Interview with Seiji from EX-ANS

interview - 15.07.2017 01:01

Seiji from EX-ANS speaks to JaME about his band's history, new album and more.

In the late 80’s and beginning of the 90’s, EX-ANS conquered the Japanese indies music scene. In 2015, they made a one-night comeback, and in 2016 the band resumed activities with new members. Their music has become an inspiration not only for visual kei, but also many other genres, and even now they are considered to be one of the legendary bands.

This time, JaME had the pleasure to have a long talk with EX-ANS central figure Seiji in his first interview with foreign media. Here's a very interesting story about EX-ANS from it’s creation to present times and about the music scenes surrounding them.

Since it is EX-ANS’ first interview with foreign media, please tell us about the circumstances leading to the band’s creation.

Seiji: It was around 1987 … I was in a band playing positive punk and noise, but I thought it differed a bit from what I would really like to do. I thought of creating a band, so I gathered members and this is how EX-ANS was born. But we took a lot of inspiration from positive punk and new wave.

What is the origin of band’s name?

Seiji: I wanted to use “EX” somewhere in band’s name … even the “EX” itself would be good … But there is a band called X, right? (laughs) (X JAPAN is called “X” in Japan) I knew that, so the names would overlap. I thought about making it “EX hyphen something” and for this “something”, I chose the abbreviation of “answer”, so it became “ans”.

About “EX”, there is a Japanese singer called Sawada Kenji and his backing band was called Exotics. They haven’t played their own compositions, only a variety of covers, but when he performs some song, it gets his colors. Exotics changed their outfits to match him each time. They were flashy or dark. I thought it was cool and thanks to Exotics, I wanted to use “EX” in the band’s name. And also because I wanted to make a lot of different music.

When it comes to “answer”, EX-ANS’ first drummer — he left very quickly though — proposed to put “answer” after the hyphen. “How about ‘EX-ANSWER’?” he asked. It was too long and I didn’t really like the sound of it, so we shortened “answer” to “ans”. The band’s name is not really a big deal. I thought it would sound good if I put coined words together well.

I think there is a specific style in both EX-ANS’ music and visuals. Please tell us something about that style.

Seiji: Would it be the fact that members change a lot? (laughs)

How does the EX-ANS from the 90’s and the present EX-ANS differ?

Seiji: Hmm, how did it change? The reason we stopped our activities in the 90’s was the fact that our vocalist quit. The reason for his withdrawal was a mismatch in music tastes. Other members wanted to put electronic programming into our music. At that time, we had already included the programming in our single G・L But!xxx (released in 1990) that was distributed during the tour, and we thought of going in that direction, but he didn’t agree with us … There were other reasons too, so we asked him to leave … In fact, the new vocalist had already been chosen too. It's just that for certain reasons everything turned out badly, so we stopped our activities.

How did you get started with the present EX-ANS' activities?

Seiji: When I was talking with a friend, I said something like “Let’s play in EX-ANS”. It was around May 1st when we talked and May 2nd is hide’s (X JAPAN) memorial day, so I called the other members and asked, “Wouldn’t you like to play in EX-ANS for a bit?” Since the other members also said ok, we announced our revival. Even though we said we would play for real this time, the vocalist wasn’t really eager to do it. So again, we asked him to leave. That’s why we performed lives with guest vocalists.

We asked for help from our current vocalist Ishii Shuji, Közi from MALICE MIZER, DADA from VELVET EDEN, Genet from AUTO-MOD, ZIN from MADAME EDWARDA, Gilly from Phaidia and Sou from emmuree, and with vocalists changing in omnibus-style we played one-man lives as if they were movies with separate scenes. For the time being, we decided to do it that way. After the live, Ishii Shuji (current vocalist) asked, “So what will you do next time?” I half-jokingly answered, “If you’ll sing with us, we can continue playing.”

Later, for a few months, I was thinking about what to do … I thought of playing in EX-ANS again. Initially, I thought of playing with the three original members and Ishii Shuji, but a lot has changed and I decided to change members completely. Together with vocalist Ishii Shuji, we invited Lezyna (Justy-Nasty, Strawberry Fields).

