Justin Tedaldi of Examiner.com recently conducted an interview with vocalist Minoru Niihara of Japanese metal veterans LOUDNESS. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Examiner.com: Many of LOUDNESS's songs are either mostly or totally in English. How did the band make the decision to do this when they were still known only in Japan? Was it a lot of pressure for you to have to learn so much of another language?
Minoru: In the '80s, if you wanted to be successful as a band in the States and Europe, it was crucial to sing in English. When I started singing in English, I was already 23 and past the age to acquire the language, so it was really hard to get the right pronunciation and intonation while recording. It was a long and hard process, but I'm still grateful for the producer and singers who helped me through it.
Examiner.com: Did the band tend to write these songs in Japanese first and then have someone translate them? How difficult was it to sing and memorize these songs in English for live performances?
Minoru: First we have basic concepts and ideas for songs in Japanese and translate them into English. After that, we work with English-speaking songwriters. Then the songwriters will read lyrics and record them for us for pronunciation and intonation. We listen to them over and over to master them. It takes time to master them all, but in the studio I sing them so many times, recording, that I can sing them by heart by the time the recording is done. Memorizing songs for live performances is the same both in English and Japanese.
Examiner.com: What opportunities did that give you and the band when LOUDNESS first toured the U.S. in the mid-'80s? How about for your music career in general?
Minoru: Our first live performance in the States was in California back in 1983. We had several live performances in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Lots of people from record companies and musicians came to listen to us and gave us lots of offers. One of them was Atlantic Records and the contract with them was the first step to the band that we are today and a huge turning point for us.
Examiner.com: LOUDNESS has a place in the history books as the first Japanese band to play Madison Square Garden, opening for MÖTLEY CRÜE in 1985. How did this happen, and what are your memories of that experience?
Minoru: They really liked our stage and gave us the opportunities to tour with them. We were extremely lucky. Touring with them made us known in the States and we owe it to them. About the experience in MSG, I remember hearing that musicians who perform in MSG go there by limousines from a hotel as a tradition, and we took the limousine for the first time in our lives and felt like real rock stars riding through the Manhattan area and all! Also in touring through all over the States with them, we learned what the real rock shows were like. Their stage production, sound system, tour management, and just everything was very professional and its scale was amazing. All the venues were very big arenas with the capacities of tens of thousands and it was a super exciting experience!
Examiner.com: Another legendary rock group, X JAPAN, is also planning to break in America with a domestic album deal just like LOUDNESS had in the '80s. What are your thoughts about this, and what advice would you offer to Yoshiki and company for them to succeed here?
Minoru: I know Yoshiki has the American dream and is trying very hard. Compared to the '80s, record labels, media and music industry are totally different now, but rock bands' success has been always written on the stage. I think his touring in the States will lead him to his American dream.
Examiner.com: Sadly, original LOUDNESS drummer Munetaka Higuchi passed away in 2008. What are some of your favorite memories of him?
Minoru: Back in 1981 when I joined LOUDNESS and moved to Tokyo, I stayed at his apartment for about three months. He was the oldest among us and our band leader. He was strict yet always nice and was like my big brother. We wrote lots of songs and performed together all over the world, and all those things are my treasures. I was honored very much to have shared those wonderful moments with a great drummer like him.
Read the entire interview from Examiner.com.