The certain hit third album is complete!
Finally, SIAM SHADE is back from L.A.!
Of course, they brought their long-awaited third album (second major label album) as a souvenir.
In the powerful expressions of the five members and their more straightforward musical style lingers an air of confidence rooted in the fulfillment of having once again broken through into another level. You can't talk about the hard rock of '96 if you haven't listened to the masterpiece SIAM SHADE III!

interview and text by Yusuke Katoh (加藤祐介)

――I heard that the mixing and mastering of SIAM SHADE III was done in Los Angeles. Why Los Angeles?

DAITA: There is this engineer called David Bianco, and we thought that we would like to have him do it. We made him an offer and he agreed to do it if he could use the studio in Los Angeles that he always uses.

――What kind of recordings has David Bianco worked on before?

DAITA: What I liked was Ozzy Osbourne's album Ozzmosis. It was an innovative mix; the kind of I haven't heard before. The sound was heavy so I thought that it would also suit our songs on this album.

――How did David Bianco react when he heard SIAM SHADE's sound?

DAITA: He worked very enthusiastically. It went really smoothly. We could leave most things up to him; we only had to say a few comments about minor details.

NATIN: However, I had a lot of confidence in the sound we recorded here in Japan, so I felt like it wouldn't matter where we did the mixing. That's why I had objections to going (to Los Angeles).

――People call Los Angeles the sacred ground of hard rock, so certainly you must have got much benefit from the trip?

DAITA: It did feel to me like a place where the music of Van Halen, Aerosmith and such others would be born. I'm sure they are considered geniuses overseas as well, but I really felt that they must have ended up sounding like they do as a matter of course.

――What did you think was the biggest difference between Japan?

DAITA: I would say the language. (laughs)

DAITA: And considering ordinary things, food also.

KAZUMA: The air was different too.

NATIN: Also the bigness was different. It felt very immense. They've got the room to bang on drums at home since childhood, right?

――You can say that again. What did you gain from Los Angeles, KAZUMA?

KAZUMA: English.


KAZUMA: My broken English is flawless. (laughs) I can't understand difficult words but I've learned to catch what people are trying saying.

HIDEKI: The point being that they're not saying anything important, right? (laughs)

DAITA: At the studio we can understand each other because music terminology is the same. In private, I can understand for example what people are cracking up at, but I can't keep up with the conversation.

――You laugh one beat behind? (laughs)

DAITA: That's it. (laughs)

KAZUMA: In the studio the only words we did use were “great!” and “no problem!” though. (laughs)

――That's all you had to say about the magnificent mix. (laughs)

NATIN: And also: “We are basketball team!”. There was a basketball hoop at the parking lot of the studio, and that's what we said to the reception lady to borrow a ball. (laughs)

DAITA: I recall that that lady had pretty big breasts. (laughs) But we couldn't communicate because of the language barrier. (laughs)

HIDEKI: That's where the instrumentalists and vocalists differ. I was... with my eyes. With that she was basically mine. (laughs)

――Uh huh... (laughs)

HIDEKI: When I wanted Bianco to bring up the vocals a little, I just needed to signal him with my eyes. And that's why the others still have their Mongolian spots. (laughs)

――They're still blue in the butt? (laughs)

HIDEKI: Yes. (laughs)

DAITA: Why do Mongolian spots come up here? (laughs)

――What was your biggest gain from Los Angeles, JUNJI?

JUNJI: Calories. (laughs)

KAZUMA: Exactly! (laughs)

JUNJI: Everything we ate had a strong flavor. You know they are all like this (fat) over there? I could see that if you eat stuff like that every day then that's the result.

DAITA: Everything is made very roughly. It made me realize again how delicious Japanese food is.

――How about you HIDEKI?

HIDEKI: I went shopping towns, separately from the others...

――Shopping towns!?

HIDEKI: Oh, when you come to my class, you buy complete towns. (laughs)

――You never flinch. (laughs)

HIDEKI: When we were eating at restaurants, all sorts of people came up to talk to us. Asking: “What did you come to do in L.A.?” And I would answer them like this: “We came here to record.” And they would say: “Oh! My friend's in Big 7! I like rock too, so send me your CD!”, and tell us their address.

