Two Kenshi Yonezus
Kenshi Yonezu Tells the Unknown History of Hachi and Himself!
"Two Kenshi Yonezus." That is the title of this feature. It may make you suspect it's an interview with some difficult themes, but to those who want to know more about the artist Kenshi Yonezu, it couldn't make it more clear what this feature is all about.
Simply put, this feature uses the idea of "two Kenshi Yonezus" to open Pandora's Box, and have him explain with terrifying tidiness how he lived in order to build up the current Kenshi Yonezu.
The idea for the theme of this feature came about from the release of Sand Planet, his first song in four years to be under the name of Vocaloid producer Hachi - and it was as a Vocaloid producer that he first began broadcasting music to listeners.
Why was Vocaloid necessary to make his start as an artist? Why did he, who earned such immense fame in the world of NicoNico Douga as Hachi, choose to jump out from there and sing with his real voice, operating under the name Kenshi Yonezu? And what kind of entity is Hachi, who still remains within him even now?
Starting off from the topic of "Kenshi Yonezu and Hachi," we found that there were in many ways "two Kenshi Yonezus" within Kenshi Yonezu. We used a mirror for the photo session, but even in the interview, mirrors of various types helped to thoroughly show "another Kenshi Yonezu." Furthermore, after the interview was over, he wrote a letter to another Kenshi Yonezu - his childhood self.
Perhaps when we listen to Kenshi Yonezu or Hachi's music, we unconsciously feel the warmth and breathing of "another self." Music in general could be said to have such magic-mirror-like powers, but the music he creates, almost greedily, bites into everything positive and everything negative in our era - truly, a highly-exaggerating magic mirror.
With this feature, we hope to take you to see the fundamental reason why Kenshi Yonezu is such a special artist in our time.
If there's both "Hachi" and "Kenshi Yonezu," I don't want to be either. I want to be right in the middle.
"Kenshi Yonezu" and "Hachi"
I seriously reject the idea of "the real self." It feels like none of them should be "the real," since they're all me.
Q. First, I think we'll start from the notion of "Kenshi Yonezu" and "Hachi." Relistening to your Hachi-era songs with the "two Kenshi Yonezus" theme of this feature in mind, I found that the word "two [people]" came up a lot. On the other hand, it stopped appearing once you switched to Kenshi Yonezu.
Q. In short, I wondered if you had a sense in the Hachi era that you were making songs "together with" something or another. What exactly was your mentality when you began posting songs as Hachi?
A. I've talked about this before, but at first, around high school, I uploaded songs I sang myself to NicoNico Douga. I was making songs before then as well, but they were only heard by a limited number of people, like the band members. So posting online got more people to see them, however small in number, and I simply enjoyed that. Afterward, pretty much right after graduating high school and leaving for Osaka, I found Vocaloid through an article online, and it looked very appealing, like "I could do this too." Making songs with a mechanical voice meant I could made do without communicating with others, and there was already a Vocaloid community forming, and it felt exciting, like a playground. So I thought, if I go here, maybe even the songs I made in high school can be heard by more and more people.
Q. Not only was having a machine to sing for you freeing, but you also found the chance to make connections with lots of people appealing.
A. Right. Pretty much everyone in the Vocaloid community experienced frustration at least once.
Q. Frustration toward being in a band with others and having someone else sing?
A. Yeah. Even if it wasn't all the way to "frustrating," I think we all felt deep down, "I'm not suited for working with others." But Hatsune Miku isn't a human, so there's never any conflict of intention - you're free to do what you want. So it was the perfect tool for me back then, having no particular connections to anyone. I was making songs in a band at the time, sure, but not everyone in it had the same amount of passion; it felt like what I thought was beautiful and instructed them to do didn't stick the same way with them, or I'd say "give me an arrangement like this" and it wouldn't go the way I thought. There were a lot of frustrations like that. In fact, I was born in Tokushima, and there are only 2 or 3 concert venues in the whole prefecture, and whenever I went to them, the music was really lame. So I despaired. "Why do I have to live in a place like this?" It really felt like nobody around me understood me. Amid that, I found Vocaloid, and there were people there who thought like I did. Myself included, I think Vocaloid looked like a ray of light to people who can't get along well with others.
Q. So I suppose you saw Vocaloid as something you could use to connect with other people. But what kind of entity did you perceive Vocaloid as in general? Was it a machine? An instrument? A tool?
