Interview with Ryo Fujimura

interview - 15.09.2011 10:01

Before his first performance in the Netherlands at Abunai! con, JaME had the chance to talk in-depth with the solo artist about his music, Europe and more.

On the 27th of August Ryo Fujimura held his first performance in The Netherlands at the annual Japanese culture convention Abunai! in Veldhoven. Before the live, Ryo Fujimura took some time to enthusiastically talk to us about his music, thoughts on Europe and gratitude towards his fans and the Abunai! staff. During our chat, we also got to find out why he is not really passionate about sightseeing and how this bachelor would like to spend his ideal summer.

First of all, how are you doing and how does it feel to be in Europe again?

Ryo Fujimura: I’m really happy to be back again. Today is the very first time I will be performing in The Netherlands. So yeah, basically, I am really excited and happy with this opportunity. When I am back in Europe it kind of feels like being back home.

How is your tour going so far? You performed in Paris yesterday and you just arrived here in The Netherlands. Did you have the chance to do any sightseeing so far?

Ryo Fujimura: Yes that’s right, I had a live in Paris yesterday and it took around six hours to get here by car. However, I don’t think the trip was that long, since I spent my time sleeping in the car. It was the second time I performed in Paris, where I played an acoustic live. I haven’t done any sightseeing though. I try to keep myself from going on sightseeing trips, because I’m not here to play around. Not having any time is not the main issue, it’s just that I don’t make any room for it. I don’t really know what’s happening where and what sort of things are going on. Furthermore, I wouldn't want anything bad to happen if I were to go somewhere. I want to avoid taking those kind of risks. If I want to go out for fun I don’t take my guitar with me, but when I do I don’t want to be playing around. I have never really taken a trip in Europe. When an organizer has a specific place they would like to show me, I will of course definitely not refuse the offer. I don’t go on trips even outside of Europe as I’m just not the kind of person to go sightseeing. This probably sounds very boring, doesn’t it? (laughs) When I go somewhere I want to take a deep interest in things. I don’t want to go somewhere to get a quick look and go like “oh, that’s what this is about.”

What can fans expect from the concert tonight? Do you have a specific concept for the show?

Ryo Fujimura: It’s the first time I will be playing in The Netherlands, so I feel I have to introduce myself to the listeners here. I chose several tracks from my three albums to represent my music. However I won’t be doing an acoustic live tonight because the stage is so big and it wouldn’t have the right ambiance. I’ve already made a set list for tonight, but I might still change it, depending on the reaction of the audience.

How do you create your songs and what gives you inspiration?

Ryo Fujimura: I always write things down if I have inspiration. I honestly don’t have anything in particular that inspires me. I am actually always thinking about music. I can get inspiration from various things, like reading a manga or even when I am watching a television show. Some people might find their inspiration by going on a trip, but like I said earlier, I’m not really the type of person to go travelling. Basically, everywhere I go, I already tend to think about music.

How do you record your songs? You play the guitar and keyboard yourself, but how about the other instruments such as bass and drums?

Ryo Fujimura: I record my songs in my home studio. I can play the bass myself as well, but I can’t play the drums and therefore I use software like a drum computer. Sometimes I get help from my friend who is a drummer — he knows more about that then I do. To be able to create the deep nuances of the drums I ask him and he gives me instructions and guidance.

Your most recent release was the mini-album Artifice in February. What was the concept for this mini-album?

Ryo Fujimura: The last two tracks have a bit of a visual kei style to them. But in comparison to my previous releases I think it’s simpler and more straightforward, and maybe even a bit more dirty and hard.

Seeing as most European fans do not know Japanese, could you tell us about the messages you want to express with your lyrics?

Ryo Fujimura: My latest release has two Japanese songs and two English songs on it. I hope people can understand a part of my thinking this way and I’m able to express my thoughts through my music. I have a friend who can translate from Japanese to English and I sometimes upload the translated lyrics onto my blog. Every song conveys my message and my way of thinking, but I don’t feel there are big differences in the meaning in my songs. In my music, I might come across as not so kind and maybe even a bit cynical, though.

