Suzuka Nakamoto (Su-metal) was interviewed on HEDOBAN Magazine Volume 3, issue released on February 27 of 2014. A very deep and extensive interview about her love for singing, her special way of being, her relationship with Yui Mizuno and Moa Kikuchi, the live performances, most difficult BABYMETAL songs to sing, her thoughs about metal music and much more topics.. Highly recommended interview with the BABYMETAL lead vocalist, Suzuka Nakamoto. Interview translated by YMJapan.
Suzuka Nakamoto interviewed on HEDOBAN Magazine Volume 3.
Q: We are still basking in the afterglow of the shock and impression of “Akatsuki” piano version in Makuhari (legend 1997). Let us ask about it first. How did Su-metal feel about singing along with the solo piano?
Suzuka: "The first solo piece I started to sing was a ballade when I was in Actors School Hiroshima (ASH). So I was glad to sing a ballade after a long time."
Q: Didn’t you feel uneasy to sing the ballade version of Akatsuki suddenly?
Su: "A little, because I had never sung Akatsuki in such arrangements before."
Q: Ballade Akatsuki… when was it decided to perform the piano version?
Su: "We were talking like “We want to play a special song for the birthday celebration.” Then I was asked “We made a piano version of Akatsuki. Would you sing along with it?” I think it was pretty close to the show. I gave it a try and it went like “Oh, sounds good”, unexpectedly."
Q: Is Su-metal able to handle such a sudden request without a problem? Usually we freak out.
Su: "Of course I freak out (laugh). It was hard for me to sing it breaking melodies and rhythms at first. I wondered how I should break the parts. I got used to it as I kept on trying. On the practice stage, I practiced it with click sounds on, and listened to it taking rhythm. Then I gradually tried to weaken my focus on rhythm. But it took time to reach that state. I wouldn’t have figured out the right timing that the singing climax and the piano climax meet."
Q: I was watching it in the stand and a girl next to me, maybe a little older than Su-metal, was crying listening to Akatsuki piano version. I was surprised in a good sense, to see a fan shredding tears listening to a Babymetal song. What do you think about making someone cry by your singing?
Su: "I remember when I sang Akatsuki for the first time… On rehearsals, my voice became hoarse in the last parts and I wasn’t able to sing well at all. The real performance came as it was, and I felt “What should I do…” I got really nervous because it was the first time to perform by myself, not by the three since Babymetal was formed. I became impatient feeling my voice getting hoarse. Then I looked around the audience and found a fan giving me a serious look shredding tears. I thought “My singing have the power to move someone!” at that moment. I was thinking “I can’t help it…”, but to that kind of me… I was surprised that the fan was moved to an extent to shred tears by my singing. It made me think “Stick to it”. It’s very encouraging to see that it touches fans to that degree."
Q: Does Su-metal get discouraged often?
Su: "Well…let me see…? I do… but get over soon (laugh). Su-metal has a “scribble note”".
Q: A scribble note? That’s a Su-metal note!
Su: "Fufufufu… exactly. I scribble all my feelings on it in a rush. I dash off all negative things when I get really negative (laugh).
I dash off anything popping up to me without thinking, and when I come to myself, all of them go away, like “Why am I worrying about it?”"
Q: Would that note be necessary for you because you don’t like to express your feelings to others often?
Su: "Indeed. I look them back and charge some energy."
Q: How many notes have you had yet?
Su: "About 20 now."
Q: 20 Su-metal notes!? When did you start it?
Su: "Recently. A year or two ago?"
Q: What? 20 notes in a year or two?
Su: "I don’t write everyday… Somehow I write in a rush, write and forget it. Conversely, I don’t write what I’d like to remember. I feel I would forget it if I wrote. I guess all images grow in my mind. Let’s say I go to see lives and others, but if I wrote them down I would be satisfied and forget it."
Q: When do you look back those notes, when you are depressed?
Su: "That’s maybe right… and… sometimes I wonder “who am I?”"
Q: You mean, you changing yourself to Su-metal and to your “disguise to avoid public notice”?
Su: "Umm… in a sense… and I also feel people are interesting. So when I find it strange, for example. Not necessarily when I’m depressed, it’s like “I was thinking that way in the past! Interesting!”"
Q: I thought Su-metal’s growth was tremendous at the Summer Sonic last year. But seeing you at Makuhari made me think you got into the even higher level.
Su: "Fufufufu…. You said too much."
Q: Do you feel you are growing fast as a vocalist yourself, like “I’ve made progress to the next level!”?