A. Hmm, that's a tough one. You could call it a machine, you could call it an instrument, you could call it a tool, but I definitely think there's something else that makes it so I wouldn't call it any of those. Personally, there was some part of me that used Vocaloid as an instrument, but when I'm actually listening to Vocaloid music, I'm definitely listening to it as something sung by these girls, by Hatsune Miku or Gumi or whoever. In that sense, they are real, genuine idols, and cute girls. Thus, Vocaloid producers are primarily people who wouldn't be making music if it weren't for those girls. Recently, I was in an interview with ryo-san of supercell, and he said something like "I did it to kill time between normal work, then it ended up like this." If it had been ten years earlier, I think that would've been inconceivable. But Vocaloid is something that makes that possible. If it were just a tool, I don't think this could've happened.
Q. To many people, Vocaloid is surely an engine that makes all sorts of fateful encounters happen. Even if it's the same Miku, the same Gumi, people perceive them differently, and the personality of the creator really shows through in how they use them. With Vocaloid, you're making music together with something that isn't you, but kind of is, which results in something different from music made alone. I think that encounter changes the music you produce, and so it did in your case with the songs you made as Hachi.
A. That's true. Thus, I have nothing but fun memories of my time in Vocaloid. Thinking about it, my first songs weren't much different from the things I was doing before when I sang - it was just using Vocaloid instead. But simply passing it through the filter of Hatsune Miku led lots of people to listen, and stepping foot in that neighborhood let me discover music by lots of people in lots of genres. I met people who I surely wouldn't have if Vocaloid didn't exist, so it was an extremely stimulating place. Looking all around going "There's this, there's that," absorbing it all, having more and more fun, making music in a daze, and before I knew it, a year had passed.
- Honestly, finding Vocaloid, I didn't think "This is what I was looking for."
Q. You produced songs you likely never would've made if you never found Vocaloid. For instance, there was the Hachi-era song Persona Alice. Truly, a Vocaloid is a bit like a Persona.
A. Yeah, you might have a point. I wasn't thinking that deep into it at the time, of course. (laughs)
Q. Do you still listen to the songs from back then?
A. No, only very rarely. But when I do on occasion remember one and relisten, I always go "Hey, I made some pretty good songs!" (laughs) Of course, I think of whatever song I'm making right now as the coolest, but when I relisten to old songs, I reaffirm my opinion of "it's pretty messy, but it's good for what it is." For better or worse, I think they do things that I can't do now.
Q. How do you perceive the "Hachi" entity inside you? He has a different name, but he's undeniably you. How do you picture the owner of that name?
A. Personally, I had a PC and internet at home since grade school, and I've used screen names since then as well, so it doesn't feel unusual as something that isn't my real name. Though of course, the name I used in grade school and such wasn't "Hachi." When I uploaded Sand Planet, I got a lot of people separating them like "is this Hachi-esque, or Yonezu-esque?" But personally, I make the division of "Hachi when uploading a Vocaloid song, Yonezu the rest of the time" purely for people's convenience. There's not a single thing that makes me think "since I'm being Hachi, I have to do it like this."
Q. So it's like, for example, how you couldn't possibly say whether your online self or your offline self was more "you"?
A. I suppose, yes. Ever since grade school, I was simply myself on the internet, and in the outside world... well, I'm not sure if I should call it that. (laughs) I just saw it as "I'm also on this side," so I feel like there's really no meaning to questions like "which one is the real you?"
Q. There's no reason to divide it. It's just one to you.
A. Right, right. Since they're both myself, thinking that through makes me wonder "well, what is a "real self," anyway?" There are a lot of different people online, on social media. Well, there wasn't always social media, so before it would be message boards and such... When I look at people in these places, I think about how they have lives of their own, and in those lives, they have different selves they show to different people - the self they show to their parents, the self they show to friends - and I wonder if there exists an "internet self" that's just another one of those. I imagine all these different selves, and I've done that sort of thing over and over since I was a child, so I seriously reject the idea of "the real self." It feels like none of them should be "the real," since they're all me.
Q. In other words, there's just one of you in your mind. But if we consider things like school, family, and your band as "society," there's a self who feels like society's dragging him down when he's trying to do something, who experiences friction with society. Maybe that's why you felt like your selves were divided.
A. I suppose.
Q. However, I wonder if, when you have Vocaloid, Kenshi Yonezu doesn't have to divide - there's a sense you can be just one Kenshi Yonezu.
