Anime Diet was privileged to interview singer/songwriter Chiaki Ishikawa at Otakon 2013. Perhaps best known for the OP of Bokurano, “Uninstall,” which she also performed in concert at the convention, Ishikawa has written many anime songs in the course of her career: first with the band See Saw (where Yuki Kajiura was her partner), and later solo. Her most recent work is with the mecha anime Majestic Prince.
The Paper conducted the interview, with Shizuka taking a few pictures. Questions were written by gendomike and The Paper. Translation by Rome.
What music are you listening to right now?
People ask me that a lot. I don’t have anyone in particular–for a US musician, maybe Eddie Vedder, but right now I listen to a lot of samples of new artists that sing anime songs.
How would you compare Anime Expo 2007 vs this year’s Otakon?
Well, Los Angeles had a lot of cosplayers and the hotels were a mess.* Otakon is more otaku oriented.
How was working with young Yuki Kajiura? Did you think she would be as big as she became?
The first time we met? Did I think back then that Kajiura would be this huge? Well, we got successful by doing anime songs. By the standards of the mainstream J-pop industry, we weren’t good at all. The current singers who are around Kajirua practice singing with her because Kajiura is so big, but I’d thought Kajiura was great since I started singing with her. I mean, I simply loved her songs. It’s not surprising to me at all that she’s become so famous. I thought she would from the start.
Do you plan to work with Kajiura again?
Well, we don’t have the opportunity. We never have time to get together and do songs.
Was your musical approach influenced by Kajiura apart from See Saw?
Well, I’d say we both influenced each other. She composed songs based on things I sang too. We were working really hard when we were together.
How do you write lyrics without music for anime?
I think it’s based on the flow of the anime. First you have the anime itself: you have the director’s opinion, and a good-enough scenario…so then I get the synopsis. And I write song based on the synopsis. And while there are people who write music first and then the lyrics, I write lyrics first and then the music. But since I don’t know how the ending is going to be, I imagine the plot myself and then write lyrics. By keeping a certain good artistic distance from the production, I can create a good song.
Your songs tend to sound melancholy, often written in minor keys. Why?
Since I wrote “Uninstall” for the anime Bokurano, where 15 kids die, that image has stuck to me…after that, people only bring me those sad animes where some character always dies, and nobody brings moe anime to me to write songs. So, once it’s known that I am doing the ending song, people say that means the anime is going in a depressing direction. (Laughs)
*This was in reference to reports that at Anime Expo 2007, guest of honor hotel rooms were sometimes not prepared when the guests arrived from Japan. Haruko Momoi in particular complained publicly about it and other problems, spawning controversy.