The Explorers Marking Their First Step Into The Unknown World
Perfume has released an original album "Cosmic Explorer" for the first time in 2 and half years. Just as the title (meaning an explorer of the universe) indicates, this album makes you feel as if you’re watching a Sci-Fi movie. From the sound evoking magnificent universe, it can be interpreted that this album features Perfume after setting off for the future in their latest single "STAR TRAIN" in which they headed for "the distant universe" In this feature, we held an long interview to the 3 girls about the tracks recorded in the album including "FLASH", the theme song of the movie "Chihayafuru" and to look back the past 2 and half years. Moreover, we asked the girls to talk about how they feel about their 2nd American tour that takes place as a part of the album release tour.
Everything we did was so great and we couldn't realize it until we achieved them.
- I personally feel as if "LEVEL 3" was released just a while ago. Do you feel the last 2 and half years were long?
K: Well, I also feel as if time flies. Maybe it's because we experienced so many stuffs we'd never done before. We enjoyed the exciting and fulfilling days, I guess. We also had so many opportunities realized by other people's offer, like "Perfume, would you be interested in a project like this?" as well as what we did on our initiatives, like "We'd love to do something like this!"
The last 2 and half years were full of chances.
A: We had so many things we realized "Ah, now I see!" after finishing them. For example, at "SXSW 2015", we didn't know we were performing at the biggest stage during the show. And that performance actually won the grand-prix of "2015 55th ACC CM FESTIVAL". As so many extraordinary things kept on happening, we couldn't catch up and once we understood, another project had already started... So sometimes, we've got interviewed about the stuffs we didn't really understand, LOL!
N: Like when we realized the situation, we had already been surrounded by cameras and asked to hold a trophy and smile. LOL!
K: Some projects were so huge that we couldn't grasp the full pictures of them and we were confused but went like "Let's just do it!!!!" and rushing forward. Then afterward, we finally understood what we did when we checked our videos, like "Ah, we really did this!” On stages, we were sooo nervous and all we had in our minds were "We'll do our best to finish what we're asked to do successfully!"
A: Collaboration between OK Go had started because we told them "We'd like to make a song with you!" when they came to see our concert in LA. And they actually came up with tracks. When they visited Japan after that, they brought us several songs and told us "Why don't we choose one of these tracks as our collaboration song?” When we listened to them I was like "OMG! I love them all!!" So we chose one track to sing together. And you know what? A song we didn't choose actually became a new song of OK Go. I was like "OMG! That means if we had chosen this track, it would have became a track for "SUSHI POLICE?"
N: What? You mean that song with the MV shot in an air plane?
A: OK Go really was my idol. I was influenced by their MVs so much. It was really unbelievable that we could actually collaborate with such people. However, I realized what an extraordinary thing I just achieved for the first time when the everything was done and I got settled down. LOL! And appearing on the iPhone 6s commercial was a pretty unbelievable when we look back, don't you think?
N: Many people seemed to watch the live-broadcasting of Apple's presentation. Even Nakata-san told us "I was so surprised to see Perfume in that commercial". LOL! Shooting iPhone Ad had to be kept secret very strictly. We couldn't even tell that to our close people like families. So, being able to surprise those who usually works with us was a pretty fresh experience.
A: Going abroad without saying anything was pretty tough stuff to do, wasn't it?
K: It was. We were prohibited to tell any information about that, not only what the commercial would be like but also where we were shooting.
A: The shooting took place on a tall building, but when I was asked "What are you doing now?" all I could answer was "I'm at a high place..." LOL!
Nakata-san in the daytime looked like CG
- When we had an interview when you released "LEVEL 3", you told us that you made a request to Nakata-san saying "We'd like this album to be live-conscious for the upcoming dome tour". So for this album, did you make any requests to him?
K: Well, we didn't have any special order for him. Last time, we held a dinner meeting with him to tell him directly about what we had been thinking. But not for this time.
N: But Nakata-san actually came to Amuse Inc. office for a meeting. We discussed things like "How many new tracks shall we record?" "How many tracks shall be recorded in the album?" and so on.
A: That's very rare thing for him to do. I've never seen him in our office before. It was kind of strange to have him there, I couldn't stop grinning.
N: Like "I've heard he's coming, but he's actually here!" LOL!
