Interview with ZIZ

interview - 08.07.2017 01:01

ZIZ speaks to JaME in an in-depth interview about their music and more.

ZIZ is a band that has many fans not only in Japan, but abroad as well. Although band leader Közi attracts most of the attention, ZIZ is a band of talented individuals who all deserve your interest. As a continuation of the live report published a week ago, please check out JaME's first interview with the band. Bassist Sugiya was absent that day. Read on to find out their answers to some personal questions, how they create their music and a little talk about the past. Enjoy!

Firstly, please introduce ZIZ to people who have never heard about you. Do you have any special theme or concept?

Közi: There is no concept or genre that can describe our music. But if I had to say, not having a concept is our concept. All five members of ZIZ have been doing many different projects until now, and when we decided to play together, it turned out that all of us can make songs without specifying the genre. We mixed it and isn't exactly that ZIZ? So I dare to say this is our concept.

Chargeeeeee...: Our concept is that we create songs together. It's not that kind of band who has only one person who writes all the songs. We do it together. This is how our band works.

When did you decide to play an instrument? And also, why did you choose this particular one? Tell us something about it.

Chargeeeeee...: Second grade of secondary school. I was 14 years old, I guess. My friend started a band and I had no interest in it at all, but it was my very good friend, so I was always supporting him as much as I could. His band had a really, really bad drummer. Everyone could see that (laughs). So, I asked him if I could try to play a little. Well, I had no idea about playing drums but I felt I would be much better than that kid. Songs were rather simple, and when I tried to play, I realized I could do it. And it started. At that time, my sister was listening to LUNA SEA and it also had an impact on me. So, I became a drummer in such an environment. I'm very grateful to my friend.

Jiro: In my case it was because of the band KISS. I really loved them. In the third grade of secondary school I had a friend who played the guitar and I went to his house once. In his room he often held some kind of meetings for guys who wanted to play the guitar. And when I saw them playing, I thought, "That's pretty awesome!" We were learning from each other how to play, making different bands and so on. We really had fun together. I'm also grateful to my friends! (laughs) If we talk about the artists who had the biggest influence on me, I would say KISS and Nirvana, but I also love Japanese music! Shōwa Kayō! (original Japanese pop music popularized during the Shōwa Era in Japan)

Közi: Maekawa Kiyoshi, right? (laughs)

Jiro: Yes, yes! I really like melodies of those songs.

Közi: Actually, I can feel the atmosphere of Shōwa Kayō in songs created by Jiro.

Jiro: I love for example Uzaki Ryudo, Candies or Pink Lady. I also like Yamaguchi Momoe. If we talk about the sound, my favorites are Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. When I went to the house of that friend for the first time, I really wanted to enter his older brother's room because he was a big fan of KISS, but I was told I couldn’t do it. I totally ignored that and when I entered ... I saw the walls covered with KISS posters and I was like, "Wow!"

Közi: Their visual impact is very strong indeed, like, "Who are those people?!"

Jiro: When I saw a picture of KISS’ members holding the flying V (an electric guitar model released by Gibson, typical for KISS’ members) and jumping, I thought, "I want to be like them!" Their live album Alive II had a huge impact on me.

Yugami: In Japan, kids receive money as a present at the beginning of the new year. There was one year where I received really a lot. It was when I was in the sixth grade of elementary school. So, I decided to buy a guitar, but I didn't know how to play it at all.

Közi: It's a pretty nice idea as for a sixth grade elementary student! (laughs)

Yugami: My older brother liked BOØWY. That is why I decided to buy the same guitar model as their guitarist HOTEI (laughs). But I couldn't play, so until I went to junior high, I did nothing. Around the second year of secondary school, my friends came up with an idea to form a band, but because everyone was playing the guitar at that time, I decided to play the bass. I played only the bass until the band stopped its activities. After that, I thought of doing something else, so I started to play the synthesizer and I played it all the time before joining ZIZ. One day, however, ZIZ members told me, "Why don't you play some guitar?" So I thought, "Let's try!" If we talk about my music inspirations, it's for sure punk, techno, noise music and experimental music. About the players, in elementary school it was HOTEI from BOØWY and Imai from BUCK-TICK. And the most important album for me was HOTEI's GUITARHYTHM.

Jiro: GUITARHYTHM is the best! Really the best!

