DAITA: Exclusive Interview

interview - 12.23.2004 07:00

We met DAITA, the former guitarist of SIAM SHADE and now a solo artist, in Japan for an exclusive interview.

After twelve hours on a plane and a further three hours on the Shinkansen to Tokyo, I worked my way through the giant weekend crowd in Shibuya to arrive at the meeting point, a nearby hotel, for my interview with DAITA.

Inside the hotel's lobby, I meet DAITA's manager. We spoke with him about JaME and it's projects for the future and, 10 minutes into the conversation, his cell phone starting ringing. It was DAITA and he was waiting for us in the hotel's restaurant. His manager introduces everyone, and, after the usual exchange of pleasantries, our interview began.

What were you thoughts when you were composing the album Euphony?
DAITA: The third track, Suna no Shiro, was actually the very first track I composed and recorded for the album. It was also part of a demo that I brought to Sony Records. I was mainly looking for Asian influences to incorporate into the songs. There have already been concerts that rearrange famous classical pieces of music by mixing electric guitar and a philharmonic orchestra. But, I had never heard this kind of duet on original compositions until now. Therefore, I wanted to be the first one to do it and composed Euphony. I also thought it would be a good idea to have foreign musicians playing on the recording and I worked with an orchestra in China. When composing, I'm careful that the music not only melds with myself but also with the instruments.

We read in an interview that you initially composed Euphony using a keyboard then re-transcribed everything to guitar. It must have been difficult...
DAITA: Because they are tracks where my guitar plays the lead melody in the middle of an orchestral piece, I explained to the arranger during the arrangements how I was going to play my pieces. This way makes it easier for him to create a sound for my guitar and in the way he would do for a violin or any other orchestral instrument. This is how we made most of the arrangements. Classical musicians don't like it when sounds of one instrument "hurt" or sound dischordant with the sound of another instrument so I had to be careful that everything was perfectly harmonized.

Finally, when I composed this album, I looked for melodies by fiddling around with the piano because I learned to play it before guitar. I felt if I tried it first with guitar it just wouldn't sound right so when it got down to the final arrangements, I re-transposed everything for guitar.

From the beginning, you composed everything with a keyboard?
DAITA: Suna no Shiro was the only song that I composed with a guitar.

Your two albums, Direct Chord and Euphony, have very different styles. Are you wanting to experiment with even more new styles?
DAITA: Next year, I may have a project with a vocal part. On the other hand, I would like to do a solo album with a different style from what I've shown thus far and even play differently live. These two projects have no relation at all, but what I want to do will be different from Euphony.

I would really like to play some pure rock stuff. As I absolutely love prog(ressive) rock, I would like to record an album in that style. I think that mixing a prog rock track, which is long and complicated, with a more compact track in order to make it a song with a "normal time" could produce a good result.

And for your next album, do you intend to produce everything, like you already did for DIRECT CHORD?
DAITA: I'm not sure because I'm meeting with several musicians and I believe that there is a high probability that we will record something together and I'd like to have their input.

Do you think you might play with foreign musicians one day?
DAITA: If I have the time, I will think about it and, if there are musicians that would like to try it, I'm in!

Are there any musicians you'd like to work with?
DAITA: Whoo yes, a lot! (laughs) For example, RUSH. They're a Canadian rock band that I love!

And you recently went to one of their concerts, didn't you?
DAITA: Yes, I went to see them live in Chicago. But even in Japan there are several musicians that I would like to play with. So, if I have the opportunity...I would like working with every musician I meet!

Are there any Japanese musicians you especially like?
DAITA: First off, there's Kyosuke Himuro. (note: DAITA was playing for Himuro at the time) I also have a special affection for the musicians I was able to work with. We understand each other in our music. There are several artists that you can hear on the radio or watch on TV that I enjoy listening to. I really cannot specificially name anyone else.

Are there any European musicians that you like?
DAITA: (embarassed) Ummm...there are several... I love U2 as for hard rock, I also like the Scorpions and Judas Priest as well. There are also some American bands that I listen to occasionally.

What do you think about Japanese music coming to Europe?
DAITA: Japan is an island that's pretty much closed to itself and has its own specific culture and styles. The consequence is that, in fashion, music of anything else, we arrange it in our own way. We have our own meaning of "beauty" and knowing that Europe understands and appreciates it makes me really glad. Finding out that Europeans like Siam Shade's music and understand it also makes me really glad. I would like for them to learn more.

Right now, there are some young guitarists in Europe who are trying to play your compositions. What advice could you give them for composing?
DAITA: When I compose, technique is, of course, important but I'm a melodic guitarist so I give a lot of importance to the melody, the atmosphere of the song, the imagination. Train until you feel the guitar live inside the song. Listen to as much music as you can, learn from what you listen to and you will see that mixing this with your own sensitivity will give birth to new music.

As for me, I created EUPHONY by listening to European music. Therefore, I would feel really happy if, in the opposite way, a European musician influenced by Japanese music could create something.

A friend of mine is getting cramps from playing the tapping (note: a guitar technique) parts in your songs. What exercises could you recommend so that he could strengthen his fingers and wrist?
DAITA: It would be best to play as often and as much as possible. Whenever you have a free moment, play again and again. The muscles of a guitarist will develop and you will quickly improve. As for the wrist, try playing very quickly and playing difficult rhythms. It's good for the wrist... But you musn't do too much of it because you know, playing too much hurts your wrist! (laughs)

By the way, we regularly see photos of from your trips and meals you have eaten. Have you ever been in France before? Do you like our cooking?
DAITA: French cuisine is a luxury in Japan you know... (laughs) Of course, I already went to a French restaurant but I don't go to them very often. Japanese people see French cooking as being very luxurious and delicate, so that's why they don't go to them often. It's a little like the Japanese Kaiseki. (laughs) (note: a luxurious traditional Japanese meal) I also have a friend who just opened a French restaurant. I'm thinking about going but I'm not a specialist or anything.

