This interview comes from the November 2012 issue of Rock and Read (#44). The interviewer is Ayano NISHIMURA.
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Born July 4th, blood type A, went solo in 1999. On October 10th [Ed. note: of 2012], he’ll release his 42nd single, “HAKURO,” which is the ending theme of Sengoku BASARA -MOONLIGHT PARTY-, in which GACKT also appears. Presently, he continues to break the record for male solo artist with the most Top 10 singles on the Oricon chart. On December 5th, the live concert DVD entitled Toriaezu, kaisanssu. Sumanssu. from his former band YELLOW FRIED CHICKENz will also go on sale.
The GACKT Way of Life (「GACKT」という生き方)
GACKT appears for the first time in this magazine, talking about the heroic love expressed in his 42nd single “HAKURO,” the kind of selfless resolve found in such love, as well as the turning point in his own life and his views on life and death. Like a beautiful sage who has achieved enlightenment, GACKT spoke gently and at length, as if to embrace everything. In this extended interview, you’ll come to like the person that is GACKT more and more. GACKT isn’t putting on an act; it turns out that GACKT himself is GACKT.
I can only be myself. If you don’t have an “on” and an “off,” there’s no need to put on an act. While making an effort to get closer to my ideal, I became it.
—Following your role as Uesugi Kenshin in the 2007 NHK Taiga Drama Fūrin Kazan, you now appear as the samurai commander Oda Nobunaga in the television drama Sengoku BASARA -MOONLIGHT PARTY-. You’ve just written “HAKURO,” which is being used as the drama’s ending theme song. Can you tell us the story behind this song’s creation?
While I was writing songs for my “VISUALIVE” solo concert that I hope to do at the end of 2013, I happened to get a request to appear in Sengoku BASARA, and when I asked what the role was, it turned out to be Oda Nobunaga. But this BASARA presents a completely different portrayal of Nobunaga from what’s commonly known about the historical figure. The Oda Nobunaga in BASARA is a heinous man, evil through and through. He calls himself “The Devil King of the Sixth Heaven.”1 He’s the kind of person who calls himself “Devil King”! In the drama, this man gets his own wife, Nō-hime, involved in a battle and kills her. How can you kill the person who understands you, who loves and supports you, so easily? Without thinking twice about it? I was thinking that sort of thing when I thought, well, no, maybe there’s a kind of love, or hidden feelings between them, that only he and his partner can understand. How would those feelings take shape? I thought that, then felt, wouldn’t it be great to express that in a song? That type of relationship……two people share a love that only they can understand, but then one of them dies. How does the one left behind feel? I tried to write that out in the song.
—So Nobunaga violently laid hands on Nō-hime. What goes through his mind as he’s clutching her body, left all alone?
I express that myself in the song’s music video, using what I learned from portraying Nobunaga. But I don’t really want to say straight out, “this is the form their love took on.” The form of a love unique to two particular people, that could mean different things to each person listening to the song, so I want people to listen to the song while adding their own experiences to its meaning.
—GACKT, how would you feel if you were in Nobunaga’s position of having to kill the one you love?
I think it’s about “resolve.” Because if you kill your partner, you have to accept that fact.
—On the other side of that, Nō-hime must have also resolved to be killed. If she were going to be attacked by the person she’d decided to spend the rest of her life with, maybe she really wanted for things to end that way.
Isn’t that what it means to follow your partner? You resolve to follow them, right?
—You mean like believing in the one you love?
Not just in the one you love, but in yourself, too. To follow your partner no matter what, that’s something you can’t do if you aren’t set in your resolve. If one is leading and the other is following, you need resolve to be able to follow. It shows that there’s resolve within that love.
—The resolve to love? It’s pretty hard to have resolve in that area.
—Yeah. Call it “resolve,” call it…well, I’ve never really thought about it that way before. I can’t come to like someone that much. It doesn’t happen. Because it’s scary. Well, really I’m just running away.
Oh yeah, you’re just running away. But you need to have resolve to love. In short, to follow someone even if it means your own destruction. Is your resolve so strong that you can think like that? It’s about making a decision. I often say this about girls in romantic relationships, but, isn’t it wrong to think, “I like him so I’ll do this, I like him so I’ll do that”? Likes and dislikes are unstable barometers that can change in the course of everyday life. If you think about what you will or won’t do based on something fickle like that….
—You end up getting yourself all turned around.
Exactly. To put it simply, it’s the same as with raising children. Do you raise them because you like doing it? Just to give an example. I mean, there are times when it’s a hateful thing to do.
—Mm, yeah, like when children get acquainted with other children and surprise you with words you never imagined they’d learn, or they get sassy because they’ve hit the rebellious phase.
Yeah, times like that. You don’t raise children because you like doing it. You can’t do it unless you’ve resolved in your heart, “I’m going to raise this kind of child,” or “this is as much as I can do for this child.” If you acted based on preferences, you’d become unable to look after your child. I think that this, and the resolve needed for love, are very similar.