Közi: In my case, the bass was the first instrument that I played, not the guitar. It was just like Yugami said — everyone around wanted to play the guitar and when it came to playing gigs, there were no one who could play the bass (laughs). But when I was in secondary school, exactly when metal music from Los Angeles was at the peak of its popularity in Japan, there was one guy around who had an electric guitar. It was Watanabe Seiji (laugh). He often played Mötley Crüe or Ratt songs on stage. I never thought that I could give such a performance but when I saw him playing his distorted guitar, I was like, "Please let me play for a while!" I couldn't even do the palm muting, which is a total basic. Yeah and this is pretty much how I started to want to have my own band.

At first, I played the bass for a long time. I was performing for example in the town's community center, playing in many copy bands in my hometown, Niigata. I also did the vocal part because at that time, there were no fixed members. So, I did many different parts. I started to play the guitar in a band when I came to Tokyo. I was 18 years old. And from that time on, I always played the guitar, but I also had some episodes where I just danced (laughs). When I finished with that and started my solo works, I was put in a situation where I had to sing. I really never thought I was going to sing, but yeah, this is how I started my career as a vocalist. After that, Jiro and Chargeeeeee... joined me and you can ask them, I really couldn't sing, right? (laughs) Seriously.

Actually, I started to enjoy singing after we formed ZIZ, so It's quite recent. But I still can't sing that well. It's hard for me to choose who is my inspiration. If I had to say, I would say that I was affected by all the people whom I was working with. But If we talk about the people I have never met, I love David Bowie. And I admire him even more ever since I became a vocalist. I like him not only for his music but also for the way he was.



What is your impression of the fifth birthday live you played at Zirco Tokyo on May 27th?

Chargeeeeee: Since we started ZIZ, we’ve never played such a long live and also, we never played so many songs within one evening. We released a new mini-album the day before, and all of the songs were on the set list. Of course we couldn't play all of the songs we have written throughout these five years, but more or less we managed to show our repertoire to the audience.

So it was a first time for you to play such a long live, right?

ZIZ: Yes! (laugh)

Chargeeeeee…: When we saw our set list, we were like, "Wow! We really have so many songs?!" (laughs)

It must have been tough! (laughs) How long did the live last?

ZIZ: It was tough! (laughs) Somewhere around two-and-a-half hours.

Jiro: In the middle of the live my fingers and legs started having cramps! (laughs)

Közi: I also had some problems with cramping! (laughs)

Chargeeeeee…: That's the real exhaustion! (laughs)

Were there any troubles during the live?

Közi: Well, all of us had some small problems or made some mistakes. But since the atmosphere was so warm, including the reaction of the audience, no one paid attention to those small mistakes and we could put up a really enjoyable performance. There are always some troubles during every live. Our specialist of troubles is this person (looks at Jiro).

Jiro: It's like, "Oh! It happened also today!" (laughs)

Közi: But really, our audience still welcomes us very warmly even after those five years.

Chargeeeeee…: It was a very long live, but actually for me it was like the blink of an eye.

Was there anything which made this live different from the other lives you performed throughout these five years? Except the 27-song set list of course.

Közi: Each of us has his own memories, but for me personally, it was a very intensive live. I think I did my best as a vocalist.

There was an interesting machine in your merchandise shop ...

Jiro: Ah, the vending machine?

Do you have it with you every time?

Chargeeeeee...: It has always with us since three to four years ago.

What is inside?

Közi: Many different handmade things created by members.

We were wondering what that was. There was a big queue.

Jiro: Watches, earrings, all handmade.

Chargeeeeee…: Jiro is the one who creates the most! (laughs)

We would love to try to use it!

Jiro: We have it during every live, so you can try!

Chargeeeeee...: Try it next time!

We would like to ask about the stage costumes. How do you choose it?

Chargeeeeee...: We don't feel the need to show a sense of unity in the band by wearing fixed clothes. ZIZ is very diverse.

Közi: In ZIZ, you can wear whatever you want.

Do you talk with members about what kind of clothes you want to wear during upcoming live?

Yugami: I think we did it before the very first show. Five years ago, we had a small concept of wearing black clothes and leather. And that's all. In my case, I leave my house and I just perform like this (laughs).

Közi: You should perform with your skateboard then (laughs).

So you have no idea what clothes each of you is going to wear?

Közi: Exactly. We get to know about it when we meet in the livehouse.

Chargeeeeee...: There was never a situation where we would accidentally wear the same clothes as another member.

How do you find your favorite style? Do you have any favorite brand or designer?

Jiro: I often wear white, and also I don't really want to show the "rock style". This is how I choose my clothes.

Közi: You are showing your "fairy style"! (laughs)

Jiro: Yes, yes, yes!

