As the name doesn't suggest, NUL. is a supergroup which includes vocalist HIZUMI (ex-D’espairsRay) who is back in full force to the music scene after an 8-year hiatus, guitarist MASATO (defspiral) and programmer Kishi Toshiyuki (abingdon boys school). To celebrate the release of their very first album, TRIBRID ARCHIVE, VerdamMnis brought these three men together in a studio located in Ikebukuro (Tokyo) in order to ask them questions and make them pose in front of our camera.
Why a three-man band?
Kishi Toshiyuki : At the very beginning, HIZUMI and I were thinking about starting a project together. Only the two of us. Him being the vocalist, and me being the programmer. This is how it all began. Then, we thought that something was missing, we needed a guitarist. Adding a bassist and a drummer would have been too common. Being three not only is enough but also does it make us stand out.
HIZUMI : It is very common for rock bands to be gathered around four or five people. It is the norm, isn’t it? I thought it would be interesting and uncommon to be a three-member band. It’s fresh and challenging. The advantage is that all 3 members can do different things. We can do most things without help from others. Each one of us has different strengths, so I think that we will be able to perform music with a wide range of sounds using these different strengths. The disadvantage is that compared to a band, we are only 3 members and therefore the workload for one person is huge (laughs).
What does the NUL. stand for ?
HIZUMI : I remember the name came to mind while I was walking outside. I thought it sounded great. I didn’t know what it meant exactly so I did some research and thought it applied to the band. It means starting from scratch as a musician. Starting from zero was very exhausting and tough, but also exciting and it really motivates me. It also holds the meaning that our world view, that our style of music doesn’t apply to any other band. I also thought that, for a band who wants to create something new, the name was perfect.
Kishi Toshiyuki : Then I decided to customize the name and add a dot.
How did you decide to make music together?
Kishi Toshiyuki : I have produced D’espairsRay albums in the past. We have been buddies for a long time. When he ceased his activities with the band, we stayed in touch. We kept seeing each other, going for drinks among other things. During these get-togethers we talked about music and the fact that it would be nice to try something together just for fun. At the beginning, we were not very serious about it. We were just two friends trying things here and there just for fun. We didn’t think about bringing it to the public eyes and ears. The more we saw each other, the more alcohol we drank together, the more we wanted our project to become official. We thought it would be a waste to keep it for ourselves (laughs).
How did you get MASATO involved?
HIZUMI : I am a close friend of MASATO. We have been hanging out together for quite a while. We sometimes go out together to take photos. We both love photography. During these outdoor getaways, we talked about music including the fact that I had just started my own project. I told him I needed help with the guitar. He was willing to give a hand. But, I knew he was already busy with his own band so I was a bit embarrassed to ask for help. I didn’t know whether he would be interested in joining NUL. Eventually, he agreed which I was really happy about. This is how the band was born.
MASATO, how did you feel about it?
MASATO : HIZUMI and I are really good friends. Our friendship started years ago during "2008 Rockstar Taste of Chaos Festival" in America. At the time, HIZUMI was with D’espairsRay and I was with The Underneath. We were not very close at the time yet. But touring for about a month in a foreign country got us closer. Then, we came back to Japan and our friendship deepened. We have so many things in common, we get along well. I remember telling him "If one day you wanna make music together, I’m def. up to it". Eventually it happened. When he asked me to join his new project I was beyond happy.
What’s your long-term goal with the band?
HIZUMI : We do not have any long-term goal. But, I think we can all agree on the fact that our current goal is to tour the world. Due to sanitary issues the world is facing, we can’t be sure if touring will happen anytime soon. I hope it won’t be too long before we can.
Kishi Toshiyuki : I agree. Touring is my main goal too.
MASATO : It’s a real issue though. Since we released our first album, we haven’t been able to tour. We did one and only show with an audience and two others live-stream shows without any audience. It feels so wrong! I do hope we can go upon stage together soon. It’s my most sincere wish.
I hope you’ll be able to tour soon.
For those who haven’t heard the album yet, how would you describe it?
HIZUMI : I think it is a mixture of what we have done previously with our ex-bands or respective bands. But because it’s a different band with different members, I guess we have succeeded in creating something new. With this new album, we tried not to rest on our laurels. We definitely tried our best not to rely on our past achievements. I believe that NUL. has its own identity, its own universe in which I want people to sink.
Kishi Toshiyuki : What genre do you think we belong to?
Mandah : I don’t want to put any label on your band but I think your music sounds like rock industrial.
Kishi Toshiyuki : Yeah, I guess so. As for now, we are definitely making industrial music. But we don’t know what we’ll be doing in the future.
How long did it take to complete the album?
HIZUMI : Way too long (laughs) ! From the beginning of the recording process until the complete product, a year and a half passed.
Kishi Toshiyuki : Yeah, unfortunately. Actually, we did plan to record the album and present it to the public within a year but because of the virus Corona, we had to put it off.
Did Corona have any other impact on the band?
MASATO : We did everything online. We didn’t see each other in person. We recorded our own parts separately at home. Once done, we would send these parts to the other guys by email, asking each of them for feedback in order to perfect the tracks. We proceeded this way from beginning to end.
