It’s that time of year again when Van’s Warped Tour cuts a path through the country bringing with it some of the hottest bands out there. Forty two dates, seven stages and more bands than I can even count bring a mix of punk, rock and just plain fun to a sweltering summer day. This year’s lineup included Nagoya’s hard-rock heroes, coldrain. I had a chance to chat about fans, culture and, of course, music with their front-man and total charmer, Masato, before their show in San Antonio. Read more below the cut.
M: This is our third time here. First time was cool, second time was even cooler. I mean, we’re here at Warped Tour and it’s a festival we’ve always dreamed of playing so we’re really happy.
Lixx: Your last time here was part of a huge world tour at the end of last year behind your latest album, VENA. That must have felt really great to get to perform a headlining tour of that magnitude. Is that something you’ve been striving for?
M: We definitely love playing in Japan and love playing outside because, after only seeing people on the internet as fans, we’re now actually meeting people and getting to know how much our music has been connecting with so many people. For me, being half American, finally being able to come over here and tour is a whole new experience. So, it’s been really great to be able to do the whole world wide thing.
Lixx: It must feel a little extra special since it’s like the other part of you.
M: Yeah, totally.
Lixx: When you were first starting out as a young man in music, did you ever imagine yourself playing in a festival like this with so many other great bands?
M: No, not at all. I didn’t even imagine being able to tour all of Japan and now we’re flying miles and miles out. And now, we’re getting used to it, kinda. Like, it’s normal for us to be touring outside Japan. It’s crazy, it’s surreal. It gives us that fresh feeling every time we go out because we meet people that never heard of us before every time. It’s just really cool.
Lixx: I can’t help but feel like we are approaching an exciting time for Japanese music globally. It seems like every day I see more and more bands touring Europe and North America. Bands like yourself, LOKA, Crossfaith, and of course, BABYMETAL have shown up on festival listings around the world. As a band who has been on the circuit for some time, do you feel a change happening within the global audience that opens them up to that?
M: I think there’s always been a handful of bands that have tried to do it, but I think at the same time, like you said, there has to be that openness of the people that are listening to the music. And, I think because of movies, anime, all that becoming so world wide, I think there’s even a bigger market. It always used to be so much bigger in Japan. I mean, there were always people that liked it [in the US], but it wasn’t that big. Right now, it’s like, it’s such a global scale. And, music connects to all that. Even if Japanese bands…like us and Crossfaith, we don’t really sound like we’re from Japan, but we definitely have those inspirations that we get from living there and growing up there, so I definitely think we have something to offer the people all over the world that listen to Western music. I think it’ll be cool to see ten years later or twenty years later what happens. Like right now, there’s UK and Australian bands in the scene like normal so…I’m hoping it’ll happen. You never know. One day, Warped Tour will have five Japanese bands and it won’t even be weird.
Lixx: As you mentioned before, you are both Japanese and American. In listening to your music, one can definitely feel this same duality, especially in VENA, which is at times very obviously influenced by American music, but still has that unique Japanese flavor. How has being a person of two very different cultures influenced you musically? Do you think it gives you a perspective that maybe purely Japanese or Western musicians may not have?
M: Not just music, but I think in a lot of things I have both perspectives. But, I’ve just grown up trying to take the best sides of both. It’s like if I wasn’t able to deliver something cool from that, then I’m probably not doing something right. I think it’s really cool for me to be able to feel that connection with both sides. I hope in the future I can do something that connects those countries more. I mean, you never know. I’ve always wanted to sing in Japanese. One day, if I can get a full American crowd to sing in Japanese, that would be cool.
Lixx: I’ve seen it happen! It happens!
M: But, maybe it’s the opposite for me. Maybe I’m supposed to get a full on Japanese crowd singing in English. We’ll see what happens, but I think I definitely have a different perspective than full-blooded people do and hopefully I can show how cool both cultures are and bridge that gap a little more.
Lixx: In prepping for these interviews, I often read or listen to interviews you’ve done before and I came across something that I found interesting. In an interview for BurnFM (http://burnfm.com/music/interviews/coldrain-interview/), you described how you initially struggled with singing in Japanese because you didn’t like the way you sounded. You would think, being a Japanese band, that it would be the opposite. Do you still feel self-conscious?
M: It’s because I really like Japanese singers and the only problem is that, when I sing in Japanese, I have this Western accent. When I sing in English, I don’t have a Japanese accent. But when I sing in Japanese, I sound like a foreigner. I just really hate it because I love how Japanese singers sound and for some reason I get this accent in there that’s just really bad to me. So, if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it right. It’s gonna take me some time. When it feels natural and it feels right I think I’ll do it, but it still hasn’t happened.
M: It’s weird because I’ve never been forced to. You definitely sell more records singing in Japanese. There’s totally a wider audience with that. But, no one’s ever really pushed it on me. I think everyone kind of feels like maybe it is weird, but I think if I can get that more natural feel to it I’ll be able to connect with even more people.
