Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Monday, May 14, 2018

Part One of Rock and Read's Interview with Mana

I know this isn't what I usually do with my blog. Rock and Read music magazine in Japan did a long interview with Mana, leader of Moi dix Mois and founder of the band Malice Mizer. I ended up ordering a copy from Kinokuniya (link here for their online store). I had hoped that since some had the magazine for a little while that an English translation would show up online before I got my copy. Except for one or two sections, nothing as of the time I am writing this. So I ended up doing my first long translation. Since I am not a translator, I feel it would be a disservice to put my rough work online. Instead I am going to write up a synopsis of the interview so at least people will have an idea of what it is about. Some of what was said in the interview was a little difficult to get a definite translation so if there was an error, すみません. I hope that what I write is accurate and if I find later on that something was different I will update these posts.

Since even my synopsis is long, I decided to break it up. So this is the first part. I also apologize for not having the name of the interviewer at this time. She has worked in music magazines for several years and attended Malice Mizer shows. So here is part one of this interview about Malice Mizer and the upcoming 25th Anniversary show, Deep Sanctuary VI.

To start with, Mana was asked if people still say they love Malice Mizer today. It makes him happy that they do. He mentioned that people who worked with them as roadies did so because they were touched by Malice Mizer and that some of them will be performing at the Anniversary show, Shuuji (Cali Gari/ Goatbed), Kamijo (Versailles) and Hitomi (ex-Moran, UmiYuri).

Mana talked about how around the time Malice Mizer was formed, Visual Kei music was just beginning to take shape. While some bands did have different visual and performance aspects, Mana wanted to take it further with Malice Mizer. By having parts where guitarists danced without their instruments, the twin guitar style he created with his fellow band member Közi where they purposely did not play normal rock guitar but instead created a sound like classical harpsichords.

The interviewer asked about Mana's music teacher father. He spoke about how there was classical music playing in his house all the time. He doesn't know if it is related to that but he likes church and mass songs and the pipe organ. He wanted to create songs like this. To do this they used guitar synths.  He spoke about the difficulty using them but they could get various sounds like violins from it. He was asked why not use a keyboard. He said it was a strange thing in him that he did not want to put a keyboard in a rock band. Even though there are many rock bands that have keyboards, he never made the choice to do it.

Malice Mizer staging was discussed. Mana wanted to have the image of medieval Europe so along with the stage sets, songs and costumes were given story characteristics also. He wanted to be productive with the theatrical elements. They used to have to start their shows early, be the opening act in order to decorate their sets. There were issues sometimes with gold powder that would stick to fans' faces and fake blood that got on people. So they had to make sure there were tarps down and clean up afterwards.

Not having much of a budget they would try to make as much as they could. Yu~ki, the bassist, made the coffin he would come out of on stage. Kami, their drummer, used welded pipe as an instrument in (N.p.s.N..s), Mana remembered being outside in the cold making items.

They had to use two cars to get around to venues because of the sets. Since they did not have money, they got a used car from an acquaintance of Kami. Mana went to Ibaraki to get it. He opened the door and there was a nasty odor, turns out there was something rotting inside. Even cleaning it would not remove the smell. The car for the set also had broken air conditioner. Tetsu, the first lead singer, chose to go in that car because he didn't want air conditioning for his throat. In summer. Mana said when they were next to the car they could see Tetsu sweat coming off of him like a waterfall.

One of the stage sets was so large it would not all fit in Mana's room. He didn't think of finding a warehouse he could borrow space at, so he tried to hide the Parthanon pillars in his apartment parking.

Mana moved on to talk about Tetsu. At the beginning Mana and Közi played guitar but he wanted to do more, move around, create sounds like an orchestra. When Tetsu joined the band he said it looks interesting but after about two years Tetsu's direction with music differed from Mana, who said his own musicality became active during that time. (Tetsu left the band in Dec, 1994).

As for the other band members, Közi was positive about the direction, saying he wanted to do it if it looks interesting. Yu~ki said he didn't want to dance much but he did want to do theater. Kami wanted to try new things, even as they wrote more songs that did not have drum parts. They all worked on doing interesting things, with Közi and Mana getting up at 5 am to go to a park to practice dancing. There was a building there with reflective windows so a lot of people would go there to practice dancing. Mana said he wanted to do both theater and dance.

Mana mentioned how he originally aimed to be a part of Johnny's agency. The interviewer was surprised. When he was in junior high Johnny's dance felt very intense. He was a lively sports boy, also practiced basketball every day. Perhaps because Malice Mizer seems to be a literary band, people see Mana as someone who read books a lot. But being active made him feel it was acceptable for him to dance in Malice Mizer. To think he would be able to use in Malice Mizer something he practiced every day as a junior high school student.

At first, it was a pretty weird air at Malice Mizer lives because there weren't other bands where the musicians were dancing and doing plays, without using their instruments. But Mana was serious about working to make a view of the world of medieval Europe. With the major debut, Mana was working to make Malice Mizer's final form, to make it even more flashy. Even though this was contrary to how when ordinary rock bands have a major debut, which they tend to be styled to the needs of the record company. Mana disliked that. He did work with a variety of record companies but Nippon Columbia told him he could do whatever he wanted. Other companies told them otherwise, like they should drop their make-up. Mana said perhaps it was because there weren't many prior examples of bands doing fancy costumes and make-up and trying to sell themselves to a major label at that time. He did not intend to change what he was doing, but he also did not know anything about major label missions. He did not think Malice Mizer would sell if they became an ordinary rock band.

Because they signed with a major, they could do larger performances and direction. Mana believed the band could be successful, the ultimate art group going beyond the boundaries of bands and could be sent out to the world. Even so, the base must be the music, the concept and goodness of the song, and he believed Malice Mizer's music was good. From the beginning with the Memoire album with Tetsu as vocalist, making strongly built musical pieces was an absolute requirement.

So what makes a good song? Mana said he does not have a theory for it. He threw away the definition of rock and never really thought about what was common in music for selling it. He did not learn music theory so he can not write a score. He creates songs by feeling the sounds he hears while working on a keyboard. He does it all, arrange and so on. He composes with with a world view. Perhaps, he said, he was influenced by the classical music that always played at his parents' house. He was not interested in it as a child but it may be that he absorbed the complex orchestration sounds there. He also incorporated French pop and bossa nova which are not used by the usual rock bands. He was looking for beautiful, awesome, brilliant and graceful sounds.

The interviewer spoke about how Visual Kei became public back then, a music boom. She asked Mana how was that? He said that he felt the bands then made their own boom, instead of it just happening naturally. One thing he wanted to then was to combine music with a two-dimensional world like animation. Then they were two separate genres and the fans of each did not coexist (in Japan). That Malice Mizer was like a group that came out of anime, so he wanted to attract people who liked that to Visual Kei. The interviewer said he had foresight since this sort of thing is now commonplace. Mana replied that he was only faithfully expressing the world he wanted to show. Not like he was feeling like a creator for the future. He was not doing it to create a boom or to sell something, but he wanted to make a new culture that did not exist before. This included starting his fashion brand Moi-même-Moitié, combining elegant lolita with gothic fashion.


2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You are welcome. I am glad I was able to do this. Thank you for reading!

      Delete