Su: "I don’t feel at all."
Q: Not enough?
Su: "Not enough!"
Q: Do you have an ideal singing style in yourself?
Su: "Umm… nothing special yet. I’d rather follow my intuition. When I feel “I want to do like this”, I focus on it. I’m kind of a splinter type (laugh)."
Q: Are you decisive?
Su: "Absolutely (laugh)."
Q: If someone ask “Would you do it like this?”, some would hesitate and think twice and some would just jump into it. Su-metal is rather…
Su: "I belong to the “Jump into it!” type."
Q: When we interviewed Mikiko-metal (their choreographer) on Hedoban vol.1, she said “Su-metal pushes herself to 120% once she turns on! Becomes a totally different person!” What do you think about it?
Su: "I don’t know (laugh)."
Q: She also said “Her dancing is kinda exotic.”
Su: "What? I have no idea about that (laugh). But sometimes I feel so, even when I’m in my disguise to avoid public notice. I cram studies for school exams. I just do them the day before suddenly. I’d like to take an action right at the moment I decide “I’ll do it” …So everything lasts short."
Q: You have a great concentration.
Su: "I don’t know if that’s a concentration. (laugh)"
Q: Let’s say, you have a month for summer vacation homework. Some would spend the month studying steadily, some would finish it first and some would leave it until the last minute. Does Su-metal leave it until the last minute?
Su: "Lately, I don’t understand the meaning to do homework at the last minute. (laugh)"
Q: You don’t understand the meaning of homework? Lol. Why?
Su: "I would do if the teacher scolds. If I was told “Submit this until tomorrow!”, I would do it in a day and send it. But I don’t mind much if it’s unnecessary. I’ve been like that (laugh)."
Q: Is that the same for recordings of Babymetal?
Su: "Let me see? Actually it might always be the last moment."
Q: So is it like, you memorize lyrics and take them into your world at the last moment?
Su: "In a case I start listening to it when I get it, and keep on listening at the pace it doesn’t disappear from my head. In another case I memorize and try it in a flush and think about the song during the recording. Megitsune took time especially… about a half year. It’s quite different depending on the song."
Q: You spent a half year to take Megitsune into yourself?
Su: "That’s right."
Q: How about “IDZ”?
Su: "Oh, IDZ might have taken even more, including understanding the meaning of the lyrics deeply."
Q: So it takes time like that for you to take in lyrics and the whole image of a song.
Su: "Right. I don’t look up a dictionary to understand the meaning… I try to grasp everything by my sense."
Q: Sounds like Su-metal is living by your feelings…
Su: "Fufufufu… I handle everything by my sense (laugh)."
Q: What people want to know about Su-metal as a vocalist would be like “What kind of training does she do?”, or “Is there any special exercise for singing at home?” Many would be very interested in the back side of your singing they watch and listen to. Do you have any special training?
Su: "Nothing special…really nothing. I do muscle training and stretching …I think I don’t have anything special for singing. Of course I do ordinary voice exercise, though not everyday… oh, I like to go to karaoke by myself."
Q: You like to go by yourself, not with your friends?
Su: "I love karaoke by myself!"
Q: Is that because you can get into your own world with it, not having fun with your friends?
Su: "That would be right…. and I feel sorry if I sing songs others don’t know. So I sing those songs alone. And it’s O.K. to sing poorly with nobody been there… and I can get into my own world, I get into the roll singing a song, not only Babymetal songs."
Q: So it helps refreshing yourself.
Q: Do you sing Babymetal songs at karaoke?
Su: "No (laugh). It makes me feel kinda strange. There’s something unsettling. If I sing a Babymetal song there, it would feel different from what I usually do."
Q: To my impression, you have a great aura in the costumes. Does it affect your feelings to wear Babymetal costumes?
Su: "I’ don’t realize the instant I turn myself on. Some says “You’re different when you put on makeup”. In fact, you didn’t recognize me."
(Two editors of Hedoban happened to meet her disguise to avoid public notice before the interview, but didn’t recognize her at all)
Q: Actually we thought “Why is this unknown girl greeting us?” You didn’t have the aura. lol
Su: "Seems I change totally."
Q: Do you feel many artists you saw on lives and festivals have inspired and affected you? Or, like “I’d like to become like this.”
Su: "Absolutely. I feel a lot."
Q: Would you name someone you thought “awesome”? Aside from, like Metallica (laugh).
