Interview: Survive Said the Prophet band members Yosh Morita, Tatsuya Kato, Ivan Kwong, and Show Okada spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® at Anime NYC 2023.
Everything from the SSTP’s biggest challenges, to “Mukanjyo” originating from a heated argument between Yosh & Ivan, to choosing between rival guitar brands Ibanez & Schecter was discussed.
This ‘Survive Said the Prophet’ interview took place ahead of the band’s first ever New York City live performance at Javits Center.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): What have been some of your biggest challenges musically from album to album? Single to single?
YOSH MORITA: I think having really short deadlines on bigger animes and projects puts a lot of stress in my life… Because I have this responsibility of not only finishing a song but delivering lyrics that make sense to the visuals.
And like 90% of the time they will require & request Japanese inside my lyrics, which is something I’m not that good at. I’ve learned to write Japanese lyrics into music through Survive Said the Prophet actually.
But it can get really stressful on how to deliver the American lyrical content that I hear in my head and then try to convey it through Japanese. It’s very, very difficult.
I mean, I’m sure you understand it is not easy. They don’t have the same terminology in the way they describe things. So I think that’s probably one of the most challenging experiences that I’ve had in my career in Survive Said the Prophet.
SHOW OKADA: There’s a really big difference when you’re writing music starting from zero to 100. The whole entire process from even to 50% in the writing process is different amongst all bands.
But in our case, with Survive Said the Prophet, if Yosh was to bring a song for me to play the drums on that Yosh has written… That could mean I bring it to a 100 or I could rearrange the drums and make it into something else entirely and turn it into a ‘100’ as well.
So figuring that process out on how to deliver the music that we all see together is the challenging bit when we’re working together.
It’s like what do we really want to portray or convey? In a good way too. It’s a challenging discussion that we have a lot.
IVAN KWONG: I agree with Show on a majority of the things he said. But from my perspective, it’s when we’re writing all together that I do think about how to package the whole entire album… Not only the singles or the specific song, but how do we put it all together as one art piece.
So that might be a challenging bit that I process that I go through mentally. Like just, ‘How can we put these pieces of art that we all bring to the table together?’ is a challenging process.
TATSUYA KATO: I think music really comes down to communication within the band. We’re all adults, we have our own lives and we have different time schedules and all that.
I think just finding the time and a way to communicate with each other is a really important part to making anything work. Communication can be challenging amongst four men.
YOSH MORITA: This is not a brand new story, but I appreciate the honesty that this band brings. Like if something pisses you off, they’ll bring it on the table, you know what I mean?
It’s not about, ‘Oh, the way you said that pisses me off!’ It’s more like, ‘The way you want to force this idea into this one kind of frustrates me because this is how I see this… And this is how we want to deliver now.’
Where can we find the in-between ground to make it survive? So it’s a challenging process to get very adamant ideas across to each other being in a band.
But I think that’s like the romantic part, I think about being in Survivor Said the Prophet… And I think I take pride in the way we are able to communicate over 10 years on. Trying to keep delivering music that we’ve always envisioned amongst ourselves.
And you never know. I mean, sometimes we’ll fight and one of our best songs came out of that. I think that’s the art of it.
‘Cause you know, if you’re always happy and very satisfied, your music is gonna be kind of empty and hollow sometimes. Too happy.
I remember in Hong Kong me and Ivan were roommates and I was just not into the tour at that time. I was a little bit of an a**hole, I admit. And I think Ivan was so pissed.
We were playing at a very big stadium in Hong Kong and Ivan’s from Hong Kong, so he’s very proud to be on that stage. And I wasn’t as proud of myself.
I think at the time he was just f***ing pissed about everything. He was like ‘Are you emotionless?’
I went home and that became the making of our track “Mukanjyo”. So it is the way we communicate. And it just rang out because he was so mad.
He came through, he was like, ‘Are you f***ing emotionless? Isn’t this what you wanted? Playing in front of tens and thousands of people and this is how you’re gonna act? You’re a f***ing a**hole!
So I acknowledge I was being a f***ing a**hole and it lead to a great song. Just one example of where anger can work out in the songwriting process.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Looking back, did you foresee “Mukanjyo” of ‘Vinland Saga’ becoming your most famous song with 53 million views on Spotify?
