Because of the release of his first EP with “The Betrayed” I could ask the leader of the group, Ryo Fujimura, a few questions. In this interview we talk about the difficult time during recording because of the pandemic, as well as his thoughts about various things involved with it like hardships, and his opinion about the “online culture” we’re living in right now.
This EP was recorded in semi-lockdown, which I am sure was pretty difficult with all the rules and restrictions that were put in place. What were some of the problems you ran into during the recording of this EP?
Ryo: The worst problem was that we couldn’t use the recording studio during spring and at least half of the summer season. It was a really hard situation for the band, since the government doesn’t give any support for musicians like us and in the beginning of the pandemic there were no clear rules or guidelines either. They just “requested assistance to stop the infection” without any support. We were all confused, and the guys all had their own views about it. We’re a band and I’m the leader, but I never force anything onto the members. So we decided to be “good citizens” in that moment and stayed silent and under control to assist with the government’s plans.
Compared to a normal recording of a release this was completely different then! But what was different exactly? How did you get around the problem of social distancing?
Ryo: Well, it’s not comfortable and not so easy, but it was enjoyable and fun enough for me. I think the most difficult part was being forced to play without close communication. Normally we spend time together to think about the phrases, beats or whatever you want to play will fit in the real ensemble or not. I call this phase “optimize”. But this time we couldn’t do that together, so we had to optimize some other way.
Recording something together as a band is indeed much easier if everyone is present because of the direct feedback you can give and receive, but since that wasn’t possible due to the restrictions, how did you solve this?
Ryo: In our case it would be four guys in the room together during the recording session, everyone playing their part at the same time. For me this is the ordinary way, it feels natural to do it like this. But this time we couldn’t do that. This time it was only myself and Syu (drums) who went into the studio together to record the drums together. Afterwards I sent these files to HIROA (lead guitar) and Pippi (bass) so they could record their guitar and bass in the comfort of their own homes, then they sent their files back to me. Once I had received these files I could record my guitar parts, vocals, keyboard and other sequential decorations in my room, and then move on to mixing and mastering.
I normally love to work with a respectable mixing engineer and an experienced mastering engineer, but this time I had to do all of this by myself because some of the good studios I know and like to work with weren’t open or some of them even closed their business.
This EP contains a total of 6 tracks, of which 3 of them are full songs and the remaining 3 are instrumental tracks for those songs. Did you record any other songs that didn’t make it onto this release, and if yes do you plan on releasing these remaining songs in the future as well?
Ryo: Actually, yes. We already recorded the drums for a total of 7 different songs. “Crying with One Eye” included 3 of these songs, so we still have 4 unreleased songs at the moment, but we’re still working on them. They will be released next month (December) or in January 2021 as a second EP.
Because of the corona virus everything has changed this year. No in-person shows or anything like that, which meant a lot of artists have moved to online platforms like YouTube and even Twitter. Bigger artists overshadow smaller ones with ease, but how has this been for you? Was it difficult for you to get noticed online now you can’t do any live shows?
Ryo: I don’t really know, but I can say for sure that I can’t be a Youtuber or a radio DJ or something. If I ever get a license for mental health care advisor or something like that I might start a channel though.
Either way, it’s quite hard to get noticed in the sea that is the world wide web. Like for example, if a famous artist is doing a livestream at the same time as your performance, which one will you watch? I think I’d stop my performance and go watch the one of the more famous artist instead lol.
Some artists indeed do their livestreams from the comfort of their own livingroom, but others actually manage to secure a moment in a livehouse and even play a show there. There’s options for as far as I understand, you’re not fully limited to your couch…
Ryo: I personally had some questions for livehouses these days before the pandemic hit. But now a lot of venues are closed or they indeed try to offer livestreaming services where possible. It’s not my type of business, but I can’t really find much benefits for using them from my point of view.
Despite that we did two acoustic live performances in the studio, of which we uploaded the audio (you can get these for a small fee) and video files to our Bandcamp page. I think the sound quality is better there than typical local venues, and we don’t have any restrictions for how long or often you can listen to the songs or watch the videos. I don’t understand why venues and artists set an expiration date on their works, like making it available for only one week or a very short time. Like for example, if you purchase a live video, DVD or Blu-ray or whatever it doesn’t expire. You can download and watch it anytime you want.
I think this is normal, and a fair trade with your customer or audience.
Despite not wanting to become a Youtuber or anything, we’re still dealing with the problem that we can’t enjoy shows like we’re used to. We’re still mostly confined to online performances and streams. Will you do something online for fans and others interested in hearing your music in the future anyway?
Ryo: Well, I’d actually like to broadcast our live performance from the studio. But the situation right now is still in a critically bad place. I want us to be able to do our own thing, but I also don’t want to be a part of stupid agitators who provoke. Even if it’s unintentionally. Like: we’re a band with four members. When people see four guys in a room, playing loud music and shouting without masks covering their faces in a small room for their own pleasure it begs the question “why can’t we have a party ourselves, with our own friends?”.
Right now I think we should stay home as much as possible and don’t agitate or provoke others by going out for our own selfish pleasures.
For now we’re at the end of the questions, but that doesn’t mean we’re done! Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked about yet, or give a message to everyone reading this interview?
Ryo: Thank you for reading this article, and thank you so much again for listening to “Crying with One Eye”!
For something else… Let me think…Ah! Yes! I released a song called “March Macabre” for charity through HIGHFeeL, my old friend’s label, earlier this year. I put my personal opinions about COVID-19 in this song. If you would be interested in this, please listen to it. Because again, everything goes to charity.
You’ll find it to be very different, since it is one of my solo works and not something for my band The Betrayed. We’re all in this difficult situation together, but please don’t be selfish and please keep healthy and stay safe! Now is the time to be patient. Not just for me, not just for you, but for our future together.
March Macabre & Silent Spring
Because of Ryo mentioning “March Macabre”, I’ll give you some more information about this too.
This song was part of a release called “Silent Spring”, which has been released through the label HIGHFeeL, just like Ryo already said. The song is available through many different platforms like YouTube Music, Spotify, Deezer, you name it.
It’s also available through the Bandcamp page of HIGHFeeL & Friends for €1,20:
Or, if you prefer the entire release with the songs from all artists (Good Thru Date, Kihiro, G.L.A.M.S, ekotumi, Ichion, Galaxy7, Sho Kotani, HITT, Satsuki, Somei Yoshino, tezya and Rie Fu), this is also available through Bandcamp for €12,00:
Like Ryo already mentioned, the money goes directly to charity. So in exchange for music you support charity! Which charity exactly? Local companies and organizations that are fighting for seniors and working on the front lines during this crisis.
Photo credit: Shin Kobayashi.