Until the Boy Raised As A Monster Is Chosen By God.
With his third album Bremen released in October earning first in the Oricon rankings and winning an Excellence [Album] Award in the Japan Record Awards, Kenshi Yonezu continues to advance smoothly. Truly hating his face being seen, he's long thought of himself as a "monster." Though his heart is always in darkness, he aspires to "be chosen by God"; where might he be headed?
Cakes: I think we should get deep into the personality of this person named Kenshi Yonezu. First, your illustrations contain many women. Why do you not draw male faces?
Kenshi Yonezu: Hmm... When I draw, I really never liked drawing men. When I draw a man, like it or not, I tend to project myself on him... Even to others, it looks like I'm projecting myself. I really didn't like that.
Cakes: Why didn't you like it?
Yonezu: I've had a notion from long ago that I was a monster. That I wasn't normal.
Cakes: Was there something that caused this?
Yonezu: Around kindergarten or so, I injured my lips. They took me to the hospital, I had a bunch of stitches, and I returned to kindergarten within the day. Then everyone gathered around, looking at me like a foreign body as I came in. That left a strong memory, and from that moment, I've been convinced "I'm not longer normal." So I don't like my appearance, and still really hate to look at my face in photos.
Cakes: And that even influences you when you draw.
Yonezu: That's right. I really like drawing girls, but I can't stay calm when drawing men. So I just go ahead and draw characters with paper bags on their heads, or with a TV for a head. Projecting myself onto those things, my thought as I drew was "this is the kind of creature I am."
Cakes: Many monsters appear in your illustrations. Are those projections of yourself, too?
Yonezu: Right. I empathize with those things, and when I represent myself, I feel like it always ends up like that.
Cakes: That motif of monsters and strange creatures happily coexisting with girls appears repeatedly in your illustrations, and videos like Fluorite's. How do you personally interpret this?
Yonezu: To take it to an extreme, I think it's because I'm an otaku. I project my ideals onto two-dimensional girls. It's strictly monsters that get along with those girls, though they're monsters I'm projecting myself onto. But still, I don't intervene myself.
Cakes: Though the women you draw are different from your typical moe anime characters. They have a dignified image, and don't feel like the kind to fawn over men.
Yonezu: It's true, I don't particularly like those typical two-dimensional characters. I have a dislike toward them being represented solely based on men's desires. Maybe that's a kind of ethical view I have. When I look at the female idol culture these days, too, I feel something grotesque about it.
Cakes: The illustrations in the album booklet give a different impression from that. There are girls, there are many monsters, all different types, and yet they're as one. I wonder if this is a kind of "image of Utopia" you have.
Yonezu: Right. I think that's what it is.
Cakes: In the interview in ROCKIN'ON JAPAN recently, you stated you had high-functioning autism. What did you feel about that?
Yonezu: I didn't know that as a child. So describing it like "I had high-functioning autism" sounds strange. You can't put a past tense on it. Though apparently it is innate, and not something that gets cured. But I was confirmed to have it after the age of 20. I was in a strange mental state, went to the hospital, and that's what they diagnosed. At the time, it was an "I see" or "that makes sense" sort of feeling.
Cakes: A sense of being "different from normal" you'd had for a long time was given a definition. How did you handle that?
Yonezu: I accepted it, I guess. I'd felt I was that kind of creature for a long time, and whether it was given that name or not, I always thought society was tiresome. And besides, it's not like I can change anything that's already happened. But I've gradually come to be like, "oh well." I've realized I just have to live with the hand dealt to me.
Cakes: Back to talking about the album Bremen, I feel like there's an allegory of sorts there. Since so many people have felt "it's about me," it shows how much your music is accepted. And I think what it is is that they're stories about how people who feel alienated, who feel they have nowhere to belong, can go about getting as much happiness as they can.
Yonezu: I see.
Cakes: I think The Musicians of Bremen is that kind of story, too. If you read it closely, that story don't make a lot of sense. Four animals driven away from humans come together and head for the town of Bremen. But ultimately, they stop at a little house in the woods on the way, pretend to be ghosts to drive away robbers, and live happily there. As a synopsis, it's hard to tell what the point of it is, yet this story someone thought up had been passed down for centuries by word of mouth. That's so strange that I'm sure there must be something to it.
Yonezu: Indeed. I think there's something incredibly ubiquitous in there. Also, I think fairy tales like that end up the way they are now after elements being added and omitted over generations. Nursery rhymes whose authors are unknown are probably unknown because everyone's been rearranging them little by little. There was no "copyright" long ago, so one song could get additions from another, and ultimately you don't know who made it.
Cakes: Even the Grimm fairy tales were stories passed down orally.
Yonezu: Thinking about it that way, I feel that nursery rhymes and fairy tales whose authors are unknown embody the times. All these people had a hand in it, bringing it closer to what everyone has deep in their subconscious, and that's why it's still around today. I think that's how anything which goes down in history or has strengths as a work goes. In our era, just what are the people who live in this world thinking? What discontents and joys do they live each day feeling? I think there must be feelings which everyone can have in common.
Cakes: And you have a desire to express those things in your own way.
Yonezu: If there are such large waves as "eras," I do think I want to embody them. If, for instance, it's God who decides those waves, I earnestly want to be chosen by God. Thinking about how I can be chosen, wanting to come closer to that point, I make music. The changing of eras isn't something you can grab onto yourself, I think. They're decided naturally, as if someone like God points and says "Okay, you're next." So I don't know how to be chosen, but I want to prepare as much as I can for that time. That's the feeling I have.