Interview by: Ryu & Rena
Japanese questions: Ryu & Tamaki
English transcription from Audio: Ryu & Rena
Special thx: JROCKONE (The best forum to talk about Japanese music!)
ASK I FALL are a multi-national Metalcore band, located in Tokyo Japan.
JROCK’N’ROLL interviewed vocalist Fabio to figure out how they survive in Japan’s Metalcore scene.
We do recommend you to read the interview as text also, because some things are translated or added from the Japanese only-version!
Fabio: こんにちは. ASK I FALLのVo. ファビオです。イタリアで、日本に9年半住んでいます。
Fabio: Skyfallという言葉がカッコいくて、皆が入れたいと思っていて、少しの面白みを入れると ASK I FALLになりました。
Fabio: 高校の時、友達がバンドをやっていて、「ベースをやらないか？」というきっかけで始めた。今はボーカルとしてSpencer Soteloは一番印象的な歌手で、ボーカルをはじめようと思いました。
■ 外国人とて日本で活動するにあたって一番難しいことは何ですか？ バンドが最も遭遇する苦労はどれですか？
■ 主催されている「MOSHIN’TOKYO」のイベントについて教えてください。 それはどのようなイベントであり、なぜこのイベントを主催することに決めたのですか？
Fabio: メタルコアフェスのMoshin’ TokyoはAsk I Fallによる新感覚のインターナショナルイベントです。
■ EP「クロマ」を1本リリースしました。 そして2つのシングル「WhereWeBelong」と「LINKS」。
WHERE WE BELONGは日本に住むまでの動力の話と、ホームシックの話です。やっぱり、海外に住むことが楽しいけどホームシックになる人が多い。たまに俺もそうです！
■ ASK I FALLでの最高の思い出は何ですか？
■ Hello Fabio nice to meet you, please introduce yourself to the readers of JROCK’N’ROLL.
First I will introduce myself, my name is Fabio. I am Italian and have been living in Tokyo for about 10 years now. I got here in Tokyo first starting as a student in Japanese and actually Chinese language culture, ended up working here and then starting my band.
■ Please tell us about the history of the band and how the band was formed and how you guys evolved during the time until today. Also, how did you all meet each other? And why did you decide to start a band with each other?
I will also talk for the other three other members of the band. We all have a musical background and come from different countries and it basically all started with me and Zack, our producer and bassist. We met on this website named “Craiglist“, where you can look for other musicians, you can look for advice or where you can share the same musical taste. We met on that platform and we were both saying “Hey, I wanna start a Metalcore project” and that’s how everything started. We decided to start this project together. Me and Zack picked up drummer Hisashi, but after he left, drummer Robin joined us. The interesting thing was that Robin was on the same V/A CD of Zack in France and we didn’t know about it. Later on Nishiva, our Japanese member joined us. He is actually from Osaka and not from Tokyo. So he moved here to join our project and to finalize our current lineup.
■ Please explain the origin and meaning of your band name.
The origin of the name? It’s very simple. There’s not so much complicated or mystical meaning around it. The four of us really liked the word “Skyfall” and we really wanted to add some spice to it. So we were playing with the words and we came up with words like “SKYFALL” “ASK SKYFALL”. We definitely wanted to put something related to the “sky”, because of the fact that we are unified under one sky despite the fact that we are from different countries. So that’s how we decided to call us ASK I FALL.
■ Why did you decide to be a musician? What or who inspired you?
For myself, it started when I was still in Junior Highschool. I remember my friend playing the guitar and that he was searching for a bassist for his band but he couldn’t find anyone. Back then I was much more into HIP-HOP. But I felt like I could give it a try and like this, I got closer to music and Rock music. I remember that my brother gave me my first album, it was “Meteora“ from “Linkin Park”. That’s how it all started for me. Music is beautiful. It has so many genres and nuances. “Spencer Sotelo” from “Periphery” is my biggest inspiration. I have always loved how he was able to capture emotional in harsh and soft vocals.
■ Metalcore seems to be popular nowadays, but why did you decide to be a Metalcore band?
We decided to be a Metalcore band basically from our own music taste. We all, especially me and Zack, really love Metalcore and then it was pretty much decided from the beginning that we wanted to be a Metalcore band.
