Minoru Niihara and Akira Takasaki - Loudness - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com

These days it is almost impossible for artists to have any kind of continued success for a period of more then two to three years. In an industry that has so many new artists coming and going year in & year out, we find that there is always a handful of fantastic bands that defeat the odds & break down barrier after barrier just to bring us “the general public” some harmless, fun entertainment. In the world of hard rock & heavy metal the majority of the big players are & have always originated from Europe, the United States of America & or the U.K. But every now & then we get to witness a phenomenon from other countries that will live on forever in rock n roll history, not only for what they have done in the past but what they are still doing today, Japanese hard rock legends Loudness top this list.

This year marks the 25th anniversary for one of the most underrated kick-ass bands that has ever walked the face of the planet. Throughout the years Loudness have released many successful albums that has earned them a place in rock history, they have shared the stage with many of the worlds greatest hard rock and heavy metal acts such as; Kiss, Ac/Dc, Poison, Motley Crue & Cinderella just to name a handful. Loudness just like any other band that has had such longevity, has also suffered set backs over the years. For instance I personally believe that Loudness have never shared a commercial level of success to the extent that so many of there peers did especially during the mid-eighties. Loudness has always been classed as the Thunder from the East & rightfully so. During the eighties many rock & heavy metal fans in Japan & other countries across the globe referred to Loudness as ‘the kings of Japanese heavy metal’, a title that still rings true to this day. Formed way back in 1981 by drummer Munetaka Higuchi and guitarist Akira Takasaki who were previously playing together in a band called Lazy; the two of them were joined by former Earthshaker vocalist Minoru Niihara. The trio then recruited Akira’s longtime friend Masayoshi Yamashita to handle the bass duties & then Loudness was born.

Through-out the years Loudness have had their ups & downs & in 1989 front-man Minoru Niihara shocked fans worldwide when he announced he was leaving the band. During the nineties they underwent a series of line-up changes which included members of other successful Japanese metal bands EZO & X before reuniting with the original line-up in 2001 when they released some of their heaviest & most powerful material to date, but for those old schoolers like myself it’s very hard to shy away from a true rock anthem such as ‘Crazy Nights’.

Fast forward to 2006 and Loudness are still rocking harder & louder then ever to audiences across the globe. Loudness are ready to embark on a world tour which will see them playing a series of shows in the United States in coming months. I recently caught up with charismatic front-man Minoru Niihara & legendary axe-shredder Akira Takasaki & asked them a series of questions in regards to the bands longevity, touring, the early days and much more. Make sure you check out the Thunder from the East on their up & coming American tour. Loudness have always strived to entertain their audiences & leaving sold out crowds across the globe wanting more & more. Long live the Japanese Heavy Metal Kings! LOUDNESS

Metal Fanatix: Hi guys, thank you so much for taking the time out to answer the following questions for our readers. I'd like to start by talking to you about the longevity of the band. It's been almost twenty five years since the band first formed, why do you think you guys have lasted so long in an industry that see so many artists come & go?

Minoru Niihara: Oh there are so many reasons. I think our chemistry worked very well. We have a deep bond of passion for Rock & Roll. We enjoy & believe in what we are doing. We have many supporters all over the world. We’ve met some excellent managers & record companies. Fortunately, we have luck.

Akira Takasaki: It’s important to remember that we don’t expect too much, nor do we keep our hopes up, even though we’re doing what we love.

Metal Fanatix: Going way back to when you recorded the first Loudness album ‘Birthday Eve’, if someone had come up to you & told you that you would still be doing this all these years later & that you would be in one of the most influential bands in heavy metal would you have believed them?

Akira Takasaki: I would have, yes.

Metal Fanatix: After all these years of writing & recording how do you constantly come up with new fresh sounding material without falling into the trap a lot of other bands do by repeating themselves?

Akira Takasaki: To be honest with you, I sometimes copy my old work, but I basically don’t look back I just step forward.

Metal Fanatix: What can we expect from Loudness in 2006, are you guys planning on hitting the studio & recording some new material?

Akira Takasaki: Well, we will tour the U.S.A. & Canada during March & we’re looking to record a new album after that in Los Angeles with an American producer. From there, we’ll probably be touring across Europe & Japan.

Metal Fanatix: Over the years you guys have toured Europe & the United States on a number of occasions. Akira as you just mentioned you guys will probably do more shows in Europe after the American leg is finished. You guys have never played in Australia do you have any plans to tour here soon?

Akira Takasaki: We’d love to play for our Australian fans, but we don’t know when that will be at this stage.

Minoru Niihara: At this moment we don’t have any plans to play in Australia, though hopefully in the near-future we’ll see you all!

Metal Fanatix: Considering the band has been around for so many years now, are there any plans to release a box-set containing unreleased studio tracks & rare live material?

Akira Takasaki: No, nothing has been spoken about, maybe down the track but at this stage no.

Metal Fanatix: Guys let’s talk about touring a little more. Soon after you guys recorded your first album you were touring Europe that must have been an exciting time for the band!

