Sydney Morning Herald article + interview "BABYMETAL: Metal Petals"

BABYMETAL was once again featured on mainstream media in Australia, this time on Sydney Morning Herald in the segment "Good Weekend" with an article called "Metal Petals" featuring an interview with Su-Metal, check the article and interview below. 


BABYMETAL: Japan's heavy metal girl-band sensation

The apparently irreconcilable worlds of manufactured J-pop and hard rock collide in the shape of Babymetal.


If someone were to ask you to name the biggest thing in metal music now, would you answer: a) a bunch of hirsute Australian men growling about hellfire and blood; b) a bunch of hirsute American men growling about hellfire and blood; or c) a trio of Japanese teenage girls in froufrou skirts who do twirling dance routines and sing sugary pop melodies over thrash metal? It is, of course, the third: headbangers worldwide are having the leather pants charmed off them by a fusion of styles that could only come from Japan.


Babymetal are the pioneers of kawaii, or "cute", metal. You can think of them as Hello Cannibal Kitty and their music as the lost soundtrack to the Japanese Hunger Games precursor, Battle Royale. A typical song, Awadama Fever, interlaces slabs of angry guitar and undanceably fast breakbeats, while the girls squeak about "bubble ball fever" and chewing gum.


The bizarre combination is striking a power chord with fans of heavy metal worldwide. In April, the band released its second album, Metal Resistance, to glowing reviews and a top 10 chart place in Australia, and played a sold-out gig at Britain's Wembley Arena, the first Japanese act to do so. They broke the arena's record for merchandise sold, and in Japan 12,000 fans trooped to cinemas at 4.30am to watch live screenings of the gig.


So-called idol bands – manufactured pop groups – are huge in Japan. It was the genius of a man who calls himself "Koba-metal", a producer with the Japanese talent agency Amuse, to spot that what the rock world needed was a metal Mickey Mouse Club. As he points out when I meet him and the band in the K West hotel, in west London, you can't imagine Metallica or Iron Maiden doing synchronised dancing on stage.


So, clearly, he had to create a metal idol band. The three teens, who look (disconcertingly, considering heavy metal's male core audience) almost prepubescent, are graduates of a tween idol group named Sakura Gakuin, and the four-man backing band are metal veterans. But, they say, it wasn't Koba who picked the girls; they were chosen, according to their own mythology, by a made-up guru they call the Fox God.


In the Babymetal narrative, the three girls – Yui, Suzuka and Moa (or Yuimetal, Su-metal and Moametal) – were appointed by the Fox God to deliver his message to the One – that is, the world's metal fans. Personal information about the girls is sketchy, and questions about their real lives are answered with: "Only the Fox God knows." Our interview is conducted through a translator, with three women chaperones keeping an eagle eye on things. The only occasion when Su-metal, the 18-year-old "big sister" in the band, bypasses the interpreter is when I ask her to name her favourite band and she whispers shyly: "Metallica-san."


They are girlish and modest in person, but the trio's standing in the rock fraternity is huge. Instagram pictures show them posing with A-list metallers such as Judas Priest, Megadeth and DragonForce. Though they profess to be fully paid-up headbangers, the girls are also fans of Lady Gaga, whom they supported on tour. However, Su looks shocked when I ask whether she likes Ariana Grande, with whom they have been photographed on Twitter. "That's Yuimetal," she protests. But they cheerfully admit they knew nothing of metal when the band was formed. "When I first heard it, I said, 'What the …?' " Su confesses. "It was heavy, fast, the drums were too loud. So it was not instant love. But now I understand why people love it."



The girls don't play instruments, but their new passion for metal seems genuine, and I catch a forlorn note in Su's voice when she says she does "not yet" contribute lyrics. "One day, I hope to put my personal feelings into them."


They put hours of practice into their unusual, intricately choreographed routines. The video for the band's recent single, Karate, shows them battling horror-film ghouls. "We sat down and watched karate films for ages," Su says. "Then we copied the moves."


Their concert outfits are always red and black: "We have a red froufrou skirt, because red is the colour of cute, and then black is dark and heavy," Su explains. And they add that they are open to offers from fashion designers. Koba points out that Lady Gaga has costumes made by Japanese designers. "So it would be great if we had Western designers," Su-metal enthuses. "Any famous designers, please get in touch."


Koba is transparent about having manufactured Babymetal, but there is no rabbit-in-headlights nerviness in these girls, who have shot from local talent shows to rock arenas in only 18 months. Zayn Malik's recent revelation that he was not allowed to have a beard in One Direction is a reminder of how controlling pop Svengalis can be. But Koba, long-haired and wearing the sort of jumper and jeans that suggest he might have been a software developer if he hadn't had his eureka kawaii-metal moment, taps away unconcerned on his MacBook while Su talks. Her excited description of watching foreign fans singing along with her at gigs does not sound like a line she has been fed. "It struck me," she says, "that they must have been studying the Japanese language. I realised how cool it was."



Article by: Sydney Morning Herald, section "Good Weekend". 

Photo courtesy of: David Goesch


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