The Yellow Monkey Band Interview (Rockin’ On Japan 1995)

Rockin On Japan 10-95 Group 1
Taken by Naoki Ishizaka

Interview: Atsushi Shikano
Photography: Naoki Ishizaka

(From Rockin’ On Japan Vol. 103, October 1995)

This multi-faceted group that came out of the metal scene have conquered the Budokan, and now they have a new album called “Four Seasons”: Heesey, Emma and Annie talk about The Yellow Monkey’s untold history.

I’d like to get started with this interview about the history of The Yellow Monkey, and I feel like that needs to begin with each one of your previous band histories (Laughs)

(Heesey, Emma, Annie) (Laughs)

(Annie) We saw you look at the line that says “previous band history” in your notebook just now! And all of them have “metal” written next to them! (Laughs)

Oh no! (Laughs)

(Heesey) But it is a good opportunity to talk about that stuff.

Because you can look back on all that and laugh now?

(Heesey) Yeah, that too. And the Killer May greatest hits album just came out! (Laughs)

(Annie) Just in time for our Budokan concert! (Laughs)

(Emma) The album cover is very adult-looking, isn’t it? (Laughs)

(Heesey and Annie) (Laughs)

It seems The Yellow Monkey had a bit of a rocky formation, and I’d like to ask each of you about your reasons for joining the band. Let’s start with Heesey, who came from Murbas.

(Heesey) Right. I was in a band called Murbas, and there was a venue called Rokumeikan that was kind of…(Laughs) this metal palace that was a gateway to success for many acts. We were friends with a lot of bands that played there, and some of them would talk about a band that they called “The Motley Crue of Shizuoka”.

(Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) And the Nikki Sixx of that band was Kazuya Yoshii! (Laughs) And we were “The Ratt of Saitama”.

I don’t get it! (Laughs) Was everyone divided up into parties at Rokumeikan like it was the Olympics or something?

(Heesey) Yeah! (Laughs) We held sort of a job-well-done party for them, and when we did these there were of course people we actually got along well with and people who we just did with on the surface. But when Yoshii joined Urgh Police, I got along with him well even though he was a bassist in another band.


(Heesey) Through various circumstances, Murbas changed its name to 16Legs. We’d been together for about 2 years or so with bands like Urgh Police, when Killer May made their debut.

(Annie) Yeah.

Killer May had an image of being really harsh (Laughs)

(Annie) Our looks were at least! (Laughs) That’s kind of what we ended up being known for. I wonder if that was a mistake? (Laughs)

(Emma) At first our vocalist was the only one to wear fishnets, but since he started doing it… (Laughs)

(Laughs) So you got yourselves into it!

(Annie) (Laughs)

So around when did you get invited to join The Yellow Monkey?

Rockin On Japan 10-95 Heesey
Taken by Naoki Ishizaka

(Heesey) Well the band name “The Yellow Monkey” is something that Yoshii had planned on using for a long time. So he decided on that name, and then searched for members afterward. He called me up in the middle of the night and told me about this. He didn’t have any members but he had a band name!

(Emma and Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) Then I asked him what the name was, and he said “The Yellow Monkey”! (Laughs) And not thinking that I was going to be joining the band, I said “The Yellow Monkey? That’s pretty cool and easy to understand!”

(Laughs) You were just being polite.

(Heesey) Things didn’t end up going so well with the band I was in, so I left thinking that I was just going to do what I wanted in the next band regardless of whether it would sell or we’d end up getting signed.

I see.

(Heesey) So then the band actually started with me telling him “You don’t have a bassist right? I’ll do it”, and him agreeing.

What was the band’s first vocalist like?

(Annie) He was a tiny vocalist! (Laughs)

(Emma) (Laughs)

(Heesey) He rode in the palm of Yoshii’s hand! (Laughs)

(Laughs) I just can’t picture that.

(Annie) He had a real bad boy feel to him.

(Heesey) I’d say he was the type of vocalist that was glam and wild, but also liked songs that were sort of milky. We continued on for a bit with that lineup, and Killer May had broken up just when we were thinking we wanted the drums to sound a bit different.

(Emma) That was March 1989.

(Annie) So I think they called me in April then.

