Rolling Stone Magazine Interview With Takashi Hakiro

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Rolling Stone Magazine Interview With Takashi Hakiro

Post  TakashiHakiro on Sat Aug 02, 2008 7:07 pm

The following interview is in a Rolling Stone issue from 1999, when Takashi's first international album became huge in America. Takashi was 22 years old at the time. He did not know much English yet aside from the lyrics translated for his international debut songs so a translator was present, making this probably one of the most comprehensible interviews he's ever had. The experience of needing a translator frustrated the star so much that he vowed to learn English on his own for the next interview. We all know how well that went.

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The musician is shorter in person than you'd expect. On stage, he rises above everyone in the audience, daunting them with introspective lyrics and haunting vocals. But walking into the hotel room today, I can only be struck by how powerful his personality is despite his height. At a mere 5'3", he's shorter than most American women, yet this diminutive man could have the best of them - and if the rumors are right, he already has. He is charismatic and energetic, but there's a sense of lethargy under the charm, the same tired exhaustion one gets from most musicians who are on tour. The touring road is a hard life, and the tall latte in his hand is probably necessary to propel him through the interview. We shake hands, and his translator introduces me. Despite his international album debuting in English, he doesn't have a grasp on the language yet. He sinks into one of the many armchairs in the room, and we get started.

Rolling Stone: So, Takashi - that is your first name, right?
Takashi: [translated] Yes, that's my personal name. In Japan, my name is actually Hakiro Takashi, but because America does names backwards, we've switched mine too so people don't get confused.

RS: That's probably a good idea, considering your new audience. So, your first album is out here in America. What was it like producing an album in English?
Takashi: Well, it was pretty hard since I've never really spoken much English. Classes for it weren't required when I was in highschool like they are these days so my experience with it was pretty limited! But, I had a very good coach with me and we worked through all of the songs one by one to make sure that the spirit of the lyrics was properly translated. I think that was the hardest part, to take the metaphors and alliterations from the Japanese and trying to make them work in English. It's quite a challenge, but I think the final product is definitely worth it.

RS: That's great to hear. Moving on, what would you say are some of your inspirations from American music, if you have any?
Takashi
: Oh I definitely do! [laughs] I had always loved singing ever since I was little, but what I think really inspired me was a song by Billy Joel, called "You May Be Right". Just something about the sound of his music really inspired me. I can't say the lyrics did because I didn't have a clue what he was singing about, but the sound really spoke to me. I was really young when I first heard the song and it kind of became my anthem as a kid. I bought his albums any chance I got, most of them bootlegged on 8-tracks and cassettes. It was pretty pathetic, I only had this little stereo in my grandfather's attic, but it worked!

RS: [laughs] I think that's the story of a lot of kids from the 80's right there. Alright. While I'm sure your Japanese fans and some of the hardcore Americans already know your life's story, most of us don't. So what is your story, Takashi?
Takashi
: I was raised by my grandparents after my mom left me at the hospital. She was only 16. I sang in the chorus at school but wasn't very popular.

RS: I do not believe you!
Takashi
: It's true I swear! My grandfather didn't have a lot of money, so he wouldn't buy me new clothes, they were always from thrift shops. So eventually my grandfather took me to some karate classes. I gained some confidence and eventually scored a record.

RS: Now I've heard from some sources that you're not telling me the whole story.
Takashi
: [after a long pause and a whispered conversation with his translator] Well, you have some good sources. I got my break and news coverage because of a girl who died. She was a very close friend, one of the few people who didn't care what my clothes looked like or where I lived. She always defended me, and one day I thought I had a chance to defend her. A group of bullies were bothering her on the roof of the school at lunch. They always teach you in karate to only use it in self defense, and I went a bit beyond self defense. She got shoved in the way and I kind of pushed her off the roof. There was a huge news fiasco about it, a police investigation and everything. They let me and the other boys go, and I sang at a dedication ceremony to her death. An agent was there, and... that's how it went.

RS: That's quite a story Takashi, and an American exclusive right here in Rolling Stone. Do you think your music has gone beyond that first experience?
Takashi
: Yes, definitely. I've gone far beyond just singing about that accident. A lot of my work is about personal experiences because it is easier to write about such things. I hope that these days my music has a message that can appeal to a large group of people, and give them the message I want them to hear.

RS: And what is that message? Is there one single thing you want your fans to hear?
Takashi
: Probably that hope will always be there. Tomorrow is always going to come, and don't be afraid of that. Life can hurt sometimes, but you just have to look around. There's always someone there for you, even if you can't see them.

RS: Thank you very much for your time, Takashi.

_________________
Random Takashi Factoid:
Even rockstars can be emo. During the Inevitable Arc, Takashi stopped bleaching his hair and dyed it back to its natural black color.
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