Debuting in his 40s, Tokyo-based singer-songwriter HANCE hopes to share his inspiring musical journey to the listeners. The singer, who simultaneously manages his own company and creates music, is of the belief that anyone can pursue their passions at any time. "There's no need to sacrifice anything," he remarked.
Two years after his debut in 2020 with "The Night and the Lie," HANCE returned with his sophomore album, offering a grandiose and compelling journey of soaring melodies. With HANCE taking charge of the lyrics and composition, "the creative process remains consistent," the artist stated. "The arrangement is entrusted to another individual," he added, "to whom I communicate my ideas."
With a total of 12 songs titled "BLACK WORLD," "Monochrome Sky," "Dancing in the moonlight," "Spiral," "Charade," "Someone," "left," "enshin," "Crossed Stars," "The moon of Sherlock," "snow sonnet," and "sleeping flower," the album features a variety of musical styles, including jazz, rock, R&B, and more, giving listeners a sensory experience as each track brims with emotions. "I hope people can experience of flavor that music has."
Following the release of his album, tokyohive sat down with HANCE for an interview where he shared his inspiring journey, musical vision, travelling, creative process, and more. Keep reading to learn more about the Japanese singer!
tokyohive: First off, congratulations on the release of your 2nd album ‘BLACK WINE.’ Tell us more about it. What kind of message do you hope to convey to the listeners, for them to take away from the album?
HANCE: I call my music "Cinematic Music for Adults, by Adults, for Adults." This time, I created an album with the image of a soundtrack for a fictitious movie. The album includes various genres such as rock, jazz, Latin, soul, R&B, folk, pop, and Shōwa-era pop, with different essences scattered throughout. Like "matured wine," I hope people can experience the depth of flavor that music has.
tokyohive: This is your 2nd full album. What do you think is the biggest difference between this and your 1st full album ‘between the night,’ in terms of musicality, growth, and preparations?
HANCE: I created my debut album, 'between the night,' with a relatively conceptual image since it was my debut work. It was like opening a shop. If I were to compare it to a restaurant, even if I had my own favorite "flavors" or "dishes," I wouldn't include them if they didn't fit the concept of that particular establishment. That's how I approached my first album. On the other hand, for this second album, I made it with the feeling of inviting people into my "home." So there are items that hold memories from my childhood, as well as things that I've kept hidden in the depths of my closet without showing anyone. As a result, the contents are very personal, so it took a bit of courage to release it.
tokyohive: This new collection is themed around ‘cinematic music,’ giving a cinematic experience to the viewers. Could you share with us some behind-the-scenes when you were filming the music videos? How involved are you in this aspect of being a musician?
HANCE: I personally consider music videos to be a form of comprehensive art, and I believe that my music is just one part of it. It's like having the mindset of a film director. That's why I am deeply involved in the visuals and I approach ideas from the same perspective as a film director. For example, the song "Crossed Stars" included on this album was filmed in Switzerland, and I directly reflected the visual image in my head when creating the song. I have a strong attachment to the locations and situations, such as a night with a visible moon, that I have in my mind, and I am willing to go to that country or region to capture the visuals, even if it's outside of Japan.
tokyohive: I scrolled through your discography on Spotify and I’ve noticed that your album covers are dark-themed. The album’s lead track “Monochrome Sky” also depicts the stark reality of our world. What kind of artist HANCE is that you want to show to people? What kind of musical artistry or vision do you have?
HANCE: First of all, "HANCE" is not my real name but an artist name, and there is a certain distance between the real me and HANCE. As you mentioned, there are indeed many dark themes in my music, but I also have many danceable and catchy songs. If I were to compare HANCE to an anime character, to give an easy example, it would be like Lupin the Third’s Daisuke Jigen. It has a hard-boiled and thrilling image, but also possesses a fleeting and alluring charm peculiar to men. I don't think I am like that in my real life, but the goals and image of the character HANCE are somewhat like that. Musically, I want to express the spectrum of "joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure" in a dramatic way, much like film music.
tokyohive: Could you walk us through your songwriting and creative process? How do you usually work when you are in a studio?
HANCE: The creative process of HANCE remains consistent. HANCE is responsible for composition and lyrics, while the arrangement is entrusted to another individual, to whom I communicate my ideas.
