Interview with Yuki Chikudate of Asobi Seksu
Alex - This is Yuki Chikudate from Asobi Seksu. Thanks for being here!
Yuki – Thanks for having me!
A – So you’re playing here in Boston on Friday. This is kind of the second show of the tour and we’re really excited to have you here. My first question is, what goes through your mind when you’re on stage? Shoegaze, dreampop, a lot of people might get into a trance. I was just listening to the new single “Trails” and I’m hearing a lot of Karen O in your voice. The audience is one thing, but when when you’re up on stage, what’s it like for you?
Y – Well, hopefully I’m in a place of just being there, being in the moment, and not thinking too much, because it’s when I overthink it, I think, when the performance suffers—or where I suffer. If I overthink it and try too hard, I find myself kind of getting in trouble or not enjoying it as much as I could. So I really just try to be in the moment and connect in whatever way I can, and just try to kind of forget everything. Once I start thinking like “oh, I didn’t like that note, I didn’t like the way I did this, and now that light is making me go blind—and oh my god I don’t want to forget the next chord!” and the truth is, moments like that happen. It’s human.
A – Definitely.
Y – When it’s a good performance, it’s usually because I’ve just let go. I’ve let go and I’m not even really involved at all in a way. It’s a very strange feeling to describe, but when things are going really well and I have a really enjoyable, fun experience, it’s because I’m out of the way.
A – Yeah. I understand that. I think the audience definitely appreciates that and connects with that as well because, because if you’re in the crowd at some show and you feel worried for the band, then that’s not a good place to be. You’re not gonna have fun.
Y – I don’t want you guys to worry! Don’t worry about me.
A – I’m very much looking forward to the show. The new album is great, and I’m playing a couple of songs from it here on the show. I looked at a few interviews with you online, and a lot of them really focused on the fact that you’re Japanese.
Y – Right.
A – And you responded to some of those questions. Maybe this is a bit hypocritical, though I’m a senior here at Tufts and I’m actually majoring in Japanese and I studied abroad in Japan last year, so I guess I have a sort of a special interest in that. But I noticed that right there on the Asobi Seksu front page, you have the name of the band in katakana Japanese characters, so maybe the band is a kind of a new thing for a Japanese audience. I kind of compare it to Deerhoof, who was in Boston last week, and they just remixed one of your songs. They have kind of a related experience; Satomi came from Japan and they tour mostly in America but also in Japan. So I wanted to ask you, a lot of people say that Japanese audiences really appreciate music in a different way. You grew up in Los Angeles, you do sing in Japanese sometimes, now you’re reaching out to a Japanese audience. What’s that experience like, going between cultures?
Y – You just asked a lot!
A – I know, sorry.
Y – No, that’s ok! You know, it’s very strange when I get asked this question. I grew up bilingual. I grew up obviously not being able to hide the fact that I’m Asian, Japanese, specifically, you know because we look different! Also, I was very torn for a long time at the beginning. At the inception of this band, I wasn’t really sure what that would mean to embrace the fact that I’m Japanese and to make that a part of the identity of this band.
A – Well it very much is a part of the identity of the band.
Y – Absolutely. I was really torn about that in the beginning. I really wanted to say, “That’s not important. It doesn’t matter what race I am, or what culture I’m from, or what language I speak or sing in,” but in the end, I think that the opportunity to be authentic and to say, “actually that duality is really who I am,” I think is a unique experience, and I’m really grateful that I get to have that experience. It’s natural that for some people it’s going to be something that they don’t want to embrace, or maybe they don’t feel comfortable, or maybe they’re just not sure, or maybe they’re just not interested. I’m grateful that I have that opportunity, and to just be given that chance, to put that out into the world is really cool. As far as Japanese audiences go, for me there’s something very special about that. Japanese is the first language I learned to speak. Obviously I’ve been shaped by growing up in America, in Los Angeles. Going back to Japan is very special because I don’t have the opportunity that much, and most of my extended family is back there. It’s an opportunity for me to revisit that and to just go back there. I don’t really have a lot of personal ties to Japan so it’s very overwhelming just to be able to go back there, and to have the reason being to perform for a Japanese audience is very emotional for me. It’s great that I sing in Japanese and they understand. It’s actually very nerve-wracking in a way, because I was like—“I really can’t flub here!”
A – It sounds like a really cool opportunity. I just want to tell you that I really highly and deeply respect that. I think that’s really, really awesome that you have really embraced that and have chosen to see it as a real opportunity rather than something that could ever hold you back. With the success that Asobi Seksu is having now, getting a lot of good press for the new album, I think that’s awesome.
Y – Yeah. I think there’s something very touching for me, being told by a group of young Japanese people, “Thanks for sharing our language with the world.” That was deeply moving for me. I never really thought about it that way, that in some small, small, small way, that’s what I’m doing. It’s very powerful.
A – Well, I really wish we had more time to talk. I’ll definitely be at the show on Friday, and I’m really looking forward to it. Yuki, thank you very much!
Y – Thank you! See you Friday!