Fourth in the personal interview series is Hiroto on guitar. Be it their journey to come back, live performance, music, goods.. he talked about them enthusiastically, and you can feel his sincerity in facing every aspect of A9. Because they faced a year in which they "fought their way out", his words are filled with strength. And, as a concrete goal, in this interview you will hear that stage name from his mouth.
Now I can think, "We're okay now"
Q: Although your tour has already started, first tell us how you felt about your live performance on August 23rd.
Hiroto: In this era in which things change rapidly, I think one year is a pretty long time. Although my mental attitude was like, I would still do this seriously even if the curtains dropped and I only see one audience, it was amazing to see so many people gather and we could give them a live performance. It made me really happy.
Q: How did it feel when you saw the audience for the first time?
Hiroto: Hell yeah!! (laughs). And then, as the live progressed, I thought, as expected "this" is it. This is where I'm meant to be.
Q: After finishing the live performance, did you feel that you've come back completely?
Hiroto: To be honest, we're not on the stage where I can say we've come back completely just yet. Until now we haven't experienced a year of gap, and I found that (one year) is long. Although I could feel each and every song with my body, just like sports athlete, when you have a gap period, you'll need to work 3-4 times harder to get it back. No matter how much you had prepare, you wouldn't know until you've given an actual live performance. Since we've got the 5 of us, and all the staff, crews, and audience, in a sense it was a perfect condition, or more than enough, but if we aim even higher, even though I feel that we've come back, I don't feel that we've come back completely just yet. In a positive way, I think that this band still has a lot more to offer.
Q: What do you think about the audience's reaction to your new songs?
Hiroto: I can't tell with just that one live performance. Since the tour started, the reactions had been good. Even though I think that we still couldn't fully grasp the feeling of the sounds.
Q: Now you've got more responses than you got at Toyosu Pit.
Hiroto: That's right. That time, we wanted the audience to listen to the songs thoroughly, and we also wanted to deliver the songs properly, since there are just some things that we don't know unless we actually perform the songs, no matter how much we plan for it. It started to feel good once both the audience and us started to grasp it. It looks like we're going to transform a lot through this tour. For us, the change in our feelings is the biggest (factor). To be honest, in this one year we really fought our way out, so our mentality had also become stronger, and now we can see what we have to do and the path we should take. And so, our songs and performances will be different from before. I think we'll still keep making a lot of changes.
Q: When I saw you in the live performance, I thought, you really enjoyed playing the guitar.
Hiroto: The moment all 5 of us played our sounds, it felt really good. And during the solo session I could let out all my taste and preferences (in guitar playing), obviously (laughs). Last year, when I said "I'm really nervous about our 10th anniversary live performance" to a senpai, he gave me a really good advice. Since it was an outdoor performance and there was a chance of bad weather (on that day), I said something like, "To be honest I don't want to make my guitar wet" (laughs). To that, he replied, "There's no use even if you think about it. You won't know what will happen in the future. When something happens, you can learn something from it which you won't get anywhere else. For example if you get a blackout, you may find a treasure which otherwise you won't be able to find, and if you always have this sense of discovering (new) treasures, you will be fine."
Q: That's a really great advice.
Hiroto: And since then I've become way more relaxed (when playing guitar), and now I can enjoy every moment. Like, what's happening right this moment. For example, maybe one of us is having some troubles. When you have that kind of sense, you can feel the change in the sound and you'll be like, then what can I do. Just by looking at their eyes, something good could start. And that's why I look like I'm having fun throughout the performance.
Q: You really look at your surroundings.
Hiroto: Maybe now I'm able to do that. Sometimes, during a performance, there are times when I'm able to see everything. It's like a moment when I look at myself from outside, and really know the things that will happen and what I will do then. In the past it only happened to me 4-5 times but recently I've been having similar experience. And when it happens, now I can meet the gaze of the audience one by one. When I'm in that mood, as expected something good will happen.
Q: There are really things like "Our eyes met!"
Hiroto: Usually, the audience are just like, "Maybe it's just me", but if they think our eyes had met, then our eyes did meet. And live performance is a place where you can feel it in real time, so each moment is really fun.
Q: Tell us your most memorable moment in that live performance.Hiroto: 'Subete e' was really memorable, but I think it's 'Kaisen zenya'. We started performing this song on the fan club tour two years ago, and the lyric is full of determination. When we made this song, we also had our current condition in mind, and just like the title the song packed a lot of power and it really grew during last year's tour, which was our longest tour to date. Even though we played it after a year, all my feelings just poured out. When the chorus came, I thought, "We are okay now".
Q: I surely felt the power.
Hiroto: If I can let out this power even just for an instant, I think I'll be okay.
Q: By the way, Saga-san said that after your live performance on August 23rd, you "went to the sea and turned off your phone".
Hiroto: I really did so many things before we finally reached that stage (laughs). I gave a solo live performance ('A9 HIROTO BIRTHDAY GIG & FAN MEETING 2015 -Anniversary- at Kichijoji Club Seata on May 4th), I also played as a support musician ('Manatsu no yoru Toshi Rock Matsuri' at Akasaka BLITZ on July 20th) for Toshi-san (X-Japan), and this (A9 activities) at the same time. And so, I wanted to be off the radar for a while and declare "I will finish everything by tonight, so don't come looking for me tomorrow". And I did go to the sea, but didn't turn my phone off. After we gave that live performance (I feel that) something will start and I have so many things to confirm, and I (have to) deal with them.
