Souma Saitou (CUT October 2020)

斉藤 壮馬

He has a deep knowledge of literature and music, and while he is active as a voice actor artist who writes and composes his own lyrics, he declares that he does not sing message songs. With his aesthetics and unparalleled creativity, Souma Saitou has created various songs. The “In Bloom” series started as the second chapter of his artist activity. In June, he started a series of works based on the familiar and everyday theme of “seasonal change”, which is a complete change from the magnificent world view he had. Digital release of the rock number “Summerholic!”. Then, on 1 September, with the arrival of autumn, the trilogy will conclude with the lyrical ballad “Palette.” What kind of door is Souma Saitou trying to open in the second chapter, which opened with three songs with completely different tastes? Please take a peek at the abyss of his unstoppable creative drive through this text.

For Chapter 2, what was the image of the new music you wanted to start? Saitou: In terms of my singing activities so far, however, the axis of my activities is voice acting, so I wanted to value pop and entertainment. There were quite a few options that I didn’t choose because I thought, “I wouldn’t choose it as a horse song.” If you have the conviction that people will listen to you even if you do what you want to do, and if they accept it that way, then I would like suggest genres of songs that you haven’t chosen before and the world view of the lyrics. With the thought that it might be okay to deliver it, it is divided into Chapter 2. Up until now, my works have consistently had a somewhat decadent motif at the end of the world. There have been a lot of songs with grand arrangements, but I have a vague idea that there will be more introspective songs in the future.

It was a style that involved. Saitou: Yes. I did it with the clear intention of cramming multiple song ideas into one song. It was fun to make it, but after all, listening to that kind of world view every time is tiring, isn’t it? It’s not always good to eat a full course meal, so these three songs are gorgeous. It’s more like one idea, rather than a hype way of thinking. For “Petrichor”, for example, looping an impressive saxophone riff to create a groove. I wanted to make it so that even if you listen to it repeatedly, you won’t get tired of it. It felt more normal than ever before. I used to like writing lyrics with symbolic phrases and words, but it’s pretty easy to say difficult things in a difficult way. This time, on the contrary, I wrote the lyrics so as not to rely on the image that the words themselves have, but in fact, the degree of abstraction has increased accordingly. What I was particularly conscious of in “Petrichor”, was how to write the lyrics in a new music style. To some extent, I’m aiming to be able to understand the lyrics by just looking at the words, but depending on what angle you look at it, the image will change completely… It doesn’t change the fact that I’m not singing my own message or assertion, so I hope that the people who listen to it will enjoy it in various ways. The fun of thinking about the meaning of the lyrics is the same, but I’d be happy if you could feel that the seasoning has changed a little.

There is. Saitou: Yes. I’d sing vague and uncertain things with the theme of “seasonal change”, so I try not to choose hard words, and I used to use katakana a lot in the past, but this time I will use less and especially with “Petrichor.” I was conscious of choosing words with a roundness like rain. I made this song to coincide with the release date. When I was playing the guitar to make a lot of demos for the time being, I thought, “Summerholic!” I came up with the first riff for it. The first riff of “Palette” also felt like autumn, and by setting a theme, the pieces gradually fit in where they needed. I think it came together beautifully.

Do you come up with your own ideas for the arrangements? Saitou: I haven’t arranged it completely, but if it’s “Petrichor”, the upper part of “Summerholic”. However, I can’t play detailed phrases myself (laughs), so I leave it up to everyone on site. Even though it’s my own song, it’s fun to add things that are outside the scope of my imagination.

In the first place, when you make a song, where do you start with the melody, the lyrics, the base worldview? Saitou: The melody may come first before the lyrics, but the ideal form is to be able to do both at the same time. It’s a bit slow to reach the listener’s unconsciousness with the lyrics I made. Sometimes I try not to match the melody and the lyrics of the song, but in a way it’s a technical thing. I think it’s really good to be born together. This time, as I said earlier, the riff comes first. “Palette” is a song that was born when I thought that I could see the general shape of “Petrichor.” Thinking that, while wearing headphones, Gahan! When I was playing, the first phrase that came out, and I was like, “This is what I want!” As it is, for one chorus, I recorded a provisional song in an appropriate language that wasn’t English.

