Exclusive Interview with SEX MACHINEGUNS

interview - 17.02.2006 23:00

JaME interviewed the members of SEX MACHINEGUNS in Japan.

It was a muggy night in the beginning of summer; Meguro JR station was crowded with a lot of people since it was the weekend. Their manager took us to the film studio, where SEX MACHINEGUNS and the president of MARSA were waiting. They were busy shooting but took time out for an interview with JaME.

Could you introduce yourselves to the foreign fans?
Anchang: I'm the leader of SEX MACHINEGUNS, Anchang, vocalist and guitarist.
Samurai W. Kenjilaw: I'm Samurai W. Kenjilaw, bassist. Nice to see you!
Circuit V. Panther: I'm Circuit. V. Panther, guitarist.
Speed Star Sypan Joe: I'm Speed Star Sypan Joe. I'm the drummer of SEX MACHINEGUNS.

-Questions to Anchang-

Anchang, You play guitar so well whilst singing, it's almost superhuman! Is it easy to do?
Anchang: No way! It's not easy at all! (laugh) Well, I was trying to keep my playing simple, but it wasn't so easy (laugh). I used to just play guitar all the time, because I was too shy to sing songs in public, but I couldn't find vocalists who had enough talent, and they didn't want to sing my songs as my lyrics were strange. They were always saying "I don't want to sing this song!" (burst out laughing) So I had to sing my own songs eventually!

So, in your home prefecture, Ehime, you just used to play guitar?
Anchang: Yes, in Ehime and at university.

You have an excellent high voice, especially in the video of Nozarashi and in the song Suspense Gekijou (which is on the album HEAVY METAL THUNDER). Don't you run out of breath when singing?
Anchang: No, not at all!(laugh)

In general, vocalists take care of their throats, not smoking or drinking heavily, etc. What about you?
Anchang: I don't do anything!(laugh) I smoke and I drink alcohol. I only get away with it because my voice is so clean that it doesn't sound like a rock vocalist. Unfortunately I can't drink that much anyway!

Have you ever lost your voice?
Anchang: No, I haven't. I even sing when I catch a cold.

Have you ever had vocal lessons?
Anchang: Yes! But only twice!(burst into laughter) then stopped, because I thought I was wasting my time.(laugh)

Was there anything you learned?
Anchang: Well, I don't think it was good enough. At that time I wasn't well-known, so my teacher recommended me to take vocal lessons before my debut, because my voice was quiet. So I took vocal lessons at her insistence.

I had no idea that your voice was quiet!
Anchang: At that time, I didn't know anything about voice exercises. I stopped going to lessons before I learned how to do them, but I felt so frustrated that I trained myself. Life is the most practical voice training for me.

You released a solo album the maintenance. How did you want to be different from the music of SEX MACHINEGUNS?
Anchang: The music of SEX MACHINEGUNS is basically classical heavy metal, so anything that wasn't that was OK for me. Honestly, the album turned out similar to SEX MACHINEGUNS' music (laugh) but in my mind, I was trying to make different songs.

-Questions to Circuit V. Panther-

How old did you start playing guitar?
Panther: When I was 16 years old, at high school. My parents bought me a guitar, so I decided to learn how to play it.

Did you make your own band?
Panther: Yes, but I was living in countryside so there was no live house, which meant the band was playing just for high school festival.

You released 2 solo albums Sexy Finger and Sexy Finger II. What kind of music are they?
Panther: These are instrumental albums, with only guitar music. (laugh) I played guitar and a little bit of bass, and all the other sounds are synthesized, which a computer programmer helped me with. I would say these albums are a lot like the albums which many guitarists released around 15 years ago when quick guitar players were popular.

Anchang, Panther, how do you see each other as same guitarists?
Anchang: Panther is a really good guitarist. He's totally different from me; he plays guitar carefully and his scales are difficult. I'm OK as long as I feel good. (laugh)
Panther: Anchang plays guitar wildly.

I saw the live video in Budoukan and your guitar battle of Mikan no Uta was so cool. Do you respect each other?
Anchang: Well, I've already given up keeping up with him.(burst out laughing)
Panther: I can know how Anchang plays, so I'm trying to play the parts he won't.

Could you give some advice any young guitarists who read this interview?
Panther: I'm working as a professional guitarist right now, but I started at the bottom of the ladder and took long time work my way up. You have to keep trying and not give up, otherwise you'll have no chance to succeed.

