Interview with TAIA

interview - 14.05.2011 10:01

Okinawan metal band TAIA shares about their formation, music and future.

Formed in 1998, Okinawan metal band TAIA has gone a long way from being a fledgling band formed by college friends to become a band that goes around the whole of Japan, a country where metal music is not mainstream. In this interview, JaME finds out more about their background and music.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

SEIKA: I am the vocalist, SEIKA.
YASHA: I am YASHA. I am the bassist.
TAKA: I am TAKA. I'm the guitarist.
URA: My name is URA. I am the right guitarist.
FUGA: I am FUGA and I am in charge of keyboard.
KEN: I am KEN and I am in charge of TAIA’s drums.

How did the TAIA members meet each other?

YASHA: We were formed from a club at our university, and we met the new members URA and KEN through band activities.
SEIKA: At the university club, I was the junior of YASHA and TAKA. I joined TAIA because they invited me to.
FUGA: We’ve had several member changes, so we all met in different ways. My senior in college had a band, and we started playing together. The newest members, guitarist URA and drummer KEN, were in another band and we scouted them.

What does the name TAIA mean and how did you choose it?

YASHA: Our very first drummer, who is female, chose the name, and she had taken it from Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry. We turned it into Japanese characters because we want to show that we treasure the Japanese language.
SEIKA: When I joined the band and heard the band name and how it came to be, I remember thinking how the dark image and atmosphere of Poe’s poem matched the music we were about to do so well. When we are composing, we do not purposely think of it, but I think the atmosphere associated with the term “TAIA (the raven)” still matches the music that we make currently.

Your music sounds similar to European metal. What are some of the artists and bands you are influenced by?

TAKA: I like the North European melodic death metal. I listen to IN FLAMES frequently, so I think I’ve been influenced by them.
URA: I like German metal so I think I’ve been influenced by that.
FUGA: Usually all of us take part in making the music for TAIA. Because everyone has a slightly different taste for music, there isn’t a definite influence per se. But including myself, several of us like European metal music, so perhaps it shows in our music.

TAIA has been around for 13 years. How have you evolved since the day you first started playing as a band?

SEIKA: It feels more like family amongst the members now.
YASHA: We’ve had a lot more opportunities to let more people listen to our music, so our awareness as musicians has gotten more intense.
URA: When I listen to our old music and compare it to our new music, I feel that we have evolved a lot. Everyone has gained more experience, and also expanded on the music arrangement side as well. I think our abilities to express ourselves have gotten a lot better.
TAKA: Although we were just a fledgling band formed by college friends, we have become a band that goes around the whole country.
FUGA: Because most of the TAIA songs are made together by all the members of TAIA, the tune changes whenever we have a member change. Also, even with the same members, the tune changes depending on the mentalities of the members, the music they've been listening to, and the musical experiences they have at the time as well. We are not yet perfect musicians; we will continue to grow and evolve, so it would be great if people could enjoy our journey and transformations.

What are some things that inspire you when writing new songs?

TAKA: Hmm, there isn’t really a specific inspiration, since music just comes out when I touch the guitar.
URA: For me, I like to take a walk during quiet times when there aren't many people around. I walk around in the quietness while thoughts circle in my head and I view the scenery around me, and bits and pieces of a song start to appear in my head.
FUGA: I listen to music and read. For me, I find different images or musical patterns, and I like to experiment with those in our music. Seeing other bands’ lives as well as classical music performances also inspire me. Keyboards can handle large varieties of sounds. In order to use the sounds in arrangements, it's important to know the real, original sounds, and live performances are good places to learn.

What are the most common themes in TAIA's songs?

YASHA: We really try to concentrate on making music that only TAIA is capable of making.
URA: That’s right. We don't make just "heavy" music, but we also keep in mind the importance of a song’s melody.
SEIKA: Speaking of TAIA’s lyrics, it would be “sadness and distress.” Each individual is tiny in the big universe, but the thoughts are big, and because of that I think people hold the same sadness and distress. And that specific way of thinking is the common theme in all of TAIA’s songs’ lyrics.

SEIKA, how does it feel to be the only female member of the band? In what way does your female viewpoint affect the music of the band?

