Guiro Interview: On Fishmans, Coffee and Katamari Damacy
There’s enough homegrown talent in Nagoya to make Simon Cowell say something deliberately controversial about their chances, but this month I was lucky enough to meet up with one of the most original and lyrically talented singers in Nagoya – no, cut that: in the whole of Japan. The name? Kazunaga Takakura. He’s from a well-loved band called Guiro.
I met Kazunaga and his girlfriend Emi (who has done some brilliant vocal work for Guiro) in a posh little café in Motoyama. He explained that he doesn’t normally drink coffee, but saw tonight as a special occasion and decided to treat himself – an unintended description of the gentle nature of Kazunaga’s personality, which in turn filters through into the sound of his emotionally charged music.
As the interview was held in Japanese and translated into English, I can only hope I get across how poetic Kazunaga’s answers were. Here we go, then, Guiro fans – this is what you’ve both been waiting for!
Adam Miller: Kazunaga, Emi, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Japanzine. We really appreciate you chatting and drinking coffee with us.
Kazunaga Takakura: It’s my pleasure. I was a little surprised that a magazine for native English speakers wanted to interview me … I didn’t think Guiro was even known by people outside of Japan.
AM: Well, we’re in Japan, remember … But yes, I hope more people tune in to your music after this. Could you start by telling us a little about your history and how the band got started?
KT: The history of Guiro? I suppose for the full version you can look on , but the abridged version is that I started making music in 1987, and I was skipping between bands and different music genres for nearly a decade after that. It was a very creative but hectic time, so I ended up taking a year out for rehab, during which time I didn’t play any live music outside of my house and instead I started to compose my own music.
Then, in 1997, I got together with a bassist I’d played with before, and a drummer, and we formed a three-piece band. I spent most of the time trying to remember the music I’d put together in my year out, and for the next few years I just played live. People seemed to like the music and asked to join the band; I didn’t really have a specific direction I wanted to go in, so I just said "Sure." I never really intended to start a band. It wasn’t a lifelong dream or a burning ambition: it just happened.
AM: So when did Guiro settle down and release some music?
KT: Our first single was ??? with the B-side ???????, which we released in 2003. We put out three more singles, and in 2007 we made a collection of all the music we’d done in those 10 years.
AM: Were there any specific bands you listened to as you grew up that inspired you?
KT: I’ve always listened to a huge variety of music. I was young in the 80s, so the New Wave of the time was really interesting to me, but I also liked 70s pop and 50s jazz. But to be honest, no one particular thing inspired me – my music is based on all kinds of music, and whether I am personally fond of a music genre or not doesn’t really factor into the equation. I sucked in as much music as I could, the result of which was something that was born of me, but based on all the music I’d heard.
AM: Nothing from the 60s?
KT: Well I like The Beatles.
AM: [Trying to conceal a surge of British pride:] Cool. How about other English music … The Rolling Stones, David Bowie?
KT: I never adored The Rolling Stones, and although I heard David Bowie I can’t say I took any inspiration from him…
AM: [Trying to conceal the tears of disappointment:] How about modern bands? Any favorites?
KT: Without wanting to sound too harsh: not really. I’m still listening to the music I always listened to. I haven’t tried to keep up with what’s currently popular, so I’m completely unaware if there is a good band out there or not. Obviously I hear modern music every day on the radio, but none of it stays with me … it seems to pass through me as I listen to it and it completely escapes my memory.
AM: Your most recent project was some work for the soundtrack of PS3 game Katamari Damacy Tribute. How did you get involved with that, and what was it like to work with videogames?
KT: Well it was actually thanks to the guys who organize the score for every Katamari game that heard us on the Sweet Dreams for Fishmans album, as they liked our sound. [This was a tribute album Guiro put together in 2004 for Shinji Sato – the lead singer of legendary dub band Fishmans – who had died; there are 12 bands on the album and Guiro contributed a cover of a Fishmans single called "Magic Love".] One of them contacted me and said he’d like to include us in the new game.
??TRIBUTE is essentially a "best of Katamari" game, so musical artists from all the past games were invited back to record new music for the game. But they wanted somebody fresh as well. As far as I know, we are the only band to debut in this game.
It was a strange process for me: Namco had all the music made and then the bands put it together in their own styles. Playing music made by someone I’ve never met was a first for me, but even though I didn’t create the music, I found the progression the music went through to be very interesting. I enjoyed adapting it and making it my own – it was the kind of experience I’d never had before.
AM: Wow, sounds awesome. Last question, Kazunaga, and then I’ll let you go: Are there any cool live houses in Nagoya which us humble gaijin might not know about?
KT: I haven’t been for a while, but K.D. Japan in Tsurumai is a nice venue. There are many crazy Indie bands playing there, so you get a real eclectic mix of music.
AM: That’s great. Any last messages for the fans out there?
KT: See you next year.
You can listen to Guiro’s music and even see a couple of live videos on their MySpace page (yes, people do still use MySpace!) at
To download a PDF of this story as it appears in the magazine,