NATIN: Big 7???

HIDEKI: Or was it M7?

NATIN: It's L7! (laughs)

HIDEKI: Well, they come aggressively to talk.

――Did you think that that kind of thing fits SIAM SHADE?

HIDEKI: It felt like there were many of me and I hated it. (laughs)

DAITA: The women were like HIDEKI too, overfamiliar.

HIDEKI: But I did think it fits us. Maybe it's because nothing scary happened.

――Talking about scary things, a ghost appeared in the agency's villa where you were staying, right?

NATIN: I was the only one who saw it. It was the first ghost I've ever seen. HIDEKI however has a strong spiritual sense, so he has experienced all kinds of things...

HIDEKI: My first time was in the 2nd year of junior high.

――Thank you very much. (laughs)

NATIN: So sure enough, on the first day, HIDEKI experienced sleep paralysis.

DAITA: I experienced sleep paralysis two times in two days. JUNJI also slept in the same room...

JUNJI: I had my hands pulled and other sorts of mischief happened.

HUDEKI: [sic] And after we had talked about how the place was haunted, when NATIN was sleeping on the couch, he woke up suddenly and saw through the glass door someone standing in the garden. He thought it was our cameraman William (Haymes. The cameraman who was in charge of filming in Los Angeles, and who speaks Japanese better then most Japanese) and said “come on in”. But when he got a clearer look it was someone totally different. At that time he thought that he was going to be shot.

NATIN: He was so clear that I didn't think it was a ghost. But when I looked more carefully, you could see the background scenery through him.

HIDEKI: And then NATIN just said, “Oh, it's just an invisible man”, and went back to sleep. (laughs)

――Give me a break!

――SIAM SHADE III sounds harder then anything you've done before.

DAITA: We wanted to have more elevating (1) songs when playing live; that was the concept for this album.

――I'm sure you must have written and recorded songs with live performance in mind before. If you feel that that is not good enough, does it mean that your view of live shows itself has changed?

DAITA: I mean, during our amateur period we were working frantically, that's why we had lots of hard songs then. But since SIAM SHADE II was a major label album, we added together two good things — easy-to-listen-to melodies and hard music — and divided them by two. But with songs like that we just can't go wild. When a song is good you naturally want to play it carefully, right? That's why we this time have many songs that are simple to play, or that can be played on an impulse.

――Normally it's the other way round. Going on a major label, with each album you will place more emphasis on sounding good.

DAITA: That's true. For example in western music there are those whose music style changes into pop. I don't think that that is very cool.

HIDEKI: There's two choices. There are also those who do what they want and put out eccentric music, thinking that big fans will listen to anything they release. For us it was: “We'll never get popular anyway, so let's just do whatever we want, damn it!” That's the truth. (laughs)


DAITA: Like they say in English: “It's a joke”. (laughs)

HIDEKI: Anyway the consistency of the album was important. Since SIAM SHADE II was like a potpourri (2), this time we wanted the whole album to have a consistent world view.

DAITA: I think that the previous album would have had consistency if we had reduced the number of songs, as we did this time. But our first album, which came before that, had only six songs and we thought that if we were going to do gigs, we'd better get people to know as many of our songs as we can.

KAZUMA: But with the songs we had until now, our live shows wouldn't last. If we had to list all our hard songs, there aren't that many.

HIDEKI: Meaning, if we perform the hard songs first, we won't have any energetic songs left for the second half.

DAITA: Since the songs we wrote during our amateur period are still often the main point of our live shows, we wanted hard songs that would take their place.

HIDEKI: The point is that this time we've included a lot of songs where we can interact with the audience.

DAITA: I think there are a lot of songs that will make you think: “I want to hear that live”, when you listen to them on the CD.

――I felt relieved when I heard the word interaction. One of the good points of SIAM SHADE is that while sounding hard, you can still sing along. There are probably readers who get the feeling that maybe you've compromised that at the expense of hardness. If they've only read this interview that is. But that's not the case at all, the song melodies are as great as ever.

HIDEKI: In our case, good song melodies are the starting point. If we were just yelling: “Death! Death!”, we wouldn't need two vocalists, now would we?

――That's true. (laughs)

HIDEKI: That's where we differ from your everyday band. But it is difficult trying to explain our album in words. You see, there aren't other bands like this.

