From working with director Angelina Jolie, to performing music in front of thousands of adoring fans, to being a devoted father, the artist known as MIYAVI truly has no boundaries.
Christopher Austopchuk: Your proper name is Takamasa Ishihara, and your stage name is Miyavi. Could you tell us what your stage name means, and why did you choose it?
Takamasa Ishihara: MIYAVI (雅) is one of KANJI (a system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters) in my real name and it’s also a traditional Japanese name which means ROCK THE HELL OUT OF YOU.
CA: When did you become interested in music? Did you form, or join several bands?
TI: I used to play soccer and be on a youth team of one of the Japanese professional teams. But I got injured and gave up my dream to be a soccer player. Then I found the guitar and I got addicted to it ever since the first moment I touched the guitar. I could see the picture of myself rocking the crowd in a stadium in Brazil that I wanted to play at as a soccer player. I got picked up by a band at age 17 and I’ve been going nonstop, slapping the strings since.
CA: Do you write all of your own music, or do you enjoy collaborating with others?
TI: I used to write all of my music myself but now I enjoy collaborating with other artists/writers. They always let me learn something and it’s a fun process.
CA: When did you start writing songs?
TI: The first moment I got the guitar. It was not perfect at all but I got freedom. That’s the key, I was able to get into this thing. Creativity.
CA: We understand that an early influence/inspiration was Ray Charles; can you tell us about that, and what other bands/performers were early influences?
TI: I’ve been influenced by many kinds of artists and bands. Blues guitarists such as Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray, rock bands such as Korn, Nine Inch Nails, and White Stripes, also electric DJs/creators like Basement Jaxx, DaftPunk etc. Combining those and create a new thing is one of my missions.
CA: Your English is quite good! When did you study the language?
TI: Thank you. Ten years ago I started studying English while I stayed in LA for three months. I’m still studying everyday. Never ending.
CA: When you dream, are your dreams in English, or Japanese, or a combination? We have been wondering if there is a cultural element to dreams; that is to say, is there any way of knowing if Japanese Dreams are different than American dreams, which are different than Indian dreams. Do you have an opinion about this?
TI: I think it’s all the same. It’s all about the deep level of your psychology or your subconscious. I do dream in English since I talk to my daughters in English at home.
CA: You recently starred in Angelina Jolie’s movie, Unbroken, brilliantly playing a war prisoner camp sergeant who mistreated the inmates. Was it difficult to play a character who was so cruel? Which do you think would be more difficult to portray: a likable character, or an “evil” one?
TI: Yes it was difficult. But it was worth it to try for a meaningful reason and purpose. I just wanted to dedicate myself to Angie’s mission to deliver the message of the man who survived in his life with his strength. Now I’m into portraying villains since there is always a path and reasons why they became that way mentally and it’s really interesting with layers of humanity.
CA: Have you worked on any more roles in film? At your core, do you feel that you are more of a musician, or an actor? Would you like to continue to balance both careers?
TI: Yes, I have recently worked on some American and Japanese films. I do enjoy doing both music, acting and fashion as well. Since I feel that music, movies, and fashion are all connected and it’s all about expression.
CA: Do you live in Los Angeles with your family now; was this a big change, and how is it so?
TI: Yes we do live in LA now. Two reasons. Education and creation. For my daughters, I didn’t want them to struggle with language and cultural difference in their life in the future. So we decided to raise them in LA. Also as a musician, it’s great to be able to work with musicians/producers who literally have been making history. Life is a constant learning process. It’s not easy but it’s fun.
It was a big moment. Especially language and cultural difference with responsibility as a parent and a professional musician. My wife Melody’s support is huge. I feel I’m another kid of hers.
CA: Are there elements from your acting career which enhance your career as a musician, and does the same thing happen from music to acting?
TI: Yes. They are both all about expression. Being a human being. Always questioning who I am and what I’m here for.
CA: You travel all over the world, and meet people from all backgrounds, what are your thoughts about different cultures? Are there elements of different cultures that you think should be incorporated into your own culture? What should be preserved, and what things have you learned?
TI: I think it’s very important to know that we are all the same people while being different. To know and to accept the fact that we are all the others. And in that sense we are all the same. We can’t live without each other. So it’s really important to stay respectful to everything somehow.
CA: You have two daughters, what do you learn about yourself through them? What kind of world do you hope mankind leaves for them?
TI: You see yourself from your kids. Learning life all over again through the experience with your children. And it gives you more responsibility to make this world better. It makes us think more about the environment, and education. Education is the most important creation of a human being I think.
CA: As an artist with large audience, and as a human being are there any specific responsibilities you feel you have?
TI: I feel that it’s crucial to send out a positive message in any way.
CA: Do you presently have a favorite visual artist? film director? recording artist?
TI: Christopher Nolan, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Rick Owens, Yohji Yamamoto, Samuel L Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson, Hedi Slimane, Bjork etc
CA: What kind of situation, or day makes you happy? What are actions, or situations which make you angry, or unhappy?
TI: The moment I spend with my girls after I work hard. I tend to struggle or feel stress every time I feel I couldn’t do whatever I do to the fullest. So I try my best to push myself past the limit every single day. And cuddle with my girls.
CA: If you wanted to make certain that our readers remembered one thing about you, what would that be?
TI: I don’t know. Please come to my shows if you have a chance. Let’s have fun in this mad world.