Otsuka Ai Excite Interview – Kurage, Nagareboshi

by sljinu on September 19, 2008 · 9 comments · AddThis

Kurage, Nagareboshi Excite Photoshoot

This article is translated from an interview done with Otsuka Ai by Excite Music.
Translation by sljinu

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Excite: Your new single Kurage, Nagareboshi commemorates your fifth anniversary after your debut. However, before we discuss your latest title track, I just wanted to point out that when I first listened to it, I felt that your outlook on the world as well as your singing style has changed.

Otsuka Ai: I completed the original version of Kurage, Nagareboshi back in 2004. I kept it really simple and I thought “If I just have the vocals, lyrics and the piano then it’s already a decent composition isn’t it?” Four years have passed since then but my thoughts on that still haven’t changed; simple is the best. Also, I took it to the next step by adding lots of reverb for the first time. Personally, I don’t really like the reverb effect that much so compared to my earlier works, Kurage, Nagareboshi has a lot.

 

Excite: So it’s just a personal preference to not put so much reverb in your compositions?

Otsuka Ai: Yep, that’s how it is (laughs). Of course there were times when I used it but this time especially, I wanted it to sound much more dynamic. I decided that I’d try using more reverb not only because it makes it sound so much more impressive, but it also gives it that echo-ey feel. It was a little embarrassing though (laughs).

 

Excite: Then, whenever you listen to this song you’d blush and be like “Oh my God, it’s so echo-ey…” (laughs).

Otsuka Ai: Well, my feelings about it fluctuate a lot…(laughs).

 

Excite: You mentioned this in your video comment that this composition isn’t just a happy ballad but it also clearly characterizes how fleeting and painful love can be. What were your feelings when you composed this song?

Otsuka Ai: Well, I wrote this song four years ago so my thoughts on it have changed quite a bit…if I look at all the ballads that I’ve released so far, it seems to always be about telling someone that you love them. Within those songs, there was kinda like, this feeling of love that you couldn’t understand…or rather, this feeling that’s also within me and I thought like, “Oh, I’ll write about that.” Take for example, would you fall in love with a person that seems perfect to you? Not always, right? I don’t really think so. Obviously, the more you get to know someone, the more bad points are revealed as well right? And also, the longer the couple date, there may be times where you think like “maybe we were never meant to be,” or something like that. Even from the beginning, you’d think things like “Is it going to work out for me this time?”
Even if 99% is thinking about those insecurities, that remaining 1% is what erases the inner conflict that arose from the other 99%. It’s mysterious. You can’t call that anything else but love, right? Whenever I feel happy and free like a shooting star, I think of that special someone and then I wonder “Why do I think of him?” or “I shouldn’t complain but why is it that I like him?”…I think I included all those small details about the enigma of love quite well in this song.

 

Excite: Did you feel the same way when you first wrote this song?

Otsuka Ai: Well, I think when I was composing it I was just writing about whatever I felt so I doubt I was thinking anything at the time. If I read it now, even though I think the same thing, I think “Wow, I was writing quite honestly about the inner sides of people.” I even think I feel this discord within myself more than the girl in the song so it’s incredibly realistic for me. “I hate him but I love him,” or “I love him but I hate him,” or “I hate him but I still wanna meet him,”…that has to be love for what else could it be?

 

Excite: I think that kind of inner-conflict could lead to complications between the couple but I realized that this fleetingness and pain from love is clearly expressed in the songs title.

Otsuka Ai: Um…actually, it’s actually the same situation as Sakuranbo…I had this image of a jellyfish in my mind and that’s about it (laughs).

 

Excite: Are you serious! I’m actually a little shocked now…(laughs).

Otsuka Ai: Haha! Sorry that there’s no real romantic basis to it (laughs). But when a jellyfish swims in the ocean, it really seems like a shooting star so that’s kinda how I felt when I wrote it.

 

Excite: I see I see. So what kind of questions do you get frequently asked?

Otsuka Ai: Hmm let’s see…”What’s the meaning behind this?” is asked quite a lot I suppose.

 

Excite: By the way, did you plan to release this composition for your 5th anniversary?

Otsuka Ai: Yep. It was something I kept hidden from everyone else for four years.

 

Excite: So you don’t hand over your composition to Ikoman straight after you finish it?

Otsuka Ai: Nope. I’ve always been like that. I handed over the stock songs that I felt would be good for producing but anything I composed after my debut, I kept until I felt the timing was right. If I felt it was too early to release it then I kept that song to myself.

 

Excite: Then could you elaborate as to your reasons why you suddenly felt the urge to release your four year old composition, Kurage, Nagareboshi?

Otsuka Ai: Well, when I completed the song, I noticed it had a different colour to it compared to the other songs I had recently released. I also didn’t want to break the existing flow that was there so I thought “I’ll release it the time it could feel the most fresh,” so there you have it.

 

Excite: Did the production of the arrangements come about smoothly to your expectations?

