Japanese rock outfit One OK Rock talk about going international and their hopes for the future
It was a long climb up the international ladder for Japanese rock band One OK Rock but now that the lads have almost reached the pinnacle of worldwide fame, they have no intention of slipping back down.
Named Best International Band at last year’s inaugural Rock Sound Awards by British rock magazine Rock Sound, the rockers have been busy conquering the world for the past year and are kicking off 2018 by touring in Asia.
One OK Rock, which features bassist Ryota Kohama, vocalist Takahiro “Taka” Moriuchi, guitarist Toru Yamashita and drummer Tomoya Kanki, is considered the most famous rock band to ever come out of Japan after X Japan and Luna Sea.
Set up by Yamashita back in 2005 while he was still at school, One OK Rock released its first single, “Naihishinsho” early in 2007 and followed up with a debut album “Zeitakubyo” later that year. Before long they had a firm fan base at home, packing out concert venues in Sendai, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Tokyo in 2010 and headlining a series of music festivals the following year.
But it was international recognition they craved and in 2015, the J-rock quartet achieved a long-held dream of recording their first English-language album, “35xxxv”, in the US with producer John Feldmann, the man behind many successful artists including The Veronicas, Good Charlotte, Panic! at the Disco, Boys Like Girls, 5 Seconds of Summer, Blink-182, Sleeping With Sirens, and Set It Off.
In 2016, the band signed to Fueled by Ramen and released the Japanese version of “Ambitions” on local label A-Sketch on January 11 and the English-version album on the American label two days later, collaborating with Avril Lavigne on “Listen” and 5 Seconds of Summer on “Take What You Want”.
One OK Rock toured across North America and Europe in the second half of last year to promote the album and is kicking off its “Ambitions Asia Tour 2018” with the Bangkok gig, which takes place at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani on January 18. The show, which will be the band’s third concert in the Thai capital, is expected to be their biggest so far in this country and a sellout, just like their two previous gigs at Thunder Dome, Muang Thong Thani in 2016 and at Muang Thai GMM Live House at CentralWorld in 2013.
“We were really surprised on our first visit to Thailand to find out how many fans we already had in Bangkok. They were an amazing bunch, really showing their emotions. It was amazing,” recalls frontman Taka.
“We are really excited about coming back and will do our best for our Thai fans.”
The band is popular all over Asia and the new tour is also taking in Singapore, Shanghai, Taipei, Taiwan, Pasay in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Seoul before heading back to Japan, where the band will play two nights apiece in Osaka, Tokyo and Fukuoka.
One OK Rock’s vocalist Taka agreed to have a chat with The Nation via email while the band was closing out its European tour last month. Excerpts:
Did you make any changes to your sound after signing with Fueled by Ramen?
Yeah, we did. We were introduced to various producers while we were recording and that made it easier to set the direction of our music!
How did you want “Ambitions” to move on from “35xxxv”?
We wanted to widen our world view and also expand the possibilities of rock music. I think we’ve achieved that on our latest album.
How did the collaboration with other artists come about and what were they like to work with?
We either toured with these people, or met them while we were on tour. Working with them was fantastic! I’ve been a big fan of Avril for a long time and I feel so honoured to have been able to collaborate with her.
What’s with the name “Ambitions”?
To tell people to have ambition. With ambition comes hope! As for our ambition, there are still a lot of people who have not heard of One OK Rock yet and we want to be able to show them what we can do.
And what’s with the yellow album cover?
Yellow is the colour of hope. It ties in with the theme for the album: hope, ambition and singing together in the chorus.
What is the significance of the tracks “We Are” and “I Was King”?
“I Was King” talks about my experiences when I was younger. As for “We Are”, we wrote the song for 18-year-old. We wanted to reach out to those who are struggling and let them know that their future will be bright if they put faith in themselves and work towards making things work.
How do you get ready for a concert?
We huddle and pump ourselves up before every show!
Have you ever faced any unexpected incidents during a show? And how do you deal with uncomfortable situations?
During the Japan leg of the current “Ambitions” tour, Toru actually fell down a hole! (laughs) We were all really worried but we carried on with the show!”
What are your plans after the world tour?
We’re already working on our next album and it’s definitely going to be something completely different.
After 10 years in business, what would you say are the biggest changes in One OK Rock?
I think the biggest change is that some members have started their own families.
Is there anything else in the next year or so that One OK Rock really wants to do?
We must never forget the fact that there are still many people in this world who don’t know about One OK Rock. That means there’s still a lot more we need to do and we want to show the charm of One OK Rock to many more people.
One OK Rock is known for their energetic and entertaining performances of rock songs. What is the most difficult thing you’ve had to face as a band?
As a band we’re having a blast so it’s all good! Joking aside, it’s really tough but at the same time, we would be nothing if we didn’t have this, so we’re thankful of the fact that we are able to make a living doing what we love best. That’s why we make sure to give it our all at every show.
While the band is going out and challenging the world, some of your fans are still yearning for your Japanese songs. How do you manage their expectations? How do you handle that?
Japanese is our native language but we admire the western sound. We have yet to achieve the western sound that we want – our “Ambitions” if you like –but once we reach that, we will start writing in Japanese again.
Blasting off in Bangkok
- One OK Rock’s “Ambitions Asia Tour 2018 Live in Bangkok” is being staged at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani, on January 18 starting at 8pm.
- Tickets cost from Bt2,500 to Bt4,500 at Thai Ticket Major counters. Call (02) 262 3456 or visit www.ThaiTicketMajor.com.
- For more information, visit Facebook.com/avalonlive or Twitter: @OfficialAvalon.