[Interview translation] BiSH～Rock'n Roll Swindle～ Can the knockoff surpass the original?!ーーEpisode 0 Watanabe Junnosuke Interview
One day, Watanabe Junnosuke quietly called to inform me, "I think I'm going to do BiS." I felt shocked, but also, "Of course he is..." The funniest part of all. This new BiS is called BiSH. The motivation behind that name is below! is what I want to say, but I kind of feel like I'm being duped (laughs).
The BiS members were always stunning. The strange manager called Watanabe Junnosuke was always stunning, as well. We kept being drawn in by that spark, and we, too, made something stunning. Well, those hot days are starting once again. That's right, thinking over these things again and again was the days of our youth!
The BiS serial column went 65 times, but this is the start of "BiSH~Rock'n Roll Swindle~ Can the knockoff surpass the original?!" First up is Watanabe Junnosuke and Hosokawa Tatsuhiro from WACK with editor-in-chief Iida Shinichiro and associate editor-in-chief Nishizawa Hiroo, talking about BiSH. (Iida Shinichiro)
Episode 0: Watanabe Junnosuke
Iida Shinichiro (Henceforth, Iida): How are the BiSH auditions going?
Watanabe Junnosuke: They're coming along.
Iida: How many will you take in?
Watanabe: BiS started with 4, so I kind of have this image of it being 4, but I should probably take 5 or 6. Someone will quit.
Watanabe: BiS was actually going to be 5 members at the very start, but all of a sudden someone said, "I'm just not going to do this."
Iida: Is it the same production team as before?
Watanabe: Yeah, Matsukuma Kenta is doing the music, Sotobayashi Kenta is doing the costumes, Sanada Rei is doing the artwork. Yesterday I got a phone call from an excited, rowdy Matsukuma who said, "I'm going to take this seriously!"
Iida: Are you looking for girls over the age of 18 this time?
Watanabe: We are, but we're taking applications starting at age 17. Nonchan was a high school student at first, and she turned 18 around when she started working. We'll be doing activities publicly at the beginning of the new year, so I'd like everyone to be over 18 by the time we start.
Iida: You read it like, "bish," right?
Watanabe: Right, bish. Like... I want it how a child would pronounce it, I guess.
Iida: What sort of girls do you think you want in the group?
Watanabe: I want cute girls, with a broad definition of cute, to join, but more importantly for me is to get girls who are good at singing. It was true for BiS, too, and for other idol groups, but I really feel that it's so much harder to work without someone who can sing.
Iida: What else, besides girls who can sing?
Watanabe: I want girls to join who, like, have a story. For BiS, it was Nonchan. She was a shut-in from Akita with the promise that she would get cuter. But maybe, if there's a girl I feel compatible with, it doesn't matter what she's like!
I think I might want the music to be like blues
Iida: You started the WACK company after BiS broke up, so what are you doing at present?
Watanabe: Business and management, production. Matsukuma's music and such. When I was working with BiS I could see the market potential to a certain extent, but I could only see it, not capitalize on it. It's not like I can mass-produce Matsukuma's work on a grand scale, and so I was using my own money, because I thought it was absolutely certain that I would make money back after they burst onto the scene. So now, I want to work hard, make a ton of money, and still be doing something I want to do. I believe I can't sell a project I'm working on that doesn't get me excited, personally.
Iida: Okay then. Well, it's crazy how you start projects because, "I want to do what I want" (laughs). What sort of concept will BiSH have as a group?
Watanabe: BiS had an attitude, or should I say we were doing stupid things with all our might for everyone, and that's what I want to do again. I have a long list of other things I want to do, too, though. It won't be as interesting if I tell you all of it right now so I can't say much more...
Nishizawa Hiroo (Henceforth, Nishizawa): Also, BiS was focused around Pour Lui, but there's nothing like that this time, so there are a lot of things we still can't see from them yet.
Iida: Will you do BiS songs?
Watanabe: I'm thinking about it. Should we?
Iida: I mean, everyone is going to be expecting it. All of their most famous songs.
Watanabe: I don't know. Well, we're going to make new songs, and I think I might want the music to be like blues. Like this (plays a song for reference).
Iida: Isn't that The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion?!
Watanabe: Yeah, like that. Or the early days of The Zoobombs.
Iida: I think blues might be good. No one's doing that right now.
Watanabe: That's why I want girls who can sing. Also, something I've always wanted was a gut-wrenching song written by AxSxE (NATSUMEN ex BOaT) about the end of summer or something.
Iida: Can you really get him to do that?!
Watanabe: It's not like I'm going to just ask him and leave it at that! Matsukuma is composing a song for reference. I want it to be blues mixed with melancholy mixed with J-pop. I'm not going back to my roots or anything, but by the end, BiS's sound had gotten pretty loud, and I'd like to go back to what they sounded like at the beginning one more time. I'd also like to do thrashcore, maybe. Well, nothing has been decided on yet anyway (laughs).
Iida: If you're going to do thrashcore, please contact Limited Express (has gone?) (laughs).
Watanabe: Maybe I'll get you to come play guitar for us. Matsukuma might get too noisy, like, "Come at me harder with that!" (laughs).
Iida: You've decided to come out with the album in May, right?
Watanabe: Yes. We will release a full album in May. I've decided to start up our own label this time.