Have you ever been to France?
DAITA: No, not yet, but I would like to! But, I have a friend that went there for his studies.

You like traveling abroad, don't you?
DAITA: As I've never been to Europe, I would like to go there.

What do you like when you travel abroad?
DAITA: Of course, the cultures, the countrysides... Each of them inspire me a little as if I went abroad in order to compose.

You enjoyed going on trips since you were a child?
DAITA: Ever since High School, actually. I had many trips with my schoolmates.

And you composed during these trips?
DAITA: Woooh no no, not yet! (laughs)

It looks like you like gyoza. (laughs)
DAITA: Ha ha ha! Gyoza are a good match with good beer!

I heard that you like ramen. Could you recommend some to the French people?
DAITA: You can eat ramen in France?? (very surprised)

Yes, of course! There's even a street in Paris dedicated to Japanese food!
DAITA: Reaaaallllyyyy---- (in admiration)

Do you watch French sports any?
DAITA: I like the French soccer team a lot, especially Henry and Zidane.

Did you know that European fans also visit your official website?
DAITA: What?! What do you mean?

It's easy to visit it thanks to the Internet. But as everything is written in Japanese, many unfortunately cannot read it. Have you thought of making an English version of it?
DAITA: Yes, we briefly talked of making one.

Adding many photos, like you do on your site, is a very good thing!
DAITA: On the Internet, if you don't add photos, I don't think it's very interesting. At least that's how I feel when I surf the net.

Another subject now. I went to your concert at Shibuya O-EAST and it was absolutely great. I never thought that a concert of instrumental rock could be that good and it was a huge success. Did you spend a long time preparing for it?
DAITA: Preparation was rather quick, but the rehearsals began two weeks before the show.

Did you immediately choose which musicians would play with you for this concert?
DAITA: I started working on this in May. I began asking several musicians to play at this concert in February, but as they are very popular musicians, they had to respect the planning for their own concerts in addition to our rehearsals: they were working for this concert and others at once, it was going well but slowly.

This concert was on a Monday, meaning that several fans that lived far away from big cities couldn't attend. It's sad...
DAITA: Yes, I know... Therefore, watch my DVD!

I'm really happy that nothing was cut for the DVD and that we can watch the concert in it's entirety.
DAITA: Yes, I wanted to make this DVD for those who couldn't attend the concert instead for "general sales." (note: this is why the DVD could only be purchased from his website and not from music stores)

Were you able to decide the set list of the show right away?
DAITA: About a month or two before the show, we had to think of the program for the concert. Especially chosing what tracks to play and in what order... We didn't have much to chose from anyway! (laughs)

You played all the tracks from your own albums and three from Volcano High.
DAITA: At first, I didn't intend to play tracks from that album. But, when I saw the reactions from fans on my website and they said they wanted me to play some of them, I then decided to play them during the show and chose the musicians.

And they're the same musicians that played with you on the presentation of VOLCANO HIGH.
DAITA: M. Saino played drums and Okanda was on bass. M. Saino also played keyboards and I played with him on Himuro's tour last year. M. Nakano was a technician but he wasn't really one of the musicians.

Your DVD isn't on sale in Europe, yet some fans were able to get a copy of it. What do you think about that?
DAITA: I'm really glad! (laughs) I just started my solo lives this year and I absolutely did not know how it was going to be after that.

You definately have to play a concert in Europe! A few Japanese rock bands have already played there.
DAITA: Yes, it would be absolutely great! (at this point, DAITA is looking at the concert dates on JaME's website) Hey, in 10 years I should try to dress up in visual kei style! (bursts out laughing)

As a solo musician, whether within a band or in a studio, I think there are several forms of musicial activities to explore. How do you see the ideal artist?
DAITA: Even today, I'm trying to be the one and only in my style, different from everyone and can't be imitated.

When I chose my guitar to the first time and tried to play it, all musicians that inspired me had shared this point of view. I would like to become like them. It's rare to find unique musicians who have their own originality nowadays.

To go on doing something you like and being successful in the business is really difficult. But a band like RUSH, for example, is one of these unique artists that are able to achieve it while keeping their own originality and image. I home I can become one of those exceptional musicians.

And this idea hasn't changed, even today?
DAITA: No, it hasn't changed. Even during the days of SIAM SHADE, I had this idea in my mind, thinking inside of me that this was just a way to try and reach this aim. I think a lifetime wouldn't be enough to do all that I want to musicially but, as long as I can, I would like to learn more and see and do what I like and have exciting experiences. I'm very impatient by nature and it's not easy to stop me. It's little like rugby. When you keep on running to the front without anyone being able to stop you, you see? (laughs)

Finally, would you like to say a few things to you European fans?
DAITA: I'm really surprised by how popular SIAM SHADE is, even though we've disbanded. Every member of the band now has a solo career and we all have a different style and sound from what we did in the band. I grew up listening to classical music and have always been interested in European music. This is why mixing this music with mine is something natural to me. Because it inspired me, and, it would be great if, thanks to the music, we could create a bridge between Europe and Japan.

If I'm given the chance to perform in Europe, I will gladly come. Keep listening to my music!
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