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[Anime Key Player Interview #14]
Tom-H@ck, Composer, Guitarist, member of OxT and MYTH & ROID, and CEO of TaWaRa Inc. Part.4


Going back to OxT, were you there at Mr. Oishi’s audition?

At that time, there were four stages in the audition, and I was there at the final stage. I was not told anything at all until the third stage, and they only told me, "We’ll look for a vocalist." I didn't even know who it was going to be, so when Oishi-san was alone, I heard something like, "I think we'll go with this guy," and it was the first time we went into the studio together to record “Kariuta (temporary vocal track).”

Were there other candidates?

I think there were quite a few, but I heard only Oishi-san was left. I had no choice (laughs). I think there were a few more before Oishi-san was the only one left.

I see. Was he the unique individual that he is now the first time you met?

He was very modest. Because he was not doing very well in the industry, it felt like he "lacked energy," so to speak. I think his current energy is the result of all his efforts through his activities. He was very quiet when I first met him. At the time, I thought the job was going to be a one-off. So, I had a completely different impression of him then compared to now.

Is he still quiet in the creative part?

I think he has changed compared to the past. He’s become a little brighter, and he started to express his opinion properly.

OxT and MYTH & ROID have very different concepts. Can you briefly introduce each of them again?

The talk part of OxT is quite long, so people find us funny in Japan, but when we’re playing or when we’re on TV we look cool, so there’s a gap. I classify OxT as a “highly entertaining” unit. Oishi-san is an emcee, and I am an emcee and an interviewer somewhere else. We're trying to give people a glimpse of how multi-faceted we are, and how they can see that we are a creative unit made up of two amazing people. As for MYTH & ROID, it's really international in nature, and we're trying to spread Japanese music particularly to Europe and Asia. MYTH & ROID is a unit that tries to convey the message that "Japanese people are actually making better music" to expand the worldview that is unique to the Japanese and to contribute to the improvement of the culture, even in a small way.

You've performed at various live shows and events. Can you tell us about the process of deciding on a setlist and staging of the concert?

Basically, I'm like a producer, so I give priority to the staging in which the vocalist wants to sing, like Oishi-san from OxT or KIHOW-san from MYTH & ROID. Basically, I leave it up to the vocalist.

So you put the priority on what the vocalist wants to do, not what you want to do.

That's right. I'd look at it and say, "How about adding a staging like this here, or changing the song?” as if to support them. This goes for both the unit and human relations, but I think it's better to have that kind of respect. Basically, I don't do any of the stage directing or setlist work. It's the vocalist who sings, so if the vocalist finds it difficult to sing, it will affect the performance. In many ways, we do everything with the vocalist in priority.

Of course, you've performed in various places in Japan, but you've also performed overseas like in China, Taiwan, the U.S., and other foreign countries. Is the atmosphere and fan reaction at events in Japan different from overseas events?

Yes, it is. Each country is entirely different. For example, in America, there is no "Oooh! Oooh!" call and the audience heats up during the chorus. Americans are also surprisingly distant. I feel like it is probably because America does not have much affinity for the anime industry. I have the impression that Europe and Asia have the most affinity for anime. Asia is different from place to place, but I think they are somewhat shy, especially the Chinese. Europeans are very close to the Japanese people, so there is a lot of respect for the Japanese people and culture. When we went to Germany as MYTH & ROID for the first time, 3,000 people gave us a standing ovation. We don't see that in Japan, America, or Asia. I think that's how Europe's unique spirit of welcoming and respecting people is expressed. As you can see, the atmosphere of the country is totally different, not just the fans.

I know that overseas production methods are different from those in Japan, but could you tell us what you think are the challenges of event production you’ve encountered as an artist?

This can go from the small things to the large ones, but for example, there is a perception that people overseas are not punctual, right? Maybe this is the opposite; only Japanese people are punctual. No one is punctual in Asia, or Europe, or America. So, if you look at this calmly from an international perspective, the Japanese are weird. This is a bad habit of the Japanese people. It's because of what they consider to be the beauty of the Japanese people, such as the beauty of nitpicking or the beauty in the details of the decoration of a makunouchi  bento (a popular type of Japanese box lunch), which is actually not common on a global scale; hence, things don't go well. On the contrary, I think that these points are something that we should be concerned about. It's the same with management, but you can't make a company grow and train people if you're only doing small things. So, I think we should look at the larger picture as well. The same goes for event production. There are many things that we can learn that way.

Have you had any difficulties in performing?

How polite a personal attendant (PA) is depends on the company, the person, and the country, so I don't think artists can work overseas unless they can respond flexibly. I feel like some things are difficult when it comes to the attendants, but I think we should be able to live with it. We have been to about 20 countries in a year, and each country is very different. We have to be adapted to them on site. If we have an attitude like, "We can't do it without this," then we won't get offers and events won't be interested in us, and I think that's one of the things artists need to improve. That’s why, we haven’t had much trouble when we are overseas. I feel like that will make things go more smoothly.

