SAEKO - OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Thanks to all I’ve seen in every moment of my life … you all are my Heaven Below!

SAEKO’S STORY — BIOGRAPHY

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BEGINNING OF A BIG DREAM

Saeko was born in 1974 in Osaka, Japan. At age 14, at a time when she was suffering a lot of emotional turmoil in her life, she happened to hear “heavy metal/hard rock" for the first time, such as HELLOWEEN, EUROPE, PRETTY MAIDS, QUEENSRYCHE etc. She felt messages through this powerful music-‘Live! Believe in yourself!', which was an amazing, pivotal experience for her. She felt something in her heart told her that she was born to do this music, and she vowed to herself `I'll go on tour overseas with my own heavy metal band someday`. This determination stayed with her. She formed several bands at schools, but couldn't be satisfied with none of them. Playing overseas was a too big dream for a small Japanese girl, and she gave up her dream in 1992.

However, after sleepless nights from the feeling of getting lost, she began the pursuit of her vow again in 1994…putting up notices in music shops all over Osaka and nearby cities, looking for members who were serious about music. The following year, 1995, she formed the band called INSANIA .
FAIRY MIRROR
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Final Gig of FAIRY MIRROR (Tokyo, April, 2001)
In the summer of 1999 the band changed it's name to FAIRY MIRROR, and expanded their scope of activities. In the winter of 1999 and spring of 2000, they independently released several compositions. It was a time when young Japanese heavy metal bands were getting noticed in the Japanese scene. For FAIRY MIRROR, the chance for their big break was coming ever closer, and Saeko herself was also receiving offers to record a solo album by Japanese labels, but this was the start of her suffering. The people around her expected her to make a success and to be famous following the fashion, but what SAEKO wanted to achieve was neither a success nor fame. Music had always given her strength in her darkest time, especially the strength to believe in herself. She just wanted to do the same now to others in despair. This was all the reason of her singing, or rather all the reason of her life. These gaps between others' expectation and her reason to sing came to effect on her mind and body.
BETWEEN DREAM AND REALITY
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A month after getting out of hospital

Her pure and idealistic principles in life, which didn't fit in the society, caused lots of opposition from her family and many others. Besides that, stress as a leader of FAIRY MIRROR, strain of only 3 hours sleep everyday from too much work to keep her life going…they had been accumulating for a long time, and finally took it's toll on Saeko`s body and mind. Finally she suffered a severe breakdown, which forced her to enter hospital. For her love of music, she continued playing shows, going from her hospital bed to perform and returning there afterwards, exhausted. After the final show in Tokyo in Spring 2001, the state of her body and mind had reached it's limit. She reluctantly realized she must listen to the doctors who had been against her continuing to perform, for it was the ultimate cause of her fatigue. To concentrate on medical treatment, she was forced to quit FAIRY MIRROR. She asked the band to continue activities with a new singer, following the dream they had shared together.
For Saeko things were spiraling out of control.
Now she had to give up music itself, for she knew she had to recover before she could sing again.
After getting out of hospital, her condition was so fluctuating that she couldn’t get along without medicine, which frequently made her doubt a complete recovery. The doctors were also unsure about how long it would take for her to get recovered, and told her to forget about music. In such a situation, it was like going through Hell for Saeko to see her friends in the music scene, while spending all her time for treatment. Saeko was the one who had devoted all her passion to music and to FAIRY MIRROR, which was still her life. How could she forget about music?
Her family, watching Saeko spending her days crying, even worried she would die losing all hope. That is why they, taking a chance, supported her when Saeko said to them, “I wanna leave Japan for a while”. In the summer 2001, Saeko flew to Switzerland with a suitcase full of medicine.

REBIRTH

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Switzerland

Once in Switzerland, surrounded by the country's natural beauty, she was able to contemplate her life and began to accept what had happened to her.
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During her 2 and a half month stay, she attended WACKEN OPEN AIR festival in Germany. The bands with their energetic music and the metallic atmosphere were exactly as she had imagined in her dreams. She began to believe in the possibility of a new life. She called her family from WACKEN, “Now I can see a future! When I recover I will come back here again to sing!" It was the moment of her rebirth. Believing in her new start, she resolved to return to Europe to take on this next challenge.
However, once back in Japan, she had to continue medical treatment, so she decided to go to Canada, staying there 2 months to study English in preparation for her next challenge.
LEAVING FOR GERMANY, A STEP INTO THE UNKNOWN

Time had been passing achingly slowly when in June 2002, Saeko received what she had been eagerly waiting for, the doctor's acknowledgement that she was finally recovered enough, she was now 28. When she had first dreamed about touring overseas she had been just 14. She was ready.
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Market place in front of Hamburg city hall

Heavy of heart for having to leave behind the people she loved, such as her family, friends, boyfriend, who now fully supported her, afraid of feeling lonely on the other side of the globe, in a country whose language she could not understand, she prayed and prayed. There was a calling deep in her heart that she had to listen to. It kept on telling her to leave for Europe.

