Masaru Sakurai Interview

Grateful Birth

あの時が本当の意味でアルフィーが誕生した瞬間

That was the moment Alfee was born in the true sense

Translated by A.K.

―桜井さんが音楽に目覚め、歌う事が楽しいと思ったのはいつ頃でしたか?

--Sakurai-san, when did you become aware of music, and feel singing songs was fun?

「小学校の頃に、兄貴の影響で聴き始めたのは加山雄三さんのレコードでした。それと、当時はグループサウンズの時代で、テレビで見たジュリーやショーケンの歌をよく風呂の中で歌っていましたね。風呂場で歌うとエコーが効くから気持ちいいでしょ、だからついつい長風呂してました。そう思うと、やっぱり歌が好きだったんだろうね。

“When I was in elementary school, I started listening to Yuzo Kayama's records through the influence of my brother. And at that time Group Sounds was very popular, so while I was taking a bath I often sang songs by Julie and Shoken that I had seen on TV. You know, it feels good when you sing in the bathroom because you can get lots of reverb. So I often took a long bath. In retrospect, I naturally liked singing.

小学校5年生の頃はグループサウンズの中でもブルー・コメッツが好きで、ドラムのジャッキー吉川さんに憧れてましたね。ブルー・コメッツは他のグループと比べるとちょっと落ち着いた雰囲気で、髪も七三分け。見た目はザ・スパイダースのほうが格好よかったんだけど、こっちは音楽的にしっかりしているなと僕は子供ながらに感じていたんだよね。で、僕はドラムに憧れてブルー・コメッツのレコードを聴きながら、ステレオの前にクッションを置いて、スティックで叩いて遊ぶようになり、それが高じて中学校ではブラスバンド部に入ってスネアドラムをやるようになったんです。

When I was in the 5th grade, I liked Blue Comets the best among the Group Sounds bands, and I was attracted to the drummer, Jackie Yoshikawa. Blue Comets was a little more matured than other groups, and their hair was parted to one side. The Spiders looked cooler, but even as a child, I felt that Blue Comets was more musically stable. So, I longed for the drums and started playing with a cushion while listening to Blue Comets records. I put a cushion in front of the stereo and beat it with sticks. As a result, I joined the school brass band in middle school, and played snare drum.

中学生くらいになると、日本のグループサウンズのお手本が実は洋楽だったんだということにも気付くんだね。で、それからはサイモン&ガーファンクルなどの洋楽志向になっていったわけ。そして、高校1年生の夏休みにサイモン&ガーファンクルのアルバム『明日に架ける橋』を買い、それがきっかけで同じクラスの友達と3人で“コンフィデンス”というグループを組むようになるわけです。」

Around the time I entered middle school, I also realized that the examples for songs by Japanese Group Sounds were actually Western music. And then, I developed a love for Western music, such as Simon & Garfunkel. I bought Simon & Garfunkel's album “Bridge Over Troubled Water” during the summer vacation of the first year of high school, and that motivated me to form a band called “Confidence” with three of my friends in the same class."

―坂崎さんが参加する以前のコンフィデンスですね。どういうグループだったのですか?

--It was the Confidence before Sakazaki-san joined. What kind of band was it?

「僕がボーカルで、2人がギター担当。ギターの1人と僕が二声でハモってサイモン&ガーファンクルなどのコピーをしてましたね。いつも学校で練習してたんだけど、たまに学園祭にも出たりしているうちに腕試しをしたくなったんだね。それで、高3の時に初めてコンテストに出たら、いきなり優勝しちゃった。もう、テングになりましたね、うまいね~って誉められて、もてはやされて(笑)。

“I was the vocalist and the other two played guitars. One of the guitarists and I sang in two-part harmony, and copied songs by Simon & Garfunkel. We always practiced at school, and sometimes performed in school festivals. While appearing in those things, we felt like we wanted to test our skills. So when we were in the third year of high school, we entered a contest for the first time and all of a sudden we became a champion. I became so overconfident. I was praised and touted as a good singer (laughs).

コンフィデンスという名前は僕が考えたんですよ。サイモン&ガーファンクルの曲『Bookends Theme』の中の単語からとったんだけど、“ス”で終わるのがいいなあと思って。“タイガース”とか“スパイダース”みたいにね。」

I named the band “Confidence”. I picked the name from the lyrics of "Bookends Theme" by Simon & Garfunkel, because I thought it would be cool to end with an "s" sound, like “Tigers” or “Spiders”.

