I’m sure that most people by now have heard of 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) as a band, but in the recent years I have seen their overseas activity get less and less. Yet there was a lot going on in the world of the band. Not only have they gone independent last year, they’ve also lost their guitarist, gave their support for a venue in Tokyo, and just like the rest of us, are dealing with the pandemic in their own way.
I was granted the opportunity to ask vocalist 苑 (Sono), keyboard player 彩雨 (Ayame), bassist 燿 (Yo) and drummer 響 (Hibiki) some questions about the band, the various other projects each member is involved in individually, and a lot of other stuff.
But before we get to the actual interview, let’s refresh for a moment. How do they describe 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) themselves?
According to 苑 (Sono) the “摩天楼 (Matenrou)” part (which is “Skyscraper” in English) is a modern, intense and heavy rock sound. The “オペラ (Opera)” part is a beautiful sound that has been around for a long time, like with classical music. He started the band and chose to give it this name back in 2007 because he wanted to combine these two elements. And that idea still is exactly the same in 2021.
Of course I can introduce each member, but it’s more fun if you introduce yourselves isn’t it? Can you please tell everyone who you are and what you do in the band?
苑 (Sono): I’m 苑 (Sono), the vocalist. I’m also the one who does the songwriting and composition, and on top of that I’m also the band leader. Oh, and my favorite thing is sake.
燿 (Yo): I’m in charge of the bass, but I’m also a model and I play games.
彩雨 (Ayame): I’m 彩雨 (Ayame). I play keyboards. My hobby is watching soccer games.
響 (Hibiki): I’m the drummer, 響 (Hibiki). I played as a support member with the band in 2018, but I joined as an official member in 2019.
As musicians you obviously have a passion for music, but what started this fire within you? What made you want to start playing music full time as a band?
苑 (Sono): I started the band because of the shock X JAPAN caused when I was still a boy. I compose the lyrics and inflate them with the other members. This way I can make music that exceeds my own ideals, so I really want to continue being in a band too.
彩雨 (Ayame): Synthesizers have a really large range of sounds they can handle and produce. It’s a lot of fun. I also like computers, so it was only natural to me that I started using the keyboard as an instrument.
燿 (Yo): I have always loved listening to music, especially the bass.
響 (Hibiki): I tried various instruments throughout the years, but I became a drummer because the drums were the most fun to me and I was actually enthusiastic about practicing them. I still do so every day because of my dream to stand on a big stage with a band, and I just want to do what I love.
When the band was formed the image lived and breathed “ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei)” in a style that was “fashionable” during that time. A lot of artists have more or less dropped their visual image and toned it down over the years, but 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) continues to put their visual image forward even today. What makes this genre so interesting to you?
苑 (Sono): Around 2000 I’ve done songs and been in bands that had different genres. But at that time I really came to realize that the music I wanted to play was ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei). My voice and the songs I make are both strongly influenced by ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei). Whether it’s music or costumes, ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) has an unique world view. What I like about it hasn’t changed since I started.
燿 (Yo): I think that our way of showing and expressing our music is ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei), and that hasn’t changed either.
You’ve also managed to go independent last year. Which is a huge achievement for any artist, but you’ve also managed to do so in one of the most difficult times were activity was canceled and postponed left and right. How does it feel to be independent though? Do you feel like you have more freedom now you don’t have to play by the rules of others?
苑 (Sono): I’m glad I became independent. The freedom of our creativity has not changed, but our freedom of movement has increased. During this difficult pandemic I think that a band that can move, even if it is lightly, will be able to survive.
彩雨 (Ayame): It’s fun to be independent and think about things yourself to run the band.
燿 (Yo): As the internet is becoming more widespread every year I think it’s starting to become more important for me to communicate myself, so I will do my best from now on.
響 (Hibiki): I think it was a good thing that my footwork became lighter for each activity because we went independent. In this day and age there are various tools available for transmissions, and I do believe that we can work on our own now.
Online activities and personal YouTube channels
Let’s talk about the result of the pandemic for a moment, since a lot of artists moved to YouTube and other streaming platforms. And you have too. How was it for you as a group to interact online?
苑 (Sono): The increase in online activities has given me an opportunity to improve my skills. Especially the activity on YouTube is fun. I think that even when the pandemic ends we will still continue to deliver something there.
彩雨 (Ayame): Thanks to the options online I was able to continue my activities regardless. I would like to continue to increase the number of transmissions though.