But yes, it is popular nowadays, but in Japan honestly it’s still very niche. So to be a Metalcore band in Japan it’s quite difficult, because the people you can reach are quite limited compared to any other genres. But what is interesting about us is, despite the fact that we didn’t know each other, we all have a Visual Kei past. I was playing in Italy in a Visual Kei cover-band. Zack actually had his own Visual Kei project, like doing original songs and then singing and playing guitar. And Robin and Nishiva are both Visual Kei fans. Robin especially, still goes to a lot of lives in Tokyo. Despite our love for Visual Kei, we all kind of made the transition to Metalcore. That’s what made us stronger in taste and everything that binding us as a band.
■ What’s the most difficult thing about the “language barrier and culture barrier” in Japan? Among you guys, is there anything you struggle with language wise or something of someone’s culture you don’t understand or even dislike?
Well that’s a great question about culture barriers, right? Because if you take into consideration that you depend on so many different cultures, and of course language wise.
Language wise it’s funny, I mean Nishiva doesn’t speak very fluent English. I’m fluent in both Japanese and English so I help with translations and when there are needs we communicate totally without problems among us.
Culture-wise it’s more for the three of us, who are guests in Japan. So all three of us know that we have to adopt a lot of the Japanese culture and to do things more the Japanese way, with fans and with Nishiva. But we never had any issues.
Nishiva is a great guy and what is interesting is that even though he was never abroad and is not good at English, he is actually very open to other cultures and other ways of thinking, so it’s very easy for us. We’re just bonded by music. And music doesn’t have cultures, it doesn’t have any kind of things that would separate, right? So, no issue from our side. We all love the same music and we just bind it together as people. So that’s what brings us together as a band.
■ How is it to live so far from home? Do you miss your home country from time to time?
I’ve been living far from home for 10 years. Of course I can’t say it’s easy. I do miss my home and country but once I started to develop a lot of solid things here, like the band, music, relationships, girlfriend, friends and everything started to feel like home I started to feel less homesick. But of course if you have a strong bond with your family back home, you should try to go back once a year or so.
■ How is it to play in a band in Japan with only one Japanese person? Do you feel any distance or are you much more interesting for the audience?
(This was not answered as audio)
Translated from Japanese:
I guess it’s quite interesting to be an international band in Japan. It would make me very happy and grateful if our fans and people interested in us also could feel it because our style and differences in culture are also mixed in our sound.
■ What’s the most difficult thing for a band in Japan? Which struggles do bands encounter the most?
Most of the struggle that bands find here, I definitely think, is the playing system in Japan. Because in Japan, for playing, you always have a “Norma” and sometimes a very strict “Norma”.
Usually when you’re playing in a venue you need to sell something between $200 and $300 of total tickets. If you fail to sell enough tickets you will have to pay for playing.
This was something totally new to me when I came here and also for the other members, because usually there is not this kind of system in Europe.
So there’s definitely something tough about that, because you need to either get popular very soon or spend a lot of money, for just performing. Meanwhile in other countries of the world it’s the basic strategy, starting to perform a lot of lives, to get recognized, in Japan the “Norma system” is a struggle that you have to face in the beginning. So, the “Norma system“ is definitely one of the struggles that you can find in Japan as a band in the beginning.
note: The “Norma system” is a rule/condition by live halls, that a band has to sell a certain amount of tickets. It they are not sold, the band has to pay the tickets that are not sold, by their own money. For example 10-tickets must be sold, but only 3-tickets end up sold, so the band has to pay the fee of the other 7 tickets.
■ Could you tell us something more about your own event “MOSHIN’ TOKYO”? What kind of event is it and why did you decide to host your own event?
Talking about MOSHIN’ TOKYO, it’s a Metal/ Hardrock event that we are holding in Tokyo around every two to three month. What we really like about this event is that once we started to hit the scene here in Japan, we realized that it’s a very niche and local scene.
Despite a lot of work in the genre, we still couldn’t feel the international vibes around and how everything works. So we decided to start our own event to make everything a bit more international and bring people and cultures together. Having foreigners enjoy Japanese Metalcore and vice versa, that is why we started our own event. We invite a DJ, foreigner bands and local bands and just try to make it a community here in Japan. The event is supposed to give people easy access, who like Rock music, but maybe don’t know the genre, and just want to go out and have fun with others. It is supposed to be not just a live show but more of a festival, party style. So far we’ve been very successful. On July 2nd we held our fourth edition of MOSHIN’ TOKYO and we’re looking forward having new pictures, new videos and everything else to be show from the event.
■ How is it to host your own events in Tokyo? Do you feel any difficulties from time to time? If so, what kind of difficulties. And if anything is easy then why do you feel it’s an easy thing to do?