Q: But it's good that you went to the sea.
Hiroto: I did go, but the wind was so strong, like a storm. Sand was flying everywhere so it was like the trauma I had during 'Daybreak' MV all over again (laughs).
Q: (laughs) Did you originally go to swim, or to enjoy the scenery?
Hiroto: I wanted to be idle whole day and watch the sunset while listening to my favourite songs. But the sea wasn't calm at all, there were large waves and sand was blown towards me and it was painful (laughs). But I could refresh myself a little.
I want to perform on that stage again
Q: Since you handle goods design, did you get any reaction for the special packaging of 'Ginga no oto'?
Hiroto: I got reactions like, "Even though I've listened to the songs beforehand, the packaging is really detailed and I love it", and I think it's a good thing. If it's only the music, the high resolution version we distributed for the crowd funding was way better in quality. For CD, it's not only the price but also there is some quality in CD that you won't get in other formats. We want to look for all possibilities in everything that we release. Since now we walk our own path, we have to bear all the responsibilities and create. This (mini album) was our first step, and so I'm happy to see that it got conveyed well. To those who haven't told me their thoughts about the mini album, please do so (laughs).
Q: Everyone, please do so.
Hiroto: For example, even for just one CD, the quality can be different depends on the presswork and material quality. And that's why, our work doesn't stop only when the (recording) data is finished, but we take the responsibility of all processes until the CD reach the hands of our fans. I want to tell everyone this.
Q: And your tour goods are all so lovely.
Hiroto: Making the main motifs was the most difficult part. The goods team also started in a completely new environment now, so we tried a lot of things. When the iPhone case was done, I was like "This is it!", so I have quite an attachment to it.
Q: The iPhone case is so beautiful.
Hiroto: Since we're talking about it, last year for the fan club tour we made one with butterfly motif. Butterfly has this 'revival' or 'reincarnation' nuance to it. A9 originally has this concept of blending Japanese and western (elements), so I want to express it through the design of this phone case. It has butterflies and lotuses... if you search for it, you'll find that the lotus perfectly describes our current situation. If I explain it in detail this will become a very serious talk, so I won't.
Q: There are various meanings behind your goods.Hiroto: When I realised, I was already given the position taking care of our goods, and when I think why, I think it's because I want to connect people and music through our goods. You can give a live performance as long as you have the people and you can present your sounds. But after the live performance is over, the thing that can link people to that place and time is the tour goods. I want to be the one taking care of that. So it's not like it's given that we sell things because we give live performances, but I want to create goods with meaning and value, so I put the label 'MIDNIGHT GALAXY' after talking with the other members.
Q: There aren't many artists who think so deeply about their goods.
Hiroto: Thank you very much!
Q: By the way, there is something I've been wanting to ask. In his interview, Saga-san said that A9's backstage is dirty, and the cause are Tora-san and Nao-san. But according to Tora-san, it's not like that (laughs).
Hiroto: Hahaha (laughs). It's true that Tora-san doesn't carry anything, but when he takes off his clothes (to change), he just leaves them untidy. The venue staff would pick and tidy them up, and without realising I also end up putting his clothes on hangers or something like that. And maybe because when Tora-san realises, his clothes would have already been tidied up, he said "It's not me" (laughs).
Q: Even though someone else did it for him (laughs).
Hiroto: Saga-kun said that Nao-san (is the culprit) because on our Toyosu Pit live performance, Nao-san left went home without tidying up his instruments, so Saga-kun and I had to do it (laughs). I think that's why. Usually Nao-san is not that untidy, but sometimes he does things like that.
Q: According to Tora-san, once you reach the venue you open your bags and put stuffs on the table so it's full of stuffs.
Hiroto: That's true. First I would look for a place with electric plug and put my PC there, then put my pouch and sunglasses on a standard place.. like making my territory. I would do that everywhere, including in my hotel room. If someone else sees it, maybe it would look like there are a lot of things lying around but to me, everything is in their right place.
Q: I see (laughs). And everyone has different patterns in putting their belongings.Hiroto: And when it's all mixed up, I guess it would look very untidy (laughs). Our backstage at Toyosu Pit was particularly untidy.. It was our first performance date so we distributed goods to the members, so it was even more full of stuffs than usual (laughs).
Q: I'm looking forward to Show-san's opinion of it (laughs). Lastly, what kind of band do you want A9 to be in the future?
Hiroto: I think there is a meaning as to why the 5 of us could make it this far. It's obvious that there is no replacement for it (A9) but if we are more conscious of that fact and keep looking for the things that only the 5 of us can do, I believe that it will lead to something big in the future. Instead of responding to the time or the people around us, I want us to pursue things wholeheartedly with the 5 of us and the people who respond to us. In the first phase after our comeback, I want to be able to come back to the Budokan.
Q: I'm happy to hear that.Hiroto: Of course there will be more, but first is Budokan. For that we'll need everyone related to the band, and together I want us to deliver our sound again on that stage.
Translated by Val. Original interview here.
Also read: Nao | Saga | Tora | Hiroto | Show