I wanted to continue the EX-ANS from the 90’s properly. I couldn’t use programming back in the 90’s because our vocalist was against using programming during lives. I wanted to show how things would have turned out if we had used programming. We had a theme, just like our current album. The title is "La Nuit", which means “night”. I said, "Let’s pick one theme and record the album properly, not just casually done, but a stylish album."


Why is the album’s concept and title “Night”?

Seiji: Together with Ishii Shuji, we thought of some word choices for the title … I thought “GOATBET” was a nice word. Our tastes were quite similar though (laughs). But then Ishii Shuji asked, “How about ‘La Nuit’?” I thought that by making “night” a keyword, the album will become dark and interesting, and that it would be better not to use the English word “night” but the French words “la nuit”.

You preferred French to English?

Seiji: Yeah, I prefer the sound of it more than simply “night” (laughs). I thought it sounds better. When it comes to the “night”, there are different “nights”, aren’t there? That’s why I thought it would be an interesting word to use as the title of an album.

This album starts with In to La Nuit and ends with Fin de La Nuit. Does it mean the whole album tells a story of the night from dusk to dawn?

Seiji: Yes, the one night changes throughout the album.

The title of this album is in French, but you've used English in your lyrics before. Why is that?

Seiji: I don’t really listen to Japanese music; I almost only listen to western music. I don’t really feel the sound of Japanese lyrics. Of course, you can also get moved by Japanese songs, but … since I am Japanese, it’s easier to me to express emotions in Japanese. But what we want to show is not a particular language for some particular lyrics, but the sound of lyrics in accompaniment to our music. The sound of lyrics is our priority, even though there may be some grammatical inaccuracies. It also doesn’t feel odd if we repeat the same word in English.

Recently you released a coupling EP together with DALLE called A ALL END SEX. Why did you decide to release it together with DALLE?

Seiji: Oh, it’s a surprise. The idea of releasing a coupling CD was born long ago, but we had no time for writing new songs for this release, so we thought, "Wouldn’t it be great to cover each other’s songs instead?" The initial idea was to just cover songs, but in the end we made completely new arrangements that were different from the originals. We didn’t hold any meetings with DALLE. It just came out naturally.


Seiji: We didn’t even hold a meeting to discuss which songs we should perform. We had no idea,which songs the other side picked until we actually heard them. Just by chance we picked each other’s opening song from lives.

But this coupling CD became really EX-ANS-ish, don’t you think? (EX-ANS performed DALLE’s Asphalt)

Seiji: Thank you, it’s pleasure to hear that. It was Ishii Shuji’s arrangement polished a bit by engineers and other members.

The melody really stands out.

Seiji: Because it’s pop, and Ishii Shuji is a pop person.

And what does the title “A ALL END SEX” mean?

Seiji: This kind of English also doesn’t grammatically exist, but it’s an anagram of DALLE and EX-ANS. We kept it a secret until the live, during which we showed an illustration. By putting the word ”SEX”, we made a reference to Habit of Sex (EX-ANS’ first album, released in 1990). After the band’s revival and playing some scheduled one-man lives, I thought of inviting some other bands and making an event. Talks to invite DALLE for that event started and when we thought of a proper title, Ishii Shuji said, “It’s not really grammatically correct, but how about an anagram ‘A ALL END SEX’?” I thought it’s a good idea. We decided to release a coupling CD at that time too and picked the title for it, so why won’t make it “A ALL END SEX” too then?

It’s quite a deep story.

Seiji: We uploaded that illustration only once on Twitter. I like doing such things. To not say anything, just upload a keyword and make people who are watching and listening think. But I think people don’t think about such things often (laughs).

Fans may overthink things when they see such titles.

Seiji: But people who don’t speak English may not wonder what it means when they see such a title.

The reference to Habit of Sex is very nice though.

Seiji: It’s a complete coincidence, but that’s why it’s so good. Destiny may be involved in such coincidences, isn’t it? I was thinking of it from long ago, if you rearrange letters in EX-ANS you will get "AN-SEX", right? There is no such word, but "SEX" itself exists as a word and it’s quite nice.

