Many images flashback through my head as I listened to their music for the first time. A Sapporo based band, Scam Circle, was formed in 2006, with lead music composer, Koji Mizuno, a drummer, Masaki Hori, and a bassist, Shinji Hashiba. I think that electro and dance musics which they bring with drifting sounds really suit Sapporo city. Mizuno and Hori gave me a talk on Scam Circle’s inner world though unfortunately Hashiba was absent this time.
They had played in a band “CHINESE BURN” before Scam Circle. Current 3 + 2 = 5 members at that time and they used to play disco punk and dance music. Hori left the band first after he realized that this was not the band he wanted to play the drums in. The time came when Mizuno told his idea to Hori and Hashiba that he also had other music that he was into and The Scam Circle was born.
“All of us used to play in a rock band before CHINESE BURN. I didn’t even know about rock music back then. I grew up with classical music influenced by my parents and new wave and electronica were the only musical genres I listened to, so I didn’t get used to rock music, I think. That is how I realized my limitations soon after I kept playing in the band. When I thought that was enough, I made up my mind to do what I really wanted to do and quit the rock band.”, Miuno.
As the lead music writer, Mizuno, continues that he had a question on a style of rock music and searched for his own music. His attitude toward music was always like a fight against his questions seeking how he could express his music.
“CHINESE BURN was a good band, I guess. There was just less musical capacity there. It gradually boosted my motivation towards another musical genre. I was fed up with a fusion band of digital music and vocals which was so popular back then. Non-vocal or something was difficult and I was ready to challenge. I told Hori ‘Hey, check out this music!’ and he was like ‘We cannot do this music in CHINESE BURN’, so we decided not playing CHINESE BURN forever and ever. And Scam Circle, a band which doesn’t carry a so-called band style, was formed soon after I brought up my idea.” Mizuno
Perhaps, it is not true but I thought the band was born in order to find an answer for Mizuno. Nobody knows for now when they will find the one. I was assured what his question was as I listened to him talk.
“It seems like there is a rule for popular music. For example, usually there is an A melody, a B melody, and a catchy part in there. I think that is not the only format that music should be. Of course I was longing for that kind of music before but I couldn’t make any, even though I tried so hard. It didn’t turn out to be good music when I composed it applying this theory. That is when I started to write music with no rule. I shape my inner emotion into the music. The emotion is not that simple, is it? Even you are filled with joy, you start crying about such a little thing in the next moment. After you keep crying, suddenly you start laughing for some reason. A lyric is also the same. That is why I want to write music being honest with myself while it could be chaotic and vague emotions.” Mizuno
“Music with no rules”. There is a lot of work to be done especially for bands. It annoyed Hori that he could not adopt his drumming play to Mizuno’s music easily.
“I also played with a rock band. Now I think I felt somewhat out of place with them. I was also into Hiphop, Funk, Latin music as well as Rock music. Especially Hiphop and funky swing beats hit me a lot so that I could sit very well with Mizuno’s music. Like this is what I’m talking about! And I got excited and worried at the same time if we could make it after I listened to his music. It was even my dream to play this kind of music. It could have been different for me to do so if my childhood was filled with House or Hiphop music and a night club. But, to be frank, I didn’t have self-confidence in the beginning. My mates pushed me forward ardently saying “Yes, we can!”, then I went “Can we?” quite simply. That’s how we kicked off. And how we got a bumpy road too. It gave me a hard time, fixing my style not playing an electronic drum but the drum. I flatly started on it. Still digging it out now.” Hori
First Mizuno brings a demo and then Hori and Hashiba take a part in composing. Those three carry a peculiar mood. It could be a faith or each others influences on the other that is appealing. Without being a dictator, each of them challenges Mizuno’s track. This is how they make a music. Now, I ask them about their creation process. It seems to begin with a talk on a track maker that is on Mizuno’s mind.
“I memorize everything as a point in time. Something like music that I listened to at that moment some years ago or a feeling and scenery from that time. I try to remember those memories when I write a song. And I explain an image which comes from my memories to Hori and Hashiba before they listen to my music. Telling them to capture the image and the feeling first. Then I play the music and let them play as they are feeling. In my opinion, music should come out naturally. Just like writing a diary. But it surely requires help from your mates to complete a track as a band. I recognized myself as a player. So I never differ with their ideas on technical matters. If I do, we won’t be a band anymore and it will get boring too, I think. I want to respect an answer while accepting how they play after they listen to my music. This can be my precious moment, you know? It means to give up my responsibility by bursting in it. And doing so, I easily forget that I am playing in a group. It is easy to say something to them but I want to respect others as long as I play with them, That is why I don’t say anything.” Mizuno
“I thought his music should be listened to when I first listened to it. So as to express his music, I was willing to support him. He let us be ourselves after he explained his music and his image to us because he knows enough about my ability and technique that is something I strive for so that I could express myself more than ever. So I would take a part in drumming, helping to build his image for real through my filter. I cannot do this without the faith. Now I don’t carry excess consciousness of being a drummer anymore, everything will be okay only if I am in the right track.” Hori
“Our creative process cannot apply to any other band.”, Mizuno says. It is not that easy at all and it requires a lot of respect.