Su: "(laugh) I think Superfly is awesome. I went to her concert at SSA. She was alone on the stage but didn’t look like that. The lightning might affect that somehow, but she looked huge. In spite of a distance from the stage, I felt like she was swallowing that, just like conquering the venue… so I thought “awesome!” Originally her vocal is very powerful, and the transformation…I thought it was awesome how she changed her images depending on the songs."
Q: Are you attracted by a powerful voice like her?
Su: "Very attracted."
Q: How was the performance with JAM project (Download the performace HERE)
Su: "I learned a lot from them. All of them taught me very nicely. I felt they adjusted me and I think they are great and really professional."
Q: Didn’t you feel any pressure about singing non-Babymetal songs as Su-metal?
Su: "At first I was nervous knowing to play with JAM project. But it actually turned out fun to sing."
Q: So, fun comes to you first on stage rather than nervousness.
Su: "I think so."
Q: Where does Su-metal’s bravery come from?
Q: You weren’t nervous at Makuhari, were you?
Su: "Well, a little at the side of the stage…but after I showed up…"
Q: You had so much fun and when you came to yourself, you were crucified to the cross. (laugh)
Su: "That’s exactly what happened. lol"
Q: I’d also like to ask about dancing which Mikiko-metal referred to “exceeding the limit” and “exotic” in the interview. Do you like dance?
Su: "It’s fun!"
Q: Are both singing and dancing indispensable for Su-metal?
Su: "I think so. It might be impossible to focus on one."
Q: As you said, you raise your feelings and take songs into yourself. How do you take in dances?
Su: "I feel dancing and expressions are connected. So… not thinking in my head, I take them into my body one after another. DokiDoki Morning is exactly one of those dances. But “IDZ”, ”Headbanger” and “Megitsune” don’t have much dances. So I do it by my feelings on those cases."
Q: Still, it must be really hard to dance violently while singing enthusiastically.
Su: "It’s rather fun! I feel like just playing around in “Catch me~”. Conversely I have a kind of heavy feeling without dancing."
Q: Heavy feeling?
Su: "Hmm… like a heavy feeling…kinda difficult… it’s an image…I guess it would be hard to understand though… I have an image of “very low” on “IDZ” or “Headbanger”. Also, the image that my body is low."
Q: You mean, your balance gets lower?
Su: Balance too. I feel very low overall. The other songs are like moving around or playing around freely.
Q: So you feel more enjoyable when you move right and left like in “Catch me~”.
Su: "That’s true! And I feel closer to Yuimetal and Moametal on those songs. In songs I sing mainly, I feel more like that the two are at the front, with me supporting from behind."
Q: Do you feel more enjoyable when you dance together as three?
Su: "It’s fun."
Q: When we asked the favorite song in the album, Su-metal picked “IDZ”. Conversely, which song was the hardest for you to take into? You said “Megitsune” took a half year.
Su: "That’s right. But the hardest one might have been “DokiDoki~”. I couldn’t say phrases at all in the beginning. You know there’s a lyric “shu-gou shu-gou houkago shu-gou”. It was “shu-ryou shu-ryou” at the beginning. I wasn’t able to say that well and when I slipped “shu-ryou shu-gou”, the lyric was changed, like “shu-gou would sound all right.” My tongue didn’t work at all. It was hard in that meaning as well. Maybe it’s the hardest song to perform even today. But it became fun and easier since I changed my thought to “playing”. It was a pretty hard song for me anyway in the early times."
Q: As we are interested in the back side effort of your vocal, many Babymetal fan would wonder “Su-metal of Babymetal has such a wonderful vocal and courage on stage, but what kind of life her disguise to avoid public notice has?” Ordinary Su-metal… for example, everyone would guess you must be very good at sports seeing your dancing. Is your disguise to avoid public notice good at phys ed?
Su: "I’m awful (laugh)."
Su: "lol A teacher said to me “You would be a good athlete, you can dance” too. But it seems irrelevant. I can’t run fast, I can’t jump rope".
Su: "I can’t make double unders. (laugh) So I’m bad at phys ed. (flatly)"
Q: So what’s your favorite subject?
Su: "Japanese and Japanese history. I never get tired of them. My hobbies haven’t changed either. Now I like a game called Nanpure (Sudoku), listening to music and reading. Those three, and repeat them endlessly. I really get into Sudoku, then read a book, then listen to music. Just repeat them."
Q: It makes me think… you can do those three by yourself. (laugh)
Su: "That’s true!"
Q: Do you feel relaxed being in your own world?