Do you have any practical advice?
Panther: Don't play things you don't enjoy (burst out laughing) We often see things that say "You should play like this.", but we can't do that if we're not enjoying ourselves.

What do you think about using textbooks?
Panther: Well, if you find them helpful you should use them, but many people don't like the way they teach. We didn't use them, so I guess they're not necessary if you want to play guitar like us!

Do you play exactly to the music you're given?
Panther: No! I can't read it at all!( burst out laughing)

Some guitarists say it's better to ignore the scores and listen to the music carefully.
Anchang: Yes! I'm one who'll ignore the scores totally! (laugh) Nuances are more important for me, so I prefer studying about my favourite guitarists how they play.

-Questions to Speed Star Sypan Joe-

You left SEX MACHINEGUNS before, but now you've come back. What do you think of the band?
Sypan: I think this band is great!(laugh) All the members are great, both in their music and their personalities.

I heard it was because of ill health. Did you have a bad back?
Sypan: I had a disc hernia, so I couldn't stand up during our live tour.
Anchang: Sypan is too dedicated playing the drums! He had lumbago already but went on the live tour, only going into hospital when the it finished.

Sypan, I know you play two heavy bass drums. Did you have to have an operation?
Sypan: Thankfully, no I didn't. I think if I had an operation I wouldn't be able to play like I do. I was lucky to recover the way I have! (laughs)
Anchang: He had a lot treatment and rehabilitation, and changed the way he played the drums, which has had a massive effect.

How did you change your playing style?
Sypan: I'm hitting drums lighter than before, but when I'm live, I always go back to the way I used to play. It's okay, because I'm not doing it all the time now, so I can handle it. Sometimes I don't even realise I've changed how I play, so it's good that the others have noticed, otherwise I'd worry!

When I met you just after your live-show in Kanazawa, you were exercising regularly. Do you have to do special exercises in order to be able to continue with your life-style?
Sypan: I do stretch exercises everyday, and I've started doing sit-ups recently. My doctor said that my back muscles are strained enough just sitting up like I am now, so instead I'm doing loads of abdominal exercises.(laugh) A lot of people say I'm doing too much; 200 sit-ups a day in fact! (We were all surprised!)
Anchang: I would die if I did 200 sit-ups!(bursts out laughing)

The album HEAVY METHAL THUNDER has many up-tempo songs. Was it hard for you playing quickly like that?
Sypan: Yakiniku Party is the fastest song on the album; in fact one of the fastest of all our songs. Honestly... I think it’s too fast! (laughs) But even the rest of the songs are still faster than average.

Did the song become faster when you were recording it than you had originally planned?
Anchang: It's possible. We would always try and play faster and break our own records (laughs)

Which song was the most difficult to play the drums for?
Sypan: All the songs were quite difficult. As for the speed, Yakiniku Party was the hardest. Unexpectedly though, 4 was also difficult for me.

4 is a unique song. When I heard this song, I was a little bit surprised, because it didn't sound like the usual SEX MACHINEGUNS type of song. Who wrote this song?
Anchang: I wrote it. To be honest, I thought this song wasn't really our band's style, so I thought that the members wouldn't like it.(laughs) But Sypan and Kenjilaw really wanted to play it.

In one album, having various types of song is interesting.
Anchang: Sypan found it difficult to play 4, because there were many parts that differed from classical heavy metal rock, which he had never played before.
Sypan: Yes, you are right!(laugh) but it was good to be playing something different!

Has it been played live?
Anchang: No, not yet...(laugh) There are some problems with instruments. As for guitars, we normally use a 6 string guitar, but we need a 7 string when we play 4. We couldn't bring a 7 string guitar on our live tour, because we had too much gear already, so we just played 6 string guitar songs all the time.

Anchang, in your solo album, there is an acoustic guitar song. Do you play this song live?
Anchang: We didn't use acoustic guitar when we were playing live. We played the song using an electric guitar made to sound similar to an acoustic.

Whenever I see you guys live, I feel a real love for music!.

Anchang: Yes! We enjoy playing music too, but we always get exhausted when writing it!(laughs) Heavy metal music looks easy, but it's actually very elaborate music.(laughs) People who can't play expertly can't really play heavy metal.

-Questions to Samurai W. Kenjilaw-

You were the bassist for the band cali≠gari, whose music style was totally different from that of the SEX MACHINEGUNS. What's your opinion on that?
Kenjilaw: Yes! Everything is totally different, both the music and the people involved!

