A very extensive talk with BABYMETAL's main producer Kobametal about the first BABYMETAL World Tour, which took place during June and July of 2014 and had the closing shows in Japan in September at Makuhari Messe. Kobametal share his thoughts about the experience of playing in Europe and United States for first time, the problems at Sonisphere Festival, what they have learned from that, they first show of 2015 at Saitama Super Arena and what BABYMETAL have in Store for the future. A very interesting talk with BABYMETAL's master mind translated below.
Kobametal: the World Tour 2014, artRave Tour, Sonisphere and Saitama Super Arena
Q: You said, "If we have a chance," about Babymetal going worldwide when I interviewed you last summer. What chance lead Babymetal to World Tour last year?
Kobametal: "I had thought a live at Budokan and an album release as a milestone, I decided to get Babymetal go abroad when we completed both of them on March last year. In a process of hearing from people, at first producers of Japanese culture conferences showed their interests. But foreign media rushed on to Babymetal after the Budokan and an album release on February to March last year, we got lots of offers from music labels, agents and festivals."
Q : You mean you got more offers than booked actually?
Kobametal: "Yes. About Germany, France and the UK, we first got inquieries from promotors mainly dealing with JPop and Visual-kei. We couldn't know how it really went at the time unless we were there. So we decided to do our first trial with a small venue with 500 audience who are familiar with Japanese culture, then upgrade future lives with larger venues if we got a success."
Q : Interesting.
Kobametal: "There were other festivals that we didn't perform but Sonisphere Festival UK."
Q : What's the reason of having Seitansai in Europe?
Kobametal: "Well, we already had some at NHK Hall in Japan, Su-metal Seitansai at Akasaka Blitz and Makuhari Messe. So I wanted to show something new next and it would have simply seemed interesting if we did it somewhere but Japan. I asked our member where they wanted to go next, then Hawaii and other places were their answers (laugh)."
Q : You did some "research" with members in a process of making a future plan (laugh). How did you do your research about musical scenes and popularity with Babymetal in each
Kobametal: "We had been studying access volume on Facebook and YouTube about our popularity by countries. And I roughly know preferences and differences by countries in my mind because I love to go festivals in countries."
Q : Did you decide places to perform by metal point of view for the first time? Or by Japan culture one?
Kobametal: "Both views at the time. There is a strategy that using Japan culture as an opener to reach to a main stream, at first I vaguely thought a kind of convention like Japan Expo in France where Japan culture is well accepted would have been our first step. But Babymetal did no collaboration with any Anime, and I don't think that it belongs to Idol scene, so my heart was neutral between both. Personally I thought metal was the better answer if we would make it worldwide. Many metal festivals take place all over the world every year, some of them are so large like Wacken that held over 70,000 people and tickets are sold out. So a world tour a year long can be made if we could attend regularly these festivals. In this point it has more potential than Japan culture scene. but at the same time it's more difficult to enter so I thought Japan culture scene might have been our first choice. But after release of the first album apploaches from metal sceme outnumbered those from Japan culture one and it's interesting to me."
Q : Last time you told it's westcoast US that the largest access came from (excluding Japan). So it's surprising to me that Babymetal choose Europe than the US.
Kobametal: "Nothing to say the US has loud (music) scene too. At the same time, using a rhetoric, road of US music scenes is so wide. it has many lanes in parallel. metal is one of those and there are another lanes of hiphop, R&B, EDM and other major scenes that people can drive. So it must take a lot of time to get some populariy there. So I thought it's better for us to take our first step from Europe mainly the UK where we got the second largest access, then reach out to the US via Europe."
Q : From the place where core fans exists?
Kobametal: "One thing I learned from talking with label people and agents overseas, markets and promotion methods are quite different between the US and Europe. Personalities of musicians are more focused than music itself, via TV programs and YouTube in the US. But many enjoy music itself in European countries. I had had the same perception. So I knew I wasn't wrong."
Q: Next, please tell us about world tour last year. From a live in France. I suppose you got less anxiety about that because people have already accepted Japan culture in France, right?
Kobametal: "Yeah. I felt we went back to our old days. Audience were mix of Idol fans and music fans and that was the same with our old days in Japan. Chemical lights were shining on the venue."
Q: You guys had some difficulties about communications with local staff there?
Kobametal: "We had countless, but we couldn't run away but made our way. In a typical routine of performing a live, we go to a venue in a morning of the day, set up equipment, begin rehearsal after the noon then soundcheck before the performance. And we always run short of time because Babymetal has a lot to make sure about interpretation like a musical, like "Su-metal is going to appear to the stage from here in this song!" We also need to make sure a point of time to fall down a curtain and other special effects in a day with people who speak different languages. So these were very hard to complete."
Q: How about Germany, the next country?
Kobametal: "Tickets were not sold out till the last day so we weren't sure whether we got audience or not. But, it would be cultural difference, they bought theirs on the day and finally we got about 1,500 people there. they would be the people who come to a live house after their work saying "Why not have fun with a drink?" My impression was that they have a custom of going to lives in a daily life."
Q: Then the UK. Sonisphere was one of the most impressive experiences in your life, Kobametal-San?
Kobametal: "It's so tough in many ways. Processes in a festival are quite different from Japan. There is usally no time for soundchecking. They just say "Do it," once settings are done. And they are very strict about time. We would get a penalty or they shut power down when we misses the time. So we were careful about it."
Q: I was there. Were you guys did soundckeck a lot, right?
