8 years of Kanjani8 (translation)
I liked this interview Ori-Suta put online – Momo.
Q: Kanjani8 have tried a variety of music genres, but to get here the group went through a number of transitions musically. First there was your enka era. Your debut song “浪花いろは節 (Naniwa Iroha Bushi)” stood out with its mix of enka and rap. Were you worried at all at the time?
Murakami: I wasn’t. I was willing to sing anything if it meant we’d make our debut. The only thing I remember was being happy.
Shibutani: Me too. It was enka, but I thought that song could cut it. No one else had made a song like that, and I thought we could use that to our advantage.
Q: Did you think it’d all be over after one or two singles?
Maruyama: Yes! I thought we were like a special project. You know, like some of those other groups who have come out from Johnny’s?
Murakami: I think a part of me was thinking that. Maybe that’s why I worked so hard, because I didn’t want it to end.
Q: We started to see a change after you released “ズッコケ男道 (Zukkoke Otoko-michi)”, then “イッツ マイ ソウル (It’s My Soul)”. There was a time where you released a number of songs that displayed Kanjani8’s masculinity, something we see a lot of today too.
Nishikido: I think “Zukkoke” was the first time people started noticing our songs. It’s a must in our concert set list. I think that’s when we all started goofing around on shows like Music Station (laughs). Well, I say everyone, but I really mean Subaru-kun. On camera he’d do something completely different to what we practiced during rehearsals. I remember we’d all watch the show afterwards and be like, “what is he doing!?” (laughs). But I also think that gave us the opportunity to start being ourselves on TV.
Q: What were you thinking, Shibutani-san?
Shibutani: I just wanted to do something (laughs). I wanted the people watching TV to remember me in some way.
Murakami: You wanted to leave a permanent impression on them didn’t you!
Shibutani: Yeah. I wasn’t goofing off, I just didn’t want to lose!
Q: So you were a rebel.
Shibutani: I don’t know about that, but before I knew it, I was making tons of funny faces on camera (laughs)
Q: It was hard to forget Kanjani8 after you saw them once. Your music, the way you talked, and your drive to be on top.
Okura: I was just so happy to be on TV. We weren’t on TV much when we made our debut. I was happy knowing that I could do the same work as my senpai who had already released records, and I guess it showed on my face.
Q: And it continued to your hit single “無責任ヒーロー (Musekinin Hero)”…
Yasuda: I think this is around the time when guys started listening to our songs. When I meet guys who are our fans, they’ve told me they like “Zukkoke” and “Musekinin Hero”. It’s partly thanks to the song’s music, but also as Ryo-chan says, the fact that we were all able to be ourselves.
Murakami: I think it’s also thanks to our 47 prefectural tour. I have a feeling that we started to get more guys at our concerts after that tour.
Nishikido: I think so too. In the old days I remember being really happy seeing a guy in the crowd, even if he was just there to be with his girlfriend!
Q: That 47 prefectural tour was a big turn for Kanjani8. Not many musicians manage to go around so many places across the entire country.
Murakami: We managed to play in huge places like Tokyo Dome and smaller venues like town halls. Without knowing it, I started to learn how to predict how close or far we’d be from the crowd depending on venue.
Nishikido: There were quite a few places which would only fit 1000 people eh? Like in Choshi!
Murakami: And Shikoku, and Aomori…even that small venue in Kyoto, right?
Maruyama: Was it the Kyoto Kaikan. But even in there, it was great to be able to feel the vibe of the crowd instantly.
Okura: One conversation I remember really clearly was when we were playing a concert at a place where not many musicians go to, they told me, “thanks for making the effort to come to our tiny country town. We’ve got nothing to look forward to but the annual festival so you’re a real treat.” I felt so happy.
Murakami: I remember one fan at one of the smaller venues, they were on the second floor wearing a “Naniwa Iroha Bushi” costume and waving Murakami uchiwas in both hands. I still remember you. I thought you were funny (laughs).
Q: Have you become closer as a group?
Nishikido: Absolutely. We’re always together on the bus and over long periods of time. I wouldn’t take it as far as saying that because of it we are where we are today, but it is an important part of our group.
Shibutani: Tours are a big deal. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember when we were on our PUZZLE tour, I felt so much better after having dinner with the members and talking over things with them. I’d feel so great during the concert the next day. Learning more about one another during tours every year has been important to me. It never feels like I’m wasting time.
Q: Speaking of tours, Kanjani8’s band is another one of your features. You’ve had a band together for years but your first single as one wasn’t until “LIFE ～目の前の向こうへ～ (me no mae no mukou-he)”.
Nishikido: Yeah, Maru and Okura and Sho-chan had formed a band before we became Kanjani8, and Subaru-kun was doing vocals. So I wanted to be part of it too! Then I started learning guitar.
Q: Kanjani8 look so cool when you’re playing as a band.
Maruyama: I think bands are a powerful music tool. You can use it as a weapon to reach out to teen idol fans and music fans.
Shibutani: Bands are powerful, but I think our biggest weapon is that we’re not just a band. Depending on the song we can become a band, but we can also do a comedy skit, or even a dance. That is what Kanjani8 is.
Read more of the interview in this week’s Ori-Suta (released Oct 19)!