Was switching styles confusing for you?
Kenjilaw: I have always been fond of heavy metal music, so I didn't find changing styles that confusing!
Since I was a junior high school student, I've been addicted to this music. I haven't played in a heavy metal band before and I wanted to some day.

How do you feel about actually being a member of this band?
Kenjilaw: I kept thinking "It's so loud!"(burst out laughing) Objectively speaking, SEX MACHINEGUNS has a special style among heavy metal bands, with Anchang singing and playing guitar in the centre. Our style is pretty unique in Japan, although some bands from overseas are similar. I think we're pretty special, and what's more, the sound of the two guitarists is just so heavy and low; it's awesome!

Did you change your playing style for the band?
Kenjilaw: Yes, I had to change! I realised the difference between listening to the music and actually playing the music, and so I had to change because I didn't know heavy metal bass at all, since I was just a listener and a heavy metal kid.

Do you get wrist pains from playing bass too hard?
Kenjilaw: Yes, I do. In my old band, I got wrist pains in my left hand, now I get them in my right!.(laugh)
Anchang: Hey, who knew?!(bursts out laughing)
Kenjilaw: Well, in heavy metal bands, I'm always picking a lot more. That means I concentrate my attention on picking with right hand now. It's a big change from how I used to play.

Kenjilaw, did you play bass from the beginning in your music career?
Kenjilaw: Yes. I've been playing bass since I was a junior high school student. Generally speaking, bass isn't as impressive as lead, and so not many people play this instrument as it seems like the "left over" instrument in a band. (laugh) But actually I found it so easy (laughs) and I thought if I worked hard at it, I'd have a good chance at becoming a musician.

Did you play music from childhood?
Kenjilaw: I’ve played violin since I was small. I liked classic music.

So, you mix classical elements into you music?
Kenjilaw: No...I don't.(bursts out laughing)
Anchang: It hasn't appeared in our music yet, but Kenjilaw can play bass as fast as I can lead guitar!

In your live, you said "Kenjilaw can play bass very fast!". Are you going to make the most of this in your music?
Anchang: Well, to be honest, we released only 1 album with these members, so we couldn't express our music fully. In the 2nd and 3rd album, there will be songs in which Kenjilaw can use his style more. We are trying a number of different ideas.

How do you feel joining in the band? Are you enjoying yourself?
Kenjilaw: The members are nice!(laugh) Before I said we're a heavy metal rock band, but we have to do a lot of work in behind-the-scenes, because our music is made up by accurate timing. Whenever we work on our music, we concentrate on each and every detail. We get back our energy by adjusting our thinking, when we have a lot of work to do.

-Questions to all members-

What bands were you influenced by in your youth?
Sypan: I was influenced by Japa-Meta(=Japanese metal rock), such as LOUDNESS, 44 MAGNUM, and ANTHEM, as well as Western heavy metal, such as METALLICA and MEGADETH. I think MEGADETH had the most impact on me.
Anchang: I was fond of listening to Western music, like RATT, Motley Crue and METALLICA. I also listened to Japanese music, but I preferred Western music more.
Kenjilaw: I always loved the music on TV, and bought the records of popular Idols which were seen in ranking TV programs. Heavy metal music was something I picked up later. I started to become familiar with rock when it appeared on TV, with bands such as LOUDNESS and SEIKIMA II.
Panther: My case is almost the same as Sypan. I started with Japa-Metal, then Western music.

Your videos, such as Demae icchokusen and S.H.R~Sexy Hero Revolution have unique stories. Did you write them yourselves?
Anchang: No, we didn't write them, but we discussed our ideas with the director. The director was a crazy man who thought of ideas even we couldn't have imagined. He'd bring his ideas to us and ask "What do you think about it?", then we'd say "Let's do it!" or "We can't do it!".

I saw the video of Suspense gekijou(=the suspense drama), and your acting was really professional. Do you want to do more acting work?
Anchang: I don't think I can be an actor (laughs) As our director said, it was more interesting that we were forced to act without any training or experience.
Kenjilaw: A real actor and actress appeared in the video. It'd be interesting comparing them to us, because they were professional, and we couldn't act at all even though we were doing our best. Acting was difficult, but I enjoyed it.(laugh)
Anchang: Well, we have to top the charts with music first, so we've not got a lot of time for other things!

Did anything interesting happen while shooting?
Anchang: When we filmed Suspense Gekijou, it was terribly cold in January! We rented a western mansion for shooting, which was civic property and supposed to be set up with heaters. The mansion did have heaters but... the gas had stopped!!!(burst into laughing) It was really cold!