I see. So then at that point, you were basically at your current lineup?

(Emma) No, I wasn’t in the band yet.

(Heesey) Right, but he was coming to see the shows.

(Annie) He came to all of them, even to the ones in Oomiya! (Laughs)

(Laughs) So your older brother came just to see you play?

(Annie) He’d always say “But the songs are so good” (Laughs)

(Heesey) And again through various circumstances, something just started not feeling right.

Were you fighting about what you should be doing or how you should be presenting yourselves?

(Heesey) Well, it was the height of the band boom after all…

(Annie) Back then everyone was always saying “Nobody likes this kind of rock anymore!”

Oh, because of more adult-contemporary type rock?

(Heesey) That’s the impression that we got. And it was like “How good can these guys who just got into this yesterday or today really be?”

(Annie) Rock stars strive for a certain kind of presentation with a certain kind of charisma, but we hadn’t quite figured out what ours was yet.

So you were singing your own praises, but your actual praises weren’t fully determined yet?

(Heesey) Yeah, something like that. And there was kind of a…(Laughs) difference in styles

(Annie) (Laughs)

What were your costumes like back then?

(Heesey) They’d already gotten really absurd! (Laughs)

What was the most embarrassing costume?

(Emma) Lovin in fishnets! (Laughs)

(Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) He wore fishnets with denim hot pants with an eyepatch.

(Annie) He wore a fishnet top too, didn’t he? (Laughs)

(Heesey) And he was playing a broken guitar too

(Laughs) That’s amazing!

(Heesey) It was a lot! (Laughs)

Were you all subconsciously saying something like “Don’t fuck with rock!”?

Rockin On Japan 10-95 Group 2
Taken by Naoki Ishizaka

(Heesey) Yeah, yeah. It was like believing in one god (Laughs) “I won’t accept anything else!”

(Laughs) That’s just being a stubborn old man!

(Heesey) Something like that (Laughs) But you know, when we were asked “Well what the hell are you guys supposed to be?” by everyone after rejecting everything else..we weren’t really able to answer.

(Everyone) (Laughs)

(Annie) We still weren’t sure ourselves.

So there was a period where you got by through bluffing, and then you wanted to make it into something more real…

(Heesey) That’s when we started feeling that something was off about the vocals. Yoshii himself was always agonizing as the main composer, because he was struggling to express this singing in someone else’s style. And I suspect that’s why he decided to just try to be the singer songwriter, so he could sing his own songs that he wrote. And it’s not like he’d never had any interest in singing at all…

(Annie) (Suddenly guffaws)

What’s so funny?

(Annie) Nothing! (Laughs) It’s just that when he’d tell the vocalist “Sing it more like this” and give an example, it would always just sound better when he sung it himself.

(Heesey and Emma) (Laughs)

That’s so mean! (Laughs)

(Annie) (Laughs) Yeah. And because of that, he figured he could just sing himself after all.

(Heesey) I mean he started messing around with all this different stuff in middle school, right? (Laughs) He decides to learn to play guitar but could only really play some solos. He could play bass, and then he wants to sing at a concert during the school culture festival too! I think that’s just the kind of guy he was.

I wonder if Yoshii was feeling irritated over being a jack of all trades back then?

(Heesey) Well he was always changing his role after all! (Laughs) He built up quite a bit of debt back when he was playing bass because he was buying up amps!

(Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) He was bringing in amps that could be used in concert halls and blowing us all away with the sound! (Laughs)

(Annie) He spent like one million yen on them.

(Heesey) Yeah, yeah. But he was probably thinking quite a bit about how he had to be the one to sing.

I see. So then he started singing…

(Heesey) He’d sing and play guitar, but then would say “I can’t play the entire song!”.

(Emma and Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) Because he was so bad!

(Annie) Back then, anyway.

So just playing at ridiculous volumes didn’t work?

(Heesey) Right, and he himself had said that he was going to take over guitar duties too! (Laughs) So we decided to search for a guitarist, and kept searching for awhile. Then not seeing the forest through the trees, we finally told Annie to call his brother since he plays guitar.

