The sun was unusually brilliant for the UK on April 21, marking the second European tour date for MIYAVI’s Day2 World Tour as if the heavens knew the Japanese guitar samurai would be visiting. In a room adjacent to ULU’s stage area, the report took place in a long white room with ceiling to floor windows, flooding the room with light. Dressed in a loose black graphic sweatshirt, matched with casual black jeans, MIYAVI’s pre-show outfit was finished with the pair of futuristic black on white sole Y-3 NOCI HIGH sneakers.
You usually wouldn’t go on a world tour this quickly considering it was only just last year you had your Firebird World Tour. In your previous tours, you’ve left at least a two to three-year gap between each one. What made you decide to go on tour this quickly without taking any breaks?
Great question, we were not expecting to have another world tour this year as we already had one last year, but since I came to Paris for the fashion show and appearing in New York for the United Nations gathering, so we just wanted to have a couple of shows in London, New York, Beijing—that kinda circuit. It’s not a “tour”. Sometimes you’ll have several shows a year at your home [country], so something like that. We were planning to have a couple of shows in some capital cities so that people can come if they want. If they’re not nearby, they can still come. If we ended up having another “tour” when we came to London, why don’t we play in Paris, and then what about Berlin, what about Russia, what about Warsaw? This time as you see, it’s more compact. The venues are smaller as well.
Yes, and you’re also going to be touring South America, right?
That’s a different story, America we were only planning to have concerts in LA and NY, but we ended up including other cities. It was good. We made an announcement about this tour, and the fans in South America started going “This is not a world tour!”.
We had offers from local promoters in South America, their voices were really meaningful and powerful to us. We can not have a show without the help of local people. I don’t know the promoter’s contact numbers or the venues, so we need the local help. In this case, my fan’s strong voice made the local promoters work on this. We got the offer from local promoters so we were able to make it happen. You know, even the merchandise originally didn’t have the dates [printed] for South America when I designed it. We got the offer after planning the tour dates after.
That’s a really beautiful story to see how strong your [the fans] voice is. Of course, I’ve been wanting to go to South America, but it’s far, we don’t have any idea about what we can do in that area, the language difference—So it’s impactful to us to see how strong my fan’s voice is. It’s happening now! I’m really excited and I’ve been wanting to go.
But it is not just my decision, I have my staff, the schedule, the deals—This time it was a miracle that we were able to make this happen. I really appreciate the voice of my fans in South America—a lot!
So far you have performed 18 shows, completing the Asia circle. How do you make sure that you maintain your health and energy? Because it’s not easy.
Yeah, it’s not easy. I mean that’s also another great question.
Do you give yourself a limit on stage?
No, that’s not it. The thing is, I don’t party. At all. It’s the routines, the little things, that you keep doing every day that is everything. It’s not a big thing at once. To me, I feel more like an athlete on the road. What I eat is different off-road. On or off-road, I exercise every morning right after I wake up. I talk to my Japan and US staff in the morning and I also like to wake up early morning around four or five.
Four in the morning?!
Yes, I really like the energy in the early morning. I exercise every day, every single morning, before the show, after the show, and before I go to bed. It’s really important to keep that mentality. That’s really crucial.
Back then I used to get a massage in every country as on stage I’m running around, banging my head, but no more. It’s simplicity that’s important so you can maintain yourself without any special treatment. If there wasn’t a massage place I couldn’t recover, so now I can do that by myself now.
Food as well, I always make my own smoothie in the morning to keep my condition good. The quality of the breakfast at the hotel doesn’t affect me as I have my own breakfast every single morning. Also, I’ve been cutting out carbs.
Actually, on this tour, I’ve been eating carbs on purpose, so that’s the basic difference between on and off road. The amount of energy I use on stage and in the studio is totally different because you know, on stage, I’d sweat a lot. I always use that energy in my muscles and fat. At the same time, it’s really important to give your brain and body enough energy, so I’ve been controlling the amount of sugar and carbs on the road. I’ve been eating a lot of carbs, yeah.
What’s your preference for carbs?
No gluten, so rice—Brown rice. Brown sugar candy, quinoa, and corn. I don’t usually eat bread or pasta, but sometimes I’ll have no choice.
Music is really spiritual, so to keep doing that you got to make sure you are in a good condition physically. It’s my responsibility to deliver the best performance. I almost got sick in Asia. The air is different especially in Hong Kong and Beijing, they’re beautiful cities with beautiful crowds—but the quality of the air, I won’t say it’s good. It affects your voice and throat.