DAITA: I listen to all kinds of CDs and try to fit us somewhere, but we are a bit of a maverick. In western music there aren't bands like this, whose songs are this easy to listen to, but whose sound is this aggressive or this stirring.

HIDEKI: Though it was mentioned a moment ago that there are a lot of songs that we can simply play on an impulse — they may sound simple, but we're not slacking off. We don't want to be put together with other bands, so we're doing detailed things normal people won't notice. We are probably the most meticulous hard rock band in Japan.

――I too took what DAITA said about having many simple songs as modesty. The backings are really elaborate, the rhythms, solos and all.

DAITA: Oh, is that so? I got things done pretty quickly this time.

NATIN: SIAM SHADE II took a lot longer, right?

DAITA: Yeah. In SIAM SHADE II, it was difficult to handle the variation inside the songs; there were a lot of changes.

HIDEKI: And this time it was like, it's OK if you make a mistake as long as it sounds cool.

DAITA: That's why I believe that I played pretty roughly. At first I thought of working conscientiously like in SIAM SHADE II, but the whole band was in a good groove, so I thought that maybe I should just play on the spur of the moment.

JUNJI: For SIAM SHADE II I played really tensely, and this time I noticed that being too obsessive about it won't produce a good groove, so I focused on vigor rather than perfection. It's about the first five takes that are spirited. After no matter how many times you do it, no matter how good a take you get, it feels that it can't beat the first five takes. I thought that this album could use some spirit.

HIDEKI: You got almost everything done in two takes, right?

JUNJI: But when I got stuck, I got stuck thoroughly.

HIDEKI: And still, our drummer won't drum over two takes. And when he got into his stride, it would be OK in half a take. (laughs)

――Uh huh! (laughs)

HIDEKI: And putting two of those together we got one song. (laughs)

――Don't be silly! (laughs)

HIDEKI: If I had had backings similar to those in SIAM SHADE II I might have sung more finely. But this time the backings made me want to sing roughly.

――You might be singing roughly, but I think that it sounds really careful because you've gotten very good at choosing the words and setting them on a melody.

HIDEKI: Oh, that might be true. I still have many challenges to overcome, but I think I was able to show 120% of my ability.

――When did you write the English lyrics to “DON'T TELL LIES”?

HIDEKI: That was right at the last moment. Actually, until the day before the recording, I was thinking – the title meaning “don't tell lies!” [“ウソつくな!”] – of including the names of successive prime ministers in the chorus. “Takeshita, Hosokawa, Nakasone, Kanemaru, don't tell lies!” (laughs)

DAITA: And O. J. Simpson. (laughs)

HIDEKI: But the drawn-out “soon!” of “O. J. Simpsoon!” made it sound like a Kamon Tatsuo parody song. (laughs) That's why we changed it into English.

DAITA: The lyrics and all considered, I think that we've taken a harder, more rock direction this time. That's why you will feel a strong sense of unity listening to it. That's where this album gets its passion, don't you think? Last time we focused on drawing out the good points in the compositions, but this time we concentrated on the power that the compositions themselves have. The quality of the compositions themselves was superb, the melodies were good and the rhythms were cool.

――And when this magazine is in stores, your countrywide tour “Yakkun, Meal is Served. All Together Miracle Autumn Stroll '96” will be in its second half. But anyway, that's some title it's got.

NATIN: “Yakkun” refers to me. My parents still call me Yakkun. (laughs)

DAITA: And I love “autumn strolls”.

HIDEKI: And “all together miracle” is nice too, right?

NATIN: With roman letter tour titles you tend to forget if it was last year or the year before that, right? But with “Immortal JUNJI” you immediately remember that, “Oh, that was when JUNJI had an accident.” That's the good point.

――So, this tour will be another unforgettable, magnificent tour?

Everyone: Exactly!

(1) Not sure about this. In the source it says: “行き上げれる曲” which doesn't make any sense and seems like a mistake.
(2) 幕の内弁当状態 – lit. maku-no-uchi-bento state (maku-no-uchi-bento = lunch box with rice and a variety of side dishes)

Fool's Mate magazine #181 (November 1996). Scans by morgianasama