K: We usually meet him at the recording studio or dinner meetings, so we only knew him in the night-time. Therefore, it was too novel to see him in the daytime at our office.
A: I thought he looked like CG, LOL!
K: And that meeting had finished in 15 minutes, we were like "Huh? Nakata-san, are you leaving already?"
A: It was like "I came here but we've got no issues to discuss really" kind of stuff, right?
N: Yeah. We just checked a few things and it was done.
A: I guess he had a solid vision in his mind since before the meeting. So, we've got nothing to say but "We're big fans of yours so we're looking forward to it! Thanks!". Then we chatted for a bit and that was it.
- Then at that point, you had no idea how this album would be like. How did you feel when you listened to the complete album?
A: I was very surprised to hear the existing tracks changing into totally new songs. For example, "Cling Cling" has completely different impression. Like "Where the hell that oriental world view have gone?"
- Personally, I like album versions better.
N: Really? Yeah!
K: I feel so relieved to hear that!
A: At first we were a bit worried. Like "What should we do in the concerts? Would the choreographs change?" and things like that. But as we listened to it again and again, we've got into them so much, and now we're in love with them! So, it's our pleasure if the fans wouldn't quit listening after the first time. We'd like everyone to listen to them again and again.
"Cosmic" is a word that makes us nervous a bit.
- Why did you choose "COSMIC EXPLORER" for the title?
A: "Cosmic Explorer" was the song we recorded last. When we recorded it, it simply became to be a title for the album. When we asked Nakata-san after recording this track "What would the title of this album be like?", then he answered "Just "COSMIC EXPLORER" would be fine"
N: When we heard that we immediately went like "YEAH! That's it!!" And it was done, LOL!
A: People might think "Cosmic" is the word Perfume would fit in. However, we had never used that word in our songs before. Just like we've never done "Robot Dance" even though people often say "Perfume...? Ah, the girls doing robot dance, right?"
So, we personally feel that "Cosmic" is a word that makes us a bit nervous to pronounce. Or a word we've highly valued.
- Ah, I see.
A: When we recorded this song, we all thought "We can sing this song now because Perfume has grown up enough to sing" for some reason. So when Nakata-san said "We should choose this as a title song of the album, don't you think?" We immediately responded "YES!!!!" LOL! Though our staffs were like "You sure? You're really going to set this as a title?"
N: Because it was decided sooooooooo smoothly.
A: While Nakata-san was talking to our staffs to persuade, like "Well you know? All the titles we had were short ones, so I think we'd better to have a longer one for this time", we were shouting like "That's a nice one! We love it!" LOL!
K: We all went like "This is the best! We can't think of another title better than this! It's done!" LOL!
N: That was some enigmatic time. It was such a fun! LOL! So, as the title was set to be that way, we dared to decide the design of the album to be an "Absolutely non-cosmic" way.
A: When the title was decided, we said "We should ask someone who had never worked with us before for the design of the album cover" So, we asked Yuni Yoshida to come up with an idea "Perfume imagined by Yuni-san" In this CD cover, our body served as a part of the design. As Nakata-san also utilizes our vocals as one of the instrument, I really felt that the both of them have a same kind of approach so much and that made me happy, like "Even a person who had never worked with us before comes up with the same kind of idea!", I really felt the history of Perfume we've been through.
So many sounds were deducted when it was completed.
- Just like the word "Cosmic" you just mentioned, the sounds and lyrics of "COSMIC EXPLORER" have the magnificence reminiscent of Science fiction movies. I thought it's a track that is "Really Perfume-ish, but non Perfume-ish at the same time"
N: This is extraordinary. I'd like someone to make up a story from this song.
K: It really has "Something is over and we're heading for the next" kind of feeling, LOL! While you're listening, you can imagine a view like that. What all of us imagined was like "Well, you can see the flame of a fire" LOL!
N: Like "Something like clothes are blown' in the wind"
K: Yeah, "Wind is blowing, Sandstorm are thrown up..."
A: I really love "Cosmic Explorer" The hooks are hummed, so our global audiences would be able to sing along in the concerts.
