Exclusive with Ken Lloyd on The Lost Generation
"I’ve been saying this for a long time. A lot of overseas fans don’t really realize the amount of money it costs to go overseas—to take your whole band—and if you want to take your set, and make it a complete set, it’s pretty expensive. I’ve been wanting to go over since I first started with all of my bands. Hopefully, if this album can reach a lot of people, that’ll make it easier for us."
For the release of Fake?’s new album The Lost Generation on September 17, ROKKYUU had the opportunity to sit down with Ken Lloyd and discuss the many themes that drive the release. From The Lost Generation, to serial killers via decadent nights in LA, there was plenty to talk about.
69: Let’s start by talking about the new album and theme beginning with the album title, The Lost Generation. Where did that come from? Do you think there is a lost generation?
Ken: We are the Lost Generation. And yeah, I think we are the Lost Generation. Everything’s so fast, everything is unstable, people want love but it’s also kinda shallow. I don’t think it’s that people are necessarily bad; we’re just all confused, right? We don’t have any direction, no one wants war but there’s war. It’s just a bit chaotic, right? So that was the central theme, the mode, that I was in. You just gotta live to realize. We all know but we can’t put our finger on it, but we all know that something’s not right. Yeah, I’ve been feeling that for quite a while so I just kinda stuck that in songs.
69: That came out quite a lot in the opening track “Closer;” “We all need to get closer.”
Ken: And everyone wants to, you know? You hear a lot of people, probably including myself, “Oh, I’m so lonely.” Even in relationships and love and all of this stuff, “I don’t meet anyone, I have no…” Stuff like that. But it’s kinda all around us. It’s like we’ve cut ourselves off. This technology that we have right now is really good and it seems like we’re all connected but it’s also made us distant. And that’s also another example of how we’re kinda confused.
69: People have their computer screens and mobile phones in-between them and it does cause disconnection.
Ken: Yeah, you can be talking to someone and they’ll just open up their phone and start checking their mail and it drives me nuts.
69: Yeah, you see it all the time in coffee shops. There’s a couple sat opposite each other and instead of talking to each other, they’re on their phones.
Ken: Yeah, I’ve seen whole families do that. And, it’s like, why did you go out? There’s no point. There is this disconnect between people and at the same time people are looking for connections and it seemed like an obvious point to make.
69: There’s also a lot of talk of technology and the paranoia that comes through from technology. Which ties into the same central theme as well. Meanwhile, tell us about “Nibiru” which is also going to be the theme song for a movie that you’ve done recently.
Ken: Yeah, I was asked to do that. I don’t usually do that stuff but I was asked.
69: What was it like? How did it come about?
Ken: I got a phone call from my manager who said that the director had written a screenplay for a short movie and that he had me in mind as the central character. I’d worked with this director before with Oblivion Dust, my other band, and he’s done a couple of Fake? music videos so I knew him pretty well but hadn’t seen him for a long time. He just asked me and I said no to begin with. I’m not really into that side of show business—I just do the music. I like to stay concentrated on music. I actually, at first, said no but he was really persistent and he said, “No, you have to do it,” and it was mostly narration and all this stuff. So I kinda made a deal with him that he would make a short music video for the track and then I would do the part the best I could because I’m not an actor. It was my first experience acting and I kinda got thrown into the fire but it was alright. I had fun and he wanted to use the “Nibiru” song. He asked me for an ending song and I had a few songs and I played him this one to begin with and he was like, “This is great,” and that was that. The music video was kinda… Okay, you can tie it in with that and for that I’ll do the movie, and we shot in one day. It was good.
69: It must have been very busy, very hectic, all in one day.
Ken: Very busy, very hectic. I had trouble learning my lines and it was super hot. It was during the summer. But everything is an experience. Once you get settled down… I kinda found it easy. I’m not talking about my acting skills. I still think that there were a lot of other people he could have asked, but I started enjoying it. So, that’s an experience that is now in my pocket and I carry it around.
69: Is it something you’d do again?
Ken: Yeah, sure. It all depends. I’m not considering a huge acting career from that, it was just fun to be in a different environment. It wasn’t actually that different to making a music video, and I haven’t been making music videos for a while now. I just wanted to get it the way the director wanted it, so that was a little hard because of it being a first try—all of these people around… Music comes naturally to me but acting is a little about facial expressions and stuff like that, that I haven’t really practiced or learned anything of. He seemed happy with it.
69: With music, you’re expressing your own ideas and thoughts whereas, with acting, you have to listen to somebody else a little.
Ken: Right. You have to get it exactly the way the director wants it and sometimes his image of the character is different than yours. We would talk and he would actually listen to some of what I say, if I was like, “No, I don’t think this character would say it like that.” And he’d say, “Hmm,” and sometimes he’d say, “No, I want him to say this,” and then sometimes he’d be like, “Yeah, you’re right.” It was a good experience.
