Thursday, April 14, 2011

SCANS: InRock nº 329 (Japan)


"We are inspired by things like movies, our surroundings, everyday life or just waking up each morning."

Tokio Hotel show their concern for Japan. Representing the band are the brothers, Bill & Tom Kaulitz who kindly agreed to give a telephone interview from Los Angeles at short notice.

Q: How have you guys been?
Bill: We've been writing songs in the studio, launching new projects, stuff like that.

Q: Are you writing new songs for the next album?
Tom: It may or may not be for the next album, we're just writing songs at this stage. We still don't have a defined plan for releasing the new album and we don't know when we will release it. We're just being creative, writing music.

Q: What kind of songs are you writing? Are you singing it in English? Or are they being written in German?
Bill: Right now, the songs are more or less written in English. I don't really know why myself. Just that it comes naturally to me. Besides, we're living in LA now so somehow things tend to get done in English. However we're not sure how we are eventually going to compile the album because we definitely will do songs in German. Since nothing has been decided and we're still at the experimental stage, we're just trying out different things while we put a demo of the songs together.

Q: Does your recording company and management not pressure you to complete the album by a certain date, or are they fairly relaxed about it?
Tom: (laughs) They are not relaxed about it. But we're just staying cool and calm.
Bill: Yup, technically we don't have a deadline. I mean, for me, deadlines are like nightmares. In the creative line, you're trying very hard to produce good work but having to deal with a deadline just messes things up and make its even more complicated. What's more important is the freedom to enjoy doing what you love to do. Even if it seems like making an album is about completing the songs and making detailed preparations, its actually something which need sot come from inside of us. That is why right now we want to take it easy so that we can enjoy new challenges*.

*probably referring to the challenge of creating a new album

Q: So, what kind of challenges are you taking on, what sound are you trying to create?
Tom: That's a surprise we're keeping for the release of the next album. In the first place, we are creating something different everyday. We listen to various kinds of music, and are inspired by different things so it really depends on the mood at each point in time. We're doing this everyday and everyday is a new day.
Bill: That's right. That's why we don't have a definitive sound for the next album.

Q: What kind of music inspires you?
Tom: Its not just music actually. For now I really like the older works by Anthony Hamilton.
Bill: We are also inspired by movies and what's happening around us. Everyday life in a place like LA is very refreshing and therefore inspiring. Just being able to wake up each morning is also an inspiration. But I would say movies play a bigger part. We really like movies. We do go to the theatres or we watch one from our 1000+ dvd collection in our home theater.

Q: Any good films so far?
Bill: The Town was good. I also think The Fighter was really good.

Q: About your life in LA, do you think you are somewhat able to live a more normal life? After all you're kind of "unknown" compared to Germany.
Bill: Well, the both of us came to LA because we wanted some privacy in our lives. Up to this point we've not been able to enjoy much privacy, and it's a bit difficult to achieve that in Europe due to certain circumstances. Therefore, we were looking for a place where we can be free to be creative and at the same time enjoy some privacy. Up till now, we've been on tour and haven't had the time for any kind of life outside of Tokio Hotel. In that sense, LA is quite suitable because things are quite different. The *paparazzi don't know where we live so we've been able to enjoy some privacy and take things a bit easier.
Tom: It doesn't mean that we get to play and party every day. Most of the time, we're cooped up in the studio.
Bill: Yes, **we do need to be cautious at all times.

*Japanese word is unclear, so I'm guessing he's referring to paparazzi
**Bill is probably saying this to mean that if they were out and about and careless, their location would be found out. It took me a while to understand

Q: So is there some kind of everyday routine in your life?
Bill: We're really bad when it comes to routines. That's why we do different things everyday. Other than checking our emails, we're currently busy with several of this year's projects. Its still in the planning phase and we havent got the details down yet. There are various things we'd like to do this year. The best part of our job is having the freedom to do what we want. We really hate routines because when we were young we had to go to school everyday like a routine, and we just hated it but we had no choice.

Q: Finally, do you have any words for the people in Japan?
Bill: Of course. We've been checking the news everyday and staying up-to-date on the latest developments in Japan. I think it's not just us but the whole world knows what's going on and that has deeply moved everybody. I think everyone wants to help in one way or another. Especially in this day and age, I think it's important for the world to unite and help each other out. It's really wonderful to actually see the world giving a helping hand to Japan.
Tom: I was really shocked when I first heard about what happened in Japan. After all it is a country that is special to us. And we were so saddened by the news. So we've been looking out for information about whether the people are alright. On our official website we are selling a button set and the proceeds from the sales will be donated to Japan. I also think our fans would like to play a part in helping out.

Q: Is there a song you would like to dedicate to those who are still feeling down?
Bill: Because everybody is different, it's quite hard to find one thing to say to everybody but if I were to choose from our songs, I would choose "By Your Side" and "Zoom Into Me". Both songs give the assurance that you're not alone and it's a message I would like to emphasize. After all, it makes you feel happy if you know that people around the world feel for you.

