Interview with MIYAVI in Berlin

interview - 06.24.2017 20:01

MIYAVI talks about the duet of the voice and the guitar.

Two hours before the final show of MIYAVI’s World Tour 2017 "Firebird" JaME Germany met the artist to talk about the message of the new album and his impressions of the tour. The conversation turned out to be a bit philosophical, optimistic and very life-affirming!

MIYAVI, thank you for taking time out for this interview. How has the European part of the World Tour 2017 "Firebird" been so far? Have there been any highlights that made this trip special for you?

MIYAVI: It has been great, I mean, more than, you know, super super great! I think this is my sixth or seventh time in Europe, especially this time in four cities in Germany. Every time when I come here, people welcome us. I was pretty nervous before this tour started. We had the show in the States, and then we flew to Europe. We have been playing a new set, new tracks. Most of the tracks in the set are the new ones so I was not sure if the audience would like it or not. But we have been having a great response and a great reaction from the audience. You can see it from the vibes. I can feel that we are taking the audience to the next level, altogether, which means we are moving towards the future.

As for the highlight, it was ... maybe, in London. We had a great, crazy show in Paris and then we had a show in London. I never expected to have a hot show in London because London is just different, people are different, many great bands come from London, so people are kind of, let's say, sophisticated. But this time it was crazy in London. We had a great time and the show was a big achievement of this tour. And then, once again, four cities in Germany. It is my pleasure to be back in this country.

It has been almost two years since you have last been in Germany. It was in Cologne, so it is great that this time you expanded the tour.

MIYAVI: Yes, but it is all about timing. It depends on promoters. We can't book the venue ourselves. So, fortunately this time we were able to find a good promoter who was enthusiastic about MIYAVI concerts in this country. So, it is great.

Let's talk about the new album, Firebird. It has great synth and electro sounds, which make the album very dynamic and disco-like. What has inspired you to take this direction for your new work?

MIYAVI: Well, it is still in transition, still in the process of going to the next level. We are always experimenting with new stuff and it is my role to bring back the excitement of rock and guitar music. But if I play, you know, with a typical band, there is no chemistry, there is no surprise. I want to surprise people, want to share excitement with the audience, and I want to make people dance with my guitar. It is the fundamental motivation. So it really makes sense to mix it with dance music.

Firebird makes me think of the phoenix that revives from the ashes. The cover artwork and the Firebird music video suggest it, too. Has there been some revival in your music life that is reflected in the album? Some rebirth or a new step?

MIYAVI: You face many obstacles in your life and I was almost dead when I moved to LA three years ago. Then there was an opportunity to make the film, "Unbroken", with Angelina Jolie. I learnt many things from her; I really respect her and I got inspired. So I moved to LA to deal with the global market. But the culture, the language — everything is different. I was really struggling at that moment; I didn't even want to play the guitar or to move forward. But with this album I was able to find a way to sing with the guitar. It is like wings for me, so I can fly again. So as long as you don't lose your purpose and dream, or anything you believe in, you can come back, you can rise up again, again and again. So it was kind of a fundamental message of the album. So it is a very meaningful and important mentality for everyone.

You mentioned "Unbroken". I watched the movie some months ago and I should say I was really impressed by your acting, the way you played with your glance and how you depicted the cruelty of the character with your eyes alone.

MIYAVI: I couldn't do it by myself. With Angie and all the professional crew, I got inspired by them a lot.

But going back to music, among discussions on the internet, it is possible to come across definitions like "the old MIYAVI sound" and "the new MIYAVI sound". How do you react to such separations? Do you oppose it?

MIYAVI: Even if I re-record the old tracks, I could not make them better, because the original track is the best, because it is already tied up with the memory. As an artist, I feel responsible to keep moving forward. Maybe I am not professional in that way. I am too human, I think, I am too honest to how I feel as a human being. I think this is a right of a solo artist. Like Jetpack did, Lenny Kravitz did, even Michael Jackson did. Actually we are kind of more responsible but at the same time we have more freedom. So that is something inevitable, something you can't avoid. I don't think it is a bad thing at all, because improving, moving forward is important. I feel like we can make the future.

Is there some story behind any of the Firebird tracks? Some event or occasion which inspired you to share the experience in a song?

MIYAVI: Yes, Long Nights. It is the first track I wrote for this album after coming back from refugee camps in Lebanon. Thanks to Angie I have been working with UNHCR, the part of the UN dealing with the refugee crisis. I was really nervous and I was not sure what I should do because I am not as famous as Angie. But once I played the guitar the kids went crazy and they all got excited.

I got a mail from UNHCR after I got back from the camp. They wrote that some of the kids said they wanted to become a rock star. So I felt the power of music was right there. There was something ... like ... I as a musician can do more. And then, I also got inspired, because even to me it is sometimes hard to get up. Sometimes it is hard to face the world. Sometimes you can't get out of bed, but you know, it cannot be forever. Sooner or later you have to face it. So as long as you know tomorrow will come, there is some hope. As long as you know what you can see, what scenery you can see, you can get out, you can get to a Long Night. So this is the message. It is very personal for me and that is why we wanted to dedicate this track to every refugee as well — the people who had to flee from their country.

By the way, there was a question from a fan I was about to ask: how would you react if you learnt that you inspired someone in a creative way? But you already answered it just now talking about these refugee kids, who got inspired to become a rock star. Do you have a favourite musical instrument apart from the guitar? If it was not the guitar, what instrument can you imagine dominating your CD?

MIYAVI: Microphone. I would sing more. I would spend more time singing. Because it is more direct with the voice. But I spent most of the time with the guitar, so I try to sing with the guitar. That is the path I make for other guitarists so that they can survive as well. It is really important. This is my mission: to create the path for every guitarist.

Thank you for this interview, would you be so kind to leave a message for JaME readers?

MIYAVI: We really appreciate your support and it is really beautiful to see a community of people who are supporting and enjoying other cultures. And as a Japanese, I am so happy to be back in this country every time. It is my mission to break the borders and boundaries, but at the same time it is our mission. I cannot do it by myself. But with you guys, with your support I can strongly feel we can do this. So I keep slapping the strings and so we spread the message to the whole world. Even if it is still tiny now, if we keep doing this, we can make it bigger. I would really appreciate it.

JaME would like to thank HEAD OF PR for this interview opportunity.
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