69: Back to the slightly disconnected theme we were talking about earlier; that was something that came through a lot on the track “Los Angeles.” A very bittersweet song I thought, about the beautifulness but also the fakeness…
Ken: Definitely. In my early twenties, when I first started working, we would record in Los Angeles a lot, so I had to go back in my memories. I always start with a song—it never starts with the lyrics—so when I first wrote the song, it was kinda sleazy guitars, kinda stripper vibe, and stuff like that, and automatically its, “Okay, L.A.!” I just tried to push the music a bit more with the lyrics and I love Los Angeles. I actually love the decadence and stuff—not the fakeness, which is strange because the band is called Fake?—but I actually like all of that. It makes it interesting and you meet so many characters in LA that are just… They know who they are and they don’t give a shit. They don’t care what anyone thinks and I kinda admire that. They have their lives and their habits and whatever and my image of the song was, to get all of that grease and decadence and glitter all wrapped up—because that’s my image of Los Angeles. It’s kinda mellow during the day, then at night it becomes this wild party and everyone comes out of the woodwork. That’s basically what I was trying to push with the song.
You can get an image of it from TV that’s pretty much it. I was in my early twenties, so it’s strange… We used to hang out with a lot of pretty big musicians and it’s kinda weird to be in your early twenties and hanging out with people that you used to listen to, and they’re all drunk. It’s just all decadent and stuff like that so it was great.
69: Regarding another song… Do you think that “Radio is Dead?”
Ken: Kinda, yeah. I’ll put it one way: there’s not really too much magic in it. I’ll put it like that. It’s more background information. What I mean by that is that we’re so addicted to the screen, and you need the motion to keep us interested. We have such short attention spans and you find that, older people, they still really like the radio so I’m not going to say that radio is dead completely, but for The Lost Generation, yeah, sure. Everyone needs the image, everyone needs to know what they look like or who they’re listening to, and people don’t have the time to sit back and chill and let the imagination… You need the spoon to feed people these days. YouTube has completely taken over and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I definitely watch YouTube, but I noticed that radio is not the same, especially for musicians. You make a track, and you used to write it, thinking, “It’s going to get played on the radio,” and now you’re thinking, “Well, it’ll be played on YouTube or on sites.” You click on a YouTube clip and if it’s just a photo, it’s not going to keep your interest, and that’s just how we’re changing. We’re evolving into that. In that sense, sure, radio is dead, but radio is hanging on. They have all of these internet things and you can listen to radio from different countries, which I think is a really good thing. You can go to a site and listen to American radio or English radio. I do that sometimes. I just miss the accent! It kinda gives me peace but I’m older, so I don’t know how the young generation is, but I just guess that, for them, it’s not even an option.
69: I think you’re right. If there is a new song now and the video isn’t ready, then there’s a lyric video out on YouTube instead so that people can hear the song. They’re not tuning into the radio to hear new songs anymore. It’s all YouTube. It’s a lot easier.
Ken: Yeah, and even news… Before, it was just one guy in front of the screen telling you the news; kind of like radio, only you could see the guy. Now, you have all of these graphics. War is in 3D, or whatever. It’s just to keep people’s attention and radio just doesn’t do that anymore, I don’t think, unless you’re stuck in a car. But even then, people just hook up their iPods.
69: There’s a track called “Serial Killer.” Are you interested in serial killers?
69: They are fascinating from a psychology standpoint.
Ken: This, again, the music just called out. It was dub-step. It was aggressiveness and stuff… I felt like it needed some kind of really nasty lyrics to it. It was funny… I went to YouTube, and I’ve always been interested in serial killers, just the way they think—it’s interesting to know. Every human, I think, is interested in what they don’t know and what they can’t understand, and so, I’ve always been fascinated with serial killers. One time, a long time ago when we first started, we used a backdrop with Charles Manson. A huge Charles Manson face on the stage as our backdrop. But the problem is, no one in Japan knows who Charles Manson is so it was kinda, “Oh, who’s that old man?” so that didn’t work. But we made jackets with his face on the back and I go overseas and they say, “Where did you get that jacket?” and I’m like, “We made them.” It’s definitely a little different. But getting back to what we were talking about; yes, I‘ve always been interested in serial killers. Just interested in the underworld, not just serial killers. So I went in, watched a lot of documentaries, tried to get into the mind of what they would think like, and it’s surprising how much evil I could push out. One minute, I’m writing a song about being all in love and all lovey-dovey, and next I’m writing about slicing your throat up. It’s just the song.
69: You’re not really going to do that.
Ken: No, no. Not unless someone pisses me off!
69: Maybe early morning rush hour on the trains.
Ken: Oh yeah, yeah. I think it’s interesting. We all have that side, kind of. It’s just that serial killers take it to the full extreme. I believe in balance in life. There’s a positive and a negative, and it all balances out, and that during your life, you’re going to have the same amount of positives, the same amount of negatives, and I think that in terms of speaking about serial killers, they’ve taken it to one side. They find the positivity or the love in a thing that’s not really on that side. It’s on the evil side, but they find the beauty in where they’re focused. That’s how the song goes into a really, almost beautiful chorus where he seems really sweet. If it was just that part, it’s really beautiful, but then the dub-step kicks in and it gets back on track.