How was your own creation process like exactly?
Kishi Toshiyuki : As for me, it is all about inspiration. I might draw it from a guitar riff, or drum beat, or a chorus melody. I then build up a whole song from it. I never know how a song will sound like. My approach is very spontaneous and depends on the inspiration I get at the moment. I build everything up at the same time from a tiny source of inspiration. That’s how my creation process is like.
MASATO : As for me, I first decide what kind of track I want create before creating it. I always decide on the atmosphere of a song before trying to compose it. I ask myself “do I want something happy, bright or sad, dark?”. from this point, I compose everything at the same time just like Kishi. Then, I send him the track and by way of few emails, we discussed it until we reach satisfaction.
Do you have any anecdotes regarding the recording process?
HIZUMI : (long pause) Actually, it’s not like we have something to hide, we just don’t have any story to share. As we said, we did everything online because of the virus spreading around and therefore, we didn’t see each other in person.
Do you think that Corona had an impact on the sound of the album?
HIZUMI : Yeah, it probably did. If we hadn’t done everything online, the outcome would have been different right ? Maybe it did have a positive impact. It feels strange to use the word "positive" in theses circumstances though. Working online have some benefits because it’s easier to make all the people’s schedule match. I wish we could record the next album together in a recording studio though.
KISHI : As for me, it didn’t have any impact on the way I create songs or produce music in general. I always work on my own. The problem we had is that working online was imposed on us and the fact that we couldn’t see each other at all lead us to procrastinate on taking final decisions. We took way more time to create songs. We didn’t have real deadlines. As a consequence, it impaired our judgment. That was the negative aspect of the making of the album. I hope the next album will be easier to make and that we’ll be able to see each other and decide together on the different deadlines.
The title is a coined word from "tri" which means three and hybrid which means different and unique. May I right ? If not, what does the album title TRIBRID ARCHIVE mean ?
MASATO : Yeah !
HIZUMI : That’s exactly what it means (smiles).
Kishi Toshiyuki : Congratulations (laughs) !
HIZUMI : We really want to focus on the fact that we are 3. And as you said earlier being 3 is different, uncommon. I designed the artwork and I tried to emphasize us being a trio on it as well. That’s the reason why I used a triangle on the cover. It has 3 angles but still remains one unit.
How did the other guys from D’espairsRay, abingdon boys school and desfpiral react to the band NUL.?
Kishi Toshiyuki I haven’t received any feedback yet (laughs).
HIZUMI : Same here, I haven’t received anything yet. But I guess we won’t get anything anyway. When bands meet up, they never talk about each other’s music. I mean, we never give an opinion about it.
Kishi Toshiyuki : There’s a lot of jealousy and envy going on in this business (laughs).
HIZUMI : Yeah, it can be hard sometimes not to compare your work, who you are, with the rest. It’s hard to get rid of envy and jealousy. These feelings are so insidious and destructive in the way that you end up wishing people’s failure. So I think that’s why we all avoid talking about each band’s music.
Kishi Toshiyuki : How about you MASATO ? Did you talk about NUL. music to the guys of defspiral ?
MASATO : I gave them the CD but I have never had any feedback. I just know for sure that they listened to it.
KISHI : Actually, I gave it to HOTEI a while ago. He listened to it carefully and wrote a very long feedback e-mail with its pros and cons. He did gave his personal opinion about it. I am not going to go on and on about it. All I can say is that was overall very positive. He said that he liked it very much and that I did a good job. I’m thrilled (smiles).
I bet you were.
The band gave its very first show at Shibuya REX in August 2019. How was it like?
HIZUMI : Everything went by way too fast. Honestly, I didn’t have time to let the situation sink in. I didn’t feel like I let myself go. By the time I realized that the soundcheck was over, I was going on stage. Before I knew it, the show was over. Of course, it was a lot of fun. But it went by as fast as a blink of an eye. Time flies when you’re having fun, it felt like it was over in an instant. I just can’t wait to tour. Being in able to sing again was larger than life, especially next to two very close friends of mine.
Kishi Toshiyuki : As for me, prior to the show, I was expecting us to do many things on stage. I wish we could have done more. I had too many expectations, I guess. I was really excited about the show, I wanted to give it all. I am not disappointed though. I did feel a sense of achievement. It was very fulfilling. Creating something from scratch, being able to perform it in front of an audience is absolutely wonderful. But I think, we could have been twice as better.
MASATO : There were lots of HIZUMI’s fans gathered in front of the stage. They were certainly D’espairsRay die-hard fans. When they saw HIZUMI on stage, their faces brightened. They seemed really happy to see him back after 8 years. I was, myself, very happy to see that. I have a beautiful memory of the concert. I wish we could tour soon but people’s well-being and health is what matters the most. Touring can wait.
HIZUMI : What a serious man right here (laughs).
How about the no-audience shows you gave ? How is different than a show with an audience ?
Kishi Toshiyuki : It is definitely different and challenging. But the fact that we know the performance will be watched makes it almost similar. I mean, It’s not like the audience is absent, it’s just that people are not in the same place as the band. The audience is physically present somewhere. We’re just not in the same room.
