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U Weekly Interview

2001 has been a very busy year for Ayu, not only did she release a compilation album of her greatest hits, she also toured the 4 major domes for her dome tour for the first time. Nevertheless, she has released her 4th album "I Am..." at the beginning of 2002. Besides writing the lyrics, Ayu has also participated in the production of the album. So how does Ayu feel about her new album, and what is she trying to express with it? This issue of U-Weekly brings you the answers.

U: I AM is the 1st song in the album, and the album is also named after it, is that correct?

Ayu: It is also the first song I wrote and recorded in the production of this album.

U: You already decided to make this the 1st song on the album right from the start?

Ayu: Yes, This song was completed very quickly. The writing and composing of this song went smoothly w/o a hitch. While recording the song I could do it very easily and naturally. The whole process went by smoothly.

U: So instead of saying I AM is a song which represents the whole album, we should say that it is an opening song?

Ayu: Urm, you can say that this song represents the beginning of me, there are many different expressions to it. At the beginning, we had no idea how the entire album would turn out. But, in the process of making the the album, we gradually began to get the idea/gist of it.

U: But in the end you successfully produced an album you desired, isn't that so?

Ayu: Yes. (laughs) This makes me very happy, because in the process of this production, the other producers and I often went through a lot of discussions,considerations and adjustments repeatedly. Is it supposed to be like that? Isn't it supposed to be like that?

U: Like putting together pieces of a puzzle?

Ayu: Yeah, the feeling was similar to that. (laughs) For example, the music/tempo of NATURALLY was changed close to a hundred times, and for STILL ALONE, its music/arrangement was also changed about a hundred times. We could not do it at the beginning.

U: So gradually you formed an idea/impression of the whole production?

Ayu: We gradually discovered which areas were not good enough, and how we could correct them. We really worked right up to the last minute before we could complete the songs.

U: DAI, Tasuku, and CMJK were involved in the production, is that right?

Ayu: Yes, it can be said that they really guided me. They didn't push me too hard, and they didn't just stand afar, giving me directions.

U: A " We'll work and progress together" kind of feeling?

Ayu: Yes, it was like giving me a light pat on the shoulder. They really made me feel that we were working and moving forward together.

U: So it shows that you hope for partners that you can work with, is that right?

Ayu: I guess so. Because I feel that they are 2 totally different things when I make my requests and suggestions, and select the best music and feelings out of all the materials that they gave me.

U: But, I think the reasons are only due to the fact that Ayumi Hamasaki is not a person who will make decisions based on reasons like " It's more fun when many pple collaborate and participate in the production." or " Because I feel like having a change of feelings and moods", and I also think you are not so strong to the point that you will cast away all doubts and fears, is that right?

Ayu: Other than the producers on the whole or Max Matsuura. this time the pple participating in the album's production are a little different from those before. For example the man who has always been in charge of the vocal department is not present this time. Of course, because this time I said that I wanted to participate in the production and composition of the music, the workers and producers who gave directions and suggestions in the audio and musical departments were really not present.

U: In spite of knowing the fact that you would feel insecure and worried, you still changed the way of the production. Afetr considering these points, what kind of breakthrough were you hoping for with this album?

Ayu: I wanted to...... show my true self, and change it in such a way that it becomes more like myself. Although I had always put a lot of trust in the audio/music producers in the past, this trust was beginning to turn into dependency and accomodation. For example, I will say " I want it to be more like this," and the producer would say" no, this wouldn't work ," upon hearing that, I would accept it immediately. I could never say " But I really want it to be like that." However, when I finished listening to the CD, I would find myself saying "The guitar could have been louder at this part" or " This part would sound better if its volume was raised. (laughs) But these are just small differences.

U: When you were beginning to record the album, was the feeling very different from before?

Ayu: It was totally different. A lot of thought and effort was put into each and every production. But, this time, there wasn't any pressure or sense of duty thrust upon me, like " Oh, I have to produce an album." Of course, the process and schedule wasn't an easy and relaxing one. I was given 2 weeks todo the recording, it was like walking on a thread(??)

U: So the thread got thinner with every production?

Ayu: I feel that way too. (laughs)

U:But, in that short period of time, for the songs which were not going to be released as singles, you had to start from scratch in their production?

Ayu: For every song we had to go back to basics and start with a foundation. For example, I had to talk to the other composers about how "I want to do it this way," "But I would like to do it this way" etc. I had no time to have any direct meetings and discussions with DAI, so we worked separately and communicated over the phone or e-mail. Sometimes I only had 15 minutes of free time, I would get to work immediately on my laptop.