(Annie) That’s what they told me! (Laughs) But I was in Killer May with him before, and of course I was seen as his younger brother. And because I joined The Yellow Monkey on my own and wanted to get away from that, I kind of hesitated to do it initially.

(Heesey) Oh really?

(Annie) Yeah. Didn’t I mention that? Anyway, I was opposed to it, but then came around by thinking I’d just ask him to help us out for a bit.

So what did you say to him?

(Annie) …I don’t really remember.

(Emma) What was it…? You said something like “They told me ask you to help us out”.

(Heesey) (Laughs)

(Annie) I was trying to get across that I didn’t want to do it! (Laughs)

What happened when you asked him?

(Annie) He said “I like your songs, but…” (Laughs)

(Emma) Ahh, I hesitated the first time and said something like “I like your songs, but I kind of want to do something different”. But then when the conversation came up around who would do it if I didn’t, it seems like you came around to it being me! (Laughs)

(Laughs) Dry humor to the end!

(Emma) Then eventually I said fine, I’ll just help them out for a bit. Then when I came in with my guitar…Lovin’s playing was so bad! (Laughs) And I thought “Not this again!”

(Annie) Back then, anyway.

(Laughs) So it wasn’t going to work out?

(Emma) We had two guitars, and he played a lot with me during rehearsals. But when it came to concerts, he didn’t play at all! (Laughs)

(Heesey) (Laughs)

(Emma) So when I quit the previous band I was in, someone gave me advice to make sure the next band had better people in it learn from. So I thought that joining this band would be doing just the opposite of that! (Laughs) The band itself was just kind of awkward (Laughs), and I felt that joining would make it even more so.

You didn’t want to rock the boat even more! (Laughs)

(Heesey and Annie) (Laughs)

(Emma) So after a few rehearsals, I immediately called Lovin and told him I was quitting the band! (Laughs)

(Laughs) What did you sound like as a band back then?

(Heesey) We were going in a direction that incorporated a lot of dark or degenerate elements.

(Emma) We had kind of an intellectual feel.

So then you played a sort of degenerate, literary rock?

(Heesey) Yeah, yeah. That’s what we were trying for, but that was a period of trial and error for us. And the band wasn’t exactly operating as a whole.

With everything happening with big brother over here, I guess when it rains it pours (Laughs)

(Emma) (Laughs) I guess so

So The Yellow Monkey formed from Murbas, Urgh Police and Killer May ending. Did you all feel anything new brought to this band as a result of that happening?

(Heesey) We’d all run into dead ends with our previous bands, and we all wanted to create a new stage for ourselves. But we didn’t know what kind of new…(Laughs)

(Annie) That’s the point we were at.

But where was a point at which The Yellow Monkey became something you wanted to stick with, since you haven’t broken up and are still around today?

(Annie) We had a sense of purpose.

(Heesey) Yeah, that and I think we wanted to make unique music that maybe…took our unique traits to an extreme?

Where did the confidence that The Yellow Monkey could do something like that come from?

(Annie) I mean, Lovin taking over as the singer seemed like the right time to hold our heads up high.

(Heesey) We had a positive outlook.

(Annie) I guess we were gradually able to start being more positive. And in a way I feel like we always did: We never said “This isn’t working, let’s stop doing it”, but rather “We want to do it this way, so let’s do it”.

You were struggling, but you absolutely weren’t going to back down?

(Annie) Yeah, we don’t back down.

(Heesey) But when we played live we were kind of dark, weren’t we? (Laughs)

(Annie) (Laughs)

(Emma) We did go dark when we played shows.

(Heesey) I guess it felt like a good thing to do to bring in an audience.

(Annie) Though just staring right at them probably made them feel uncomfortable.

(Heesey) They came in the mood to get crazy, but ended up kind of taking a step back. We’d only have 20 people watching us play at most! (Laughs)

(Annie) (Laughs) Yeah, the amount of people coming to see us play was gradually shrinking back then.

(Emma) (Laughs)

It was a bit of an ugly time.

(Heesey) But it felt like “Oh god, we’re losing fans!” (Laughs) And we had no idea why it was happening. It was great that we were so unique, but we were losing our audience. Maybe it was the mental state or lifestyle of the person writing the songs coming out? Particularly since he was now the one singing. He was pretty rough around the edges back then.

