MIYAVI is a samurai guitarist, conquering the world for Japan with the only weapon he knows how to use: his guitar. But this visual kei idol turned CEO of a management company hasn’t always been his own feudal lord. Starting out in the short-lived band Due le Quartz, MIYAVI had to go through being just another struggling guitarist to a guitar ronin before he could set his sights on ruling Japan and lands overseas.
Before he launches his North American Circuit tour, MIYAVI made some time for an in-depth chat with us about the beginnings, music, business, and future of this fierce musical warrior.
Interview part 2 – Click here to read part 1
pSKY: So, you appeared alongside SUGIZO, YOSHIKI, and GACKT for S.K.I.N. How were you approached to join the band? I remember you were the last one to join…
MIYAVI: I was the last one to join. Actually, YOSHIKI just invited me. He called me and told me about the band. He said it was the last band for him. I was really impressed at how serious he was. It was really serious. He was seriously speaking to me about the band. He was really passionate.
pSKY: What did he say?
MIYAVI: He said this was going to be his last band. Of course, he’s getting old. Everyone’s getting old. So he said, “This will be my last band.” He wanted to make it the perfect band from Japan. So that’s why I was impressed and just said, “Ok! Of course I’ll say yes. I respect you.”
pSKY: Were you surprised that he wanted to debut it in the United States?
MIYAVI: No, I was not surprised.
pSKY: Why do you think he didn’t want to do it in Japan?
MIYAVI: We were planning on doing it in Japan too after the US. Something happened. (laughs)
PS: I won’t ask.
pSKY: Why debut in the US?
MIYAVI: It wasn’t a debut. It was a pre-show. And it was the last show.
pSKY: How do you feel about that?
MIYAVI: I was cool. We all wanted to keep doing it, but there were so many difficult things, you know?
pSKY: Were you ever hesitant to join because they’re like your superiors?
MIYAVI: I wasn’t. It doesn’t matter when we’re on the same stage. I’d beat them up. I will beat them up.
pSKY: I think you’re the tallest.
MIYAVI: Yeah, I am the tallest. In the photos, I’m the tallest. They were wearing… how do you say? You know like tall boots or high heels.
pSKY: Platform shoes?
MIYAVI: Yeah. Especially YOSHIKI. Yeah, but that was cool. It was a good experience.
pSKY: Would you ever consider doing it again?
MIYAVI: Yeah! We just discussed a lot, but it was tough, you know? It’s not only the artists there. There’s so much staff involved.
pSKY: I remember when it was announced. I thought, “How are they going to do that? That’s just impossible.” I guess it only happened once.
MIYAVI: Yeah, you are right. It was impossible. But someday after we’re all tired with our careers, maybe.
pSKY: Maybe it’ll be like Velvet Revolver. You could do something like that when you’re 50 years old.
MIYAVI: Then they’d be like 70 or 80.
MIYAVI: That’s a really good question. So am I allowed to be in there?
pSKY: You’re in the group. You’re the guitarist or vocalist. Whatever you want to do.
MIYAVI: So… Michael Jackson. As a dancer. That’s it. And the guitarist… Prince. And Elvis Presley.
pSKY: Elvis. Singing or…?
MIYAVI: Uh, chorus.
pSKY: Who’s lead?
MIYAVI: You know Patti LaBelle? If she were young, I would choose her. And… hm..
pSKY: Who’s on bass?
MIYAVI: Bass… bass… Sid Vicious? Ah no, he can’t play.
pSKY: How about Flea? I don’t know.
MIYAVI: I wouldn’t choose him. He can’t play with a costume.
pSKY: Yeah, he would be in his underwear.
MIYAVI: So, it’s hard.
pSKY: How about drums?
MIYAVI: Not YOSHIKI. Absolutely not YOSHIKI.
MIYAVI: It’s hard, you know? There are so many good artists in America.
pSKY: Doesn’t have to be America.
MIYAVI: You know the drummer Steve Jordan? John Mayer’s drummer.
pSKY: I don’t remember.
MIYAVI: I would take them.
pSKY: So we’ll work on Michael Jackson. I don’t know how. That sounds like it would be a nice super group. I’d go see that. You’d be singing or playing guitar?
MIYAVI: Just producing. Just making money.
pSKY: Speaking of producing and behind the scenes stuff, a year ago, you graduated from PS Company. What does it mean, you “graduated”?
MIYAVI: I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I just quit to be free, in a good way. They were responsible for me as a management company. I wanted to be more…
pSKY: You got too big for them or they got too small for you?
MIYAVI: We had different perspectives.
pSKY: Artistic differences?
MIYAVI: Yeah, because I didn’t want to compromise my artistic integrity. My artistic vision, I didn’t want to compromise it. It’s not just business for me. For the next ten years, twenty years, I really wanted to be an original artist from Japan. I’m still struggling with that. I had to leave my former company. They took care of me for ten years. For the future, I had to leave. And it was the appropriate timing. They had… we had the tenth anniversary. So it was good timing. And also my daughter was coming, so I decided to talk to them.
pSKY: You did the tenth anniversary show. How was that show for your fans and for your fellow PS Company artists? Was it kind of bitter sweet?
MIYAVI: It was good. We just celebrated. We were not that sentimental at all because I talked to them after that. I realized that there were so many bands that could support them. I realized that I could leave. Even after I leave the company, they can survive by themselves. We were doing it for ten years, especially with the president of the company, we were just doing it together, little by little. So I realized it was a good time to leave for both of us.
pSKY: Now you’re president of your own company and you’re doing more of the business side. Do you ever consider just doing the business side or only doing music, not doing the business side at all? Are there some times when you’re thinking, “I don’t want to deal with this business stuff right now”?