―高見沢さんとは高校で出会っているんですよね。どんな印象でしたか?
--You met Takamizawa-san in high school. What was your impression of him?

「あいつのクラスはハードロック好きで、あいつ自身も派手な服着て目立っていたから、絶対不良なんだろうと思ってたんだよね。そしたら、実は優等生だった(笑)。まさか40年も一緒にやるとは思ってもいませんでしたよ。ロック好きのあいつのクラスの事を、なんて大雑把な人達なんだろう、君たちは“繊細"という言葉を知らないの?なんて僕らは思ってましたからね(笑)。そんな高見沢が大学1年の春にやったキッドアイラックホールでのライブに突然いるんだもんな。それは驚きましたよ!お前、なんでここにいるの?なんでギター持ってるの?ってね(笑)。」

“His class liked hard rock music, and he especially liked to dress in flashy clothes, so he was a stand-out. I thought he was definitely a bad boy, but he was actually an honor student (laughs). I just never imagined that we would play music together for 40 years. Because my classmates and I were thinking that the students of his class who loved rock music were very rough, and we were talking something like they must not know the word ‘sensitive’ (laughs). So when I saw Takamizawa was playing in our concert at Kid Airac Hall without prior announcement in the first year of college, I was so surprised! Why are you here and why do you have the guitar? (Lol)"

―坂崎さんとの出会いはコンフィデンスが優勝した銀座・山野楽器でのコンテストですね。

--You met Sakazaki san at the contest at Ginza Yamano Music store, where Confidence won first place, right?

「坂崎は人なつっこかったなあ、初対面の人ともきちんと話せたりしてね。そしてギターは当時からめちゃくちゃうまかった。まるでポール・サイモンのように弾けちゃうし、スティーブン・スティルスのライブレコードに入っているミストーンで完璧にコピーしちゃうから、すごいヤツだと思いましたね。歌も僕の声とよく合ったので、坂崎が加入した後のコンフィデンスのハーモニーは一段ときれいになりました。坂崎が入った事で僕達のテクニックは一気に向上して、実力的には誰にも負けないという自信にも繋がりましたね。」

“Sakazaki was really friendly and he was able to talk to someone new, and he already had amazing skills on guitar back then. He could play a guitar just like Paul Simon and perfectly copied everything including the wrong notes that Steven Stills (CSN&Y) played in his live concert record, so I thought he was really impressive. His voice matched mine very well, so after he joined Confidence, our harmony became much more beautiful. Our musical technique also improved thanks to him, so after he joined we had the confidence that we would be second to none in music performance."

―優勝した後、ビクターレコードからデビューのお誘いがあったそうですが、その頃、桜井さんの中で“プロになりたい”という思いはあったのですか?
--I heard that Victor Records asked you to have a debut after you won the contest. At that time, did you have a desire to become a professional musician?

「どこかにはあったと思うけど、具体的にデビューの話がきた時には僕はすごく控え目だった。慎重だったといえばそうなのかもしれないけど、そんな大手のレコード会社からデビューして本当にいいのだろうかと悩みましたね。その後、出場したコンテストがきっかけで小室等さんに声をかけていただき、レコードデビューをすることになるんだけど、そんな時でも、僕にはミュージシャンになるんだという思いはあまりなかったんですよね。ただ好きだから音楽をやっていただけ。僕の場合、坂崎と高見沢が加入した時も、デビューの話がきた時もそうなんだけど、あのね、回転寿司に例えるとわかりやすいんだよ。僕はね、カウンターに座っても自分からは特に注文するわけでもなく、好きな寿司が回ってきたらそれを取って食べるだけ。食べたくないものが回ってきた時には素通り…ただそれだけの男でした(笑)。

“I think I unconsciously did, but I was very passive when being told about our debut. You can say that I was very careful, but actually I was wondering if it would be really OK to have a debut from such a major record company. After that, we entered another contest and met Mr. Hitoshi Komuro there. He persuaded us to have a record debut, but even then, I didn't have much intention to be a musician. I was singing songs because I liked music. In my case, I didn’t take any action - it was the same as when Sakazaki and Takamizawa joined, or when I was asked to have a debut. Well, it's easy to understand if you imagine me at a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. Even though I was sitting at the counter, I wouldn’t order anything by myself, and only when my favorite sushi passed by me, I would pick it up and eat it. When sushi I don't want to eat comes closer, I just ignore it… I’m that kind of man (laughs).