She set off and arrived in Germany July 2002. She had to be courageous, for she didn't have anyone to turn to in Germany, yet.
After spending 2 months in countryside in South Germany to confirm her mind wouldn’t shake, she moved to Hamburg, armed with resolve, her computer filled with musical ideas and a suitcase full of fliers to find other musicians to form a band.
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Flyer Saeko handed out

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At Studio (Lars, Mari, Saeko, Henning)

Most nights she handed out fliers on the streets, live halls, rock bars, metal concerts ... just anywhere she could. Saeko knew this was her one chance and only reason she left her country behind, and she must be strong and do her best, despite feeling terribly alone. Her will and passion were truly beyond boundaries.
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MEETING LARS RATZ

At the end of 2002 Saeko received the unexpected phone call from Lars Ratz (producer and mastermind METALIUM). Lars had heard about her by a friend of the Hamburg metal scene, a female heavy metal vocalist who had arrived from Japan all alone only to follow her dream. Meanwhile Saeko had rejected several offers from German and Japanese labels and producers in the past, feeling they did not understand her ideals. She wasn't willing to compromise for her convictions. Expecting a similar outcome, she met Lars. However, as they talked, they realized they shared similar beliefs about music.
Saeko decided to accept Lars’ offer to record a test song in the Tornado Studios Hamburg in January 2003. She poured all her passion into a song, which later would appear as “Sinners for False Light" on her debut album. The song spoke directly to Lars' mind, beyond both cultural and language borders. With the production contract signed with Lars Ratz, Saeko continued her dream encouraged by him and started professional vocal training with METALIUM vocalist Henning Basse.
ABOVE HEAVEN - BELOW HEAVEN: 1ST ALBUM

In the fall of 2003, the recording of her first album began. Produced by Lars Ratz, Guitar and Drums played by Michael Ehre (METALIUM, GAMMA RAY etc.) who as well co-produced the debut, bass by Mariko Inoue--the female bassist from Saeko's former band FAIRY MIRROR, Keyboards and Piano by herself, while Hermann Frank (formerly of ACCEPT, VICTORY) and Sven Luedke helped with the solos. All lyrics were by Saeko, song arrangements were in collaboration between Saeko, Lars and Michael. The album's core theme was the light that burns within all of us, the ever-present light, that is, life itself. The album was released by ARMAGEDDON MUSIC, the label Lars started in 2003.
BROADENING HORIZONS
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During the tour with DORO

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In October 2004, Saeko performed as the opening act on tour with DORO. Saeko gave the stage everything she got. As a result, CDs the label brought on tour went sold out when she was still in the middle of the tour (Videos from the tour).

Following that, in July 2005, she played at METAL BASH, and in August 2005 Saeko fulfilled her promise to herself by performing at WACKEN OPEN AIR, the place she had aspired to 4 years earlier, when her own inner light had been re-ignited. With a very good feedback, her CD went sold out soon after the show and had to be pressed again.
RECORDING OF THE 2ND ALBUM, LIFE
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At Studio

Early in the summer of 2005, she started the recording of her 2nd album ‘LIFE', again produced by Lars Ratz. All lyrics and music were written by Saeko this time, with additional arrangements by Michael Ehre and Lars Ratz again. Keyboards and Piano were played by Saeko, Guitars and Drums by Michael Ehre, Bass by the female Mariko Inoue. The album also features all Guitar solos by the female Osaka based guitarist Satoko Yanagase, who as well played the live shows with her in summer of 2005. The central theme of this album is the struggle for people to be true to their ideals in the reality of life. She states “To live is for me to fight in this reality for my own ideals".
DECISION TO BE INDEPENDENT: STICK TO THE IDEALS

During the recording of ‘LIFE', a philosophical and artistic gap developed between Saeko and the label ARMAGEDDON MUSIC. Unable to compromise her beliefs without affecting her music and the message she wished to express, Saeko made the decision to leave the label. She felt this was the only way she could remain true to herself. In October, she formed her own production company SHINPUH in Japan to create her ideal album. Almost at the same time, Lars Ratz decided to leave ARMAGEDON MUSIC, the label he had created 2 years before, due to visionary differences with his partners there. He also felt being honest to his vision and himself was most important. This way Lars continued to support Saeko's dreams, arranging distribution, promotion and marketing with his new Hamburg based label ARMAGEDDON PRODUCTS which was carried on by capable people who as well separated from ARMAGEDDON MUSIC in November 2005. The road took another turn.


