MIYAVI - The first step towards “DAY 2” through collaboration with fabulous artists.
MIYAVI released his new album [SAMURAI SESSIONS vol.2] on November 8 th . A sequel to the “battle-style collaboration album” concept which was released in 2012, [SAMURAI SESSIONS Vol.1], in this album, one can enjoy a great diversity of artist collaboration including Daichi Miura, SKY-HI, EXILE SHOKICHI (EXILE, EXILE THE SECOND), VERBAL (m-flo、PKCZ®), Masato (coldrain), CHANMINA,
KenKen (LIFE IS GROOVE, RIZE, Dragon Ash), HYDE (L'Arc-en- Ciel, VAMPS) and Che’Nelle.
Having reached his 15 th debut anniversary, MIYAVI describes this work as the start of a new phase in his career. This time on Natalie Music, MIYAVI has not only commented on all the songs of this album, we also got him to speak at length on his ambitions for this new phase he calls “DAY 2”.
There’ll be surprising news in his statements too so do pay attention.
Interview/Article: Masaki Uchida
Photography: Taichi Nishimaki
ENGLISH translation: Nicki A./uchiakebanashi
ORIGINAL SOURCE : natalie.mu
Exploding feelings of wanting to sing and cry out through the guitar
- Let’s start by telling us what motivated you to produce the second volume of [SAMURAI
M: After releasing my previous work, the original album titled [Fire Bird], the feeling of “I want to sing, I want to cry out through my guitar” got stronger and stronger that I felt it exploding. It’s like I’ve acquired wings, and gained the confidence that “With this, I can already fly”. As a guitarist, from
now on, how do I want to go about creating? In that sense, just as I established in my 15 th anniversary best record, [ALL TIME BEST “DAY 2”], “DAY 0” were my indie days up til before I debuted as a solo artist and started my independent management. “DAY 1” is when I’ve become independent, changed labels, met BOBO (drummer), included “Slap” and establish my style as a guitarist. And now [SAMURAI SESSIONS vol.2] is probably my recognition of the start of my new phase as a musician thus being the start of “DAY 2”.
- Personally, are you able to grasp the changes between yourself in “DAY 1” phase and the you
who is heading towards “DAY 2”?
M: I guess the first change is in identity. Firstly, after I met the magnificent drummer known as BOBO, my identity as a guitarist became stronger. I learned so much from my sessions spent with him to the point that my sense of rhythm and beat went through a complete change. Moreover, after
meeting Lenny (Skolnik) and while collaborating with him, this time it was my melody representation
that changed. Not only did he remind me on the importance of capturing people’s heart, he also
reminded me on the importance of being catchy. If the rhythm is the vertical axis then the melody is
the horizontal axis or perhaps I should say for example, even in contrast with the length of one note
or the tone, a new identity will grow. It is so to speak, a sensation that is close to “Singing through a
guitar”. That had a big influence on [Fire Bird] and [Live to Die Another Day -存在証明-]. Oh, and
actually before [SAMURAI SESSIONS vol.2], an American version has already been made.
- Hmm? An American version, meaning?
M: In short, it’s a [SAMURAI SESSIONS] with American singers. I still can’t talk about the details but we might be able to release it in the near future.
- Oooh, that’s something to look forward to!
M: This year we’ve already done the band tour for my 15 th Anniversary, [Neo Tokyo 15] but since I want to deliver a work for my Japanese fans as soon as possible, we decided to first release [SAMURAI SESSIONS vol.2].
- I see. This time, compared to [vol.1]’s head-on- head sword-fighting battle feel, [vol. 2] gives a
stronger collaborative vibe. Even based on that, all of the compositions give the impression of
being considerably dyed with the color of MIYAVI.
M: Yes, that’s right. Honestly, it’s a fact that after including my signature tone and getting the
confidence to dye my own colors, my motivation for [vol.2] increased too. The intense battle feel
that was born in each session of [vol.1] were compiled successfully thanks to Seiji Kameda’s
producing skills. This time around, majority of the tracks were produced in Los Angeles by Lenny and other creators (※MIYAVI is currently based in Los Angeles). This becomes a point of difference from [vol.1] in the sense of production style as well as having the privilege of having the collaborating artists as the main vocals.