One of the hard things about organizing events in Tokyo, is making bands come and play at your event. Firstly it’s about the system I mentioned above. When you talk about the Norma system, bands don’t want to perform very frequently because if they don’t have a strong fanbase, it means that eventually they will need to pay. As musicians, we don’t have a lot of resources. And the second difficulty is the way of inviting bands, because in Japan, as per the cultural sector, communication is definitely harder than in any other country. If you don’t know the person directly or you’re not introduced by anyone, bands might be somewhat skeptical, if you talk to them for the first time, when you approach them on SNS or any other way. It’s very hard to make connections with bands and invite them to play at your event. That’s also why we’ve been deciding to start doing something like MOSHIN’ TOKYO. Maybe we can try and make the Japanese scene more open and international from their point of view. We all love the genre, so we want to see people doing more and more communities or just get together and have fun.
■ Are there any bands you would love to invite to your own events?
Yeah, there are definitely tons of bands that we would like to invite. First of all, one big project is once the event gets very big, or at least big enough, we would like to invite bands from abroad to play once we have the budget for paying them. That’s something we would like to do. Second, any kind of band that is in Tokyo and is Hardrock or Metalcore and they want to promote themselves, they are in with our projects of making community, making the scene more international and more fun for everyone. We are more than happy to listen to them and then have them playing. So for anyone who would like to reach out to us for that, we’re very open.
■ How do you get new inspiration for writing new songs?
For new song inspiration. Let me tell you how it goes for me. Everyone in their life has moments where they have very strong emotions, which can be triggered from any kind of situation, for example: relationships, work, anything that can happen in your life.
Because I usually tend to sometimes forget about how I exactly felt at such a moment. I usually take notes in a notebook. I wrote down the topic instantly and how I was feeling at that moment. After that I usually put it down very straightforwardly in my lyrics and eventually even musically as well. The lyrics are usually in the way of storytelling around the topic, making it feel more like a movie or romantic story, like making up characters around that feeling, I felt at that moment. To make the lyrics flow with the music, I review what the lyrics are telling you after they are finished and then I just play around with the instruments and see what kind of final emotion comes out.
■ You released one EP “Chroma” and two singles “Where We Belong” and “LINKS“.
Could you please give us a detailed explanation of each song?
Could you tell us about lyrical writing and how the songs were born (composed).
For “Chroma“, musically speaking, “Chroma” was a sketch, actually like a very short demo from one of our first guitar players playing in the band at the start. And then Zack built the final structure and finished the song. After Zack’s version, me and the others finished it together.
“Where We Belong“, was completely done from scratch by Zack. Zack gave us a very good start with an instrumental. I built the lyrics on the track and then I built all the vocal lines on it, afterwards, Robin added drums on it and Nishiva all the other detailed guitar parts.
“LINKS” was a little bit different, because we wanted to create something suitable for making a music video as well. So we wanted something to be really straight to the point and very impactful at the same time. Strong Metalcore and harsh part, but at the same time a very catchy and quick chorus as well. So it was created with the idea to turn it into a music video.
In terms of lyrics. Chromesthesia it’s actually a story that I had with a Japanese girl. This person has Chromesthesia disease, which is connected to how you see colors and how your mind thinks. Your mind cannot connect straightforwardly sometimes towards words or numbers and it actually connects to things as colors. So, for example, this person was a musician as well and she could see, for example, colors coming out of the radio or when she was singing. It’s a kind of different type of dyslexia. This person really impressed me, because despite having that, she was very talented and was a great person. So I wrote a story about the person and about how I was impressed by her.
“Where We Belong” is a song that talks a lot about memories. As for myself and also for all the foreign people living abroad, we are far from our home and of course we have a lot of nostalgia, but at the same time, we’re proud of what we’ve built here in all those years of struggles and other happenings. So it’s kind of remembering us to “Where We Belong“, never forgetting our roots and everything that we’ve been doing and have done in order to be here.
“LINKS” is again, a topic that is probably close to a lot of foreigners living abroad. It’s about basically all the connections that we create with friends, not just friends, but any kind of relationship that we created here far from home. We always have that kind of feeling that people might want to leave one day because they’re not living forever here. It is a certain instability and pain that we feel when people we created boundaries with move home again.
■ What’s the most difficult thing about creating new songs?
Well, the most difficult thing about creating new songs, I think, is how to create a song that really touches people, right? Of course, we are artists and we put lyrics on paper, we pour out the sounds, everything heads through us. But at the end of the day, we just want to create things that impress people, remain in the heads and hearts of people. It’s not just something that needs to be very emotional and out from yourself, but there is also a deep study of what are the latest trends, what I’ve been listening to in recent Metalcore songs, what people liked in Japan and what people liked here. How would it have to be written in order to catch people. So that’s the hardest part.
