The US and Europe tour dates of Miyavi’s FireBird World Tour have now concluded, but before the show in London, we sat down with Miyavi to talk about his anniversary, the tour, and his passion for family, and worldwide issues.
Hello Miyavi, nice to meet you and thank you for talking to JROCK NEWS. Congratulations on your 15th anniversary as a solo artist!
Thank you. I can not believe that it has been 15 years actually. If my staff didn’t say anything about the 15th anniversary, I wouldn’t think we are celebrating this thing, because I’m always focusing on the future and the new stuff [music]. But this time I talked to the staff and I got this opportunity to celebrate this moment, and this is the kind of appreciation for everyone, not just for older fans, but for the people who got involved with Miyavi over the years.
The first moment I became a solo artist, you remember the track girls be ambitious, it’s why my hair has been silver these days—that’s kind of my tribute for myself. The moment right after my band [Dué le Quartz] broke up, I had no time to wait for an opportunity to find a band or a vocalist because there were so many people (fans) waiting for me. So I had no choice to hold on, so I started my career as a solo artist. I won’t say it is easy, there is more responsibility, and sometimes I miss being in a band because you can depend on somebody else. As a solo artist, it’s all me and much more responsibility, but it’s worth it—and I think it’s good for my personality. I really respect the baseball player, Ichiro [Suzuki], he’s just like that. He’s social but he doesn’t hang with people much.
Looking back on your 15 years as a solo artist, what has been your most memorable album or song to you?
It’s quite hard to find a specific track because I’m trying to put everything into the creation—So every track is really important, but I don’t know which song, and now we’re still moving forward with music.
Well 15 years is a respectable length of time for a career, do you still see yourself having a music career in the long future, or have you considered taking a break from your music career to do something else?
I have no idea because I was not able to predict who I would be now, I’m totally different from what I expected. I was rocking the whole world, it’s the same thing, but I never expected that I would be in a film, acting, or fashion, and doing the family thing—it’s a totally different kind of dimension.
Now that you have a family of your own, has that made you question if you should take a break?
Not a break, I literally need more time, physically I don’t have two bodies. The time for being a dad and also a rock star, and I’m running my own company as well. So physically it’s not been easy but it’s worth it.
I’m learning from my daughters as a human being because when you are a kid, you are not able to see yourself objectively and you see that from them. I can guide them, but I shouldn’t protect them too much because making mistakes is also important. So sometimes I let them make a mistake. This is kind of a different topic—but our responsibility is not to just protect them but also let them learn so they can be independent. Eventually, they are going to leave their family, and they’re going to make their own family. So they don’t belong to us—that’s really important. And also, being able to talk to them, explaining is really important. Even the little stuff I explain like “because this” and “because this”, as long as you explain they understand eventually. They’re not just a child.
Yes, conversation is key!
So far you’ve taken your FireBird Tour across North America, and now Europe. How is it going, so far?
Good, it’s been awhile since the last tour in the States, and we had a great time in every city, and then Europe. The thing is, the happiest moment is to hear that my fans are enjoying the music, because most of the tracks I’ve been playing on the main set is from my new track that I’ve never released. So I was pretty nervous before this tour started.
With the new set, it’s like you’re going to a restaurant which doesn’t have a menu. You have no idea what’s coming up, but with trust you can make it happen. They [the fans] come to my show to feel it, to experience it, without knowing what Miyavi will play. It’s crazy but that’s the relationship we have achieved, that’s a treasure—the trust with the audience. I’ve been changing a lot. You can not believe that I was the same person 15 years ago, music wise, but that was a privilege as a solo artist to keep changing. I feel responsible to keep creating something new, so that you can share the excitement with the audience. I don’t want to make something repetitive.
Are there any countries or cities you get especially excited to perform at?
Paris. London too. Yeah, Paris is always special to me, it feels like a kind of cultural thing. I feel a similarity to Japan—Japanese people have similarity to French people.