Watanabe: "SUB TRAX." BiSH will be on it, but I want to work with other artists, too.
Iida: Huh, I feel like I've seen this logo before.... You really like alternative, don't you (laughs)?
Nishizawa: You're not with avex this time?
Watanabe: Right, if the time comes, they'll be the first I go to talk to if I need something, but right now the only company I'm dealing with is my own. I want OTOTOY, since you started with BiS, to follow us around for this documentary.
Iida: All right then. Gladly! What should the title be...?
Watanabe: (Writes out the title and schedule on the whiteboard) The subtitle is long... Maybe this? Okay, let's go with it!
"BiSH~Rock'n Roll Swindle~ Can the knockoff surpass the original?!"
It's not fun if it's not a life or death kind of struggle
Iida: This seems pretty serious. Are you going to be the focus? Or the idols?
Watanabe: The idols. They're obviously going to get compared to BiS, so I think it will definitely be a struggle. Will they hate it, will they overcome it, will they run away from it, will they make excuses for it...
Iida: So as the knockoff of BiS, will the gradually hit bigger venues and generally follow the same path?
Watanabe: No, it's like, whether it's piggybacking or a knockoff, I think it's pretty established that they will never surpass the original. So-and-so compared to Utada Hikaru, so-and-so compared to Hamasaki Ayumi... Well, BiS was kind of a knockoff from the start, but I want to turn that presupposition that BiSH will never surpass the original on its head. I haven't personally seen the moment when the knockoff becomes the original, so I want to show people how it's done. OTOTOY has history with BiS, right? So I think it might bring to life this, "Can the knockoff really do better?" with you comparing the two as you follow them.
Iida: "Surpass" basically means what, in this case?
Watanabe: Yokohama Arena. I also want to do things that we couldn't do for BiS, like Yomiuri Land and Nippon Budokan.
Iida: There's some level of recognition involved when we compare them to BiS, so to some extent I think it will work, but after that it's all uphill. What's been the biggest struggle for you after BiS?
Watanabe: After BiS I became company director, and it was like everything kept springing back up for me, so I lost that rebellious spirit. Like suddenly manners are so much more important, which has been a pretty big struggle for me.
Iida: Has there been any sort of jealousy regarding BiS?
Watanabe: There has. Memories of the past are so sweet, aren't they? I wanted to quit so many times, even before Yokohama Arena, and there were times when I said, "This is the last thing they're going to do so why am I not trying harder?" In the end, Yokohama Arena brought in a ton of money, but we were so far in the red right until the very end. And in the end, all I can remember is how fun it was. Also, when I was working with BiS, I had an artist that would attract new fans, which I think was so great, but now I don't have anything like that and there are things about it that make me impatient. Like, you really do have to have an artist with some sort of power.
Iida: You don't have that in any of the artists you're currently working with?
Watanabe: Of course I'm not neglecting the artists I'm working with, or rather I'm working towards that goal with all of them, but pla2me started so that Saki and Mari could do what they want to do, and BILLIE IDLE® is more of what sorts of interesting things NIGO® and the members want to do rather than me pushing my opinions onto them, so I don't feel like I have anything where I can say, "My responsibility, my sales!" I want to make something that's my responsibility, something to spend my life on.
Iida: And BiSH is what came out of that.
Watanabe: It just came as an idea all of a sudden. "I have to do BiS one more time." In the audition materials, I wrote, "Let's make emotions and entertainment together!" and then people told me, "It sounds like an ad for a sweatshop," but I really do think that we all made emotions and entertainment when I was working with BiS. I want to enjoy that one more time. I even have to experience what I did at Kokugikan, so much pain I wanted to die, one more time.
Iida: It's more interesting without any sort of protection.
Watanabe: It's no fun. It has to be a life or death kind of struggle. Really, really thinking about it, I was just a company worker when I was doing BiS, so when we went particularly far into the red, I would say, "I don't care," and it was no big deal. Now, it's dangerous. I wonder if I shouldn't show more of how I'm doing when I'm struggling that much more.
Iida: But now you have new responsibilities as the head of the company.
Watanabe: That's true. If BiSH sells with me as president and everyone gets to eat, I think I'd start looking forward to bringing up a new set of staff, but thinking about what it means to be independent, I'd rather do everything myself, first.
Nishizawa: You were really suffering before Kokugikan. Unrelated to work, I'd get a call from you at like 3 in the morning and you'd say, "Being able to talk about this makes me feel better" (laughs). I think we miss that side of you, or at least we have things that we want from you.
Watanabe: It's been a while since I've had a say in live production. I didn't really do anything for BiS' Yokohama Arena, it was just like, "Jun-chan, could we do this?" and me crossing my arms, going, "Well, that should be fine, sure." For Akasaka Blitz, it was a much crazier scene, with everyone running around in a commotion, like, "○sx×v△b□~=wq$, stop messing around!" When I was thinking about what I wanted to do next, someone else would do it for me or at least put a lot of effort into it. That's a really amazing thing, but on the other hand, if I don't have that sense of responsibility for what happens, I feel like I can't fail. That's why, even though I'll get more and more people working with me, my goal with BiSH is to create another "world." That's my thinking going into this, so at the end of the day, I just want us all to have fun together.