Matarow Tsuyoshi is a Japanese drummer who has worked with big names such Heath from X-JAPAN, Közi from MALICE MIZER, Hasegawa Tadashi from PLASTIC TREE, NAOKI from KAGRRA and among others. VerdamMnis has recently talked with the man so he could share his point of view on being a session musician in Japan.
Matarow, can you please introduce yourself to VerdamMnis readers ?
Matarow : Firstable, I would like to say hello and thank you very much to anyone who will be reading the interview. I hope you find it interesting and read it in its entirety, please do so. My name is Matarow and I am a professional session musician. I play the drums for many different Japanese bands. I am in constant collaboration with artists. To name a few — I have worked with Heath from X-JAPAN, Közi from MALICE MIZER, Hasegawa Tadashi from PLASTIC TREE, NAOKI from KAGRRA and among others. For the time being — I’m currently working with the band RIS, with the artist Tsukino Erika and on more personal project with Közi, GILLY. The band GILLY will be playing on August 27 at Ikebukuro’s CHOP (Tokyo, JP) ! Please, if you can make it, come see us play.
What is your first memory of music and what made you get into drums in the first place ?
Matarow : I have always been attracted to alternative musical scenes for as long as I can remember. When I was very young, I got into alternative movements though the new wave and the noise music and more specifically via three major bands : The Pop Group, Dead Kennedys, which I still love very much, and of course The Sex Pistols. I joined my very first band at the age of 14, I was still at school — I won’t tell you the year, but it was a little while ago (laughs)… So yeah, I was 14 years old, I don’t remember quite well how we got together with the other guys, but it took us a year to be up and running. I played the drums. Every since I started, I never quit. My level started to improved at the age of 15 and I professionalized at the age of 22 — this is when I knew I wanted to make a living of music. I didn’t want to do something else.
Did you have a plan B ?
Matarow : Yes, I did. I considered the idea that it might have not worked out, that my plans might have failed, that I may haven’t become a musician for a living and of course, in that special case, I would have become a bartender. But, I really worked hard to succeed, I didn’t want to leave behind my dreams. I didn’t want to give up. I really wanted to make it, to make my dream come true.
Have you sacrified anything for it ?
Matarow : Yes, I have. I, actually, sacrified a wedding (laughs) ! At the time, I was dating a woman, it was pretty serious but we had to take seperate paths in order for me to become a musician. I can say that, more generally speaking, relationships always tend to suffer from the way of life this job provides. Musicians usually stay focused to the music, maybe too much focused to the detriment of intimate relationships.
What are the pros and cons of being a session musician ?
Matarow : The pros — being able to travel, having the opportunity to see many different places, is one of the things that I love the most. I am so grateful for it, it’s an incredible chance. I also get to meet different people, different musicians and artists, all very talented and interested people. It really is a fulfilling and rewarding experience. The cons — Argh ! Let me think about it… I think that session musicians tend to become loners in the way that they don’t belong to any group. You might think that your place is interchangeable. More generally, being an artist for a living is risky. Three years ago, I had to work in parallel of music so that this other job could help improve my financial situation. It really depends on the amont of project offers.
Wouldn’t you have liked belonging to one band only ?
Matarow : I would have liked it, yes. It must be great to be part of a whole of great bands like X-JAPAN and LUNA SEA. I kind of regret not having focused my life on one and only band. But I didn’t really have the choice. A long time ago, I formed a band, I thought I would continue on with the guys but we had to part ways, and the fastest and easiest way to keep making music at the time was to become a substitute drummer for other bands. The event of life made me continue on this path. But I sound terrible, it’s great to create music with all these talented people I get to meet. I sometimes work in the studio with some of them, I sometimes play live with some others. There are so much possibilities offered when you don’t belong to one and only band.
What do you think of the Japanese music scene nowadays ?
Matarow : It got softer, probably a bit cheaper. I would day vulgarly, it lost balls (smiles) !
Which projects have been the most challenging ?
Matarow : Hum… When I had to remember 80 different songs in a month. I thought my head was about to explode (laughs).
Which musicians do you admire the most ?
Matarow : As a drummer, I highly respect Mister Yoshiki from X-JAPAN. He’s a very nice person, but also very serious when it comes to work, which is great. I like the way he performs, the way he hits the drums and how he acts on stage. As a drummer, it’s very interesting to see and learn from the talented. I like big personalities in general. David Bowie is one of my biggest idols. I’ve always been fascinated by the man. He’s beyond talented, he’s a pure genius.
What song would soundtrack your life ?
Matarow : Wah ! Let me think… I can tell you three for sure. I’ve always loved from my body, heart and soul, Anarchy in the U.K from the Sex Pistols. Kill the Poor from the Dead Kennedys and Heroes from David Bowie. I’ve loved these songs since highschool ! As for complete albums, Y, the debut studio album of English post-punk band The Pop Group, Masque, the fifth studio album by The Mission and Technopolis from Japanese band Yellow Magic Orchestra.
What advice would you give to a someone that wants to make music for a living from it ?
Matarow : Love the music from the bottom of your heart. Let it drive you, let it lead the way. But be careful, keep track of your health. Have a healthy lifestyle as much as possible. Don’t drink too much (laughs) !
Any last words ?
Matarow : Thanks for reading. I hope to visit Europe and other places soon !