Cyclamen singer Hayato Imanishi is such a fascinating fellow that a conversation with him just can’t be confined to one single interview! In the final part of an epic discussion the Japanese front man talks about how the band has grown and evolved over the years…
Tell me more about how Cyclamen has evolved – how much of what you’re doing now is similar to the vision you had for it in the beginning?
I was actually a guitarist when I started Cyclamen, so I planned this to be a bit like This is Menace, where it will have many guests for vocals. But it quickly became clear finding multiple vocalists with a guy with pretty much no reputation is pretty hard. So I started doing vocals as well as everything else – Just to get things done. Then I kinda discovered my scream is sort of similar to the vocalist from Envy, who are my favourite band in the world – And the post-rock inspired parts of Cyclamen worked really well with it – So I thought, “Let’s do vocals as well, why not?” I also thought Cyclamen would be too technical to form a band, so I did not expect Cyclamen to be a live band for a very long time. But with the reputation built up, I had more reach to good musicians and I’ve been lucky so far to meet quite few musicians who are capable of performing Cyclamen songs.: I never expected Cyclamen to this level really. It’s a real surprise how the world changed so much in past 5 years or so to let me enable so much on my own.
It’s so fascinating to hear just how much it has changed! If you had known then what you do now about technology, and about the music industry as a whole, would you have done anything differently? Planned to take it in a slightly different direction from the beginning?
I would have just stuck to do everything DIY I think. I worked with a few bad people, who basically stole my money for their service, or just done really bad job – Especially for PR. It’s something you can’t numerically measure, but they often ask for monthly fee. If you are not nice, you can easily get away with a minimal work and the band still won’t be able to complain. And I’d probably stick more to people around the scene – I didn’t know how dodgy the music industry is and I wasn’t aware of the risk of reaching people who you don’t really know. Having a connection – even as a friend of someone you know, or someone you’ve seen as “friend of a friend” is a big assurance. Some sort of risk always comes with everything you do. You learn lessons from it. The worst mistake would be to not learn from the mistake you’ve made. Now I’ve learnt who to trust and what to do – Which is sadly not to rely on people as much as I can, and do everything DIY. Hahaha. There are few very good people in the industry. But way too few. It makes me a little sad.
Seems to be more creative the job, the more people there are who attempt to take advantage
Because the value of music is subjective – You can’t measure it. So people put whatever the price they feel is right to it. And for some people, who are in the position to be able to take advantage of their upper ground, that’s an easy money. And no one can complain, because there is no measurement to base their value on. And more importantly, there are just tonnes and tonnes who are dying to be famous. Who would throw money at them just to get to their dream. Just because they don’t know the real ugly side of the industry.
Yeah, when people think their dream is in sight they’ll pay pretty much anything to get it
Exactly. And they know how to make it sound like it’s their best shot and the only chance. But I guess if you look carefully, all the bad signs are there for these sorta people. Just have to know where to look.
What advice would you give for people trying to break into the industry nowadays? It’s changed SO much over the years, and nobody really seems to know the best way to get in anymore!
DIY! Just do as much as you can do yourself – It’s the most reliable way for anyone who are willing to work hard. And cheapest and quickest 😛 Don’t be lazy and be afraid of learning new things. A human being is much more capable of doing things than most people think. 24 hours is a long time in a day if you make the most use of it. Once you start to have not enough time, you’ll be earning enough to make some outsourcing options. If you are using all of available 24 hours productively and still not earning money, you are either 1.investing for your career building or 2.just not putting your effort to the right place. If you don’t feel anything is changing after 3 months, probably it’s because of putting effort to the wrong place. It’s amazing how much change 3 months can bring to you if you make the most out of it.
Do you feel as though what you’ve gained from pursuing this has been worth the amount of time and effort that you’ve invested and continue to invest in it?
Yeah sure – There are so many quicker ways to get to higher position in the industry…But that will be with a help from other people, and connection & money from them. You are only borrowing them while you are working – Once you stopped working with them, it’s all lost you know? These industry people work with whoever manages/helps you, not YOU. So if you had unfortunate argument with your management and fall apart, you’re suddenly back to the day 1. Losing all the connections you had.
Yes, that’s very true – I’ve seen it happen many, many times sadly
It’s incredible how the bands who we see as “legendary” as pretty much no power themselves. Like some ex-famous band trying to start new band and nobody seems to take notice of it. Obviously some bands are cleverer than others. They work hard to make their own connection while they are managed and can become independent. But then the effort is pretty much the same. You have to approach them, and win the trust. No real difference – Except that you get an opportunity to work with them easier.: How you use them, still is up to you. Where as doing DIY – They are seeing only you. Valuing you purely based on who you are. No hidden agenda. So if you win them over, they’ll stick with you. And they’ll remember you. You know?
