SANA currently is a solo musician, but we first saw him appear on the music scene in 2001 when he was in the band “Lusid bare inu”, but the band broke up two years later, and SANA joined the band “MASK” in June of that same year. Even though “MASK” was only on the scene for three years, they released 8 maxi-singles and a best of album before they broke up and SANA started his solo career.
It took until 2012 for SANA to actually have his first show outside of Japan, which inspired him to visit South America to study English and take photos a year later to improve his chances with communication overseas. So you could definitely say SANA is very much thinking about the fans outside of Japan as well.
Anyway, there are quite some things to ask today, so let’s not waste any more time and..
Of course I know who you are, but I’m sure there are more than enough readers who have no idea who you are or what you do exactly. Can you please introduce yourself so everyone’s up to date?
SANA: Hi. Nice to meet you! My name is SANA. I’m a guitarist and solo singer. Please call me SANA SAMA. Even though I’m a musician from Japan I’ve visited over 20 countries overseas and played over 85 shows outside of Japan.
One glance at your works suggests that you’re very “visual”. Your visual image is just as important to you as your music, but has your work always been this way, or did you feel like you got more freedom to be your creative self as time went on?
SANA: Thank you very much for noticing that! I try to move onwards with my vision, so it’s still a build-up process.
I always loved the world of ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei). When I was younger I always thought this world was absolutely perfect, but in fact it’s a very closed off world at the same time. So sometimes it is perfect, but I often feel like it’s not enough.
You have quite the career to your name already as the guitarist of “MASK” and” Kαin”, but you’ve also supported other musicians during their tour, and of course your own solo career. Even though you’re working solo now, do you prefer to work alone, or would you rather work with a full band again?
SANA: If the artists I’m working with are good friends of mine I prefer to work as a group rather than solo, yes. But for now I actually prefer working solo, since the work of a solo artist all comes from one person. I feel the need to know everything, and I have to learn everything right now as well.
Your love for music must have been sparked by something, right? What made you decide to pursue a career as a musician?
SANA: When I touched music for the very first time it felt like freedom. Falling in love with it was very easy. I never expected that I would be doing any shows overseas, let alone 85 of them. This next March I will actually reach 100 shows overseas thanks to the upcoming tour too!
Can you tell me something about the creative process behind your songs? Since it’s only you, you’re the one making the decisions for everything, but how does the process work exactly?
SANA: New songs always come to me after the end of a tour. Because I get all kinds of emotions from the audience in each city I visit during a tour. The outfit I wear on stage will depend on the list of songs I’m playing that night, but it kind of goes automatically. The tour is the most important thing for me right now.
Always on the road
Speaking of touring, throughout the years you’ve visited Eastern Europe and the Middle East several times, which are both areas that artists usually don’t visit during their European tour. Or at least not as extensively as you do. But what attracts you to these countries?
SANA: I feel like the audience in those countries is very pure, and I really wish that people in the western part of the European Union would be like this too. If I will go a European tour, I do have to feel the emotions, right?
Like you just mentioned already, you’re about to embark on a new tour around Eastern Europe. During this tour you’re mostly playing club-sized venues, but was this a deliberate choice, or did you have to settle for a stage of this size?
SANA: This upcoming tour will be a three-months tour, from December 2017 to March 2018. The venues I’ll be playing at have a capacity of 100 to 300 people each, but we purposely didn’t choose big venues. So yes, this was a deliberate choice on our end. I have some special songs that I have prepared for this tour, and I’m very excited because I can’t wait to play them!
You’ve been touring so much over the recent years, so I’m sure you’ve made a lot of memories during those times as well. But what would be an experience you’ll never forget?
SANA: Hmmm… Actually, all memories are unforgettable. But I have forgotten some details from some of them by now. I want to be able to keep the memories forever though, so I keep a dairy during every tour. Let me read something from it for you now: “I woke up at 5 AM to travel to the next city. This trip took 12 hours! Other than that it’s the same schedule until Tuesday.” I wrote this on a Friday. Looking at this now… It seems like I have a very hard schedule lol.
What I really want to share with you is that a tour is always hard. But the memories are amazing!
Even though you’re away so much, at some point you do have to return home. What do you typically like to do on a day at home, with no tour or performance on your agenda?
SANA: I would like to do a sports type of day sometime. But I don’t have many friends to be honest, lol.
Usually when I have a day off I do some training, but after that I feel so tired that I fall asleep while listening to music.
Collaborations, dreams & goals for the future
One of your collaborations was with Kazuki Yao, and another with Hiroaki Takahashi, who are both voice actors. This means you combined the worlds of anime and ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei). Would you like to do a collaboration like this again? Or would you rather collaborate with someone else?
SANA: Anime and ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) are big parts of Japanese culture, so I figured it would have an amazing result if I mixed these two worlds together on stage. That’s why I made that project. If the opportunity presents itself I would love to work with these artists again. But I want to collaborate with someone who both has nice feelings and the same view as I do above all.
You’ve been a solo artist for a long time now, so you’ve learned a lot as well. Is there anything that you know now, but you wish you knew back then?
SANA: I would advice the younger version of me to learn English, but also to go overseas before 2007. I’ll know why, haha.
But I’m actually really happy with what my career is like right now. Nobody copies me, or has the same career I have right now.
I’m sure you’ve reached some of your original goals right now, but we always keep on dreaming. What are some of your goals right now?
SANA: I want to go on a world tour someday, in which I will go to every single country in one year. And I want to release a new album.
Actually, I always say that I will release an album next year, but it hasn’t become reality just yet. So I want to say it again, I will release a new album next year! Or at least a single…
Unfortunately, this last question was the last one on my list for today as well. But I do want to end this interview on a high note, so is there something you’d like to share with everyone reading the interview today?
SANA: Thank you very much for reading my interview, of course. I’m going to continue going my way and make good music. I wish I will be able to visit you in your city, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting you there one day.
Thank you very much to all of you to give me the opportunity to meet you. Much love!
Like mentioned in the interview already, SANA will be going on a tour through Eastern Europe from December 2017 to March 2018. Not too many artists tour the Eastern part of Europe, and the ones that do will certainly not have as many dates there as SANA.
These countries have a special place in his heart, since he even prepared some songs especially for this tour!
There’s currently no information about a new release, but maybe there will be something after the tour, since inspiration usually comes after the tour ends, right?
For more information, please visit SANA’s own website (linked in the section below)!
Follow SANA on social media
雪 (Yuki) is the owner and driving force behind both Arlequin Magazine and Arlequin Photography.
She started in 2009 as a photographer with Arlequin Photography, but due to a growing interest in journalism, translation and behind-the-scenes work in general the project burst out of it's seams in 2021 and expanded through the addition of Arlequin Magazine.
雪 (Yuki) is a native Dutch speaker and maintains both the English and Dutch sections of both Magazine and Photography with original content, translations and photography as well as all the behind-the-scenes work for both websites.
She speaks Dutch, English, Japanese and German.