Otsuka Ai: Hmm, that took a long time actually. Because a ballad is quite a delicate thing, right? You have to worry about all these small details, its tone colour…there was a lot of trial and error involved. Regarding the actual arrangement, I couldn’t discretely judge it as to how firmly it got to me, how it actually resounded within my heart, exactly which instruments to use and where etcetera. When I say small details I mean as to how it all falls together. Also, I fussed about with the tone colour. Obviously, tone colour is also something that you can’t judge discretely. Like, for example, even if only I play the piano, since my thoughts are always changing, the message you get from my piano playing will also sound different. It was like that, this time too.

 

Excite: Then for you, the ear and the heart play an extremely important role for the completion of the recording.

Otsuka Ai: Yes it does.

 

Excite: With all that trial and error, did you eventually come up with the sound you wanted?

Otsuka Ai: Kurage, Nagareboshi is the title track for the single so obviously, I had to take into consideration how the listener would react to the song. Also, if you compare H2O to that, you’ll see that H2O has a lot more of my personal preferences and tastes.

 

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Excite: Since you raised the topic, let’s continue on with H2O now. By the way, when did you compose this one?

Otsuka Ai: This was very recent.

 

Excite: H2O is also a song about love, right?

Otsuka Ai: This song isn’t just about love. First off, this song is actually quite related to my life and of course, while there is love involved, there’s also friends and family and all of my works. Those things that you make eventually break in the end, then you go and make new ones…I had this image in my mind that life is all about this repetition.
If you meet someone new then you change a little because of that meeting. Even if you break up with that person, the things inside that changed because of your meeting with that person will always remain. Then this cycle once again repeats when you meet another person. I wrote about this kind of meeting and parting. I called symbolized that thing inside of you as H2O. H2O is water and humans are made up of water aren’t they? Then like, whenever we are influenced or moved by another then we perspire don’t we?

 

Excite: Like sweat and tears?

Otsuka Ai: Yep. A tears composition is actually somehow different when say its tears of joy compared to crying. When people receive something, we perspire. I was thinking of this chemical reaction when I wrote the song.

 

Excite: Five years ago when you debuted, your compositions were often based on your past. Now that your 5th anniversary is coming up, has this influenced your recent works?

Otsuka Ai: Yeah, maybe it has. There was no definite beginning to it but very recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, how I live it, the things I managed to obtain or lose…those thoughts all have grown.

 

Excite: Your previous work, Rocket Sneaker also seems to kinda reflect that. This kind of thinking could also have something to do with you reaching the age of 25.

Otsuka Ai: That, I think is also true. I feel I’m at a mature enough age now to be able to look back and judge or analyze my past self more calmly and also think about what I can do about it in the future. I have to be able to take responsibility for the things I do from now on. It could also have those points in it.

 

Excite: H2O has quite a positive vibe to it so does that emphasize your positive thinking for the future?

Otsuka Ai: Yes, I think so. I thought like “What the hell is that!?” with regards to moving onwards (laughs). There were parts where I was a bit like “Huh??” because I didn’t really understand. I expressed all those feelings phrase by phrase. Personally, I think the lyrics are more important than the timbre so this composition hasn’t really changed much since its original arrangement on the piano.

 

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Excite: With your third track, Ame no Tsubu, Waltz ~LOVE MUSiC~, there’s a portion of it that sounds exactly the same as a part of your other song, LOVE MUSiC. How exactly did you end up coming about with this?

Otsuka Ai: I composed this song during the rainy season this year. In the piano room, there’s a window where you can see the heavy rain outside. At that moment, I heard the intro piano line and from then on I just composed it as I normally did any other song. While I was trying to imagine it, I was having a difficult time trying to decide which word to use. Basically, it was like looking back all the time. Then the phrase LOVE MUSiC just popped up in my mind and I thought “Oh, I’d like to settle for that.”

 

Excite: Oh, I thought it was another one of those impressive 5 year long productions.

Otsuka Ai: If that’s the case, it’s quite a dark song to choose (laughs).

 

Excite: Definitely (laughs).

Otsuka Ai: Somehow, the LOVE MUSiC section was quite warm and it felt like it would be another one of those soft, heartwarming ballads but when you look at the lyrics, it tells a completely different story up to a point where it’s so cruel, you could almost use it as a weapon to hurt others.
I wrote that negative tone quite forcefully. I was trying to emphasize the phobia of accidentally offending someone and then not being able to stop…I had that idea of fear in my mind when I wrote this song.

 

Excite: It feels extremely strange hearing you say “I want to write about fear.”

Otsuka Ai: Hmm that’s true. But it was the third track anyway and I just wanted to write about my interests so I got a bit carried away (laughs).

 

Excite: Hmm but really, did you have to put forward such a negative message?

Otsuka Ai: Normally you’d put the song with the message you most want received as the first track. When it comes to the third track, I like to put in things that I’m thinking or feeling. So don’t worry, I’m not actually that kind of person (laughs). But yeah, I do often put in the things I like in this track.

