[Translation] (interview) Zappy, November 2000 - Ayumi Hamasaki Sekai
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Old 25th December 2015, 07:23 PM
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tenshi no hane tenshi no hane is offline
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(interview) Zappy, November 2000

I translated another one of her older interviews~ She talks about Duty and the big influence of her 1st long tour, Concert Tour 2000 Vol.1 & Vol.2.

I nearly quit halfway through. I love you, Ayu my dear, but learn to finish your goddamn sentences. It's a pain to translate

(read on tumblr)


Ayumi Hamasaki has released her new album Duty, after holding her first nation-wide tour from April to August and releasing 3 singles in the meantime. Her previous album was released 10 months ago, a short interval. On this album, which can easily be called her greatest yet, what feelings is she trying to share with us?

I couldn’t have made this album if I hadn’t toured

Come to think of it, it’s only been 2,5 years since your debut. Amazing. Almost too fast.

A: Really fast, huh. I’m impressed everyone managed to keep up (laughs).

True. The one who’s doing the running is you, Hamasaki-san (laughs). In any case, your new album Duty turned out amazing. It’s compact but very much worth listening to. Unlike your earlier work, many of the songs have a “band sound” approach to them this time, right? Perhaps 3 months of touring had a big influence on you?

A: Very big. I’ve never sung live so much before. I often worked with step recording before, but I wanted to use live instruments as much as possible this time.

How much time did you spend recording the album tracks?

A: I started after my tour ended…

Eh!? After your tour ended 9 August …you mean?

A: Yes.

It’s not like you decided only on the songs during the tour and nothing else… right?

A: That’s exactly what happened (laughs). Out of sweet - or maybe cruel (laughs) - consideration… my producer (Max Matsuura) decided: “Won’t you be unable to concentrate on touring if we talk about albums too much?” (laughs)

But CD shops were already advertising “new album on 27 September!” in early August?

A: I heard when the tour’s 2nd volume was almost over. I was told: “You’ll release a new album on 20-something September after the tour.” Just like that (laughs).

It’s incredible you managed to create such an amazing album with such a crazy schedule…

A: No. On the contrary, I think I couldn’t have made this album if I hadn’t toured. Yeah.


A: After the tour, things like “I want to sing songs with this kind of sound” or “I want to write about this” or “I want to sing more like this”… I got the strong desire to write certain lyrics and create certain songs. I feel like I managed to get all those things out with the perfect timing.

I think I’ve become able to honestly feel “today was fun” lately

The track list also gives off the strong vibe of a live performance. I feel it has resemblance to the tour’s 2nd volume?

A: That’s right. It’s intentional. I created it while saying things like “Yocchan (Yoshio Nomura, guitarist) enters now” (laughs).

Actually, wasn’t the initial plan to release a spring album? Was this an alternate result of that plan?

A: It ended up like that, yes.

And, I feel, as a result, this album contains your time spent touring in addition to your 3 previous singles at its core.

A: The track list follows the release order of vogue, Far away and SEASONS, but the rest of the album isn’t just made up of the things I felt and gained after the tour. The tour itself is the key point… Frankly speaking, before the tour, there was a period I said “I’m feeling despair”. I continued the tour the best I could while feeling such despair. But I managed to shake off various issues by the time the tour finished. I wanted to include this process in the track list. That’s why, the songs before and after vogue are how despaired I felt back then… Then, just before the tour started, I felt ready to attack, ready to stand up again, like in Far away’s lyrics: “Newly, like myself…” That’s why I put a song like AUDIENCE afterwards. But then I got to the point of feeling “there’s no way everything will stay alright”, which is why teddy bear is placed there. But in the end, the album ends with girlish: “Let’s sing together again”…

How did you get past your period of despair? Was it thanks to the tour?

A: I wonder how… I don’t know why, but after the tour… I was still pretty much on edge when I was making the album. Normally I don’t listen repeatedly to my own songs, but…

You’re someone who hardly listens to their own work?

