Finding a MESSAGE in the ASHes
It may not be easy to place J-Rock’s Jacks-of-all-trades LOST ASH into one convenient category, for all the skills they have. If there ever were an example of “visual kei idols,” it would be LOST ASH, who have the talent, looks, style, and sound to garner both mainstream and niche appeal (and, with their web series and vocalist Daiki’s acting career, they’ve the film credits to rival Johnny’s entertainers, to boot). And although it may be easy to overlook, LOST ASH has something else to their name that slips through the fingers of so many promising bands: a sense of long-standing loyalty between members Daiki, Show, Sai, and Dye — all four of whom have remained constant since the band’s 2008 inception as Ocelot.
And yet, despite this long-standing fraternity, they operate on a theme of loneliness — that inescapable vulnerability that makes up so much of the human experience. To overcome this, LOST ASH embraces and incorporates a perspective and aesthetic based on destruction and the transience of life, that they call “taihaibi”…
In the lead-up to the June release of their 11th single, MESSAGE, Shattered-Tranquility.net had the opportunity to probe LOST ASH on their habits, their influences, their accomplishments, and their ambitions.
— Thank you for taking time out of your day to participate in this interview. First, can you please introduce yourself for readers who may be new to LOST ASH?
Hello, everyone from overseas. We are LOST ASH. We’re a 4-member rock band in Japan made up of Daiki on vocals, Show on guitar, Sai on bass, and Dye on drums and piano. We’re based in Japan, but we are developing our overseas activities. We are honored to have this interview with Shattered Tranquility today, a news site that helps to bridge the cultural gap between Japan and the world.
— How did you first come together and decide to form LOST ASH?
We members are all from the same town. Daiki knew Dye and Show knew Sai from our school days. We were all in the same music circle where we copied bands like X Japan and Metallica, and once in a while we went so far as to share the same scores on tests. (laugh) Dye began thinking about forming a band in earnest, so he started writing original songs, and in the midst of searching for good band members in the area, he reached out to all of us, and this is how we got to where we are today.
— Your band’s theme incorporates a kind of dualism, of light vs. dark, or beauty vs. destruction. There’s also an element of decadence. What are your most “decadent” habits?
Our band concept is 退廃美 – taihaibi – that is to say, the “ephemeral beauty of destruction,” from which we derive, “there is nothing but this moment we call “now,” so live it up!” That’s the kind of message we bring when we play lives. We definitely want even overseas fans to fully appreciate the strength and quality of that message. Through vocalist Daiki’s MCs, especially, and the members’ stage presence, we think, can’t we transcend language barriers and get that message across?
Speaking of the word “decadence”, though, it reminds me of our leader Dye… He breaks things a lot. (laugh)
By his own admission, whenever there’s a thing of any sort, Dye likes to test its limits. We were astonished the time he ripped his costume right before a performance. (laugh)
— As far as music is concerned, do you have any influences or idols that fans may be completely surprised to learn about?
We were all influenced by different artists. Daiki likes L’Arc~en~Ciel and pop music like Shounentai. Show started playing guitar because of The Beatles. Sai is also a big L’arc fan. Dye has a wide range of musical interests, including metal, emo, and heavy rock. Plus, he plays the piano, so his interest in music began with classical, such as Beethoven and Satie. Yet he also loves modern avant-garde composers such as John Cage. If you haven’t heard his piece “4:33”,* you should. It will surely surprise you.
*Editor’s note: “4’33″” is, if nothing more, a truly unique piece, as much performance art as musical composition, in that no performance of it will ever sound like any other performance. It’s often referred to as some variation of “four and a half minutes of silence,” but to oversimplify it, the beauty of it comes from the sounds of life that fill in that gap.
— Speaking of music, you recently released your 11th single, MESSAGE, on June 18th. Can you tell us something about the message of MESSAGE?
Just like the title of our latest release, MESSAGE, says, it contains the message we want to convey most strongly. The theme is “pursuing one’s dreams”. Everyone has pain and difficulties in the course of their day-to-day lives. With those daily struggles, before you know it, you can lose sight of your dreams, and isn’t that like giving up? People are most brilliant when they are living for something, and in a world where that brilliance is often overlooked, we made this song to emphasize the importance of pursuing your dreams. It is closely connected to our concept: “taihaibi = live strongly in this moment”.
— What is your favorite part of “MESSAGE”’s sound?
