Crazy Ken Band: Yokohama as seen by Ken Yokoyama, Part 2

クレイジーケンバンド 横山剣が見る横浜・後編

Crazy Ken Band (hereinafter referred to as CKB) transmits a wide range of sounds as "Toyo's best sound machine". Even now, celebrating their 25th anniversary, they are still evolving and are in the midst of a nationwide tour called ``CRAZY KEN BAND TOUR Kage 2022-2023'' with the release of their 22nd album ``Jikage''. When talking about Ken Yokoyama, the man who leads CKB and produces a wide variety of songs, the city of Yokohama is inseparable. In the first half of the interview, they talked about their impressions of the ever-changing city of Yokohama and how Kanagawa Prefecture influenced CKB's melodies and lyrics, as well as CKB's past activities. In the second half, we will focus on community-based activities, thoughts on the new album ``Kikage'', the ongoing tour, and the future of CKB.

◆Producing songs closely related to the local community, such as the “Yokohama G30” theme song and the Minato General High School school song

── Mr. Yokoyama has also created songs that are connected to Yokohama, such as the school song for Minato Sogo High School and the theme song for ``Yokohama G30''.

Yokoyama: Yes, I was asked to do it (lol).

── Please tell us how you felt when you were asked to produce music that is closely related to the local area.

Yokoyama: At the time of the zero waste campaign, Mr. Nakata was the mayor. Around that time, the city of Yokohama said, ``We want you to compose a melody and a song with this theme.'' Lyrics are solicited from all over the country, and once you submit the lyrics, you are asked to add a melody to the lyrics. I thought, "Oh, that's great." I was asked to choose from several lyrics, and I added a melody to the one I chose. The person who wrote the lyrics is from Nara Prefecture. Not Yokohama (lol).

──So there were applications from all over the country.

Yokoyama: Yes. So, Yokohama Minato Sogo High School. This was also requested by the school. There was a part-time high school called Minato High School that I was originally supposed to go to. I was supposed to go there, but my work and school hours didn't match up, so I gave up on the school as soon as I transferred. So, that was the predecessor of Minato Sogo High School. Later, when it changed to Minato Sogo High School, it was decided that the school would be a new school, or rather, the name would change, and the school song would also be changed, so I was asked to do so. This is also about adding a melody to the lyrics written by the graduating students. Both of them are lyrical, including the zero waste song and the school song. It functions as a so-called school song, but I also wanted to make it sound a bit like gospel or soul when played in a band. I thought that adding a rhythm to it would make it funky and cool. At the graduation ceremony, I had a chance to play the keyboard and sing, so I made a sample to show how I could sing like this.

── It was a great memory for the students!

Yokoyama: Among those (students), there was one musician who was an incredible genius. I was moved when I heard that person was singing the school song. A genius music creator called ``TENDRE''. Singer-songwriter. I heard that he was a graduate of that school and was singing one of my songs. They said, ``Such a genius has appeared.'' I felt so happy.

◆A city where you can "get used to everyday life little by little" when you return from overseas

── Your latest album ``Kage'' uses cities from various countries as titles, such as ``Dubai'' and ``Waikiki.'' Mr. Yokoyama himself likes to travel both domestically and internationally, but what do you think is the unique charm of Yokohama when compared to other cities around the world?

Yokoyama: When you return home from a trip abroad, you feel a little lonely. However, Yokohama has a Chinatown, so if you go to Chinatown after returning from Hong Kong, for example, you can feel like you're still on your Hong Kong trip. That's what the lyrics of the song Chinatown Daisakusen (``Crazy Chinatown Daisakusen!'') says, and I think that's the appeal of Yokohama. Yokohama is a place where you can get used to your daily routine, just like a diver on the ocean floor gradually gets used to a recompression chamber to avoid getting diving sickness.

── It's nice to say, "I don't feel lonely."

Yokoyama: Yes. So, I changed my mind one more time, and instead of just returning from a trip overseas, I changed my mindset so that I was thinking, ``I'm going to go on a trip to Yokohama now.'' I'm getting excited again. There's nothing wrong with that. Especially on the Wangan line from Haneda, it's a bus. Actually, I want you to go to Honmoku, but since it won't stop, I end up going to Yokohama Station (lol). There is a bus, Keikyu. Or take a taxi or your own car. When I come back from overseas and cross the Bay Bridge and see the night view of Minato Mirai, I feel so excited. It's not like, ``Ah, I'm back in Japan.''

── That scenery is wonderful, isn't it?

Yokoyama: Well, that scenery looks a bit like Singapore. it is a good feeling.

── So if you were to convey the appeal of Yokohama to people overseas, how would you go about it?

Yokoyama: That's right. When I meet people from Italy, they say things like Naples is Japan (lol). There are parts of Naples that are Americanized, and there are US troops there. Also, it's a port town, and there are some people who aren't bad people, but are a bit funky (lol). I know someone called Girolamo, and we often talk, and I feel like Yokohama, Yokosuka, and Naples are exactly the same. Rather than being exactly like the town, the atmosphere and mood are exactly the same. That's what I say to people in Italy, but in the case of England, they're an island nation, and after all, they're adjacent to the sea. They say random things like, ``Is it like Dover or something like that?'' (laughs) Anyway, when you think of a port, don't you think of the street? In a port town, it's called Welcome. It's a place with a lot of people coming and going, so they don't reject those who come and don't pursue those who leave. He treats people with a bit of delicacy without interfering too deeply with their private lives. I've heard somewhere that the spirit of a port town is universal, and I think that's true. Crazy people, normal people, delinquents, people with reasons, free people, mysterious people, there are all kinds of different colors (lol), that's what it feels like. So I don't know if it's an easy place to live, but once you get hooked, you won't want to leave.

