We had the privilege of interviewing Japan’s biggest idol group currently, Momoiro Clover Z! What kind of pets do they have? Which one of them has an “infinite sneezing technique”? And what anime crushes do they have? Find out in this exclusive video interview!
Six hours ago, ALTIMA made a daring promise. The Japanese pop trio, responding to a question of whether they would ever cover a Run DMC song, boldly urged members of the press and public to attend their evening Otakon concert.
One hour ago, they delivered.
Full of power, grace, and confidence, ALTIMA put on a dynamic performance – flitting about the stage, posing with each other, and swapping keyboards for guitars. They stopped at nothing to please the audience – dancing, strutting, jumping, and thrilling Baltimore with rousing renditions of Run DMC’s ‘Walk This Way’ and Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock n Roll.’ The audience responded with adulation – jumping out of their seats, waving colored glow sticks, and even running in place as Motsu trotted out Japanese dances for them to attempt.
Everything was on the mark: the sound technicians, the lighting, the beat, and the cavorting performers. There was one time when a sound tech did not make an instantaneous adjustment, but it meant nothing next to the sheer energy and raw enthusiasm displayed by Motsu and Maon, set against the backdrop of digital pop provided by Sat.
There are times in live performances where the human element falters, rendering the result less than a recording, and there are times when humanity rises to all challenges and creates a work of true beauty and matchless wonder. At the end of the concert, Maon cried out that she would remember it for the rest of her life. This was no exaggeration.
- I’ll Believe (Shakugan no Shana ED)
- Fight 4 Real (Strike the Blood OP)
- Mission Dispatch
- Walk This Way (cover)
- I Love Rock n Roll (cover)
- Here We Are
- WISH I WISH
- CYBER CYBER
- (Encore) Burst The Gravity (Accel World OP)
ALTIMA are a digital J-pop group widely known for making the Shakugan no Shana ED. They are:
- Maon Kurosaki – vocals – a self-described anime otaku
- Mototaka “Motsu” Segawa – rapper – loves US dance/house music
- Satoshi “Sat” Yaginuma – sound production; instrumentals
Motsu, you put the band together. Could you tell us why you felt compelled to work with these artists?
Motsu – At first . . . ? I love J-pop – and my old band, m.o.v.e., starting doing less digital J-pop. I found on YouTube that I could do digital J-pop with Sat, and we just needed a vocalist who was into it. We found her, and we were set!
Any funny or inspiring stories from the road?
Maon – In Thailand and in HK, the crowd had memorized the songs and sang with us! I felt that music connects us, even across distance, borders, and cultures.
Motsu – I love how loud the fans get in the US! It’s the best feeling, being cheered on like that.
Sat – We visited many places for the music videos and had a lot of experiences. It’s a real honor to be in the US.
You are each from different musical traditions. What is the concept of ALTIMA?
Sat – What we aim at is digital J-pop. I don’t know if you’d say digital pop exists elsewhere in the world, but digital J-pop is exactly what we want to do.
What artists inspired you?
Sat – Motsu~! (Grins across.)
Motsu – (Laughs.) (Pauses.) For me, as a rapper . . . Beastie Boys, 2Unlimited, house music . . .
Sat – Run DMC, Walk this Way!
Maon – For me, actually, a lot of anime artists! Minami Kuribayashi, Mizuki Nana, JAM Project – I found this style of music most interesting and I want to tell the world how wonderful it is!
Sat – I also manage FripSide . . . we were successful and I had the chance to work with Omura Tetsuya. I said, “I did it!” It really felt like a milestone in my life.
Maon – I also really respect Hamasaki Ayumi.
Sat – Hey Motsu – you’re in the same company as her, aren’t you? (laughter)
How do you deal with creative differences?
Motsu – Janken! (laughter)
Maon – Jan! Ken! Pon! (makes hand motions)
[Editor’s note: This is Rock, Paper, Scissors, which is ubiquitous in Japan.]
Sat – Seriously, though, we’re all in different age groups – 20s, 30s, 40s. We don’t really argue and we have no problem talking things over.
What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your music careers?
Motsu – Starting up this group, actually. Three years ago, not everyone was sold on this idea. We faced a lot of opposition. It was worth it though – we’re here now!
Sat – I likewise feel the greatest challenge was putting this group together. But I was a huge fan of Motsu already, so I knew I wanted to work with him!