YOSH MORITA: Honestly, when we first started doing these animations… It just wasn’t a career we thought we would pursue if I’m gonna be bluntly honest.
“Mukanjyo” came at a time where we wanted to focus on our music and stay away from money. Usually, when they give you an anime track to do, they give you like a month or less than a month to finish it.
I’ve had tracks that I’ve released where they gave us two weeks to finish from scratch. So it’s a stressful situation for sure. But I remember writing three songs for Vinland Saga’s opening. And I remember being very, very angry.
I remember being very upset and I was younger so I felt like music shouldn’t be that way. And I think at that time I was a little bit more selfish thinking about how I felt through that music.
But then after releasing the music and seeing the Spotify numbers and seeing how people react at the shows… I realize it’s a life lesson that I was so lucky to learn. I had so much hate and negative energy towards it. But the outcome of it was nothing but greatness and nothing but just positive energy.
All said and done, what I would recommend to all musicians is before you say no, ask yourself if you tried it? And then if you haven’t, try it out. You never know.
We are very happy about the numbers and we’re not complaining. In fact, we hope to get more numbers as we push forward, but at that time we didn’t see that coming for sure.
I just wanted to get that song over and done with and move on to our next record. And then “Mukanjyo” just hit off like fireworks. It was crazy for sure!
It took a while before it really hit, but I think after touring for one year, you’re like, ‘Wait, look at the numbers!’ One day you’re looking at your music video on YouTube and it’s at a million.
You could see the stats on YouTube for which country checks out your music and you realize it’s not even from Japan! People are recognizing us overseas, holy s**t!
TATSUYA KATO: Instead of having newcomers come and check out the tracks, it felt as though there were dedicated fans repeating the tracks over and over again.
I was very proud that we reached these fans that wanted our music. And they not only listened to it, but they put it as a part of their life. As a part of their background music in the life and world that they live in. So I was honored to find our track being used that way.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you feel people in general get more fixated on music that has a visual or aesthetic attached to it then?
YOSH MORITA: That’s a good question, because people don’t live their lives based off of their ears.
They’re living their lives off of their sense of touch and sense of seeing first, then hearing. When we do music, we tend to forget that because we’re so focused on what we’re trying to capture audibly through sound.
But then when you have a visual incorporation as strong as animation that relies heavily on the audio, not only music, but sound effects. Some of these sounds don’t exist in the world, right?
It was developed in the animation world. For us to deliver our musical tastes into what an animation is going to develop into is eye opening. It’s definitely changed our way of thinking on how to deliver our music. Lyrically too.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What was the recording process like for “Paradox”?
YOSH MORITA: So it starts off with me writing the songs. I’m usually the core writer of the band. I have a studio up in a place called Nano in Tokyo and I put together just really basic arrangements for everyone to kind of get a grasp of what the song is going to develop into.
Then they bring it home to their own studios and we come back together, exchange ideas, and then go through a pre-production phase at my studio.
We just kind of define the fine lines between what we want to do and what we don’t want to do. And then we bring it over to a studio up in Portland, Oregon. We have an engineer up there who’s worked with a bunch of amazing, talented bands.
His name is Chris Reit. He usually crosses the T’s and dots the I’s for us, makes sure it’s dialed in, catered towards the sound that’s catered towards the world.
And then we finish the song. That’s kind of the process we go through.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: To Ivan and Tasuya, what made you choose Schecter and Ibanez guitars respectively, sound wise?
I find it interesting you’re using competing, rival guitar brands in the same band.
IVAN KWONG: (laughs) For me, my relationship formed through the bands I liked and what they were using.
I needed a guitar that I could play in Drop A tuning and all the guitars I had before didn’t really stay in tune even for recording. They were way too low for live shows.
So I really needed something that can do the job. And then I met an Ibanez representative through a friend and I was voicing out my problems with them.
And then they just sent me one guitar that was perfect. So I stick to them now. It was my first guitar when I was in middle school so I want to embrace that as well.
I don’t feel the rivalry to be honest. (laughs) I see it as working together rather than rival brands on the same video or whatever.
TATSUYA KATO: I think Schecter’s ultimate goal is the same as mine. I don’t sense a rivalry, though it’s interesting to think about them both being involved in one band.