(Annie) (Laughs) Not “pretty rough around the edges”, he was VERY rough around the edges!

How so?

(Heesey) He had a real gypsy vibe going on.

(Emma and Annie) (Laughs)

I see! (Laughs) So he had a gypsy vibe…

(Heesey) Then I guess you could say we were starting to see signs of light since having decided to develop that dark-side a little bit more.

(Emma) We really started meshing.

(Heesey) And what made us start clicking was…there was a place that was basically a celebration of guys like us.

(Emma and Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) Shibuya La.mama’s London Boots Night.

(Laughs) A gathering of misunderstood people.

(Heesey) Everyone there was influenced by bands like New York Dolls and T.Rex. So after we became a part of that scene, we adopted this attitude that we just couldn’t lose out to these other bands.

Like everything you did was to destroy the other bands?

(Heessey) Yep! (Laughs) And it was great that we become a part of an event like that, but…

(Emma) Our songs were pretty dark.

(Heesey) It made us a bit colorful, but we couldn’t really get a foot hold with them.

(Annie) Right, no one really gave us the okay! (Laughs)

(Laughs) What were the lyrics in those songs like?

(Heesey) The lyrics were really something…

(Emma) About the A-bomb, and stuff like that.


(Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) They were like “I’m going to gouge out your eyeballs and eat them”. In other words, they weren’t really lyrics! (Laughs) But they all painted this sort of erotic and grotesque picture.

(Annie) Death was always coming up somewhere in the lyrics.

(Heesey) (Laughs)

(Emma) Yeah, and they were very physical and a bit freakish.

(Heesey) Freakish is a good way to put it.

Like 100 people died in the course of the lyrics to a single song.

(Annie) Yeah, there were some like that! (Laughs)

(Heesey) But even though the lyrics were about those things, it was boring to just be dark all the time. So gradually the seeds of doing more upbeat songs started sprouting.

I see. Did that make the atmopshere change within the band?

(Heesey) It did. And Yoshii smoothed out those edges at the same time this was happening.


(Heesey) And from then on we gradually started trying new things, making each other react to them! (Laughs) Sort of like a conversation between instruments. So things really started getting interesting from there.

(Annie) Yeah.

(Heesey) Right, then people from La.mama asked us if we wanted to record an indie album. That was our sort of weird entrance into the industry, showing us we had some popularity. Then we did a tour for the album.

(Annie) That tour was really rough! (Laughs) 8 shows in 9 days!

(Heesey) We went all over the place, even to Kyushu.

(Emma) We drove ourselves around too.

(Heesey) And carried our own equipment.

You were pretty inexperienced back then, huh?

(Heesey) Being young is so good when you’re in a band.

(Annie) (Laughs) No, but it does feel that way looking back on it.

(Heesey) And amidst all of that, talks of getting signed to a label started…

(Emma) People were saying we were going to be.

How did it feel when you were? Did you feel a sense of accomplishment?

(Heesey) No, getting signed means you need to be careful. And we were like “Idiots! We’re not going to be used by you and fall for your adult tricks!” (Laughs)

(Emma and Annie) (Laughs)

Rockin On Japan 10-95 Group 4
Taken by Naoki Ishizaka

(Heesey) It was like with their parents waving goodbye to them, these country bumpkins showed up in Tokyo at Ueno Station with their money in their shoes.


(Annie) That’s not too far off! (Laughs)

(Heesey) I think those aspects of us were irritating when we got signed. However when it was determined that were going to be, we were very positive about it. It felt like we were entering a whole new arena. And Yoshii even cried at the concert where it was announced we were getting signed.

Oh really!? Right there on stage?

(Heesey) Yep. He’s a very emotional guy, though more within himself than toward other people.

(Annie) Yeah, It really felt like we were reaching the climax.

(Heesey) Announcing that we were getting signed right there at the venue made it sort of a big memorial ceremony, didn’t it? It was the right time to be crying. And I say he cried, but it’s not like he was bawling his eyes out! (Laughs)


(Heesey) So then the conversations about getting signed progressed, and we’d made our first major label album.

How did sending that out into the world feel?