I must not betray the fans. That’s what I thought. That’s why I decided to go solo and continue with my own music.
—GACKT, you once said, “love is something you give.” It’s not something you do expecting a reward, love is when you have the intention to keep giving it even if it’s not returned. But not in the same way as, say, caring for a tree.
Mm, well, when you’re asking for your feelings to be returned, I think that’s just romance. Definitely. But the moment it changes to love, it becomes about how much you can give to the other person. I think it’s a question of your own heart. When you can start to think that you exist for your partner’s sake, that’s when it first becomes love. I also think that the number of people who can carry out that kind of love are exceedingly few. But, once you’ve felt it, and you devote yourself to it completely, love changes into something eternal, something that lasts forever, and it becomes insusceptible to outside influences and what other people say. Because your resolve is strong. Because no matter what someone says to you, you can firmly assert, “I’ve decided to go with this person.” Since the fact remains that you’ve made your decision, even if someone tells you, “You know, that person is such and such,” there’s no longer any need for you to be influenced by those words.
If instead you think, “Oh, is that so,” it’s because your feelings towards the other person are unsteady. It has nothing to do with determination.
—Determination. I see. If your own feelings are stable, you don’t get all anxious. But if your feelings waver, you get bent out of shape all on your own, without your partner having actually done anything. When it comes to your own feelings, even though you should be the most composed about them, you can’t stay calm. GACKT, I think you’re always looking at yourself and your relation to things and people around you, taking it all in, but how did you come to gain this perspective? What kind of turning point was there?
I think turning points come to you pretty frequently. When I left the band [MALICE MIZER] to go solo, that was a turning point, too. If I had stayed with the band back then, of course, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today, and things would have turned out differently. There probably would’ve been all sorts of trouble. Yeah. There were a lot of misunderstandings, and even though I figured I’d be criticized for leaving just at that moment, I knew that leaving was the only thing to do.
—You…disappeared, right? You vanished without a trace. No one knew if you’d return, or if they’d ever see you again. It was an anxious time.
Yeah, there was a time back then when circumstances drove me to do that. But if I had just given in and accepted everything that happened back then without taking any action, I probably would’ve become useless.
—I think you must have needed a strong resolve to leave the band behind. In regards to the fans, I think there were probably conflicts over things like whether you could explain your feelings to them directly during the time you couldn’t appear in public. What was on your mind the most at that time?
I must not betray the fans. That’s what I thought. If it ends like this, then I’ve betrayed them. That’s why I decided to go solo and continue with my own music. And as I did that, and saw the fans who had stayed with me, I started thinking, I must convey my feelings to them.
—When you stood on stage as a solo artist for the first time, how did you feel? Anxious?
More than feeling anxious, I felt a sense of responsibility. I became solely responsible for everything in one fell swoop, so it was no time for anxiety. In order to go solo, I called all the band members out from Kyoto, and we started living together. The band, the staff, they’re all working for my sake. I thought, man, it’s pretty rough having to support everyone.
—Because you had to guide everyone who came aboard the GACKT.
Yeah. I came to captain a ship all of a sudden. Up till then, me and the other members did whatever we felt like aboard other people’s ships. But then I became captain, and I had to decide everything by myself. The size of the ship, its destination, everything. At first it’s quite exhausting. If you have no resolve, you can’t do it.
—There’s that “resolve” again, huh.
Yeah. But I learned that you can become stronger by supporting others. If you don’t firmly resolve to do something, you can’t do that thing properly. What I thought at the time was, well, until I succeed, I’ll give up the things I like. Mm, it’s sort of like when you pray for a wish to come true. But anyway, I figured I wouldn’t get everything I wanted all at once, so for the time being, I’d set aside the things I liked that I already had. I used to just absolutely love eating, so I changed my eating habits completely. I decided I’d only eat one meal a day, give up rice, things like that.
—The things you set aside, will you allow yourself to have them again some day, as a reward to yourself?
A reward…? Well, I haven’t eaten rice in 13 years. I guess I decided I’d eat rice again the day I stopped making music.
—Oh! Well then, please don’t eat any rice!
“Don’t eat”…so direct. What’re you telling me that for?
—Oh, no, not that. *Laughs*
Ahahaha. Only when I’m in France, I’ll eat a croissant. I’ve set various rules for myself.
—Ah, like during the YELLOW FRIED CHICKENz shows in Europe last summer. You strolled through Paris in the morning, following the scent of baking bread. It looked so pleasant.
Yeah, like that. I’ve come to decide things and see them through. So, if you don’t have the resolve to give up one thing that you like, you won’t be able to gain any other thing—that’s what you learn, right? To compare it to the views on romantic relationships of men and women that I was talking about earlier, even if you’ve made up your mind to follow someone, sometimes you have your own ideas or intentions that you want to stick to. But since you’ve decided to be the one who follows, there will be times when you have to bend to your partner’s will. Otherwise you’ll clash with each other. You don’t need two captains on one ship. So even if you think, “this way is better,” if you intend on carrying out your decision to be the one who follows, you have to resign yourself. But while following, you can gently push your partner forward. You can tell him, “maybe this is better.” That’s the capacity of the follower. It’s only when one’s resolve isn’t strong enough that a difference of opinions results in conflict.
