For those who were lucky enough to see RYU’s renewed project, SOMEI YOSHINO, at one of the European performances last October, know that the music is still as we are used to from the now solo musician. Despite the decision that the band OROCHI no longer exists and RYU has continued with a solo project under a new name, the music that has been produced in recent years is still alive.
After the last European tour, where the musician also came to the Netherlands for a performance, it was time to talk anyway. Especially with the current situation in mind, where performances and tours are no longer possible.
AVO: The last time we talked to you was back in the days of the band OROCHI. Now you have been active for over a year with your solo project SOMEI YOSHINO (ソメイヨシノ). Thanks to many international tours and releases, OROCHI was a band that was well known to a lot of fans. What has the transition to a solo project with a different name been like? Has the experience given you many challenges?
RYU: Thank you so much for the interview. As you already might now, my name is RYU. The meaning of this name in Japanese is dragon. OROCHI, the former band name, means 8 head dragon. The first composition I made for OROCHI was the song SAKURA, and SOMEI YOSHINO means Sakura. As you can see, everything is connected. Actually nothing has changed, since I am the composer and both projects perform the same songs. Although, the arrangements of the songs are a bit different. I am always thinking about which new movements I should take with the project.
AVO: A solo project often means an artist feels a greater sense of freedom. Do you feel that with SOMEI YOSHINO? Or have you always had a lot of freedom with your music?
RYU: I always have freedom. To explain to you a bit more: in the period of OROCHI, I have played 55% of the instruments, such as the guitar, bass guitar and the Japanese instruments. That is also what you can hear back on the CDs. In some of the songs, I played every instrument. The support members of SOMEI YOSHINO play the instruments in some of the songs. I also like to make a sort of jam session improvisation with the members.
AVO: Being able to continue playing the music created as part of OROCHI brings with it a lot of familiarities. This will obviously make a difference for the fans. Currently, you have been sharing videos about your efforts to incorporate traditional Japanese instruments into the new songs. Do you think that this addition has attracted new fans?
RYU: Yeah, I do think so! Nowadays I have the feeling that people want to hear real instrument sounds and no computer sounds, so I have been polishing my skills for Biwa (a Japanese short-necked fretted lute) and Hichiriki (double reed Japanese flute) more and more. This gives me more energy and strength as a vocalist, since I blow air for many hours (in the instruments). It is a good exercise.
AVO: In October last year, SOMEI YOSHINO made its European debut with a short tour. Looking back now, what do you remember most about it? Was it a positive experience?
RYU: It was absolutely a great tour! Thanks to it, I got a lot of energy and inspiration for new songs.
AVO: You regularly have live streams on Instagram and YouTube. However, recently you decided to live stream your birthday concert instead of holding a performance at a venue. Because there is no direct income but it provides you with a greater reach (international), it seems like it may have been a difficult decision. What were your thoughts when making that choice? How did you feel about it after this live stream?
RYU: I still receive many messages from a lot of countries around the world! This gives me the motivation to work hard on making a huge international tour in the future. The Internet makes it possible.
AVO: The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously affecting people all around the world at the moment. These effects are felt in a lot of ways across all sectors of life, including those working in the cultural sector, such as musicians. Is there any way for international fans to support your solo project?
RYU: I would like to entertain my fans by providing new videos on YouTube. I believe that is the only thing I can do at this moment. That is because the fans of SOMEI YOSHINO might have to stay in their house because of the measures of their government! I will do my best!
AVO: The current situation means that a lot of things may not turn out as they were planned. It can be a challenge to remain focused with so much uncertainty around. How do you stay motivated to continue with your projects?
RYU: My mission is to create entertainment through my music and visual style! And currently, I am making videos.
AVO: Are there any plans for SOMEI YOSHINO that you want to focus on during this situation? Can you tell us anything about them?
RYU: We have been working on improving the quality of the online live show! I am now thinking about getting a 360 degrees camera for future online live shows, so that I don’t have to move the camera by myself manually to get every band member in the shot!
AVO: Have you heard of the petition called Save Our Space (SOS) or the new project MUSIC UNITES AGAINST COVID-19 among others? What do you think of these projects to help live venues?
RYU: MUSIC UNITES AGAINST COVID-19 is really a great project. I think that artists are supposed to exist to save people.
AVO: Finally, do you have anything you want to say to your fans?
RYU: Thank you so much for supporting me so far! The world is one! Everything is going to be alright! I pray for your health, please take care!
In the meantime, RYU didn’t want to sit still and he decided to join the new project of HIGHFeeL where he joined 12 other musicians for a special release. More information can be found here. If you are curious to see more of the videos that RYU has been releasing, from informative videos and live streams to covers, check out the YouTube channel of SOMEI YOSHINO. At this moment, the channel has not reached the 1000 subscribers. Other ways to keep track on the updates of RYU and SOMEI YOSHINO, is to follow the Twitter account of SOMEI YOSHINO and/or RYU, but also Facebook, Instagram and the official website.