(Heesey) We were all very psyched! (Laughs)

(Emma) We were.

Did you feel like you were going to break onto the scene with that album?

(Annie) Yeah (Laughs) And when it finally came out it was just like…nothing…

(Heesey) (Laughs)

(Annie) I just thought “Not THIS again!”

(Everyone) (Laughs)

It was a continuation of Killer May! (Laughs)

(Heesey) Oh no! Come on! (Laughs)

(Emma) Actually, yeah…the sales numbers for our first album and Killer May’s first were almost exactly the same.

That’s so sad. You weren’t making any progress at all.

(Emma) I was wondering if we were repeating the same failure! (Laughs) So my anxiety flared up for a minute there. But unlike our last band, the amount of people coming to our shows was doing nothing but increasing.

(Annie) We said “Alright, for starters let’s try harder!” (Laughs)

Did it make you wonder what you should do for the next album?

(Heesey) For me personally, I was aware of the idea of wanting to pull in everyone in releasing a first album by giving it maybe more of a pop sound. But instead of actually feeling that way, we did something we really shouldn’t have: Instead of asking people to understand us we were defiant and just did what we wanted to do, thinking it would just magically sell better (Laughs)

Even though you were just talking about how it was a whole new arena from before! (Laughs)

(Annie) (Laughs) Yeah. But we got stronger after releasing that first album. We really didn’t like the idea of currying favor to increase our sales, and we felt very strongly that we wanted to make people understand and accept us as we were.

So when you took a new look at things for the second album, did you want to put a little bit more of yourselves into it?

(Heesey) Yeah we did. We were trying to take a step in a different direction: More toward the dark feeling of our indie days or more of a theatrical feel. And you could tell right from the first song on that album.

(Annie) It sure did have a lot of character to it.

The word “Lobotomy” came up a lot, right?

(Heesey and Emma) (Laughs)

(Annie) There were a lot of “lobotomys”! (Laughs)

And what did you think about that album when it came out?

(Emma) It felt like it turned out better than the last one! (Laughs)

Your core was solidified.

(Heesey) Yeah, yeah. We probably didn’t realize it at the time, but I think Yoshii was really solidifying his core and being conscious of trying to explain what he wanted The Yellow Monkey to be.

Did all of you pick up on that?

(Annie) Yeah. He said during a meeting about the second album that he really wanted the third album to have an impact. The one that did that ended up being “Smile”, but I agreed with him when he said he wanted to go in this direction for the second album. So I just thought “Alright, I see.”

And with the band’s core solidified, you’d go on to release “Jaguar Hard Pain”. Did you talk about what you wanted “Jaguar” to be like during meetings?

Rockin On Japan 10-95 Annie
Taken by Naoki Ishizaka

(Annie) To me, it’s connected to the second album. Lovin was reading a manga called “Message to Adolf” (Osamu Tezuka) when we released our second album. He’d be reading and just go “Yeah, like this!”. So I read it too and thought “Oh I see. I guess the tone of our second album is a bit like this”. So when we met about the third and I heard him talk about a guy named Jaguar, and war, etc….it felt like a very natural progression. It felt sort of German! (Laughs)

(Heesey) And at the same time I was very aware of how Japanese it was. It’s not like I’d been dancing around to rock ‘n roll ever since I was 4 years old, I listened to a lot of old Japanese pop too, so I was well aware of the era this was based in. So more and more I started becoming more aware of what he was trying to capture.

The second album I felt had an air of glam rock that was drawing heavily from western music. But with “Jaguar” it felt like your era of yearning to be more like western music had come to an end, or that this was you all establishing a more made in Japan style of rock through the expression of this war-time Japan setting.

(Heesey) That’s exactly it.

Even when Yoshii shaved his head, I had a feeling it was all out of pride. I wondered if it wasn’t some megalomaniacal album for him, but it wasn’t that at all. It seems like he took into account what you all wanted to do as well.

(Heesey) Yeah, it’s connected to the band name more than anything else.

(Emma and Annie) Yeah.

