[Translation] "I am..." beatfreak track-by-track interview - Ayumi Hamasaki Sekai
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Old 7th November 2009, 12:09 AM
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[Translation] "I am..." beatfreak track-by-track interview

I hurried this cuz I was excited. XD So there are probably some silly mistakes here & there, but it should be pretty much right. I'll probably revisit this translation later on, but I wanted to share it!

Again, this doesn't include any of the single songs, it seems beatfreak didn't have her reply to those - either that or there are commentaries on the singles in other issues of "beatfreak." If anyone finds any, do let me know!

----------------------------------------

"I am..."
I'm never gonna give up.
If I can't make myself clear, then I'll keep on shouting till I do!

Ayumi Hamasaki is releasing her fourth original album, "I am...," on January 1st.
The album compiles hit singles like "M" and "Dearest," not to mention the System F trance number "Connected" and the TK composition "a song is born" (although the single version was a duet with keiko, the version included here is a Hamasaki Ayumi solo version, called "A Song is born"), and Ayu has taken on the challenge of performing a huge number of music genres! She is putting the finishing touches on her work in the year 2001 and hinting at her direction in the year 2002 with this one disc.

First off, may I hear the themes that the album "I am..." has in it?
A: When I make my albums, I always work from a theme, but this time, there was just about no time to work on that, I couldn't go into it starting from a theme, but I still went to work allowing the sound I want to make = the sound I wanted to express, to take shape. But because of that, I couldn't begin this album in an "I'm gonna make an album that sounds like such-and-such!" sort of way. But partway through making the album, I did notice that it had no real sense of unity, and it made me really impatient (bitter smile).

So how did you finally bring it all together into one thing?
A: In this album, the song I made very last was "Naturally," and in its last chorus, there's a part that says "freedom and solitude unite," but I realized, "Whenever I make an album, something like that is absolutely always the foundation." So far, inside myself, inside the person known as Ayu, those two things didn't try to unite with one another. I kinda feel something similar to it, but a someone else might go from "It's not likely Ayu and I will understand each other" to eventually the same "People are lonely creatures" place where Ayu is.

That's possible! Is that okay to say that? (laugh)
A: The part that says "Even though I wanted it, I gave up" was in my heart somewhere, but when I was writing the lyrics to "Naturally," I became someone who would never give up. Until then, I had a feeling of "It's okay if only the ones who already understand me get this," but it turned into a feeling of "If I tell you this and you don't understand, I'll keep shouting it out until you do!"

Moving on, may I hear the reason for your album's title, "I am..."?
A: Of course there was the whole "projecting my true self" mood that "I am..." came from, but that's not all it was. In "Daybreak" there's a part that says "we've lost our faces because of this era," but now I think this is an era in which "faceless people (people with no inviduality, accomodating people)" are everywhere. But I don't think it's an extremely sad thing.

Ah, I see!
A: Keeping that in mind, Bancho (ayu's Nail Artist, Kanako Miura) put out a book on nail art in December, and recalling a message from me that was printed on the book's obi, I thought that Bancho's "face" was in her work = the nail designs that Bancho had made. For example, in magazines there are features on nail art, and there's like a hundred photos of nails there, aren't there? But that one thing is simply what Bancho does, so when she found that "Bancho's 'face' is the fact that she has that work," she gained self-confidence.


Simply put, "face" = "individuality," right? But it was far easier said than done to put your "face" out there in this work.
A: Oh definitely. Looking back at myself this time, I wondered, what sort of "face" had I been leaving behind in my work? I thought, aren't various artists' songs flowing randomly over radio and television? If all the voices were the same, even if people knew "this is an Ayu song," would I be leaving behind any sort of "face" at all? After that I started to think, "Who am I?" and later, "What am I to the people who surround me?"... Simply put, I really want to know the answer to the "..." part of "I am...". The "..." that says "You are so-and-so, aren't you? So, who is that exactly?" People might hear the title "I am..." and think to themselves "I am... what?" and that's why I chose it.

So you mean not their individual name or appearance, but instead what's inside them? Asking themselves about that?
A: Yes. I was thinking, "It's so simple and fundamental, but it's such a hugely important thing."


