Who slaps a guitar like a bass, moves his fingers with lightning speed, and follows his self-created musical samurai code? With a unique musical style and an iconic image, Japanese rock artist MIYAVI has become one of the most recognized musicians in Japan during his decade-long career. Embarking on his second world tour titled "What's My Name?," MIYAVI has been on the move since February 2011. The samurai guitarist, as he's known, is living the life of a rock star, practicing and performing every chance he gets, tirelessly getting his name out to an international audience. Having travelled all over Asia and to Europe, MIYAVI kicks off his North and South American legs this month and plans to stop in Taiwan soon after.
Just back from a concert in Osaka, Japan, MIYAVI generously (and sleepily) took some time to chat with APA on his collaborations, his life philosophies, and his wild, has-a-life-of-its-own hair.
Miyavi: Hey, I'm MIYAVI. I just woke up. I got back at 8 am and now... it's 10am.
APA: Did you get your coffee?
MYV: No, just water and... just keep on talking to me.
APA: Are you looking forward to your US tour?
MYV: Oh, fucking of course. This is my third time to the US, so we're totally stoked for rocking people in the States. The people in the States are so enthusiastic and supportive of me. I'm really looking forward to seeing them again.
The Internet changed everything with technology like iTunes. Because of this era, I can have a world tour like this. I can be connected to my people via Skype, Facebook, whatever. There are no limits. I'm really appreciative and happy to be an artist in this time. People are like always going crazy on the Internet. I'm just happy.
APA: You came to LA before to study English, and I heard you did quite a few street performances.
MYV: Five fucking years ago, I couldn't speak English. Not like this. Now I can have any conversation I want, all because I started studying English. So yeah, when I went to LA, I was very frustrated at the beginning, because I couldn't speak but now I'm fine. I'm really proud of myself. I'm still studying English every day. Every fucking day. My wife is from Hawaii, so I speak with my family and while hanging out with friends. It's sometimes so fucking annoying, but it's really important for me.
APA: Your tour and album are both titled What's My Name? Because everyone already knows your name, what new things do you want people to know about music?
MYV: [laughs] Last year was when I made my first album after I became independent. I wanted to focus on my guitar, so that's why [my performance] was just my guitar and drums. I wanted to simplify my style and just focus on my guitar. I think we succeeded. So, on this tour I promise to let the audience feel the new experience of my guitar, featuring it in a completely futuristic style.
Honestly there isn't anything really different -- as in, I'm not going to add a "special thing." But still, I'm sure it's going to be different from the other tour, because I have improved. I always practice, and I never stop. I constantly evolve. That's my life. Life is a learning process, a constant learning process. That's my word.
APA: You've been doing music for 10 years, and you're still known as one of Japan's leading artists. How do you stay fresh and innovative?
MYV: Really, it's just practicing every day at the studio. That's all. I feel like time in Japan has stopped, and people are so slow, but I don't care. That's my life. I keep practicing every day. You know, I just wanna rock the world. There are people waiting for me, and even for the people who don't know about me, I just wanna rock their world. That's it. I just want to make the world peaceful.
APA: Your whole life seems to revolve around your music. How would you describe what music means to you?
MYV: I don't know. I originally just wanted to be a professional soccer player when I was young, but I got injured and gave up my dream to be a professional soccer player. And now that I have a new dream, I can't fail. It's pretty hard to describe. This is what I do. This is what I can do. It's all me. I believe in that, and I believe I can make world peace with my music as a ... [whispers] samurai guitarist.
APA: Listening to your music and comparing it with music from the Visual Kei scene, yours seems to be a lot more positive and hopeful. Do you feel separate from that scene?
MYV: It doesn't matter how much makeup you put on your face. I know how much they want me to put makeup on, being Visual Kei, and I'm like, "Hey, I understand what you're saying, but do you listen to my music because of my makeup?" That's not musical. That's not creative. I can do it sometimes, but if you like my music, just feel it. Just close your eyes. Don't stare at my face. I really respect the Visual Kei industry and still put makeup on my face, but it doesn't matter. Just feel my music and let me concentrate as a musician. I believe that my people are supporting me, that they understand what I'm saying, so no worries.
I'm MIYAVI like Michael Jackson is Michael Jackson and Madonna is Madonna, but I'm MIYAVI. I don't fucking care about any category or genre. I really respect the people who made history in that industry, Visual Kei, and I don't hate any artist in the Visual Kei industry, but now I don't care. I don't care about categories. MIYAVI is MIYAVI. I just do what I can do. I just do what I want to do. Categorizing is bullshit, right? Nice music is nice music. Through my music, I'm trying to break the world. I just collaborated with a bunch of artists like Good Charlotte and 30 Seconds to Mars. Why do there have to be boundaries? Like American and Japanese? I don't care. I'm just MIYAVI, and I'm just here to rock the people in the States and all over the world.
APA: You just released a new song with KREVA titled "Strong." Why did you decide to collaborate with him?
