If ever positivity was needed, it’s now. The world is seemingly on the verge of imploding, while a never-ending series of cataclysmic events nudge us closer and closer to pandemonium. Fortunately, there are people out there working on putting out good vibes - including Tokyo-based foursome One OK Rock and their formidable frontman Taka Moriuchi.
A naturally positive person, ‘Stand Out Fit In’ - the first single from their new album ‘Eye Of The Storm’ - sees him lead a barrelling anthem for the disenfranchised. He’s understandably excited about unleashing the group’s ninth full-length, which saw them push themselves to try new things.
“You know Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie? It’s huge, right?” he begins, explaining over the phone. “When I started making this album, I had a theme, and it was Queen and musical, and Disney. It’s not only rock’n’roll. Rock’n’roll is a lifestyle for me, not hard music, but universal - that’s why this album is super different. I was just making music, not only rock music.”
Not for the first time, Taka breaks away, hurriedly speaking to his manager in Japanese for clarification: “When he creates music, he wants it to feel positive. He can make better music, and also the lyrics of the songs - everything is positive.”
After moving to the US four years ago, Taka made it his mission to become a positive force for Asian-Americans in particular, encouraging the sharing of cultures and promoting the benefits of a multicultural society.
“It’s still harder to make a breakthrough in the United States for a Japanese person, and Asians,” he explains. “It’s hard because the United States is the United States, so we jump into a different culture, different country, different languages. We have to understand each other, and then after that shake hands, eye to eye, and talk about our countries and cultures.”
“When I first toured in the United States, it was for Warped Tour in about 2014,” he continues. “When I go back to Japan, there are a lot of fans waiting for us, but in the United States, it’s almost nothing. It felt scary, but it was a really good experience for us. We’re still hungry, and we never give up.
“If you’re going out to tour in the United States, it’s like thirty-one places; it’s going to be two months,” he adds. “In Japan, it’s not like that.”
Part of the band’s new sonic expansion sees them team up with American singer-songwriter Kiiara, who also featured on Linkin Park’s last album ‘One More Light’, for their track ‘In The Stars’. The pair got chatting after meeting at the late Chester Bennington’s tribute show in July 2017.
“She was talking about Chester and how they collaborated, and then we were talking about what we have to do - keep going,” Taka explains. “We were talking about making music, and I asked, would you like to join us?”
Kiiara isn’t their only Linkin Park connection - the band met Mike Shinoda in the studio while recording their last album, 2017’s ‘Ambitions’, which led to him having a hand in producing their new material.
“I was introduced to Mike Shinoda and the other members. I said, I’m such a huge fan of Linkin Park, and I’m doing a rock band in Japan. If you guys are coming to Japan, we should do a tour - in Japan, or the United States. He said, yeah, I’m working on that actually!’”
The pair struck up a relationship, bonding over their mutual ancestry, with Mike being half-Japanese. “He was so kind and smart. He explained to me a lot of things, like what a rock band is. I was impressed by his thinking.”
Taka spends a lot of time in the studio; both their previous effort, ’Ambitions’, and ‘Eye Of The Storm’, saw them produce two different versions of the record - one in Japanese, and one in English.
“It’s so hard, all the time it was so fucking stressful!” he says with an exasperated laugh. “I have a Japanese label, and I have a label in the United States, so we have to do it.
“I didn’t want to do that, making different albums. The ideas, production and music are the same just different lyrics. To me, the English version is better, but the Japanese label wants a Japanese version.”
Despite picking up masses of fans wherever they go, Taka’s modest about the group’s achievements - he’s happy just to keep on exploring the world. “I’m still learning American and European cultures; I have to learn more. After that…” he as good as shrugs down the phone. Who knows where the music will take him.
Taken from the March edition of Upset. Order a copy below or subscribe here. One OK Rock’s album ‘Eye Of The Storm’ is out now.
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