As one of the most talented new bands in Japan right now, ASTERISM is making the world pay attention. On 22 August, they released their first full-length album, IGNITION. Their skill has attracted the attention of some prominent western artists and producers, and their considerable library of songs posted to YouTube has brought them many fans from around the world. Since each of these three artists are just teenagers, they have many years ahead of them to win over a world starved for true rock-and-roll talent. After publishing a review of IGNITION, AVO’S own The Metal Lamb was given an opportunity to talk to the band about their inspirations and their dreams for the future.
AVO: Good morning
All Together: Good morning, we are ASTERISM.
HAL-CA: I’m HAL-CA, playing the guitar.
Miyu: I’m Miyu, playing bass.
Mio: I’m Mio, I’m the drummer.
AVO: Okay, let’s get started. What is battle music, and why is there a battle?
HAL-CA: We’re creating and playing music for someone who is struggling or fighting against something. That is why we call it a battle. It is a very Japanese concept with Japanese meaning, but we are battling alongside people who are struggling with something. That is why we use the word “battle”. Battle music is a core concept of ASTERISM. We are supporting people and want to be with people by their side when they are struggling so we can fight with them.
AVO: When you write your songs, do you do it together when you are in your practice space? Or do you write parts separately and bring them together?
HAL-CA and Mio: It depends on the song. From the album IGNITION, Blaze was created by me (HAL-CA), and Miyu and Mio put their instrumental parts into the song. In the song Warning, Mio and Miyu created the song, and HAL-CA put guitars on it. DAWN was created by all of us when we were together one day.
AVO: On the album IGNITION, the band sounds larger than just the three of you, because there are a lot of guitars that have been tracked over each other. Was that what your producer wanted to do, or is that how you as a band wanted to put the music together?
Mio: The producer thought a lot of it up, but we as a band are always talking about how to make the songs much cooler. We want to be cool. Then we’re telling the producer what we want to do on a song and each time when we are recording, our ideas come together and then it happens.
AVO: What was it like to work with Bootsy Collins and Buckethead, who are such giants in music?
HAL-CA, Miyu, and Mio: At first we couldn’t believe that Bootsy Collins and Buckethead are joining their first album, but while we were enjoying the producing and seeing them play bass and guitar, it was so nice, and especially when we finished the last track, and when they put some bass and guitar into the songs, they weren’t just adding, they were deleting some of the sounds as well, and they made a little bit of a strong feeling. The song was like a new song, and it was fascinating, and we were happy with it.
AVO: If you guys got an opportunity to jam with any other artist, who would you choose?
Miyu: Billy Sheehan from Mr. Big is the reason I started playing the bass. I really want to jam with him.
HAL-CA: I would love to jam with Michael Amott from Arch Enemy. (The Metal Lamb had to throw his horns in the air and show off his Michael Amott guitar pick he caught at his last Arch Enemy concert.)
Mio: I would play with Simon Phillips.
AVO: Miyu, in the video the Kill Bill Battle Theme, also the video for Blaze, you use a sweep technique on your bass that I have never seen anyone use before. Did you learn how to do that yourself, or did you learn that from someone else?
Miyu: Nobody taught me how to sweep on a bass. I like to practice and I thought it would be cool to sweep it. He has seen others do a sweep, but nobody who just uses their thumb for it, so it is an original move.
AVO: Hal-ca, on Sessions volumes 1 and 2 you used more pinch harmonics than anyone else I have ever heard. On IGNITION, you still use them a lot, but not nearly as much as previous recordings. Was that your decision, or did someone suggest that?
HAL-CA: The way we recorded IGNITION was very different from the way we recorded Sessions Volume 1 and Volume 2, that’s why I didn’t use them as much because it was much more natural for this album.
AVO: You have been playing music the longest, have you had the same teacher the whole time, or do you see different instructors to learn different techniques? Are you still taking lessons, or are you a master now?
Mio: I started studying and playing the drums when I was 6 years old. But as of several years ago, I only had one teacher to teach me drums. Since 3 years ago, I stopped taking lessons from a teacher, and I am teaching myself from YouTube videos of many different drummers. There is a lot of online content.
AVO: Any college plans for any of you after you finish high school?
HAL-CA: I don’t really if I will go to college or not.
Miyu: I don’t want to go to college after high school.
AVO: Of your families, are you the only ones who play music?
HAL-CA: My oldest drummer played the drums but he quit, so I am the only musical one in the family.
Mio: Miyu and I are brothers.
AVO: How did I not know that?
Mio: (laughs) Most of our fans don’t know that. But our father, younger brother and younger sister all play guitar.
AVO: So is your house very loud?
Miyu: Yes, our house is quite a loud place.
AVO: Since you play regular shows at the Hard Rock Café in your hometown of Fukuoka, do your friends from school ever come to watch you play?
HAL-CA: sometimes our friends come to the local live shows.
AVO: About the song Up The Horns, is that a tribute to Van Halen?
Mio: Actually that song is actually dedicated to Mr. Big.
Miyu: Although it does sound a little like Hot For Teacher, and other Van Halen songs, especially the drums.
AVO: Two years ago, the band Rush retired from music. The world needs a new power trio to fill the void they left. Is ASTERISM ready to step up and be that band?
All Together: We want to be the successor to Rush.
AVO: Thank you so much for talking with me today. Is there anything you want to tell someone who may never have heard of ASTERISM until now?
HAL-CA: Please watch the videos on YouTube and listen to the music. People will find that there is something for everybody.
Mio: We want people who are feeling down or are struggling to listen to Battle Music so that we can struggle alongside them through our playing.
Miyu: Please listen, the music can energize you.
Special thanks to Mr. Dennis Sugahara for setting up this interview and to Ms. Rika Katz for interpreting the conversation. ASTERISM’s first full-length album is available on iTunes and Spotify. Keep an eye on ASTERISM on Twitter and Facebook.
Note: The interview was conducted over Skype with an interpreter who joined the call from a remote location. This caused some of the responses to be difficult to understand due to network latency. Additionally, some of the responses from individual members were translated after all had spoken, which made it difficult to discern who said what.