SEIKA: Hmm, right. Honestly speaking, when I am with the band members I don’t really feel like I'm just a female, because everyone feels like family to me. Besides sharing music, I’ve also received much help from the members. On tour, they all look out for me, and I am very thankful for that. But I don't think being a female has any effect on the band. In music, there is no “if I was a man, if I was a woman,” of course there is a difference of voice range, but other than that, I really don't think gender limits anything. The characteristics of a music is made based on individual personalities. For that reason, I think “being a women” has not influenced TAIA’s music.

How has the traditional music from Okinawa influenced you?

URA: We don’t take elements of Okinawa folk songs and put that into our music, at least not consciously. But since we've listened to them for such a long time, subconsciously, there might be some influences.
KEN: For me, I have been influenced by the traditional music of Okinawa, the “Eisa” and the shamisen.
FUGA: I think there are almost no direct influences, because the music that we make with our instruments and arrangements is based on western style music. But since we live in Okinawa, there might be some subconscious Okinawa influences when composing or thinking of the images of our music. I don’t know if it's specifically the folk songs, traditional music, or the traditions themselves, but it’d be nice if listeners can sense those in our music.

It is uncommon for a metal band to reach the Oricon charts. How popular is metal music in Japan?

YASHA: There are metal fans, but it's not really a common genre of music.
FUGA: In the current Japanese music scene, metal music is not mainstream. There are also fewer bands in Japan nowadays, while more and more often the only people you see on stage are the singers or dance groups. Metal music is the type of music where instrument performers can also be the lead characters. If fans listen for the instrument parts, they should be able to get even more out of the music. I don’t know how popular metal will ever become, but I would like to work harder to have more people listen to our music, so thank you for your support.

Several of your songs are available in both Japanese and English. Why do you perform in two languages?

FUGA: The lyrics are usually in Japanese, but since we started releasing CDs outside of Japan, we wanted to have more people enjoy the lyrics, so we made the English versions.
YASHA: That’s right. As TAIA, we want people to listen to the lyrics and feel our world, so when we started getting overseas listeners, it became natURAl to release music with the lyrics translated into English.
SEIKA: The overall style and imagery of the songs change when the lyrics are to English, so there were some new discoveries for us as well.

SEIKA, what is the biggest challenge for creating English lyrics?

SEIKA: For the English lyrics, we work with a native English speaker who is bilingual. When we get the lyrics translated, it's hard to try to ensure that the meaning of the lyrics stay exactly the same as the original. Lyrics are different from other styles of writing. There are metaphors that are hard to understand, or parts where the main subject is blurred so that the listeners can make their own interpretations. In order for the translator to understand those parts, we've had many discussions. Japanese is a language that omits the subject a lot, but English is not the same, and sometimes a Japanese expression with the same number of notes in English would require more words, making it even more difficult to work within the song. I'm really grateful to our translator for the support, and I think most of the time the original meanings have come through intact.

What do you predict TAIA will become ten years from now?

TAKA: I’d like to see TAIA become a monster band!
YASHA: We might still be doing activities at our own pace, but our horizons probably would be expanded.
URA: Of course, I hope we’d have even more listeners than we have now.
KEN: My dream has always been to do a world tour.
FUGA: I don’t know about what the exact situation would be like, but I think it would be great to have more people in the world who like TAIA’s music. I think our attitudes towards music would be the same as now, and we will continue to make music that we love.
SEIKA: Ten years is a long time so it’s hard to say what might happen, but I think we’d still have our passion toward music. We will work hard to keep all the TAIA fans in the world.

Please leave a message for your international fans

SEIKA: We are really happy and thankful that TAIA’s music is being heard by overseas listeners! I’d really love to meet everyone and have everyone enjoy TAIA’s live. In order to have our dream of having overseas lives come true, we will work hard! Thank you to all our supporters out there!
YASHA: Right now we don't have any plans yet but we’d like to do lives overseas one day, so thank you for your support!
TAKA: Thank you all for supporting TAIA. We will work hard towards having a live overseas!
URA: We will continue to work hard so please continue to support us! Please come and watch our live in Japan if you have the chance! We will also work hard so we can do lives overseas!
FUGA: We have not been overseas to do lives yet, and have only been able to meet our overseas fans via CDs, online and YouTube. But we would like to go overseas one day. If we get to go to your country or the country next to you, please come and see us live. And in order to make that come true, we will need your continuous support.
KEN: TAIA will work hard!!! Thank you for your love!!

TAIA's music is available to international fans at JapanFiles

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