house was where it all began for me; it was so special that I included it in Phantasmagoria’s last tour.

He always treated us to barbecue, so we called him “Yakiniku man” (laughs).

Yes, I thought it was essential for the stage. Though my makeup skills were poor, it boosted my mood and made lives fun.
Jumping ahead, I did my own makeup until partway through Phantasmagoria. I didn’t really trust anyone doing my makeup (laughs).
It took a while to find someone I could entrust with my makeup. Initially, I had to teach them about Visual-Kei makeup, like how to spike my hair or where to draw my eyebrows. “Don’t say that.” they’d say (laughs).

I imitated YOSHIKI and Hide from X JAPAN, learning to do makeup by looking at their photos. At that time, there was already a band boom, so I didn’t resist makeup.

We played live there about once a month, and each time we attracted over 100 people, so I started to get a bit carried away…
We were quite edgy back then, often clashing with the live house manager. I was active in Wakayama throughout high school, but everything changed when TV Wakayama featured us as a “Super High School Band” on the evening news, boosting our audience even more.

Especially back then. There was no internet. Radio also brought us a significant response.
After the TV feature, we got the chance to be the opening act for the famous band Pink Sapphire, playing in front of over 1000 people for the first time, though the performance wasn’t quite satisfying (laughs).

There weren’t big live houses in Wakayama at the time, so we continued playing at the same venues. We weren’t thinking about moving to larger cities like Osaka to “make it big.” I was content with doing what I loved and earning enough money without part-time jobs. That environment made me disregard the idea of going to college or getting a job (laughs).
At the time, I wanted to expand to Osaka with my band members, but they were considering college and jobs… So, we decided to disband on graduation day. My homeroom teacher, who was very supportive, came to our final show and congratulated us on our graduation. We still keep in touch.

Yes, that’s right. Also, local CD shops supported local artists, displaying our flyers and such.
We became a topic of conversation in girls’ schools without my knowledge. During our 1.5 years of activities, we appeared on TV and performed in halls, having valuable experiences. There were quite a few fans; high school girls would wait for us outside school and cheer for us (laughs).

That might have been when I was most popular (laughs). Initially, it was all about having fun and being popular, but as our audience grew, so did our desire to make it big.

It was after the band I had in Wakayama disbanded following our graduation, and I moved to Osaka alone. I promised my parents that if I didn’t make it by 25, I would get a job. I joined and left various bands, and when I was in GARDEN, our audience started to grow.
About a year later, I joined a popular band called Stella Maria, which further increased our audience. At that time, Kyo, who is now in DIR EN GREY, was in a band we played against. I really wanted to form a band with him.

KISAKI's special interview photo 02 of MAKE

Success and Struggles in Osaka

Yes, it was the voice, the presence, and the great makeup. He far exceeded my ideal image of a vocalist.
When I found out we were the same age, I was eager to form a band with him. I think we had similar values at that time. That led to the formation of La:Sadie’s, which completely changed my music scene.

They did. I thought we had formed the ideal band. But back then, I was only 18. Although our live performances were great, I failed to take care of the members.
I thought doing lots of good live shows would please the members, but I was wrong. By not giving them time to rest and deciding on recording schedules in between, I must have put a lot of stress and burden on them. That’s probably why I was told to leave the band within a year.
It was an ideal band, but it ended too soon… I felt it was all over. But I still had time until the 25-year-old limit, so the next band I formed was MIRAGE.
Fans from the La:Sadie’s era supported us, so MIRAGE had a decent audience from the start.
To maintain this momentum, we started with a national tour immediately after La:Sadie’s disbanded. Just two months after the dissolution, we were already on tour. We did something no one else did, pressing 5000 demo tapes and distributing them for free at every venue. That song was “Hyakka Ryoran”.

It might have resonated with what people wanted at the time, and our audience grew rapidly. We drew crowds everywhere we went, even in regional areas, and even got our song as the ending theme for a TV show. Surprising offers kept coming in.
Then Warner Music approached us to release an album, which was a shock.
But I thought it was too early for a major debut. Wanting to manage a label like YOSHIKI, I created Matina.
When we released CDs with Warner Music, I had already launched Matina. I thought it would be more newsworthy that way.

At first, Matina only had two bands, MIRAGE and Madeth gray’ll. It was more like a club than a company. Madeth gray’ll’s vocalist, Hisui, had always been supporting me as my exclusive roadie, saying, “When I start a band, I’ll surpass KISAKI immediately.” We always shared our ambitions.
Madeth gray’ll debuted with a live show at Ikebukuro Cyber, attracting an unexpected crowd of 150 people right off the bat! I couldn’t believe it (laughs).
Those two bands gradually gained popularity, and the Matina label expanded rapidly. More bands wanted to join my label, and soon we were managing about five bands. But it grew too big, and I realized I needed to manage the label seriously. I was only about 20 years old at the time.

Exactly (laughs). I ended up playing and being visited at lives by bands I used to read about in magazines. That time, there was a unique TV program in Saitama called Indie Station, gathering popular artists for recreational activities.
After that, we had exchange meetings with representatives of various labels.

I wanted to promote all the bands that joined Matina. Although my workload increased, I enjoyed managing the label.
We held events gathering all the label mates on significant occasions like Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
It was what I had envisioned, like a smaller version of what I used to watch on videos, such as the Ecstasy Summit. I guess that was Matina presents.

That’s why my bands ended up short-lived. There was a growing gap between me and the members. I was anxious to push each band to higher levels, and I became overly nervous.
Both MIRAGE and Syndrome had changes in their vocalists. Back then, there was a rumor that “KISAKI’s bands disband after three years” (laughs).