There are a lot of focal points that we want people to listen for, but if we had to pick out just one big thing, we think that our talent for musical arrangement draws a line between us and other bands. First, we went from the intro to the A-melody with a bold, glitch-kei-type synthesized sound. LOST ASH has been creating songs with mixed tastes from the beginning, and we are influenced by the current dubstep trend, but this is the first time we made the move to do it ourselves. Then it suddenly changes in the chorus, where we used a brass arrangement fit for a pop song. A lot of v-kei bands make use of strings and synthesizers, but we went with brass instead, and we think we pulled it off. It makes “MESSAGE” special and sets it apart from other songs.
— Your April 2012 single MASK had a distinctly upbeat, blended, jazzy sound, incorporating keyboards and trumpets in the background while still maintaining a metal atmosphere with a prominent guitar breakdown. Your last single, December’s Kodoku no Kakera, also featured Dye’s keyboard skills prominently, again bringing that contemporary jazz sound to your generally heavy, metal-influenced discography. Can we expect more of this experimentation in the future?
Thank you for listening so closely. When it comes to composition, we have nothing short of a fixation on novelty, a spirit of inquisitiveness. We’re not afraid of change, either. That’s because, at our core, we want to be the only one of our kind. The coupling song this time also has alto sax and cinematic sound effects. We want to mix these sorts of things in our songs in the future. Look forward to it.
— LOST ASH has been steadily climbing the charts since inception. Your first wide-release single, superNOVA, reached #5 on the Oricon Indies chart, and innerCORE reached #2 on Recochoku, even though both were very limited pressings. How did you react to that news so early on?
We’re very grateful for our fans’ support when it comes to quantitative accomplishments like units sold, but honestly, we don’t yet feel as if we are wholly successful in all of our activities. We hit walls and meet with conflict just like everyone else, but we’d like to be able to incorporate the feeling and power of our effort to overcome our obstacles into our lyrics and live performances. We are seriously aiming to play a show at the Budokan one day. We believe that repeated small victories will help us seize greater successes like that.
— Does success affect your songwriting or performances? Do you change your direction based on critical or audience reaction, or do you stay true to your original message regardless?
We want to be the good luck charms that give our fans a little push when they meet with hardship in their day-to-day lives. We use different styles of music in order to personify this. What we still haven’t managed to personify yet is to be “the only one”. We’ve always placed importance in discovering “the reason fans have chosen us” among so many other bands, or “the reason it can’t be anybody but LOST ASH.”
— You’ve recently embarked on a series of event tours that will take up the entire SUMMER, including MY little HEARTS, rivabook’s Neo STARGATE, and the Summer Cup Tour. What’s your favorite part of performing event lives?
Since we usually tour with other types of bands, it’ll be interesting. We want to appear in music festivals, too. Overseas, too, of course. Wait for us!
— Besides being away from home, what is your least favorite part of touring?
Straight-up – transportation. (laugh) Our equipment car is packed, so it’s pretty close quarters, and if it’s a long distance, we all take turns driving. There’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t show up to a live empty-handed. (laugh)
— You also held several in-store events to commemorate the release of MESSAGE. Have you had any memorable experiences when meeting your fans?
Lots of different people come to our shows, but some of them even cosplay us, and some wear yukata in the summer. Sometimes we make summer festival events or Halloween events that fans participate in. Once, a fan came from Taiwan to see us, and they didn’t really speak Japanese all that much so they had a hard time. (laugh) But that was the most surprising experience, that somebody came all that way just to see us. We were thrilled.
— Most of our S-T.net readers are international, so of course, they want to know: if LOST ASH could perform anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?
— Finally, do you have any last MESSAGEs to your fans, domestic and abroad?
To those of you first hearing about LOST ASH, give us a listen. We have MVs and live movies on our YouTube channel. I believe we have a charm like no other band. We’re getting closer to being able to play overseas, so please keep listening to our music and wait for us. Thanks!
LOST ASH threw a spectacular SUMMER PARTY on August 3rd, a themed oneman live where they (and the audience) were clad in yukata and took part in delightful summertime activities before a spirited performance. Shattered-Tranquility.net was there to report on the festivities, and LOST ASH graciously gave us three autographed signboards for our loyal readers, which we will be raffling off along with the upcoming live report, so keep your eyes peeled for all that, coming very soon! In the meantime, be sure to keep up with LOST ASH on Twitter: @LOST_ASH, @Daiki__LOST_ASH, @Show_LOST_ASH, @Sai__LOST_ASH, and @Dye_LOST_ASH!
To be continued…
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