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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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:
- Loudness website
- Loudness website
- Loudness MySpace website
- 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.