THE BLACK SWAN has continued to rise in the ranks of the visual kei industry. After the release of their first full album “OUSIA,” they pulled off a successful one-man show in TSUTAYA O-WEST. Now, they’re on the verge of releasing their latest single with an introspective theme, “PERSONA.”
In our latest interview with THE BLACK SWAN, you can read about their thoughts on the aftermath of “OUSIA” and their first one-man, the nitty gritty details of the creation process of “PERSONA,” and–of course–Kotetsu the Cat.
Read until the end to find out how to win a cool prize!
–The last time we talked was before the release of your first full album, “OUSIA.” What was the reaction like from your overseas fans?
Jin: We’re not really sure what our fans overseas think.
Rena: When you take the language barrier into account, we just hope we’re able to reach them.
-What about your fans in Japan?
Rena: Well, it’s still continuing to sell, so I suppose that’s a good reaction.
Jin: There are a lot of negative emotions on the album, so I think it will take some people a while to come to enjoy it. I hope they’ll listen to it over and over until they uncover the deeper messages hidden in the music.
-Why did you decide to have different tracklists for Type A and Type B?
Jin: Basically, we wanted each type to leave a different impression. We did that by changing the order of the songs. In the end, though, both of them depict the meaning behind “OUSIA.”
-Which type do you prefer?
Jin: Actually, Type B’s tracklist order is the one we originally decided upon. Type A feels a bit different from that original story. Surprisingly, though, I’ve heard a lot of fans say they prefer Type A.
Rena: Wow, really?
Itsuki: I really like Type B. There are some songs that are only included on Type B. It’s not just that the song order is different. I think that gives the album as a whole a different meaning from Type A. They’re almost completely different.
Rena: For me, it’s not really a question of which one I like more.
Itsuki: Oh, I guess that’s also true. (laughs)
Rena: We decided the track order for each type together, but I’ve only listened to Type B since it was released.
Rena: We listened and discussed the track order for Type A over and over, to the point where we got sick of it and just went with that final order.
Itsuki: We had so many meetings about the tracklists until we came to an agreement on them. So, we have listened to the songs a lot. A lot.
Makoto: I personally like Type B. Jin said this already, but we had more of a reaction from Type A. I think it’s because our fans realized it’s not a song order we’d normally go with. They praised us saying they haven’t heard many albums like it before.
Len: I’ve only listened to Type B. I like it because there are songs that are only included on that type, and I like the overall feeling of it.
-You also had a one-man show at TSUTAYA O-WEST in June. How did that go?
Jin: I think we were able to pull off what we set out to do. It was a good test of our ability to concentrate and prepare for something, and I think we did a great job.
There were good parts and bad parts, but we’ll work to improve those bad parts until our next one-man.
Itsuki: We thought a lot about how to fuse our usual performance style with a performance based on background video footage. Maybe if we worked more on combining those two styles, we could have had a better show. I think it was fairly good for our first try, but the feedback we received was a little different.
We’re not sure if we’ll try using video footage again at our next one-man in November. We might do something completely different. If we do end up using video, though, I vow that we will make it better.
Makoto: There aren’t many bands that play shows heavy on video footage, so I think we were able to show the fans something new. It was a bit different from the force of our usual shows. We worked really hard on preparing for the show, so it gave us a sense of accomplishment when it was all over. For our next O-WEST one-man, I want to achieve something even greater.
Rena: I had a lot of fun. But, of course, a good show isn’t just about having fun. The reaction we received from fans in regards to that was a bit different. It wasn’t like they said it was a bad show, but I think there’s more we can do for the fans at our next O-WEST one-man.
Len: In technical terms, I think we did everything we set out to do. There weren’t any big issues. In terms of the performance itself, I think we were slightly off. Striking that balance [between a video performance and our normal performance style] proved to be difficult. I don’t think it was necessarily a bad show, but I think we should try harder next time.
-Your next single, “PERSONA,” will be released on October 19th. Could you tell us a bit about the songs included on the release?
Jin: We rearranged the title track, “PERSONA,” over and over. We did with the other tracks as well. We wanted to strike a balance between something with force and something easy to listen to. This is the first time we’ve made all of the songs between types A and B based on the same concept (“persona”).
Rena: They’re all “PERSONA,” but they’re like different forms of it.
-So, what kind of concept is “PERSONA” based on?
Jin: I wanted to express the concept of humanity on a deeper level. The title track, “PERSONA,” is about humanity in general and the masks we normally wear as humans. The mask is what we show the outside world in different situations, but it’s not usually the same as what’s inside of us. It’s the part of us that we feel like we can’t show to other people.
-Does your latest artist photo reflect that concept as well?
Jin: Yes, they’re characters from the “PERSONA” music video. It shows the members of THE BLACK SWAN playing a normal show, and then these black figures come out of them. They’re depictions of the somewhat frightening and dark side of us.
Itsuki: We didn’t come up with this concept after the fact; we came up with the image and concept before arranging the songs.