Lixx: Probably my favorite track on VENA is Gone. It has an intensity of emotion that really speaks to me. It’s a familiar story about regret and learning to let go. I wonder how much of the story is inspired by your own experience or the experiences of those around you?
M: It’s a lot of what I’ve experienced. Everyone gets into shitty relationships and I just wanted to write a song that could be from either side. When something goes wrong, it’s not always one persons fault and, from each other, it could look like the other side was wrong. I just wanted a song that, even though I’m a guy, a girl could relate to. Anyone can relate to it. I just wanted it to be neutral. It’s a song that’s connected with a lot of people more than ever and it means a lot to me. As a song, it just felt so right as a single and to have a video on it. It was actually the first song we wrote on the album. We just went into it feeling really right and I think it’ll be one of those songs that stays with us for the rest of our career.
Lixx: I feel like all of the songs on this album are, in a way, an examination of common aspects of life, be it relationships like in Gone, perseverance like in My Story, or the dreams of youth in Heart of the Young. Do you find writing songs like this helps you examine and work through aspects of your own life that might otherwise be difficult to process?
M: I’m not one of those people that can write it out. It has to be in song for me. A lot of things I couldn’t really express, it just feels natural for me to sing it in a song. The thing is, those kind of emotions are hard to express for a lot of people, too, and I think rock music just gives that…you feel way more free with music and singing and shows. It’s just something for me…I do it for myself. It’s something to free myself and if it connects to other people freeing themselves that’s awesome.
Lixx: You described the core concept of the album as ‘getting back to your roots.’ Was there anything in particular that made you feel the need to revisit your beginnings?
M: It was definitely when we started touring the world. Right before we started doing those tours we were in this place where, in Japan, a lot of people knew us, we were selling out venues that we wanted to sell out. We were in good shape. When we wrote our previous record, we were like, we want to write a record that’s gonna appeal to the world. We went into the studio kind of focused on that and we didn’t really focus it on what we’d been doing in the past and what coldrain was all about. We still love the record. But, we realized that after playing all kinds of songs when we did those world tours, it just felt like we could do whatever we wanted. And, people were reacting to the songs that we wrote toward the Japanese fans. And then, it was like anything was okay, so we just realized we wanted to write a record like what we wanted to listen to when we were kids. I think, that’s why the record got that feel and we definitely made it more pop than it used to be and heavier than it used to be and it just captured more of the band that we are. It’s translated way more live, too, so hopefully we get to keep on writing more like this in the future and we’ll feel more in the right place.
Lixx: Now that you’ve gone back to that foundation, what’s next? Will we see a new era in the evolution of coldrain?
M: We just have to keep doing it, meet more people, be in different countries. We’ll just get more comfortable. We’re a band that evolves by day. Every experience we have just makes us stronger and better. We used to be terrible. We used to not be able to play our instruments. I sucked at singing. We’re getting comfortable by day and I think, no matter what we do, as long as we keep it up, we can keep on evolving and keep on getting better at what we do. I think we just gotta keep going.
Lixx: Any big plans in the future you can tell us about?
Ooo! We’re definitely gonna keep writing. We actually just recorded two new songs. And for the first time we…this is the first time even telling anyone, but we did two acoustic versions. We did an acoustic version of Gone and The Story and we really like the vibe that we got in the studio and we’re really stoked. We’re gonna try to release that somehow and then we’ll go out and write a new record, a full album, so hopefully next year we’ll have a new record and then another big world tour.
Lixx: We’ll see you here again!
Special thanks to Van’s Warped Tour and Masato of coldrain. Check the tour dates below to catch coldrain at a show near you!
The Fairgrounds Nashville
St. Petersburg, FL
West Palm Beach, FL
Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre At The South Florida Fairgrounds
PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte
Virginia Beach, VA
Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater at Virginia Beach
New York State Fair: Gray Lot
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
The XFINITY Theatre
The Pavilion at Montage Mountain
Darien Center, NY
Darien Lake PAC
First Niagara Pavilion
Merriweather Post Pavilion
P.N.C. Bank Arts Center
Klipsch Music Center
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Blossom Music Center
Riverbend Music Center
Auburn Hills, MI
The Palace of Auburn Hills
Tinley Park, IL
Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
Maryland Heights, MO
Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Bonner Springs, KS
Providence Medical Center Amphitheater
Salt Lake City, UT
Utah State Fairpark
Pepsi Center Arena Lot
Balloon Fiesta Park
Phoenix Event Complex
San Diego, CA
Qualcomm Stadium at Jack Murphy Field
Mountain View, CA
Las Vegas, NV
The Backyard Outdoor Events Center at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Ford Idaho Center
White River Amphitheater
Portland Expo Center