Közi: Old fairy! (laughs)

Chargeeeeee...: I don't really want to spend a lot of money for stage clothes. If you have a good sense of style, you can present it in a very cool way even in cheap clothes. I don't think the "it's cool because it's expensive" way of thinking is right. That's why I buy almost all my stage clothes in Forever21, H&M and so on.

Yugami: I wear the same clothes as what I wear every day. Daily wear! (laughs)

During the birthday live you played so many different songs and we could hear many different genres, like for example punk or even reggae. Is the diversity of each member's musical preferences a reason for the diversity in your music?

Közi: Yes. For example, even if someone writes a very punkish song, we arrange it together and every member adds his own style to it, so as a result we have a very interesting mix. We never finish up a song without adding something from every member. Each of us is going in his own musical direction. It's actually quite hard to arrange it as a ZIZ song (laughs). We’ve worked like this from the very beginning and I think that the result of putting all of the elements together is very exciting.

Recently, there are many bands who focus mostly on the atmosphere of their music and not really on the melodies. During your live, we noticed that you have many songs which your fans can also sing together with you. Do you think about it when you create your songs?

Jiro: I am trying to write songs which can be played only using one guitar!

Yugami: Sometimes I record a sample vocal line when I make a song, but in most cases I just leave it to Közi and he makes it easy to sing for himself. So, there is usually no need to make these sample vocal lines. Közi creates his own melodies. He's a melody maker!

Chargeeeeee...: I also almost don't prepare vocal lines at all. There was maybe one time that I asked Közi to sing the way I wanted him to sing, but usually I leave it to him.

Közi: I am the one who sings after all. Even If the character of the composition is very indeterminate, basically I am a man of enka (nostalgic Japanese music genre considered to resemble traditional Japanese music stylistically). That is why my melodies have this mellow touch. So even If I am not able to sing to the melody I have just created, I can't do anything about it; my songs always go in this direction naturally. And then I can't sing, so I just scream like a baby (laughs).

Each of you has different music taste and different ideas. We could hear it also on the new mini-album. How do you make your songs sound like a "ZIZ song"? What is your secret?

Chargeeeeee...: I was surprised but it's not about creating everything by yourself. When I create a demo version of the song, it's not very “ZIZ” at that stage. But when I give it to the members, Yugami adds his synth part and I am like, "Oh! It’s become a little like ZIZ!" and when Jiro's guitar is added, "It's more ZIZ!" And then when we have Közi's vocal part, "It changed a lot! That's ZIZ!" Step by step it becomes more “ZIZ-ish". When we put one another’s parts together while recording, it becomes “the ZIZ". It's always like this.

Members of ZIZ are very individualistic musicians and it seems that you respect this individuality very much, right?

Közi: Isn't that exactly what "a band" is? There also are bands where there is only one person who does everything, but ZIZ is different. Every member creates music as he wants and brings his own original part to our band's sound. I will return for a while to the band concept topic, but now I think ZIZ is a band which can create music in the process of mixing the sound of its individual members.

So the ZIZ-ish sound comes from the process of arranging the composition?

Chargeeeeee...: Yes!

Közi: Even If we never make songs during the jam sessions and so on, there is still a feeling that our music is being created by a group of people. I think it's because of this freedom in creating.

Yugami: The composer of a particular track explains to other members the image of newly created song. Then we share the song and we can play our parts in a way that we like. That's our style.

Chargeeeeee...: From the very beginning, during the creation process, there was never a "you can't do it like this" or "this is ZIZ!" Even when I write a very "what the hell is that" song, everyone is okay with that. There is nothing I can't do while creating music with ZIZ. I am always sure that any of the songs I make will eventually become a real ZIZ song thanks to the cooperation of our members. And that's why I am very happy while making ZIZ songs. I don't have to think too much about what is correct and what is not.

Can we have a question about one song? One of our website’s members really likes the song titled SANITY. What was the inspiration behind it?

Jiro: I created the melody and Yugami did the arrangement.

Közi: The final version of SANITY is very different than it was at the beginning. The reggae parts and so on are all Yugami-sensei's job. We thought, "That's pretty good!"

Chargeeeeee...: Just about the time we started ZIZ, we went to Jiro's house and he suggested that we should make a song, and we recorded his guitar part. And after that, Yugami said, "I did the arrangement!" and this is how the song was done.
Közi: It became a totally different song after the arrangement! (laughs)

You have just released a new album, but have you already been thinking about a future release?

Chargeeeeee...: We haven't started anything yet.

Yugami: But I think that each of us already has some ideas.

Are there any songs that you didn't show to the public until now?

Yugami: Of course there are a lot of songs that haven't been used. When we were recording the new mini-album, each of us wrote two or three songs.