Let’s talk a little bit about the commercial part of music. If we just put out what we really like, that’s easy and fun, but then what you’re going to do in order to be remembered and what you’re going to do in order that people are going to listen to you deeper than other bands?
■ Do you plan to release new music in the near future? If so, what can your fans and our readers expect?
Yes, absolutely. We actually have some new songs. They just need to be prepared in order to make them ready to release. We’re also waiting for the right timing to release them and of course all the preparation in order to do that takes some time.
So yes we will release something new in the near future. Please stay in touch! Keep an eye on our SNS because we do have new releases coming!
Of course it would be cool to release new singles, but we definitely want to release a full album which we still haven’t done. We’re just waiting for the best time to do it. So please keep your eyes open!
■ What’s your best memory of ASK I FALL so far?
The best memory so far…. I think is the release or not a release, but actually the first demo. I mean, the very first completed master of “Taki Taki”, our first song, because there is always uncertainty when you pour out the very first song with your band. “Is this going to sound good?” “Is it going to be made properly?”, especially for me as a singer. “Is the engineer going to mix my voice properly and I want it to be?” And then when it comes to the moment, when you get the master, you listen to it and it’s good. You’re like, “Oh, shit, yes, it’s going to work!. Everything is in line.” That’s definitely one of the best moments.
I remember I was on the couch of my old apartment and waiting for the mp3 to come in, and when I got it, I was like, “Oh, this is good!”. and after listening in my headphones, I just started blasting into the room and then sent it to my very close friend, telling him, “it’s still not released, but I think it’s awesome, what do you think about it?” And his response was pretty good, so I was pretty happy about it.
■ What in life makes you smile the most?
That’s a very good question. What makes me smile? Mostly in life, I would say definitely to see results. You know, after a lot of hard work and a lot of pain, sometimes seeing results and rewards coming can be appreciated in different ways. I just appreciate it in a way to see results come in and then being proud of what I’ve done. Seeing positive results is something that makes me smile, happy and proud at the same time.
■ What does music mean to yourself?
That’s a very deep question. What does music mean to me?
If I think about it, I would say when I was in my first phase of my career as a musician and in general life. For me it was a channel to release my emotions, my creativity and something to play with my friend and so on. But now I came to this point in my career and my life where I’m definitely building something more solid. It’s definitely one of the pillars of my life. As I mentioned before, I’m quite a result driven person. So when I think about music, it’s one of the pillars where I definitely want to see results to be proud of, something that is building consistently and that can be reflected in many things. “Am I happy with where my voice is now?”, “Am I happy with the level of music that I’m doing at this moment?”, “Am I happy how other people perceive my music?”, “Am I happy if other people get out a good emotion or they really feel a good art out of my music, out of my own emotions?”. It’s definitely a lot of things and disconnected from how other people perceive my music. Right now I feel proud about what I’m doing with music and especially the development around that. “How much more will I develop music?” “Will it still keep going on or will there be a point of not giving me any more rewards?”
■ How do you see the future of the band?
For the future I definitely want to see us recognized as one of the main international bands here in Japan. When you talk about Metalcore and when you talk about metal here in Japan you mainly think about “Coldrain” and “Crossfaith”. I cannot think about any other international rock and metal here in Japan. So connected to what I said before, we want to create a strong community of international people from any country, any background, that fall under the same type of music. That’s why we want to see ourselves being recognized here in Japan. I want to see the future of the band itself. Of course, I want to see us playing around, touring… and every time that we get out of Japan, kind of being the flag of international people playing in Japan. And why not? We all, as a band, love Japan a lot. We would like to be a point of reference for all the people that love Japan and would like to know more about Japan and music here in Japan. That’s why we want to be in the band of the future.
■ We came to the end, please give a message to your fans and readers
We came to the end. Definitely want to say thanks. I really want to thank you “Ryu”, I want to thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to do this. I want to thank everyone that is working on the production of JROCK’N’ROLL. I think you guys are doing an amazing job and we really respect that and we are really thankful for what you do. And to everyone that is listening or reading this… For real, the music industry in Japan is a tough world. It’s a lot of struggle, but it’s also a lot of fun. I will be happy to connect with anyone who wants to know more about doing music here in Japan or even living in Japan in any kind of way. So please listen to our songs. Give it a listen via our page and please follow us, because we’re very active on social media, so I also invite you to write to us anytime on social media to engage. We’re definitely happy to make this community I’ve talked about. Definitely listen to our latest release. Thank you very much!!