アイコン 2012 1.11 new five-song album 'color bars' (January 18, 2012)

Official Interview | Liner Notes

--Are you really going to break up?
This text, which begins on a bright note with me instinctively wanting to ask that question, is the official interview for the new 'color bars' album from Incidents Tokyo, who just recently announced that they would be disbanding.
Sheena Ringo says she made the decision to disband in November two years ago (2010) and all the members affirmed the decision in January of last year (2011). Statements from the members on the matter have been issued online, and 'Channel Guide,’ the band’s first and last official book, which is slated for publication at a later date, will have a long-form interview, so this text focuses, as it always has, on a question-and-answer with the band on their new release.
As you read through the interview, you'll find that my conversation with the band this time is the same as all the other official interviews up to this point; the same volubility, the same vibe. The humor displayed by each member is also alive and well. What's more, the general mood is far from gloomy, due in part to the fact that 'color bars' feels less like a graduation project than a release that makes you wonder what's coming, what's next. In another sense though this lightheartedness can be seen as evidence the band is not wavering about its decision.
At any rate, this final original release from the five, whose insatiable musical explorations never let up to the very end, is a mini-album with five songs, one written by each member, both music and lyrics. It is my hope that this interview on 'color bars,' which is very interesting in so many ways, will serve as a companion piece for listeners.

(Written by Masaki Uchida)

Excessive To The End
--Each member of the band wrote music and lyrics for one of the five songs on 'color bars.’ How did you arrive at this concept?
Everyone: Hmmmmm........
--Really? No one remembers anything?
Everyone: (much laughter)
Kameda: First, after the release of 'Discovery' last year, and while we were on the Discovery tour, we ended up being in the studio for recording two or three times a month, for "Too Handsome" (on 'CS Channel'), songs for Chiaki Kuriyama, Sheena's solo release 'Carnation' and other stuff. We were constantly creating something.
Sheena: I think at first we talked about releasing a single with two songs and told each member to bring in some songs. Except Hata already had a demo of "Actually" from when we recorded 'Sports.' So then we were like since we already have this good demo, let's release it to everyone as an Incidents song. So it basically started there.
Izawa: Yeah. Out of that conversation, Sheena said since Hata now has a song, everyone is now an official songwriter. 
Ukigumo: Yeah. We got excited and were like, "yeah, let's do it!" 
--In other words, it wasn't approached as a graduation project because you were breaking up?
Sheena: It was the same with our name, "Incidents;" we always end up going overboard. Everything, for some reason, gets excessive (laughter). So we'd be chatting like this and everyone would get excited all of a sudden, we wouldn't know where to stop, and before long we'd arrive at an extreme. And then Ukigumo, waiting for the opportunity to pounce, would say, "In that case, I want to use a different song (from the one I submitted earlier)." Then he brought in a pretty decent little demo.
Kameda: And we got super excited when we actually heard it.
Sheena: Yeah, yeah. No one laughed at Kameda's song or the melody, but everyone laughed at Ukigumo's and Izawa's. We were like, "Awesome!" (laughter). So, I said, if everyone is of the opinion we should each contribute a song, let’s make that the final decision.
--So, as a result, you ended up with a very varied...no, wonderfully diverse, set of five songs.
Sheena: Yes. Amazing, isn't it? It's really a tragedy as an album (laughter).