燿 (Yo): As for right now I think “it’s best to do what you can”. I think now is the time to create content that the fans will enjoy. I want to continue producing good content even when the pandemic is over.
響 (Hibiki): I was always trying to think about what would make my fans happy with my online activities. I think I was able to move forward in a positive way and I don’t feel reluctant to do so at all. I want to continue my online activities in the future too.
Next to the main channel for 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) you all have your own personal channels on YouTube as well. Tell me a bit about those, like what is the idea behind each channel, and what do you think of the other members’ channels? Do you follow them too, or not at all? And what about content, how do you decide what to do next?
苑 (Sono): When the corona virus hit I was looking for something I could do during this time. I found out that 響 (Hibiki) was working really hard on his YouTube channel, so I decided to try it too. So yes, that means I do watch 響 (Hibiki)’s channel. I think that each member having their own channel where they can be themselves as individuals is a good way to improve the skills of the band. As for the content, for me it’s completely random. It’s more or less dependent of whether or not the instrumental track can be prepared or not.
彩雨 (Ayame): I would like to educate the world on useful information through my YouTube channel. Since I’m doing something that isn’t directly related to the band’s activity I am doing it freely in terms of content.
燿 (Yo): Right now I’m only doing what my fans enjoy and what I’d like to do myself on my channel. It feels like I’m doing this more as a personal hobby than as an extension of the band, so I’m free to do whatever I want really.
響 (Hibiki): I’m doing YouTube because I want to become famous as a drummer through the various drum covers I do, and I would also like for you to get to know about 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) at the same time through me. I think it’s very interesting that every member has their own personality on their channel. For what I do next, I either choose from the comments or I pick one of my favorite songs.
苑 (Sono) and 響 (Hibiki) have done collaborations with other artists on their channels already, but would you like to do this again? Who would you like to collaborate with for example?
苑 (Sono): I would like to collaborate more with other musicians. I’m still looking for options though, as there aren’t a lot of musicians who do YouTube individually. I’m also considering searching in other genres.
響 (Hibiki): I would like to collaborate with an artist that I get along with. After that I would like to collaborate with other YouTubers as well.
Since 彩雨 (Ayame) and 燿 (Yo) aren’t focusing on music with their channels, there are other options for potential collaborations for you, aren’t there? Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with, or something that you’d want to do?
彩雨 (Ayame): I would like to exchange opinions on the countermeasures against the coronavirus from the standpoints of politicians and musicians.
燿 (Yo): I’m actually not thinking about doing a collaboration at this time. But if there is a project in the future that seems like fun to me I might do it.
Speaking of collaborations, 苑 (Sono) and 彩雨 (Ayame) were also part of a project called “黒の暁 (Kuro no Akatsuki)” to help out 浦和Narciss (Urawa Narciss) financially. By the looks of it your efforts paid off, but what do you think yourself? Would you do something like this again in the future?
苑 (Sono): We created this project to keep 浦和Narciss (Urawa Narciss) from closing, and I’m happy with the results of it. If necessary I would like to do something like this again in the future, but within a reasonable range.
In 苑 (Sono)’s case 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) isn’t the only musical project you’re working on. You also have a solo project to your name: 運命交差点 (Unmei Kousaten). But what made you start your solo project? Also, do you have any activity for it in the works for this year, since this is very much a “my pace”-type of project?
苑 (Sono): I always wanted to do music that was live band music mixed with POPS and JAZZ. When I thought about going solo I wanted to give shape to this desire of mine. I decided to do this project at my own pace due to the gap in the schedule of 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera). As for activity… We may have a livestream this year, but it’s not certain just yet.
It’s no secret that fans keep turning the subject of the chat during livestreams on the main channel to anime sooner than later, and you’re also a big fan of anime yourself. You sang “魂のルフラン (Tamashi no Rufuran)” at a TV show called “KAROKE BATTLE” and you composed “致命傷 (Chimeishou)” for the anime “オレん家のフロ事情 (Orenchi no Furo Jijou)” with 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera). But what anime do you like the most? And is there a series you would like to compose music for?
苑 (Sono): I’ve loved anime since I was a kid, so my tastes are steadily increasing. Right now I like “Violet Evergarden” the most, because it makes me feel kind and impressed. I would like to compose music for “進撃の巨人 (Shingeki no Kyojin / Attack on Titan)” or “東京喰種 (Toukyou Kuesyu / Tokyo Ghoul)”.
I’ve already hinted at your project earlier in this interview, but right now it’s time to talk about アヤノ．メ (Ayano.me), which you started in 2016. In this project you talk about news and other interesting topics that catch your attention, but what made you pick up such a huge thing? Because news on it’s own is already a never-ending stream of content to work with?