By the way, "I am..." is going to be your fourth original album, isn't it? So we did some anlysis and comparison of these four albums. First off, "A Song for XX" had you full of this "I want to show my true self!" energy, and that was sort of your starting-off point.
A: Yeah. That's definitely what I was like.


Next, on your second album "LOVEppears," we have an Ayu who's begun to look at her surroundings (the world), who has now left her starting position and begun to write about her surroundings, yes? And on your third album, "Duty," it seems like an Ayu who's watching things from the world. So, now the fourth album, "I am...," sometimes I think "What is it?" And I think that it really is that Ayu's origin is where she's departed from, and that seems to be where the energy comes from.
A: Indeed... that's very deep. Yeah! I think that might be what it is.


I'm glad to hear you say that. So, recording the album this time, you visited the studio alot of times, but you had a rough time with it, didn't you?
A: Yeah. The absolute worst timing. I had a hard time writing the lyrics (bitter smile). But giving birth is always painful, so bringing this album into the world was also, but I wasn't alone this time. Compared to the past, especially! So far, there was always a feeling of "I'm working on this" meaning "I'm facing myself alone", you know, "Working in solitary is nice and simple," but this time there wasn't anywhere near that sort of "private, private" feeling. So it was very enjoyable. I wasn't nearly as tense doing it that way. I think it had a rough feeling because so much weight came off my shoulders, and for good reason.

Lastly, I'd like to hear about the look of this album's jacket...
A: For the album Jacket, since the title is "I am..." I never wanted to really have a decked out image. I took alot of things into consideration, but determined it'd be best to not decorate the album with extraneous things this time. So I went with a "Natural" look.

The type of image is that of the era of creation, or a time when the earth was just born, a time when there's nothing. But you're protecting with peace that which generates from that nothing. Ayu's word, "natural," seems to give that impression.
A: Exactly!

INTERVIEW: Kazuki Okabe


01 "I am..." (Music/CREA, Arrangement/Tadashi Kikuchi + tasuku)

"I am..." is the song that gave the album its title. It's full of the meaning "I am me, and not anyone else...", which I say even at the very beginning of this song. It's the "core" inside of the being known as Ayu. This is a song that I wrote as a scream from my heart about "my own never-changing, most finely-tuned parts" and "(but simultaneously this too) my missing pieces." This is never-changing, I think, and what will continue to never change. But, without such a piece, I can't think that I want to become "peaceful."


02 "opening Run" (Music, Arrangement/CMJK)


03 "Connected" (Music,Arrangement/Ferry Corsten)

When I first heard this song, I thought, it's a trance song, the synthesizer is working overtime, there's no way I could do a fusion with this. I thought, I don't even speak English very well, surely someone else, not Ayu, would be better for a trance collaboration? But Ferry (Corsten, "system F") made a very strong approach, saying "I want you to write lyrics for this no matter what!" So I thought, "Well, may as well, right?" and for this song, I was transmitting a message as an outsider, and I didn't feel like I was working on writing lyrics, it was more of a comfortable, "writing a letter to a friend" feeling, and it was nice.
So then, it became a letter I was writing to Ferry, but I was thinking "how can I make it Ayu-style," and I thought maybe "wordplay," or "japaneseplay," would be good.
"I discover (MITSUKETE)," "I stare (MITSUMETE)," "I make sure (MISADAMETE)" and so on with other such similar words make it feel like a thesaurus has been opened up. But I got to thinking there'd just be too much to do... (bitter smile)
I was just packing it so full of words with the same sound, and I had to put the words that I chose in an order that made the lyrics comprehensible.
I think once you hear Ferry's song with the vocals inserted, you can hear that I'm repeating the same thing. Anyway, as for the lyrics, I thought I heard the staff who could understand Japanese going "What is she saying?" So I wrote the chorus section to say, "We are all connected at each and every place, so when you're thinking of these words, I already am too." When you understand the answer to "What is this?," the meaning of the words, it's that even though Ayu is far away in Japan, she's still connected to you!
In the end, there wasn't really an excited feeling of "let's get these vocals done!" Since the synthesizer's sound was very inorganic, I thought it would be best to sing in a more expressionless manner, which was a challenge.