Su: "Originally, I’m the last daughter. My sisters started studying and others at the elementary school and I lost someone to play with. So I was playing with dolls. That would have affected me, I guess. I immerse myself in what I’m interested in. My favorite subjects haven’t changed for a long time. I’m able to get pretty good scores only on them."
Q: You don’t have a hatred for Japanese because you like reading.
Su: "Exactly. I get into what I like without stopping, but dump it when I lose the interest without stopping (laugh)."
Q: Easy to understand (laugh). I expected that! Su-metal doesn’t let me down.
Q: Let me get back to Babymetal. For example, there would be a moment in a band that you want to be left alone to concentrate for a time. Do you need a time to focus on yourself in Babymetal, like in a dressing room?
Su: "Not so much in a dressing room, I get tense when I come to backstage right before the shows. Basically everything occurs shortly to me. I concentrate in seconds, and think a lot in the tense seconds, I guess… Then we form a huddle. I feel settled down to see their faces."
Q: You mean your staff?
Su: "The members. I get tense for one moment, see their faces, then step on stage usually."
Q: You feel relaxed to see the faces of the two.
Su: "Yes, I feel so."
Q: Is Su-metal the least one to get nervous? All of you look pretty courageous.
Su: "Is that so? (laugh) Oh, Moametal gets nervous the most. She may say “I’m nervous, I’m nervous” every time. But she might just want to say that (laugh)."
Q: How about Yuimetal?
Su: "Let me see? The two often become like “What should we do! What should we do! ” But she’s rather calm. Yuimetal might be settled down the most."
Q: Speaking of the two, you three have been together for nearly three years…we’d like to ask about Su-metal’s impression on Yuimetal and Moametal.Let’s start with Moametal. What do you think of Moametal, including her character and personality?
Su: "First off, she meddles in a lot. (Laugh) I mean in a good sense. I’m rather shy and become alone unconsciously. She plays a roll to bring me back to the reality on those cases."
Q: She may care for you.
Su: "Indeed, so she meddles… but sometimes I can’t see whether she cares for me or just teases me. lol But she notices pretty sensitively when I’m depressed. Also, she talks to our staff a lot. So I appreciate Moametal for the close relationship with our staff greatly."
Q: As you said you immerse yourself, Su-metal seems to tend to be on your own.
Su: "Seems I get into it, and I may often be just vacant? (laugh)."
Q: You don’t think anything in those times?
Su: "Let’s see, like looking up the sky, and “awesome”."
Su: "Sometimes I ponder on something around here (pointing her head)."
Q: I see (laugh). How about Yuimetal?
Su: "Yuimetal… she takes a time to understand what I and Moametal talk about. She’s like “Hum?” (Laugh). And the conversation used to end without making sense, since we
didn’t have enough time until lately. But she’s become to express her opinion… understand what we talk and join it. It used to be more like I decided on everything, and their opinion
rarely came out… It’s helpless considering their age. Like “Um? yes…” They often didn’t catch what I said well. But it has become more even and we have more communication now. And… Yuimetal
is airhead* anyway (Laughs)"
Su: "So I wonder she might not think anything lol. But she becomes serious all of a sudden. It’s a mystery. Moametal has that too. They get serious so abruptly that I can’t grasp the moment they change. It doesn’t necessarily happen when we are about to perform. She sometimes gets serious abruptly, and starts singing Amachan right after that lol. She sang it until right before stepping on the stage, so I said “It’s about time to change that.” (Laugh) I can’t find their triggers yet."
Q: So Moametal is a mood maker and Yui-metal is kinda random…. You three are all different though. (laugh)
Su: "We are different."
Q: Do you feel their growth, seeing them since you met them for the first time?
Su: "Certainly. We‘ve become to talk more evenly and, how should I say…. They’ve become to like act together. When we went to a festival, they acted together firmly so that they don’t get lost. On top of that, they’ve become to encourage me. Until lately, I gave them encouragements and they accepted it. But they say “Su-metal has a hard job!” now. They’ve changed in many ways."
Q: Su-metal has had lives overseas and would go to many countries hereafter. However, Su-metal went abroad for the first time through Babymetal, right?
Q: What kind of image did you have on performing overseas before?
Su: "It was far away… I had never thought I could really get there. I couldn’t understand well even after I was said that. I was surprised when we actually went abroad and weren’t able to understand language, like “Oh, I’m not in Japan, it’s different.”"
Q: Your singing reaches non-Japanese people. Did it change your feelings somehow to go abroad, for example, do you become to want to perform overseas more?