そんな感じだったから、1人で音楽をやっていたらデビューすることはなかっただろうね。この3人だったからアルフィーとしてデビューできた。中でも一番ミュージシャンへの夢を抱いていた坂崎が引っぱってくれた事が大きかったと思う。高見沢にいたっては教師になろうと思っていたのに、坂崎にこっちの道に引きずり込まれたんですから(笑)。」

So, if I was performing music alone, I wouldn’t have had a debut because I was like that. The reason why we were able to have a debut as Alfee was because the members were the three of us. Especially Sakazaki had a dream of becoming a musician, so he led the way. I think that was the biggest factor for us having a debut. Particularly for Takamizawa it was an unexpected incident. He was planning to be a teacher, but Sakazaki turned him towards music (laughs)."

―40年活動を続ける事になったターニングポイントはどこだったと思いますか?

--When did you think the turning point happened for you to continue for 40 years?

「アルフィーとして鳴り物入りでデビューした後にドーンと突き落とされた時でしょうね。3枚目のシングルが発売中止になった時に、僕らはこれではダメなんだと気付いたんだよね。そして、当時履き続けていたロンドンブーツを脱ごう!と3人で決めた。言ってみればそれまでは本当の自分じゃなかったわけ。まずは等身大の自分達に戻ろう、という気持ちだったんですね。あの時が、本当の意味でアルフィーが誕生した瞬間だったんだと思います。それからは必死でしたね、練習するわ、曲を作るわでね。

“It would be the time when we were thrown into the abyss of despair after having a debut as Alfee with great fanfare. When the third single was canceled, we realized that we couldn’t go on like this. And we, the three of us, decided to take off the London boots we were wearing at the time! In other words, until then, we had not been our true selves. We thought that we should go back to the real us first. I think that was the moment Alfee was born in the true sense. After that, we desperately practiced and wrote songs.

そうそう、当時、高見沢とTEACのオープンリールのレコーダーを買ったなあ。2人でお金を出し合って月賦で買ったんです。4チャンネルが独立していたそのレコーダーは高いものだったけど、いい音で録音しなくちゃって、高見沢がこだわってねえ(笑)。今でもあいつのデモテープの完成度は高いけど、当時からそうでしたね。「メリーアン」や「星空のディスタンス」もそれを使ってデモテープを録ったんですよ。あの頃のテープ、聴いてみたいなあ。高見沢は今も持ってるのかな? あのオープンリールのレコーダー、半分はオレのものだからな!(笑)。」

Oh yeah, I remember that Takamizawa and I bought TEAC reel-to-reel recorder together back then. The two of us chipped in and bought it on a monthly installment plan. The recorder had four independent channels, so it was expensive, but Takamizawa insisted that we had to record our songs with good sound (laughs). Still now his demo tape is very high-quality, but it has been so since then. Demo tapes of “Marie-Anne” and “Starry Sky Distance” were also recorded with that recorder. I want to listen to the tapes of those days again. Does Takamizawa still keep the recorder? Hey, half of that reel-to-reel recorder is mine! (laughs)"

―その頃の桜井さんに今、会えるとしたら、どんなアドバイスをしますか?
--If you could meet yourself at that time now, what advice would you give the young Sakurai?

「40年前を振り返ると、あんな事をしなければよかった、こうしたほうがよかったと思う事はあるけど…でも、そういう経験を積み重ねて今がある。すべての事を含めて歴史となっているわけ。そう考えると、40年前の自分に向けてアドバイスする事は何もないなあ。今こうしてアルフィーを続けていられる事が本当に幸せだから、これまでの過去を変えたいとは思わないですね。だから、当時の自分に何か伝えるとしたら“そのままでよし!”ですね(笑)。」

“When I look back 40 years ago, there are things I feel like I shouldn’t have done, or things I could have done better… but such experiences made me who I am today, and all of them became part of my history. When I think about it, I don't have any advice for myself 40 years ago.I am so happy that I can continue Alfee in this way, so I don't want to change my past. If I were to tell something to myself at that time, it would be ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing!’”