04 "UNITE!" (Music/CREA, Arrangement/HΛL)


05 "evolution" (Music/CREA, Arrangement/HΛL)


06 "Naturally" (Music/CREA, Arrangement/CMJK)

It took something like 20 minutes or so total to write this song. Strictly speaking, with everything floating around in my head, I think about songs for a long time, but once I started writing this one, it was surprisingly smooth sailing. When I work on a song, typically, I first write the CM size (the 30-seconds-long chorus section), and then I put together the whole thing later, but in this case the space of time between writing the CM version and writing the full song (when work on the album began) was so long, so it took longer to complete this song than the others.


07 "NEVER EVER" (Music/CREA, Arrangement/CHOKKAKU)


08 "still alone" (Music/CREA, Arrangement/CMJK)

This song was done in a backwards pattern from "Naturally," as what I wanted to write was very clear in my mind. But the orchestral part (the sound of its melody) was really very good, no matter what issues I had making the song. I wanted to do a song with the theme "song that seems cute," by an Ayu who isn't a woman but still a little girl, and explaining to CMJK the subtle nuances in the arrangement that I wanted was difficult. Every person has a slightly different standard of what makes something "cute" (bitter smile). I think I confused CMJK when I explained it to him. I wasn't able to explain anything but my own abstract "cute feelings." Because of that, we had to redo it many times... So, finally, the song we made became completely different from what we'd worked on at the beginning. At first, it was a much more grim song. (lol) I'd say in interviews that "The last song finished was 'Naturally'" but honestly, this song was also done in the same time period, still redoing things until the very last moment before the album was due to be finished. I think the staff were pretty impatient, saying "This will never be done in time!"


09 "Daybreak" (Music/CREA + D・A・I + junichi matsuda, Arrangement/tasuku)

"Daybreak" is almost like a light in the dark, very warm, very fresh perhaps... It's a song with a pureness that makes you feel shy if you listen, so ayu gambled with feeling shy when being so honest in this song! To say "you're so shy about that!" I wrote with a feeling of "words that shine without saying anything." The song was written very quickly. So far, for me... I think I've been writing about feeling as though something was missing. You could say that Ayu's style was "showing honesty, but not being honest" in many things.


10 "taskinlude" (Music, Arrangement/tasuku)


11 "M" (Music/CREA, Arrangement/HΛL)


12 "A Song is born" (Music, Arrangement/Tetsuya Komuro)

The foundation for this song's lyrics were in the tour. I usually release an album after the tour has influenced it enough, this time too I did get alot of sounds I thought I should do, and I thought I should make use of those shapes. At that time, Komuro-san unexpectedly slipped in and offered a music composition... And he said, "How do you want to do this song?" and I told him my feelings that "During my own tour, I felt the way this song feels to me," and he said "Alright, reflect those feelings in this song." It was the first time I'd sung a song written by Komuro-san, but other times I'd been given songs from him I thought "oh okay, this is nice" at the time, over and over, but I felt like just the name "Komuro Tetsuya" carried alot of weight.
By the way, the way of writing the title has changed from the single version (the december 12th released single, all in lowercase as "a song is born") to the album version, in order to make the distinction that instead of it being sung together with KEIKO, it's a solo song here.


13 "Dearest" (Music/CREA + D・A・I, Arrangement/Naoto Suzuki)


14 "no more words" (Music/CREA + D・A・I, Arrangement/Naoto Suzuki, tasuku)

Once I got to the part where I was making this song, I'd started heading into the end of the album, and I thought of the phrase "no more words." Although the lyrics are rather nice for such an intense subject matter, I wanted to convey the part of a person who's "sorrow" is that "If everyone already understands, then that's okay, right? Because everyone keeps going forward, just because they have no choice but to go through life..." No matter what kind of harshness there is, I thing I should live with strength. When making this album, I thought "Gah, it's hopeless! This is impossible!" over and over again, but despite that, I persisted in making it, and I was somehow able to reach this end result... (bitter smile)
Actually, I wrote the lyrics to this song once before, but scrapped it and it was newly rewritten. I think the reason was that there was a section saying something like, "after this, I'm not saying anything else." When I look at the entire album, the flow of the sequence between "I am..." and "no more words," I've put my message out there perfectly. I'm very very happy with it... So here, I was using one phrase to convey something, rather than doing it the reverse way and adding more words just for the sake of explanation, which makes the feelings become more trivial. Even I have things I don't say, and I'm sure everyone wouldn't press me to give any more answers than I have. So "I'm not saying any more right now" is what I wrote. By the way, the meaning of the title "no more words" is... "You can understand even though I'm not saying any more than this."