Each of you has an unusual name. How did you think of them!? (All burst out laughing.)
Anchang: Well, I'll start my gibbering. (Sypan laughs loudly.) The reason we have unusual names is because we are a unique rock band, and we didn't like common names like other Japanese artists. We wanted to have unforgettable names, like our band name 'SEX MACHINEGUNS'. As for me, my last name is 'Ando', so I used to be called 'Anchan' in Japanese. I wrote it in English and added a 'g' to the end, making 'Anchang' like a Chinese. (laugh) Of course, it's half a joke.

I happened to listen to you on a radio program soon after your debut, and thought you were fascinating. Your band's name 'SEX MACHINEGUNS' and your own name 'Anchang' were so unusual, your talk was very funny, and your music was heavy metal rock; everything was impressed me. At that time, you were talking about your father, and how he reacted when you decided to become a professional musician.
Anchang:He didn't support me a lot. (laughs) My father was strange. When I said "I'm going to buy a guitar!", usually a normal father would say "Are you going to disobey me!?" or "No! You're not allowed to!". My father is an old style man. He said "Are you going to be a singer!?"! (bursts out laughing) I thought "Hey!? What is my father saying!?". (laughs)

I remember you talking about your father. Once you lost your way, and went back to your home town to carry on your family business. You consulted your father and he said "Do whatever you want, because you haven't enjoyed your life yet!" That story really impressed me!
Anchang: Oh, that'd be my mother! My father was rather stern and conservative, so my mother said to me "You should enjoy yourself, then come back home! Because you haven't enjoyed your life enough."

Sypan: My name 'Sypan' is from 'cycling pants'. (laughs) At first, when I had SEX MACHINEGUNS' audition, I wore cycling pants. But 'Sypan', as an abbreviation of 'cycling pants' wasn't clear, so we decided that 'Saipan Island' would be what 'Sypan' stood for.

Your face doesn't look very Japanese, looking more like a handsome actor. (All go "Oh~!") Did you play sports or something?
Sypan: No, I didn't. At that time, all heavy metal drummers used to wear cycling pants called 'spats'. My favourite drummer, Nick Menza of MEGADETH, always wore cycling pants. Then I thought "I must put on cycling pants!", and kept wearing them.
Anchang: Well, Sypan looks like an athlete, so it was good idea, wearing cycling pants.(laughs) But... I was shocked back then! (Sypan laughs loudly.) "Who wears cycling pants in an audition!?" (laughs) When I learned why he wore them I wasn't so surprised, but when he came to the audition saying "Nice to see you!" in his cycling pants (Sypan keeps laughing like a mad man.) I was really frightened! (bursts out laughing)

Kenjilaw: My name is 'Murai Kenjiro', so whenever I go overseas, I'm often asked if there's a link between 'Murai' and 'Samurai'.(laughs) Of course, there is no link between the two, but foreign people wouldn't understand that. When I went to live in the United States, I was called 'Samurai' all the time, so I chose the name 'Samurai' because of that.

'Samurai' is a cool name. Why don't you wear kimono and katana on stage?
Kenjilaw: When I do lives overseas, I would do so, like I'm a Japanese samurai!.(laugh)
Anchang: He is so far from samurai, more like a soul musician! (burst out laughing)

Panther: I'm from Mie prefecture, where there aren't many famous places except Suzuka Circuit and Ise Jingu.
Anchang: 'Ise Jingu Panther'!!! It would be a better name!( All start laughing)
Panther: 'V' is named after my favourite guitarist, Steve Vai. 'Panther' comes from my appearance, because I look like the Pink Panther.
Anchang: No, he doesn't look like the Pink Panther. (laugh) He is slim and sexy, especially his ass! (laugh)

By the way, after SEX MACHINEGUNS broke up in July 2003, why did you decide to form again?
Anchang: Well, I thought I would form the band again, but I had no idea that it would form so quickly. At that time I was doing my live solo tour, and the members were gathering together naturally, so we decided to form again.

Could you tell me what you were feeling when forming the 4th SEX MACHINEGUNS?
Sypan: I have loved heavy metal music since my childhood, now I actually do it. This is miracle, but if it would become ordinary, then it would be the end. So I'm trying to stay pure, loving this music. SEX MACHINEGUNS is a special band and I'll do my best, not making limits, rather, just doing what I can!