One of the songs you sang on the FireBird Tour is called Where Home Is with vocals by your wife, Melody. What is the reason for adding Melody’s vocals to the song?
I was thinking to talk about that on stage tonight. So first of all, with my latest album Firebird, I could find a way to sing with my guitar. As a guitarist that identity is strong, it’s an art, I want to speak and sing with a guitar—that’s a long journey, it actually takes time. And it’s also my responsibility as a guitarist to bring back that excitement of rock music. You don’t hear much music using guitars in the mainstream music charts recently, so guitarists are trying to survive now. If you play the guitar in a typical rock format, people don’t listen to it. There’s this fairly new rock band called Twenty One Pilots who don’t even use or play guitars. I really respect Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as a younger generation trying to find new ways so that guitarists can survive.
With DJ guys touring with their USB stick, and we’re touring with a bunch of gear, insane, it’s kinda ridiculous. Which means they’re the people who don’t care about instruments anymore. They just go to the club, just have fun, find a girl, pick her up, it’s fine but that’s culture. Rock music, even Japanese music, used to be dance music so it’s funny. I just want to go back to those basics to make rock music as a dance music. Rock music used to be a dance music.
And now with the messages, it’s really important to feature other vocalists, and then I express with a guitar that’s a format I want to achieve. This is a transition, this story, new set, more tracks, a kind of transition. It’s not 100% completed yet but once I can achieve it, it’s going to be a way for every guitarist to conform to. More freedom like what DJ guys have been doing featuring many vocalists—I don’t want to link tracks and creations with my vocals, my voice. Even with rhythm guitar, it’s all about the message, it’s all about the melody, it’s all about music, creation, but you don’t link that creativity with one instrument.
So what kind of message were you trying to portray by using Melody’s vocals in particular?
Where Home Is was my first collaboration with my wife actually. First of all, I love her voice, but she kind of stepped away from singing for the kids. She’s enjoying the life of a mother but at the same time, it’s a kinda fun project to work with. And like what I said, eventually your children leave. Even I left my home when I was 17 years old, I didn’t want to get stuck in my place. But now, with my kids, I got way closer to my parents. So that’s a kind of cycle, so eventually you leave, but no matter what happens, it’s home.
There is always home, as long as you don’t forget, and you have your family in your heart. That’s really authentic—to create something like that with her, because that’s a true feeling and that’s what we’ve been feeling towards our kids as well. They’re gonna eventually leave us, they’re gonna make a family, they’re going to have their own children, and then the babies bring us back together. It’s a long process for everyone, so that’s why I wanted to dedicate that track to everyone who’s suffering or struggling, far away from home.
It’s really nice that you were able to share the creation of this song with your family!
It’s true, they were even singing in Long Nights!
After 10 studio album releases, it’s easy to presume that the music producing process is quite easy for you now, but which song from the Firebird album took the longest to finish?
Long Night. That was the first track I wrote after I came back from the refugee camp. For me personally, I have a hard time falling deep into darkness, I’m scared to leave my bed, to face the world. It’s really tough, especially when you challenge a new thing, and when you kind of realize that you’re not strong enough, it’s really tough. That’s not only for me but for the people in the refugee camps who had to flee from their country, and how they’re floating on the ocean for a long time, they pay money, all the money they have to get on the boat. They come packed in a small room for three or four days without any food or water on the boat. And then when they land somewhere, they need to pay to get into the country, but they don’t have money, so they die in the ocean—crazy. Then finally, just getting to the village and there is no support, no nothing there—tough. It’s way beyond our imagination.
As long as you know tomorrow will come, as long as you know that you can dive into that darkness, and then keep fighting until you get out, that’s a “long night”. That track is really important, so it took time. I’m still kinda trying to develop that track with other rockers. It’s a really really important track. I don’t know why it didn’t become a single track.
We understand you visited refugees in Lebanon, and you also work with UNHCR, and they’re always trying to make changes in this world. But for you, what changes would you like to make to the world?
