Original (Japanese) source & credits : highflyers.nu
Text: Kaya Takatsuna / Photo: Atsuko Tanaka / Photo Retouch: Koto Nagai
English Translation by Nicki A. (@uchiakebanashi)
A setback during his time in Cerezo Osaka’s Junior Youth. The moment he discovered that music gave the same excitement as soccer did. Teaching himself how to play the guitar. Leaving for Tokyo until he became a solo artist.For our second interview with MIYAVI, we asked him to speak about his childhood up to his solo debut. He started playing soccer at the age of 7 and as his talent flourished, he was eventually selected in middle school to join as a member of Cerezo Osaka’s Junior Youth. Unfortunately the results of his efforts all went to waste as he had to retire due to an injury. After tasting his life’s first disappointment, and as if by destiny, MIYAVI came across the guitar. After the sudden loss of an admired senior, he was driven to head out to Tokyo where he encountered the band Dué le Quartz in a live house and was invited to join them. Though he was active with the band as their guitarist for 2 years, they eventually broke up due to a difference in principles. After all this, he finally reached his debut as a solo artist. From his encounter with the guitar, the lapse of his band activity, to the events behind the process of his solo debut, we got MIYAVI to share about the thoughts he had in those points of time.He headed to Tokyo after facing the death of a senior he had held dearly. After the breakup of his band, his first solo live in Shibuya Town Hall was a success. These were the days he continued to run ahead alongside his insecurities.
- It seems that you’re from Osaka. How were you like as a child?I played soccer from the age of 7. Everyday I would wake up in the morning, and was always playing before going to school, during lunch break and even after school until it got dark. My parents let me do as I wanted then and honestly, I barely had anything like a rebellious phase. When it came to studying, I think I was a kid who liked learning new things. Other than that, I was like any ordinary boy and was also interested girls.
- Soccer was very popular around that time, right?Yes, you’re right. It was around the time J-League was first established. My father had originally played soccer and I eventually started playing too but I only became fully absorbed in it after I was chosen as team captain. The moment when I completely lose myself in chasing the ball and see the goal net sway from the ball that I had kicked in, my mind just goes really blank. It’s a feeling that’s immensely similar to when I am enveloped with cheers during a show. Even back then I’d get totally captivated by that satisfying feeling.
- You must have been really serious seeing how you were also a member of J-League’s Cerezo Osaka’s Youth Team.Their sports ground was in Amagasaki and since it took an hour and a half to get there from where I was living, I had to run to the train station as soon as school finished and get changed inside the train itself. I was commuting like this and would still be late. Also, since it’s a pro team’s soccer ground, they have spotlights so we could train until late at night. Once training ends, I’d next be swaying on a packed train back home. The next day, I’d go to school and repeat the whole thing all over again. When it’s like that, wouldn’t you be so tired that you would spend your break time just sleeping? It came to the extent that my friends started drifting away even though I was still in the center of the school’s soccer team. It was honestly really hard back then.
- Did you enter a J-League team because you were aiming to become a professional player?Yes. I did make the decision on the basis of becoming a pro but then playing soccer slowly started becoming unenjoyable. When I took a break after hurting my leg, the supervisor changed and everything else changed as well. I couldn’t keep up with the changes and I consequently dropped out not only physically, but also emotionally. Until then, I hadn’t done anything other than play soccer so when I quit, I remember feeling this really big hole open up inside my heart.
- It seems like that was the first time you experienced a feeling of frustration.Yeah, it was my first setback ever. Following that setback, one day my friends and I were casually like “Let’s start a band” and we just went with that flow. That was how I originally got my hands on a guitar. Even now I can vividly remember the first moment I held that guitar and played Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do on it with my clumsy hands. In that moment and despite being just a kid, I saw an image of myself in a really huge stadium performing in front of so many people. I thought “This is it!”. After that, I began seriously playing the guitar every day and I started having these vague thoughts of “Will the guitar help change me?” and “Will the guitar help bring me somewhere?”. It felt exciting and gave me a baseless confidence.