I wonder if there’s a lot of nuances left? Saitou: Yes, when I first started writing songs, I wrote them in random English, but then the melodies sounded like Western music, so I started sticking to writing them in Japanese. I thought about it, but I feel like I’ve come back to the point where I want to use Japanese (laughs). “Summerholic!”, the melody is like Western music, so I really liked the English lyrics for the temporary song. That’s why I had a hard time because there wasn’t any Japanese that could go beyond that. English is fine, but I wrote the lyrics myself. When writing, I don’t really like lyrics that are a mix of English and Japanese. I want to compete with Japanese pop music… I respect Masamune Kusano (laughs).

I see. I agree. Saitou: Also, I really care about the nuances of the character, or rather the appearance. If it’s rain, I like the sound of “ame” and I like the kanji itself. That’s why, just looking at the lyric card is fun, and reading the lyrics is also fun. This time it’s going to be digitally distributed, but when it comes to the next release, I’d like to make it in the form of a CD.

Listening to you, you think about the work as a whole, not just the song. Are you conscious of acting? Saitou: Ah, yes. Rather than making it as an alter ego, it may be closer to the feeling of a novel or a movie. In my opinion, it’s just a certain “state”, or in the situation of “Petrichor”, a situation in which one person is strangely happily stepping in the rain. When I come up with a theme, it’s like, “I want to write a garden in the afternoon when it’s very sunny but it’s raining.” If it were a palette, I would suddenly feel lonely walking down a road with a lot of fallen leaves. But the lyrics aren’t about me, so it’s not like I’m lonely. The sadness and joy are something that the listener feels, so maybe I like to express emotions and scenes, especially things that don’t have a name, in a different way. There are times when I think it looks really fun, and there are times when I feel scared. When I read everyone’s considerations in various ways, I sometimes think, “I see!”

It’s been about two years since you started writing lyrics and composing on a date that you think has a good mutual relationship. Saitou: Rather than changing in the last two years, the way I write songs has changed before and after I started working as a voice actor. I don’t think I could have written it. The way I write songs is also greatly influenced by my work, and I think we have a good mutual relationship. In Chapter 2, which starts with these three works, we will deliver genres and worldviews that we have not chosen so far.

So, what kind of taste do you think the future direction will be? Saitou: A lot of the songs I’ve been writing as a hobby since I was a teenager are dark. “C” and “Karutsupo” have a dark and dangerous scent to them, but even those are pretty mild. I’m thinking of trying it too. My roots music is in the band “APEVINE”, who writes introspective and literary lyrics of Japanese music around the 2000s. Such songs really saved me, and I felt sympathy while cherishing it. The songs also have odd time signatures, and even the F melody, where the development will never be the same again (laughs). I want to do things that I don’t really understand, and I’m thinking about expanding the range of pop within myself. I feel like I should try it.

That’s true. If you try something that you like because of your roots, and if everyone feels that it’s a little different, then it can’t be helped, but you can do it once. (laughs) Saitou: I’m used to the positive feeling that I’ll try it. I think the greatest strength of a voice actor artist is that they don’t have to limit their musicality to one. Even if I do something like pop music next time, or vice versa, even if I do something like EDM, it will be recognized as a world created by Souma Saitou, so I want to make use of that strength. Of course, I don’t want to be complacent, so I want to see how far I can go.

I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of music Saitou-san will create. Saitou: Hahaha. The song I’m making separately now has a rather Postbank-like feeling, and the new lyrics I’m writing are pretty crazy (laughs). I think I’ll be able to deliver something that feels like it’s happening.


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