- For this work, other than Lenny, Jonny Litten’s name has been credited a lot.
M: Jonny’s not only the DJ who was on tour with me in Europe, he’s also the sound manipulating beat-maker. Lenny puts together the fundamental composition and Jonny’s part is to fine tune all that.
- When I saw you at an event the other day, I was impressed when the MC said “No matter how
many rounds you play the guitar, it’s super exciting”. I thought that it must be great to have
those words said to you even now.
M: That was certainly huge. Well, I’m sure that no matter what we choose to continue doing, there’ll be hard times but I think it’s a happy thing. I played soccer as a kid and suffered a setback then due to
an injury but I was able to change myself thanks to my encounter with the guitar. Then I got to sing
songs, appear in movies, and get invited for fashion photo shoots. It’s all great. But even so, from
“DAY 2” onwards, I’d like to return to and spread my dream and message of “Making the people of
the world dance with my guitar”. Of course, while showing respect to those before me, I’d like to
create guitar music that is unlike any other. I want to feel the beat with my audience. Naturally, I’ll
be singing too but at times, if I got vocals other than mine to sing, I would be able to play the guitar
even more freely on stage. [Vol. 2] is so to speak, a strengthening program for this kind of format.
Daichi Miura is an amazing hard worker
- So, from here on we’ll be discussing on the songs’ production. We’ll quickly hear about them.
First up is [Dancing With My Fingers / MIYAVI vs Daichi Miura]. This song’s music video was
directed by Takashi Miike, the director of “Blade of the Immortal”, whom you’ve worked with
for the film, right?
M: For the shooting, even though I went straight to the studio as soon as I landed from Los Angeles, I
was so fired up by Daichi’s dance that I gave my all doing my steps and as expected, I was tired out
- His dancing is a given thing and it’s a bit late to say this but, Miura is really good at singing too.
M: Yup. And he even sings while dancing. He really is an amazing hard worker. That’s why this time
around, I really wanted him and requested him to join. Originally, we knew each other through Seiji
Kameda and while he’s not the secret guest for this track, Kameda played the bass for this song.
- The 2 nd song is [Gemstone / MIYAVI vs SKY-HI]. You met SKY-HI through a radio show, right?
M: Yes. And it’s been quite a while since we first met. He is now a solo rapper and working really hard. I wanted to show this hard-working figure to the young kids of today, especially to those whose
dreams and future are still vague and make a song that says “It’s okay to be this way”. Although this
song was used as music for the live stage, “Tokyo Tribe”, it’s been consciously incorporated with
burning energy, some variety of impatience and a street vibe.
- The 3 rd song is [Fight Club / MIYAVI vs EXILE SHOKICHI]. What is your connection with
M: When I was invited to AbemaTV’s program, [BPM～BEST PEOPLE's MUSIC], we performed his song together. He is a very pure and passionate man. EXILE has a somewhat “male aesthetics” kind of image. That’s why I wanted to make (the song) with a vibe like the movie “Fight Club”, something like a “NO WOMEN ALLOWED” kind of image or a fighting in a ring kinda feel. Actually, at completion, he wrote more than twice the amount of lyrics but we had to cut some out. We sure had to deal with a lot of calories.
- The 4 th song is [Banzai Song / MIYAVI vs VERBAL (m-flo / PKCZ®)]. It’s been a while since your last pleasure-seeking song, right?
M: What’s more, it can be sung in karaoke and parties, a song that would never have been born from
my experience alone (laughs). The track is made up of composition that was put together by Luke
(Valentine) from VERBAL’s team, which was then pulled down with my guitar. VERBAL is someone who has strong global sensitivities. Even domestically, he knows what will work and what will not. Because it’s him that “Banzai” and “Kanpai” can be expressed artfully. Having a balance of taste for overseas and having a presence nationwide, I really respect that. Personally, I think he’s the nextgeneration Tamori* (laughs).