A. Hmmm, I'm not sure. There's the self who has friction with society, and the self who's in a place that suits his nature, as what he has matches up well with Vocaloid. I really feel that both of them are me. So honestly, finding Vocaloid, I didn't think "This is what I was looking for." It simply happened to combine pretty well with what I had. But on the other hand, there was certainly a part of myself that wasn't getting on well with it at all. So I never want to say that combined self is right in all respects, or that "this is my true form" - there simply has to be both. I want to live with an always-objective view of what I'm thinking, and what place I have in society... We're not talking about fantasy and reality, but it's no good to go too far into fantasy, and neither is it good to always be dragged around by reality. So for instance, if there's both "Hachi" and "Kenshi Yonezu," I don't want to be either. I'd most want to be right in the middle.
- I made Sand Planet thinking I'd airdrop a necessary evil for the current Vocaloid community and NicoNico Douga.
Q. I see. I think you're always looking toward the future, Yonezu-kun. You even became Hachi because you saw yourself in the future not dealing well with society, yet at your back was a self who couldn't really do it. Now you've become Kenshi Yonezu and are looking at the future again, but at your back is your Hachi-era self. So even once you began operating at Kenshi Yonezu, that "Hachi" self was always there. You made the song Sand Planet for Miku's 10th anniversary, and I imagine you naturally had to confront what making a song with Miku now would mean.
Q. Sand Planet has the lyric "today is our happy birthday," but Urban Playground, the last song on OFFICIAL ORANGE, also had a very similar line, "today is our birthday." Though Urban Playground is a song you sang.
A. Right. Urban Playground was essentially the Kenshi Yonezu prototype song. When I was making OFFICIAL ORANGE, I was really thinking about how I'd like to sing with my own voice. So I decided to make that song and put it in, but honestly, I really can't remember what intentions I had when writing the lyrics. (laughs)
Q. (laughs) Listening to Urban Playground again, it felt like by you singing this with your own voice, it made all the songs you'd made up to then using Vocaloid turn sepia, a bit like scenes from the past.
A. Yeah, yeah.
I thought, I could only create Sand Planet now, and only I could create it.
Q. And so, listening to Sand Planet now, it feels like landing back on that world, like you're being connected into that world. Your memories have faded a bit, but that world itself still exists, and you've landed there once more.
A. I see... I've always really liked "deserts," but especially lately, it's really become my thing, I guess, an important keyword. That's why it was in Number Nine, too. I was asked to do Magical Mirai 2017's theme song during this, and when I looked back at the current state of NicoNico Douga, that "desert" keyword seemed fitting. NicoNico itself is drying up a bit... it's becoming a desert, as I saw it. That definitely fit with the "desert" keyword I'm currently so fond of, so it felt like things snapped into place nicely, and thus it felt like it might be meaningful to do the song. And so it became this theme song directed at Vocaloid.
Q. It feels like you made something you could only make now, standing on NicoNico Douga as Hachi once more.
A. I thought, I could only create it now, and only I could create it. Hmm. I don't want this to sound too cheeky, so I'll have to choose my words carefully... I was born from the Vocaloid scene, I kept going at it there, I stepped out of Vocaloid for a time, I went through lots of trial and error, and I think I've done a pretty good job all told. To move into a productive future, I need to look at what exactly I am, how I look objectively, and what road I've walked... Sure enough, doing that results in a fair amount of pain, but I managed to endure that pain and made it here. Boy, this is really turning into me singing my own praises. (laughs) Given that, when I looked back at the current Vocaloid scene and NicoNico Douga, I felt like it lacked that kind of self-criticism. Anyone could see there were things that needed improving, but nobody was trying to improve them... It felt like things were a bit misaligned. So I thought, "Is there anything I can say about that?" Well, I don't think there are too many people who can speak on that situation. In fact, maybe it'd be better if I didn't take that duty, but I felt I had enough history behind me that I could. Thus, I figured maybe I should airdrop a necessary evil of sorts, and that's more or less why I made a song like this.
- Vocaloid on NicoNico Douga is a semi-hometown to me, so I really want it to continue on.