Minoru Niihara: Absolutely! It was a wonderful experience for us! Seeing different cultures made us more mature.

Metal Fanatix: You must be excited about heading back to the States for some shows, what can the fans expect to see at these shows?

Akira Takasaki: I would like people to enjoy the evolved 21st century version of Loudness.

Minoru Niihara: Yes, we are very excited to be back in the States, finally. We hope people will enjoy both our new material & the classics. Our look is much different since the ‘80s! (laughs)

Metal Fanatix: [laugh] Yes it is very different, the big hair has gone [laughs]. With a catalogue that spans over twenty years, how do you come up with the perfect set-list, you are always going to have fans that will want to hear early songs & the occasional obscure tracks, with every band at least two or three new songs are thrown into a set. How do you juggle the set to make everyone happy including yourselves? Please tell us how to juggle the set to make people happy!

Minoru Niihara: We always play 60% old material & 40% new material, how is that?

Metal Fanatix: Sounds great to me! What can you recall from the first performance you guys did?

Minoru Niihara: You mean our first gig?

Metal Fanatix: Yep, your first gig.

Minoru Niihara: Wow, my first gig was in front of 3,000 people! I don’t even remember the first half of the show. We were making a desperate endeavor to rock the place!

Metal Fanatix: Over the years you have shared the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most & could you share a funny road story with us from the tour?

Minoru Niihara: The AC/DC & Motley Crue tour was huge! We learned many things about doing things professionally from them, & we thank them very much for that! Unfortunately we could not hang out with them very much. We toured with Keel, we drunk with them like hell [laughs]. We had some opening acts, like Poison & Cinderella back in the middle of the eighties. When we started the tour, they were just like local bands, but while we were touring, they went Top ten on the Billboard charts & became superstars. We were so surprised by the “big American dream” then!

Akira Takasaki: For me it’s probably Motley Crue. I ran into them at a club when we were on the tour, and we got to jam together.

Metal Fanatix: Loudness was heavily influenced by a lot of the same bands I grew up listening to. Do you feel you have played a large role on influencing a lot of the newer metal bands?

Akira Takasaki: I’m not sure, but probably we had a lot of influence on the metal scenes in Northern Europe & Japan.

Minoru Niihara: Especially in Japan, yes. Many Japanese rock bands play our songs & have even recorded Loudness tribute albums.

Metal Fanatix: Akira, did you always want to be a guitarist?

Akira Takasaki: Yes, but actually, I’m also a drummer.

Metal Fanatix: Oh really, I never knew that. What equipment are you using these days?

Akira Takasaki: Killer Guitars & Marshall Amplifiers. These two are a must.

Metal Fanatix: Do you do anything specific to warm up & prepare for a show?

Akira Takasaki: Um no, not really.

Metal Fanatix: In a few words Minoru, tell us what comes to mind when I mention the following Loudness tracks:

Minoru Niihara:

Crazy Nights: Max Norman, who is a perfectionist of a producer. First Japanese rock band song on MTV.

Heavier Than Hell: Live in Nakno San Plaza Japan, the new wave of Japanese heavy metal!

Hellrider: The 21st century version of Loudness

Lunatic: Some stupid human-rights group.

Suicide Doll: Naïve.

Metal Fanatix: From all the albums you have appeared on what one would be your favorite to listen to and why?

Minoru Niihara: “Hurricane Eyes” I love the songs & my vocal performance.

Metal Fanatix: Akira, in your honest opinion what do you think about the direction that hard rock & heavy metal music has taken over the last few years?

Akira Takasaki: We need something new & exciting! Loudness will show that this year.

Metal Fanatix: Are you currently listening to any of the newer hard rock/metal bands? If so who!

Akira Takasaki: I have been listening to bands like Slipknot, Rage Against the Machine & Deftones, none of them are really new though.

Metal Fanatix: There has been so many highlights in your career, what would you say have been your greatest achievements to date?

Akira Takasaki: For me playing all the instruments myself on my latest solo album ‘Maca’ was an achievement.

Metal Fanatix: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed and/or present who would they be and what would you call the band?

Minoru Niihara: Ronnie James Dio, Freddie Mercury, Rod Stewart, Robert Plant. I’d call it “The Mighty Quartet.”

Metal Fanatix: Wow, what a great show that would be! Minoru & Akira, It's been a total pleasure to be able to ask you the following questions, do you have any last words you want to share with our readers?

Minoru Niihara: We thank you very much for your great support. Stand up and shout & let’s rock together!

Akira Takasaki: For everyone reading this, please come see us on tour the tour dates are listed at our myspace page, hopefully we can play in Australia very soon!

To keep up with all the latest on Loudness, check out the following websites:

http://www.takasaki.net/Loudness/ - Loudness website
http://www3.livemedia.co.jp/loudness/ - Loudness website
http://www.myspace.com/loudness - Loudness MySpace website
http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com - Dedicated to 40 years of hard rock & metal music

© Cameron Edney February, April 2006 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.