For many songs, I simply hum melodies with just a guitar and record them on a voice recorder. Once the lyrics are completed, I give the arranger a rough idea of my vision. Once the arrangement is completed, I record vocals and harmonies, making fine adjustments along the way to finalize the song. When creating a song, I always have visuals and images in my mind. These images serve as the foundation of the music production and ultimately connect to the visual world of the music videos.
tokyohive: You debuted in 2020 — I think it’s rare for some to debut in their 40s, and it’s amid the global pandemic. What were the challenges you’ve faced and how were you able to overcome them, especially since you’re an independent artist? And you’re also running a company while doing music stuff.
HANCE: As you mentioned, my debut was filled with unexpected happenings. The music video for my debut single, "The Night and the Lie" was shot in Valencia, Spain, in February 2020. At that time, no one in Spain was wearing masks. If the trip had been just one month later, I wouldn't have been able to travel from Japan to Spain due to the pandemic's impact. Additionally, it may indeed be unusual to debut in one's 40s, but personally, I don't find it strange at all. If we were talking about opening a restaurant, it would be quite normal, right? Putting in years of training in their 20s and 30s, and then opening their own establishment in their 40s. Above all, in terms of my own sensibility, I believe I am more mature musically now than I was in my younger years, and my vision is clearer. Although I am juggling dual roles while running a company, I don't find it strange in today's age. If you have something you want to do, you can start whenever you want, and there's no need to sacrifice anything. Since I've always enjoyed traveling abroad, shooting music videos and attending concerts overseas fulfill both my hobby.
tokyohive: Speaking of that, what piece of advice would you give to young people or people of your age who want to pursue a career in the music industry?
HANCE: The music industry, as many people imagine it, is just one big entrenched "system." It is a vast market with a lot of people and money involved, and that's fine. However, with the changing times, individual expression has become stronger, and I feel that we are now in a world where independent artists like me can thrive. If I compare it to the restaurant industry, not everyone needs to aspire to be like mass-market chains. It should be possible for anyone to have their own unique "restaurant" that pursues their own distinct flavors and provides high-quality service. It's about creating something unique in a world where there is only one of it, and everyone has the potential to achieve that.
tokyohive: You said you used to play in a band when you were a student. Did the idea of becoming a member of a band come through your mind? Or is being a solo artist your first choice since you’ll be getting that freedom to create your own music?
HANCE: To clarify, I originally started as a band member, and before I began my career as HANCE, I hardly had any experience working as an individual artist. Therefore, I still have a strong admiration for bands, and there are many bands that I love. The HANCE project had a clear vision from the beginning, which is why I felt it should be done as a solo artist. I reached out to individuals who could support that vision, one by one. For example, one person is in charge of arranging the music, another person creates the visuals, and another person handles the promotion. It's like the character Luffy from 'One Piece,' gathering a crew with each member serving a specific role. (laughs)
tokyohive: You said in an interview that you’ve always loved music, but what do you think is the reason you just released music in 2020? Could you tell us how you started with your musical journey? What motivated you to finally share your music with the world?
HANCE: Speaking realistically, one reason is that now that I'm in my 40s, my own company has stabilized and I can delegate many tasks to the staff. Another reason is that reaching my 40s is a milestone, and I wanted to properly shape the songs I have created so far. On a personal note, when I was in high school, my mother passed away from cancer. It happened when she was about the same age as I am now. Since cancer runs in my family, I don't know when my life will end. In that sense, HANCE's activities are part of my end-of-life preparations. "Let's do everything I want to do before I die!" That was the feeling that led me to start HANCE. Also, it just happened to be in 2020 as a coincidence in terms of timing, and it doesn't have any special meaning. Furthermore, since my 20s, I have traveled to various countries, experiencing different cultures around the world. The mix of various genres in HANCE's music is also a result of that. Fortunately, we now have the internet, so I can reach people all over the world with my songs and videos. I am Japanese, but looking at the trends of streaming services like Spotify, the number of listeners in Japan is about 5th, with listeners from other countries being more numerous. This year, I have also decided to participate in music festivals overseas, mainly in Europe, so I hope to continue traveling to various parts of the world and convey my music and way of life.
tokyohive: Which artists would you like to work with in the future?
HANCE: There isn't a specific person who I particularly want to collaborate with, but if someone who is interested in HANCE's music comes along, regardless of nationality, I would be open to collaborations.
It doesn't have to be limited to musicians either; animators or creators in the film industry would also be welcome. Since HANCE's songs are primarily sung in Japanese, I would love to listen to people covering our songs in languages other than Japanese!