Q. I absolutely understand what you're saying. But from the start, I feel like you used Vocaloid in a very serious way.
Q. It's a tool you could've used more for pleasure's sake, but because of your serious approach, you were able to set out from the world of NicoNico and Vocaloid to the next stage. Then, on that new stage, you continued that diligent way of expression as Kenshi Yonezu, and that's why for Hatsune Miku's 10th anniversary, you can stand here again and sing. It's a nostalgic place, but you dropping this song there like a bomb surely had to be partly for entertainment's sake.
A. I was thinking the whole time, "when this song goes up, things are gonna get really stormy." (laughs) But in reality, it didn't get that stormy... Of course, people found pros and cons, but not enough where you could say it was stormy. So I've been thinking it'd be nice if this Sand Planet could help kick something off. I don't especially feel that by posting this song, I'm going to pull along the Vocaloid scene once more. More than that, I want to see how people respond to this "necessary evil" song sticking out. Like, "No, it's not like that!" or "Vocaloid is overflowing with love!"... sorry, that sounded too ironic... But I think it'd be nice for people to respond with answers like that. And I hope that seeing it makes for many Vocaloid producers of a new generation, superb Vocaloid producers, being born one after another. So strictly speaking, I just want Sand Planet to serve as an opportunity for others to jump off from.
Q. Ultimately, Kenshi Yonezu and Hachi are one and the same, so by posting a song now as an artist using Vocaloid, you hoped to induce activity among others. How exactly they act will depend on the artist, and who knows if it'll become a different place or just become obsolete. But you making this song now certainly has meaning for you as an artist.
A. I thought it might feel as if I was singing a requiem, but it's all up to everyone to decide. Personally, Vocaloid on NicoNico Douga is a semi-hometown to me, so I really want it to continue on and on, and get all fired up. But at the same time I think, if it disappears, it disappears - times change, and maybe it's not really anyone's fault. I also wondered if maybe this song might cause things to start going sour really fast... (laughs)
Q. (laughs) So Vocaloid on NicoNico is like a second home to you. Like your feelings toward Tokushima, it's in a sense not your place anymore, but it is a place where you used to be. Sand Planet is about a hometown you have some complex feelings toward.
A. That's right.
"Human" and "Monster"
Seeing a crow who doesn't trust humans, I feel like "I could understand this guy."
Q. Now then, our next theme is "human" and "monster." We're effectively coming back around to it from the "Kenshi Yonezu and Hachi" topic. So essentially, the "monsters" you started drawing are things that aren't human.
Q. What meaning was there behind these non-human things appearing? I'm interested in that part.
A. Well, it's surely because I had that strong self-consciousness since I was a child. I felt really strongly that I was a monster... or, something different from human. I was tall even at birth, and weighed 4500 grams (9.9 pounds), making even my parents wonder "is he going to be handicapped?" So I think it was like that from the moment I was born. For instance, when I watched Laputa (Castle in the Sky), it was the robot soldiers I sympathized with most. (laughs) I felt like those were the closest thing to me. It happened similarly with other things, sympathizing more with the inhuman. Recently, I've even sympathized a bit with some crows. Every day, there are these two crows on the roof. I thought I'd try to be their friend, so I brought up onigiri for them. (laughs)
Q. (laughs) Shady dealings, huh.
A. But the crows seemed really skeptical about it. If I took my eyes off them for even a second, they'd try something provocative like fly at me, but I kept staring at them and inching closer, and they winced and moved way distant from me. Even if I went up like "You wanna eat this onigiri?", they'd fly away from me, so I put it up on a railing and went away, and then they would finally eat it. Seeing something like that, a crow who doesn't trust humans, makes me feel like "I could understand this guy."
Q. You see the humanity in a crow who doesn't trust humans.
A. I guess so. (laughs) I think to myself, "we're pretty similar, you and I."
- I really have a sense that I might be a monster, but I wonder if all humans might have something like that.
Q. I think the robot soldiers anecdote is very easy to understand - indeed, you can feel human anger in robot soldiers going out of control, or human kindness in a robot holding flowers. Perhaps Hayao Miyazaki put scenes like that in Laputa as a sort of trap, or a setup.
Q. Similarly, maybe you feel like you can't portray humanity without it being through something that's not human.
A. I see... Now that you mention it, Monster Encyclopedia (an illustration series by Yonezu published in ROCKIN'ON JAPAN from its August 2013 to December 2015 issues, now collected into a book) is ultimately about humans. I really have a sense that I might be a monster, but I wonder if all humans might have something like that. In some place or another, everyone has it. For example, youkai - they're like personifications of natural phenomena. There are lots of people in the world who are like youkai. Even when I went to Osaka, for instance, there were lots of youkai-like people... (laughs)
Q. (laughs) Ultimately, Shigeru Mizuki drew so many youkai out of a love for humans too, after all. He didn't draw youkai because he hated humans, but because he fundamentally liked humans.