Last year you composed the song KUON for a game and it featured some traditional Japanese sounds, which seems a little unusual for your music. Why did you choose to add this type of sound, and was it difficult for you to add this style?

Ryo Fujimura: I wrote the song but the arrangement was done by someone else. The traditional Japanese style fits the traditional Japanese style of the game, therefore the song naturally also went in that direction. It’s connected to the song ENISHI by my former band AciD FLavoR. Therefore, adding traditional elements is something that was easy for me to do. ENISHI was created around three or four years ago and to be doing the same things as four years ago might be seen as not having made much progress. That’s why I prefer to not pursue that style any more, but because of my previous experience it is relatively simple for me to create.

Do you already have plans for a new release?

Ryo Fujimura: We are talking about that right now, but I am always recording tracks. I don’t necessarily only record new tracks for an album, I just record songs when they come to mind. From those songs that I have recorded I will chose which songs I will be releasing on my album and when it comes to choosing the songs for a new release, I only select the songs that are timeless. I’m 30 now, but I still want to be playing in five, even ten years from now. Therefore, I want to choose songs that I can still sing in the future. For instance, love songs I wrote when I was 20 years old are songs that I don’t really want to be playing any more today. That’s why I am focussing on making songs that are timeless and songs that I can still play in the years to come.

So far, all three of your CDs have been released in Europe only. Do you also have plans to release your work in Japan?

Ryo Fujimura: At the moment I am looking for a label in Japan. For example, I do make songs like KUON for games. However, the songs that I am creating now as a solo artist and songs like KUON are different. To align the things that I want to do and the things that are desired by record companies is something very difficult. If they ask me to create a certain type of song then I might be able to do that easily. However, I’m not sure if I want to be contracted that way. Of course I am also active in Japan, but for the moment I am still looking for a label.

When you’re in Europe, what do you miss about Japan?

Ryo Fujimura: The last time I came to Europe was around February, March. Around the time the big earthquake hit Japan. I got an email from my younger sister and a telephone call from my mother saying they were alright. Fortunately my family was safe and doing okay. To be honest, I try not to think about Japan when I am in Europe. This time as well, I try not to think about Japan too often now I am here. Since I don’t have a girlfriend, I only have my family to think about. I do of course think about my friends as well, but that’s about it. The moment I board the plane I feel like I have to be the artist Ryo Fujimura. I don’t think about Japan and I don’t really miss the food when I am in Europe. It might even like the food here better, since I don’t really like to eat seafood. In Japan sashimi and sushi are eaten a lot, right? When I come here I’m already really satisfied eating cheese, for instance. I don’t have any trouble adapting to the lifestyle here in Europe either. Sometimes I even think that Japan is loud: when I come here it’s so spacious and quiet. At those times I feel like I don’t want to back to Japan, really. (laughs) If I had a girlfriend, than I might have the feeling that I would want to go back to Japan, but I don't… (laughs)

And when you’re in Japan, what do you miss about Europe?

Ryo Fujimura: This answer is just basically the opposite of what I just said before. When I am in Japan I can’t help but feel I want to go back to Europe. Don’t get me wrong, I love Japan. It’s just that there are some large differences. For example the audiences in Japan and Europe are quite different. I know that the Japanese audience is also diligently listening and enjoying the music. Of course I should not be comparing them, but when I come to play here in Europe, it’s different. The atmosphere is just right here and the audience is really excited. That’s why I can’t help but feel I want to keep coming to Europe. When I hear other artists are going, I get the feeling I want to be able to go as well.

Just for fun, seeing as it’s summer now, what would be your dream vacation?

Ryo Fujimura: Looking at fireworks and going to the sea. Because of the earthquake a lot of the firework festivals have been cancelled, so this year I wasn’t able to see any fireworks. But exactly today (August 27th) there is a firework festival in Tokyo. You might think that I am a workaholic, but for me the most ideal way to spend my summer vacation is coming here and holding a tour. These live performances are what I enjoy doing most. Of course not only in the summer; I would love to do this any time during the year. Besides, I don’t really feel like going to watch the fireworks in yukata together with my girlfriend. (laughs)

You’re talking a lot about girlfriends.

