"They’ll Try to Distract Me, Hit Me, Follow Me and Sleep with Me"
The half-Japanese, half-Korean, completely stylish guitar wizard has spent the past 18 months honing the latest incarnation of his ever-changing sound. He recently spoke to Kenny Herzog about channeling Prince, shooing off screaming females and the enigma that is his drummer Bobo.
It’s 10 a.m. in Tokyo, and Miyavi is battling a hangover, which is more or less apropos for the singer/guitarist, long known for walking the walk of true rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. But it doesn’t take long for the 29-year-old renegade husband and dad to shrug off the headache and dive into an animated conversation. Especially when the subjects at hand are his 2010 album What’s My Name? and recent single “Survive,” his career-resuscitating collaboration with mono-moniker drummer Bobo, and the opportunity to connect with fans worldwide on his upcoming What’s My Name? world tour.
It’s all a new beginning of sorts, despite the fact that the charismatic, tattooed impresario is entering his 13th year of making music. The skeletal aggression of “Survive,” which moves to the precision of a metronome but fills out the empty spaces with tricky, ferociously distorted blues progressions and more than a little vocal attitude, is a far cry from Miyavi’s nihilistic riffage with original group Dué le Quartz. After a decade of solo output (creative experimentation in acoustic oddities and plugged-in eccentricity, not to mention striking out with his own J-Glam entertainment company), Miyavi got soul.
Talking to the man himself, it’s hard to believe he didn’t come into his own even sooner. Below, in his own words, Miyavi reflects on an unconventional path to the present and his hopeful ambitions for the future.
Are you excited or nervous for your upcoming world tour?
I’m really stoked and excited. I’m taking one drummer and one guitar, just two people. I’m really happy to show [the fans] my new style. Every day and every moment I am improving.
That new style is more stripped down, but you’re still an all-around entertainer. Have those been strange to balance?
It’s pretty hard and difficult to do something like that, but I really like entertaining people, especially my fans. I want them to be happy at my show. I feel responsible to make something original as a Japanese artist. There are lots of singers and guitarists, but I feel that on stage it’s meaningless to copy something someone has done before. I’m trying to reinvent myself so I can entertain people. That’s why I’m always changing. Evolving.
I think evolving is the right word. Are you worried about your original fans coming with you along the way?
There’s nothing that everyone likes in the world. People have different opinions. It’s just the way of living. I know that there will be differences. Some fans like my old stuff while most of my fans like my new stuff. It’s inevitable.
Was there any established, fearless artist you looked to for inspiration?
I feel that Prince is similar to me. He’s always changing…In the end, I believe that people will understand why I’m trying to evolve. My philosophy is my learning process. Until you die, you must evolve and improve. Beck is a solo artist who’s not afraid of losing or falling off the right path. It’s always challenging. That’s the pleasure of life.
You lived in LA briefly. Is it frustrating to feel like learning English is required to cross over globally?
I’m turning 30 this month. Five years ago, I decided to move to LA to study language and learn culture. I was going to school from seven in the morning to 2 p.m. and then dancing at the studio for eight hours and performing on the weekends at Venice Beach. I was struggling. The time I spent studying English, I could’ve been doing music at home. It’s like elementary-school stuff, but it was necessary. Now I’m playing and talking to someone in English. I really love it.
Meeting American musicians who had it come easy wasn’t frustrating?
Of course I envied them, but it’s meaningless to dwell and complain about it. I really appreciate my fans’ support; they always teach me English [laughs].
Would you say that time also helped instill a Michael Jackson-like commitment to total entertainment?
Yes, because I really look up to Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Prince. Michael Jackson had a stable vision. He had a strong message, not only pop. People just fainted at his concert.
Do you want people to faint when they see you live?
[Laughs] Yes. Some people fainted at our concert inNew York. I feel so happy to see the people smile and be excited when they see me, when they touch my creation.
Do you have women coming after you like crazy?
Yeah! They scream and they’ll try to distract me, hit me, follow me and try to sleep with me [Laughs]…[I don’t] because I’m married and I have two daughters, but I admire their passion because it’s so strong, stronger than men.