Q. I expect there are things you dislike, of course, but I get the feeling you fundamentally like humans too.
A. Yes, that's right. Because if I hated them, I wouldn't be alive still. (laughs)
"Pictures" and "Words"
When I made Vocaloid songs, I could just be a floating spirit, but once I sang with my voice, I needed words that went through my own body.
Q. The next theme is "pictures" and "words." I believe you drew pictures because you've never been one for communication. But eventually, you entered music, and I suppose found the need to start expressing yourself in words. How did your perception of the significance of words change, especially through your entry into music?
A. Words... If you listen to my old Vocaloid songs, they use words in a completely different way than I do now, and I feel like what I'm doing is entirely different between the two. I don't think it was about "being for someone's sake" at all; listening to the old Vocaloid songs I made as Hachi - of course, this doesn't apply to all of them - it really feels like I only believe in my own imagination. It's like a game of association, where I just move things that are floating around in my head, and it all begins and ends in my mind, and then I just express that - I think that describes the vast majority of it. But when it's me as Kenshi Yonezu, and I sing with my own words, my own voice, putting out my own name, with my own appearance, I'm assailed by "my self up to now" whether I like it or not. The body I have now was carried all the way from birth to here, an accumulation of many choices. So when I sing with that body, I absolutely can't ignore my past self, whereas when making a Vocaloid song, I can completely ignore it. I was able to make songs with absolutely none of that accumulation-over-time, and it was fine for me to just be a vague, floating spirit. But when singing with my own voice, it needs to be accompanied by my body. When it becomes like that, my words have to revolve around it, so to speak - they have to be words that go through my own body. That's absolutely essential, I feel, and I think my words have probably changed to become more "bodily."
Q. Your Vocaloid songs are made of words formed in zero-gravity, but your songs sung as Kenshi Yonezu make things actually exist in reality right before your eyes. That's helped your expression as Kenshi Yonezu continually evolve; however, I don't think those zero-gravity words are something totally different, either. For instance, the Peace Sign single has the song Dreameater Girl on it, which has basically the same lyrics as your Hachi-era song Dreameater on the Sand.
Q. Which is to say, you were still writing your essence into your Vocaloid songs as well, but taking out the "on the Sand" brings the words out of zero-gravity to a world with gravity. It's interesting how such a simple change makes it suitable for Kenshi Yonezu's body.
A. Yes... You have a point.
Q. So what I think is, even in your time making Vocaloid songs, you weren't really trying to sing the praises of weightlessness... (laughs)
A. (laughs) Yeah, that might be it. In fact, I did think "I can't keep going like this." I made Vocaloid songs, made more and more of them, and around the time I finished Matryoshka, I started thinking "It's so weightless..." "If I keep going this way, it'll fall apart somewhere." So I unconsciously - well, maybe unconsciously - was dubious of how much was possible if I was going to ignore my body. Maybe the Vocaloid songs I was making at the time came about by forcibly trying to ignore my body. There was the "given" that I wouldn't work in a band, because I'd had frustrations with that. As a reaction to that, it's like I put parts of my body up on a shelf, and picked out only the things that felt good. Body and mind are much like fantasy and reality: you need to have both. If you're biased to one side, it'll definitely fall apart somewhere. So I saw more and more clearly that this was a bad thing I was doing. At some point, I knew I needed to take another look at my own body.
Q. I sense you're the kind of person who can't ignore his body no matter what the means of expression. Even if in the case of your art, there are some fantasy aspects, your expression as far as putting words to music and melody has become incapable of ignoring your body. Ultimately, you have to face up to your body via words, and so words became an important tool to break out of your shell.
A. Right, right. That's right. Speaking of which, when I made Santa Maria, I definitely felt like I was having words pull me along. Maybe it's the power of words at work; by making words that say "I want to be like this" and speaking them, I can become such a person. After all, you can't get mad while you're laughing. In a similar way, it felt like speaking words with my own mouth allowed those words and the music to guide me.