A: Hardly (laughs). But after finishing the album this time, I asked for the MD right away and listened to it again and again… I was too embarrassed in the past. Like, “Isn’t it lame to listen to Ayumi Hamasaki in my car?” (laughs). I was trying to look cool in some strange way. But this time I can freely say “this is really good” (laughs). I can say “this album is amazing” and I feel it’s OK to think every day is fun. Without any specific reason. In the past, I’d always need a reason. I’d think to myself: “Why? Why is this fun?” I was a person who’d end up thinking: “It’s not really fun, is it?” But I guess I’m able to freely say “Yes, today too was very fun” nowadays?

I’d almost ask you “why?” myself right now, but that’s my profession, after all (laughs).

A: (Laughs). That’s why I wrote “Don’t look for enjoyment. Simply enjoy the present” (girlish) as the last lines of the album. That type of state of mind… Actually, whenever I met up with friends in the past, I would often think things like “Isn’t there anything to do? What should we do? What’s fun to do?” I don’t say that anymore. Now I’m just having fun …it feels great (laughs).

You’re in a good place right now.

A: How rare! (laughs)

In your entire life?

A: Hahaha… yeah.

Maybe it’s because, during the tour, you managed to spit out the trauma’s you were holding in? Moreover, the audience accepted all those things. While watching the footage of your tour, I strongly felt you, Hamasaki-san, were cleansed as well.

A: It feels like I let out everything I needed to let out in one go, had a funeral, died and managed to come back again.

It’s the start of your 2nd volume…

A: Right, right.

In a way, this 3rd album marks the start of Ayumi Hamasaki’s 2nd volume…

A: No, the 3rd! (laughs).

This time, I wrote the lyrics while imagining how I would sing them

Excuse me (laughs). So, the album title is Duty. This word has the nuance of “having to do something”, right? Did you choose this title because of something you felt throughout the tour?

A: I strongly felt: “I felt the audience’s feelings so strongly. I must express myself clearly.” That’s why I chose the word ‘duty’: it’s what ‘my future self has to do’. But that’s not me reaching out my hand to someone who wants me, nor a call for people to come to me. It’s like I’m walking with my hands in my pockets and if you want to walk with me, that’s fine. Don’t follow me, don’t walk ahead of me. Just walk next to me, ok? That kind of feeling… In return, if the person walking beside me does something, I will support him or her and we’ll go together… That’s the feeling I wanted to bring across.

[…] This album also has a heavy side. Rather than carefully compiling the words, you’re directly throwing out your words this time, I think. That’s why your words will linger with more listeners, how to put it…

A: I also feel I wrote the things I wanted to say as they are this time. Lately, I’m facing everything head-on. That’s why I wasn’t afraid of anything, or rather, I felt “everything will be OK, Ayu!” no matter what words or singing style I used.

Then, how did writing the lyrics go?

A: Fast. I stopped one time, though (laughs). But once I started writing again, things went really fast.

I feel like asking how you overcame not being able to write lyrics has been a constant question in our interviews (laughs).

A: Yeah (laughs). But I didn’t feel the need to lock myself away when I couldn’t write this time. In the past, I would seclude myself at home, not even answering the phone. Nowadays it’s more “I can’t write anything now. There’s no point forcing myself.” Maybe something will inspire me if I go outside..? I’m currently thinking like that.

You didn’t end up going to the countryside somewhere suddenly, right?

A: (laughs loudly) Yeah.

Surprisingly, SCAR is your first triple metre song. It seemed like you already had such songs, but you didn’t.

A: I didn’t. I never chose such songs. Somehow I started wanting to sing a triple metre song.

Ah, that’s right, was girlish really performed live in the studio?

A: It was.

Who sneezed?

A: Our drummer, Kaoru-san. He did it on purpose, you know.

On purpose? (laughs)

A: Yes. He did it suddenly when they said the recording had started (laughs).