Ryo Fujimura: Well, we are talking about a dream vacation right. (laughs)

You mean you would want to go if you had a girlfriend?

Ryo Fujimura: Well, if I had one… but I don’t. I’m okay on my own.

What do you think about today’s event, Abunai!?

Ryo Fujimura: It’s great that these kind of Japanese culture events exist even though there is such a huge distance between here and Japan. People here can enjoy things that are being made in Japan, like manga and anime and games. Despite the different languages, people still get to enjoy and experience the Japanese culture. That is something I’m really pleased about. It’s great if people are able to understand it but I am really happy when people say they love it when experiencing it themselves, as it is more emotional through sensation. When people take an interest in Japan and come and have a look, I feel I have to answer (to their expectations). The more I see it, the more I feel that I have to do my best, and that feeling becomes more evident. It doesn’t make me nervous though. Maybe it’s because I am getting old, but it’s not only the people who come here but also the staff I would like to thank: the people who organize these events, the people who convey our culture. Of course, I am very grateful towards the people who come to the event as well, but also towards the people who are promoting our culture. I feel that the staff would like to enjoy the event also, but they don’t have the time to play around. They are trying their hardest to let everyone have an amazing time and enjoy the event to the fullest. Therefore I really am grateful towards the staff and would like to say "thank you" to them. Of course I am grateful to the fans as well, but it’s a different kind of gratefulness.

Abunai! staff: We are enjoying ourselves a lot as well. We might even be enjoying it more, because we experience the event in a completely different way. We work on the preparations for about a year, so we truly get to experience the anticipatory pleasure and after that the main convention becomes like the cherry on top of the cake. It motivates us even more to work harder for the event. When you look out over the crowd, for whom you did all of this hard work, and they are enjoying what you planned, it’s extremely awarding.

Ryo Fujimura: That is really amazing!

Finally, please send a message to your fans.

Ryo Fujimura: I’m very happy that I’m getting the chance to perform in The Netherlands for the first time. I hope the people who come to watch my live today want to come and see me again. I’m not telling them to come see me live in Japan, (laughs) but it would be great if I could play again next year. It would be very nice if I could come back to this event again as well. I’m really hoping to connect to the audience and that they in return respond well to my performance. Even though we speak a different language, I hope they will be feeling something. It would be great if I could get a good response from the audience.

Abunai staff: Last year, we had Yuuki performing here and she was amazed by the positive reaction she received from the audience. This time we have sold twice as many tickets, over 500 people will be attending the show.

Ryo Fujimura: Twice as many? I will do my best!

Doesn’t that make you nervous?

Ryo Fujimura: No, not at all. Should I be nervous now? (laughs) Did I ever feel nervous about performing? (laughs) I’m not sure. When I started out with my band we would perform in small venues, and at those times I sometimes wondered what to do. I do worry sometimes if I am able to convey my message to the listeners. I don’t know if you could call that being nervous as I sometimes worry that I won’t be able to connect to the audience, but I’ll always do the best I can so I won’t have any regrets. You never know if you’ll be given the chance to come back again. Of course, I would like to do more performances, but you can never be sure. However, when I started out as a solo artist, I did feel nervous. I used to be a guitarist in my previous band so I didn’t used to be at the center of the stage, but when you are a solo artist all eyes are on you and you are in the middle of the stage. When you are alone you are the one responsible and you can’t make any excuses. That’s a big difference when performing alone. The transition was hard but now I’m no longer in a band. If I can’t come on my own any more, than that would be the end of it. That’s something I don’t want and that’s why I keep on coming, even if I’m alone.

Thank you very much for the interview!

JaME would like to thank Ryo Fujimura and the Abunai! con staff for making this interview possible.
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