Kobametal: "We did it with having a lot of warnings. We had no idea what to do at first so Kami Band member did it by themselves but it was not allowed. Time counting started from the second when performers were on the stage so they told we already consumed ten minutes. Our set list had some margin so we managed to finish our soundcheck. Backyard was in emergency really."
Q: You got trained through these situations.
Kobametal: "A lot. As an example start positions of Yuimetal and Moametal at the intro of Ijime, Dame, Zettai can't be determined until checking in a rehearsal. But we couldn't do the check so it was one-shot. Only we could do was we got pictures of the stage before, told the two their positions in these pics, then they positioned by themselves on the stage in their performance. We really learned a lot. We also had to check in-ear monitors in a short period of time."
Q: On the stage Moametal got no sound from her in-ear monitors, right?
Kobametal: "Monitors of someone might have gotten no signal, I think it became all right in a middle of it. The same would have happened to Kami Band member, they said "performed by instinct.""
Q: Professional they are.
Q: London live was right after you guys rocked Sonisphere audience.
Kobametal: "I wondered whether our choice was right or not because it's our first appearance in London and a venue was upgraded. I wasn't sure at all till the last minute whether we could get an audience on Monday."
Q: But the venue got hyped a lot.
Kobametal: "Yes it's so impressing. I felt contained atmosphere of "We waited so long!""
Q: In the US solo lives were held in LA and NY.
Kobametal: "I had heard Japanese artists got many asian audience in the US, so I was surprised we got so many white people there. And there were many people taking pictures and videos. They kept their eyes on their screens in the very front of members (laugh). Especially in LA."
Q: Babymetal did some support acts of Lady Gaga there.
Kobametal: "We had very good experiences including the way of managing a stage."
Q: Doing those in some middle-sized cities was a new experience to you, right?
Kobametal: "I learned the capacity of US market by the fact that a big artist like Lady Gaga went to these cities frequently."
Q: I once lived near the third largest city of Tennessee state, they had a big arena could afford 20,000 audience and bands like Aerosmith made it full.
Kobametal: "In Japan there are many old men and women who gather with events saying "Let's go to see the one we know coming to our town," right? I felt the same in the US too. Big names like her have many hit songs so lives get hyped even with these type of audiences. It would be the same with middle-sized cities in Japan."
Q: After these experiences in foreign countries, Babymetal had a live at Saitama Super Arena this January and members grew a lot we could see that.
Kobametal: "Oh, really? Well... How?"
Q: Even presence was quite different. But for Kobametal-San it is just like "Oh, really?" (laugh).
Kobametal: "It might be because I can't see them independently. I have been evolving with them, climbing the same mountain to the top then we saw the higher one to go, that's the way we went. So impressions from independent point of view make me say "Oh, really?""
Q: More English words in C&R and messages at the end of performances.
Kobametal: "These minor arrangements might be added little by little."
Q: Kobametal-San didn't take control to these little things?
Kobametal: "Well, somewhat. As an example, venue size is quite different from a live house and Saitama Super Arena, right? People at the far end of SSA would watch the stage from the same distance of top of five-stories building. I lead the member to top of the stand and said that a person here can barely see you, so we have to remember to deliver our performance to the people here," or, "We need to lead all the people in the venue to make them as one," then after that I think they decided what to do by themselves."
Q: This year world tour begins from Mexico. What to expect?
Kobametal: "I think the road ahead of us would be very rough and tough. We tried last year and had many tough things, we don't know what's coming next this year, an important thing would be whether we can have fun, whether we can manage to find the way to go, in tough situations or not. I hope we grow up one more when we finally come back."
Q: Rough and tough, hmm. But you got a huge success last year, right?
Kobametal: "Is it really that? Measure of success would be different by people. We did good in some part, we didn't in other part, everytime we got many things to be improved next. Everyday was a new challenge but it was good that we had no serious accident and came back home safe. What can we improve next? We have to keep moving on to the next. We will get various reactions from audiences in various countries including those where we come yet. I don't think everything we do would be accepted and we will have tough situations. But we can grow more so I'm looking forward to experiencing these more and more."
Q: More and more offers will come from foreign countries, so you have to be going to select these offers strategically from now on.
Kobametal: "The world is vast, and it's tough to go around the world in five or ten years. So it's one possibility that we make our base somewhere. Sure Japan is one of candidates and the US and UK are another."
Q: Now, the UK is a de facto second base.
Kobametal: "Places where musical scent flows are the UK, Germany and north Europe countries. Considering communication power, the UK would be the place? Because information flows from UK to the US. So I think the UK is a country that has possibility a lot."
Q: Is media power in the UK different from others?
Kobametal: "There would be many dedicated people there. Music is tied with their everyday lives? Comparing to the UK I don't think France is a country of music. French rock band I know is just Phoenix, another are house, techno and traditional chanson. France is a country of food and fashion to me."
Q: How about percentage of activities in Japan and foreign countries in future?
Kobametal: "In the US there are Rock market, show biz one and others. And Japan is rather difficult because characteristics of its scenes are unique. Babymetal puts its one leg into her band scene, and the other leg into Geinoh scene (here nearly equal to Idol scene). So how we can set the balance between them is a problem. But Babymetal can rather decide this balance because of its distinct nature."
Q: So the balance is determined yet, rather it will be determined every times by instinct of Kobametal-San?
Kobametal: "It would be. Sure I have my standard, but decisions will be flexible (laugh). Overseas is overseas but I hope we can go every cities on the glove like a domestic tour in middle-sized cities, like we go to three cities and it's Tokyo, London and Paris."
Translaton by: Dokoiko.