-eve of destiny-
Orkus, February 2005
+ From the Japanese Throne of Goth +
translated by Geisha
In Japan, Mana and his band Moi dix Mois are the biggest act within the Goth scene. That's hardly surprising since the band is not only unique on a musical level but also sports its own very special look. Moi dix Mois' style of fashion is called "Gothic Lolita" but it has nothing to do with sexual preferences of the "other" kind. Let's bear in mind that outfits in the early (American) Goth scene were also very feminine. Mana, who previously belonged to an equally hip Visual Kei band – this is the name of the style, which goes far beyond musical identification – is so popular in his home country that he even has his own Gothic Lolita fashion label and, at the same time, is this fashion style’s most influential personality.
In Europe, Moi dix Mois are still considered an insider's tip but they nevertheless managed to sell more CDs and DVDs in Germany than many European bands. That's no mean feat considering that the releases of this Japanese band are only available via the German internet shop www.neotokyo.de and now also via www.orkus-online.de. On top of that, it was up to now only possible to gather more in-depth information about Moi dix Mois via the internet and then only on Japanese websites, which didn't offer an English, let alone a German translation. Orkus now had the opportunity to carry out the first (long) interview with the man in and behind Moi dix Mois
However: Mana isn't the easiest person to talk to. Supposedly nobody has ever heard Mana's voice in public. If Mana is asked questions during TV interviews, he whispers the answers softly into the ears of his fellow musicians Juka or Kazuno, who then speak for him. We were also somewhat surprised about the mostly rather short answers but, as we found out later, our interview with Mana seems to be one of the longest and most in depth ever! Also, as a rule, Mana rarely answers questions about himself.
O: Moi dix Mois' look and music are extremely dark. Where does your fascination with the dark come from? Do you derive some kind of energy from darkness?
M: Black is simply the colour, darkness itself. I love the colour black and I want to be surrounded by it all the time. For me, black is the source of power.
O: Would you associate darkness with evil itself?
M: No, because the darkness simply means beauty to me.
O: What is the inspiration for your music and lyrics?
M: From occult horror movies...
O: How long have you been playing a musical instrument?
M: I was 15 or 16 years old when I learned to play the guitar. Between the ages of 16 and 18 I also played the drums.
O: When did you write your first song?
M: Oh, I think I was 18 or 19 years old.
O: Do you consider yourself a happy person?
M: I'm at least proud that my creations go down well with many people. Yes, I guess I'm a happy person.
O: In your opinion, what makes life worth living?
M: I love the ballet, musicals and movies.
O: Do you consider yourself a loner? At least that's the impression you give...
M: I never really thought about that. It doesn't really matter to me if some people see me like that.
O: What criteria do your musicians have to fulfil?
M: They must have imagination and be inquisitive and original.
O: How do you cope with life as a star and being copied and admired by many fans in Japan? Doesn't it also have negative side effects?
M: Oh, I don't think that I'm a star...
O: Which human qualities or character traits do you admire?
M: When people have their own opinions and don’t let themselves be influence by other people’s opinions.
O: Is there a specific goal that you want to reach in your life?
M: The goal of every person's life is death.
O: The style of your outfit is called "Gothic Lolita". Since when have you been running your own fashion label, Moi-même-Moitié?
M: The fashion label Moi-même-Moitié, for which I'm the designer, was founded in 1999. That year we opened our first shop in the Aoyama district of Tokyo but we recently moved to a big department store in Shinjuku. Apart from that, we also have a branch in the city of Nagoya. We also increasingly receive enquiries from overseas, so I can't complain about a lack of interest.
O: Can you tell us about the history of Gothic Lolita fashion? Here in Europe this style is still unknown...
M: When I was still in Malice Mizer [editor's note: Mana's previous band] I wore a costume that I had designed myself. It was dark but somehow cute. The Japanese media wrote a lot about this costume and they called it Gothic – but I think they were mistaken. Unlike me, most people believe that the attributes "dark" and "cute" are incompatible. I therefore resolved to announce a completely new concept to the world. After 2 years of preparation I opened my fashion shop Moi-même-Moitié. That's the name of the brand but the concept is called EGL, which stands for "Elegant Gothic Lolita", a combination of Gothic and Lolita. The latter stands for the innocence and cuteness of a young girl and by combining the two I have effectively corrupted the concept of "Gothic" since it symbolises darkness and cruelty. On the one hand I use frills, ribbons and lace to lend to my designs the cuteness of antique porcelain dolls but on the other hand I also express something like "noxiousness" through the use of black, my favourite colour. The fans and the media called it "Gothloli" because abbreviations were very much in fashion at the time. After I opened my shop Moi-même-Moitié there were many reports about it in the papers and on TV, even on a German channel. A publishing house in Japan publishes a magazine called "Gothic & Lolita Bible" in which many labels and their Gothloli fashion are being showcased. But the scene has changed. In the "Gothic & Lolita Bible" they presented a shop that had jumped the Gothloli bandwagon and sold black dresses with lots of lace but changed the Gothloli design into business fashion. I don't accept that as Gothic Lolita.