That’s a good question. I visited the UN headquarters in New York, next day after the New York FireBird Tour show, I was introduced to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], and visited Lebanon and Thailand. I visited UN and now they have 17 SDGs [The Sustainable Development Goals], it’s a kind of development in what we want to achieve by 2030 for education, gender equality, poverty, food, health, refugee crisis, and more.
I’m kind of into education, but the part I want to change in the world is more positivity, even just a bit, just a bit is fine. Maybe you can get drunk and then you can get more optimistic, that’s fine. I think personally it’s all about imagination, how you can create the future in your head, that is really important. Maybe you can create it when you get drunk? That’s fine. The reason why I’m so into education, is that it encourages imagination. I saw this reaction when I went to refugee camps in Lebanon. I was really nervous because I was not as famous, I was not sure what I could do just as a guitarist from Japan. But once I played the guitar the kids went crazy, they like exploded!
I realized how strong the music was even after I went back to LA. The UN staff emailed me that some kids started saying they wanted to be a rock star, and I’m like “wow there’s something I can do”. There’s a power in music, and I can give people power. At that moment I was just letting the kids play the guitar, I was just holding the chord, they could strum the strings. It made them get in line to play, some kids started fighting, just kids fighting, but if they don’t know, or if they don’t get the right education to know how important it is the share things, that’s going to be a cause of conflict in the world.
Is there a message that you would like to give to your refugee fans?
Thank you for being there. To be strong, and to not to give up your life, move forward.
I was showing the Olympics footage of the refugee team to the kids, even the girls who are doing so well on TV in all the Olympics, even as a refugee—so as long as you keep moving forward and trying something so hard, you can make it as long as you don’t give up.
And also, I’m doing my thing, maybe you can’t do my thing, but maybe there are things you can do that I can not do. Everyone has their own role, and responsibility. We make a chain—that’s what I have been telling the UNHCR staff in Japan—they can not go to the field, I can go, but I do my thing, and they do their thing, and then we connect—so we are a bridge to the next generation.
That’s a beautiful message. We’re sure many people around the world can connect with those words.
In recent years you’ve had the opportunity to work within the American music industry. What are the differences between the Japanese and American industry, that’s to say, what are the pros and cons of each industry?
Tempo. Especially LA is different. New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, similar. LA everything is spread out, but the thing is, in Japan you see what’s happening through media like, TV, radio, internet, but once you get into that industry, that world, it’s happening right there—to feel the vibes and atmosphere is really, really, important. That’s the reason why I just dived in. You can not feel it, maybe you can see an article on the internet, but it’s different, you’re feeling with your eyes, the smell, the temperature, and everything. So it’s really important to feel it, so that’s the reason why I moved to LA. To feel it.
So, L.A. matched your tempo?
Not really, I prefer London, New York, and Tokyo, because there are five—six—seven meetings, one photoshoot a day. But in LA, two or three meetings maximum because in LA you have to move around, and with traffic, it’s really a strain, so the life was different. With my personality, it’s more like, boom-boom-boom, so personally, I prefer London, New York, and Tokyo, so that’s why I go back and forth between Tokyo and LA.
For me, the good thing about being in Japan is the good standard of food and hospitality.
From your experience within the music industry, do you have any tips you could share with other inspiring guitarists or musicians?
Just don’t learn anything from me—because that’s what I made, that’s what I can do, I don’t think you can do better in my way, but there’s some way you can do better in your way— that’s what I did. I can not play like Stevie Ray Vaughan, I can not play like Jimi Hendrix, I don’t even know a track. I don’t do that because I do my thing—so don’t slap the strings! [laugh]
Before signing-off from this interview, could you give a message to your fans and JROCK NEWS readers?
Just Jrock, no Kpop?
No, just Jrock and visual kei.
Aww okay, that’s good to hear. I mean, I’m half Korean. I have my Korean name on my back. Maybe some of my fans know that I have a kind of Korean personality.
