Hello Saeko my friend, how have you been doing, It’s a pleasure to have this interview with you?
Hello. Yes, I’m very happy to have this opportunity!
“Holy Are We Alone” would you like to share some information about the album, songwriting and production?
Yes, all music was written by me and Guido Benedetti, the guitarist of SAEKO. The album is produced by me, Guido and V. Santura. It’s a concept album, about the spirit reincarnating around the world. That’s why the album has songs about different countries/regions of the world. I think we made an album rich in variety. I hope you enjoy it, as we did.
You stated this album is a sequel to your earlier albums, a concept story of a reincarnating spirit travelling around the world to find the universal truth, so is it something created by you, I meant the conceptual part and how did you come up with the idea?
Hmmm, it’s a difficult question. If you ask me who made this concept, it’s me. No one else. However, I always feel this kind of idea–whether it’s the concept of the album, music or lyrics–is coming from somewhere else. You know what I mean? It popped up in my head naturally. By the way, I recently noticed it was Aug 10th last year that I came up with the idea to conclude the album with a quote from Plato.
Anyway, I’m always expressing the same theme, the eternal truth of our spirit. So, it’s natural that the new concept has connections with the concepts depicted in the former albums.
How did the collaboration as a band happened between you and Michael, Alessandro and Guido, can you tell me how it all started for you guys?
Well, I personally met Guido and talked with him in February 2019 for the first time in my life. He was in Japan, on tour with his band, Trick Or Treat. I was actually an interviewer for a city-webzine in Osaka. While interviewing him, we found out that he was in the crowd when I played at Wacken Open Air 2005. Anyway, from the very beginning, we found many things in common. Not only our musical taste, but also our music philosophy was similar. And he’s a very good guitarist. By then, I had been looking for a guitarist for 2 years already in order to resume SAEKO, and I felt, “He is the very guitarist I must bring in!”, so I asked him to be on board. And he was like, “why not?”
So, we made the first demo song, “Brazil: Splinters of the Sun”. It was already very good, and I felt it’s time to move to Germany to resume SAEKO on a full scale. After that, I contacted Michael Ehré for drums and Alessandro Sala for the bass, to ask if they could be on board as well. They were both top on my list, so I was very happy when they agreed. I think it was in January 2020, just before COVID outbreak, that I publicly announced all the members of the new SAEKO.
… and I’m very happy with all of them. In fact, the other day, in an interview with a Japanese newspaper, I was at a loss for words at one question:”If you could make a dream-band with any famous musicians on earth, who would you ask for which part?” Later I got the names and emailed the newspaper journalist: “The current musicians of SAEKO!”
What would be the upcoming plans for the band post release of the album?
First of all, I’d like you to understand that I perhaps need more time to do anything than usual. Coz I’m from Japan all alone, with no management or booking agency with me. I don’t speak German well enough, either.
Anyway, we already made two videos ( https://youtu.be/JS_-PS0M2NQ and https://youtu.be/zjnBiXah-f8 ). The next step, I believe, is to play shows. It’s very hard to set up a big show from the very beginning, so I wanna start with a little acoustic show with Guido. Later, I wanna move on to something bigger, of course. But everything has several stages to go through before it blooms fully, right?
- Circle Of Life
- Japan: In My Dream
- Syria: Music, My Love
- UK: Never Say Never
- Germany: Rebellion Mission
- India: Farewell To You I (From Father To Son)
- Brazil: Splinters Of The Sun
- Hawaii (USA): Farewell To You II (From Mother To Daughter)
- Russia: Heroes
- Holy Are We Alone
A Day In the Life of Saeko
Hey Saeko, Let’s get into your life and show the whole world about Saeko, how do you start and end your day?
Oh, my personal life? Well, it’s boring, hahah. I’m living in a small one room temporary apartment in Germany. So, I just wake up and drink coffee, shower and then start working, hahah. And that’s how I end my day as well. Finish working, a bit of relaxing time by myself, then, go to bed. I’m really sorry to sound so boring, haha.
Life in Osaka Or Life in Germany – What do you prefer?
Hmmm, well, I of course love my hometown. But Germany is obviously better for my music. Germany is a beautiful country, too. And I like Europe in general better than Japan. Japan is very beautiful, but it’s far away from any non-communist countries. I’m not being political here. It’s just that I express my opinions on everything freely and honestly, so I can’t work in a country that has no freedom of speech. From Japan, it costs so much to do any international tour. It also costs in Europe to tour several countries, but not as much as from Japan. In Japan, I sometimes feel like a bird in a small cage.
You enjoy Coffee to start your day or something else?
Yes. Without coffee, my day won’t start.
Photography by Jeroen Aarts.
When you wake up what would be something that you listen to?
Well, I don’t really listen to music in the morning. Sometimes I play relaxing background music while I work. (I don’t play metal music while working because I start shouting or headbanging and can’t work, hahah).
Martial Arts or Romance 😀 ?
Hmmm, I have no interest in martial arts. Sorry if I’m breaking the image of a metal singer, but I’m more like a princess in my daily life, hahah. Since my childhood, I’ve been decorating my own room with a concept, “a princess of a fairy forest”.
However, many good friends of mine who know me well say that I’m tougher than any men and they call me, “Joan of Arc from Osaka”. Why? I wanna be a cute princess, hahaha.