MYV: My new album is coming out, and I wanted to collaborate with samurai, with artists who I feel are samurai. KREVA is pretty cool. Rap rhyming is from Western culture but even so, he's trying to do it with Japanese. It's pretty unique. Most Japanese rappers say a lot of "What's up" and "Yeah" blah blah blah, but KREVA isn't like that. He tries to make it into an original Japanese style, so I decided to collaborate with him.
APA: Who else are you planning to collaborate with?
MYV: I'm probably going to work with Fieldy (Reginald Arvizu) from KORN too. I just want to go beyond categories, just collaborate to make chemistry.
APA: You have two children now. With your growing family, is it difficult being away while you're touring?
MYV: It's torture! It's torture!
APA: How does your family influence your music?
MYV: The experience as dad of two daughters is really big and really important to my music. I feel so responsible, and my daughters are so cute, you know what I'm saying? And I'm gaining a bunch of things from them. I feel like I'm kinda starting again in my life. You never remember your memory from when you are 1 or 2 years old, but now, through my experience as a dad, I'm seeing it -- how they grow, how they learn, how they live. I'm not sure how it affects my music, but it's really important.
I feel so responsible [for them] even outside of Japan. I feel like I gotta rock. I gotta protect my family. Even if a bunch of artists come up to me, try to beat me up, I don't care. With my guitar, I'm not gonna be beat by anybody. Any-fucking-body. It's really big to have children or family. It's a really natural thing, but it's not natural as [being] a rock star. I'm pretty comfortable.
Most artists who have debuted, become famous, then got married, and had a child -- their music got boring. But not me. I'm still making fucking cool and crazy music for the world, and that's what I can promise. I'm not going to be boring.
APA: About your company J-Glam Inc., are you looking to bring in other artists, that you would manage or help train?
MYV: For now, it's just managing me, managing Miyavi -- to expand, to conquer the world. But yeah in the future, I'm really planning to produce other artists or just do the fashion thing. But it's pretty free. There's no restriction.
APA: When I watch your latest music videos -- "What's My Name?" "Survive" and "Torture" -- I'm really captivated by your hair. It has a life of its own, and I can't stop looking at it. What exactly is your hairstyle, and how do you do it?
MYV: [whispers] It's samurai style. Just make it a ponytail and tie up the hair. Back in the era, there were samurai who had hair like that: tie it up and shave the forehead. That means they are ready to die. They're fine with dying anytime. It's real cool, isn't it? I don't wanna die right now, leaving my kids and my family, but when I play the guitar, I'm ready to die. I'm really serious about rocking the people on the floor. So that's what I'm saying, and people just started calling me the samurai guitarist. I also feel like I'm a samurai guitarist.
APA: I noticed you were involved in a charity event for the recent earthquake in Japan. Has the disaster affected your lyrical direction in any new songs that you've been writing, perhaps with the recent single "Strong?"
MYV: It's like 9/11; people can't avoid the fact that it happened. After 3/11, I was having a European tour, and I'd been thinking about what I can do, what I should think. Should I deliver a message to the people? "Just cheer up. You're not alone. I'm with you. Just keep on walking. Chin up." Something like that, you know? I've been thinking about what I can do for the victims in the disaster areas, and now the theme of my new track is "Stay strong." I need to go into the affected areas and help through conversation with the victims. As long as they're still gaining help from the people who volunteer, they are not restored. Only once they start standing by themselves, we can call it reconstruction. I wanted to make music, a track, something that makes the listener or audience feel stronger by the music. And then they can be supported by themselves, not with my help. That's why I wanted to make the track like that. Strong, powerful -- that's my message.
APA: Do you feel like it's important to represent Japan in your music?
MYV: Actually through the world tour, my feelings about Japan became stronger. I really love America, Europe and Asia, I felt that it was necessary to make something original as a Japanese artist. If I just sing or make tracks like the American artists, then you guys never care. You're never interested in it, right? So I feel so responsible as a Japanese artist to make something original that nobody in the world has ever heard before. That's why I just started slapping the guitar and using a loop machine, and now it's only two people on stage. Not like White Stripes or anything like that; it's a completely new style. That's all I can promise -- people having a new experience from my music and show.
APA: Do you have any future projects besides embarking on your world tour?
MYV: Nothing. Just playing the guitar. It's pretty cool to have a band like with X-Japan, Yoshiki and Gackt, S.K.I.N., which I did a few years ago, but now I'm just playing the guitar. That's it. I just want to do collaborations with other artists. As I said, I'm gonna play with Fieldy from KORN, that's pretty cool. I'll appear in a bunch of festivals, rocking out. That's it. That's all I want to do.
I really respect everyone, and I feel so thankful for people in the States. Japan and America are pretty far apart, but actually we don't care. So many people are enthusiastic, and they're getting my back. Because of that, I still keep on practicing and improving. On tour in the States, I promise that I won't let you guys down. I'll let you guys feel and see a new experience, a musical experience. You know, like "Oh, what the fuck is this!?" Those are the words you'll say. So I'm really stoked to rock you.
Si besoin d'une traduction, faites signe.