You’re also singing in different registers than before in some songs. […]

A: Indeed. Until now, I was stuck on maintaining “the voice of Ayumi Hamasaki”. Part of me felt that people should immediately be able to tell “Ah, this is Ayu’s song” when hearing my songs. […] But this time, I decided on things like “I want to sing really low” or “I want to sing in a full voice” or in contrast “I want to sing in a thin voice” or “I want to go really high”. I imagined the way I would sing while adjusting the key. No!? …I think already did so while writing the lyrics? I had songs where I knew I wanted sing parts really high. And because I know the sounds “i, ki, shi, chi, ni” are the easiest to sing in high notes for me, I paid attention to place those sounds in the right spots.

I heard you finished recording on the evening of September 1st. Are there songs you felt were easy to sing, or difficult to sing?

A: The song Duty has a range of 2 octaves. I was surprised (laughs). It was a little tiring because it was the first time for me to sing that kind of song. The low notes were harder than the high ones. But recording wasn’t that difficult on the whole, I think. Although I feel it would’ve been a different story before the tour.

You once listed Led Zeppelin as one of your favourite artists, during your debut. I remembered it while listening to this album. This album made me feel like you have “hard-rock” running through your veins.

A: I’ve been listening to rock again lately.

Actually, the background music during the photoshoot 3 days ago, was…

A: Yes. It was Red Hot Chili Peppers.

[…] The cover photo is once again quite daring.

A: Hahaha. It’s one of many ideas I had since LOVEppears.

Was this photoshoot also shot after the tour?

A: No. It happened between my performances in Fukuoka and Yokohama. In late July.

So, you didn’t decide on the cover after finishing the album. It was already ready.

A: Previously, I felt there’s no way I could shoot the cover if the album’s concept and songs weren’t done yet. But this time I was totally fine with it. …How to put it, I just felt “I want to dress as a leopard” and went with it? Like, “I don’t really need a deeper meaning, do I?”

If I may change the topic. You have your producer Max-san of course, but to put it extremely, it seems as if the power relationship has changed. Or rather, it has gotten easier for you to pass your opinion on the sound direction.

A: Yes, I guess that’s true. To a level, it felt like my producer was leaving things up to me, like “You know what you’re doing. You choose.” and that made it easier to express myself, I think? I could already always tell my producer anything, but I’ve also become able to confidently tell my staff “We’ll do it like this” nowadays.

Having finished this album, what do you think you've gained?

A: The feeling “Let’s go to the next”, I think? Not ending it like we’re heading towards the great finale, but rather like there’s more waiting, how to put it… I wanted to end it like “There’s something else coming”. To be honest, I’m already thinking about the next thing.

You’re already thinking about the next..!?

A: I am (laughs).

What will it be, I wonder.

A: What indeed. It’s still a secret (laughs).

When do you think you’ll be able to tell us?

A: Definitely this year. I think we can meet again (laughs).

(Laughs) Really?

A: Probably.

In that case, I’m really looking forward to it.

A: Alright (laughs).
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Old 25th December 2015, 07:50 PM
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labello labello is offline
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As always, thank you so much for your wonderful translation tenshi! I've said it before and I'll say it again: I appreciate your hard work so much, your translations are one of my favorites! (Although I of course appreciate every translation and translator out there!)

I think this is a really interesting interview. It's funny to me that Ayu just wanted to dress up as a leopard so she did xD sometimes I feel like people (me included) search for a deeper meaning in art and I always wonder did the artist even intend a deeper meaning? Here she says she didn't

Hearing that she was told they'd release an album at a certain date, only a few months before it had to be finished, it reminded me of how A BEST got released. She was told to do it a certain time and it had to be done. Makes me kind of sad. Although I really like both of those albums a lot.
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Old 25th December 2015, 08:30 PM
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thanks so much.
Duty is my number one golden Ayu album, the first I encountered, the one I love preciously due to the lyrics and my favourite music. it lifted me up when I encountered it in a very hard rough time of my life, I'll be always grateful for it.
I do miss old Ayu at that time, it feels so good to read past interviews.
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Old 26th December 2015, 07:05 AM
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You're welcome!

