The keyword for his current project is "masculine", which refers to manliness. The ways in which people interpret this word may be infinite, but what JOSUKE has created is sentimental and sweet, a masculinity without violence or gruffness.
I looked at the charm of the songs that JOSUKE creates and the music that JOSUKE aspires to.
If I don't keep up with the times
The first single JOSUKE chose to release when re-starting his musical career was "Yume no naka de", one of SINSEMILLA's signature numbers. Of course, he didn't just release the exact same audio as before: the old band sound was reborn as electronically-flavored pop.
JOSUKE explains why.
"All I want to do is simply create good lyrics with a good melody. But if I don't keep up with the times, it's not cool. So when I was talking with the production team for this project, we ended up deciding to put out some other arrangements."
With the magic of arrangement
"I wanted to try and incorporate a different genre, not just the rock that we've all heard up until now. I asked around to a lot of people for arrangements, but when I heard Kazuki Sugawara's version, I felt like I was hooked."
Kazuki Sugawara is a composer-arranger who has produced background music for countless advertisements and corporate events. He has a history of awards at international advertising festivals, and while his main field of work differs from the world of the so-called band scene, the sounds on which he had worked his magic fit with the keyword of "masculine" that JOSUKE had set for this project.
"With electropop, if you wanted to try and lean toward something cute, it would be easy to do it. But I felt masculinity in Sugawara's arrangement of "Yume no naka de". And, with the intricate beat and the warped electric sounds, I thought, this is almost rock depending on how you listen to it. I don't think that 'rock' has to mean 'band', and I want to keep making digital sounds with a rock feel."
It's not just the sound that changed. In order to capitalize on the romantic atmosphere that Sugawara drew out of the song, JOSUKE also made a bold change to his singing style.
"Before now, I was influenced by Hyde, or maybe I was coming from visual-kei, so I used to sing with vibrato a lot. But this time, singing like I'm with a band won't work with the sound. So I went to voice training, and after searching for a pop singing style, I decided to try and sing as straight as I could."
Everyone wants to play the heroine
"Yume no naka de" is a love song based on an experience JOSUKE had when he was a college student. In facing the song again during recording, he made a conscious effort to play the protagonist described in the lyrics.
"It's a song about the feelings at the beginning of a romance. Like, what'll I do if I get rejected, or being afraid to confess, like that feeling of excitement even while you're insecure. I imagined scenes from that time as I sang every measure, like a simulation."
JOSUKE mentioned a "feeling of excitement", but his singing is sentimental. A "feeling of longing" feels more appropriate; JOSUKE's way of explaining this was truly provocative.
"In the end, everyone has a self that wants to be loved, like they want to play the heroine. Like where 'longing' means 'somebody look at me' (laughs). I think everyone thinks that in the depths of their heart."
Says JOSUKE, "the best part of a song is that you can express yourself without a filter" and easily acknowledge things that you would normally want to deny. "Serenade", which was announced as his second single, and "Hanageshou", which is anticipated to be released at the start of next year as his third single, also depict dramatic, romance movie-like protagonists.
"I put a lot of my thoughts from that time into 'Hanageshou' especially. There was a girl I was going out with, but then I started liking someone new. I fixed up the lyrics quite a bit, but I was careful to cherish that pure emotion of 'love' so that I could convey the beautiful feelings and beautiful scenes."
"After all, I'm not all that corrupted"
Partly because he was around 20 during his time with SINSEMILLA, he says that "there were a lot of songs where we would express feelings straight-up, like 'I love you' or 'I'm having fun'".
But now, 10 years after the band broke up, he is able to express himself in more refined terms. Going forward, he says he wants to try using his current understanding to redo not just his love songs, but the songs with a powerful, energizing masculinity as well.
At this point, I tried asking him something that I had been curious about. Had those heightened feelings from when he was young weakened at all as he had got older?
"I feel like they haven't changed. It's probably a bit odd to hear this coming from me, but after all, I'm not all that corrupted (laughs)."
Many people may feel like they mellow as they age, but he denied that straight out. What kind of music will this boy-at-heart bring us next?
Continued in Part 3.
(Written interview: Hiroshi Tanaka / Editing: Taiyo Tajima "BLOCKBUSTER")