"Beaucoup de Bruit pour Rien (Konya wa Karasawagi)"
--Let's talk about the tracks in order. First is Sheena's "Beaucoup de Bruit pour Rien."
Sheena: On this album, my song was done last, and I had a lot of trouble writing it. The other four's songs were already like they were. There were already four absolute, unshakable songs. They were each outstanding on their own, but as an album, the tragic disparateness was dumbfounding (laughter).  
Men: (Much laughter)
Sheena: But I was the one that encouraged them to submit what they really wanted, so I struggled with what to write that wouldn't kill off the other four songs but would build on them in a really lively way. I thought, should I make something really different, too? It was pretty frantic, so there wasn't the time to fret over the details.
--Tell me about the lyrics.
Sheena: Before starting to write them, I had this idea of creating lyrics that gave some kind of meaning to this city called Tokyo. Tokyo is a city without a place to call home, is it not? It is constantly changing and tends to make people uneasy, whether you've moved from out of town or are a true local who has lived here forever. I wanted to make a song that would wander aimlessly, get intoxicated and then wake up.
--In terms of songs with a Tokyo theme that people like to sing at karaoke, I think many fans think of "Queen of Kabuchi-cho" .
Sheena: The director Yuichi Kodama also said that. I think of it as a song that follows a harmonic progression that is preset within me. "Marunouchi Sadistic" and "3min." are like that as well.
--You worked with Kodama on a music video for this song as well, right?
Sheena: Yes. Kodama's work feels lacking in fluids like blood and tears, so I boldly suggested that he pour it all into this last one. I also requested that since this was the last one, it would be great to see each of the male members styled in the most fitting attire possible. While the tour was on the move from Osaka to Kagawa, Kodama, our stylist Kumiko Iijima and I decided on their look and the location of the shoot.
--Everyone's look and wardrobe are brilliant. Hata's dancing with a staff is fierce.
Sheena: Isn't it? Kodama said Hata's snare drum sounds like a gun...
Hata: The tuning's a bit low.
Sheena: So, we thought let's put a gun in the video. I'm holding a rifle.
--In the wandering, I also sense a goodbye; it seems like a song that’s saying that through your distinct aesthetic.
Sheena: It wasn't because we were breaking up; it's just me continuing to write as I always do. With this song though, the words have a very prosaic feel, close to everyday sayings. I don't write with the idea of writing about goodbyes or writing some sort of goodbye song. Really, I think I was guided by the tone and temperature of the melody, which I wrote first.

"Kai Horror Dust" 
--The second track is "Kai Horror Dust," written by Izawa. Izawa also handles the vocals.
Izawa: As we talked about earlier, I brought in a ton of songs as I always do, even before the concept of one song per person was decided on. They say this one was picked because it was the first one I submitted. Actually, I submitted it thinking it would be the one Sheena liked the most.
Sheena: Come on, I like all Izawa songs (laughter).
Izawa: Yeah, because of that, with the Incidents, I've always met every deadline and always done things totally responsibly, and it hasn’t done me any good at all. Make sure you write that (laughter).
--It reminds me of an eighties beat, which, one could say, is part of your Japanese musical roots. Like BOØWY or Buck-Tick.
Izawa: That's because of the way I sing it. I was directed by Sheena to sing it like that (laughter).
Sheena: Even before, when we would be waiting on interviews or filming or something, Izawa would mimic that unique performance style, but only the form of it. This time, he brought the form and the sound together as one, you could say...
Kameda: He did, he did, bit by bit (laughter).
Hata: That's why I thought it was such a Wacchi song.
Izawa: That’s because when I was putting down the vocal part with the intention that it just be a guide, Sheena kept saying, "Come on, Wacchi! You got more in you that! Let's hear it!" (laughter). The lyrics were polished with Sheena as well.
Sheena: (Laughter)
Izawa: Sheena got a kick out of it, so I just got more and more into it as I was singing. Eventually she said the song didn't even need her vocals. And I was like, what?!
Sheena: That's because when I sung it for the demo, the song was kind of hazy and lacked direction. But the moment Izawa sang it, it arrived at its intended destination and seemed complete.
--Sheena, you've been laughing for a while now...
Sheena: Because we had such a fun time recording the vocals. My deep interest in that particular style of Gunma rock was being made manifest by someone right there in front of me (laughing).
Izawa: It was probably the most relaxed recording session in the band's history.
Sheena: But we did talk seriously and in detail about the arrangement and lyrics. Uni-san (Uni Inoue, the recording engineer), was in a bit of a weird mood, too, like he'd say, "How about dubbing over everything with English lyrics." And until the song was mixed, we were also really focused on the details, asking things like, "Can you make just this one consonant sound stronger?" (laughter).
Izawa: Yeah, it was like that. Sorry, really.
Ukigumo: Why are you apologizing? (laughter)
Izawa: Because I sang the main vocals. When I first wrote the song, I wasn't thinking at all about disbanding or graduating or anything like that. Plus, the way it's sung (laughter). All I can say to listeners is listen and hopefully enjoy.