Earlier this year you mentioned you’ll be releasing new EPs every month starting from March. Long Nights featuring Sonita Alizadeh, and In The Crowd featuring Seann Bowe. What kind of expectations should fans have for the future EP releases?
To be honest the basic concept is having freedom of creation. We’ve already got many tracks we’ve been playing on stage, but we haven’t released it yet, so that’s the main purpose of this. The release of this month is coming out soon in the next couple of days. (So On It is out now on iTunes)
We’ve noticed you cover a lot of other musicians songs, how do you go about picking the songs to cover? Especially the songs that end up being on your setlist during the tour.
I just pick the tracks that I get inspired by. I’m not the only person who picks, my producers, the staff, they all, collect those tracks. I’ll be playing and not knowing what it is, but I could feel inspired. I’ll feel the music with the guitar and I play.
Also, you’ve been playing Pink Spider on your set—could you tell us how hide has influenced you for the tribute album?
I respect him in many ways as an artist, his attitude towards his creation and his fans. How he communicates and builds that relationship with his fans. Also, his attitude towards the global market. It’s not only for the Japanese market, he was trying to take his fans to the next level. Not always just facing his fans all the time, but trying to challenge them with new things, and it’s not easy at all. That’s actually not what the audience wants. That’s fine you know, but at the same time, it’s the same as education. My two daughters, I face them of course, but at the same time, I don’t help them all the time.
Sometimes I let them make a mistake and I strongly believe that is true love, the real way to show your love and affection so that they can become independent. The same towards my fans, of course, I want to make something they want, but I want them to feel proud of themselves as a MIYAVI fan, so I’m not saying what we’re doing is wrong, but it’s also important what’s happening outside of our world. That’s what I realized when I was in the visual kei world.
It’s a beautiful culture and it’s unique from others, but do your parents like this? Are your parents proud of you? Are your classmates interested in whatever, there’s no perfect music or creation but at least I want to have authenticity, craftsmanship, and professionalism—and then even when people don’t like it, I don’t want people to look down on my fans.
It’s really sensitive, I want my fans to be strong who can stand by themselves.
Like you do with your daughters?
Yeah! I don’t know if this is the right way to say it or the right thing to do as an artist—as a performer, as an entertainer. I don’t want my concert to be a place for them to escape from reality.
I don’t want to have that. It’s not good. It’s like a sugar. I don’t like it.
I want them to go back after my concert stronger. That’s what my show is for and it’s my responsibility.
Where did you pick up all these ideas and philosophies? One that has helped you guide your daughters’ upbring, and the strengthening of your fans? Do you have anyone who inspires you in particular?
Hm, that’s a good question. I have no idea. Of course my wife, Melody is huge. I really appreciate her for raising my kids, thanks to her I’m able to be on tour like this. We’re very similar, and at the same time I have things she doesn’t and she has things I don’t have, we share the ideas and the attitude towards our kids. I’m more strict. My kids have to exercise every morning. Posture, breath—little things. To gain muscle isn’t the purpose, it’s to gain the habit of knowing that it’s important.
So yeah I get inspired by my partner Melody.
Since we’re on the topic of family, how is the communication?
On social media we talk, with Melody we chatted for two hours after I arrived in London. I stayed in Paris because I had some meetings, so I arrived in London via Eurostar, so I was talking to Melody when I was having dinner so I can share the place I was in with her.
And then, my daughters they have apps we communicate with, but recently they were playing “Minecraft”, but there’s a different app called “Roblox”, they’ve been playing that so I play with them. When I have time I get online and I find them and we play a little bit. [laughs] It’s fun to do something together in the internet world.
So let’s move onto Bleach the Movie, congratulations on your role. For fans who don’t know the anime, could you tell us a bit about the film?
I think you guys know that anime more than me. [laughs] You guys should explain. I wasn’t familiar with that anime that much. I like anime like Vagabond, Fighter Baki, I like creations with philosophical aspects you know? In a way, Bleach has it too.
I realized many of my fans like it, so when I got an offer from the director I was interested in the relationship between Byuuka and Rukia because I have a younger sister. Just like what I said, to protect or being sweet to them is not the only way you can show your affection. So, Byakuya is also really strict but he really loves his sister. That’s his way to love her so there’s a bit of conflict between him and her because he wants her to be strong enough but the value of life is different. To me, that emotion and the feeling towards his sister is really interesting to me. It was also a great opportunity to experience the sword action, I had fun.