DECISION TO SUSPEND MUSIC CAREER

While the mixing of her 2nd album “LIFE,” Saeko painfully concluded that she should stop her music activity. During the recording of “LIFE,” she left ARMAGEDDON MUSIC and became independent. Consequently, she had to finance her music activity all by herself. Such independent managing was possible when she was active only in Japan (e.g. all her former bands such as Fairy Mirror were managed independently) since her sphere of activity was much smaller back then. However, now that she was active internationally, financing her wide-ranging activity was beyond her means. (Saeko, for example, tried to go on European tour with Japanese musicians, her friends from Fairy Mirror days. Yet, bringing them all the way from Japan to Europe required much budget, which Saeko did not have.)

Also, the financial situation of her life itself was badly off. Being a novice at "business & legal stuff" in the industry, she had not earned money from music since she had started her music career in 1994. So, she concluded that she should establish a more proper financial basis besides music. However, it was very difficult for her to obtain a work visa in Europe (as she was a non-EU citizen). The procedure for renewing her artist visa also took very long. Seeing all things went out of hands, she conceded that she go back to Japan and stop music till she put her finance in order. (Later, she studied 'legal aspects' at Berklee US.)

FINISHING THE ALBUM, LIFE

Feeling this album might become the last one for now, Saeko drained all her remaining strength to finish it. While doing so, she came to fee that her task in reality - to dive into the unknown - might actually finish when she finished the album. Back in 2002, when she came to Germany, her goal was not to be famous or whatsoever. She just wanted to demonstrate that our deepest heart was connected to something celestial and a call from the innermost heart would guide us through the unknown. It was the reason of her flying to Germany. She just wished to demonstrate its power, following the inner call in her life.

Although it was not her plan to go back to Japan when she started recording, this way she eventually came to feel that her task was about to finish. Strangely, the last lines in the last song of LIFE, “Eternal Destiny,” were “Now I go back/ It’s time to say good bye/ Don’t cry / Soon I will meet you again/ I will leave a piece of me in you/ Deep inside/ Please remember me…” Also, a Japanese cover song added to the album was about a person who’s going back home after traveling the world. These lyrics seemed to agree with her going back to Japan and suspension of music activity for a while.

In March 2006, upon finishing “LIFE”, Saeko said as follows:
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“I've long wanted to know why sadness and pain never disappear from the face of the earth if there IS GOD. Wars and hatred have been everywhere. If it resulted from the lack of our faith or prayer, I thought, all I could do would be to pray with all my heart, believing in the world with no tears to come in the end. And I have run and run, leaving many things behind.
Now, looking back the way I've walked, I eventually come to see. I wished for the world with no tears or pain. Yet, without tears, we would not know the real meaning of happiness. Without betrayals, we would not be able to reconcile with anyone. As encounter waits after parting, everything rotates; hatred turns into love and forgiveness, and despair turns into hope and new dreams. The very state of such flux might be what we call LIFE. The moment we struggle for salvations in this uncertain world may be the very moment when the force of our life shines brightly. (It doesn’t mean I praise sadness and pain, though.)
What I want to emphasise is that I am fully sure that there is something that cares for us, guiding us through this darkness to the light. That’s how I’ve been guided to this point today after I came to Germany. I named this something as “Collective Truth” in my second album, LIFE. We sometimes believe “this is the end of line”, but if only we listen to our deepest heart, Collective Truth is whispering to us. We don’t need to be afraid. All we need to do is to believe the voice in our deepest heart and to simply follow it!
Now this chapter has finished. So, I go back to Japan. I have no regret in a sense that I did all I could do, following my heart. I will leave a piece of me, that is, this album, to you. It may take a while till I resume music, but please remember me. Finally, may everyone live as they wish! Let’s walk on, struggling, to our glorious day! ”

And she left for Japan in April 2006, where her friends and family await.
Thanks to all I’ve seen in every moment of my life … you all are my Heaven Below!