I dare say this is the case all over the world, but I think there should be more cooperation on everything. Collaboration is a big deal; for example, when we sing at an event, people who know the theme song are happy to hear it. We rejoice, but it's only that event that happily generates the money. If that's the case, it's like this JAM Lab. interview; in order to spread Japanese culture further, various companies and people need to connect and work together to expand the circle. I think it's time for all of us to work together and make an effort to achieve this kind of cooperation. This involves a lot of hard work, but if we don't do this work, even if it means drinking muddy water, we won't be able to move forward from what we have envisioned, so I think this is necessary. We are just now starting to see the signs of the spread of Japanese culture around the world, so I think artists themselves need to be aware of this. I think it's time for all of us to work together as one to further spread Japanese culture.

That is a great idea. By the way, is there a country you'd like to visit next time?

I've been abroad quite a bit, but surprisingly I've never been to Paris. I've been there in transit, but I've never played a proper show, so I’d love to perform in Paris.

I would like to ask you about the future. What are you most looking forward to this year, and what are your goals?

It is not that I am personally looking forward to it, but more like what I expect from the whole industry. At the beginning of the year, I appeared on radio with the anisong producer Akihiro Tomita and the producer of Animelo Summer Live Saito P. At that time, everyone agreed that the anisong industry is pretty saturated these days. They said that 10 years ago, new artists and creators were coming out and starting a new revolution, and they would like to see something like that happen. What I'm looking forward to, after all, are newcomers, even the not so young ones, who will change the times somehow. This does not go for music only but also for the anime works themselves. Anime is becoming less and less of a social phenomenon. Nowadays, physical businesses tend to fold, but anime is still a remaining culture, and I have high hopes for a significant movement that will emerge when change happens.

In that sense, you are doing new things one after another. Do you have any goals for the future as an artist?

With regards to OxT, in the beginning we said we want to do a live concert in Nippon Budokan, although half of it was a joke. I talked about OxT at the time of our debut, but I somehow believe that the unit bloom like a flower if it continues for a long time. Even if we don't do anything, there is a demand for it. So, about 10 years later, I feel like I'm starting to see the possibility of doing standalone shows at the Nippon Budokan, or somewhere close to that scale. We, OxT, hope it will turn into reality.

When it comes to MYTH & ROID, half of our activities is mission-driven. The music we do is very much aimed at overseas, and 90% of the comments on our music videos are from abroad. There are surprisingly few artists like that. We spread the word about what Japanese people are doing, like "here's something interesting," that’s why it feels more like a mission. I would like to spread more information. I apologize for sounding so crude, but to sum it up, I'd like to be able to expand my activities more to the world.

By the way, from which countries do you get many comments on YouTube?

I don't know much about the details of the country, but the language is mostly English. Some people in China can't even watch YouTube. To put it bluntly, we are actually not that popular in the U.S. The first one is Europe, and Asia is still very strong, and there are talks of doing a world tour in the region. We don't seem to be able to attract that many people in the U.S.; that’s why we'd like to do a tour in Europe and Asia.

We are looking forward to your global expansion. What is your message to aspiring composers or artists?

This applies not only to composers and arrangers, but also artists. As I said before, it's a world where talent is not enough to make a living. For example, you help people, right? Listening to other people's worries and helping them with their problems are not something you do for them; it is something that goes around and returns to you. Therefore, whether you're a composer or an artist, you'll do better if you keep in mind that you're not alone in this world.

What kind of song you should practice and what type of song you should be able to write are only up to an individual's efforts, so you should continue doing it. It's natural to work hard, and it's a must and a necessity. More than that, if you're going to be working in Japan, I think the music you make will change if you start thinking about human relationships and how you can make people happy from a young age. If you are an artist, your way of emceeing, behavior, and the words you express will change; take a second look at how you think about "what a human being is" while thinking that the world goes around not just you, but also your friend, and I’m sure everything will be fine.

Finally, what is anisong for you?

I've been thinking lately, but I used to never really like being told "you make anisong" or "you're an anisong composer." This is because in the past, 60 or 70% of my jobs were not animation songs, and most of my previous jobs were other types of music. There were a lot of jobs like producing visual-kei and being in charge of idols like Dempagumi.inc. Actually, K-On!was a hit, but I originally used to not make anime songs. But now that I'm over 30 years old, I've started running my own company, and I've come to do a lot of different things; as a result, I've made a hit song with K-On!, and most of the time, I feel that because of this foundation that I am able to work in the anime song industry for a long time and I have started earning people’s respect. On the contrary, I’ve come to think that I should be grateful for that. Recently, I started thinking that anime songs saved my life. I guess I can assimilate that now.

When K-On! became a hit, I think there were a lot of things that I was young and couldn't digest, like the things I left behind when I was 23, the part which I was trying to be tough on and so on were probably fixed in the past. When I look at those things I left now that I’m in my 30s, I realize that I would be happier if I allowed myself to assimilate things such as my obsessions and beliefs, so that I could soften up, incorporate them into myself, and forgive myself more. In that sense, I feel strongly that anime songs are contents that saved me.

Another thing is that I think anisong is a treasure of Japan. I think it’s only Japanese people who are prejudiced by anime songs when they go overseas. If you ask Americans or Europeans, they're like, "I like anisong, so that's fine with me." It's only the Japanese who think that anisong is inferior or lower in class or uncool. In that sense, I think that anisong is one of the cultures that Japan is proud of, and that is accepted around the world. These two points.

Thank you for the wonderful talk today!

Written by Atsushi Ota (Boulevard Corporation) and Gladys Angala


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