I’ve gotten an offer to use an Ibanez guitar and I was the one who said no. (laughs) I chose Shechter over Ibanez because I wanted to make the guitar that I wanted from scratch.
So I chose Shechter because they have the same vision that I did on building guitars.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: That’s a commercial worthy sentence.
YOSH MORITA: (laughs) Yeah!
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How did the band members of Survive Said the Prophet originally meet each other?
YOSH MORITA: I’ll keep it short (laughs). I think Ivan was the first one to join out of all the members. We actually used to work at American Apparel in Japan!
He was working for the Men’s Department. I was working for the Ladies’ Department. And the Men’s Department looked like it was so much more fun than the Women’s Department!
So honestly, I would be looking at them with envy from the Women’s Department! (laughs) They’d always be having fun. So there’s a little bit of jealousy there. But then we met at a live show in Japan called Cyclone.
He was originally asked to be a part of this different metal band called ‘Her Name and Blood’. And he was checking out their band. I was like, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’ and he replied, ‘I play guitar.’ I was like, ‘Well, s**t!
We bought a few tequila shots and right away we clicked. I told him, ‘Hey, we’re looking for a guitarist. You wanna come to the studio?’
Didn’t send him any of our tracks, by the way. He just came through, jammed with us, and left.
Then I think a month or two later when we released our first EP, he checked it out and he was like, ‘Hey, you guys still looking for a guitarist?’ I said, ‘Absolutely!’ And from there on, Ivan joined in and then afterwards Show joined.
At that point we had like five drummers because we didn’t have an appointed drummer. We had support drummers. So he was one of them. And he had no intention of joining the band.
He was like, ‘I’ll play one show with you guys, or one tour leg for you guys and then I’m done. I’m dipping.’
Well, he’s in the band now! (laughs) and he is not only drumming, but he’s screaming. We kept on asking him to come back. Like, we have another tour leg that the other drummers can’t play.
Could you keep playing? And then he was like, ‘All right, I’ll play’. And then just lo and behold, a few months later he’s in the band.
And then Tatsuya was originally in a different band called Fake Face, and they were pretty big in Sendai as well.
When he announced that he was leaving the band, our guitarist at that time announced that he was leaving the band as well. So we slowly went up to Tatsuya and were like, ‘Yo, how would you feel about joining our band?’ And he, he actually said no the first time.
He was like, ‘No, I’m good. I made a decision in my life to move on from music. I’m gonna go fishing.’
He’s still a pro fisherman right now! So he did both of them, right? He’s doing great.
But I think like the third time we asked him, he was like, ‘All right, I’ll go into the studio with you guys just once. And then he came through from Sendai to Tokyo with an amp on his arm and guitar on his side on a train.
He came through, it’s like a few hours of a train ride. But he came through and we’re like, ‘This is it. This is the guy, this is our guy.’
He’s super dedicated. And he comes all the way, like he’s not di**ing around, you know? He’s serious about his decisions. That’s why he told us he didn’t wanna join the band at first.
So he was the last guy to finally commit. That’s how we have the band members we do now.
On New York City:
YOSH MORITA: The first thing Tatsuya wanted to do was go fishing in Central Park this morning! (laughs) I was like, ‘Do people actually fish in Central Park? I’ve never heard of anyone doing that!’ (laughs)
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thank you everyone!
SURVIVE SAID THE PROPHET: Thank you, great questions!
– Be sure to check out our Exclusive Photos of Survive Said the Prophet‘s Concert at Anime NYC 2023!
More Anime NYC 2023 Exclusives:
Be sure to check out:
Visit the Anime NYC section for more exclusive interviews, photos, video, and on-site event coverage you won’t get anywhere else but The Natural Aristocrat®!
Legal: All photos in this article are Copyright © 2023 Nir Regev – The Natural Aristocrat®.
* If you’d like to license these Survive Said the Prophet Concert Photos, contact [email protected].
Photos and Article Copyright:
– All content on The Natural Aristocrat® is Copyright © 2016-2024 TheNaturalAristocrat.com. All rights reserved. This includes (but not limited to) ALL photos, videos and text in this article.
No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified, adapted, or excerpted in any way without the prior written consent and permission of The Natural Aristocrat® author Nir Regev.
This content policy applies to but is NOT limited to all text, videos, photos, and audio.