"Time Capsule"
--The third song is Kameda's "Time Capsule." It's the first time you've written lyrics, right?
Kameda: I had already submitted the song when we decided on the concept of lyrics by five different people. Sheena said, "Master, would you please oblige us and pen lyrics to this song?" I wrote the lyrics immediately. I was thinking Sheena might tell me to sing it, too, since we were still in the groove of Wacchi's vocals, but since she didn't, I worked to finish the lyrics in time for Sheena's scheduled recording (laughter).
Sheena: Yeah, the lyrics got done incredibly fast (laughter). But I felt you dug down into some personal stuff to write them, so I thought they were great.
Kameda: The demo title was "P.C," meaning parents and children. "Flash Girl" and "Child of the 21st Century Universe" were about my son's generation, but I wrote this song about fatherhood. My father passed away last year, and I thought about the sadness of losing him and how my children will carry on the life I inherited. I thought about not just my father but the line running from my ancestors to me and where I'm at in my life right now. The song was written to sort of confirm that.
Izawa: We did record the instrumental tracks the same day as my song, didn't we?
Kameda: Yes, and people who listen to the album and read this interview may be surprised, thinking, "What? Two songs in one day?!" (laughter). The studio was just me, Uki and Wacchi, wasn't it?
Sheena: Yes, I was working on a different song somewhere else.
Hata: My back was feeling bad and I left early after recording "Kai Horror Dust."
--Is it rare for just the three of you to be in the studio?
Kameda: I was a first. Like the Beatles on The White Album. But it's not like we weren't getting along! (laughter)
Sheena: No, no, we were all getting along fine (laughter).
--Because there's no need to emphasize that just for fun, right? (laughter) 
Kameda: At first, the song had guitar, drums and bass, but it was just the three of us, so we thought it'd be cool to go with a simpler sound. In the end, we even got rid of my bass part and just went with piano and guitar.
--Out of the five songs on the album, this song seems to me to most mark an ending.
Kameda: I think you're right. It happened to synch up well. Taking my ancestors and family as my vertical axis, Incidents could be thought of as my horizontal axis. A lot of the music I like has a vertical and horizontal axis to obtain universality. Even with songs we all work on together, I'm happy when it ends up being that kind of song. I think too that after writing this song I was able to get myself ready for the end of things. Both the band ending and me getting on with my life. I want to live life to the full, without letting up and without cutting corners. That feeling is even stronger now than before. 

--The fourth song is Ukigumo's "Sa_i_ta."
Ukigumo: I was feeling like my songs before this tended to have a zing, but since this one would be the last I wanted to give it more of clang.
--You've said in the past you take pride in not writing nice songs, but this one has a little different feel than that.
Ukigumo: With the Incidents, I get the feeling that fans come to our shows and watch with bated breath. I wanted to lighten things up a bit and thought it wouldn't be bad to have a song that said, come have fun.
Kameda: There's an avant-garde feel to this song that existing music doesn’t have.
--In a word, maybe like new wave?
Sheena: More like new new wave. New squared.
--The song's a duet with Sheena.
Ukigumo: I fretted over the lyrics, but ended up writing them in one night. And just like everyone else, at first I said there's no way I'm singing this.
Sheena: But I thought for this song dual vocals would definitely be better, so I asked him to sing because of that. I asked him to sing and Ukigumo wrote some good lyrics with that in mind.
Izawa: The song was really good even in demo form, and everyone got really excited when they first heard it.
Sheena: Ukigumo's song logic has a masculine quality compared to everyone else.
Kameda: His music has a very solid design. So it's fun to play just like the blueprint. I really like the combination of my bass and Totsu's drums on this song.
Hata: I really like it, too. Uni-san's mix was also shockingly good.
Sheena: It's a really inventive mix, I think. The song has ended up a new type of ideal. Up until now as well, the ideal for this band when members would create a song was a team that didn't need to keep up appearances by holding an instrument, that didn't even need to play an instrument. I think this song, even in its performance, overcomes the notion of a "band". It's great.
Ukigumo: For this song, it actually was my intention to do away with the so-called band sound.
--But it still has a danceable beat that differs from "3min."
Sheena: It is totally for the dance floor.
Ukigumo: I want people to dance to it. I want it played at clubs.
--It seems so far removed from the fact you are breaking up. Rather, it's a sound that makes one have major expectations for future possibilities.
Ukigumo: This is my favorite pitch I’ve thrown the band so far. I feel like I was able to throw a really good one. You might say it was ripe for the picking, but I did think a bit that it would have been cool if the Incidents had been like this from a little earlier on.