*Tamori is a Japanese TV celebrity
How established is Japan’s Hip Hop identity?
- The 5 th song is [Bumps In The Night / MIYAVI vs Masato (coldrain)]
M:The bassist, RxYxO, is a freaking pain in the ass (laughs), but the band is, in a good way, amazingly
intense. Originally, this song was meant to be the theme song for “Tokyo Vampire Hotel” (An original drama by Amazon Prime). The song has a somewhat poisonous and degenerate aspect and it
seemed to fit with Masato’s voice and image so, I offered him the song. I‘d love to play this song live
- The 6 th song is [No Thanks Ya / MIYAVI vs CHANMINA]. Female rapper, CHANMINA is currently 18 years old and is hot stuff. Not only her songs, when I looked at her Wikipedia page, I found it really funny that, it says her nickname is “Nerima’s Beyonce”.
M:If I had to choose, I’d say she’s Nicki Minaj though (laughs). She is, well, really cheeky and brazen (laughs). But inside, she’s actually a very sweet girl. She was in the ‘Battle of the Bands’ done during [NEO TOKYO 15], she’s fresh and a wonderful existence. This might be selfish of me to say but I have high hopes for her.
- Be it SKY-HI or CHANMINA, what kind of impression does MIYAVI hold about Japan’s current
M: think that a lot is changing. Then, there’s this firm identity and originality when it comes to words, probably on how to sublimate them. In America there’s Kendrick Lamar and the A$AP family and the new hip hop is rising as a whole. Previously, at a Beats and Balmain party, Migos was playing and Chance the Rapper also came. I really like G-EAZY, I even went to greet him. On how the Japanese would like to establish their hip hop identity, I myself think it has a pretty deep meaning. That’s because this fight is not only a fight with one’s self but it has a mutual element as well.
- The 7 th song is [Flashback / MIYAVI vs KenKen (LIE IS GROOVE, RIZE, Dragon Ash). It’s a
collaboration with KenKen.
M: Actually, about this song, we both entered the studio when there wasn’t even lyrics yet. After goingthrough several trial and errors, in the end I received everything we made and we decided I’d make a dish out of it. Which is why it’s not a genuine jam session and I might have done KenKen some wrong with this. He might have even thought “This is what it became?!” when he listened to the final product (laughs). But since we are both similar in the feel of our play and he left me a lot of good takes, while arranging (the song), the image for the song immediately appeared. It’s just that, earlier there was the matter of an anime theme song and I was inspired by that worldview when making this song. This song and [All My Life / MIYAVI vs HYDE] were the two songs that took the most time to complete.
A song collaboration with HYDE [Something you can sing around a campfire]
- Next is about that song, [All My Life / MIYAVI vs HYDE]. The comment we received from HYDE
for this song is “Once I sent him my ideas, he quickly arranges them. I’m probably out of
samples now (laughs)”.
M: Yes, I totally smashed them (laughs). To start with, HYDE had strong feelings of “If we’re gonna do it, let it be a song that can be sung around a campfire. A pop and catchy one would be great!”.
- It would be kinda interesting to have MIYAVI and HYDE sit around a campfire singing in real
M: Right? (laughs) So then I said “Then, if you could please send me any kind of image”, and he sent me a video with a demo of him singing along to his own accompaniment. Then from there, I meddled
with it in various ways, from front to back. There’s probably 5 completed versions of the guitar riffs. I also played the bass, made a futuristic and even a glamorous pop version. It could even be sung at a
campfire if done in acoustic (laughs). Speaking off which, I created this song with the image of
people singing it in karaoke in mind. This might just be the first time I’ve done so (laughs). It’s really
catchy and by the time you realize it, it’s playing in your head. Even for me, it’s become one of my
favorite songs. Once again, I’ve learned that being catchy will reach out to a lot of people.
- The 9 th song is [Forget You / MIYAVI vs Che’Nelle].
M: Che’Nelle is actually my neighbor in Los Angeles. I have two daughters so, sometimes we watch
Disney movies together. At a certain age, girls will start dreaming and I wanted to make a bright song
that’ll move girls’ hearts and I got the opportunity to offer Che’Nelle the song. She has a different
stance from other idols. She carries a worldview where girls can naturally empathize with others.