Metal or Any genre do you prefer to keep your day going?
As I said above, some relaxing music (jazz, classical music etc.). Coz I can’t work when metal music is played, hahah.
In most shows you spread the word of Love, why did you choose that other than anything else?
Oh, I don’t know. Am I spreading love on stage? It’s great if I’m doing so. But … I really don’t know. Coz I usually don’t plan what to do on stage. I’m just doing and talking things intuitively, like improvised performance. I just wanna show my truest self as I want the audience to remember their truest self, too.
When did music started in your life, how it was for you in Osaka?
My musical life started even before I was born. My mom was a very good singer, and she sang to me just after she found out she got pregnant. She also played music, mainly classical music, as part of prenatal training as well. I had a pic of me with a diaper, playing with a toy piano, singing with a microphone and headphones as large as my little face. Actually, my mom said I started singing to music before learning to speak.
Then, at age 14, I came across hard rock/heavy metal music and understood I was born to do this music. So, at 14, I vowed I’d play heavy metal around the world. Since then, this vow has stayed with me all the time.
You made a huge leap when you made that travel from Osaka to Germany, A travel will do you good seems that it really worked, tell me about the success?
The first travel was made in 2002, and it was both a success and a failure. A success because I achieved things like performing at Wacken Open Air etc. A failure because I had to fly back to Japan in 2006 eventually.
So, this is my second travel. And I must make it successful this time. So far, it looks good. I gathered great members, made and released a great album, finding great labels from both Japan and Germany … but there is still a long way to go. One of the worries I always have is the extension of my residence permit in Germany. At the end of the year, I always need to prove to the foreign department that I’m good enough as a musician to stay in Germany. For that, every interview, review, sales … they count. So, I really appreciate your offering me this interview.
How was your first Wacken Experience, would you like to share some of the moments you had over that time?
Oh, it was beautiful. I played the show with two Japanese female musicians, which meant so much to me. Especially the bassist, Mari. We’d been playing together since 1998 or so (I don’t remember exactly when anymore), getting over lots of ups and downs together.
At Wacken, we were deeply moved to play “Sins for the Gods” from SAEKO’s first album because this song was originally made and played in my Japanese band with her. I and Mari played this song for … how many years?? Anyway, we both thought about the long way till that point.
Actually, there were some serious troubles in PA, but it didn’t matter. We did our best and there was magic, you know.
And this magic seemed to be transmitted to the whole audience. The encore from the whole capacity audience didn’t stop quite long after our show. I remember my former manager, Lars Ratz (who very sadly passed away in April), hugged us by the stage, saying in high spirit, “I’m so proud of you. No one expected this big encore. You proved it!” Nice memory.
You have decided to make Germany your country, why that decision?
Many magazines have asked me this question, but it’s really not easy to explain. It’s gonna be super long to explain all the complicated things here.
For example, I published a short essay in Japanese: https://note.com/saeko_metal/n/nc20e394c160d I know you can’t read Japanese, but you may be able to imagine there are some very deep reasons behind if you see the essay.
In short, the Japanese music industry functions very differently from the music industry in European countries. I don’t say which is better or worse. Some musicians may work better in the Japanese industry and some in the non-Japanese industry. Anyway, a musician like me can never work well in the Japanese music industry structure. The same thing is true for the academic world. The kind of researchers who will get highly evaluated in Europe can usually have no chance in Japan: What the Japanese society expects is almost the opposite to that of Europe. I can’t explain more than that in this short interview. I hope you understand.
Japan is a beautiful country and have so amazing people and a great culture and talk about metal there is a huge cult following this genre, How do you feel about homeland?
Yes, it is a beautiful country. Yet, it’s an island. Unfortunately, as I said, far away from almost any country. The distance between Japan and Asian continent is much wider than that between the UK and the EU continent. So, it’s hard to do anything international. Nearly no one speaks English, or any other language than Japanese, either. That’s the hardest part for me to do anything there, as I prefer to work in an international environment.
What would be your biggest influences to start your career in music?
To start my career? I would say Michael Kiske (Helloween). Until he left Helloween in 1993, I was more on the listener’s side although I played with school mates for fun every now and then. I even played a guitar back then (but I was terribly bad as a guitarist, hahah). Then, Ingo Schwichtenberg died and even Mickael Kiske left Helloween, which was to me a great disappointment as a big fan. After all, Helloween continued, which is great. However, at that time, I felt as if my most favourite band would evaporate into the air. Do you understand? And I thought, “Stop being sad. If my most favourite band disappears, all I have to do is to make my most favourite music by myself”. That was the turning point, I think. Soon after that, I started to look for serious members all over Osaka (my city) and neighbouring cities to make a serious band.
Being one of the big success, how do you feel where you stand now?
Oh, am I a big success? I’m very happy to hear, but I don’t think so. I feel I’m just at the start line now. And I hope, or rather I must, I move on further to share passion and music with more people around the world.
What would be your message for the fans?
I appreciate your being there. This new album wouldn’t have been possible if people like you hadn’t supported us in the crowdfunding campaign. I might be weak alone, but I can stay strong with you. One day I wish to share a moment with you and shout together from the stage, Holy Are We Alone! Thank you!