What is the meaning of the TEZL MOZL No.5 title?

Közi: Starfish. When I saw starfish for the first time, it really inspired me visually. When I checked more about its mode of life, I was surprised by how strange a creature it is. I thought this title would fit the new mini-album well in many ways.

The cover and flyers are in a deep red color. Is there any reason for choosing red?

Közi: There is no special meaning. Every aspect of the graphics and image is Yugami-sensei's part.

Yugami: We only used red this time. For me, the color red equals Közi, and I used is as a base, as the center of everything. And on that big, red base, there are five people. This is the meaning and that is why I chose red for our fifth birthday’s album.


In 2012 you released a collaboration album with Ken Morioka. Can you tell us more about this cooperation?

Közi: We played at some events together and there were many chances to meet in the past, so we became friends. And of course he was this Ken Morioka from Soft Ballet which I’ve loved since a very long time ago. Once, we came up with an idea that it would be cool to make something together and it started like this.

Do you have any plans to make such collaborations with another artist in the future?

Közi: If there's going to be a good chance to do it, of course. We are always open to such ideas.

Chargeeeeee...: If someone invites us, I would like to do it.

Jiro: I would be very happy if there was a chance do to something with foreign artists.

Közi: Yes, but I guess there would be some problems with communication.

If there was a chance to do it, who would you like to do it with?

Yugami: I don't have someone like this.

Közi: I also don't know, but I am sure Jiro has someone like this!

Jiro: Gene Simmons! I want to play with Gene Simmons!

Közi: Why don't you send him an email? "Hello!"

Jiro: (to Chargeeeeee...) How about Tommy Lee?

Chargeeeeee...: I really like him and almost every kind of music fits ZIZ, so it could potentially work, but I am not sure ... I don't know who I would like to do a collaboration with now. Personally I would love to do something with Mötley Crüe, but I am not sure about doing it with ZIZ.

Have you ever thought about quitting music?

Yugami and Chargeeeeee...: Never!

Jiro: I have!

Közi: Me too.

So what is your motivation to continue?

Chargeeeeee…: I really like it.

Yugami: It's fun!

Chargeeeeee...: I don’t consider drums as part of music. Aren’t we living the life day by day? That is why I would say that playing the drums is more a part of my day than life, and if you can enjoy it that much, it becomes a big part of your day, and it will make your life better, even in the darkest times. I can’t stop playing the drums because I keep in mind that it is one of the things in my life that makes it complete. That’s why every day I feel really grateful for having them.

How about the members who wanted to quit?

Jiro: It's because of frustration. There was a time when I was no able to compose any new songs or write lyrics, for example. I was playing in many bands and there were also a time when members left and I had to become a vocalist even though I have never sung before, so I started from zero. I even stopped music activities for some time. But in those days, there were always friends who helped me and asked me If I would like to play with them a little. Actually, before I joined Közi's solo project band, I was about to quit music, but then I went for my friend's live and Közi was also there.

Közi: Yes! He was doing totally nothing at that time! (laughs)

Jiro: Yes, yes. We haven't seen each other for a long time then, so we decided to go out and drink together the next day. Közi asked, "I have just started my solo project. Maybe you would like to play with me?" That's why I am where I am now. I am really thankful to my friends.

Közi: My story is similar to Jiro's ... I had some troubles and my love for music wasn't enough for me to continue making it. But just like in Jiro's case, there always was someone around who wanted to help. You can't do everything by yourself. It's not only about making music. It's about anything in your life. So, it's about the people around. Personally, I think that meeting Chargeeeeee... was a big step for me. When I started my solo career I didn't play many lives, didn't go to see lives and didn't know many people at all. I thought that it was pretty terrifying, so I started to go to the lives of bands that I didn't know. And this is how I discovered Chargeeeeee.... When I saw him I thought, "Who's that guy?"

Chargeeeeee...: And we met.

Közi: It was about 10 years ago, right? All of those new connections and meetings caused my already gone motivation to suddenly come back. It's obvious that there is great motivation in the beginning, but the hardest thing is to keep it. But ever since I had ZIZ, I never thought about quitting even once. I can say that because I experienced all of these, I have what I have now. Now I really feel that I want to do my best with ZIZ until death.


Chargeeeeee... is doing many different projects aside from ZIZ. Is there any difference when you play with ZIZ as compared to other bands?

Chargeeeeee...: All of ZIZ’s songs have sequencing, so while playing I listen to the click track, but I don’t want it to sound like I’m following one. I want to give our music a real band groove. When you play just by following the click track, your music becomes very average, which I definitely want to avoid while being with ZIZ. Now that I think about it, I play in such a way that can make you feel “Yay! Rock’n’roll!” while listening to us.