“We have built this style since the very beginning, but I think that our creative process cannot be applied to any other band. A player always asks for the meaning, some stick to a phrase. But we are different. I don’t want to do anything but put flesh on my image. I don’t want to see an image of my music being shifted by each individual arrangement. I know it makes a hard time for others. I can find trouble easily playing with my kind of people! However, still they follow me, they trust me. I cannot create in Scam Circle without them.” Mizuno
With their own unique style, they turn out Scam Circle. Now Shogo Sasaya joined the original members and they set out to gig at many venues. By the way, Mizuno told me that it wasn’t simple for the audience to accept “A fusion of digital and live sounds” in Sapporo and they had blank looks in their early days.
“But I thought it was okay for now. It was going to take some time and also I was kind of scared of hearing people carelessly say “So cool!”. I would rather ask them “Is there anybody playing this kind of music?”. Questioning them and keeping something inside of their minds. Do something in any case even taking an indirect path. In that case, their reactions pushed us forward. Even though, now we are lucky to play various venues, we think the world of every single performance. To add to playing a complicated music expressing ourselves internally it is difficult to have a live performance, back to back. Ask myself if I can achieve expressing myself enough? That is why we consider each performance so that we can be prepared enough to play each gig. It gives us an opportunity to meet people and enough time to focus on our production. We have no rail, only do what we want to do, not much avarice, and no rules. Still some popular musicians give us a compliment sometimes. You know, I was like “YOU are the band!” but simply I think that is because we are not in the music industrial track.” Mizuno
“We are fortunate to have people who are cooperative including our current label. Once in a while, we have a vocalist together, though, basically an instrumental music is Scam Circle’s style. And there are not that many yet but it is pleasure to receive encouraging messages from not only Sapporo but also out of the city and even overseas. There are people supporting us all the while trusting us. So we always talk that we should also respect them and someday repay them with doing our best.” Hori
As I mentioned above, many images flashback through my head as I listened to their music for the first time. I took kindly to “Simply our music” and it showed me various images in my mind. It corresponds well to Sapporo, I think. I felt ashamed but told the secret to them.
“Our first conceptual CD also asks how you feel the scenery which I saw comparing to my point of view. I’m glad to hear that you saw some images. I also see some and I hope you to grasp something through it. There are clear four seasons in Sapporo where it goes with the peculiar tide. An identity is also quite peculiar to here. Although I may leave this place someday, however, I would keep playing in Sapporo. It doesn’t mean to strengthen our constituency. It could be because of a lack of knowledge but I’m afraid of moving to Tokyo. Because it looks to get me up against a wall surrounded by too many things. Besides that, truly there are so many cool music groups in Sapporo, and I really enjoy the excitement and respect it. So I would love to keep playing in Sapporo now.” Mizuno
“I’m not surprised to hear that our music is very Sapporo because Mizuno also sees the scenery here. Mizuno is completely different. What he does is amazing. Perhaps Mizuno is an artist and I’m not. But I understand him during the creative process, so I would like to support his music here.” Hori
“Sometimes I wonder why our music won’t be like this when I listen to a CD. I should do it right now. Once I was able to write a track for Scam Circle right after I felt like it. You cannot achieve anything without a strong will, otherwise nothing can be changed. If you think someday, that’s it. You have to put it into action right away even if it requires to give up what you’ve got. I don’t want to be chained down to the past and I don’t have much hope for the future. I believe that music can move mountains but it is something that can be realized only by the participant. I always talk to Hori and Hashiba that it sounds like we are being driven to extremes but we cannot make a miracle at a live performance. You can do only what you have practiced. Even if you once achieved something further with the audience, that’s all, after all you can do what you have done. Therefore, every single live performance is very important. We try to be prepared enough to build our world. Every time we try to give an overwhelming performance. Because I know our kind of music comes to end soon after boring works.” Mizuno
Go and get it, to win, exploring themselves at any moment. I guess the world of Scam Circle is the battle against themselves. Where are they going now? Although Mizuno says that he doesn’t have much hope, currently there are a plenty of things to do.
“I would face the music seriously without compromise. Our own world, our own music. There are so many possibilities in the future. For example, we are ready to accept an attractive supporter, or a vocalist if it fits, we may be able to perform with an acoustic guitar next year, or we may play with some performer. Literally, Scam Circle (= a liar group) will be pleasure to play Hiphop music that everybody thinks it is not, for instance. I would play music that remains in peoples memories with great potentialities. Keep playing my music, and I would say I am done when my hour has come.” Mizuno
Scam Circle 1st mini albim [Scenery from this angle]
Price: 1000 yen (incl. tax)
Text: Kazumi Oiwa
Translation: Yoshitaka Futakawa