- When I heard the album title would be "COSMIC EXPLORER", what I imagined was "Ah, Perfume flew off to space riding on "STAR TRAIN" is now exploring the universe! That's the concept of this album, I guess"
N: There're a lot of lyrics about stars. Like "A dream of many generations distant from the stars"
A: In Cling Cling, We've got a lyric "If I’d been born on that distant planet I saw in my telescope. Surely right around now, I’d search for you just the same"
- "STORY" also says "Look up at the starry sky and spread out your hands"
K: "TOKIMEKI LIGHTS", too. It says "Beyond the galaxy, up a river of stardust, like the light, I want to travel excitedly" When the hell did he decide the album title to be "COSMIC EXPLORER"? Only Nakata-san know the truth, LOL!
- Is there any new recorded song that left you a strong impression?
N: When I listened to "Baby Face" for the first time, I thought "Wow, it's new Perfume"
K: That song gets quiet suddenly at the first hook. So, we've got an issue like "How we're gonna sing it in the concert!?" LOL!
N: When we recorded it, it was actually far more rhythmic.
A: It was completely different.
N: Yeah. At first, it sounded like "Happy, happy! Going for a picnic!" kind of atmosphere. But when it was completed, sounds were removed so much.
K: It seems he considered about the balance between other songs.
A: And what I was impressed about "NEXT Stage with YOU" was the sound of a guitar at the opening.
K: Yeah, that was fresh.
N: It was like "On guitar! Yasutaka Nakata!!!!!" LOL!! There actually was a white electric guitar on his left when we recorded this song.
K: Yeah, there was. Looking at it made me think "Ah, Nakata-san played this guitar for this song" LOL!
We've got a lot of points to feel empathy with "Chihayafuru"
N: And "FLASH", I just love it.
K: The album remix is a totally different arrange from the one in the movie. The movie version of "FLASH" is recorded in the perk CD of the limited edition.
- You’ve never released the original version of "FLASH" before as a CD. However, somehow another version is recorded in the album and the original version is recorded in the perk CD. It's quite strange, don't you think? I can understand if it's vice versa.
K: Oh, yeah!? LOL! We had to go through several changes. Nakata-san's passion for "Making better tracks" led us in this way.
N: That's right.
K: After the movie version of "FLASH" was completed, he asked us "Can I change this track a bit for the album?" so we said "If it's a little bit, yes please" We thought he would arrange a bit to pull the whole album look together. But when we listened to the completed version, it sounded too different. LOL!
- The lyrics of "FLASH" is pretty close to the world view of "Chihayafuru" I thought Nakata-san also must be a big fan of the comic.
K: He told us he wrote the song watching the movie with no music. I felt so delightful that he got the charm of "Chihayafuru" so well even though he had never read the comics before.
N: Wow, really? I thought he read the comics when he wrote the song! That's amazing!
K: If he hadn't read the comics when he had been offered to write the song for the movie and had read through the original comics of more than 30-volumes, he's a super-human! I don't know if he actually had read them or not, though. LOL!
- You were big fans of the original comics, right? You must have been deeply moved to sing a theme song of such movie?
K: Well, yeah. However, though we were extremely happy that we had an offer like that, we also were pretty much worried if "Would our song really fit in the world view of the comic?" But when Mr. Koizumi (director of the movie) told us "From where we stand now, "Hyakunin-Isshu" would look like an old-school. But composing a poem must have been cutting-edge back then. So, if you make a film about that today, the newest song would fit in", we were so relieved to hear that. We were kind of convinced.
A: You won't think Japanese taste of atmosphere and electronic dance music would go together well, right? So at first, we couldn't imagine Perfume singing for the movie.
N: As the theme song of the anime version of "Chihayafuru" was Rock music with youthful, "We're gonna chase the dream" kind of atmosphere, I was wondering how our song would be like. Then its image was like "sharp eyes during the matches" and I was surprised "Wow! You brought this as a theme!?"
- You seemed to be worried about chemistry between your sound and movie. But when I watched the movie, I felt that your dance and karuta competition may have something in common. Like people tends to think both of them as a piece of cake, but both of arts actually require to sharpen very small details that inexperienced people can't even tell to perfection to compete, for example.
A,N,K: Ah, I see.
- I've been thinking that you must have a lot of scenes where felt empathized when you watched the movie.
K: I've never thought about the similarities between our dance and it was the first time to hear such kind of question. So I'm surprised to hear that. But when I think about the concerts, I can see those 2 things have a lot in common. Like the passion for the very moment, bringing our heart together toward it and things like that. That might be why I was so moved by this movie.