"Honto no Tokoro" 
--The last song is Hata's "Honto no Tokoro." Hata handles vocals as well.
Hata: Yeah, about that. I put some down, but I'm still not sure it's something we should be releasing...
Sheena: What, you did something wrong? (laughing)
Ukigumo: Without that song, the album probably wouldn't even exist.
Hata: I really don't think....
Sheena: At one point, we thought about including the song on 'Discovery,’ but in the end we didn't. Later, when we were all listening to it in the green room at a TV station, everyone got completely amped about it. 
--This is Toshiki Hata's one original song, which existed when you were doing "Sports," as we discussed above, right?
Hata: Yes. I write one song a year and in ten years when I have around ten songs I’m hoping to have the opportunity to select some of them to release. The first one actually got released, and as an Incidents song at that. Really, I wanted to release the song after actually studying singing, lyrics, chords and an instrument. There are tons of people out there who want to put out a CD but can't, so I feel bad about having this kind of chance just fall into my lap.
Izawa: When we're done with studio work for the day, Totsu and I often go in the same car home, and I always try to coax him (laughter). I say, you've got to make an album! I try to convince him he should create something. 
Sheena: It didn't just fall into his lap. He's really talented. There’s a Beatles-like quality to his song, but he doesn't even know any Beatles songs.
Hata: Yeah, I really don't know the Beatles at all.
--Where did the lyrics come from?
Hata: Cool. I've never been asked that before (laughter).
Everyone: (Laughter)
Hata: I really found a dead crow and raccoon dog near my house.
--You live in Tokyo, right?
Hata: Yeah, but there are raccoon dogs. Around where I live. There are also toddy cats and martens. I saw the dead crow and felt sorry for it, so I thought I'd bury it in my friend's field. But then a bunch of crows came clamoring. They didn't attack me, but I thought they seemed sad in some way. That night I found a raccoon dog dead in front of my house. It was still warm.
--So, the crow and raccoon dog line is a true story.
Hata: Same with the cat being eaten by a hawk. A guy at an onsen I stayed at in Yamanashi told me about it. Basically, the lyrics are about deaths that have occurred near me.
--Everything that lives in the universe, actually, does not really want to die--the lyrics are your view of life and death in a way.
Hata: Yes. But at the same time I think my own fascination with death is in there as well.