Motsu – (Embarrassed) Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Maon – My own greatest challenge? Actually, it was stepping up and singing! I am really the introverted type; I love being inside playing dating simulation games, but when I discovered the world of anime music, I became passionate about sharing it with everyone. So stepping into the light was my biggest challenge.
You mentioned that Run DMC influenced you. Is there any chance we’ll see a Run DMC cover some time?
Motsu – Yes. Come to our concert tonight!
What’s your favorite swear word?
Maon – English or Japanese?
Motsu – Jikusho!
Bonus question: Where’d you get your shades? They’re very distinctive.
Motsu – It’s my own brand! Ghetto Blaster. So we could say I made them myself.
You move so fluidly! Did you have dance training, Motsu?
Motsu – I started out as a dancer.
Do you have a message for your US fans?
Motsu – You guys give us huge greetings when we come to the US. It’s great to have you cheering us on!
Sat – As the producer, let me say – we try for an unconventional style. I really want to see how fans react to it!
Maon – Even in Japan, it’s a rare opportunity to do everything raw. Here in the US, it’s an especially rare opportunity to bring you our raw sound, our raw voices . . . I’m looking forward to it!
Sat – I really hope we can spread exposure across the country to those who are looking for our sound. So I hope you guys can write good articles and convey our spirit to the world!
The second hand is growing louder, and fellow fans from all over are prepping for another go-round of that hallowed ritual that is Anime Expo weekend. For more than a fair share of years, the Independence Day weekend has also been synonymous with several things for me; overwrought preparation, space-making for colleagues & friends, panels, cosplay, meetups, artist alley, extended question and answer sessions, movie premieres exhibit hall hijinks, karaoke, beverages at inhuman prices, disorientation, loss of voice, exhaustion, etc. But this year, it all comes with a twist. And no, I’m not merely speaking of the inclusion of the risky AM2 venture beginning simultaneously a mere 30 miles away. That’s right, for my focus seems to be set in areas perhaps unsurprisingly not as related to anime as some would hope. And yet strangely, 2011 seems to be a full circle affair- if even at an artistic interest level.
For those unfamiliar with my fandom background, it all came round for the long haul after a sibling started bringing anime on VHS home in the late 1980s-early 90s, when at the time, personal interests were largely in the areas of reading, film, and most starkly, music. And we’re talking about being exposed to a world of sound that wasn’t sold at the local K-Mart. Having begun a dabbling in the avant garde, industrial, gothic & punk worlds, this was something of an exploratory period where as much as the sounds implied some not so safe notions, it suddenly felt as if the world had a great deal to offer rather than the usual servings dished out upon tables the mainstream over. It was the beginning of a much more macro vision of the world outside with sonic influences from anywhere including the middle east, jazz mixed with classical, accidental distortion, guitar crunch, pounding beats & enka-like vocals. No limit was the game, and it was nothing short of exciting. This even led to my own personal pursuits & hobbies regarding making music of my own. So it was perhaps this yearning for something new-mixed with a love of classical myth-telling that enamored me to anime in the first place.
Something that perhaps many are tiring of me saying on these pages. But it’s true. Anime to me exists as a sort of hybrid medium that straddles the worlds of the tangible, and the intangible. And just the right mixture can evoke some great catharsis for those willing to dive in. When meshed in the right notation, it can provide a high better than any illicit narco. For me, the Diet, is in that search. It’s that colorful equivalent to spending a few hours in a local used record store, musing over which artists to take a chance on, as well as partake of some old favorites.
So when I look at the events I’m considering for the weekend, perhaps it’s fitting that my core concentration seems to be aligned back into the worlds of musical expression, and the evolutionary possibilities therein.
Seriously. There was no way I was to let this one pass me by. And yet by all means, the younger, more pretentious me would probably have balked at the very idea of a handpicked femals vocalists handling a barrage of pre-packaged, proto-goth opera tunes complete with glammy guitars. But to be honest, the Kalafina sound has been in the development for years in Kajiura‘s music. In many ways her sound has been the saving grace of many shows, so the very idea of catching this sound in full bloom seems irresistible. While in some respects, there is a part of me that may not be as wild about the more J-pop elements, there is something incredibly evocative about Kalafina that in a way seems like the perfect mix of the last twenty years of my music-loving life. So the live idea is a tiny step into the unknown for one more used to the more rough and tumble live club shows complete with alcohol & unruly front-row anarchy. One shall have to see.