彩雨 (Ayame): I’m interested in many things besides music. I wanted to create a website where I could write my thoughts in my own words.
Your interests in other things besides music is quite diverse, since you’re also a guest-professor at the university Kyoto where you still give lectures about Music & Technology to the students there. It’s interesting for the students to get a lecture from the perspective of a professional musician, but what about you? Have you learned anything from your students?
彩雨 (Ayame): Even now we still have many new discoveries during these classes. Teaching and learning may just be the same thing.
Next to all of that and 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) you also create your own music. Can you share a bit about what you create and why?
彩雨 (Ayame): I like symphonic and cinematic music. There is a magnificent and wide world out there, but there isn’t that much music like this here in Japan. So I want to make more of this type of music myself.
Just like the other members you also very much do your own thing. Like last year you’ve started “Bass clinic” on Twitcasting, a streaming platform that is very popular in Japan because of it’s direct connection to Twitter. In “Bass clinic” you are the teacher, but how did it feel for you to be able to share your ideas and style in such a way?
燿 (Yo): I actually used to do this Bass clinic offline for a long time, but since it’s now a lot easier to participate in online events I started to think I would enjoy it online as well. Since the viewers aren’t limited to just bass players, we’re thinking about content that would be enjoyable both to those who play bass and those who do not. Right now I haven’t decided if I will continue with this in the future or not.
At the very start of the interview you also introduced yourself as a model, aside from being a bassist and a gamer. But you also have your very own clothing line “Kedamax”, where your cat 毛玉 (Kedama) is the main inspiration and model for the designs. But how about other types of clothing? Would you also like to design something that isn’t related to “Kedamax”?
燿 (Yo): I’m interested in apparel brands, so I’d like to make one someday, yes.
On your YouTube channel you play a lot of covers, and quite a number of them are from overseas artists. But what got you so interested in overseas metal?
響 (Hibiki): When I was still a university student I listened to ARCH ENEMY’s song “Nemesis” and that sparked my interest in overseas metal.
Recently you’ve also revealed that the current merchandise of the band was designed by you. And not only that, you also did a special livestream to show off each item to the audience. What was this like for you? Would you like to do something like this again?
響 (Hibiki): I thought it would be easier for the customers to decide if they would want to buy the product or not if they could see it first, and not just from a photo. So I hope I can continue to do this in the future too.
You’re also the youngest member of the band, but you already have quite the career going for you by now. How does it feel to be a member of 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera)?
響 (Hibiki): I’ve played with various bands so far, but 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) is on a completely different level. It has been a really good experience for me and I think I have grown significantly as a drummer compared to before I joined the band.
Let’s turn this question around: how does it feel for the others to have 響 (Hibiki) on the team? Since he is from a different generation with different ideas and all. Is there something you’ve learned from 響 (Hibiki) that you otherwise would have never considered yourself?
苑 (Sono): The unreasonable thing is to assert your opinion firmly.
彩雨 (Ayame): With 響 (Hibiki) we have solid technical skills and a very beloved personality.
燿 (Yo): He’s an aspiring and reliable person, both as a musician and as a human being.
New single: 儚く消える愛の讃歌 (Hakanaku kieru ai no sanka)
Obviously I can’t forget this part either: You’ve started this year with the announcement of a new single: “儚く消える愛の讃歌 (Hakanaku kieru ai no sanka)”. Can you tell me a little bit about this single already?
苑 (Sono): 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) has made a lot of music. Among them I think this song can be considered 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera)’s sound.
彩雨 (Ayame): It’s a powerful song that’s suitable for the new path the band has taken.
燿 (Yo): I think it’s a song that shows the bright future for the new path of the band, and as the first work of the new year.
響 (Hibiki): It’s packed with my favorite kind of drumming. The best melodic speed metal.
“Hymne à l’amour” is actually a very popular song in France, but it has been adapted into Japanese in 1951 by Fubuki Koshii as “愛の讃歌 (Ai no sanka)” and again in 2010 by Utada Hikaru under a different name. And now it’s returning in the title of your new single. Have any of these songs influenced you during the writing and composing stage, or are they completely unrelated?
苑 (Sono): I’m familiar with “愛の讃歌 (Ai no sanka)”, yes. The magnificent and warm tone of that song came to my mind when I was writing the lyrics for this song, so I adopted it as a keyword.
