I was quite lucky to arrange an interview with Die Database right after New Years – they Skyped in from a cafe in Ikebukuro, and gave me their fully divided attention. It took me a week to translate everything from the Japanese, but believe me, any weirdly exuberant phrasing is all theirs.
Junk Magnet: Happy New Year!
Masae: Yes! Where are our big, fat envelopes full of money?
Satomi: I’m afraid that ship has long since sailed.
Masae: Well, at least I hope you sent us cute postcards.
Yuma: I’m eager to start my bunny card collection.
Masae: Did you at least send me some mochi?
Satomi: He doesn’t want you to choke before the interview starts.
Masae: I’m very upset. Give me a moment while I mentally compose a haiku about my first disappointment of the year.
Yuma: Please, start asking us your questions before we have to listen to her poem!
Junk Magnet: How are preparations going for your first tour of the year?
Satomi: Excellent. We’ve spent the past month practicing the Sheena Ringo songbook, and now we’re ready to play [Muzai Moratorium].
Junk Magnet: Your fans have been very perplexed by that – why is the first tour composed entirely of playing her albums in order?
Masae: Well, it’s not like we won’t play any of our songs, too.
Yuma: I lost a bet, and so instead of a tour full of Judy and Mary albums…
Satomi: We thought it would be an interesting challenge. Plus, no matter how amazing Tokyo Jihen are, I wanted to draw attention back to our mistress, my muse.
Masae: It’s true – she knows every moment of every album.
Yuma: And she has that big red [Ringo Book] with the eye on the front.
Masae: We like to hide it from her, or take pictures of us with it at scenic spots around Tokyo.
Satomi: I’m going to take it back home to Kamakura, and hide it inside the big Buddha, so neither of them can bother it again.
Junk Magnet: How does your family in Kamakura feel about Die Database?
Satomi: My father doesn’t really care one way or another – he’s too focused on the lucrative souvenir trade.
Yuma: Don’t listen to her! When we played Kamakura her whole family attended, and they were right up in the front row.
Masae: They even sell Die Database merchandise at their shop.
Satomi: Yes, they are supportive. However, I think my parents would be more impressed if my art was displayed in the Museum of Modern Art.
Masae: Didn’t you use to hang out there when you were younger?
Satomi: Both sites. The Annex opened when I was a little girl, and I used to love to walk up the hill from my parent’s shop, and then run around all of the sculptures out front. When I was a bit older I actually went there to appreciate the art, and I quickly decided that my life’s goal would be to make art good enough to become part of their collection.
Yuma: We think she’s good enough right now.
Masae: That’s right! When she first contacted 99% Natural, we were blown away by her sculpture.
Junk Magnet: Tell me more about when you all first met.
Yuma: Well, in 2008 I had just finished a series of swimsuit DVDs….
Masae: The kind that are all thongs and ass and hands over breasts, oh yeah!
Yuma: Let’s just say that I wanted to be an actress, but since my early teens I was being groomed as a future AV Idol, through gravure work. So, I was getting more and more upset with my talent agency, but their attitude was that I was lucky to have that kind of exposure, so to speak.
Masae: Did you ever see [Tokyo Tower Suicides]? Yuma was so awesome in that movie! I must have watched it a dozen times when it came out on DVD – she’s just as good as Aoi Yuu or anyone else.
Yuma: I wouldn’t go that far. Still, I thought I should at least try to keep what remained of my clothes on before I turned 20. I was having problems finding good roles, since everyone wanted me to play some version of a whore, and modeling was the only thing really paying the bills.
Masae: When I worked nights at the Circle X, I would always read the latest magazines in between customers – my manager hated me for that. When Yuma started appearing on more covers, I would make sure to study the photo spreads, and read the interviews, and I had such a crush on her!
Satomi: She still does!
Masae: Stop messing with me! Satomi is convinced that the reason I keep breaking up with guys is that I really want Yuma instead. I can’t speak to my lack of luck with men, but I can say that Yuma is still dreamy!
Yuma: Actually, I think Satomi is on to something! That night I walked into Circle X to get a C.C. Lemon and some onigiri, Masae just about jumped over the counter and rushed at me hands raised, screaming.
Masae: Come on! I admit that I did walk over to you while you were browsing, but it wasn’t like I was making a scene or anything.
Yuma: Seriously – she came over and pushed a flier into my chest. “I’m making a band!” she said, “You must be the singer!”
Masae: For the past 5 months I had been trying to find the perfect singer and guitarist to go with my amazing drumming…
Satomi: Her drumming is definitely like a maze – you can get lost in it.
Masae: Absolute stunning drumming, and I had posted fliers all around Tokyo, not to mention hitting all of the message boards online. No one had answered, and then Yuma walked into the store that night. It was a sign!