—Contrary to what one would expect.
Think about it. This is the person you chose yourself, right? You decided that you were going to follow him. So if you can’t resolve to follow, aren’t you basically saying that you can’t judge people?
—It would be pure bliss to be loved by someone who could resolve to love to that extent, huh?
I think so. I think that’s what resolve is. And when you accept someone who has resolved to love you, you also start to feel that you have to protect her with all your strength, seeing as how she’s resolved to go so far for you. If a partner acts wishy-washy with me, I become wishy-washy with her.
—It’s like that in my own love life, too. “Resolve,” huh….
See, the thing is, people want to escape boring duties, they don’t want to do bothersome things, so they just turn tail and flee. Basically. They want to have fun. But when you see your partner’s resolve, you come to the realization that this is someone you’ll have to support for the rest of your life. It’s all about whether that resolve is there or not.
—I think there probably aren’t many men who can look at women and have that kind of resolve.
Mmmm…well…I think it’s something women have to make men realize. Yesterday I happened to meet up with an actress who got married recently. She said, “I was the one who got close to him.” Then when I spoke to her husband, he said, “At first I had no intention of marrying her. But when I felt how strong her resolve was, I thought, ‘I have to do this. I have to support her.'” When I heard him say that, I thought, that’s certainly how it is. Women make men realize their own resolve. He said he was incredibly grateful to his wife.
—GACKT, have you been able to meet such a person? One who can make you realize your resolve?
Mm, yeah, well, I think I’d certainly like for someone to do that. The person I’ve come to like.
Extremely negative. Staunchly unfriendly. Ruthlessly aggressive. And I was very self-destructive and masochistic. I think I was an awful child.
—I see. Oh, after the story about the croissant I went off on a tangent about my love life, so let’s get back to the topic of “resolve.” You were talking about how, when you decided to support everyone, you gave up the things you liked. Speaking of which, it was like that too when you first starred in a stage play. You gave up meat and such when you were doing Nemuri Kyōshirō Burai Hikae,2 right?
That’s right. Beef, chicken, pork, fish…I gave them all up, and ate only vegetables. I didn’t drink either. From the time the curtains rose, I reintroduced something to my diet every 3 months; meat and fish in order. I wondered what effect it would have on me internally.
—How was it?
Ah, well, it was rough! Really. I thought, what the hell am I doing? Was it really necessary to do all this? I got mad about a lot of stuff, but that anger becomes energy. Because I can say to myself, if I fail even after doing all this, it’s because my skills and effort aren’t good enough. But since I’m going so far, I can spur myself on; I can say, I’m gonna go for broke!
—GACKT, how did you become able to turn adversity into energy? What triggered this way of thinking? I think various things might have been influences. People, books, sayings….
Hm, well, I think the major influence was this person I met when I was 19 years old. At the time, he was a businessman in this thirties, but I learned a lot from him. Thanks to what he taught me, I came to think, are my thoughts and ideas always directly connected to getting results? That is to say, I started thinking, what do I need to get results, what should I do, and what’s superfluous? First, I come up with an answer to these questions, then I try doing that, see how it turns out, and continue working from there.
—Yes, I remember you telling us about what this person taught you in an interview done in 2009 for a certain website, on the occasion of your 10th solo anniversary. One of the things he said was, “Each instant, each decision that you make, can either get you closer to your ideal life, or move you toward despair. Stick to what you believe in.”3 I think these words are related to your principles. Before you met this person, what kind of child were you?
Extremely negative. Staunchly unfriendly. Ruthlessly aggressive. And I was very self-destructive and masochistic. I think I was an awful child.
—What made you shut yourself up like that, unable to move forward?
Hmm…what was it…. Maybe it was because I started thinking, “why only me?” When I was seven years old I nearly drowned in the sea, and I came to have something like psychic powers. Images would just come to me, and I became able to see various things. And since I could see all these things, I became unable to believe other things. I didn’t know if what the adults around me were saying was right or wrong. I tried to explain this to people, but no one understood me. I’d think things like, how come these things only happen to me, how come I’m the only one who isn’t normal? I lived always blaming everything that would happen on other people. That blame started turning into aggression. I started feeling the joy of living through the pain of being hit.
—Feeling alive with each blow….
Yeah. With each blow I received and each blow I dealt. I wasn’t right in the head, you know? Really.