She’s not Ariana Grande but I believe that in Japan, she is an outstanding singer. Besides, her singing
is outstandingly good. If anyone from Disney could give this song a listen and please use it for
- Lastly, [Slap It / MIYAVI vs雅-MIYAVI- ]. Basically, it’s a plot where you have a session with
yourself with a previous name.
M: Personally, I included this song as a bonus track. This concept of me squaring-off with my past self was actually not my idea but was something Lenny was super-duper obsessed with and had pushed for (laughs). Lately, if I’d have to say, my slap ratio has definitely reduced and the idea is to have my current and progressing self to battle it off with my past self through slap. This way, it’d be like I’m not alone. It’s actually fun once I started doing it (laughs).
From here on out is once again, total war
- “Long Nights” is going to be a limited edition bonus track but hasn’t it already been included in
your previous work, “Fire Bird”?
M: I forcibly pushed it right before it was completed. As I’ve talked about before with Natalie, I got to work with the people of UNHCR, an organization under the United Nations known as the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This song was created right after I got back from my work
with them in Lebanon. In the “Fire Bird” version, I am the one singing but I’ve originally wanted to
feature someone in it. Last year I saw the movie “Sonita” and was inspired by it and got to offer
Sonita, who is the movie’s main character, to sing in it. I heard that the movie has been showing in
Japan since October. By all means, do go and see it.
- “Sonita” is a documentary about Sonita, and Afghan refugee who escaped from the Taliban to
Iran, where women are forbidden from singing. In the movie we see her receive counseling
and advice as an illegal immigrant at an institution while also chasing her dream of being a
rapper. Was she extremely surprised by the offer?
M: Well, yeah she was definitely shocked (laughs). She’s an Afghan girl who immigrated to Iran and
with the movie being the impetus, she received a scholarship to study in a university in Utah, US.
She’s currently studying in the U.S. I got her to fly to Los Angeles for the recording. The other day we performed at a United Nations event and she was actually supposed to go to a film festival in
Toronto but due to the effects of Trump’s presidential decree, it seems that she couldn’t get her visa
approved. It’s a movie that leaves a powerful impact in many ways. It’s also something I’d like the
Japanese people to know about, and would like them to check it out.
- With this, we’ve heard about all the tracks. It seems that in the 4 years since “雅-MIYAVI- “
became “MIYAVI”, a lot has happened and there’s also been several changes. In [SAMURAI
SESSIONS vol. 2], we can say that as a result, it’s an album that showcases the splendid growth
of MIYAVI’s self-production skills and arrangement ability.
M: Thank you very much. While I did gain a lot of things but at the same time it became clear to me
that I really don’t need the things that are unnecessary anymore. This is in a sense, also the start of
“DAY 2”. I might have talked about this previously but even when faced with a bullet shot from a
tank, I’ll always use a katana to cut through. But even if I luckily manage to cut through several shots
or even a tank, in the end, they’re all limited battles.
- That’s somehow like Goemon Ishikawa from “Lupin III” (laughs).
M: Moreover, after that when I turn to look back, behind me there’s a swarm of tens of millions of tanks in reserve (laughs). It’s really not about winning or losing but I think in other words, it’s comparable to my idea of “making the world dance through my guitar”. What should I do to cross that? Of course, I’m always giving it my best but from here on out, I plan to once again face this all-out war.
- I see. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of outcome will show and what maps will be
drawn until your 20 th anniversary.
M: My winter Japan tour – “DAY 2 Begins” will become another new challenge for me and I’m thrilled to see what kind of scenery “DAY 2” will bring about. By all means, I’d like everyone to come and experience it too.
[SAMURAI SESSION VOL.2] IS AVAILABLE ON I-TUNES STORE WORLDWIDE !
You can order the copy directly from JAPAN with sites like AMAZON, CD JAPAN, YES ASIA
*special thanks for the vast translation work to Nicki A./uchiakebanashi