Either way, if you like Jrock, or Kpop, Asian music, or whatever, and with what I was saying, I think culture is getting closer. I really feel recently you see more Asian actors, and actresses, in film. So we culturally get closer and closer—every night I feel the breaking of the border/boundary. It’s beautiful to see that people outside of your country love your culture, and I feel like I’m a bridge between other countries and Japanese culture.
People can unite and share the moment. Especially the moment that my audience sing along in Japanese, it’s really beautiful. All the Japanese staff, everyone is blown away by that moment, it’s really beautiful. That’s what I’m trying to make happen. Thank you for your support, and I can not do this by myself so, I need you, I need your support, and then we can make it even better.
That’s the reason why I keep moving forward, I want you guys to be proud of yourself to be my fan, or to be a jrock fan. When you let your parents listen to my music, I want your parents to love my music as well, so that you don’t have to leave your home. [laugh]
We’re sure some of the fans will be parents themselves now.
That’s true too, we’re kind of getting older together. [laugh]
Well good luck to you on the rest of the tour, and the future, and thank you for talking to JROCK NEWS.
The concert at 02 Islington, London
To finish the night of nicely we were able to enjoy watching Miyavi do what he does best—perform.
Miyavi didn’t gracefully take the stage like many performers open their stage, but swirled onto the stage in a whirlwind of fiery energy, coordinating his movements along with the opening track to his FireBird album. And a fire bird he was. He lept heights into the air and swirled around the stage in such a fury it took every bit of the audiences attention as they observed his movements that appeared to be one step away from a collision. Even with a slower beat song like Dim It, there was never a sign that Miyavi’s energy levels were dimming any time soon.
This is how much of the performance would shape through the night, and as he played through the first few songs of the set, it had you wondering if he felt as tired as you were from just watching him exhilarate himself so much.
A pause in the set lead into a musical piece with worldwide acknowledgement—Mission Impossible. This piece was definitely made to be performed live as the depth to the song could be heard clearly, and oozed that coolness needed for the Mission Impossible movie genre.
Of course, Miyavi gave time to speak about some of the most important people in his life, his wife, Melody, and their family. He proudly told the crowd about his daughter Lovelie’s school, telling him and Melody that Lovelie had been tested and came out with a result of being ‘gifted’. He talked about the importance of home and what it means to him, and how he wants everyone to feel like they have a home. So with that he introduced, Where Home Is, was dedicated to people everywhere who had found their home, or were still searching.
His passionate speech continued on as he talked about his responsibilities for his children’s future and helping them to grow. He chose a befitting song which represents these thoughts, a cover of P.O.D’s Youth of the Nation. We can only hope that a recorded version may come to light, as Miyavi definitely embraced this song as his own and performed it his way.
As with any album titled tour, there comes a selection of songs taken from the newest album. The FireBird album was definitely produced with the intentions to fully bloom when performed live. A highlight song taken from the FireBird album was Long Night with Miyavi giving a strong introduction to the song by discussing the songs roots of influence taken from his trip to the refugee camps in Lebanon. He fears the world is splitting apart, and even though he too can be scared to leave his bed at times, there are still things we can all do to help each other and the future of the refugees.
Miyavi introduced his new DJ, Johnny, who comes from LA, and has helped Miyavi to explore new ways to perform with his guitar—much like the discussion he had in the earlier interview—and he expressed his keenness to share the freedom he feels when playing his guitar by allowing the audience to experience freedom when at his shows. True to his words, Miyavi allowed a greater feeling of freedom to be achieved as the audience spent the last of their energy jumping and singing along to some old classic: Selfish Love, What a Wonderful World, and What’s My Name. With a few meetings of palms, waving of hands, and a cheerful smile, Miyavi said his goodbyes.
For fans who had attended Miyavi’s previous tours, the common theme in opinion that people voiced was that this performance, and tour, was definitely one of his most energetic and enthusiastic performances. Yes, there’s no denying it, you missed out—but with Miyavi we’re sure there will always be a next time.