—Your real-life experiences and your works seem to fork into two roads: walking the path of justice, and walking the path of evil. Yet everything rests on a similar axis. For example, in MOON SAGA -Yoshitsune Hiden-,4 you played Minamotono Yoshitsune, who had acquired the extraordinary Hundred Demon power5 when he was a child. He was tormented by his abilities, wondering, “why am I the only one with this power?” GACKT, you also cursed your own powers, and let out those feelings in the form of aggression toward others. Yoshitsune wanted to end conflicts even while trembling at his own frightful potential. He wanted to protect his friends, and even in the fight with Yoshinaka, he didn’t draw his sword. In the movie MOON CHILD,6 the fight scene with your character, Shō, was similar, too. In the final duel with his friend, Shō didn’t have any bullets left in his gun.
Yeah, that’s right. I think that because I was young and immature, I would often feel alive through feeling pain. Really, I took an attack stance toward everything I came in contact with. I had the kind of attitude that screamed, “don’t come close to me,” so I went on violently breaking many things.
—I’ve also felt alive at the sight of my own blood. I had clashes all over the place, racking up physical and emotional wounds. It was painful, but I thought, it hurts, so I’m alive. This isn’t a game.
Mm. I’ve got stab wounds and gashes all over my body. But with each wound I felt life, thinking, “I’m alive,” “this isn’t enough to kill me,” things like that. I think I was so obsessed with feeling life because all around me I’d only seen death. What is “death,” what is “dying,” all I kept seeing around me were things dying. But then, around that time, when I was 19, I realized that I would never discover the meaning of my own death if I didn’t understand the meaning of life. Because life and death are a pair, you see. You can’t understand this pair by looking at only one side of it. So if you want to try to understand death, you have to truly understand life, you have to fulfill your life’s mission. Yeah. Because it’s not enough just to be alive. I came to believe that you have to cling earnestly to life, living while truly, fully realizing the meaning of life. And by no longer wasting your time on this earth. I have to just do everything I can do in this particular instant. That’s what I came to believe.
—It’s been almost 20 years since you changed to feeling death by living life fully. What do you think life and death are now, at 39 years old?
Living is spurring people on to move forward. Dying is continuing to live inside of someone’s heart.
—It’s said that people die twice, isn’t it? The first time is when your body dies. The second time is when, after your body has died, the people you left behind forget you. The second death is eternal, so it’s scarier than the first death.
But, you always leave an inheritance, don’t you?
—You mean, of thoughts?
Yeah. Even if the people who knew you leave or die, that’s not the end. The things you taught those people will be inherited by the next generation. That’s why I think, the spirit lives on forever, doesn’t it?
—GACKT, what kind of spirit do you have?
Hmm, I think I can’t know that without actually dying.
—Ah, well…I mean, everybody dies, but….
Maybe it’s that now, I not only think about big concepts like life and death, but I also want to live being particular about how I’m spending each day, how I’m living each moment. I want to live with all my might, live so much life it’s practically reckless.
When I see the most wonderful of smiles, I think, “I’m glad I’m alive.” I can think, I’m doing my best for the sake of those smiling faces.
—There are people who choose death themselves, too. Like with the bullying problem.
Bullies feel a sense of superiority by attacking those weaker than themselves, and the act of bullying becomes a game to them. Even though they’re in real life, to the bullies it’s like a virtual reality. They’re not aware of their actions as being bullying, so even if they’re told to stop, since it’s just a game to them, they say, “why do I have to stop having fun?” Because that’s what children do, they play. Those being bullied also have to make their pain and suffering known to the bully.
—When I was a first grader, my parents got divorced and the other kids started teasing me about only having one parent. I think that the kids doing that to me didn’t think they were bullying me, or that what they were doing was wrong. They probably thought, what’s wrong with criticizing what’s lacking in a person, what’s different from everyone else? I mean, I think that now. Also, all of the bullies were boys, and some from higher grades, so I was too scared to say anything. They’d throw rocks at me and my clothes would get dirty, and I’d go home like that, so I’d get scolded by my parents. But I couldn’t tell them what had happened. They just wondered, what in the world is she doing?
If you really want the people around you to notice what’s going on, you have to confront the person bullying you. You have to tell them, “I’m a human being just like you. When you hit me you hurt my body and my feelings. You shouldn’t do this.” You have to show you’re strong. Both the bullies and the bullied need to be completely aware of the true nature of the acts going on between them. Most of the other children don’t realize that what’s going on is actually bullying, and the ones that do know it, pretend like they don’t see it because they’re afraid they’d become the next target if they spoke up.
—Yes, that’s right. It’s important for everyone to realize that it isn’t a video game. That there’s flesh and blood people involved. To recognize each other as living beings. GACKT, what makes you feel most alive?
When I’m touched by the joy in people’s lives. When I see the most wonderful of smiles, I think, “I’m glad I’m alive.” When someone thanks me with a delightful smile on their face, I can think, I’m doing my best for the sake of those smiling faces.
—So, turning other people’s happiness into your own strength. Through your music, movies, and plays, you call for people to stop fighting with each other, and to hold friends dear. Why did that become a theme in your work?
Hm, probably because when I took a look back at myself, I realized that I hadn’t produced anything.
