Yura Yura Teikoku were a rock'n'roll band from Toyko formed by Shintaro Sakamoto, frontman and guitarist, and bass player Chiyo Kamekawa in 1989. They had a number of other players, but drummer Ichiro Shibata joined the group in 1997, finalizing the line-up. A year later, the group released the stellar 3x3x3, a record that extended the barriers of psychedelia and garage rock, only to be eclipsed three years later with the brilliant Yura Yura Teikoku III, which surely has one of the greatest rock openers of all time in "Huge Question Mark."
In the last decade, Yura Yura had released more great music, pushing their sound to include even a strong disco influence, and toured outside of Japan for the first time, including a trailblazing stop at Maxwell's in 2008 that had to be one of the best and most entertaining shows I had ever seen. Sadly, the group's story came to a close around March of last year.
Check out an interview with Shintaro Sakamoto on the group's ending and future projects with a few video clips after the jump.
I had found about the disbandment of Yura Yura Teikoku via an article on TokyoGraph, in which you said: “[The band] felt that they had accomplished everything they could with the band, and continuing would feel like 'routine work'."
Personally, I think Yura Yura Teikoku had plenty of success in Japan. I don't think we were successful on the international level at all, but we didn't form the band in order to be successful, and we had decided from the beginning that if we weren't enjoying ourselves anymore, we would quit.
The article also mentioned how the three members of Yura Yura Teikoku will be perusing different musical projects. What can we expect from you in the future? Have you released anything since the dissolution of the band?
I haven't released anything since the band dissolved, but I spent a year holed up at home, writing songs. I've got a bunch written now, so I think I'm going to start recording a solo album pretty soon.
It seems that with Yura Yura, as the bands records progressed, the sound of the band moved away from an all out "rock" sort of sound and into a place where electronic and dance music had a larger impact. Would you say this is true? Are there any records that one would label as electronic or dance that had a big impact on you?
It's true that the sound of the band changed, but Yura Yura Teikoku was definitely a rock band, and I don't think we fit into the dance music scene. Personally, around 2005, I got real into 70's NY disco, but I had no intentions of doing exactly that kind of music with the band. What first got me into disco were all of Patrick Adams' productions, and the Loose Joints single, "Tell You (Today)." I also really like the SAM label.
I know that you are also a very talented illustrator, even releasing the anthology, "Shintaro Sakamoto Artworks 1994-2006" in July of 2007 with Shogakukan publishing. Why had you decided to opt for a career in rock music instead of trying to become an artist? Who are your favorite artists?
I've liked drawing ever since I was a child, but I started playing guitar when I was 14, and rock kind of naturally became my main interest. I've been influenced by Japanese manga artists more than I have by fine art. Like Shigeru Mizuki, Tsuge Yoshiharu, Kazuo Umezu, Daijiro Moroboshi, etc.
Are there any films that have had a strong impact on you as an artist, both in illustration and music?
After the earthquake, and subsequent disasters that have happened in Japan, it seems, for the time being, the world has placed its eye on the country. What do you think this will do for the country, in particular its music, in the long run? What do you think would be the best way to help Japan?
Honestly, I don't really know. Right now, all we can do is hope for even the smallest decrease in harm from the radiation.
Are there any new Japanese artists that you are particularly excited about?