An Exhibition Album
--We’ve now talked about all the songs on ‘color bars.’ According to everyone, it seems the male members were all filled with trepidation at being forced by Sheena to sing. Was that your intention, Sheena?
Sheena: No, I didn’t go in with that intention at all, and I didn’t feel like I was being mean until now! They can really all sing, so it is a response to all the fans who really want to hear them sing. Except Izawa’s song; when I heard him sing, it was electrifying (laughter).
Izawa: Scary (laughter). I think we all always approach the songs themselves in the same way.
--The end product was all right, then.
Sheena: It’s musical; a spontaneous outcome.
Kameda: The album is definitely worth a listen. Putting it in terms of my beloved figure skating, it’s an exhibition. It’s a public performance that’s not an encore conducted after nailing down high scores up through ‘Discovery.’ Plus, our personalities come through in the melodies.
Ukigumo: That’s a great analogy. There’s a liberated feel as well.
Izawa: And even though it’s an exhibition, we’re clearly going all out.
Sheena: Make that analogy the title of this interview! 
Kameda: That’s all me (laughing). 
Ukigumo: The album is good. I really like it.
Hata: Yeah, really good. If you leave out my song (laughing).
Sheena: I really like it. Everyone blows up and shows what’s inside, don’t you think?
Kameda: It really does feel like that.
Sheena: I mean, it’d be good just being tragic, but it’s like a huge catastrophe. Like, you say this is J-pop? That’s quite a bold thing to say. My song is not like that, but are these four really in the same group? It feels beyond the pale, doesn’t it? (laughter)
Ukigumo: Now all our fans will think this is why we broke up.
Hata: Like, oh, they broke up because it was a mismatch musically, just like everyone always said.
Izawa: We’re all talking about totally sacrilegious things while laughing (laughter).
Sheena: People in the industry would often comment like, “It’s amazing that five people who are so different have come together so well.” I always thought, what a rude thing to say. With this album, I finally get what they’re saying.
--Sheena, before, when commenting on the distinct nature of Incidents Tokyo, you said that the band’s nature is that it’s constantly changing. This album I feel is the album where you take that to the extreme; or to put it more emphatically, it feels like you’ve put up a smokescreen to the band’s distinct nature that you’ve maintained in a positive way to the very end.
Sheena: Yes, I think you’re right.
Izawa: Since discussing it at the beginning stages, we all said let’s avoid bringing in songs that feel like things are ending just because things are ending.  
Sheena: Yes, and that’s why I’m happy with how it turned out.

--Regardless, it’s another album that shows yet another side of the band. Despite being the last one, it has the kind of power that makes you think there’s another album on the way in six months or so.
Sheena: Yes, which makes it even harder for us to quit. You want to see what’s next.
Izawa: There are still songs in the storeroom…Hmm, what should we do with them? I may not be able to quit (looking off into the distance). 
Sheena: What? What’s with that look? That’s not going to come through in an interview (laughing).
--To tell the truth, the more I listen to ‘color bars’ the more I think it’s a shame it has to come to an end.
Sheena: We’re honored by the thought. Thank you.
--In February the band is going on its last tour.
Sheena: Nothing has been decided in detail as of right now, but it may be more fun to make it a kind of tragic tour.
Izawa: Based on that we’ve talked about trying to see how far we can take our playing.
Ukigumo: It’d be cool if the show had a bit of a different feel.  
Kameda: But I want to choose the songs that scratch where it itches.
--Do you plan to perform the songs off ‘color bars’ at the shows?
Sheena: As of now, I want to do all of them.
Hata: What the….?!
--There’s got to be at least one person out there wondering if the set list will be different than the ‘Discovery’ tour.
Sheena: It will. ‘Discovery’ has been done at this point.
Kameda: It’s not going to be an Incidents retrospective, at least not in a stereotypical way, so we’re exited about it, and I hope our fans get excited about it as well.
Sheena: Incidents Tokyo is these five people; we want to leave it all out there up through the final moment. 