I hope you will keep challenging new things. Now heavy metal and hard rock aren't so active in the Japanese music scene, but SEX MACHINEGUNS is still quite full of energy!
Anchang: Are we full of energy!? (laughs) Well, I think we were lucky, because there are no other bands like us.

Do you think, if you did the same things as other bands, it would be difficult to succeed?
Anchang: Yes. There are many people playing heavy metal music, but most of them are acting underground and are not popular in Japan. We made our plans because we really wanted to do heavy metal music, about our debut and catching audience by this music. There was no other way for us. For example, my friend likes heavy metal music but he is doing pop music, which I never want to do. We were thinking how to be bigger and more popular, and started playing the original style more and more, different from other bands.

You dare to sing songs in Japanese, not in English. It's so original. And your lyrics are very unique!
Anchang: That's one of our strategies.
Kenjilaw: This style of playing heavy metal music is only Sex Machineguns in Japan. I want many people in the world to know all about our originality.
Panther: Heavy metal music seems to be old music already, so many people don't know the classical style, and they think playing a 7 stings guitar like many other bands is heavy metal music. But we are different from them. I'm happy if young people listen to our music and feel fresh.

Is SEX MACHINEGUNS signed to a major label?
Anchang: Yes, we belong to Virgin Records.

The album HEAVY METAL THUNDER is quite different from the album IGNITION. Did you change your style to your original source?
Anchang: I didn't care at all because the way to make and play music was the same as before. Members are different and each member makes songs, then we made this album gathering our songs together. So it's better to say, we don't return to our original source, but all members like really heavy metal music in this album. I used to play with Sypan, but I didn't know how he had been for 4-5 years. Panther made 2 solo albums and should be growing more. As for Kenjilaw, I have never played with him, so I couldn't imagine how he played and what he made. Anyway, we all gathered our songs and made an album, HEAVY METAL THUNDER. We choose 11 songs out of 30 songs.

Your lyrics are so unique! When do they come into your mind?
Anchang: (Anchang mimics taking a shower and hums.) Well, when I'm taking a shower...huhuhu...(bursts out laughing) I can't say exactly when, because sometimes they come to my mind, but sometimes I can never think of them however hard I try.

How was the recording? Do you all discuss and give ideas to each other while creating in the studio?
Anchang: Yes. We made almost complete demo tapes, so recording itself is as simple work as putting good sounds together.

Do you make lyrics first?
Anchang: No, I don't have a fixed way. Once we drunk alcohol and had talked in a bar, and a good idea came into our minds, then we made it into a song in the studio next day. Sometimes I make a melody first, then write the lyrics later. There are various patterns, such as Sypan makes a song while Kenjilaw writes lyrics.

What was your impression of the national live tour, 2005?
Kenjilaw: It was my 1st national tour as a member of SEX MACHINEGUNS, and it was very hard. The audience went so wild that I didn't want to lose to them!

Could you tell me about the single Aijin 28?
Sypan: I wrote the original song. I can't play guitar, so I used my computer to make songs. I made some mistakes, so other members corrected them during our recording.
Anchang: How can I put it...this song is strange, but anyway, please listen to it!(laugh)

Could you tell me what you plan to do next?
Anchang: We are going to record some things in Nashville in Tennessee, USA We will work with American engineers and put in some American style in our music.

Are you interested in activities overseas?
Anchang: We are ready to go anytime! Besides some problems of expenses...(laugh)

Finally, please give your message to foreign fans.
Sypan: We are a very special and unique band.(laugh) I'm happy if you know and are interested in us. I hope to see more of you!
Anchang: I was growing up with Western music, and I really want to do lives overseas, which is my dream. But it has no meaning if we just go. I want to go where fans are waiting for us. We'll work harder, so please support and invite us!
Kenjilaw: However far from Japan, distance doesn't mean anything to music. I have been interested in how foreign people feel about Japanese heavy metal bands, so I want to go and see overseas! I hope we'll see you soon!
Panther: I have never been overseas, and can't imagine what it is like. I think there is no border among musicians. I'm happy if you like us and invite us.

There are many Japanese heavy metal fans overseas, and they are discussing Japanese heavy metal music in internet forums. (laugh)
Anchang: Really!?...I don’t want to be in trouble! (bursts out laughing)

Thank you very much taking time out for a JaME interview!
All: You're welcome!

Interviewer: Non-Non

Special thanks to MARSA for arranging the interview, and to TOSHIBA-EMI for offering SEX MACHINEGUNS' photograph.
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