Originally Posted by labello View Post
I think this is a really interesting interview. It's funny to me that Ayu just wanted to dress up as a leopard so she did xD sometimes I feel like people (me included) search for a deeper meaning in art and I always wonder did the artist even intend a deeper meaning? Here she says she didn't

Hearing that she was told they'd release an album at a certain date, only a few months before it had to be finished, it reminded me of how A BEST got released. She was told to do it a certain time and it had to be done. Makes me kind of sad. Although I really like both of those albums a lot.
Yeah, I remember thinking LOVEppears cover must've had a deeper meaning too, and just said: "We were discussing what I should wear this time and I thought about simply wearing nothing. There’s no intention behind it. It’s simply me as a product. I simply felt it would be cute." (GirlPop 1999-12) Although, I guess the 'product' part can be read into.

It's sad, yeah. You can tell she didn't have much say in terms of release dates in her earlier career in interviews at the time.
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Old 26th December 2015, 08:48 AM
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Thank you very much! It's always interesting to read these! =)

So from I got that Duty theme has to do a lot with SURREAL in the sense if the going next to ayu supporting who goes next to her.

She just wanted to wear a leopard costume but it probably fit her whole idea of freedom or duty of conveying herself right.

And I wonder if avex told her about A BEST right after this interview lol. I wonder if the next big thing was M. Or did A BEST fall on her right after M? Like she was the biggest on the period of Duty and avex wanted to take advantage of it obviously (and when did they hear hikki's going to release Distance), like they seemed to do with Duty, she really really rushed it (even though it's a masterpiece), but rushed releases were never good or bad because they were rushed for me.
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Old 26th December 2015, 03:30 PM
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^ You're welcome~ I personally think she was hinting towards the 1st countdown live.
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Old 26th December 2015, 03:51 PM
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Thank you so much for this. Your translations are really good. I really hope one day I'll be able to translate stuff from japanese.
Hmm, I feel like she was hinting towards M. I don't know why, maybe because this was the first CREA penned track and she was probably really excited for it.
So she started recording sometime after August 09, 2000 and finished the whole album on September 01, 2000. That's crazy. So, we already knew that Secret was a very rushed album alongside Rainbow and Memorial address (she stated this in a MY STORY interview) and now Duty. She always does so many things at once and still manages to keep the quality, its crazy. Not much has changed in the present lol
Didn't know that SCAR was a triple metre song, very interesting. I'd like to hear more about the technical stuff in japanese music interviews. Does ayu have any other triple metre songs in her discography?
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Old 26th December 2015, 06:19 PM
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Thanks a lot!
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Old 26th December 2015, 09:18 PM
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Great translation. Her schedule was crazy back then... I wonder how many of her interview answers were dictated by Avex as well.
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Old 26th December 2015, 09:44 PM
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Thank you
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Old 27th December 2015, 12:38 AM
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This one made me remember why Duty is one of my favorite Ayu albums. Thank you for the translation, tenshi. I hope you'll keep translating more old interviews. I love to read them very much.

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Old 27th December 2015, 02:08 AM
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Thank you! What an incredible insight to Duty. I think its very interesting how she pointed out the sequence of songs in the album and how it related to her experience of being on tour.
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Old 27th December 2015, 02:20 AM
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Thank you for the translation! Her interviews are always great.
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Old 30th December 2015, 04:59 PM
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I had such a busy week, I only just now saw this translation - thank you so much for this! I feel like it's really hard to find insights regarding "Duty" even though it's her best selling original album. This was very enlightening, and her schedule leading up to the album's release is really interesting to see!
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Old 30th December 2015, 10:18 PM
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Definitely appreciate you translating and sharing this. Thanks!

Ayu Concerts I've Attended:
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Arena Tour 2016: MADE IN JAPAN

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Old 1st January 2016, 06:44 AM
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thank you!
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