 

Excite: Thinking in retrospect, this latest production of yours has quite a variety in it.

Otsuka Ai: Yes it does. I think I achieved a really good sense of balance with this single. That’s why even if you don’t know of me or don’t like me, if you could just listen to this single even just once and find a track you liked, then that’d make me really happy.

 

Excite: You posed the same way for this single as you did on your debut single, Momo no Hanabira to commemorate your 5th anniversary. There are so many covers to choose from that it’s so hard to decide.

Otsuka Ai: Those special covers are my way of saying thanks to all those who supported me back around my debut era. I know there are a lot of covers to select from but please choose the one you like the most.

 

Excite: This release must be a very important thing to you, right?

Otsuka Ai: Yes it is. But before I go on, I just wanted to point out that I debuted on a Wednesday, five years ago and to think that my upcoming anniversary would also be a Wednesday…I was honestly really surprised (laughs). It was as though it was all pre-arranged. Life is full of strange things like this. I think I owe a lot to all those people I met within these five years who’ve helped me so much; without them, I don’t think I would have made it this far. That’s why I wanted to release this sad ballad, Kurage, Nagareboshi, as my representative.
And with that, the title track was a painful love song, the second song was a bit of a brighter one and then furthermore, the third track basically represents what I am. I feel it is a very complete single.

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About the author

sljinu is a hybrid Asian. He is currently employed by the geekmaster eyn, working as a translator. He has time management issues but still finds precious minutes to listen to his beloved Utada Hikaru and Otsuka Ai as well as watch J-drama (among other things) on the train.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Yang February 22, 2009 at 10:26 pm

yeah it is cool to understand her and her songs. she is an awesome singer though with her sweet strong voice. yep i like how this web translated it into english cause she one of my favorite jap artist….i got all of her songs

Reply

Yurika SPAIN February 21, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Hello ^^

Wow, I love Ai’s interviews, are really good ^^. Ai is my third favourite singer, she’s adorable!! =P

Thanks for all

Reply

wowjhil SWEDEN November 1, 2008 at 10:43 am

This interview was very interesting, thank you so much for translating this! As a person who doesn’t speak Japanese, I see it not only as a negative thing, because you miss out on interesting lyrics, but also very positive because it makes you imagine the story yourself. So, if your imagination is of highest class, then you might not feel too unfortunate reading this and learn about the interesting topics.

Reply

madhatter_19 AUSTRALIA October 28, 2008 at 12:07 pm

wow. thanks for the translation
it’s amazes me on how ai talks about her songs it makes me appreciate them more.
really thank you for translating it

Reply

Joe Smith October 8, 2008 at 5:46 pm

Thanks,
It was really interesting to read about Ai’s views on her own songs,
I’m sure Ai will have a bright future.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to translate the Interview.

Reply

mangomalte September 24, 2008 at 7:00 am

awesome stuff, thanks a lot! :)

i really feel like i’ve missed out on stuff now, not listening enough to the lyrics. i didn’t know Ame no Tsubu was that dark…

really appreciate all your efforts translating these interviews!

Reply

remblue UNITED STATES September 19, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Thanks for another great Translation sljinu! It amazes me how much goes into creating these songs. I love how Ai talks about the process and ideas. I’m only saddened by the jellyfish part. It was just kind of thrown in there with no real reason but still a beautiful song none the less.

I always got the impression the Kurage Nagareboshi was a sad song. Quite beautiful but still sad :(

Now Ame no Tsubu, Waltz ~LOVE MUSiC~ is quite interesting. From the lyrics (The translated ones) I get a different interpretation about what the song is about, but Ai clears it up immediately in both these intereviews (the previous one as well) about the meaning of this song. Hmmm baffling really.

I’m thankful that you translate these interviews. In my opinion they are important to understanding some of Ai’s songs or intentions within the songs. Without reading some of these interviews I wouldn’t know certain things that actually are very important.

Reply

sljinu AUSTRALIA September 19, 2008 at 10:07 am

I agree, it’s quite strange that she said that. It doesn’t resemble a happy ballad at all to me actually, but I only watched the video comment once and can’t remember what she said on it anymore. Anyhow, the Japanese was clearly written so the translation stands correct.
As for her summary, she actually literally states that it’s a ‘painful love song’ rather than ’sad love song’. Perhaps I was stretching the boundaries a little there in terms of the translation. I guess I’ll change it just to avoid further confusion for others. Thanks for pointing it out!

Reply

tsukiko September 19, 2008 at 8:37 am

Thank you for the great interview! :D Somehow I got a little confused though. At the beginning, it’s mentioned that kurage is supposed to be a happy ballad, but at the end ai-chin summarises it as a sad love song?

Anyhow, I’m really glad to understand more about Ame no Tsubu Waltz Love Music, which I had trouble understanding previously. Thank you!

Reply

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