MIKUNOPOLIS (Hatsune Miku LIVE)
Now if the younger me had seen the older me doing this, I believe an ugly split would likely ensue if not for one simple conceit: the real-world proliferation of the ever-inspiring anime concept of the virtual idol. Mesh this with the powerful VOCALOID software platform, and one has a potentially big moment for both the way not only US anime fans regard the music business, but in the very idea of the pop star in itself. Having a few years for YAMAHA’s signature aqua-haired muse to become something of an online legend, so in many ways, the internet phenom has been building up to this moment. And a part of me has been longing for this idea to come to some kind of evolutionary fruition. Now granted, Miku is far from attaining anything resembling a personality, and it is still kind of a downer that we’re essentially watching a projected image moving in sync to a live band. But the very idea that she has made it stateside, and with the promise of exposing even more fans to the phenomenon, as well as the software, and it’s easy to see why I would be excited. Miku is something of an icon for the further democratization of the music industry, and that’s a glowing plus.
As an added bonus:
AX Idol favorite, Stephanie Yanez is also to be performing alongside two other pals at both shows!
In a move that has only made life all the more surreal, Yanez recently teamed-up with local favorite, Po Lo(a cool guitarist, and buddy that seems to pop up everywhere. Any Ken Tanaka fans out there?) & the schizodelic electronic stylings of the one and only NVR-NDR. To describe NVR-NDR is near-impossible, even for me. Just imagine if your local arcade suffered an overdose of DJ Sharpnel & 8-Bit daydreams, and exploded, leaving nothing more than Amiga-pixeled clouds capable of causing some inexplicable fits of hallucinatory dancing. This project is also known for creating the Combo Attack podcast’s theme music, by the way. Handling both conventions, this unique trio is bound to make a fascinating splash this weekend. And in preparation, one may need protective gear.
Now it wouldn’t be Anime Expo if I didn’t indulge in the weekend’s primary attraction. And judging by the current schedule, it looks like I may be able to make a run to check out the Izumi Matsumoto panel if all goes well. Personally speaking, this is what this weekend has always been about. Whether it is to meet friends from around the world, to cosplay the latest icons, see some great new stuff (New Last Exile?- I so wish..), or just enjoy the company of a legion with similar passions, it can’t be denied that this is the core time to give thanks to those who have imbued us with so much. With both AX & AM2 on the path, things are guaranteed to be challenging- but perhaps this is the kind of test that fans need right about now.
Here’s our interview with BENI, a J-pop singer who has done anime openings for “Eyeshield 21” and “Major.” Her last album, Lovebox, topped the Oricon charts. Born and raised in San Diego in her early years, she speaks perfect American English–no translation needed for this video!
From Utada Net.com // News –
Ray’s Take: Any real fans out there? I’ve listened to maybe one of her albums in the past but to me, J-pop singers all sound pretty much similar to one another. They have similar voice range even. Of course I’d love to hear any comments on this because I can’t exactly tell singers apart sometimes. In any case, for Eva fans who just want to hear some good J-pop, it seems like she will be touring 10 cities in US.
From Anime Corporation News –
…Halloween-themed j-pop event will be held in London on October 20th at Cafe Manga, near the Westminster Brdige of County Hall…
Ray’s take: Well, I can just picture the amount of goth lolis that’s going to be there…I hope you don’t get choked to death by the fume of black make up and die in a pool of black ink if you do go! On the other hand, if you see an old Japanese dude wearing a t-shirt that says “Taro Aso FTW” and wearing a Golgo-13 hat and a Shinku tatoo, please give him our condolences for not being elected as the prime minister of Japan…
From Anime Corporation News –
Salia, Psychic Lover to Perform in Virginia
Salia and Psychic Lover will be performing at the Akiba Fest J-Pop Halloween Concert at the Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, Virginia on October 27. Salia is known for the anime theme songs of Cutey Honey Flash and Vandread, the Psychic Lover J-Pop duo is known for the theme songs to Witchblade and Transformers Armada.
Ray’s take: Again, who? But at least Otaku there can all cosplay without being treated like freaks. Good times.