Yeah, completely – based on trust, personalities and appreciation of the music and of you.
It’s as simple as the fact that strong relationship will take time and some beating. There is no shortcut to it. So I’m just doing a long musical journey, slowly, one step by one step, appreciating all the encounters 🙂 It’s not bad, if you look from the life aspect, not just business. You learn so much more about yourself and the world. And it’s something you can use outside the music industry. As long as you are willing to enjoy the view while walking, no need to take a plan to the destination.
And if you were to progress no further ‘up the ladder’ as a band/musician now but keep playing the kind of shows you’re playing, with the audiences you’re getting, would you carry on indefinitely, or would there need to be more?
Depends – as I said, I’m not that bothered about live shows. I’m far more concerned about making living as a musician. I do whatever it takes to let me live doing music. If we need to do live shows, we do it, whatever the size. Number of people doesn’t really matter to me – Sure, if I can play Download or Sonisphere, it’s amazing! But I’d still put as much effort and love into performing in front of 5 people. As long as there is someone who came to see us, there is no option for us other than putting all you can to perform what we do. If there is no point doing shows i.e. not really building more audience, it’s okay. As long as it’s worth it.
Ok. I know you said you’d be happy to step down as vocalist if you found somebody you could trust, but would you ever consider Cyclamen not being a live band at all?
Yeah sure, it was solo project for first 3 years, and when “Memories, Voices” was released. If the music makes enough money steadily without live shows and there is no demand from both the band and the audience, there is no need to perform. But I first formed Cyclamen live band because there was a demand from listeners, and there are still people who want to see us live.
Ok, wonderful – so it’s basically about the fan demand?
I think so, more or less. My passion is writing and making recordings. That’s something I will continue to do anyways. Everything else is something I am happy to do, if people want me to do. BUT. Now Cyclamen is a band – more members involved. And some of them want to live their life doing music too – Even though it’s not exactly the same way as I do. And if I can help them to get what they want, I’m obviously more than happy to put my effort to help. It’s becoming less and less all about me, more responsibility about my bandmates too, as a manager.
Do you feel a real sense that you want to look after them in all their musical endeavours?
Not exactly look after, but I’ve managed to make the first step for some musicians in the past, which I feel was an achievement in my life. Like Olly from Monuments and Boris from Chimp Spanner. They first worked with Cyclamen and got their jobs through working with me. I’m not saying all their success was result of me obviously. But I think it gave them a spotlight where they could show their skill to get what they deserved. And it’s the same for the rest of the current band. If I can provide a chance for them to show the world what they can do, through Cyclamen, then that’s amazing. It’s not very much, but it’s not nothing. And if you are so fucking good, that is sometimes enough.
Stories like that that show just how this can work really do make it all worthwhile
Yeah sure 🙂 Hardworking and being nice to people almost always pay off!
Yes!! They really do. It sometimes seems like it doesn’t, but in the end, you realise how actually, everything you’ve done has led to good things, it’s just not been obvious at the time
Exactly 🙂 So coming back to your original question, I wouldn’t say I’d “Look after” but just “give them chance” more like. Whether they’ll manage to make the best out of it, is totally up to them. Not my responsibility.
Ok, I get you. Do you try to plan ahead for the future for you and the future of the band, or do you just let it happen organically and go with the flow?
It’s impossible to plan what would happen even 3 months down the line in music. So I tend to think just enough to keep the band motivated about what comes next. Like at the moment, Katsunori is still studying in the uni, we can’t be on the road extensively right now. Keep us active, we have few shows and we’ll be writing new releases, until then, so by the time he is free, we’re ready to move. Sorta thing – But no point planning what’s ahead in a year, or two. You don’t know what would happen.
I really believe one can achieve so many things if you set your mind to it. And to prove that, what better way to do it than doing it yourself? As you said, it’s a very slow journey. But certainly extremely enjoyable, seeing everything on the way. Obviously I fall down every now and then, but even that doesn’t seem too bad if you know that it’s a natural part of your learning. No successful person got there without some failures to learn from.
Never a truer word was spoken! It’s been so refreshing to talk to you – I have so much admiration and respect for people who are brave enough to follow their dreams, and it’s so heart warming to see that it’s working out well for you
Thank you. But if anything, I suppose that shows you how much love I have for what I do!
Interview: Felicity Hall
Cover Photo: Craig Hutton