- From then, how did you polish your guitar craft?I constantly played it but my basics were all self-taught. That’s why I still have some reckless parts but to be frank, those who started from the foundation are thousands of times more skillful than me. However, I didn’t start playing to become skillful, I just wanted to fill the hole inside my heart. The hole was grossly big and that just goes to show how much I was consumed with soccer. I’m someone who by nature likes to surprise and startle others. Ever since then, little by little, through the musical instrument that is the guitar, I wished that I could excite and get the hearts of people worldwide racing and so, share these feelings through my live performances.
- Once you are occupied with the guitar, have you felt like you’ve forgotten about time while you are playing it?Yes. I think it’s my personality. Basically, when it comes to clothing, meals and even my hobbies, once I’ve decided on something, I think I’m the type to stick to it. Even when it comes to language study and also everything else, I believe that learning is something that doesn’t end
- After getting your hands on a guitar and becoming engrossed in it, what was the first step that got you to not end the guitar as just a hobby and change it into your calling and livelihood instead?I first started playing the guitar at 15 but when I was 17, the senior who first showed me the colour of music passed away. He had no eyebrows, carried a mohawk and was a hardcore person who had this unapproachable air about him. To me, he was an elder brother-like existence who granted me the opportunity to listen to various kinds of music. Until then, I had never experienced losing someone close to me like the way he was and I was shocked at how the same sceneries and places could look totally different afterwards. After that, I just didn’t want to be there anymore and for this reason I left for Tokyo.
- So, the death of your senior was what drove you to go to Tokyo.I made up my mind on that day itself. I got on a night bus and I think I reached Tokyo Station at around 8 in the morning. From there, there were even times when I was living by camping out. At that time, because I was in such a state, live houses let me in a lot and there I got to make a lot of friends. I also became a member of the band Dué le Quartz then. I didn’t plan on joining them at first, but the members, who were all 3-5 years older than me, were immensely warm. As it was soon after the death of the senior whom I adored, I thought that I’d be at ease if I were with them.
- And you’ve been in Tokyo ever since you became a member of that band.I was active in the band for around 2 years. I’ve always thought that we might as well set out for the world if we’re gonna do this, but it was hard to share that same viewpoint with my band members. I believe that when being in a band, ideals is the most important thing to have after synchronicity and this also applies to groups and corporations. While people generally have different values, and it’s not wrong to want to properly make the people right in front of you happy, but in spite of all that, I feel that it’s significantly important to have a common sense of purpose. Towards the end, as we developed a difference in opinions, we finally decided to break up and as a result, I went solo.
- Having experienced both being in a band and going solo, have you had different thoughts like “Going solo is good” or “Being in a band was great”?Both have their own pros and cons. It goes without saying that as a solo artist, everything is on me and it’s hard being so but it’s worth doing considering how when I do something, I will get back as much as what I put in. In a band, having 2 people is better than one and having 3 people is better than 2 because of the exciting chemistry that it could give rise to. Being in a band is fun in that sense. Even for me, although I’m a solo artist, I’d very much prefer working with a lot of people, including my staff and producers, over doing everything on my own.
- In the time after leaving Dué le Quartz and starting your solo activities, were the conditions already set for you from the beginning?Since I had a lot of fans who were supporting me through difficult times, I started creating pieces for my solo activities as soon as we confirmed the band’s disbandment. For my first show, I got to perform at Shibuya Town Hall, something that the band didn’t get to do. The second show was an open-air one (in Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall). The quality was definitely not high but more than anything, I had people who were waiting for me. So, I continued on with the will and thoughts of “I’ll continue tumbling along, even if I have to do it on my own.” and “No matter the form, I’ll continue creating whether it’s something or other.” Thinking back now, I did pretty well.
- Did you not have any doubts when you went solo?Yeah, I did. Until then, I had never been in the stage’s center much and in a band not only could we share responsibilities, if someone wasn’t feeling, those who are well can help fill in. But when you’re a solo act, even though you have support members in the back, all the weight is basically still on you. Other than that, I was also really insecure when it came to singing. Even though I have to wipe my own ass and despite it being pretty hard carrying all kinds of burden so that I can stand on stage, I’ve gained a lot of things in return.
Translation by Nicki A. (@uchiakebanashi/@onakabel)