(Heesey) We were very proud about the fact that making the band name “The Yellow Monkey” cool or not was really up to us. If perceived in the right way, it’s an extremely ironic band name. We were wanting to make a big album that explained everything from the band name to the substance of our work! (Laughs)

(Annie) (Laughs)

I see. So now with the time to solidify as a band at an end, it became a question of what to do next…

(Heesey) At that point we thought about going out and having some kind of tour: We kept talking about calling it “Jaguar, the Japanese Man” (Laughs) and going around to different places.


(Heesey) I think we all felt this way, but though it always feels bad when you get treated badly touring around in other locations, I thought that we were treated like we were some kind of maniacs. It felt like we hadn’t quite caught on everywhere yet.

In short, you were underground.

(Heesey) Yeah, that’s where we were still at. In Tokyo we could play at places like Nakano Sun Plaza, so the gap was pretty crazy. We kind of realized that what we really wanted was to be number one in Japan.

(Emma) We didn’t just want to be kings of the hill.

Yeah, yeah.

(Heesey) Yeah, it’s like we were big fish in a small pond. We were thinking about…how to put it…selling albums.

In other words you wanted to succeed as a Japanese rock band, so you wanted to get around to more parts of Japan, right?

(Heesey) Yeah, yeah. So changing perception about that had to come first. We got fanatical reactions up until that point, but we felt like we wanted come out with a more explosive feeling than we had up through “Jaguar”.

And that’s why if I were to say what I felt was new from everything you’ve done up until then about “Smile”, it’s that it’s quite well attuned to the time at which it came out. You’d been thinking about time periods of your own creation up until then, but with “Smile” you were thinking for the first time about what you wanted to do here and now, in present day Japan. You were fighting against a rock image up until that point, but your fight with an image of more mass appeal began with “Smile”.

(Heesey) Yeah. We’ve already talked about all of that, and it was an easy risk to take since we were still building up a fan-base.

(Emma) It did feel like our battle with public image had begun.

Right, like you’d just tried roaring for the first time.

(Emma) Yeah.

You roared, and it was actually audible!

(Heesey, Emma, Annie) (Laughs) That’s good!

(Heesey) So gradually we started thinking that we were on the right path. People were responding to us as we were.

Did the mood within the band change after “Smile”?

(Annie) It feels like it didn’t change after “Smile” so much as it changed after we played at the Budokan. Though that may just be me. It seemed like we had confidence in ourselves as far as making more straightforward music went. But when we played at the Budokan it was clear we still had the fighting spirit to say “Can’t we do even better than this?!”. That’s the basis that we made the next album upon.

I see. Your Budokan concert was unapologetically eccentric.

(Annie) (Laughs) I’ve certainly heard it called unapologetic.

(Heesey) (Laughs)

It was you all showing yourselves in your natural habitat instead of some kind of unsophisticated happiness, even though you were playing at the Budokan.

(Heesey) Right, right! (Laughs) That really is what it was. That Budokan concert was the soul of that for us.

(Emma) Yeah it was.

(Heesey) It’s like us saying “Ha, you idiots probably thought we were going to put on some artless concert for you here at the Budokan, huh?! Well no way, that’s not what we do!”


(Heesey) There was definitely a sense of us trying to say “That’s not what this is, dammit!”.

That was clearly very important to you.

(Emma and Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) I guess so! (Laughs) It was really us persuading ourselves as though we were talking to someone else. Hyping ourselves up so to speak! (Laughs)

I see. And so now we’re finally at “Four Seasons”. For starters, where did you set your sights on for being your next stage?

(Heesey) Well…since playing at Budokan has now actually happened, some sort of new challenge…I know that’s pretty vague! (Laughs) But that’s what we were thinking as we went off to London to record the album.

(Annie) We’re asking for the band that we’ve been up until now to be allowed to break up, basically. Anything beyond that is still vague at this point. Though I think that Lovin is still probably thinking about how to write songs that sell better. So the direction we’re going in is one in which we can have a cool band sound that also sells.

(Heesey) Yellow Monkey brand rock! (Laughs)

(Annie) This time around we’re thinking about how to plant those seeds in the minds of everyone all over Japan.

I believe that as a band there was a point where you said you wanted to make albums full of easy to understand songs. But this time around there really are quite a few of them. “A new premonition, a new era. Being stupid is fine, being stupid is good”.

(Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) (Laughs) Maybe you just publish the lyrics instead of this interview.

I really do think that your albums up until now have been products of trial and error, even “Smile”. But not this album: I feel that you’re seeing clearly and really going for it.

(Emma) Yeah, I guess you could say our albums up until now were more composed from the mind. I guess in some ways we use our heads a bit too much.

(Heesey) Well we were aiming to just to be natural with “Smile” too.

(Annie) Right, right.

Rockin On Japan 10-95 Emma
Taken by Naoki Ishizaka

(Emma) That was us using our heads too much too.

That’s why when I first listened to “Four Seasons” I thought it was the sum of your fight with being underground during “Jaguar” and your fight with being positive during “Smile”, but it’s not that at all. It has much more of a feeling of you just showing yourselves in an unapologetic way, right? Though it makes me wonder why you didn’t make anything like this before now.

(Heesey) Yeah, I wonder why we didn’t!

(Emma and Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) I kind of want to know too! (Laughs)

(Annie) Everything in this album really did just come out naturally. For “Smile” we really were consciously trying to make it an easy to understand album. But this time we didn’t even have to think about it, it just came out that way naturally…I guess “naturally” is really the only way I can put it.

So then if “Smile” was you trying to convince yourselves to smile and be happy, then this album is you saying that you you did smile and were happy. It feels like you’re toasting to yourselves.

(Heesey) Yeah, we’re patting ourselves on the back a bit! (Laughs) You could say we’ve stopped thinking of our weak points as weak points.

(Annie) Right.

(Heesey) I guess I’d say we started focusing more on polishing up our good points than getting distracted by that stuff: Expanding our selling points and our good qualities. We spent so much time in our early days laying our weak points bare and saying “These are the kind of people we are, but you guys are too right?”.

In sort of a self deprecating battle?

(Heesey) Yeah, exactly. But we’re not doing that anymore, and we’re focusing on polishing up our good points.

What meaning does the title “Four Seasons” have?

(Heesey) It has to do with nature, and how we exist within it. But it also has to do with the ways in which humans express emotion. Nature exists within people, right? Being your honest self is kind of that same thing. I understand within myself that’s what the album is about.

Is there anything about Yoshii that’s changing as a result of this album?

(Heesey) Even though he’s said that an interest in different aspects of people has been growing within him for a long time, I feel like he’s really getting into that lately. Ever since “Smile”, really. Even when it comes to his lyrics, he’s paying attention to people quite a bit.

Yeah, I’ve never seen anyone who stares so much at the interviewers face as he’s talking to them.

(Annie) Yeah, yeah.

I think that a lot of Yoshii’s expressions have to do with his observations on death. But with “Smile” onward, they really started overflowing with themes that had to do with the joy of living.

(Annie) Yeah. I think these days he may be going more in a direction toward the drama that exists in every day life.

(Heesey) But I still feel that there are plenty of aspects of death in his lyrics.

(Annie) Yeah, he’s expressing life through death.

(Heesey) Yeah I can really feel that in his lyrics.

(Emma) “There’s two sides to every story”.

In that way, his lyrics really give off a harsh scent.

(Heesey) It feels like they’re probing even further into reality, and are even more refined now. He likes the looks we have when we’re looking over his lyrics: “Oh, you noticed that huh?!” (Laughs)

(Annie) (Laughs)

I see. We’re finally through everything I wanted to cover. But the thing that made me realize how good you guys are is that you’re overcoming difficult times simply through bluffing!

(Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) I guess you’re right! (Laughs)

(Emma) That’s just the kind of band we are! (Laughs)

(Heesey) Yeah, that’s a big part of it!

But since now that sort of bluffing isn’t necessary any longer, you have more of a natural feeling about you, like you’re riding high.

(Emma and Annie) (Laughs)

 Rockin On Japan 10-95 Group 6
Taken by Naoki Ishizaka

(Heesey) Yeah! (Laughs) We like to push our luck.

It makes me realize all over again though that you have a history of being a “Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” type band.

(Emma and Annie) (Laughs)

(Heesey) Really? (Laughs) I guess maybe. You know “Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” used to be cool, but now it’s just kind of like “That’s all you’ve got?”.