── Well, it's a city with a lot of different people.

Yokoyama: A lot of things. Even though I'm in a band, there's not much prejudice against me, and I'm not really looked upon as unusual. It's a very easy place to live a normal life. He leaves me alone in a good way.

◆“This is an opportunity to expand your imagination and go to Dubai with VR goggles”

── “Tsukikage” is CKB’s 22nd album, what kind of album has it been for CKB?

Yokoyama : Contrary to the frustration of ``I want to go there, I want to go here, I want to go overseas'' due to the coronavirus...I see this crisis as the greatest opportunity, paradoxically. I guess it's at times like this that the power of stupidity comes into play. With hints like that, I thought, ``You should just wear VR goggles and go to Dubai.'' Well, I don't even have VR goggles (lol). For example. Dubai or even the VR goggles are a fantasy, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to fantasize and expand your imagination. It might be hard to do that all the time though. I haven't been to Hawaii at all, but in Honmoku, there is a local Hawaiian food called Honmoku Chow Mein at ``Boogie Cafe.'' Also, it has an eyeball symbol called ``Mooneyes.'' The MOON Cafe over there also has loco moco, like a Hawaiian drive-in. There are two types of Honolulu chow mein in Honmoku. Chow mein is kind of exotic, like Chinese food or Hawaiian food. ``Waikiki Night'' is a song that says, ``If you eat that, you'll be transported to Hawaii.'' That's why I proposed a way to tickle the feeling of being negative, by just changing your mindset and way of thinking.

── Listeners can also enjoy the feeling of traveling around the world.

Yokoyama: Well, it's like traveling the world while staying at home.

── You can travel through your ears. CKB is currently on tour with this ``Kikage'' album. I understand that there was a period when you were unable to tour for a while due to the coronavirus pandemic, but could you please tell us your enthusiasm for this tour?

Yokoyama: It will be held throughout the year until March of next year. Since we're going on tour with our album ``Kage'', we'll be performing about 10 songs from the album, but we've released 22 other songs in the past, so I wasn't sure which ones to bring... Partly because of that (lol). So, if we go to Fukuoka, let's bring this song that mentions ``Hakata dolls'' in the lyrics, or if we go to Yokosuka, let's do a song related to Yokosuka. I thought I'd try changing it up a bit depending on the venue. Also, we released a cover album last year, but there were some songs that we didn't touch at all during last year's cover album tour, so I thought I'd try to touch up some of those songs this year.

── Has anything changed during the coronavirus pandemic, such as the enthusiasm of the audience during live performances?

Yokoyama: Actually, there are various regulations such as not being allowed to speak out loud. After all, just broadcasting a performance with only a camera and having the audience right in front of you are completely different in terms of ``spirit.'' Even if we can't shout out loud, the same amount of heat will transmit the vibrations and we will exchange energy with each other. That's the real thrill of live performances, so I no longer feel like I'm missing something.

◆22nd album is the “next level first” album

── Lastly, please tell us about your future activities or anything you would like to try in the future.

Yokoyama: At this age, there are three of us over 60, and one of us is taking a break...but the goal is to stay active for the rest of our lives. Every year I feel like, ``This album was made this year,'' and if I leave it alone, it will come out. The results come out before I even think about the goal, so after I get them I think, ``What kind of concept should I use for this?'' You will understand the concept later. Well, when I travel, for example, when I go to South Korea, I get off at a random station, go back to my hotel room, and think, ``This is where I went today.'' It feels like it's going to fly away before you even see it. I think that's a theme that will never change.

── Did you find the theme of “travel” for this “Kikage” album after looking at the finished product?

Yokoyama: If you ask me, I guess so (lol). Anyway, it's already coming out in droves. Once we decided on the title ``Kikage''... ``Kikage'' was the name of a coffee shop on Honmoku 2-chome. That coffee shop was very creative...for me, it was a place where I could think creatively, come up with ideas, imagine things, and write lyrics, so I went back to that feeling. The band has been together for 25 years, so this is their 22nd album, but it feels like their first. A first year student who has moved up to the next level. It's my first album in the sense of the first semester of going to college, like from the third year of junior high school to the first year of high school. I faced it with the feeling that it was a next level first.

Now in their 25th year as a band, Yokoyama calls their 22nd album their ``next-level first.'' This is probably the reason why CKB, and Yokoyama himself, continues to evolve. At "CRAZY KEN BAND TOUR Kikage 2022-2023," which started in Tokyo in September of this year, you can enjoy their ever-evolving new sound and songs that have continued to be loved. Performances in Kanagawa Prefecture are scheduled for November 19th at Kanagawa Kenmin Hall, December 4th at Yokosuka City Cultural Center Large Hall, and March 4th of the following year at Atsugi City Cultural Center Large Hall.

Ken Yokoyama
Born in July 1960 in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Representative director of the music agency ``Double Joy Records.'' In 1997, he formed the Crazy Ken Band at Honmoku's "Italian Garden" and has been the band's lead vocalist ever since. In addition to releasing a wide variety of hit songs, he also provides music to many artists. This year marks the 25th anniversary since their debut, and with their 22nd album “Kikage” released on August 3rd, they are holding “CRAZY KEN BAND TOUR Kikage 2022-2023” all over the country. Please see the official website for details.

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