69: At that point, you realize the context of what he’s saying.
Ken: Right. And it’s kind of scary. Studying up on all of that stuff, I do think they are very pure, and they’re very pure in how they feel. They realize what they want and what they need, and it’s their fetish that they need to keep alive. In a sense, I think they’re some of the most honest people—a little too honest—if you want to see the good side in that. I was kinda interested in all of that.
69: It is interesting. It’s very easy to demonize people like that without looking at the why.
Ken: Some of that stuff—most of that stuff—goes back to their childhoods; how they were raised and stuff like that. You can’t really judge someone without walking in their shoes. If I had the same childhood, I might have been into that and that’s the reason why we’re interested in stuff like that. We realize that. Unless you’re really a judgemental person.
69: There are some sweet love songs on the album, too, (as a complete contrast to the serial killers,) like “Two Hearts” and the final track. It’s a good mix, a good change in the sound. Did you do that on purpose and try to get different sounds on there or is it just what comes naturally?
Ken: It comes out naturally. For this album, we released three EPs and it’s a collection of those. So on the third EP, I had to start thinking about the balance of the album, so the third EP became a bit more mellow to balance it out. I didn’t want the whole album to be aggressive or challenging, or to have a lack of hope. I wanted some positivity. Because, I don’t think this generation lacks positivity, I think it just doesn’t know where to get it or how to show it. It’s distrustful. So I definitely wanted to bring in positive or romantic thoughts because I think there is still light in this generation, and happiness, it’s just mixed in with all of this shit. So “Two Hearts” and “Forgive” were no-brainers.
69 So there will be a tour, or at least a few dates to support the album.
Ken: We’re in the middle of working out some shows to coincide with this album in Japan and, who knows, overseas maybe. I’ve been saying this for a long time. A lot of overseas fans don’t really realize the amount of money it costs to go overseas—to take your whole band—and if you want to take your set, and make it a complete set, it’s pretty expensive. I’ve been wanting to go over since I first started with all of my bands. Hopefully, if this album can reach a lot of people, that’ll make it easier for us.
69: It’s a good album. I hope that a lot of people get to hear it and hopefully see you guys. Would you think of doing maybe anime conventions again?
Ken: Sure. We did one in New York, once, in New Jersey. That was fun.
69: It’s a little easier to get across to America that way.
Ken: Yeah, it’s a start. It’s a gateway. When we first started with Oblivion Dust, we used to play clubs while we were recording. It wasn’t meant to be anything. We were the first ones out of Japan to really play properly in little clubs like The Roxy and The Whisky and clubs like that—just because we had time and we wanted to test out the songs and see how people would react. Sometimes we played to a few hundred people and sometimes we played to about ten! It all became experience. It was really good. Back then, it was the late nineties so it wasn’t like it is now, where Japanese acts go over and play a lot of shows. The anime thing hadn’t really taken off yet so we were kind of… We didn’t know what we were doing but it gave us confidence.
69: Maybe that’s for the best. Not to know what you’re doing and just do it your own way instead of the ways that are already there.
Ken: That’s basically how I started music. I didn’t want to be a musician, I just kinda fell into it. I was asked, and then I did one live show, and we got signed. And that changed my plans for my life. I was just moving along with no direction, just experiencing Tokyo and Japan, and we got signed. Now… quite a few years later, I’m still doing it.
69: No numbers!
Ken: Yeah, I’m not going to give any numbers!
69: We can look it up.
Ken: Yeah, look it up! I just live in the moment. I don’t really think about the past too much or the future too much because if you think about those things too much you miss out on right now. A lot of people seem to do that. Which goes back to, probably, why we’re all lost. Too busy concentrating on what’s going to happen and being worried about what will happen. I like to concentrate on now.
69: You never know if you’ll have a next moment.
Ken: Right. You might get hit by a bus. Or have your head chopped off by a serial killer… I was trying to tie it in!
69: And you might end up in the “ICU.”
Ken: Yep! That’s right! What else can we tie it up with…? Yeah, just live in the moment. I’ve been lucky enough to continue doing what I want to do without having to—how do I put this? I haven’t had to lean towards what the industry wants me to do. I haven’t had to do anything that I’d cringe about or have too many regrets about. I’ve stayed true to myself. I have a reputation for not listening to people. I’m just doing my thing. I’m happy with the outcome.
69: You have to make music you like and are happy with as you’ll be living with the songs forever.
Ken: Yeah. It’s do your own thing and accept all of the consequences, or, do what people ask you to do and not be happy with what you’re doing but be comfortable. Comfort is overrated! Happiness is more what I strive for.
69: Thank you for your thoughts!