Did you end up doing all the action moves or did you have a stuntman doing the more dangerous stuff for you?
I didn’t do any dangerous stuff, but I did all the stunts myself.
The character you play in the movie is kind of similar to yourself; both of you want justice in this world, are calm natured, and charming.
Is he charming? I don’t think so. He doesn’t even smile.
Yeah, that’s what’s charming about him. [laughs]
[laughs] I mean with the story and the other people yeah, it’s really charming. I like his stance. It’s all for a purpose. That’s it. To me too, to make the things happen I would sacrifice other things, that’s the basic stance and I think that’s what he has as well.
Action-wise, it wasn’t dangerous at all because no one can see him when he moves [makes fast sword swinging gesture]. You’ll see a bit of the action in the trailer when I kill Ichigo. [laughs]
Was it fun?
It’s always fun to kill somebody! [laughs]
From your previous role as Watanabe (The Bird) in the movie Unbroken, you immersed yourself in the role to the point and isolated yourself from Jack O’Connell when you guys weren’t filming. What were some of the challenges you faced while filming your role in Bleach? For example, did you end up doing difficult stunts or it took time to get into your character?
I think other actors are more professional. I don’t have a switch to go back and forth between a character and myself, that’s why I need to avoid casual conversation [with them]. Once I get into a character, I don’t want to come back because it takes time to get into that place. To be honest, sometimes I think about how deep someone gets into it. I’m the type of person who gets into a character and doesn’t come back for a while. I had to keep my distance.
The main guy and everyone else is really nice. Even in the film Gangoose, they’re all nice, but I play a villain so I don’t want a relationship that might get in the way of the performance. If we fight, I would want them to hate me, so it’s the same. That’s actually the only way I know. Like in the first film Unbroken, I don’t know any other way to get into the character.
Let’s move onto your UNHRC work!
Finally! [laughs] There are so many things to talk about, a lot of the time people forget.
Not at all, we know it’s a passionate subject of yours. Last year you became the first Japanese Goodwill Ambassador for Japan. Congratulations on that. Since then we’ve noticed you have started participating in more UNHCR meetings through your Instagram. Has becoming a Goodwill ambassador opened a new door for you to help and educate the world about the refugee crisis?
Yeah, a lot. As a human being. Yes.
That’s what I’ve been talking about in my shows and how it should be for my fans. This might not be a good thing to say as an entertainer or singer or as a product in this entertainment business, doing this kind of humanitarian work, sometimes people don’t expect, and sometimes not appreciate this type of work. Sometimes it gets in the way because it’s not what people want, but like my kids, I don’t want to keep giving my kids sugars and chocolate. It’s really important to put vegetables into the meal, the balance is really important. If I keep giving spinach to my kids would, of course, hate it.
I think music can really make it happen, like for people who don’t listen to speeches, they might listen to music. The music can be a bridge, and that’s something I might be able to do. That’s the theme. The first time I went to the refugee camps I was scared.
The one in Lebanon, right?
Yeah, I realized there’s something I can do with music there. Music is invisible—you can not see it, but we have it and it can be a glue to connect people and bring people to a new place—that’s my role as an ambassador. I’m MIYAVI, even at the refugee camps, I’m not your typical ambassador, I’m a rockstar who is doing humanitarian work. That’s the reason for my identity as MIYAVI the ambassador.
Your song Long Nights is relatable to so many people out there. It can be relatable to those who lost a loved one, someone going through a difficult time, someone suffering from depression or someone with insomnia etc. Do you have a message for the readers out there struggling and finding it difficult to find a spark of hope to go on?
It’s not only “you” who is facing a hard time. Even I’ve had it, sometimes I have a hard time too. But the thing is, to be strong you need to strongly believe that there is a scenery you can see after you have overcome the difficulty. Without it, there is nothing to fight against, so as long as you know tomorrow will come, you can get through a long night. Even if the night is really long, you can endure it. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but that’s the only way so just believe that tomorrow will come. It’s not up to others, not up to me, I don’t do anything for you. I make music and I might be able to support and give you the word of advice, but you are the only one who can deal with it. I really hope my music can support to help you to overcome your hardships in your life.
We would love to thank MIYAVI and the incredibly helpful staff for their time to organize this face to face interview opportunity, and we hope our readers have enjoyed this insightful conversation with him. Best of luck to him for the rest of the Day2 World Tour.