Yuma: I think she must have read that interview when I said if I wasn’t going to be an actress, then I wanted to be in a band, like Kimura Kaela or something.
Masae: She’s so much cuter than Kaela, and I love Kaela, so I had been dreaming of Yuma as the lead of my imaginary band with exciting drumming, and then she walks in right in front of me.
Yuma: At first I politely ignored her, but when she went back behind the counter in order to ring me up, she secretly put a CD-R in my plastic bag. I didn’t notice it until I got home, and I actually loved her music. She played every instrument over multiple tracks, and it already sounded totally ready for the radio.
Masae: When she left that night, I was both excited and depressed. Excited because Yuma came into Circle X! Depressed because I really doubted that she would ever come back.
Yuma: But I did, every night that week until Masae was working again. Then she was mine.
Satomi: Notice the possessive. The two of them have always had the hots for each other.
Masae: I’m not going to argue with you. Anyway – 99% Natural! We came up with a name and started writing songs right away.
Satomi: Since Yuma was pretty, and famous, and actually a great singer, Masae’s incredible drumming catapulted them to some kind of stardom.
Yuma: I was all ready to quit my talent agency, but they made a promise to stop pimping me out to the gravure market if they could get a piece of 99% Natural.
Masae: It didn’t matter that much, since 4 months later 99% Natural was no more – Satomi killed it!
Satomi: Someone’s overdosed on drama pills. The complete and unabridged story is that I heard about 99% Natural from a friend, and so I attended their 2nd concert, in Shimo-Kitazawa. They were awesome!
Masae: Awesome drumming!
Satomi: Yuma, Masae, the whole package was cute yet powerful, and at that moment I knew I had to be a part of it.
Yuma: After the show, she bought some band shirts and gave an 10,000 yen tip.
Masae: Then she bought us drinks, even though we were getting some for free from the club. Score!
Yuma: Essentially, she asked the band out for a date
Masae: I didn’t even know that bands dated, but that’s a good description. She wanted to pay our way, and you could tell she wanted to take us home afterwards.
Satomi: Seriously, I told them then and there that they had the seed to stardom in their hands, and I wanted to water it with my resources. I wanted to bankroll 99% Natural.
Masae: I was a bit drunk by then, so I told her she could take us out to dinner the next night, and to make sure she brought big piles of money.
Yuma: Really, she mentioned huge piles of money.
Satomi: You see, when I presented my card to them at the club, they noticed I was the CEO of Agartha Labs, and I think their money detectors went into overdrive.
Masae: When I think of labs, I think of lots of glassware with chemicals, and you know that has to be expensive.
Yuma: I didn’t say it then, but I had actually heard of Agartha Labs in some magazine profile. So, I knew she wasn’t totally making everything up.
Junk Magnet: When did 99% Natural turn into Die Database?
Masae: Like I mentioned, she took us out to an Italian dinner, and at the end she placed three credit cards down on the table. One was for dinner, and the other two were for us. Big piles of money!
Yuma: It’s true – she had already added us to the Agartha Labs credit line, with a 1,000,000 yen limit for each of us, and told us to have at the music making.
Satomi: Well, there was some paperwork involved soon enough, but I wanted to start them out with no worries about how to finance the recording of their first single, and eventual album. At that point Agartha Labs was more than self-sufficient, so I had money to burn on my pet projects.
Masae: That’s right, she always pats me on the head when she hands over the money.
Yuma: Are you still upset that you didn’t get a New Year’s envelope full of money?
Masae: Yes! Leave me alone or I’ll recite my poem!
Satomi: Back to your question, 99% Natural used my financial backing, but never actually released anything.
Yuma: That’s because while we were working on song writing, and temporarily got stuck, Satomi handed us a big binder full of lyrics and music that she had been working on for the past few years.
Masae: It was like the god of music rang our doorbell and asked us to sign for a package full of brilliance.
Yuma: 99% Natural had always performed in Japanese, but Satomi wrote songs in English, and they really blew us away.
Junk Magnet: How did you learn English?
Satomi: A few years back, before I started Agartha Labs, I went to the US to study English. I ended up in Berkeley, near San Francisco, and studied at the Adult School. I took just enough classes so I could stay on a student Visa, and in my free time I worked on my art. I was there for two years, and met a lot of great people. It was then that I started to take music seriously – I had always enjoyed listening to it, but I never imagined that I could actually make it. Once I started to try, it all flowed out so easily, and it kind of scared me.
Masae: It scares us too!
Satomi: While I was in the US I had some life changing ideas – holographic sculpture was an element of that. By the time I got back to Japan, and incorporated as Agartha Labs, it didn’t take long to see those ideas into fruition. I guess I always had the “business gene” from my parents, but my new found success seemed just come out of nowhere.