It’s amazing.

Seiji: It also applies to my lyrics and song titles. I like adding a slightly cynical touch to them.

You made a remake of She made no ans.... Why did you decide to do that?

Seiji: There was an aspect of musicality changes since I’ve been playing in EX-ANS before and this song became a chance to explore it. This song caused people to become band members after listening to it. There were many people who have joined my band because we had She made no ans.... This became the last song on Habit of Sex. It's a representative song, so I wanted to play it again with the current members.

Did you want to make La Nuit using the old style or a new style?

Seiji: Well, both. I wanted to create a remake of old songs, and of course if we still kept playing we have to release new material. I don’t like nostalgia the most. It’s like an old class reunion. But from the point of view of a fan, new things aren’t welcomed warmly nowadays … well … it’s not that I play only for other people. I want to create something I can agree with.

La Nuit was sold out very quickly. Was it expected?

Seiji: No, it was surprising. We are often told that rather than shop distributed goods, goods sold during lives sell in bigger numbers, but this time people willing to buy via the shop were so numerous that album was already sold out when we sent out preordered copies.

That’s right. Since number of preordered copies of the album was so large, we couldn’t find any copy at music stores on the day of the release. I think this is how Japanese fans of EX-ANS showed you that they couldn’t wait for it.

Seiji: Thank you very much.

How about people’s reactions?

Seiji: Well, the number of special edition copies was limited, so we released the normal edition as well, which is being sold as expected.


Bands active in the 90’s are now showing their new excitement on SNS, but what do you think of it as a person, who has been active in scene since then too?

Seiji: I don’t really care. I don’t mind it either. They have their own ideas. For example, D’ERLANGER is now making new songs too. They have new activities and their number of fans increase steadily. I think it’s cool. I think playing only old songs because it’s nostalgic is … how to say it … it doesn’t make any sense if the band has resumed their activities. But I don’t really have an interest in other bands.

What's most important is to do things you want to do. You can’t help caring about things or comparing yourself to others. For me, it's very important is to get close to or even outgrow bands we liked when we were starting our bands or before we started playing in a band. I don’t really care what activities the bands around me have. I never think, “Let’s do it because it’s popular lately.” I just do things I've always wanted to do.

You had this attitude all the time?

Seiji: Hmm, yes … But of course sometimes things happen. Like being told, “Write a hit!” (laughs)

Was it during your EXTASY RECORDS times?

Seiji: Well, I wasn’t told such things by the label, but I was told for example “X JAPAN have Kurenai and EX-ANS have no such song.” (laughs) I answered that all our songs are representative, so what?

But you said you didn’t look at others?

Seiji: This attitude wasn’t EX-ANS’ attitude. It was my own. For example, if other members bring something and say it’s good, and if I also think so, we will adopt it.

How has the response of fans been since you came back on stage?

Seiji: Well, I was surprised. At first, we thought of releasing a CD entitled "Ishii Shuji&EX-ANS", but I somehow could predict that Ishii Shuji will join the band as a vocalist. He was my ideal vocalist. But we didn’t talk to each other until then. We knew each other but only on a greeting level. But I thought that his singing is so good. I watched him on YouTube and was thinking how cool he is.

What do you think of Ishii Shuji?

Seiji: After playing together, I thought the quality of his voice was really high and his lyrics were interesting. He’s a very severe and cynical person. I thought he’s quite similar to me. I’m also different, so wouldn’t it be a good combination? (laughs) He matched well with my style and with the band, and he could perfectly understand what I said. He has good sense; it’s an important part of him. I thought that if we were to continue EX-ANS, we could only do it with this kind of vocalist.

It becomes really hard if the vocalist doesn’t match the band’s concept.

Seiji: I thought he can create the new EX-ANS. I was really picky and fussy about everything in the past, but since the current members joined the band I hardly have to comment on things. I leave it to the band. If it’s really bad, I will say it’s bad, but such situations almost don’t happen.

Ishii came to see EX-ANS when he was in junior high. It seemed that he liked EX-ANS, but he said it was his first time joining such a band. I asked him then to think how he wanted the new EX-ANS to look like and to create his dream EX-ANS. He really thought about many things and I agreed with almost everything.