HIZUMI : It’s different but equally amazing.
MASATO : For me personally, it felt like making a music video. There was no physical audience but there were tons of technicians. But you know, because we knew the audience was there somewhere, we gave our very best.
HIZUMI, you retired from the music scene 8 years ago but you’re finally back ! How’s your physical condition?
HIZUMI : I am going so much better now but I haven’t recovered completely. I am still treating my throat’s condition. I have a routine warmup and try to take special care of my voice. I left the music scene, because of my condition and for a while I hated to sing because my symptoms were all over the place, but as expected I felt very nostalgic when I went to see my friends’ concerts. But now, I am back and so happy about it. I am also very thankful that so many people were hoping for me to produce music again. I am so sorry it took so long, I didn’t want to cause any inconvenience for my bandmates.
Has your singing style changed?
HIZUMI : My style hasn’t changed. I still sing the way I used to. The music we make with NUL. is made to fit what I’m capable of. I think, I will try new singing styles in the future, not because I have a condition but because I want to explore new horizons.
MASATO, you’re currently in the middle of a tour with defspiral. How’s the tour going?
MASATO : It’s going great. But it was weird at the beginning of the tour because, due to Corona, we had to stop in the middle of it. We could finally tour again in 2021. This tour is a celebration for our 10-year anniversary. It’s a special occasion. I have been able to feel the excitement and joy of the audience. I am so grateful to have been able to be in the band for 10 years. I am so grateful for the fans.
HIZUMI and MASATO, you post interesting photos on Instagram. Do you like photography?
MASATO : Thank you. I feel a bit embarrassed though. I haven’t posted anything good for a while. But anyway, HIZUMI and I love photography. We used to go out to take pictures outside together. I use an Olympus OM-D. It is not a full frame camera, I hate heavy machines. The size and weight of this camera are perfect for me. I am trying my best (laughs). When I go out to take pictures, I like having all my equipment with me and that’s the reason why I buy light stuff.
HIZUMI : As for me, I use Nikon D610 which is a full frame camera but it’s also quite compact. I own lots of lens, this equipment is heavy weighted which is a bit troublesome. Unlike MASATO, I don’t like taking everything with me. We’re quite different actually (laughs).
Did you like photography before you met?
HIZUMI : Yes, we liked photography before we met. I used to have an Olympus too. I chose this camera because it was light and easy to use especially when being in a hurry. But the more my interest grew, the more serious I got. That’s when I decided to change my camera and buy Nikon, I wanted a full-frame equipment.
Kishi Toshiyuki : I am not a good photographer but since you brought the topic, I want to say that I use a camera from Sony (laughs).
I use my iPhone (laughs).
What kind of photography do you like?
MASATO : I love beautiful landscapes. Recently, I have started portrait photography. I like everything actually, every subject.
HIZUMI : I like nature photography too, with a touch of fantasy.
Kishi Toshiyuki : By the way, the photos inside the booklet were taken by these 2.
Great, I didn't know.
Kishi, you have been involved in lot of different projects. Do you like to keep you busy?
Kishi Toshiyuki : To be honest, I don’t like being that busy. I am very busy but I don’t particularly like it. What keeps me busy currently is game music. Long ago, I proposed songs for a music game competition and I won. I met a person who gave me other work opportunities later on. The competition was for Dragon Ball.
How is it different to wrote music for a game and a band in which you’re involved?
Kishi Toshiyuki : There’s no real difference. I mean I like them both. Dragon Ball is pretty similar to a rock band since the music, when accompanying a fight, has to be energetic and fast-paced. The biggest difference is that I need to think about which instrument will stand out. Should the voice be highlighted, should the guitar be stressed? That’s the biggest difference. But both work is hard work (laughs).
What do you like about NUL. compared with your other projects?
Kishi Toshiyuki : What I like about NUL. that isn’t something I get from my other projects is the music style I do with them. I have always wanted to try industrial goth/rock. I loved being D’espairsRay producer, I really loved that band, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to be part of a band similar to D’espairsRay. I still can’t believe I am in a band with HIZUMI (laughs). It’s a real dream come true. It can be really hard to get the opportunity to work with people you like. I am so grateful that I am able to work with him.
Has anything changed in your life except from the fact that you can’t tour?
MASATO : Apart from the fact that we can’t hold any live shows, the virus Corona has had also an impact on the music I listen to. Because I have more time alone at home, I have seized the opportunity to discover new things and broaden my mind. I mean, I used to listen to violent and aggressive songs only. Now I listen to all kinds of songs including softer and brighter music.
HIZUMI : That’s pretty cool but I hope everything will get back to normal soon. I’m quite pessimistic about it though. People will have a hard time trusting packed crowds. I mean, socializing makes me cringe now. I feel like the pandemic is re-shaping our senses of fear, and it's pretty unclear how long the change will last. It’s definitely going to take a few years... (sighs). Who will come to concerts?
Kishi Toshiyuki : I’m not so pessimistic about it. It will take a while but everything will get back to normal. People will come to concerts again and again because music is grand and powerful.