"Solitary Room" and "Concert Stage"
I like making music in a solitary room, but part of me doesn't find it very interesting doing that all the time.
Q. Next is the theme of "solitary room" and "concert stage." Concerts are a step up in cruelty - they're a place where you have to confront your body in a very severe way. So I imagine starting to do them took courage.
A. Right. At first, I really didn't want to do them one bit. (laughs) Well, and they also weren't something I was that interested in doing yet.
Q. You're saying you don't do them joyfully? (laughs)
A. (laughs) But it had an effect on my music, I guess; it made me able to understand structure. But, you know, I'm someone who likes making music more than anything. Since I was a child, music to me was something inside a screen, and even when I did go to concerts, I didn't like it much. I'd get tired of it in about an hour, and get this feeling like I can't stand sitting, and can't stand standing. What's important to me is composing and drawing, making beautiful things. Making things you can touch is most important, and I couldn't shake the sense of concerts being a byproduct.
Q. Broadcasting from your solitary room to NicoNico Douga, bringing a concert feel into other people's solitary rooms, could be thought of as a similar act. But in a real concert, you share the space, and express yourself raw in various ways, so both parties get a "concert feel" that can't be found anywhere else.
A. That's right.
Q. When I saw your previous show RESCUE at the Tokyo International Forum, I was struck by how far you'd come in embodying all these different things within yourself. It felt very enriched.
A. Lately, I've finally been able to think "I guess it's fun." I think there are steps you need to take to enjoy something. There are things you can't see unless you study them... is that the way to put it? Like, there's that feeling of joy when you endure, endure, endure, and then finally get something you want. Though I like making music in a solitary room, part of me doesn't find it very interesting doing that all the time. Even I don't quite know my hobbies or favorite fields, but I do know it's worthless to just stay within that space. So I think about how to expand my circle, and figure I have to not be so opposed to temporary pains. There's a lot you can only know through having painful experiences. So it feels like I do concerts to actively go through such pains.
"Solo" and "Collaboration"
I couldn't live ignoring the new methods and contexts I can find by making music with other people.
Q. The final theme is "solo" and "collaboration." I imagine doing collaborations was, similar to concerts, a step that required some courage.
A. Indeed. Right, it's like concerts; when I do things, I like to do them alone, but another part of me feels that doing everything myself will just mean doing the same thing over and over. With a band, if you have four people, four people make it together - the act of making it as a cooperative body results in something uniquely interesting. Just the same way, working with people who possess things that I could never have no matter what, I can create things I'd never imagined before, and make great leaps.
Q. Bands are a world where you're asking "Is everyone going to understand what it is I want to do?" But collaborations are, in a sense, working with someone who's risking their life to express something, and respecting that person as you also risk your life to express something. I suppose it's essential that both parties find that interesting.
A. Hmm... So for instance, in American pop music these days, it's no longer common that everything's done by just one person. From what I've heard, there's a stock of many demos made by various people, and songs are stitched together by taking this part or another from those demos. So if you look at the credits, a whole lot of people are involved. Of course, the black-box-like beauty born within a single person is also beautiful, but part of me finds it boring. How should I put it...?
Q. I definitely get it. Sometimes it can be more emotional when it's not just a single person's personality being expressed.
A. Yes, that's true. I think it's also due to how times have changed; a lot of things have become shared on the internet, so various things are getting flatter. Among that flattening, when something new or beautiful is shared on the cloud, the idea of picking from these shared things to make something out of them seems very natural. Modern American artists make things by honing their sense of what to pick out. If you think about it, that's not all that different from what I've been doing. I sample all these different things, adopt them as my own, and make my current self from them. But everyone is reluctant to show others the insides of what they make, awkwardly trying to hide it. Of course, because they won't show it, the appearance of them making a leap results in surprise like "Whoa, what's this?" But that's simply because they're not showing the path where they leaped from such and such song to here, and if you unraveled it, there really would be a very logical path. Lately I've begun to wonder about those who hide those things and try to appear like geniuses... Boy, this got into some difficult subject matter. (laughs)
Q. In other words, it's moving away from an era where you can hide away a protected black box using personality, and creators have no choice but to be open.
A. Right. In games, too - more games overseas lately are making their technology open source. "I have this technology here, so everyone can use it as a base to make things. Let's use this to rapidly increase the speed of our progress!" That's what they're trying. In the sense of building a culture, that seems very much like the right thing to do. I think I'd like to see such a world myself, and perhaps I could even have collaborations in an environment like that.