O: I suppose you couldn't decide between fashion and music?
M: Yes, that's right. It would be impossible to choose between fashion and music because it is my goal to fuse fashion and music with each other. But if there was a time when I really had to make such a choice I would choose music.
O: What does (your) music mean to you generally?
M: The music I create is my words, my language. And the music is also the energy that I can't live without.
O: What do you want to give to the people who listen to your music or what do you want to communicate to them?
M: I want to impress and move the listener by mixing old and new elements, thereby creating my own style.
O: How do you compose your songs? Do you usually start with the lyrics or with the music?
M: In the past I always chose a theme for the album first and then filled it with a story. Then I composed the music based on this story and the images in my mind. For that I use a keyboard. So you could say that my music is like the soundtrack for a movie. When I’m finished with composing I write the lyrics while I'm listening to the songs. I'm currently working on some new tracks and this time I started with the lyrics. They are finished now and I'm just beginning to compose the music to go with them.
O: Your lyrics are mainly written in Japanese but some are also in English. Why?
M: I always choose words that match the music. For some songs on Dix Infernal I partly used English words and also the French language.
O: Why did you choose a French band name?
M: Because I love the sound of the French language. "Moi" means "me", which I chose because this was my debut as a solo artist. "Dix" stands for the number 10 and while 1 symbolises the beginning of something, 0 means something like "eternity". I love this number because for me personally the number 10 holds an infinite number of possibilities. "Dix Mois", again, means "10 months", the time a baby grows inside its mother's womb before being born, so it could mean something like "birth". All these words I have fused together in the name of my band.
O: What do you consider the peak of your musical career to date?
M: When I step out onto the stage at the beginning of my concerts and hear the ecstatic screams of my fans – that is the absolute high for me.
O: How do you feel during the last 15 minutes before you go onstage and what do you think of?
M: When all the preparations are done I feel very relaxed. But if we don't have our usual crew because, for example, we play at an event, and the preparations went badly or at least not perfect then I can be very irritable.
O: One could say that you play and work with symbols that Europeans and especially Americans could associate with Satanism. Is there a religion that fascinates you?
M: In short: no. I also grew up without religion.
O: And do you believe in reincarnation?
M: (winks) Yes, I believe in that. A fortune teller told me that I used to be a treacherous knight in medieval Europe.
O: What was the strangest thing you have witnessed to date?
M: Once I sat in a room with my friends and we were talking about a ghost story. Suddenly something like a Poltergeist phenomenon occurred. Everything in the room began to shake and the curtains billowed as if there was a strong wind blowing. However, it wasn't windy at all. In that moment I was so scared that I couldn't even look straight [editor's note: in Japan it is believed that ghosts gather around you when you talk about themf].
O: In the European and the American scene exists something like a love or admiration of vampires. Is the interest in this myth equally strong in Japan?
M: Yes, there are countless Dracula and vampire flicks. Especially the films by Francis Ford Coppola and the one with Tom Cruise are very well known [editor's note: Interview with the Vampire by Neil Jordan]. My favourites, however, are Nosferatu and Black Sunday [translator's note: La Maschera del Demonio by Mario Bava].
O: For us in Europe, Japan seems like a world of its own. Do you agree and what do you think about the rest of the world?
M: Well, every country has its own culture and its own history and each one is different and very interesting in its own way.
O: To what extent are you proud to be Japanese?
M: I love Japan because I was born and brought up there.
O: What springs to your mind spontaneously when you think about Germany?
M: The Black Forest. I would very much like to travel to this region and perhaps more...
O: Are there any German musicians or bands that you like?
M: Above all, Johann Sebastian Bach.
O: What is the structure of the Japanese music scene like? Is really everything there organised and controlled by big companies?
M: In the past, the whole music business really was in the hands of a few, large companies but fortunately that has changed. It is the same with us. In 1997, my previous band had signed a contract with Columbia Records [editor's note: a label of the Sony group]. On the one hand, it had many advantages but on the other hand we couldn't do what we wanted. Our former management is now also our label, so we are no longer bound to other people's decisions.
O: What are your plans for 2005?
M: We weren't able to play as many lives as we wanted last year, so we will make up for it this year. By the way, we are also planning to play in France and Germany.
CD and DVD available at:
Interview by Claus Müller, Daniela Sickinger
Translation by Geisha - not to be reproduced without permission!