Masae: I think she felt bad about doing so well, so she decided to adopt 99% Natural and run it into the ground.
Yuma: No, no, she wanted to marry 99% Natural, and did, and had Die Database as the baby.
Satomi: I was a good conceptualist, but not that great as a physical musician, so at first bass was just my speed.
Masae: Are you insulting bassists everywhere?
Satomi: Hardly – I’m just saying that I wasn’t very good, not like you and Yuma, but I learned quickly.
Yuma: She did. And she put beautiful words into my mouth.
Masae: Was she stuffing the words into your mouth with her fingers? Or, perhaps using some sort of vibrating tool?
Satomi: If you haven’t already noticed, Masae is orally fixated.
Masae: Yuma started it! She knows I can’t resist sexy talk.
Yuma: That’s the whole point. The history of Die Database is not sexy talk at all!
Satomi: Speak for yourself.
Masae: I think we should leave Satomi alone with her band, under the sheets…
Yuma: Aren’t you so glad that you interviewed us?
Junk Magnet: Who named the new band Die Database?
Masae: Satomi! I wanted to call us 101% Natural, since she would only be adding 2% to the band.
Yuma: And I wanted to call it Sexy Talk. Seriously – Sexy Talk Station.
Satomi: You must never believe anything they say. Except the part about my name for the band. Die Database has multiple meanings, and I refuse to disclose any of them at this time.
Masae: She told us that there’s this database in Germany that wants to kill her, and so she’s going to strike first with music.
Yuma: After we have our sexy talk time, she always confides in me. She said that there’s a list of everyone who’s going to die, and when, some sort of mystical record keeping.
Satomi: Again – emphasis on the not believing them.
Junk Magnet: Die Database first became known due to Yuma’s commercial for Agartha Labs.
Masae: She wanted to do it naked, but we insisted she at least start with some clothing on.
Yuma: I wasn’t sure how the holographic clothes were going to work, but I just treated it like any other fashion show.
Satomi: [Karmic Freedom] is a song I’d imagine you could enjoy between lives
Masae: Totally! She always threatens to kill me if I get the intro wrong to that song. I guess she thinks I could play it better if I was dead.
Yuma: Satomi is a philosopher. She believes music should be thoughtful yet confusing.
Satomi: Yes, that was our first hit song. But, I think that [Massive Cloud Burst] really got us going.
Yuma: I knew some of the voice actresses that were working on that game, and they told me the producer was still looking for a theme song.
Masae: He was kind of sketchy – he had every last one of Yuma’s half-naked DVDs in his collection.
Yuma: He only had a couple. Anyway, he did have a thing for me, and so he gave Die Database a chance, as long as we would agree to cosplay some [Massive Cloud Burst] characters for a promotional video, posters, and things like that.
Masae: Plus, he took some extra sexy Yuma footage for his private collection.
Yuma: You wish. Anyway, I played Hikari, a princess who ran away from her home in the Sun, and came to earth to find a boy.
Satomi: As usual, she tends to simplify.
Masae: I was her sister, Sekigai, and I spent the whole game trying to protect her from evil spirits from the asteroid belt, kind of.
Satomi: I was Shigai, her other sister, and I not-so-secretly wanted to take over the sun from our dying father. I had the best costume.
Masae: No, you looked like a Black Rock Shooter reject.
Yuma: We all were cute, but Hikari was the star, and I fell in love with her cosmic kimono.
Masae: We got to keep the costumes, and she would wear hers to band practice.
Satomi: After the third or fourth time, we hid the kimono from her, and she got so mad that she forced us all to wear cosplay at the next show.
Yuma: From that point on we wore different costumes at each show. In fact, I hadn’t seen my Hikari kimono for ever, until they gave it back to me for this magazine photo shoot.
Masae: We knew she was happy since she took it, and her magical solar scepter, and locked herself in the bathroom.
Satomi: If Masae had her way, every conversation would be about money, sex, or money for sex.
Masae: That’s not true – I also like to talk about music, and food, and cute guys.
Yuma: She also likes to read manga. She carries Comic Beam everywhere.
Masae: It’s monthly, but I read it slowly to savor everything. SOIL is my favorite. Emma was great, too.
Satomi: We bought her the SOIL DVD set a few months ago, and she was so happy that she took it, and a portable DVD player, and locked herself in the bathroom.
Masae: I resent the implication that I had sex with my SOIL DVD set.
Yuma: We’re sorry – we know you never go past second base with your DVDs.
Masae: Please don’t get the wrong idea – they’re just so shiny!
Satomi: She’s just putting on a show for everyone reading this interview. In reality, Masae is completely chaste when it comes to all of her goods. She’s puts them on a pedestal.
Yuma: Yeah, she’s like that girl from Genshiken that dresses up in the big helmet and dress at the end, and is surprised that everyone wants her.
