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Anime Key Player Interview #6
Mr. Shiro Sasaki, the president of Flying Dog Part. 1

2018.09.18



I heard that you started working for Victor Entertainment in 1982. How did you first start working for Victor?

You might’ve heard stories like this before but I was originally in a band. I started my first band in middle school. Since I couldn’t become a musician I decided to work at a record company.


So you were interested in music to begin with? What kind of music did your band play?

Yes, I was interested in music. We played many different kinds of music. Towards the end, we did make original songs but in general, we did all of rock and even blues.


So you started off as a copy band and then started making your own music?

Yes, exactly! I was the vocalist and guitarist for my band.


Wow! I would love to watch you sing play guitar!

Yes (laugh)! Well, I still play in a band to this day! Sometimes I perform.


That’s amazing! What kind of music do you listen to on your own time?

I do listen to a lot of songs that I listened to when I was younger. I guess a lot of western music from the 70’s and 80’s. I do listen to other music too. I love Brazilian music and just about every genre.


So you just love music in general. I heard you started working with anime for the first time in 1985. How did that go?

In 1982, when I entered Victor I was working as a salesman. I went around record shops in Osaka. I didn’t know much about anime at the time but 1982 was when Macrossfirst started. So Macrossand this other anime called Magical Princess Minky Momowas airing on TV. In October, the theme song singles were released and were both very popular at the time. I thought that animation music was directed towards children and thought that the children or the mothers were buying the singles. That’s when I found out that middle school, high school, and college male students were buying the singles. I was surprised because I thought that the people buying Minky Momosingles are mostly girls but found out a lot of male college students were buying the CDs. The sales team was all a lot older than me so they told me as a newcomer to go study anime. I started buying anime magazines to study anime. That’s how I learned which songs are popular during those days. I starting work in the music field more and that’s when voice actors started coming out to Osaka for campaigns and events. I was actually MCing for some of those events. A lot of salesmen actually did the MC for events like that. When I was MCing, people from the Tokyo department noticed me. I actually wanted to go to Tokyo to work on Rock music. I told the people working at the Tokyo headquarters what I wanted to do. So 3 years later I had a chance to go to Tokyo and work in the anime music field. From that day on I’ve been working for anime.


So you were working for anime music ever since?

Yes, that’s right. In the beginning, I was thinking about switching to rock music but then I started noticing that it was very fun working with anime music. I did get an offer to work for something else but I declined because working for anime was fun.


But you were not familiar with anime at the time right?

Yes, but I was a music maniac and anime and approaching the music is almost the same thing. The way anime fans read one frame of a manga and the way music fans look at track numbers for albums and talk about a guitar segment is really similar. They connect in the same way. I also realized while working for anime, anime music can be anything as long as it fits the clip. It can be jazz, hard rock; it can even be Brazilian music. Genre doesn’t really matter. I found that quite interesting. There’s magic when anime music and the clip comes together. Not just the music but when there are emotional scenes and the music plays in the background, you feel even more emotional. When experiencing something like that, there was no way in quitting anymore.


As you just said right now, the music that you worked with being jazz reminded me of Cowboy Bebop.

That was not all completely jazz but yes.


What was the most memorable anime series you worked on?

There is so much (laugh)! Well if I talk about Cowboy Bebop, bebop means jazz so Kanno san (Yoko Kanno) wanted to record in New York and she also wanted to work with an legendary engineer named Mr. Rudy Van Gelder. He mainly worked as an engineer for a jazz label called Blue note. So she asked him to be the engineer for the OST. At the time he was over 70 years old. He worked on many jazz songs in the 50s. We also heard that it may be hard to have him work for us but when we offered, he took the job. So we went to New Jersey where he had a studio and recorded music there. So that was very memorable when I was working on Cowboy Bebop.


It must be very memorable to record overseas.

Yes, as for Kanno san, she actually has had many recordings overseas. The first recording overseas was for this anime called Macross Plusand that was at Israel in 1994. She wanted to record with Israel Philharmonic, so we went there to record the orchestra.


Wow! I didn’t know so many recordings were taken overseas.

There was an anime called AKIRAwhich was popular overseas. Anime was getting pretty big and Kanno san was aware of that too so she didn’t limit herself to making just Japanese music. She wanted to make music that was appealing to the rest of the world as well. After we recorded for Macross Plusand went overseas multiple times, we noticed that in records stores such as Tower Records or Virgin Megastore, they didn’t have a single copy of Jpop music but there was a corner called Manga. They had Macross PlusCDs at the manga corner. That was the case at most record stores. I realized that it is hard to sell JPop overseas but seeing anime music in big record stores overseas made me think more about the overseas audience during the 90s. Cowboy Bebopis a good example, but not only Bebop, in Kanno san’s music, language doesn’t really exist. It seems like Japanese songs have a barrier overseas especially due to people not understanding the language. Kanno san made music in English and also music in a made-up language.


How did people overseas react to anime songs? It can be now or in the past.

A long time ago, Kanno san went to conventions. She doesn’t go much anymore but she used to go quite frequently in the past. When she went, there were easily 1000-2000 people waiting. There were events where she got to play the piano, and it was big success. The audience really liked her. We were able to realize how global anime has become after visiting conventions.


I feel like the fact that anime songs became more known has made you feel more proud.

Yes, definitely. This was a long time ago but there was a time when Maaya Sakamoto went to Anime Expo and had a concert there. I was surprised and happy to see the audience singing to her Japanese songs. The concert hall is smaller than the ones they have now but there was still about 3000 people there.


That is amazing to hear people singing in Japanese!


Next: Shiro Sasaki Interview Part 2 will be published on 25 Sep, 2018!
 

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