TH-crazy Director*
Full account of their secret encounters
*The director is a passionate TH fan. I’m not sure why they call this person a director but from what he says it seems he’s one of the Japanese staff who was coordinating TH’s schedule and the related logistical arrangements. I’m assuming it’s a guy.

10 Feb (Thurs)
Bill, what’s that on your head.....!
On this day, TH had an interview in the hotel, and also an autograph session organized by WWW(Shibuya).

Tokio Hotel who are rarely late for appointments, arrived in the interview room a little after 11. All who were in the room including me, couldn’t help staring at Bill…Was it a new variation of the Mohican? Is that a light bulb? What?! (Bill later explained that they are vacuum tube amplifiers used with guitar amplifiers)It’s kind of difficult to describe in words so check out the photos for yourself! I also had the opportunity to go to lunch with the security officers. I think its probably Bill who ordered the pasta in tomato cream sauce. As it wasn’t on the menu, I figured they actually have it specially made for him.

In order for us (writer and the German staff) to secure the area (where the signing session is held), we have to come up with a plan to ensure that the cars carrying the Tokio Hotel members could reach the location. Just as they got out of their car, a whole bunch of what looked like Tokio Hotel fans gathered around. There was some panic and chaos as the 3 Audi cars carrying Tokio Hotel arrived on site. The security personnel escorted Bill and Tom into the signing area first. Georg and Gustav who had arrived earlier were completely surrounded by fans, so we had to find a way through to the crowd to get inside.

In the waiting room/green room at the signing location, a bar like those you see at launch parties was prepared for them. The head of the German staff had to order a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato in time for their arrival.

At 6 pm, the winners1 who had gathered at the signing location were making their way inside. In half an hour, the whole place was packed with fans. The signing session started 10 minutes after schedule. The atmosphere further intensified as Tokio Hotel came on stage to the screams of many fans, especially when they saw Bill with his new “Mohican”2. Despite the short time allotted for this signing session, they were able to receive several presents and greetings directly from their fans. As for the total tally of the presents, there were some very interesting results. In first place with the most number of presents is Bill, which goes without saying. Somehow Georg came in at 2nd place, followed by Gustav in 3rd place (who is quite popular in this country) and lastly, Tom. With this second visit to Japan, it is becoming clear that the GG combination3 has a strong and passionate following.
1. Only winners of some contest (unspecified) were allowed entry in the autograph session.
2. For clarity, it does not mean that the fans reacted that way because of his hairstyle, but rather the fact that he finally appeared on stage.
3. Refers to Georg and Gustav.

The situation when making their way back to the hotel is the same as when they were arriving at the signing location. They were escorted by security to their cars and the cars took off right away. The huge crowd that gathered around the Spain-zaka street1 probably included those who didn’t get a chance to participate in the signing session. (Some portion unreadable) With cameras flashing, they screamed out their names “Bill! Tom! Geo! Gu san!”. 2
1. There is a street in Shibuya called Spain-zaka. Probably near where the signing session took place.
2. They seem to have come up with shortened names for Georg and Gustav. More detailed explanation later.

Back at the hotel, there was a meet and greet and some photo-taking with some VIPs, marking the end of a long, long day. All that’s left is just one more day!

About GG combination’s shortened names
The Japanese have a habit of shortening long words, hence they have shortened Georg’s name to “Geo” (pronounced Gae-oh in Japanese) and “Gu san” as a short form for Gustav . San is a salutation like Mr, Mrs, Miss etc. In Japanese san does not refer to a specific gender and is used for both male and female.

Why is it shortened? Well Georg’s and Gustav’s name when said the German way is only 2 syllables long. In Japanese, their names would be pronounced in the Japanese phonetic system, which would make 4 syllables, ゲオルグ(Ge-oh-ru-gu). And Gustav’s name in Japanese phonetics would be グスタフ(Gu-su-ta-fu). It’s a bit difficult to scream 4 syllables in the heat of the moment. :p

Similarly, when referring to both Georg and Gustav, they shortened it to GG combi. Shortening names may or may not be regarded as a nickname so I would refrain from saying that these are Georg and Gustav’s nicknames.

11 Feb (Fri)
Ice-skating Challenge 2
Finally, we’ve come to the last day of promotions from Tokio Hotel. Although the company was closed today as it’s a national holiday1, we used the Artiste Room from noon for interviews. (Unreadable portion, something about sitting in the Audi on the way to the office), we received a phone call. I wonder if everyone has noticed? It’s a request for Starbucks. It’s necessary to enable one to work happily. (I’m cutting the paragraph here because it’s getting too long)

1 Feb 11 is a national holiday. According to the earliest Japanese history records, on this day in the year 660 BC the first Japanese emperor was crowned.(

