Debuting in your 40s is not very common. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I have always loved music and played in a band when I was a student. A turning point came in my twenties when I was hired in a management company as an artist. I never had the chance to debut at the time, but they gave me a sort of ‘development period’ and I used to work with another person as a duo.
But this society was rather spartan [laughs] and I ended up leaving because I wanted the freedom to express various other things. I wanted to control my own musical journey, so I had to choose a different path.
I figured I should get some solid work experience so I saved some money for about three years part-time and started my own business in my 20s.
Did you continue to make music in the meantime?
I played in a band and played in little cafes and things. But this is the first time that I have decided to take things seriously.
Oddly enough, September 2020 was almost exactly 20 years since I last joined this management company. My mother passed away in her forties, and when I realized I was approaching that age I started to think to myself, “I could die any day now now, so I wanna do whatever. that I did not do. ” It was a major motivation, and I decided to pack well the music that I had continued sparingly over the years.
What are some of your musical roots?
My mother was a devout Christian, so I was taken to church every Sunday from a young age. I think the hymns I heard there had a great influence. And my grandfather on my mom’s side was an amateur classical conductor, and it went way beyond being just a hobby. [laughs]. He had instruments like piano, accordion, guitar and violin lying around the house, which could have influenced me as well. The dark music at the heart of HANCE’s melodies is also originally from gospel and church music, so I think there may be an affinity there as well.
Plus, I’m a generation that was struck by American and British rock in the 90s, so I listened to a lot of it in my teens and twenties. I think all genres were very much alive at the time.
Do you also listen to rock music?
It’s my foundation, actually. I gradually took up black music as I got older. And I was a club DJ, so I discovered a lot of things by digging a lot into club music.
You worked with Kentaro Ishigaki on your first album Between the night. How did this collaboration come about?
I was studying the guitar under Mr. Ishigaki. By that I don’t mean the technical aspect, but things like how to make a composition “mature”, for example, methods of arrangement such as ways of using tension and slash chords.
What is the theme or concept of the album?
I traveled a lot in my twenties and thirties, and I wanted to infuse my music with the atmosphere of the places I visited and how I felt there. So I focused more on the landscape people would envision from the music rather than the music itself when I was creating it.
Is that why you shot your music videos for “Valencia Sky” and “The Night and the Lie” on location in Valencia, Spain?
Like I said, I wanted my music and visuals to express a certain worldview, and the Japanese landscape was not what I had in mind. So to be honest I was planning on shooting all the videos outside of Japan.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been filming in Japan since 2020, but once things stabilize I want to resume filming overseas as much as possible.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
Partly because I’m just starting out in my forties, I feel the urge to create music that is suitable for mature people. You know, it’s something in the music industry that has always struck me as strange. Take the example of fashion. As people get older, they are offered clothing and lifestyle suggestions that are suitable for this generation. But in music, all new performers are in their teens and twenties and no newcomer that matches our generation emerges, as far as I know.
It’s so true.
The middle-aged population will increase from now on, and I’m sure there will be more people like me who want to hear new music suitable for our generation. I think there is a need for more music that can be presented to people like this.
Of course, there are a lot of artists in their 40s and 50s who make great music, but these are all people who have been doing it since they were young. I think it’s great and there are a lot of artists that I love among them. But I also think that the music made by people who have had other careers will be different from the music of these veteran artists.
You really have a point there. Maybe there should be more people choosing a second career in music as an artist.
Personally, I feel like I’m making the best music of my life right now, so I’m not thinking, “Why didn’t I debut sooner?” I’m sure there are a lot of people whose talents blossom at a young age, but I also think there must be people my age who are starting to make the kind of music that they are happy with.
Some young people may be wondering right now whether they should find a stable job or continue to play music. In my case, my path was probably for the best, and because I have another job, I am very emotionally stable. [laughs]. I like things besides music, I like my job, I like to travel, so I want to be greedy and do everything. I think it will become more common for people to balance careers and making music, and I hope that kind of lifestyle takes hold in the future.
HANCE Between the night tracklist
2. The night and the lie
4. Marble traveler
9. Make shade
10. Valencia Sky
11. Midnight at the cafe
This article by writer Takanori Kuroda first appeared on Billboard Japan.