L: Haruichi Shindo (guitar), R: Akihito Okano (lead vocal)
This is a full, translated transcript of the band Porno Graffitti’s press conference at Anime Expo 2013. Porno Graffitti, best known for doing songs for Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, and recently Magi, consists of two members: Akihito Okano (lead vocals), and Haruichi Shindo (guitar). They both answered questions.
Are your anime songs written before being associated with that show, or are they written specifically to complement the anime?
Akihito: Yes, usually, we get the offer to do an anime theme song first…so we often write songs with the feel and taste of that anime in mind. For example, when we were making a theme song for Bleach, which has a lot of very samurai-like characters in it, those characters make us think of the Japanese concept of wa (harmony). So we wrote a melody that sounded Japanese. And when writing lyrics, that’s a different process, so Haruichi [can explain]…
Haruichi: To pick a recent example, Magi, I come in with a general understanding of the show’s basic worldview and then write the lyrics. Then once we receive the opening sequence of the anime, I watch it and make adjustments to the lyrics to make it even closer to the anime’s worldview. It’s like a back and forth process, and that is what’s special about collaborating with the production team to work on an anime together.
(Us): You did a song called “Saudade,” a concept borrowed from Brazil and associated with bossa nova music. Are you influenced at all by bossa nova or Brazilian music?
Haruichi: I also like bossa nova, so I listen to it a lot and then I caught the word “saudade” in the lyrics without understanding its meaning. So I got interested and looked it up in the dictionary, and then thought, “Oh, that’s what it means,” and I thought this concept would fit that song, so I used it.
What does your popularity overseas say not just about your music but the spread of anime/manga/Japanese pop culture overall?
Akihito: Well, we’re proud of the fact that our music is breaking through to so many cultures overseas, to America, because Japan is hugely influenced by America and we all admire America. That’s what’s our background is, so I’m happy that our culture is in a way going back to America. Well, I could go on, but if the historical ties between Japan and the US could become deep, where Japanese and Americans get along, or people around the world can get along…if we can play a part in that, I think that will make us happy.
What do you want to do next?
Haruichi: Since we debuted as major artists 15 years ago, even in Japan we are starting to be seen as more like an adult/mature group. How we can play rock music as a more “grown-up” band will be the next big challenge for us. So, if we can do more “mature music,” that will be great.
Any influence from foreign artists or Japanese artists?
Akihito: Well, yes, if you going back to our roots, rather than being influenced by one artist or another, we are influenced by all kinds and types…after all, North America has a myriad of different styles of musicians. Different aspects of different artists have influenced us, so we can choose from a lot of sounds. For next time, we want to continue to explore many more types of sounds.
Was there a particular anime that you enjoyed working on the most?
Akihito: As I mentioned before, when we wrote a song for the theatrical version of Bleach, Tite Kubo really liked our song, and he even wrote a comment that praises our song. So we have a lot of good memories working with that anime, and it leaves a good impression when you get positive feedback, and when the collaboration between author and musicians really works.
What kind of anime did you watch growing up?
Haruichi: I could probably bring up an endless number of titles, and I could go on and on… Yes, we are probably the first “Gundam generation,” and Weekly Shonen Jump was very big, so we were all reading that, and we saw the anime that was made from those manga, like Kinniku-man, Dragonball, Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star). I could go on and maybe many people at AX could say they’ve seen similar titles. And there were also the programs that aired during weekday nights, like Tom and Jerry, Road Runner; we were watching both Japanese anime and American cartoons.
Akihito: Probably, all kids all over the world are like that. And probably, you watch an anime and try to remember its song and sing it with full energy…that might have been the starting point for me to become a singer. Like when I was a child, I tried hard to remember the theme songs of Gundam, Saint Seiya. Actually if you make me sing the Seiya theme song, I can still sing it really well. Pegasus Fantasy!
What do you say to your fans in Latin America? Will you consider touring there one day?
Akihito: Yes, as we mentioned before, we’ve been influenced by Latin music so we use its sounds sometimes. It is true that Japan and Latin America are far apart geographically, but from now on, we will be more aware of fans in Latin America as we make our music. Having met you here in LA, I’d be happy to reach out to you where you are, and if we ever have another chance, we want to visit Latin America too. So please invite us.
Did y0u ever watch an anime where you felt, “we have to do the song for that!”?
Haruichi: Before we became a professional band, we never had the idea of specifically writing anime songs, in coordination with the anime’s production team. But after our professional debut, then we had an opportunity to do just that, and that gave us the ability to expand our audience beyond our usual rock one. It’s even helped us break some generational barriers. And now, if we can work on a good anime, we will when the time is right.
Are there any specific songs or artists that have inspired you as musicians?
Akihito: One of our first influences was Guns and Roses, who are right here from LA, and after seeing them on TV, we wanted to be a cool band like them. That’s how we started, and there’s been others who’ve influenced us. Haruichi for instance is a guitarist, so he was influenced by Eric Clapton in particular.
Haruichi: Do you know Rodrigo y Gabriela? I love them.
We will tell them.
What ties do you have to Los Angeles? Why did you choose here as your overseas debut?
Haruichi: Well, when we were in middle school or high school, there was the “L.A. metal boom.” That was our first exposure to Western music, and so our image of Western music was a long blond haired guy rocking wildly with tight pants playing metal music. Our image of Los Angeles/the West Coast is like that.
Akihito: We’ve been more influenced by Los Angeles than we ever were consciously aware of. Like with the movie Terminator 2, when we landed at LAX, the scenery from that movie was implanted in my memory already and so I said, “oh, this is the place they used in that scene!” Then I realized that so many aspects of how we felt about America–of course, there’s also New York, other big metropolitan cities too–were mostly or entirely influenced by Los Angeles.
This is July 4th weekend for Americans. What do you think of all the festivities?
Haruichi: Well, coming back from a video/photo shoot in Santa Monica, we got stuck in a traffic jam. That was a pretty good sign of the festivities going on!
(Us) Can you confirm that you named yourself after the album by Extreme? Also, tell us a bit about your beginnings as a band, and whether you expected to get as far as you did.
Haruichi: Just like you said, we borrowed our name “Porno Graffitti” from Extreme’s second album. When we were an amateur band, we wanted a very memorable name and one that would leave a strong impression, so we borrowed it from that album, which we’d been listening to in high school. We didn’t take it seriously back then, but then we got a major label debut under that name. And that was when we found out that adults, unexpectedly, didn’t really like the word “porno.” And by the time that the Japanese got used to the name “Porno Graffitti,” we end up coming to Los Angeles and found out that English speaking people are even more surprised and offended by the word “porno.” So we do feel a little bit of regret…if we had known we’d play overseas one day, or be on national TV in Japan, we would have chosen a different name.