Masae: What does that have to do with anything? Are you talking about the manga or anime version?
Yuma: I rest my case.
Satomi: She has secret collection of Die Database doujinshi.
Masae: We can’t help it if we’re such a sultry band.
Yuma: I can’t look at them. I want to go to Comiket and burn them all to ashes.
Masae: Yes, she’ll cosplay in her cosmic kimono on the outside, and then when she gets tired of having her picture taken, she’ll spend a few hours in line, so she can go inside any buy up all of the Die Database sex comics.
Satomi: Then she’ll autograph them, and forcibly hand them out to the shy guys in the crowd.
Yuma: Liberation through intimidation.
Junk Magnet: What happened once [Massive Cloud Burst] was released?
Masae: It was amazing! The single actually hit the charts, and we made all sorts of promotional appearances.
Yuma: The video was bundled with the more expensive version of the CD single, and I think it turned out really well.
Satomi: Once the game was released outside of Japan, we started to get fan emails from all around the world.
Masae: There was talk of an anime based on the RPG, but that fell through. We did get a few statues and figures of ourselves playing the characters. For a while they were hot stuff, but now you can find them on clearance in Akiba.
Yuma: For a while we were hot stuff – now it’s just me.
Satomi: The game was a great breakthrough for Die Database, and since we were still an independent band, on our own label, we didn’t feel any pressure about what was next.
Masae: She’s a big pile of lies. As soon as we started to get famous, Satomi wanted us to start working on our first album, [Itchy].
Yuma: I’m not going to talk about it.
Junk Magnet: [Itchy] was your first, unreleased album – what happened to it?
Yuma: Seriously. I’m not going to talk about it.
Masae: We love her, but Satomi can be a big, busy body bitch sometimes.
Satomi: As producer of the album, I was unhappy with the songs we came up with. So, it was shelved for potential, later release.
Yuma: I’m not going to talk about how she said it was just too 99% Natural, and not enough her amazing ideas.
Masae: Don’t get her started. I better move on over to this other empty table…
Satomi: The album was not Die Database material. Yuma and Masae did a great job, but we needed to transcend our limitations, and break through to an even better place.
Yuma: I’m not going to talk about how I still want to kick her ass.
Masae: But then we heard her demos for [Knee].
Yuma: Then I heard the new songs, and after a few weeks I talked to her again.
Masae: And a few weeks later, they took a train to Sexy Talk Station.
Satomi: It’s still a sore point for the band. Once [Knee] is established, then perhaps we’ll release the missing album.
Junk Magnet: I’ve actually heard it – it’s really great.
Masae: So, you’re that IP address!
Satomi: Please welcome our lawyers into your life.
Yuma: We’re glad you like it – send us the spoils of your piracy.
Satomi: Now, back to an in-depth interview all about [Knee], our true first album.
Masae: Yuma, as the face and voice of Die Database, what makes you so special?
Yuma: I’m nothing without our workhorse drummer sitting somewhere in the dark behind me.
Masae: Is it true that when you grew up in Hakone, you would ride the ropeway back and forth all day, looking for cute tourists?
Satomi: Incorrect. She was searching for the secret gateway that leads inside of Fuji-san.
Masae: What’s the story behind the crazy light shows?
Yuma: For those not impressed by my sheer beauty, we mesmerize them with floating lyrics and fan ghosts.
Satomi: I take our work at Agartha Labs very seriously.
Masae: She takes her pico projectors, and portable body scanners, and locks herself in the bathroom.
Yuma: We often wonder just who visits her in there.
Satomi: Did we mention that Die Database plans to tour the US?
Masae: We wanted to go during SXSW, since other bands tell us that Austin, TX is super cool, but that’s not going to happen this year.
Yuma: It looks like we’ll be able to visit in the late summer, so we can support our album and make lots of friends.
Satomi: I’m eager to visit the San Francisco Bay Area again, and to show the girls the rest of the country.
Junk Magnet: I’ve heard something about your promotional plans.
Masae: We’ll have cute people on the street telling the world about us.
Yuma: We hired someone in the US to take care of everything for us, and build up a big buzz.
Masae: As I mentioned earlier, Yuma is all about the big buzz.
Yuma: Are you sure you’re even Japanese? All of Yokohama is so embarrassed by you.
Satomi: She’s just a vibrant, energetic girl that loves life. She’s the band’s heartbeat.
Yuma: She’s Die Database’s Nico Nico Douga.
Masae: I’m like that video of the keyboard cat, only with drums and more sexy talk.
Yuma: OK, let’s hear your haiku.
Satomi: Big piles of money / Put them in my hand, quickly / The rain dots my cheeks
Masae: Ooooh, she even did it in English. I quit!
Yuma: Die Database drummer quits! Print that on your cover.