You hadn’t produced anything?
Through fighting. It resulted in nothing. The fights I myself started, the fights I was involved in, they accomplished nothing. I really think so. When I was a student, the discrimination against [Korean] zainichi7 children was awful. I was in that group, too. I’m not zainichi, but I got along really well with the zainichi children. So, I stood right between the Japanese and the zainichi. You could say I understood where both sides were coming from. Neither side was wrong in what they were saying; they’d get so heated that you couldn’t even tell who had started it, and I was caught between the two, being on good terms with both. So, sometimes there would be these really huge arguments, and I’d be the only one who didn’t get called out to join. Because I couldn’t join either side.8 They wouldn’t let me know what was going on because they knew that I’d end up mediating. I wondered, why does such a meaningless thing have to happen, why does it happen over and over again? It was a huge dilemma. I thought, if Japanese and Korean people sat down to talk to each other one-on-one, they’d both realize what a great person the other is. But they never understood each other. I wondered, what’s up with that?
—It’s about the pride between countries, right? Recently, I interviewed a certain zainichi actor. He’s 33 years old now. He said that from the time he was very little, he was always taught that he couldn’t lose to Japanese people. When he started to wonder why that was, he asked his parents, “Is it okay if I lose to Koreans?” They couldn’t answer him, so his viewpoint changed to “what a stupid way of thinking.” But I think it’s about how you take it. In that case, it could go either way. I think that to treasure one’s country and to want to protect its culture and way of thinking, are very precious things. But it’s sad when people hurt each other. GACKT, what are “friends” to you?
What are friends to me? Aren’t friends the people you can share fun things with?
—So what about difficult things?
Isn’t that family? I think that the people you can go through the hard times with are family. That’s about resolve too, isn’t it? When someone dear to you is in a tough situation, can you carry their burden just as they do? To me, that’s what family’s for.
I believe that any and everyone can do anything as long as they try to do it with an almost reckless abandon. I want to show the kids who think getting results is impossible, that it’s absolutely possible.
—Family. I see. Even if it makes things hard for you, being able to lend a hand and share the burden is what sets family apart. Yes. Well, this is probably a little bit different from “friends,” but, starting with the music video to “Setsugekka -The End of Silence-“9, in which you performed together with Ni~ya of Nightmare, TSUKASA of the former band DespairsRay, and Shun of DuelJewel, you’ve appeared on TV with up-and-coming visual kei artists, such as Anzi of Matenrō Opera, Kiri of heidi., Umi of Vistlip, and others. What prompted you to begin these collaborations?
Probably that I wanted to give young kids a chance. For one, I want them to be aware of themselves as pros, thinking about how they should make the best use of the chances they get to rise higher and higher. There’s kids who’ve never been on TV before, and there’s many things you can’t learn without actually working together with other professionals. What’s it like to express yourself through television, what’s it like to put yourself out there? I want them to be more aware of these things. So there’s that too. Also, I think it’s because I want them to learn by observing me, to go home with intuitive knowledge. I want to spur on these young kids, and raise the level of the music scene. I feel very strongly about that, and I’m in a position now where I can do it.
—I once asked someone who had appeared with you in a certain drama what they’d thought of you, and I was impressed to hear that person say, “For the first time, I met someone I respect enough to think, ‘I want this person to come see my live show.'” When I heard those words, I remembered how you’d said you learned to feel respect, and how to live and how to die, from Ken OGATA while you were working on Fūrin Kazan together, and I couldn’t help but feel that those kinds of emotions were starting to grow in young people’s hearts. Do you keep in touch with the people you’ve co-starred with?
I do. We get together for parties, or to hang out. Sometimes we listen to each other’s worries, or ask for advice about our bands and other things. We generally get along really well. When going up on stage, too, since rank doesn’t matter when it comes to expression, I think we want to be demanding about just how much we can do, just how much we can show. If it weren’t like that, the music industry would be no good. On stage, we’re all competing earnestly with and for each other.
—What’s a memorable question you’ve been asked by a young person?
That would be, “How do I get famous?”
—Very straightforward, huh? What did you answer?
First I got all the details of their current situation. I asked, “How many members in your band?” “How large are the venues you’re playing?” Then I said, “Are you stupid? There’s 5 of you, right? Each one of you should go out and get 200 girls! Between the five of you, that’s 1,000 people, right? You can at least fill the [venue Shibuya O-] EAST.”
—And a straightforward answer, I see. *Laughs*
You see, I’d told them, if the guys in the band aren’t popular with women, then all the guys who aren’t popular with women won’t go see the band.
—Well, yes, I see. And what did the young man say to that?
He said, “Ah.”
—”Ah”…? *Laughs* So, how does one become as popular with women as you are, GACKT?
