Interview with OGRE YOU ASSHOLE in Austin

interview - 11.20.2010 19:01

During the band's extensive tour in the USA, JaME was able to meet up with front man Manabu for an exclusive interview.

Starting at the beginning of November, OGRE YOU ASSHOLE went on a month-long tour in North America opening for the Canadian band Wolf Parade covering 18 cities. It was in the middle of their tour in Austin, Texas that JaME was able to meet up with Manabu, the leading man of the band.

Thank you for meeting with us. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Manabu: My name is Manabu Deto; I play guitar and sing vocals. I've also written all the band's lyrics. For our latest EP, I'm basically the main songwriter.

This is our first time interviewing you, so let's start from the beginning of your career. How did the band form? How did all of you come together?

Manabu: Me, Nori and Kei grew up in a prefecture called Nagano. I've known Nori since elementary school. In high school, that's when we met Kei. When we reached university, we met Takashi.

There is a story that your band name came from an anecdote with the bassist of Modest Mouse, an American band which seems to influence you. Could you please tell us more about how your name came to be?

Manabu: When were were in high school, Modest Mouse came to our home town called Matsumoto. Atara Nishi, he's the first drummer of our band, he asked Modest Mouse's bassist, Eric, for an autograph. Eric was drunk and he wrote "ogre you asshole" instead of his name. (laughs) A week or two after that happened, we had our very first show, so we chose that as the band name.

Before that happened, did you have an idea of a band name?

Manabu: Actually, before our first show, we had another project that we called Joy Division as a joke. (laughs)

"Asshole" is quite a derogatory word. Have you ever been worried about negative reactions? Have you received any negative feedback?

Manabu: We never expected or worried about any negative reactions. But being in Japan, if we got some sort of negative reaction from the audience,
it was more of a negative feeling toward Eric. (laughs) Also, some Japanese people don't know what "asshole" means.

Most of your overseas fans do not speak Japanese. What are your lyrics usually about?

Manabu: Our lyrics are basically poetic and abstract. Even with a Japanese audience, everyone has their own way of responding.

Do you usually try to come up with a theme for an album, or do you just pick songs that you want to put on the album?

Manabu: We've done both ways. Like our previous album called Foglamp. It's called Foglamp, so we wanted to make the songs very foggy and abstract. But with the most recent EP, we just kind of picked songs and went with it.

Let's discuss your song-creation process. How is a song normally created from start to end?

Manabu: Usually we just have a jam session together, and then we start crafting it, detailing it. For our most recent EP, Ukareteiru Hito, I basically made a demo at my own place and then showed it to the other band members, and together we detailed it.

You produced most of your releases through your own label, OYA. What were some challenges you faced to self-produce your band before you signed with VAP?

Manabu: Oh, I need to explain that. We've always written our own label name in the catalog, but it's not our own independent label. We're always working with another company. The first EP was with an indie label called R&C. After that, we released one full album and one EP working with another independent label called UK Project. And then we signed with VAP.

As already mentioned, you signed with the major label VAP in 2009. What are some similarities or differences between working with an indie label and a major label?

Manabu: Basically, there aren't any dramatic changes. The main difference is there are more people in the label who can help us. If I find a new idea and want to work on it, it's easier to go forward with it, including promotional stuff.

Your music sounds like it has been influenced by American acts such as Modest Mouse. Do you aim to make similar type of music as them, or do you specifically want to distinguish yourself as a Japanese band? What was it about this type of music that made you want to go in that direction?

Manabu: We didn't get too much influence from Modest Mouse, I think we sing differently. We have similar music, but we put a Japanese touch to it. I also feel that we don't just do one music type; only when we were indies was our style similar to Modest Mouse. Now we're absorbing more, so we're incorporating different influences. Our music is most of a left-field type thing, we don't follow the same mold as other bands. That's the type of audience we have in Japan; the ones that like the unusual type bands.

Your newest release, Ukareteiru Hito, has a very 'warm' and 'full' sound compared to previous releases. What made you decide to incorporate these kinds of sounds in your music?

Manabu: For our previous release, Foglamp, we intended to have songs that are foggy and very obscure, but then I felt that the final result was kind of dark. Then for the newest release, I thought if we used the same jamming style we would produce a similar result, the same style we made for Foglamp. So this time, I produced demos at home and then presented that to the band. So I tried a different process from before.

This is your first tour outside Japan: what were some of your expectations or worries about being in the USA for such a long period of time?

Manabu: Before I came, I heard from some people who had already toured the States tell us the food here would be terrible. (laughs) And after we came here, we found out that it wasn't so bad. So far we are eating healthy food, not bad things. We were also afraid about the distance between one city and another. It's much longer than in Japan. But so far it's going very well, we're not super tired. As far as the audience, Japanese fans are pretty shy, but they're very keen to the music and listen thoroughly. But here, the response is very energetic. It was very surprising. We feel very comfortable with how everything is going right now. Originally, I wasn't expecting anything from the American audience, I was just happy to finally tour here.

Are you going to continue to focus on the international music market, or will you mostly keep your activities in Japan?

Manabu: If we can, we want to try to continue touring outside Japan.

The cover art of your releases is very abstract, and it is all made by former drummer Arata Nishi, who used to be in the band. Does he think up the artwork all by himself, or do you collaborate with him, sharing your own ideas?

Manabu: I go and pick artwork that Arata has already created. So we don't collaborate on anything. We've known each other since elementary school.

Your PVs are very unique. Who comes up with the ideas? Are you able to collaborate with the video director to incorporate your own ideas?

Manabu: For the newest video called Balance, it was my idea. Usually, we're able to share ideas with the video director.

In the PV for your song Balance, you're drowned in confetti. What was the experience like? Was it difficult to film that?

Manabu: (laughs) Before we started shooting it, we were afraid that we might actually have trouble breathing once the paper was high enough, but that turned out to be okay. But the worst problem was the heat. It was very hot being in a box and then being engulfed in confetti. It wasn't difficult to play when we filmed it; it was just super hot. The staff started dropping ice from the top to help cool us down.

Looking back, you've been together for almost ten years. Please share some of the memories that stand out the most to you.

Manabu: One happy memory is our very first show, but a bad memory we have is with our first drummer Arata. He had a brain disease and went into a coma for a year. He eventually woke up, but he's unable to play drums any more. So that was the reason he quit the band. Since then, we've had many good memories.

Now here's a fun question: What kind of ogre would you want to be?

Manabu: A human being is kind of an ogre, a monster.

Please give a final message to your international fans.

Manabu: We want to try harder. We want to try having international shows once a year.

JaME would like to thank Koji for making this interview possible and Manabu for taking time to answer our questions. Also, many thanks to Kay and Aurore.
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