Amazing band member, isn’t he?

Seiji: Thank you.

Since you reactivated EX-ANS, you have entered the new visual kei scene. How did it change?

Seiji: The visual kei scene?


Seiji: Well …

What is different in the new visual kei scene as compared to the visual kei scene from the past?

Seiji: Comparing it to the past? In the past, it was flooded by the new wave influence … and … Visual kei is originally made by people who were inspired by X JAPAN or DEAD END, new wave or pop. From the beginning they wore make-up, so I think it’s some kind of fusion music, but we played new wave from the beginning …

In the 90’s there was a mixture of different things, right? It was a time when mixtures started to become popular, but I think that visual kei was before that. I was thinking about it this way ever since I created EX-ANS. I am a new wave and positive punk person, so I was curious how fans will react if this kind of person performed in the metal scene. So, new wave and positive punk musicians were carried by this scene and metal musicians originally were also in this scene — that is why visual kei was created in such mixed world. That is why everyone has great personalities, musicality and looks. Whoever wants to perform in the visual kei scene tries to do things differently from others or tries to copy those who are cool.

But "visual kei" as a name for this scene was created later.

Seiji: Indeed. It’s not a word describing a type of music, but a concept.

What do you think about being called a visual kei band?

Seiji: When we stopped activities as EX-ANS I really didn’t like it when someone said it was visual kei. I stopped wearing makeup and started doing something resembling garage punk or grunge, but as time passed and got older, I started thinking it in fact wasn't that bad. It happens. I personally am not visual kei, but I have good relationships with visual kei people and I played lives with them.

Back then in the past it was the same. We played together with visual kei bands, but we played also with positive punk bands — we didn’t draw any line. I don’t care about it much since EX-ANS is partly a pop band, a gloomy pop band … I like British ultravox or new romantic and I think we are this kind of band. Not a Japanese type of band. But people need to categorize it somehow, so they could use only visual kei. I uhm … It doesn’t matter in fact.

It’s always like that, but I don’t like to be like others. I didn’t like to be like others in the new wave or positive punk field. Everyone was playing rather dark music, so I thought, "How about we make it pop here? How would it sound when we play not with them but with others?" It was enjoyable, stimulating and fun.

You always differ from other bands.

Seiji: Yes, that’s why I wanted to change when playing with bands who all were similar to each other. Only being followed by others is a good thing. So we were followed. But people who follow don’t use your name. You can make friends by saying “It’s an EX-ANS tribute” though (laughs).

I think people from overseas don’t know, but YOSHIKI from X JAPAN took part in the recording of Habit of Sex. Can you tell us how that happened? It’s quite unusual.

Seiji: Uhm, I like the piano and YOSHIKI plays the piano, doesn’t he? (laughs) And he was my friend. We both like George Winston. So, I asked him to play like George Winston and he agreed. At that time, YOSHIKI said during recordings that there weren't enough tracks, so he took our demos, cut them and added the piano to them (laughs). I'm really thankful that he thought so warmly about us.

Do you have any plans for future?

Seiji: If want to do something, I will just do it. And if I don’t, I won’t. EX-ANS is me – this is what I thought the past few years. It’s my brand. So even if members change, it will be the EX-ANS of that particular moment. We will play our best music at that time with those members. Ultimately, even if I am not there, if my music is played it will be EX-ANS. It’s the same with clothing brands, right?

I don’t know what will come next … But I think I will play anyway. I will constantly think about new songs and concepts, but I don’t know what shape it will have.

Please send a message to our readers.

Seiji: I really like Europe. I was born in Hokkaido and my friends were saying that Hokkaido has the same latitude as Europe, so we’re similar (laughs). I really like Great Britain, Italy, France, Germany and their atmosphere since I was a child. There are bands like us in Japan and I think people who hear us will think that we sound simply like a Japanese band, but I’d be very happy if you knew that our band plays such music because we had the kind of influence we talked about in this interview.
related artists
blog comments powered by Disqus

  • euroWH
  • Chaotic Harmony