Kohnosuke Sakazaki Interview
The power to overcome the days of depression was the music the three of us produced
“The Sakazaki family had my father as the eldest son, and my uncles and aunts lived together. They all loved musical instruments, so there were a lot of instruments in my house, such as Xylophone, ocarina, guitar, ukulele, clarinet, flute, shakuhachi (bamboo flute), Shamisen... But nobody had properly learned how to play them, so they were playing them in their own styles. I was also playing xylophone, ocarina, Taisho koto (Nagoya harp), etc. At the New Year party, everyone gathered and had a jam session together. When I was in elementary school, I joined the session and played the ukulele. I think at the party I sang a song for the first time in front of many people. I still remember very well that I sang “Osho (king of Japanese chess)”, and I was in the second or third grade in elementary school at that time (laughs). My uncles and aunts were always listening to music, so all kinds of music – from Japanese music to jazz and American pop music - was being played in my house.
--How did you learn to play the guitar with good technique?
“When I was in elementary school, the guitar was still too big for my body, so I learned how to play a ukulele that my uncle bought for me. A ukulele has four strings, and if you think of it as a guitar, they are the No.1 to 4 strings with 5 capo. By practicing the ukulele, I was able to understand how to play the guitar to some extent.
I bought a guitar by myself just after entering middle school. I saved my Otoshidama (New Year’s allowance) and went to buy a guitar with my big brother. My first guitar cost 12,000 yen. I bought a folk guitar and my brother bought a gut guitar for 12,000 yen also. I was really really happy, and after that I went on a playing-the-guitar spree (laughs). I read a chord book to learn chords, and looked at a song book coming with a photo magazine called “Heibon Punch Deluxe” that my brother was buying, and played the guitar. He also let me look at the centerfold in the magazine but only just for a minute (laughs).
After entering the second year of middle school, I formed a group called THE BUTONS (Japanese sitting cushion) with Tone-kun. It was the first group I formed in my life (laughs). We played guitars together, and sang in harmony songs by the Beatles or the Folk Crusaders. We recorded our performances and talks on cassette tapes while saying that those tapes would be valuable after we became famous. Looking back, I already wanted to be a professional in some vague way at that time."
--What kind of music activities did you do at Tokyo Metropolitan Sumidagawa High School?
“Tone-kun and I went to different high schools, but sometimes we met and played together. My high school friends say that I brought a guitar to school on the day of the entrance ceremony, but I don't remember that. I remember I had concerts in a classroom after school, and felt like being “Takuro Yoshida of Sumidagawa High School” - even though teachers were angry and told me that I shouldn’t bring my guitar to school (laughs). And when I began the third year of high school, I entered a contest for the first time in my life and met Sakurai there. "
--It was the contest at Ginza Yamano Music store where "Confidence" won. What was your impression of Sakurai-san?
“I met Sakurai for the first time in that contest. He had a really beautiful voice and he was a very good singer. At that time I hadn't thought about forming a band with Sakurai at all, but I thought it would be nice if I could sing in harmony with a person who had that kind of a beautiful voice. I wanted to sing together with him. I thought it would become a beautiful harmony if I sang with a voice like Sakurai, when I copied songs by Bee Gees, CSN&Y, GARO, etc. After that, in August, I met a member of 'Confidence' again by chance at the Yamano Music Store, and joined their rehearsal. I sang with Sakurai for the first time, and as I had thought our voices were compatible with each other."
--And then, the next year, you entered Meiji Gakuin University and met Takamizawa-san.
“I knew of Takamizawa when I was a high school student, but I properly had a conversation with him only after I entered university. The place where I spoke to Takamizawa for the first time was on the roof of one of our university school buildings. We hit it off as we chatted about the Beatles, the band both of us loved, and on the same day he visited my room in Ningyo-cho, and we sang and played guitars together. I'm sure you already knew that I invited Takamizawa to our band. "We will have a concert at the Kid Airac Hall tomorrow. Why don't you play with me in the concert?" The next day, Sakurai came to the place where we were practicing and had a dramatic reunion with Takamizawa (laughs). After that, Takamizawa always stayed in my room in Ningyo-cho. During the day, he went to college to take classes. I was in the night colledge, so I went to campus before evening, and practiced songs there, and at night I came back to my room with Takamizawa without attending my classes (laughs). On our way home, we dropped by a second-hand record store in Ginza and bought records there. We exchanged information about records too. And yes, I kept a notebook in my room and we wrote various things on it. Sometimes we wrote something like a journal. Sometimes we wrote mahjong scores, or a manga of Takamizawa crying... It's funny that two men had that kind of notebook and wrote those things (laughs). Actually, I still keep the notebook, but there are a lot of things I cannot show to people ... (laughs)."
--In the next year, you finally had a debut from Victor Records. How did you feel about the process of gradually proceeding towards your debut?
“We didn't have many original songs, so I thought we had to make more songs. But it was amazing to be able to release a record, and I sort of casually thought that it would be better to have a debut when we had a chance. Anyway, we took our first step forward. The process before our debut was very smooth and quick, but because of that, we faced high hurdles after we had a debut...
The turning point was the time when our third single was canceled and we quit Victor Records. But I was optimistic, and I was kind of satisfied to some extent even during the period when we were playing as a backup band for Kamayatsu-san and Naoko-san. Of course, it wasn't a good situation for Alfie, but it was at least better than before, because the three of us could play music on stage and we were recognized as musicians. From that point, we started writing original songs towards our second debut."
--If Alfee hadn't been born, what kind of job would you have chosen?
"I think it would be an owner of a tropical fish shop... I have a lot of hobbies so there are other possibilities, but I think I might have chosen a music-related job after all, something like an unsuccessful guitar player. Because I believed if I kept practicing and playing the guitar no matter what happened, the time would come and somebody would want to use me. So if I could meet myself 40 years ago, I would say 'Practice the guitar more while you have time.' (laughs)”