For this release you are working with 大村孝佳 (Takayoshi Ohmura) as a guitarist and YUI (Earthists) as the designer of the artwork. Were they able to translate your ideas into sound and design, or did they bring in their own suggestions too?
苑 (Sono): Almost everything are their own suggestions. They really understood us and managed to translate it into something that fits with 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera).
The new single is going to be obtainable exclusively through your own webshop. Which makes it a little difficult for overseas fans to get their own copy and support you, so I have to ask: what made you decide to make it webshop exclusive, and are you planning on doing something with overseas orders in the future?
苑 (Sono): We live in an era where CDs aren’t selling very well, so I decided I would find another way to sell them, and that way ended up being our own webshop. I would like to switch back to nationwide distribution again when the full album is released though.
彩雨 (Ayame): We are preparing for overseas fans to be able to buy our CDs and goods through the webshop as well. Please wait a little longer for this!
You’ve just announced a new single which comes out on February 17, and a live show that is going to take place on the 1st of March, but what are the future plans for 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) after that? Because of the pandemic still being nowhere near out of our lives I’m going to ask for something you’d actually want to do, regardless if it’s possible or not?
苑 (Sono): I really want to go back to the live venues and do the Chronos TOUR, because it was canceled last year. But I also want to collaborate with various people on YouTube as well.
彩雨 (Ayame): I also want to perform live in various parts of Japan, but overseas as well.
燿 (Yo): Right now my biggest hope is that the pandemic will end soon, and that I will be able to live with peace of mind again.
響 (Hibiki): I really hope that the corona virus will be over soon, and I would like to resume the live performances little by little. Of course, we also produce more works.
When 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) is mentioned in Europe it’s only a matter of time for people to bring up the canceled tour in 2017. I’m sure none of us in this interview would like to bring this up again, but I do have to ask: would you like to tour overseas again in the future?
苑 (Sono): I definitely want to go to Europe.
彩雨 (Ayame): I want to go. I want you to see the new 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera).
燿 (Yo): Of course I want to go!
響 (Hibiki): I want to!
Here in Europe it seems like ANOMIE is still the most popular album, but Human Dignity now is a close second. Recently you’ve performed an online live where you let your fans choose which songs you would play during this show. I’m sure some of the songs requested came as a surprise, but which one surprised you the most?
苑 (Sono): “frill” really surprised me. This was the very first song by 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera) with shuffle beats. I really want to play it this year too.
Final question, I promise! Do you have a parting message for everyone reading this interview?
苑 (Sono): Until this pandemic is over we won’t be able to do a live or go abroad, but we can connect with our fans over the internet. We will continue to deliver live performances in a way that fans from overseas can enjoy them too. We are far away, but we are connected by music. I wish you all the best.
彩雨 (Ayame): I would like to support the overseas people so they can enjoy the music made by 摩天楼オペラ (Matenrou Opera), of course. I dream of the day I can meet you all again.
燿 (Yo): It’s still a time of concern around the world, but I hope you are healthy and we’ll meet live someday. The event will continue for a while, so I would like for people from overseas to see it too.
響 (Hibiki): I would like to go overseas someday and do a live. Please listen to a lot of music and wait!
The guys mentioned it themselves in the interview already, but as of the moment of writing it is not yet possible to place an overseas order in the official webshop. But they are very aware that there are fans overseas who would like to support them, so they are working hard to change this in the near future.
Unfortunately this means that if you would like to get your hands on a copy of the new single “儚く消える愛の讃歌 (Hakanaku kieru ai no sanka)” you’ll have to involve a third party like a shopping service or someone in Japan who can receive the item and then forward it to you.
The new single has a release date of February 17, and pre-orders will start at February 1st.
Additionally I want to rewind to 燿 (Yo)’s clothing line “Kedamax” for a second, because he didn’t mention this in the interview himself: he currently has a collaboration going with the brand MINT NeKO. This means that the “Kedamax” products aren’t only available at his own webshop, but also at the MINT NeKO shop in Harajuku, Tokyo.
And last but not least, I want to say something personal too:
This easily is the longest interview I have done to date, but it was also one of the hardest ones. This might sound crazy, but I wanted to be sure that I covered everything that makes the band and it’s members unique.
That’s why I want to thank 苑 (Sono), 彩雨 (Ayame), 燿 (Yo), 響 (Hibiki) and their manager from the bottom of my heart for their time and understanding. Because without them this interview wouldn’t have been possible.
And the reason why this interview is published on January 29? Isn’t it an amazing gift if you can share an interview like this on your birthday?
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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.