Jin: We did a lot of rearranging.
-Did it end up sounding completely different from the original demo?
Itsuki: It’s completely different. You could say it’s a different song entirely and you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s a demo that I originally wrote. Then it was rearranged by all the members in the band. I think we only made it better, though.
Most of the songs we’ve made until now have been rearrangements of parts of the song. This time, there were parts that we completely remade from zero. I think that’s what was the most different for this recording.
Rena: I think the bass has a much rawer sound than our usual songs. It’s not any lower sound-wise, but there are parts that diverge from the normal beat and sound. I tried to use that as a way to express the concept of “PERSONA,” humanity. I think it gives the song more force.
-Now it’s time for the Kotetsu Corner!…
Rena: Okay, then the rest of us are going home. (laughs)
-…Len and Kotetsu have been appearing on Japanese television on a monthly basis. Has this continued to have an effect on THE BLACK SWAN’s popularity?
Rena: Len has almost 100,000 followers on Twitter.
Len: It definitely has an influence on the band. I’m not sure what kind of influence, though.
Itsuki: We’ve noticed an increase in fans from different regions in Japan.
Rena: There are still a lot of people that come to me and say, “I heard about you from watching Kotetsu!” I’m not sure why they come up to me, though. (laughs)
Len: I’m glad people have heard of us and listen to our music [because of Kotetsu]. It gives them the chance to discover music that they might not have realized they like.
Rena: Yeah, it gives them the chance to meet people like me. You don’t meet human beings like me everyday. (laughs)
-Len, we heard you went to Texas recently. How did that opportunity come about?
Len: It was for a TV program. It was a total surprise. They came to me and said they wanted me to go somewhere with them to film a program. I agreed and said, “Okay, where?” They said, “America.” I was like, “America!?” It was to look at different kinds of cats in America and film me playing with them.
-But why in Texas?
Len: There are some cat breeders there [that the television program knew about]. There’s also a drummer there like me who owns a cat. They wanted me to meet him. We played drums together.
-Did you have fun?
Len: It was so much fun! I want to live in America now! I visited Austin, where there’s a lot of music.
-Tell us about one memorable thing that happened to you during the trip.
Len: Well, there was that time at customs and immigration… I can’t speak English at all. I really had to use the bathroom when we were waiting in line, but I didn’t know how to say that in English. I was like, “What should I do!?” When I couldn’t hold it any longer, I turned to someone and said, “[in English] Uh, excuse me…” I didn’t know how to say ‘toilet’ in English, so I just said, “Toire! Toire!” They said, “Toilet? Oh, yeah,” and showed me where the bathroom was. [in English] I want toilet! (laughs)
Itsuki: [in English] Bathroom? Restroom?
-Either is fine! (laughs) So, Len, what did you think of American people?
Len: They’re awesome! I really like their character. In neighborhoods, where a lot of people were walking their dogs or just outside, everyone greets each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stranger. That almost never happens in Japan.
Rena: Yeah, it if happened in Japan, you’d think they were a weirdo. (laughs)
Len: It made me a little envious, honestly. I liked that. I think their style is a lot freer than Japan, too. A lot of people have tattoos and things that they can show freely.*
*Author’s note: Tattoos in Japan are still widely seen as taboo, and are forbidden to be shown in many places such as gyms, beaches, and workplaces.
-Do the other members want to visit America, too?
Itsuki: I want to visit Los Angeles.
-Do you have plans as THE BLACK SWAN to play in America?
Itsuki: If you call us!
Len: I want to go back!!!
Rena: Let’s go to Las Vegas.
-What can we expect from THE BLACK SWAN in the near future?
Itsuki: We can’t predict how things will be [in the near future], but we don’t have any plans right now to change. Whatever we do, it will be interesting.
Jin: We’ll work together as a band to develop into something more and more interesting. We want to continue to improve.
-Finally, please give a message to your fans and readers at S-T.net.
Jin: I know there are a lot of fans overseas that like all different kinds of visual kei, and I know it’s difficult to cross over the sea to come and see us, but I hope that you can come see us at least once while we’re alive.
Makoto: A lot of overseas fans communicate with us via Twitter and see our news on the Internet, but I want you to come see us live if you can.
Rena: I’m not sure what our band will become in the future and how long we’ll continue, but I know that I want to keep going for as long as we possibly can. I hope you can come see us. Please continue to give us your support.
Itsuki: I know it’s difficult to come to Japan if you’re currently living overseas, but if you do, we’ll use that as the motivation to try going overseas ourselves. Please support us.
Len: I’ll harness the power of cats to be able to go overseas.
You can read the details released so far on “PERSONA” (including pre-order links) in our previous article.
In traditional S-T style, we’re giving away two signed autograph boards to two lucky readers. Enter our contest using any or all of the entry methods offered on our Rafflecopter for your chance to win. The deadline is October 5th at 11:59PM (EST).
Interview by Ku and Shannon
Translation by Shannon
Tags: THE BLACK SWAN