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Japanese rockers King Gnu on new music, their first tour abroad, ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ and more

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In a new interview with NME, Japanese rock band King Gnu have discussed touring abroad for the first time, frontman Daiki Tsuneta’s upcoming collaborations with Daniel Caesar, and much more.

NME caught up with the quartet at the Singapore stop of their sold-out Asia tour in April, which also called at Taipei, Shanghai and Seoul and marked the J-rockers’ first-ever tour abroad. King Gnu sold out all seven shows on the tour – a victory lap after the band’s sold-out dome tour in Japan three months prior.

King Gnu have been touring behind their eclectic, flamboyant 2023 album ‘The Greatest Unknown’. It’s their fourth record and first full-length release since their theme songs for the blockbuster anime Jujutsu Kaisen propelled the already popular and beloved band to new levels of prominence.

Will King Gnu continue their relationship with Jujutsu Kaisen by releasing new music? NME finds out in this interview, which also covers frontman Daiki Tsuneta’s sessions with Canadian R&B artist Daniel Caesar, among other artists, and collaborating with celebrated director Makoto Shinkai through his side project Millennium Parade (which just released a new single, ‘Goldenweek’, on top of signing to new labels in the US and UK).

Hello, King Gnu. In January you finished a sold-out dome tour of Japan. How did it go and what was most challenging?

Daiki Tsuneta: “Having our audience understand the concept of King Gnu was the most challenging thing. We played to 380,000 people in total.”

Tsuneta-san – I saw you posted photos of yourself bleeding on stage. What happened?

DT: “I was in the zone and very engrossed. I actually can’t remember what happened. I only realised I was bleeding afterwards.”

Hope that doesn’t happen again in Singapore… This Asia tour is your first international tour. Congratulations. How has it gone so far?

Kazuki Arai: “This is our second show. We’ve only played Taiwan so far. We’ve been enjoying it.”

Were the fans in Taiwan different from what you expected?

KA: “There’s a bit of a cultural difference. Comparing Japanese and Taiwanese audiences, the Taiwanese audience seemed to prefer the ballads.”

I wanted to ask about the band’s creative process. I know that for ‘The Greatest Unknown’ you worked in a studio that Tsuneta-san built, and you each focused on your own individual parts. Are you going to keep working like that?

DT: “It does seem like the most appropriate approach.”

Are you already thinking about new music?

DT: “Of course.” [all laugh]

Some musicians can’t think about new music when they’re touring. But it sounds like you’re always thinking about music.

DT: “I bring a case of instruments and recording gear with me to continue creating music on the road.”

Speaking of music, I wanted to ask about collaborations. Tsuneta-san, you were in the studio with Daniel Caesar last year. How did that happen?

DT: “There is a musician called Saya Gray, Daniel’s bassist – we met through her. We created about three songs together, which will be released in the near future.”

And you also hung out with the producer Tainy and rapper Denzel Curry

DT: “I had the chance to work with Denzel last year. That’s how we met. I didn’t know reggaeton before, but I went to Miami and discovered the genre there. There’s great music over there.”

And Tainy is one of the big stars of reggaeton, too.

DT: “An OG.”

Exactly. King Gnu did the opening and ending theme of the Shibuya Incident arc of Jujutsu Kaisen (you also did the themes for Jujutsu Kaisen 0, the movie). We know that the Jujutsu Kaisen anime is coming back and will start a new season at some point. Will you return to do the music?

KA: “We cannot disclose.” [all laugh]

Good to know… Iguchi-san, you were a voice actor in the recent game Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. What was that experience like?

Satoru Iguchi: “My mum really loved the game – I did it for her. I was together with other voice actors, and spoke quite normally during recording. I was so happy that I cried when I saw the game at home.”

Did your mother enjoy seeing you in it?

SI: “She’s already cleared the whole game.” [all laugh]

And speaking of other King Gnu side projects – Tsuneta-san, you have Millennium Parade. I love the song ‘U’ that you did for the movie Belle with Mamoru Hosoda. What was it like working with him?

DT: “I was actually supposed to do the entire score, but due to my schedule I had to cut my involvement short. I hope to be more involved next time.”

After you embark on this tour, what’s next for King Gnu? Are you going to get back into the studio, or take a break?

DT: “Our drummer is going to the UK.”

Yu Seki: “I’m going to study over there. I’d love to understand London’s music scene more – everyone there seems to be doing what they like, and doing things that are commercially viable as well.”

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