“How”? The first question I’d ask is “How many women have you hit on so far?” It’s not a matter of popularity, it’s about how many girls you’ve approached and asked out up till now. Before worrying about your looks or things like that, just try approaching them. Don’t decide yourself whether you’re attractive or not, you go out and chat women up. I say, “Have you tried talking to each and every girl you see?” If the girl likes you, it starts from there. And if you get 200 girls, you’ve got 200 people coming to see your show. If you don’t have the guts to do just that much, you can’t have a band. You don’t have nearly enough kiai.10
—So, you’re saying that it’s not about wanting to be popular and becoming such, what’s important is to go “hunting” yourself. Hm, yes, asking “how do I get famous”…seems like depending on someone else to do the work for you.
Yeah. Everyone says such halfhearted things. They ask me, “How can I get rich without making an effort?” I say, is there anyone who’s gotten rich like that? If there’s a way to do it, I’d like to hear it!
—Hm, I wonder, isn’t what’s needed in that case also the resolve of kiai? So speaking of resolve, what have you faced with the most determination so far?
A time when I was particularly resolute? I can’t really think of anything.
—How about when you started acting?
—What made you want to go into acting to begin with?
Because I was told musicians can’t act. I was taken lightly.
—As someone who hates to lose, you couldn’t just stand there and take that, huh?
Yeah. Being told that it’s impossible for musicians to act, I said, no no, it’s the other way around, isn’t it?
—Because you write the music and lyrics from scratch, and express them yourself.
That’s right. I mean, each song has characters that appear in it, and you have to express all the characters in all the songs, so doesn’t it make more sense to assume that a vocalist can act? If you don’t have the technical skills needed for acting, you just have to study and acquire them. That’s equivalent to taking singing lessons. I think, I should be able to do it. On the contrary, wouldn’t it be a problem for someone who couldn’t act to try to be a vocalist? I had absolute confidence that I could do it precisely because I’m a vocalist, all I had to do was prove it.
It’s because if I do it, I’ll get results. That’s something I decided for myself, in regards to anything I take on.
—So, as I see it, the reason you can make things—which actually require a great deal of determination—look easy, is because of your conviction that you’ll get results as long as you try to. I think your stance of always seeing things through is very moving for the people you come in contact with. How to put it…you don’t so much act, as become the role, body and soul. You get invited to Jōetsu City’s “Kenshinkō Sai” festival every summer because of your portrayal of Uesugi Kenshin in Fūrin Kazan. You become Kenshin, appearing in armor, leading your army to the front. There, the locals don’t call you “GACKT,” but call out lovingly to you, “Oyakata-sama!”11
I’m propelled by the urge to surprise people, to make them happy. I think to do as much as I can, not as an “artist” or “actor,” but as someone who gives expression to various things. Kenshin protected the spirit of enlightenment12 that he’d stuck to, as something that he had to convey not only to us now, but also to the children who build the future. He felt that it was the foundation of our hearts, the most important thing. Well, I put my all into anything I do. I believe that any and everyone can do anything as long as they try to do it with an almost reckless abandon. I’d love to think that young people might be touched by my spirit of fighting on, and take up again something they’d previously given up on. I want to show the kids who think getting results is impossible, that it’s absolutely possible. Of course, I don’t think all such kids will change. The majority of them will say, “you can do it because you’re GACKT.” But if I can encourage even just one person to move forward, then I can keep on doing what I do knowing it has meaning.
—Mm, because you’re GACKT, eh? That’s right, the first time you went snowboarding, you kept tumbling down. There was a couple nearby when you were sliding down the slope, and when the girl said, “Oh, it’s GACKT!” you fell over. Then the boyfriend said, “That can’t be GACKT. GACKT wouldn’t fall down.” *Laughs* After that you started practicing in secret. It’s all about the hard work you put into things, even if you don’t show that part. And then when you show the fruits of your labor, you make everything look easy.
Yeah. That’s right. *Laughs wryly*
Oh yeah. I think that if I had had this level of strength and concentration from the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I would have become an Olympic athlete.
—We saw how you went into acting to prove wrong the people who said you couldn’t do it. Well then, how about your activities as an artist? Why did you think to become a singer?
It’s not that I wanted to become one, it’s that the band I was in at the time didn’t have a vocalist. I was originally a drummer.
—That’s right, at the fan club concert “Camui Gakuen de Ikinasai”13 you played the drums really fast during X JAPAN’s “Rusty Nail.” Are there many drummers-turned-vocalists? What’s a drummer’s take on vocals?
Well, the drummer has the best view of the vocalist, so he’s always playing while thinking, the vocalist should be this other way, it’d be better if he did this, it’d be cool if he did that. “This guy sucks, what’s with the way he tries to get the fans hyped up?” Things like that. The vocalist has to do all the things the drummer’s position prevents him from doing, right? The whole time, the drummer’s watching from the back, thinking, “What’s with this guy?” That’s why drummers want to meet a vocalist that they can think of as really cool. I think that a drummer who can meet such a vocalist is the most fortunate. It’s a blessing greater than what a drummer should ask for. I really do think that a drummer who can say, “Our band’s vocalist is so cool” is the happiest drummer in the world, because he gets to watch him from the closest position, he always has the vocalist’s back. There’s nothing more fortunate than that, is there?
