This article is translated from an interview done with Ai Otsuka by Excite Music.
Translation by sljinu
Excite: You just finished your tour that begun in February; how was it? Is it lonely now that you have finished your tour?
Otsuka Ai: This was the longest tour I have done so far and I’ll miss those who I worked with the entire time throughout the tour, since I won’t be able to see them all the time anymore. On the other hand though, I’m kind of relieved that it’s finally over (laughs). Obviously, during the tour I had to live a far stricter lifestyle. I couldn’t drink a lot of alcohol, I didn’t wear high-heel shoes to ensure I didn’t get injured…I had to take a lot of care and it was a bit stressful.
Excite: Despite that, you still managed to delivered a single while you were touring. When did you compose the songs for your new double A-side single, Rocket Sneaker/One x Time?
Otsuka Ai: Rocket Sneaker and One x Time were composed near the end of last year, while The Sky and the Whale was composed at the beginning of this year.
Excite: It’s quite rare of you to release a selection of very recently composed songs isn’t it?
Otsuka Ai: Hmm yeah you’re right. I felt like rather than releasing some composition I made awhile ago in my spare time, I wanna release something that’s me, now. I wanted to make something new. If it’s some stock composition then no matter what, it doesn’t feel new or fresh so that’s why I wanted to make a new one.
Excite: So, regarding Rocket Sneaker, the phrase ‘Earth child’ is…
Otsuka Ai: Is it really that weird (laughs)???
Excite: Oh, so everyone else also ask you the same question? (laughs)
Otsuka Ai: Everyone’s like “Oh, what’s with these words…” but is it really that strange (laughs)?? For me, it sounds quite normal though. Well, it began when my arranger, Ikoman, clapped his hands and laughed…afterwards, I started getting asked by everyone…I felt quite normal up until that point but after they laughed, I became self-conscious whenever I sang it again (laughs).
Excite: What made you write this song?
Otsuka Ai: Last time when I wrote Pocket, I had a brainwave that said “Write it” to which I wrote the song. Other than that, I wrote them only as they came to me. Rocket Sneaker was one of those songs that just hit me. However, when I began to write it, I wanted to put in my beliefs such as “This is how my future will turn” or “This is what my life is”. I wanted to put in such a sensation and at once, I wrote it.
Excite: What did you feel your life was, then?
Otsuka Ai: Ever since I was born, obviously I really wanted to live up my life since we don’t really know how long the life we are gifted with will last for. I don’t want to fall for some weak-hearted person, I don’t want to die in vain, I want to live a normal life. I guess even with a normal lifestyle, it has its ups and downs. However, I thought that that’s pretty obvious. I believe I was finally able to see as to why my life is like this, and why it can be so difficult at times through calmly
Excite: Do you feel that you can see even deeper now?
Otsuka Ai: Yes, I think so. I feel like I can say with even more confidence now, the things I love or which things are important to me. My ideal life would be one where like…for example, to be able to live a normal life while seeing the face of the person that I love.
Excite: Your approach is quite unique but I also believe that the piano arrangement for the piece is another reason as to why the song is fresh. Did you play the piano part for this song? It’s just that normally it’s not so aggressive.
Otsuka Ai: Oh no, you got it wrong, I’m not that good at playing the piano (laughs)! At first, it was planned that I would play but I had absolutely no time to practice. With my poor piano playing skills, time would have just been wasted so we hired a professional instead.
Excite: Did you handle the arrangments yourself?
Otsuka Ai: At first, there were no plans to include the piano. However, Ikoman and I got lost trying to arrange a part for the guitar. No matter how many times we tried to rearrange it, the talk always boiled down to “This piece wasn’t for the guitar to begin with was it?” or “Don’t you think it should’ve been the piano to start off with?” Within my mind, I had this image where the composition should be bouncy or jive-y but no matter how we used the guitar, it always came out either too heavy, or conversely, too light. I kept on telling Ikoman that it should be a bouncy and jive-y song but a lot of time was used up without even remotely getting close to this idea. The recording location even had to be changed, so up until the song was complete, it was very difficult.
Excite: The song’s music video also has a very unique ending doesn’t it?
Otsuka Ai: There were a lot of me’s weren’t there (laughs)! That was how I pictured my life, but the filming was incredibly tiring. It was a 26 hour job and on top of that, I started getting muscle pain (laughs). I worked extremely hard on this, so please watch it.
Excite: Moving on with One x Time, which point did you fuss over the most?
Otsuka Ai: The camera angle. The camera angle within the lyrics.
Excite: “To the right of it…to the left of it…above above” etc is surprisingly difficult.
Otsuka Ai: Yes, this is quite difficult. I say everyone should make their own interpretations of this, as even I can’t make a clear interpretation myself.
Excite: Again, the point of the ‘clock’ is raised.
Otsuka Ai: At first, I wanted to write a song about a clock. I was trying to find the groove the second the hour hand and the minute hand make when they overlap but the numbers make it too mathematical so it was a bit hard to use…(laughs). So with that, when the hands overlap, they immediately separate again and within that moment, a song was born.
Excite: This song has a completely different atmosphere to Rocket Sneaker and the strings overlapping the piano is a really beautiful arrangement.
Otsuka Ai: I played the piano for One x Time (laughs). The original song had no strings and the piano played a Japanese-style tune, so it had a very simple image. Originally, I saw the song as a coupling but the addition of the strings raised the class of the song. The ending had a nice finish to it so we turned the single into a double A-side. Regarding this song, I, Otsuka Ai, have worked have very hard on it (laughs)!
Excite: Having Rocket Sneaker and One x Time to listen to is already rewarding but we get one more song, The Sky and the Whale.
Otsuka Ai: Yep. The coupling was intended for the title tracks, and for an unrelated note, I wanted to share my view of the world and it was stored into that one song, The Sky and the Whale. As a matter of fact, there’s a story to how this song starts. On a dry river bed, a 4 or 5 year old girl is lying there, staring up at the blue sky in this mild autumn weather, and then from the right comes this zeppelin. And then, in comes this song! Or something like that (laughs). I was thinking something along the lines of like a movie ending or some sort of theme like that.
Excite: I see. Well, if you had such a firm view of the world then was the arranging of the song easy?
Otsuka Ai: Rocket Sneaker and One x Time took up all the time so there was no guarantee that I could finish this song on time. Whenever someone asked me “Is it ok for you to be doing three songs?” I’d say “Yeah, because I’ve already done the arranging for it,” and so word spread around the office (laughs). To tell you the truth, I was actually thinking “Or so I said anyway…” (laughs). “Anyway, I have to do it” I told myself, so I went about arranging the instruments, the expression, the chords, the rhythm and all those other minor details… somehow, I managed to complete it in time.
Excite: Wow, you still worked on a new project despite the fact that you seriously had no time available. But with that you released your first single for 2008. And on a final note, please tell us your goal for this year. If I remember correctly, last year your aim was to ‘become a good girl’ (laughs).
Otsuka Ai: Yes, that’s right! (laughs) I’ll become a good girl! I gave 70% for that. This year…I’ll treasure all my good fortune (with reference to happiness)! I wanna become so lucky, that I can brag about it. I’ll brag so much such that someone will say “Shut up!” to me (laughs).
Purchase Rocket Sneaker / OnexTime: YesAsia