15 "Endless sorrow ~gone with the wind ver.~" (Music/CREA, Arrangement/CMJK)

Last edited by Delirium-Zer0; 7th November 2009 at 12:12 AM.
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Old 7th November 2009, 12:42 AM
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Thank you Deli!
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Old 7th November 2009, 01:50 AM
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Yay! This is my most favorite album, so I am really glad I have a new perspective on this! I shall now listen to this with more appreciation.

Thank you very much for taking the time to do this, Deli!
But I though the "A Song is born" was due to the 9/11 attacks? Though wiki says that, and knowing wiki....
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Old 7th November 2009, 02:01 AM
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Oh no, "a song is born" was written for 9/11, absolutely, but it seems the specific feelings she wrote about were things she was already feeling during Dome Tour 2001, which makes sense given the tour's theme.
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Old 7th November 2009, 02:13 AM
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I love the insight into Connected! One of Ayu's best songs. I love how she felt she had to sing it expressionless given that the song's composition is so "organic". It's one of the highlights of the song.

And the story behind the title is fantastic too.

You can tell just from these notes that this was the album Ayu was the most involved in, the most "in control" of making in her career. She knew what she wanted and made it that way.
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Old 7th November 2009, 02:15 AM
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Yeah, and it definitely sounds like she was a big perfectionist about it, like she had a really hard time getting it EXACTLY right, EXACTLY the way she wanted it. MUCH respect for her.
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Old 7th November 2009, 02:19 AM
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Thank you very much
I really enjoy reading your translations~

(Are going to translate the other interviews as well? I mean for the other albums? I would really love to read the one about Memorial Address!!)
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Old 7th November 2009, 02:31 AM
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I'm definitely gonna do more translating, "RAINBOW" is up next of course Dunno how long it'll be, I think I need to take future translations a bit slower, lol ~
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Old 7th November 2009, 04:04 AM
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Thanks u so much ! i love all your translations .
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Old 7th November 2009, 04:14 AM
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Thanks a lot Deli!!
I am is her greatest work and my fave one!!
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Old 7th November 2009, 04:15 AM
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Oh, I LOVE these kind of interviews! It really gives you a whole new perspective of the album, or whatever it is she's talking about in an interview like this.

And when I was reading each song's description, I totally played it in the background. X)

Thank you so much, Deli. ^_^

Now, the only thing I wonder about is why "Endless sorrow" is at the end. The way she describes "no more words" is certainly giving a feel of "The end" for the album. I mean, I like the new remix to "Endless sorrow" for the end, and it's a great ending, but I still wonder.
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Old 7th November 2009, 04:23 AM
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Thank you sooo much Deli!

i love her explanations of Connected and I am...!
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Old 7th November 2009, 05:17 AM
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You're amazing, Deli. Ayu's Wiki article wouldn't have become an FA without the work of people like you.

It's really cool to hear the method behind the genius (so she writes the chorus first, I didn't know that!)
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Old 7th November 2009, 05:33 AM
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my most favorite album. glad that ayu wrote almost all of those songs.
thanks for the translation, Deli
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Old 7th November 2009, 08:55 AM
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Thank you for translation Deli.

You are doing great work - thank you for LOVEppears, Duty and I am...
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Old 7th November 2009, 09:26 AM
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aw...
great translation...
It's my most favorite album!
YAY..^^
Thanks anyway...
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Old 7th November 2009, 09:28 AM
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thanks ^-^ I love how the explains the title "I am..."
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Old 7th November 2009, 10:15 AM
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THanks!
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Old 7th November 2009, 11:07 AM
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Thank you so much Deli, that's great! ^_^
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Old 7th November 2009, 02:16 PM
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Thanks Deli, really fantastic - this is amazing translation!!

If Ayu ever decide to do a World Tour should hire you as her interpreter
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