Now we would like to ask you a question from our readers. What do you think about old visual kei and the visual kei scene nowadays?

Yugami: I don't really understand visual kei. The old one and new one as well. I was listening to LUNA SEA and X JAPAN in secondary school and for me there was no difference between them and for example, BOØWY or Unicorn. They all are Japanese rock bands. If someone calls us "visual kei", I am like, "Oh, really?" but I don't see the difference.

Közi: There was a time in my life when I really didn't like it when people were calling me "visual kei". On the other hand, I understand them because I am a member of MALICE MIZER, which is undeniably a famous band after all. When we started our activities, there was no word like "visual kei". It came later. And I had some really hard times because of it.

Is there a future for visual kei?

Közi: I never classify music into genres, so when I am asked about the future of visual kei, I don't know what to say (laughs). I listen to music which I like and it has nothing to do with the genre. It's also the same when we talk about creating music. That's why I don't care how my music is going to be categorized. So when you ask me about the future of visual kei, I will say that I don't know and I don't really care.

But you, Közi, are a part of MALICE MIZER one of the most important bands in the visual kei scene, right?

Közi: Of course it's an amazing thing, but at the same time, the term "visual kei" can be like fetters for you. Many people will judge you and classify you immediately. It seems like visual kei, and also anime, cosplay, gothic lolita — what we call Japanese culture, it's just a reverse of western culture. Well, but maybe the one who stirred up the gothic lolita boom was Mana (laughs).

How about the other members' opinions? As someone who is playing in one band with such an important visual kei scene person like Közi, what is your opinion about this scene?

Yugami: I met Közi as a drinking buddy. We get along well, so he became my bro.

Közi: We were drinking in places not connected to music at all (laughs).

Yugami: We often went out together. Also, we liked similar things. I knew that he is that Közi from MALICE MIZER, but I didn't listen to them at that time, so I wasn't really aware of it. The impression of a friend was bigger for me.

Jiro: For me the term of “visual kei” was present only in the past. Közi and I had many different experiences at that time. I had a time when I performed wearing makeup and so on, but also there was a time of t-shirt and jeans for me.

Közi: Wasn't it the time when you loved Kurt Cobain?

Jiro: Yes, I wanted to become Kurt Cobain! (laughs) I did many different things, so "visual kei" or not, I wasn't aware of it. I just want to make music with friends! Isn't that an amazing thing?

Közi: It was a nice time but I don't aim to be visual kei.

Jiro: For example, KISS is not visual kei, right? But I really loved them and it was obvious for me that I want to wear makeup and perform.

Közi: But yes, I am very grateful. Because of visual kei my music was able to reach many, many people.

So ZIZ means freedom to you. You can create without any ties with the past.

Közi: Yes, for me I guess so.


But for other members also, right? They don't have to create while being tied with "visual kei".

Közi: Yes, yes. Well, Chargeeeeee... and Yugami are not aware of this "tie" that much. Jiro was active in the scene long time before me and he saw how it changed through the years, so I think that he understands a lot.

So, basically for you, Közi, ZIZ is a band that sticks together your past and your future.

Közi: Really well said! (laughs)

What are your aspirations or hopes for the future?

Yugami: I really want to play abroad.

Közi: Me too.

Yugami: And also, I want to continue creating music with such freedom as we do now, at our own pace, without any rush.

Jiro: I would love to play abroad too. I want our overseas fans be able to see our shows and have fun with us.

Közi: Yes, I want you to invite us. I'm going to do my best to be able to go abroad and celebrate our sixth anniversary next year as well.

Yugami: I would also like to make more people able to listen to our albums.

And at the end, we would like to ask you for a message to your overseas (European) fans.

Chargeeeeee...: It's been already five years since ZIZ went to play in Europe. We have been to France, but we haven't been to England or Poland, so next time, we would love to play there also. We are at our very best condition now, have a lot of motivation and our performances have become really good. I don’t want to show overseas fans the ZIZ from five years ago. I want to show who we are now. Message to promoters: please call us! (laughs)

Közi: I want to go to Europe and America as well. We struggle to make ends meet, but if someone calls us we will go. If you won't call us, we can't go, so please listen to our new album and invite us!

Jiro: I would like ZIZ to be an active band not only in Japan but also in the whole world. Please call us to your country!

Yugami: Please call us! (laughs)

JaME would like to thank ZIZ for this interview opportunity.

ZIZ's new EP TEZL MOZL NO.5 is available on iTunes June 24th!
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