U: With so much work going on at the same time, plan and arrange them properly in your mind?

Ayu: No, once I got everything messed up. Besides producing the album I had other work to do as well. At that time I had too many decisions to make, I had many pple looking for me, waiting to discuss some matters with me. Everyone was saying "time is up......". To help myself cool down, I told everyone " Sorry, please let me go home today." After I got home, I thought a lot, but in the end I still felt that " it was impossible...". I felt that the problem was due to the lack of time, not because I was tired. Everybody can only make use of 24 hours a day. But, normally when I encounter this kind of problems, I would try to escape from reality or go through some struggling, but that time I returned to the recording studio. I told myself, only 5 days left... although the possibility of completing my work was low, it was not totally impossible. As long as there was a trace of hope and possibility, I would give my best, and do as much as I could.

U: I believe you would want to know how everyone would feel, or what would be left behind when you reach the limit.

Ayu: I'm not the only one who would feel/see that I've reached the limit, I believe other pple might also have reached the limit. But I'm afraid, what if I can't do it, then what should I do?

U: At the moment of completion, did you manage to smile?

Ayu: Yes, I finally smiled, and the smile came right from the bottom of my heart. I was really very happy. Although when I think back, the whole process was not easy, but I still feel that it was full of joy and happiness. I just feel happy that I was able to produce the album, I AM.... Before, upon completion of my past albums, my mind would be filled with thoughts and words during interviews, I would always think "how do I phrase this", "How do I express this...", but this time my mind is blank, I think I should use "no more words" to describe this. I feel that everything I've always wanted to tell others and myself can be told through this album. So if I say too much, I would not be able to convey the message that I've said everything with this album.

U: But, you just said that you have nothing to say, is that right? The act of refusing to speak itself shows that you already have what you are trying to convey, isn't that so?

Ayu: As long as I feel that saying it out would not convey my message successfully, I would prefer to sing it out, after that they will naturally speak for themselves and convey my message.

U: And if you can't find words to convey your messages through songs, you would rather convey your feelings by singing.

Ayu: I can also sing it after I've found it. In my heart I always have a kind of feeling that " I'm just a person, everyone else is just a person". I believe that no matter who you are, you are just another person.

U: However that is just natural, so you don't have to give up, right?

Ayu: Right, there is absolutely no need to do that. Everyone is just a person, and everyone has their own sorrows and scars. In the past, when I felt sorrowful, before expressing myself, I would not harbour any hopes that others would also feel and understand it. Now, I strongly believe that even if it involves only myself, I should still express my feelings and thoughts.

U: So throught the making of the album I AM..., you discovered you actually yearn to express yourself. I guess the thing that Ayumi Hamasaki yearns to find and know, is Ayumi Hamasaki herself??

Ayu: Sometimes it's through observing others that I know and understand myself, sometimes it is through a lot of sorrow and struggle. Compared to the past, I'm much more relaxed now. I think it is because the things around me change, which causes me to change as well. The first step is to focus on other things. Before I began the Dome Tour, I seriously considered retiring. I guess at that time there were too many things for me to handle. At that time, whether it was my friends, boyfriend, or family, I guess I treated everyone too (erm.... sorry guys, Mango has no idea what she means), I forgot that we should all look forward, and move in the same direction. And as aresult we hurt each other.

U: As a female, do you think that you are more charming than before?

Ayu: I'm not too sure.... because I never look at myself that way. I think my boyfriend would feel less tired now when he's with me, compared to before.

U: Does this make you happy?

Ayu: It is better to let each other feel relaxed than to make each other feel tired, isn't it? (laughs)

U: But now, in your songs you talk less about the differences between a man and a woman. Now you always write about pple/a person, is that right?

Ayu: Yes now I'm gradually talking more about pple's pain and sorrow in my songs. Because I have accumulated in my heart many pple's feelings, words and experiences. What I hear does not only come from women.

U: What you see is also not limited to men's images.

Ayu: Of course. But, not all are nice situations and words, some are painful and hateful.

U: So they consist of "I want to become like this" and "I do not wish to become like this", this 2 parts?

Ayu: Both parts are present, they are responsible for who I am today.

U: So it can be said that the singer Ayumi Hamasaki, and the Ayumi Hamasaki who hangs out and have fun with her friends like a normal girl, both sides are not complete. Your behaviour and the way you carry yourself changes as the situation changes.

Ayu: That's why in I AM..., I can feel directly that it contains what I am now, and I can feel happy about that from the bottom of my heart.


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