MIYAVI: Yeah, of course I mostly think that. The reason why I moved to Tokyo was not to do business. Now I do feel strongly that we need to be strong. Japanese artists need to know how important the music industry system is, even a contract.
“There are so many curious, so many talented, so many cool artists in Japan. I just want to introduce them to the world.”
pSKY: Have you worked on attracting other artists to the company?
MIYAVI: Not now. In the future there are some possibilities to do something like that, because the company’s name is Japanese Glamorous. There are so many curious, so many talented, so many cool artists in Japan. I just want to introduce them to the world. That’s what I’m out to do. But right now, I can’t do it. Right now our first priority is MIYAVI. Because after we achieve something, I think we can move on.
pSKY: So you might have all these little bands you’ll have to take care of?
MIYAVI: Not just bands. It doesn’t have to be a band. Just artists. Painters, writers, or whatever, clothes. Just whatever. Japanese culture is not only Japanese. Just something we can deliver to the world from Tokyo. Anything’s fine. Anything that can excite us.
pSKY: So you could have a clothing designer, someone to design album covers, and someone to do hair and makeup and you have the MIYAVI package. That’s all you need!
pSKY: Despite all the things that you’ve done, you’re still quite young. How do you think you’ve changed over the years? Earlier we talked about how you were just doing things on instinct. Do you still act like that? Or do you think you like to plan more or think of strategies?
MIYAVI: To do anything instinctively, I became independent. At the same time I learned how hard it is to run a company. I really appreciate how my former company treated me.
pSKY: Did you learn from their successes or mistakes?
MIYAVI: Yeah, so many good things and bad things.
pSKY: Are there ever times where you do something that might be risky? Do you ever think some things won’t succeed?
MIYAVI: Yeah, I’m always anxious.
pSKY: Do you ever turn away those ideas from your own imagination?
MIYAVI: Occasionally. Last year I was supposed to go to America, but I had to cancel because of my health and also some business stuff. But before I became independent, I would think, “What the fuck? I would go.” I would think my fans, my people, want to see me. So it doesn’t matter. I don’t fucking care. I will go without you guys. But now I can’t say that, because that would mean I’m saying it to myself as the president of the company. It’s really hard to tell myself that it’s impossible. I can’t say, “What the fuck? I will go.” I can’t say just the artist’s opinion. I’m an artist, but it’s more like 50%, 60%. But the other part is president of the company. I’m responsible, not just for me, but my staff, my crew and everyone. It’s harder than usual.
pSKY: Another big change in your life is, of course, fatherhood. How has fatherhood changed you?
MIYAVI: I’m more responsible and stronger because no one can protect them, especially my daughter. No one can protect her. I’m the only one who can. I just have to be strong. Before, I was the type of person who didn’t like fights or even arguments. I thought it was nonsense to argue with somebody. I just like to discuss or debate, which is productive. But now I think I could stop or I could kill anybody who hurts my family or whatever. Now I could do anything for my family or my daughter. That’s the big difference.
pSKY: Your paternal instincts are kicking in.
MIYAVI: It doesn’t matter if it’s legal or illegal. I would do anything to protect my family or my staff or whatever.
pSKY: Last time you did an interview with purple SKY magazine we asked, ” If you could be any marine animal, what would you be?” And you said shark.
MIYAVI: Yeah, not a shark. Whale?
pSKY: Whale? Alright, I’ll accept whale. Also, you have a lot of tattoos. What’s your favorite?
MIYAVI: The one on my back.
pSKY: What is it of?
MIYAVI: Just a symbol of Buddhism.
pSKY: Are you thinking of getting any new tattoos?
MIYAVI: Yeah, probably, but I have no time.
pSKY: If you were to go back in time and meet yourself when you were 17 years old, what would you say if you had one thing to say?
MIYAVI: Be strong. Just keep doing what you want and be strong.
pSKY: Is there anything you want to say to your overseas fans?
MIYAVI: Yeah, of course. I really appreciate you guys supporting me. I’ve been trying to make a really good relationship with my fans overseas through internet technology. I did some webcasts for the whole world on ustream. I just did a webcast of the tour rehearsal. I got my people a sneak peak of the tour. It’s really outstanding how far technology has come along, what we can do in this generation. I think there’s some downsides, like downloading. Not paying or no respect or whatever, but at the same time we can do so many things that we couldn’t do before, ten years ago. We can be connected. You know we’re inter-connected? So whether you’re in Paris or L.A. or Brazil or Asia or whatever, we can unite. So I will keep up with my music. Even if the style of music will change, in my philosophy the core of my music will not change. So hopefully you guys enjoy my music and see you guys on stage soon.
- North America Circuit -
2010/6/10 サンディエゴ/San Diego, House of Blues
2010/6/12 ロサンゼルス/Los Angeles, Club Nokia Live
2010/6/13 アナハイム/Anaheim,The Grove of Anaheim
2010/6/15 サンフランシスコ/San Francisco,The Fillmore
2010/6/17 バンクーバー/Vancouver,Commodore Ballroom
2010/6/18 シアトル /Seattle,Showbox
2010/6/19 ポートランド/Portland,Roseland Theater
2010/6/23 シカゴ/Chicago,House of Blues
2010/6/24 トロント/Toronto ,Sound Academy
2010/6/25 ボストン/Boston,Wilbur Theatre
2010/6/27 ニューヨーク/N.Y.,The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza
2010/6/29 ワシントン/Washington,9:30 Club
2010/7/03 ダラス/Dallas,House of Blues
2010/7/04 ヒューストン/Houston,House of Blues
J-glam website – http://www.j-glam.net/