I now begin to tackle the assignment that I received from the head of German staff. That is fulfilling Tokio Hotel’s dream of ice-skating after work today. After confirmation with the sales department of the local skating rink, I found out that they close at 6pm today because of the national holiday. However, as their work schedule stretches to 8pm, it looks like this is out of the question. I don’t care how much it costs, is there a rink that would accommodate us? Is there a rink that would stay open for Tokio Hotel? As my search was futile, I made a suggestion to the head of German staff to ask the hotel concierge to look into this matter. So we did, and in a short while, they found us a skating rink in the vicinity that would specially accommodate Tokio Hotel and let them use the rink for 30 minutes. It seems this (30 minutes) is all they can handle due to the weather conditions that affect the surface of the ice. As the head of German staff was also looking for a skating rink, it was only after he/she said “it’s alright” and informed Tokio Hotel that I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

At 1845, we headed out to the location of the last promotional activity. It’s a live broadcast at the Nico Nico studio. This is a first time a Western music artiste is making an appearance in this studio. At 1930, the live broadcast from the studio started. It was obvious that the Japanese Tokio Hotel fans were watching but lots of fans from around the world also had access and it was so interesting to see their messages in different languages popping up on the monitor. For the 50 very lucky fans, it was a very precious experience. Especially with Tom’s mischievous behavior and Bill’s silver outfit which was very stylish and cool. Interacting with their fans on the telephone and internet, the Tokio Hotel members seemed to enjoy themselves very much.

After this, Tokio Hotel and their staff got into the Audis and headed for the skating rink. In fact, it is actually located at the place where they held their December showcase, and from what I understand, the very same rink that Tom spoke of when he saw it from their hotel window. There was a look of surprise on my face as I guessed that the rink must be at the top of the building. I was also invited to skate with them, but I politely declined to participate in what would have been a visual feast. I’m sure all you fans are wondering who the best skater among them is. Aren’t you? The best was Georg, second is Tom, and in third place is Bill. And the last to come from the rink*, trailing behind by a few minutes is Gustav. Bill was holding the hands of one of the staff as he skated and all of them (excluding Gustav) played a game of tag on ice (some unreadable portion). Although we had exclusive use of the rink for 30 minutes, it seems 10 minutes was more than enough to satisfy them.

*No idea what the writer is referring to. They might be having a speed contest?

Photo caption: Bill putting on his skates in the locker room.

With this, my work schedule for the day with Tokio Hotel comes to an end. This time I was invited by Tokio Hotel for a meal, so I was able to find out for the first time what kind of food they have been eating. Georg and Gustav who are meat-eaters like me had beef steaks with mashed potatoes, Tom had a vegetarian sandwich and fries, Bill wanted “seafood mix” and he was presented with what looked like the tomato cream pasta that was frequently requested for lunch. For drinks, Bill had white wine, Georg and Gustav had a diet Cola, and Tom had a Cola. I came to the realization that even after work, Tom loves to bully/tease Georg, and that all four of them are on very good terms with each other.

It seems that towards the end of the meal, to quote the words of the head of German staff, Georg said that he would like to come to Japan again in April*. It seems that up to this point Tokio Hotel had never said things like that, and this seems to convey how much they love Japan. (Note: There is no plan to come to Japan in April)

*Please note that they said this before the earthquake and tsunami happened.

At the bar, we had a toast to celebrate the successful promotion campaign. After which, GG combi who were scheduled for an early return the following day went back to their rooms. Bill and Tom went back to their rooms at the same time that we were about to leave.

12 Feb (Sat)
Thanking the fans
The GG team1 left Japan on the morning flight for Germany without any disruptions. AT 3pm, the head of German staff and I left the hotel for the airport to arrange for their check-in beforehand. We arrived at the airport shortly after 4pm. We saw many fans who had lined up in 2 rows in a very impressive manner2, so I had to determine with the airport staff on how to arrange for their check in. As I spoke with the fans and the security officers, I decided that to give Bill and Tom a beautiful send off that would cause the least trouble to the airport and the guys. Just before Bill and Tom arrived, the fans were lined up in one line from the airport’s entrance(inside the building). It was a miraculous sight to behold as the fans expressed their gratitude to Bill and Tom while they made their way to the check-in counter which was some distance away. I think it is because the fans want to maintain their special connection with Tokio Hotel3. I too, would like to say my thanks to the fans.

1. A variation on GG combi.
2. Impressive in the sense that there were probably lots of them and it would have made it very difficult for Bill and Tom to get to their flight.
3. The director felt that because they wanted this special connection with Tokio Hotel, they agreed to follow his exit plan to line up in one row.

Other comments: There are unreadable portions which I couldn’t decipher so if anyone is able to contribute, please do so. I can safely say the unreadable portions aren’t really that crucial as I have captured most of the article in the above translation. After reading the whole article, I’m still not able to identify who this director is and which company he works for. The article here is also the second part of his account of his experience with Tokio Hotel. Hence there must be a first part somewhere which I haven’t read or seen (as of 24 April).

Scan credit: Tokio Hotel Japan
Translation credit: Tina @ THCanada

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