Japan isn’t exactly the most represented country on The Power of Metal.dk. With the release of their new album, Blaze from Osaka have played their way into Thomas’ heart and put themselves in line for an interview. Guitarist Hisashi Suzuki answers a bunch of questions.
Thomas: Hisashi, congratulations on the excellent ‘Blaze’ album! I’m convinced that it will be noticed far beyond the shores of Japan. Has the response been positive from the international press so far?
Hisashi: I do not know the response from the international press, so I cannot say nothing. If they introduce us favorably, I’m very happy and appreciate it – it would almost be an unbelievable thing for me!
Thomas: I’ve been trying to do some research on Blaze, but I must admit that I’m a bit confused; one source says that Blaze started in 1975. Another that the band was kicked off during the end of the nineties. Please enlighten me!
Hisashi: The Blaze that started in 1975 is a different band in Tokyo. When we formed our band in 1998, the Tokyo Blaze was not active and we did not know them. A few years after we had released our first demo CDR in 2001 we noticed them. When we released our first album in 2007, we thought of changing our name, but we did not change after all. One reason was that one of my old friends and supporters of the band named us BLAZE. Anyway, Blaze from Tokyo, also known as Kaen in Europe, is a different band.
Thomas: There’s a lot of bands out there who play thrash metal like we knew it during the eighties and early nineties, there’s definitely also a resurgence of the seventies in the sound of e.g. The Devil’s Blood. You most certainly also have a sound that goes back to the seventies and eighties, but I’m curious if you consider your sound and music as retro or rather as a part of an evolution of metal music?
Hisashi: I know our style is old school and my guitar sound, too. So I do not think we are a part of an evolution of metal music. I do not really care if our music is retro, resurgence or evolution. The listener will judge it. I just play the music that I want to hear. I like 70’s British rock and early 80’s NWOBHM and much more, so our music is strong influenced by them.
Thomas: Who’d you cite as your main influences?
Hisashi: As for guitar playing, I was influenced by Michael Schenker, Brian Robertson, Andy Powell, Rory Gallagher, Paul Kossoff. As for song writing, I am influenced by UFO, MSG, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard, Status Quo and more.
Thomas: Which song off ‘Blaze’ is your favourite? I really like the opener, On the Run, but also the very Black Sabbath-esque instrumental Picture….
Hisashi: Yes, I’m pleased with On The Run, too. And I like See The Light. This song was very important for us to continue our musical activities. In fact, Picture is a long track of more than 8 minutes, but we could not record all of it. It’s real title is Picture On The Wall and I would like to record this song completely some day. Of course, I like Black Sabbath.
Thomas: Is there a underlying lyrical theme for the album?
Hisashi: No, there’s no lyrical theme for the album. I have not written the lyrics for the band until Blaze. The lyrics are most difficult for me and it’s not more important for us than riffs and rhythms. Besides English is not our mother tongue, so I’ve always been in doubt whether we should sing in Japanese or English, even now. But I cannot write Japanese lyrics well for hard rock and heavy metal. Japanese lyrics are suitable for mid tempo or slow songs. I would like to learn how to write English lyrics.
Thomas: What does the cover artwork signify?
Hisashi: There’s no special meaning. The man who made the sailboat is my old friend who also named us Blaze. He is a person who has been related to some bands in Japan like Genocide, Hurry Scurry, etc, and he also supported us. He’s not a professional designer, but I wanted him to be somehow related with the making our album. It was important for me. The blue and orange sky means that this takes place before the dawn. I think it’s suitable for a debut album.
Thomas: Help someone who’s completely ignorant in terms of Japanese metal. Which bands are the best in Japan right now (apart from Blaze, of course)?
Hisashi: At present? Though I do not know them that well, I can recommend Blindman, Maverick and Hydra. Also we are familiar with Cloud Forest, Hellhound and Muthas Pride.
Thomas: Since the late eighties, I remember some European bands had great success in Japan when they had less fortune here in Europe. Pretty Maids here from Denmark was one of the bands who turned to Japan for more attention when they had less here in their home country. Can you think of any Danish bands who made an impression on you as a musician?
Hisashi: Of Course I know Pretty Maids. I like their ‘Red, Hot and Heavy’ album. I remembered they recorded Little Darling by Thin Lizzy for this album. It’s a great album. Besides, I like Waitin’ For The Night and Queen Of Dreams. Also I liked Witch Cross.
Thomas: Which are the five most influential music albums for you?
Hisashi: Umm...I like tons of rock albums. If you force me, they are Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden, UFO - No Heavy Petting, MSG - First, Status Quo - Quo, Wishbone Ash - Wishbone Ash.
Thomas: Thank you very much for answering my questions, Hisashi. Any last rants for our readers?
Hisashi: I’m happy if you will be pleased with BLAZE first album. Please listen to it! If there’s a chance, I would like to play in Europe someday.
Interviewed by Thomas Nielsen