The animated film THE FIRST SLAM DUNK has become a smashing success in Japan, bringing in over 12.2 billion yen in box office revenue (as of March 21, 2023). Fueled by its success, the ending theme of the film, “Dai Zero Kan” by 10-FEET has remained in the top 10 on the Billboard JAPAN’s Hot 100 song chart for 12 consecutive weeks.
Billboard Japan spoke with TAKUMA, vocalist and guitarist of 10-FEET, about the thought he put into creating the film’s theme song and incidental music, his experience working with director Takehiko Inoue, his music co-writer Satoshi Takebe, and more, as part of its Monthly Feature series, focusing on today’s standout artists and works.
Your “10-FEET ‘Collins’ TOUR 2023” began on January 16. How excited are the fans, and how motivated is the band feeling?
For about three years, entertainment wasn’t really what it should have been, so now it feels like all that pent-up excitement has really come to the fore. I think there are fans out there who are having fun, wrapping their heads around the fact that live shows are possible again, and there are others who are coming to the shows with more of a passionate spirit — more impulsively. It feels like the live show scene is making a comeback.
Have there been any changes in how you feel about live shows, or how you approach them, because of the pandemic?
It’s been three years since people could really be packed shoulder to shoulder at a show. I’m sure there are some people out there who are like, “Is this really okay?” So we need to play music and put on really powerful shows that sweep away those fears and tension. I think if we succeed in doing that, we can turn those fears and tension into drive and excitement.
It’s been about three months since the film THE FIRST SLAM DUNK came out. What’s the reaction around you been like?
Some friends from way back got in touch with me again, which was great.
Looking at the comments on the music video, it seems like there are listeners all around the world. What do you think about the fact that your music has extended beyond Japan’s borders and is reaching people worldwide?
The lyrics are almost entirely in Japanese, so it seems strange to me that people are listening to it outside Japan.
It’s been in the top 10 in the Billboard JAPAN charts for several weeks. I think that shows that it’s brought you a lot of new listeners.
I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying they’d never heard of us before, or that it was the first time they’d heard one of our songs, which is a real honor. We’ve been playing music all this time in the hope that lots of people would hear and enjoy our music.
You had a few other potential theme songs, like “SLAM,” “Blind Man,” and “Shinkaigyo.” What made you feel that “Dai Zero Kan” was the best fit for the theme song?
Personally, I think they’d all have been great. We presented like eight or ten songs to the movie production team as potential theme songs. However, each time, the director and the music director said that the song didn’t fit their image for the movie. Then, one day the music staff asked us for music for one of Rukawa’s scenes. So we renamed “Odanshi” (the song that later became “Dai Zero Kan”) as “Rukawa Odanshi” and sent it in. (laughs) The director, Inoue, said that “Rukawa Odanshi” was like a bolt from the blue. It seems like both the music director and the music producer were also both like, “This is it.” We made some additional changes to the arrangement of “Rukawa Odanshi,” and that’s how it became the “Dai Zero Kan” we have now. Initially, I hadn’t planned for “Dai Zero Kan” to be performed by 10-FEET or as a solo song, so I just wrote it how I felt, without giving it any additional thought. I wrote it just after the pandemic started, and I just wanted something really danceable and hard.
For a while, it was in the Billboard JAPAN “TikTok Weekly Top 20” top 20 for weeks on end. Looking back, what do you think about how it was received?
We were lucky that, thanks to the film, the catchy melody got popular on TikTok. I think the key part of the chorus’s melody is its rhythm. For example, in “Scatman,” the melody and rhythm of the “ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop” part are really unique, right? Since I first started playing in a band, I’ve always liked those rhythms and melodies where, if you hear them all day, you’ll remember them for the rest of your life. That’s why I was able to take those kinds of rhythmic sensibilities from Western music, write lyrics in Japanese, and create more original-feeling music with 10-FEET. I think the rhythm, together with the pacing of the lyrics, make up like 90%, and melodic elements make up the other 10%.
I see. I’d also like to ask you a little bit about the incidental music. When you wrote the music, did you intend it to express the feelings of the members of the Shohoku and Sannoh teams, or to convey the feel of the game itself from a more objective perspective?
For the incidental music, I thought about how I would express Inoue’s film concepts in the form of music. For example, when Inoue asked me to write music for use when Kohoku was on the ropes, I wrote what I envisioned as music that embodied being in the middle of a crisis. Then, when I played it for Inoue, he’d expand on his concept for the scene, saying, “The feeling of Kohoku being in a crisis really comes across well, but this scene is also one where Sannoh is going on the offensive. Sannoh aren’t just villains, they’re a really powerful, cool team. So this scene is also an exciting scene in which Sannoh has gotten into the zone in their offense, going all out.” So then I’d come back later with new music and be like, “I think this has the feel you’re going for. What do you think?”
In “Slash Snake,” the snare sound felt reminiscent of dribbling.
The sound designer, Koji Kasamatsu, edited the incidental music I provided. For example, drum snares often occupy the same frequencies as people’s voices — the lines characters are saying. I think he paid a lot of attention to where the snares would be heard and to adjusting their volume, levels, equalization, range, and the like. In rock and music like ours, you’ll often hear the snares going the whole time, but he did a great job on making adjustments and editing elements like that. If there were scenes where it felt like the snare was synching with the dribbling, that would have to be Kasamatsu working his magic.
In the climax of the movie, the scene where “Double crutch ZERO” is used stands out for how it uses “stillness” and “movement” to different effects.
I guess there needs to be a lot of switching between times when the instrumentation is really packed and when it’s sparse, where the sound really pushes down on you and when it’s more open, when it’s quiet and when it creates a dramatic, soaring impression. It was my first time making this kind of music, but no matter how much time it took, it never felt like a chore. It was time-intensive, but also extremely rewarding, so I created and submitted a lot of music.
So, it was your first time writing incidental music.
This time, I was writing incidental music for SLAM DUNK, which is a manga that I really loved. If I got an offer to create incidental music for an adaptation of a work that I wasn’t already familiar with, I’d want to check out the original it was based on, movie adaptations, TV adaptations, anime adaptations, and the like. I’d want to really internalize that story — make it part of myself — before writing music for it. I don’t have any experience yet with starting from ground zero along with the production team and creating output using my own sensibilities. If any opportunities to do that present themselves, I’d love to give it a shot.
When you wrote music with Satoshi Takebe, was there any direction or were there any discussions that stick in your memory?
He was truly a wonderful teacher. I was a bit nervous going in, thinking that if I got too excited and passionate in answering, I could come across as rude, and I’d annoy or upset him. But Takebe took the lead, saying “You’ve got to speak up more.” He started out by creating this environment where I felt free to speak, and from then on we were able to really exchange ideas.
In closing, what kind of year do you hope to make 2023?
In 2023, I want to go back to the basics and study music from the ground up again, retraining myself musically. If you’re always working with music, you can lose sight of that passion and impulsiveness. I want to really bring those feelings to the fore again.
—This interview by Tatsuya Tanami first appeared on Billboard Japan