It’s been more than 5 years since Japanese rock band ONE OK ROCK last came to Malaysia. The 4-member band performed at KL Live in 2013 during their first international tour.
However, for their subsequent Asian tours (in 2015 and 2017), the band had skipped out Malaysia, only touring the neighboring Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
So, when it was announced that ONE OK ROCK will be opening for Ed Sheeran on his Asian tour, Malaysian OORers (ONE OK ROCKer) were jumping with joy. Nevertheless, some fans still hoped that the band will be here for a full-fledged concert and not just as opening act.
Last weekend, Hype Malaysia was given the opportunity to meet with the members of ONE OK ROCK – Taka (vocalist), Toru (guitarist, band leader), Ryota (bassist), and Tomo (drummer) – right before their opening show for Ed Sheeran.
Here are some of the highlights from the exclusive session.
Reason for skipping Malaysia on their past tours
After the success of their iconic single “The Beginning”, ONE OK ROCK embarked on their first ever international tour, “Who are you?? Who are we??” which include their maiden visit to Malaysia in 2013. However, for their subsequent international tours; “35xxxv” and “Ambitions”, Malaysia was not in the list.
Vocalist Taka explained that it is not their intention to skip Malaysia as they weren’t the one who get the final say in deciding the locations. “Actually I don’t know why but our management company was the one who decided the tour in Asia. We really don’t know. But we really enjoyed the first show we had in Malaysia and we’re happy to be here again.”
Plan on coming to Malaysia for a solo concert
ONE OK ROCK has a huge fan base across the world including Malaysia. So when it was announced that they will be opening for Ed Sheeran concert in Malaysia, most of the reactions were positive and a lot of people were demanding for a ONE OK ROCK solo concert instead. Some even joked that Ed Sheeran should be the one opening for ONE OK ROCK.
Upon hearing the reactions, ONE OK ROCK members laughed out loud and expressed their wish to return here for a solo concert. “We really want to but it’s not up to us to decide. But we definitely want to come back to Malaysia and do just our show. It’ll be f***ing awesome!” Taka confessed.
Difference between rock scene in Japan and America
ONE OK ROCK has been around since 2005, but it was only in 2013 that they started to break into the international market. Taka noticed that one of the biggest differences between the Japanese and American rock scene is that the scene in America is not as lively as the scene in Japan.
“It’s totally different. I don’t know how to say this, but for me, the rock scene in America is almost dead. The rock bands are still alive but their music cannot come up on the chart because there is not much support. Pop music or pop rock genre are always the one dominating the chart.”
“But in Japan, the rock scene is still alive. A lot of great rock bands have really strong fan base, so I guess that’s the biggest different between the 2 countries. That’s why, my dream is to make the global rock scene alive. I want people who aren’t rock fans to fall in love with rock music. So that’s why I decided to make this album to bring in more people.”
Changing their music direction and genre
For fans who have been following the band since day 1, would definitely notice the change in the band’s music. But in order to survive in the music industry, sometime change is necessary.
“When we tried to break into the American market, we had a talk with A&R (Artists and Repertoire), and they told us that if we only produce rock albums, they’re not going to sell in America. So they told us if we want to leave an impact in the music scene, we need to mix rock with pop music. If you ask me, I really want to do rock music more than pop, but we have to change and go with the trend and market of today’s generation.”
Handling negative criticisms
Though some fans are welcoming and supportive of the band’s change of direction, it is not everyone’s cup of tea. “Some of our fans have told us that ONE OK ROCK is dead, now we have become ONE OK POP. To be honest, I kind of like that,” Taka said jokingly.
“For me, music style is kind of like human growing up. It’s the same thing. You cannot stay the same, you’ve got to grow up and change. Also, we want people to know that we’re more than just a boy group, we want to showcase more humanity in our songs. So it’s okay for us to try, to fail, and to go back to where we were, as long as we keep on moving forward. Just as long as we keep on trying, a lot of things will change for us.”
Trying out other kinds of music genre
The band admitted that they are opened to try out different ways to experiment with their music as they are still searching for their true sound. “As ONE OK ROCK, we are still searching for our music direction. How will ONE OK ROCK sounds at the next level? We’re still finding that out.”
“We want to try everything that we can. We already made a lot of rock music, and those will be eternal for us. So we want to try more different stuff, and once we found our true sound, we want to show fans our interpretation of rock and pop as well,” Taka added.
Collaborations with non-Japanese artists
Throughout their career, ONE OK ROCK has collaborated and performed with plenty of international artistes including Simple Plan, Avril Lavigne, Hoobastank, All Time Low, 5 Seconds of Summer, Yellowcard, My Chemical Romance, Against the Current, Sum 41, Ed Sheeran and more. But it is noticeable that the band don’t really collaborate with artists from Japan.
“Because we understand Japanese culture and music scene, but we don’t know the culture and scene in other countries. So it’s like a challenge for us. Like when we went to the US to work with the artists there, it’s a whole new world to us. But with Japanese artists, the process is a lot easier because we already know how things go,” Taka explained.
“If we collaborate with Japanese artists, we get the feeling that they only want to use our name as a stepping stone and not because they genuinely want to collaborate with us. Music is fun to create when you’re on the same level.”
Involvement in the final 2 “Rurouni Kenshin” movies
Last week, it was announced that “Rurouni Kenshin” live action series will be back in summer 2020 with 2 new films for its final chapter. ONE OK ROCK has been performing the theme soundtracks for the past 3 “Rurouni Kenshin” movies, so it is only natural that fans are expecting that they return to perform for the last 2 final movies. “We haven’t heard any news about it. But if they ask us to, then we will definitely do it,” Taka said.
Despite being close friend with the main actor of “Rurouni Kenshin” Sato Takeru, Taka admitted that this was his first time hearing the news. When asked about this, he said: “We have great conversations all the time, but this topic is more of a business side of things. I don’t really like to talk to my friends about work, you know? [laugh]
Taka’s vocal training regime
Taka is known for his trademark voice – husky yet high toned. He has a great vocal control and has been complimented for its vast range and long notes. However, Taka revealed that he hates doing vocal training and rehearsal even though sometimes, it is necessary for him to do it. “I don’t do vocal training. I really don’t like it. I don’t like rehearsal and training.”
Taka’s trick to maintaining his excellent vocal, which shocked many fans is by doing acupuncture on his throat. According to Taka, it really helps a lot. “Because there is also muscle here. If you sing too much, it will get strained. So that’s why once in a while, you need to relieve the strain.”
Performing at Olympics 2020
According to Japan’s Goo Rankings, ONE OK ROCK has been shortlisted to perform at the prestigious event. However, the band said they have yet to receive any info on that and have no idea that they have been shortlisted.
When asked if they would like to perform at the event, Taka responded: “If they ask us to, then yes. But it’s a very government thing, and I don’t really like being used for political reasons.”
ONE OK ROCK’s latest album “Eye of the Storm” is now available on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Store, Google Play and more.