Su: "I feel so, and lyrics are important of course, but regardless of language, other stuff… I learned it’s possible to move someone by other elements like melodies. I used to take music only as lyrics and others before, like making songs with lyrics and melodies. My perception of it changed."
Q: Melody plus something. What would it be, if not lyrics?
Su: "Let me see. Melody and…the atmosphere of the music. I guess something like that."
Q: Are you interested in English songs?
Su: "I’m practicing it lately."
Q: English songs?
Su: "Yes! I’m not good at all though…"
Q: At karaoke by yourself? (laugh)
Q: What kind of music do you sing?
Su: "I listen to Gabrielle Aplin, a British singer these days."
Q: Do you sing it through in English?
Su: "Yes. I sing it vaguely while listening to it with lyrics on my hand, to adjust my tongue to it. I’m not good at English at all and I don’t understand the meanings, but trying to sing somehow."
Q: By your feelings?
Su: "Right. My parents told me not to write the Japanese syllabaries (kana) on English. Though it might be a wrong way… I don’t like to write them."
Q: Are you ready for an English song of Babymetal? (laugh)
Su: "(laugh) I haven’t reached the level to perform it in front of people yet… I need to sing more. I’ll practice hard if it comes true."
Q: We’ve talked about the world, next your hometown, Hiroshima. You said you wanted to hold a triumphal concert in Hiroshima in our last interview. Do you miss Hiroshima?
Su: "It’s been two years since I moved to Tokyo. I haven’t gone home properly except for a brief photo shooting. So…I changed my mind that I go back when I become confident. I have a feeling for going home very much, but I decided to do so when my target “to get back with confidence” is achieved. I’d like to go home with confidence, not in a noncommittal way."
Q: That means a triumphal concert.
Su: "That would be right (laugh)."
Q: Songs and singing must occupy a great part of both Su-metal and your disguise to avoid public notice.
Q: What does singing mean to 16 year-old Su-metal? I’m just curious if it’s possible for you to declare “Singing is my life” at 16.
Su: "If someone took singing away from me, nothing would remain. So I can declare that. I wonder what if singing disappeared in me. Of course, as I’m in a position to sing songs now, I wonder like that in that meaning, though…Singing has been a healer for my soul since I was little and I love it. I was taking various lessons when I was a child. I took some of them on my own will, but none of them lasted long, probably a year or so. The short one would be three months. The only thing I could keep up was singing. In addition, I really hated dancing then."
Q: What? Really?
Su: "Yes. I was trying my best at dancing I didn’t like, just for the passion for singing."
Q: You were thinking “Do anything for singing” at that time.
Su: "There was a time I thought that way. Singing is the only thing I was able to continue who wasn’t able to continue anything. That’s why singing moves me and I’m
grateful to it. In that meaning, I sometimes think singing is my calling."
Q: The first Babymetal album will be released finally. Do Babymetal and Su-metal become as important as singing for you?
Su: "Very very important. I could find the music I didn’t know at all since I began Babymetal activities. I’ve learned a lot of things through singing them. All I knew was idol songs and ballades before. The world… I could go abroad thanks to Babymetal of course, and in a larger sense, I could feel “There’s something like this!” and “This is huge! Limitless!”, just thanks to Babymetal and another me, Su-metal. Lately, despite I’m supposed to be Su-metal and my disguise to avoid public notice, I feel like the two people actually exist, not like the two personalities are in my mind. I wonder myself, “Are those really done by the same person? What is it?”"
Q: That’s a quite delicate nuance. (laugh)
Su: "Exactly. (laugh) But I often feel so lately. So I can dare to perform with my full strength because of Su-metal’s existence, I become to act all out because…"
Q: Because that’s Su-metal.
Su: "Yes. I think it owes Su-metal."
Q: The last question. As you’ve been working in Babymetal for three years….what do you think of metal?
Su: "I don’t have a scary image on metal anymore of course, and… there is a variety of music in metal when you lamp it together with the word…."
Q: Wow! It’s awesome to hear that opinion!
Su: "There are many genres and I think Babymetal is one of them. And lyrics vary especially in metal. Even songs with scarce lyrics. Jackets of metal too. There are so many types of songs and I think those are meant to be felt by atmosphere and sense. I felt so when we had a talk with Trivium-san too. In addition, I think the impression of metal songs varies depending on people. That’s also attraction of metal, I guess."
Q: Su-metal seems to digest metal gradually.
Su: "I’m taking in metal in my own way."
Q: Metalheads should be happy to hear that.
Su: "I’m glad if so!"