—So when you became a vocalist, had you not resolved to do it?
No, I had. The band got angry with me at first. I said, maybe I’ll try singing too, hm. At the time, I was the drummer, and YOU, whom I’ve known since we were young, and who is also my support guitarist now, was the guitarist of the band then. We searched for a vocalist for one year with no luck, so I said, “Well then, I’ll do it,” and he said “Bullshit!” We ended up fighting, tit for tat. I said, “I’ll show you, I’m gonna sing!” I started practicing from that point. As a vocalist, it was a late start, being about 19 years old, so I practiced frantically. I practiced to death. Not to be inferior to other vocalists.
—Just like with the app Touch the Numbers,14 it’s not like you were able to play it well straight away.
Of course not. I got made fun of for that, too. At first my time was horrible, and I got laughed at. But I thought, “I’ll show this guy!” I practiced little by little, getting better and better.
—Usually, I think one would say, “there’s no need to master something like this,” but something draws you in, right?
I know, right? The rest is just believing you’ll succeed if you try.
—Do you ever get really frustrated?
You mean, frustrated by the things I’m doing?
—Yes, like…when things just don’t go well.
No, not really, because my way of thinking is very simple. Even if someone tells me what I’ve done is no good, I don’t go getting all depressed about it. If I do something as best as I can and still fail, I analyze my failure so that I can do better the next time. So I don’t really get frustrated.
—So because you focus on seeing things through to the end, even if you fail, you have no regrets.
Yeah, because there’s a reason for failing. So I address that reason, make adjustments, and try again. Failing isn’t losing. It’s not like everything ends and you die when you’ve failed once. I think that even if you lose one round, it’s enough to try to win the next round, without giving up.
—Is that how you face everything?
—To outside observers, you seem very stoic, but do you ever just let yourself go? Like, sit around lollygagging?
Lollygagging? No. Maybe when I get really absorbed in something I’m not good at, I end up laughing at how bad I am. That’s why I like how I keep snowboarding. I’m embarrassing to watch. My skills just don’t improve. So I go into the half pipe with my same poor skills, fall, roll down, hurt my sides, and groan in pain. I see myself like that and laugh. Ahahahaha, man, I suck! *Laughs*
—Even if you fall, you can get back up thinking you’ll get it next time.
Yeah. That’s right. I laugh at myself for being so lame, not getting better even though I practice so hard. That’s what I’m thinking as I throw myself wholeheartedly into practice. I mean, if you don’t take it like that, you can’t do it, because it hurts. It’s painful, it’s tough, it’s tiring, it’s unbearable. It’s not leisurely at all.
—This is true. *Laughs*
Yeah. I’m training every day.
—Looking back, you never would have imagined this when you were a teenager. How your life ended up.
Oh yeah. I think that if I had had this level of strength and concentration from the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I would have become an Olympic athlete.
—That’s probably true! But it’s hard to know your own potential as a child.
Yeah. It’s also a matter of environment. How the parents are raising their children. It depends on the parents’ competence, too. If the parents put their utmost effort into things, the children will surely do the same.
—It can be hard to navigate the parent-child relationship, so to speak. Maybe it’s because of the absoluteness of the relationship, but sometimes grudges spring up between the two.
That happens. It always happens. Not like a wound, but it stays forever. It’s not that they hate each other, or blame each other. There’s just sadness between them.
—Yes, that’s right.
One person is sad over not being able to build a good relationship, and the other party probably feels the same way. That’s what I think. But I also think children have to forgive their parents. Parents can’t be free either if their children don’t forgive them. I didn’t have a good relationship with my parents. But I don’t harbor any hatred or disgust toward them. I just think, how pitiable.
—Pitiable? Your parents, or yourself?
Mm, both. Well, I don’t really feel sorry for myself, because I became who I am today thanks to the person I was back then. Plus, that’s in the past. But I feel bad for my parents, who weren’t able to build a good relationship. Children are always children in their parents’ eyes, right?
—Yes. Parents have to let their children go even when they don’t think they’ve fulfilled their role as parents, so they always think of their children as their children. But from the children’s point of view, they’ve become their own person. I also had a poor relationship with my parents. Of course, I don’t grudge them, and I know that I am who I am because of how things were when I was a child. But the present is a bit scary. I stay away from my parents because it feels like my heart would break if we had contact. In those days, when things got to be too much to bear, I’d wonder, why is this happening to me? After that, I became able to detach myself emotionally, as if the things happening to me weren’t happening to me. I think it was a defense mechanism.
Yeah, that’s certainly one way people protect themselves. Looking at things as if they were happening to someone else. Girls who were raped end up thinking that way sometimes, right? Thinking of their mind and body as two separate things as a defense mechanism.
—Exactly. There were so many times when I felt like if I didn’t do that, my heart would shatter to pieces. But I probably wasn’t the only one hurting, because just as you’ve said, I can imagine that my mother and grandmother were going through the same thing.
