--It's been four years and three months since L'Arc's last original album. What were you thinking as you finally got to work on it?
hyde: I didn't really think anything except that it was just natural that we'd do an album. When we started work on it we'd already done a lot of singles, and it felt like we needed to get an album done soon. I mean, the song "BLESS" has been around since the "KISS" album, and when we did "DRINK IT DOWN" and "NEXUS 4" we were like, "Hey, these didn't ever make it onto an album, did they?" So we were finally able to pull them all together. To put it another way, it really moved us to have completed it. (laugh) But no more than half of the music is from the "current" L'Arc-en-Ciel, so the listener has a sense of our 20 years together.
--Although you of course want listeners to feel the "current" L'Arc-en-Ciel as well.
h: I think you can see our "hereafter" from our "here." You can see it more in our lyrics. Everyone's going on about us being together for 20 years, but personally I don't really think about it that much (laugh), because I feel like you can see where we're going by looking at where we've been. We're thankful to our fans, of course, but at the same time we want to see what's still to come. Even as we're creating music, we want our future music to be cool too, and we keep that in mind as we work.
--So then, what do you think of this album?
h: I have a lot of different thoughts about this album. As the vocalist I'm forward-looking, and as far as the lyrics go I think we've raised the bar. So for me personally this album represents a lot of growth. For me, this is a monumental, timely, and meaningful album release.
--What was your aim with the lyrics?
h: The composition falls in line with our "pop" phase from about 10 years ago, but in terms of the lyrics we didn't have anything like this back then. Well, I think we had something similar, but it was just luck if we released anything that really hit home for someone. If I couldn't make the lyrics come, I resigned myself to that. But this time I thought about it until I had lyrics that hit home for me, so we had to push back the schedule when it came to adding songs. I don't really do that kind of stuff. Up to now I've always worked on the finishing touches until the deadline. But this time I worked on the lyrics until I was happy with them. With that in mind, I'd get the sense that I'd gotten what I wanted from a line.
--So then, what hits home for you?
h: I think it's a little different from what it is for other people. You've put me in a very delicate position... (laugh) For example, "Mirai Sekai" has sort of nursery rhyme lyrics, but I don't think that anyone reads a nursery rhyme and it really strikes them.
--Really? I really like them.
h: Oh, really? Well, maybe it's just because I'm getting old. (laugh) This is a song that people our age will understand, but I don't think people younger than us will be as impressed. They'll be like, "So what?" (laugh) To me, when something sad happens its not really that sad to say, "It's so sad, it's so sad." You need to pull back a little bit instead. The idea of the song is conveyed through the abstract and indirect. As I tell my story in this song, I'm also indirectly singing about my love for my sweetheart and the sadness of my soul maturing... It's better to say those kinds of things indirectly. If you just come out and say "I'm no longer a child in my heart," it cools the listeners' interest.
--Would you say that you were able to write these lyrics because of the age you've attained?
h: I think so. But the idea for nursery rhyme lyrics more came from the composer, ken. I heard the idea, and I thought it was a cool. I think that if he hadn't suggested it, the lyrics wouldn't have come out the way they did. After I heard the words "nursery rhyme," I decided to try changing my direction a little. I held in my mind the image of a lullaby and linked that to a nursery rhyme; I wanted the lyrics to be something that a small child would lie down and sing or listen to when going to bed.
--The song has that sort of feeling as well. It's very soft and gentle.
h: I think it came across well in the "L'Acoustic version" B-side from the single.* I was happy that I was able to sing both songs with a whispering voice; it took the expression up a notch. I feel like I did a good job. I sang sooo softly. What I mean to say is, I don't think I could have sung this song twenty years ago. After twenty years, we've played all kinds of different songs. Now I can sing really well.
--"Bye Bye" is by testuya, and the song itself is very bright and refreshing, but he changed it and amplified the poignancy of the lyrics.
h: When you break up with a person you love, but it's not like you'll never see them again... Like when you graduate. So imagining it from the teacher's point of view makes the most sense (laugh), you're sending off a student you taught. You're making that big goodbye, waving to the other person, and they look back at you, right? You want to say goodbye, but you whisper, "Come back soon," as though they didn't turn around. And you go forward like their strength will never falter.
--To digress for a moment, this song also has no English lyrics.
h: Yeah, only the title is in English. Well, I thought the title would be better in katakana, that would change the nuance of it. The way I see it, the title should be the face of the song. If it has a "Japanese face," you want to use Japanese; if it has a "Western face," you want to use English. This song, you'd say that the lyrics have to be in Japanese, but I was thinking that the song should be Western. And so that we gave it the title to it to give it that "face."
--Would you said that "Mirai Sekai" is Japanese-style?
h: No, I wouldn't. (laugh) The lyrics probably won on that one. "Future World" [the meaning of the song title] would feel totally different.
--And "wild flower." That's ken's song. What inspired the wasteland image that the lyrics paint?
h: That came up when we were writing lyrics. With this song, I had the image of flowers blooming in the intro, a very slow and drawn-out image, and that's where the wasteland image came from. The wasteland image just hit us. Um... And of course as an artist I was wondering about these lyrics, and how we'd put them out there considering last year's huge earthquake. We added the vocal track to this song very last, but we wanted to express the idea that it was the final song. A single flower blooming in a wasteland is a pretty lonely image, but in all honesty, that flower is only able to bloom because it's getting a lot of power from a lot of different sources. In other words, what we wanted to say is that no one is ever alone. I may feel like I'm isolated, but there's someone watching over me, allowing me to bloom.
--Do you feel that way personally? That you're alone?
h: Yeah, sometimes. Even though I see people constantly, I still have that feeling. If you continually have a bad outlook like that, it's confines you, little by little. I think that having the idea that you're alone keeps you from seeing the world around you and is a little bit dangerous. When you feel that way, it's important to take a wide view of things. If you have a wide view, you'll understand. You're not alone; everyone feels this way. It's not that I lose sleep over this person. But if their field of vision is narrowed, they won't see me, will they? They say that they're alone, but that's not really true. That's how people felt after the earthquake. There are other songs encouraging people to work together, so we left those songs to those people, and I came at it from a different angle. We wanted to say, "You may see things this way, but you're not alone, no matter what your situation."
--What do you think of the band right now?
h: We've gone through a lot over these past twenty years. There's a productive atmosphere around the band members now, like each of us just wants to keep on rolling forward. Each of us compensates for the others' weaknesses, and we also draw out each other's strengths. It's not necessarily a passionate feeling, but we somehow just immediately flow together.
--You've just started preparing for another world tour, and you're also continuing your "20th L'Anniversary." Would you look back on your recent activity for us?
h: We've had good luck. These twenty years, the life I've lived with L'Arc-en-Ciel, I always wonder "Why do they love us?" I'm constantly wondering. Thinking back on the music we used to make, it's not like everything we wrote was good, and it's not like we band members were always together every single day. It's not like we were that great to our staff, or even to our fans. So we were really uneasy about our twentieth anniversary concerts. Like, we were wondering if we'd filled Ajinomoto Stadium. But our fans always sweep away any uneasiness. I say this at the concerts too, but... Really, I wonder what's good sometimes. But no matter where we get to, it's always a good place. We're really grateful for that. The love we have for our fans, and the gratitude we feel toward them has really validated us this year. And that feeling of validation will tie into our future music.