Liner Notes | Official Interview

Incidents Tokyo announced on January 11 that they would be disbanding. The band has stated that it will be discontinuing activities following a three-venue, six-show arena tour in February. Signs of a pending album—a mini-album but still the band’s last album of original output—were likely apparent to anyone who made it to a show on the band’s recent Discovery tour.
At the show, a dynamic computer-generated video, done by the director Yuichi Kodama, was shown on a screen to separate the middle from the end. The video began with a ripping sandstorm, went through a number of motifs and ended with bands of primary colors dancing with the words, “Please Stand By”. At the end, the dancing bands became color bars, and at the moment the audience’s gaze was directed from the screen to the stage, the five Incidents members appeared, with pomp and circumstance, accompanied by the explosive intro to “Queen of Kabuki-cho.”
‘color bars’ is a mini-album with five songs, one by each member, both music and lyrics. The concept, the band says, was decided when everyone got spontaneously excited about it at the recording studio.
“We were originally planning to release a single with two songs,” Sheena says, but Hata had a demo from when we were working on ‘Sports’ and since it was such a good demo, I wanted to release it as an Incidents song. The idea came out of that conversation.”
So the male members each brought in a song they “most wanted to record” and based on those four songs, Sheena wrote another to complete the album. Sheena’s song is “Much Ado About Nothing Tonight.”
The song, which was played during the encore on the last stages of the Discovery tour, has a highly addictive pop melody that makes you want to sing it at karaoke. The lyrics are staged in Tokyo, which may call to mind the solo Ringo hits “Queen of Kabuki-cho” and “Marunouchi Sadistic” in more than a few listeners.
“There were already four absolute, unshakable songs,” Sheena relates, “so I struggled with what to write that wouldn't kill off the other four songs but would build on them (laughter). I wrote a song based on this idea of wandering aimlessly in Tokyo, a city with no place to call home, getting intoxicated and then waking up.”
Yuichi Izawa’s track, ‘Horror Dust,’ is a really interesting song reminiscent of ‘80’s beat rock—Izawa’s roots in Japanese music—backed by an edgy arrangement. It features glamorous, suggestive vocals by Izawa himself.  
Izawa explains, “I put down some temporary vocals just as directed by Sheena, then she’s says, ‘Wacchi, this song doesn’t even need my vocals, does it,” and I was like, ‘What?!’”
Seiji Kameda’s song is “Time Capsule.” In his previous songs, “Flash Girl” and “Child of the 21st Century Universe,” Kameda created melodies that expressed the idea of living fully in the moment. This song carries on the same theme, with his first-ever lyrics as well.
“When my father passed away last year, I thought about the sadness of losing him and how my children will carry on the life I inherited,” Kameda reveals. “I also directly confronted the question of where I'm at in my life right now. I wrote the lyrics to sort of confirm that.”
Ukigumo’s track is “Sa_i_ta.” It’s a danceable tune that conveys the feeling of a new frontier, like the Incidents meet new wave, adorned with a flourish of heretofore unseen shades of color crafted by Ukigumo’s masculine songwriting sensibility.
“My songs before this tended to have a zing, so I wanted to give this one more of a clang. I want people to dance. I want it to be played at clubs,” Ukigumo says.
Hata’s track is “Actually.” Hata sings the vocals himself on this superb, one-of-a-kind track about seeing death. It’s the only Hata original, and it has existed since the band was working on ‘Sports,’ as mentioned above.
Hata explains, “I write one song a year and in ten years when I have around ten songs I’m was hoping to have the opportunity to release them, but I never thought the first one would actually get released, and as an Incidents song at that.”  
I have written this many times, but Incidents Tokyo is extremely rare as an ensemble. The band is like an ideal symphony miraculously comprised of Sheena, the prodigiously talented icon, at the center and four people of different ages and personalities that each bring something different, and the result is an extremely edgy, polyphonic group of musicians. The new album, ‘color bars,’ lays bare the qualities and nature of the five. It’s a smokescreen, maintained in a positive way to the very end, to discerning the distinctive nature of the band, which has been ever changing. As Izawa puts it, “We all said let’s avoid bringing in songs that feel like things are ending just because things are ending.”
Kameda says, “Putting it in terms of my beloved figure skating, this album is the band’s exhibition.”
Sheena remarks, “People in the industry would often comment like, ‘It’s amazing that five people who are so different have come together so well.’ I always thought, what a rude thing to say, but with this album, I finally get what they’re saying.”
Incidents Tokyo is a band that has brilliantly and totally maintained its five colors. The album that gives you the full experience of this brilliance and enjoyment is ‘color bars.’ Incidents Tokyo, which has provided us five tour-de-force albums around the theme of television channels, ‘Education,’ ‘Adult,’ ‘Variety,’ ‘Sports,’ and ‘Discovery,’ put an end to programming with this album, ‘color bars.’
The tone of the album—so freewheeling, full of personality and possibility, almost no sentimentality—Sheena says is in itself the aesthetic the band had. Of course, dropping a reviewer’s pretense of objectivity, I have to say it is sad and unfortunate that the Incidents will be no more.
Nonetheless, for now I want to encourage listeners to put on ‘color bars’ and bask in the afterglow of the incidents the band has continued to cause in rushing down the road at full throttle. Because I expect that what this astonishingly free music will invite is not tears.
To Incidents Tokyo, a hip, brilliant band to the very end, I just want to say from my heart, thank you and bravo.

(Written by Masaki Uchida)

The members have issued statements on the decision here