Mm. But you never know what’s going to happen, nor how that will affect you. For example, I became who I am today because of the environment I grew up in, and because of what I learned from the businessman I met when I was 19. If I’d grown up in a different environment, and been satisfied with life, I might not be here as I am now, or maybe the businessman’s words would have fallen on deaf ears. Is it possible to say what would have been better? I’m here today as a result of everything that happened. Nothing would come from denying my past. That’s what I think.
—Hm, I think it’s been two years but, is it okay if I ask you a question I’d used before in an interview for another magazine? GACKT, are you actually putting on an act? Two years ago, you said that GACKT walks in front of you, and that when things get tough and you can’t go on, he turns back toward you saying, “Is that all you’ve got?” You said that’s why you don’t give up, why you can fight on.
No, I can only be myself. If you don’t have an “on” and an “off,” there’s no need to put on an act. I do think that at first I created an ideal version of myself, and that was GACKT. But while making an effort to get closer to my ideal, I became it. So it’s not like every day I’m flipping a switch or something. I don’t turn into a completely different person when I go home.
—And because you never lollygag.
No, I do not. Well, I do think there’s a part of me I only let my girlfriend see. Like when I fall asleep with my mouth open. *Laughs*
—Ah, that just shows that you trust her enough to let your guard down. *Laughs*
Because there’s no difference between my “on” and “off.” Or rather, I probably don’t even have an “off.” I wonder, how do people who make these “on” and “off” modes for themselves do it? Actually, I’m the one who can’t understand that.
—Well, a distinguished enka singer or someone like that once said that they become the enka singer version of themselves the moment they put their shoes on to step out of the house.
Is that right? Well, I know this certain actor. On the movie screen he comes across as a tough guy, but when we went to karaoke together, he sang in a delicate voice. Completely different from the image he presents on screen. That’s when I realized how glad I was for not having to put on an act anymore. That actor doesn’t show his true self to most people. I think he doesn’t want to be seen. He probably thinks it scary to have people know the real him. But I’m always the same. I don’t have to put something on or anything like that, I can just always be myself. I can say that what you see is GACKT.
1. I admit I don’t much understand Buddhist cosmology, though I did try to read up on it to translate this properly. To keep things simple, all you need to know is that the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven proactively tries to lead people astray, so he’s very evil. ↩
3. What’s said here are almost the exact same words used in GACKT’s song “Journey Through the Decade,” in the breakdown before the final chorus: 「自分が瞬間ごとに 決断するそのすべてで 未来は理想にも絶望にも 変わってゆくだからきっと 信じた道走れ」(Each instant’s decisions add up to the future, leading toward the ideal but also toward despair, so run on the path you believe in). ↩
4. MOON SAGA -Yoshitsune Hiden- ran from March through October of 2012. It was GACKT’s second stage play. The majority of the contents on the play’s official site apparently cannot be accessed from outside Japan, but it is still up. Chapter 2 of this saga is set to run this year (2014). ↩
8. I’m not sure if GACKT is referring to the fact that he’s Okinawan (and therefore different from other Japanese), or he was just so different in general that he couldn’t take sides. ↩
9. “Setsugekka -The End of Silence” is GACKT’s 36th single, released in 2009. The above mentioned artists appeared in its music video instead of GACKT’s usual support band. ↩
10. The Japanese word “kiai,” written as 気合い, means “fighting spirit.” But GACKT commonly writes it as 気愛, replacing the “ai” with another “ai,” the one that means “love.” So GACKT’s “kiai” isn’t just fighting spirit, it’s fighting with love, or fighting for what you love. ↩
11. Oyakata-sama (親方様) in this context means “My Lord.” It is the title with which a feudal lord’s subjects would address him. ↩
12. I’m not entirely sure about this. The original Japanese says 「第一義」(“daiichigi”) and when I searched for that and Kenshin, I got this page. It says in the green box near the bottom that “Daiichigi” is a term that appeared in the Zen text, the Blue Cliff Record, and that it refers to “what Gautama Buddha learned as being ‘the true nature of all things’ when he achieved Enlightenment [satori].” ↩
13. The Camui Gakuen de Ikinasai was a fan club only limited tour held in the fall of 2009. Unlike a usual concert, it took the form of a mock school festival, and the majority of the songs played were covers. The name is a pun, meaning something like “Camui Academy Life Festival” and/or “Please Be Alive Festival at the Camui Academy.” Since then, there have been other Camui Academy “festivals.” I wrote about the 2010 festival and the 2012 festival on my JET blog. ↩
14. Touch the Numbers is a game for smartphones/iPod Touch wherein you tap tiles with the numbers from 1 through 25 in order in a time attack. When this article was written, GACKT was in the Top 100 worldwide. If I remember correctly, he had input his name as GACKT and people were saying that it wasn’t really him. The current top world record holders have times under one second. ↩