To me, remaking myself is "living."
- Ultimately, wherever I go, I can only make what I find beautiful.
Q. The ways you do collaborations not only match with yourself, but also with the times. For instance, NANIMONO (feat. Kenshi Yonezu) had you splitting duties with Yasutaka Nakata, while also being a collaboration with the story of Nanimono. There, rather than individual expression as Kenshi Yonezu, I'm guessing you thought about what you could do by becoming one with this story, and what you could do with Nakata-san there, and came out with something universal as a result. With the recent "Fireworks" as well, you had the story of Shunji Iwai's "Do You View Fireworks From Below, Or From the Side?", and the singer DAOKO, and with them, you could produce a universal feeling that Kenshi Yonezu alone couldn't. Compared to when you're on your own, it feels like you're experimenting with expression unbound by your own personality.
A. Just felt like I should give it a shot. (laughs)
Q. (laughs) I think whenever you do a collaboration, it results in something that's very poppy in some way. Fireworks's melody, for instance, feels like it works because it's that kind of song.
A. There's some truth to that. It was the result of thinking what would be a pleasant melody for DAOKO-chan to sing. Normally, I construct a melody that suits my own voice, so this was very difficult, but very rewarding once I tried it, and I think it ended up being a really good song.
Q. Right. Also, while it's a melody made for DAOKO to sing, it's also interesting since you ultimately sing it as well.
A. Yeah, yeah, yeah... (laughs)
Q. Singing a melody that wasn't made for you to sing, yet having your personality come forth... It feels like the same phenomenon as when you sing a song made for a Vocaloid to sing.
A. Well, but in the end, there's always the fact that I'm still the one who made it. Even when I made Fireworks, I was reaffirmed of the fact that I can only make what I find beautiful. It was a song made for DAOKO-chan's voice, but the melody is ultimately still 100% beautiful in my mind, and in that sense, I wanted it to be beautiful no matter who sang it, which is why it doesn't sound too off when I sing it.
Q. Even when you made Vocaloid songs in zero-gravity, that caused you to take a step toward yourself. So when you do collaborations, that also makes you take a step toward yourself. I think, in that way, you're coming closer to loving humans one step at a time. Ultimately, it's all connected as one thing.
A. Right. Ultimately, I think I want to bring it all back to "I want to live." Like, living normally in society, finding a balance. As the times keep changing, I think we need to keep reacting to that flow. When I look at the technology and the like flying over my head, I see amazing things passing on by, so I'm always fretting. But as I fret, I need to remake my body and mind to match. For instance, as "femininity" and "masculinity" change rapidly, it can be hurtful to others if your behavior is stagnant - that's just how people's ways of thinking and common sense change. Humans live depending on family, or locals, or the state, and they live their lives as social animals. So they have to keep up with the waves of change in technology and ways of thinking, or they'll quickly degrade into worthlessness. I have a strong fear of becoming an ugly creature. Remaking myself like this is "living" to me. So even when I'm making music, the music I make needs to be continuous, and I'll do the concerts that I didn't really want to do before, and I'll make songs with lots of different people. And in so doing, I'll find new methods and contexts that I just can't live ignoring. I don't want to become an ugly human; deep down, I feel that if I'm living, I want to live beautifully.
- Kenshi Yonezu's Letter to His Childhood Self
Are you well? I'm remembering things about you often lately. Compared to you, I've gotten a bit bigger, and become able to do a few more things. I can make even better songs, and I can understand what other people are saying. What do you think about that? Are you proud, or does that upset you?
Right now, I believe I'm in the future you were hoping for. It's not as part of a band, but I think your wish to be like this was answered pretty well. Though I'm still in the middle of things, I'm sure you and I can get through it all right. You've been living days filled with anger, thinking "You think I'll move the way somebody else wants?", so if I said anything more specific, maybe you'd walk in a slightly different direction.
I distinctly remember wishing "When I become an adult and look back at the past, I hope I won't be the kind of guy who makes fun of his childhood self." Now that I've become an adult, I can say it's just as you hoped; indeed, I'm proud of you. For not doubting your ability, enduring daily anger and unease, and keeping a goofy smile on your face, I hold you very dear.
I'm grateful to this day for your thoughts, ideas, and sense of beauty. Please, continue to guide me far into the distance.
Thanks in advance.