A: Karuta competition depicted in the movie basically is competed in individual matches. But every contestants love karuta and respect other competitors. That atmosphere is pretty identical with that of "Perfume Dance Contest" we've held 3 times by now, I felt.
K: I know how you feel!!!
A: Though the dancers participated in the contests were supposed to be rivals, they taught their dances each other and sent cheers each other from the stage wing during the contests. I saw the ones conveying message to a foreign dancer who don't speak Japanese with gesture, like "You'll be alright! Good Luck!" That was so touching.
K: In "Chihayafuru", everyone is the competitors who aims to be an A-class or a Queen. But during the matches, it occurs to them that they somehow start to say like "All the ones in here are the people who love karuta!" LOL! That atmosphere is similar to that of the Dance Contests.
A: So that's why we simply enjoy to watch the dance of someone who just love to dance.
N: Yeah, that's true. We often talk like "I'm sure she's in love with dancing!"
K: Yeah, such people’s dance naturally attract our eyes.
We were made to realize that we still were unskilled.
A: The shooting for this video was pretty tough. All we did to give variety to the video visually was to whether shoot in close-up or long shot, and whether turn down or up the light. For the rest, we had to rely on our dance. As it was so simple, cameras and lightings were so important. We couldn't figure out how the lighting should be placed. So we had to take all the setting away once and put them together again at 3 in the midnight before the shooting. So, when the shooting had started, we had already been 3 hours behind schedule.
N: We were waiting at a dressing room.
A: During the idle time, we started to get nervous "There's no way we can make mistake!". So we kept on practicing again and again. But the more we practice, the more weird habits we got in our dance. When we practice our dance too much, the choreography becomes our own dance so much that the movement of the 3 sometimes fail to synchronize.
- Really? That's interesting.
A: It's always better for us to have a bit of tense feeling as it provides sharpness to our dance. Therefore, time at the dressing room was pretty troubling. When the shooting had started, we still had to handle the tense feeling and take so many cuts. So, it was pretty tough.
K: When we had shot "Dance-focused videos" before, we had a several cuts where we only sang in close-up. But for this video, we had no close-up cuts of our faces and we just kept on dancing. The style of the dance was pretty different from our usual style. Like we had to hold on a count we usually don't and things like that. We had to use muscles we usually don't use all day long, it was a tough shooting.
- It sounds so tough.
K: When we practiced a scene where we fight with lighting sticks, we had a swordfight stunt teacher and he said "It would be too tough if you practice with your high heels. So, let's put on sneakers during the practice" However, even though I put on sneakers, I still got a leg cramp. It was the first time for me to get a leg cramp while putting on sneakers, so I was very surprised. LOL!
And when we shot the final cut where we stop and hold, it was already morning. And A-chan had got severe leg cramp and couldn't stop well.
N: It was more like training than dance.
A: There are great professionals for those martial arts kind of movements. So, if we try to learn it in a short period of time, there was no wonder we would end up like that. LOL! That made us realize that we still were unskilled. It was such a great experience.
Hoping to make a game and develop a business.
- The cover art of the internet-delivery version of "FLASH" is written by Yuki Suetsugu, original author of "Chihayafuru". Wasn't it such an honor that your favorite Manga artist actually drew a picture of you?
N: What a luxury experience! And you know what? In the MV of "FLASH" there actually is a scene in which I give a look exactly same as the picture.
- Wow, did she draw that picture in accord with the video, then?
N: Nope, not at all. That's why I'm surprised and overwhelmed.
K: In "Girls' Comics", girls are usually drawn cutely. So we were interested to see how we were going to be drawn like. And when we saw the completed picture, she drew us in different ways of drawing styles and face expressions. She also captured the points that symbolize each of us and those things made us so delightful.
Her use of colors is also fresh to us. The main colors are red and light green. I thought "This is Perfume Suetsugu-sensei imagines"
- Can you tell me how did she come to draw the cover for you?
N: When the advance distribution was decided, we went like "It would be very interesting if the cover design is drawn by Suetsugu-sensei". So, we asked her to draw a cover with a theme of "The cover art you would draw for the first volume of Manga "FLASH""
A: When we had an interview with Suetsugu-sensei, she asked us "Who is your favorite character?" and gave the latest 31th volume of the comics on which her autographs and pictures of our favorite characters were written. I was so moved that I started to get greedy, like "Wow, amazing... I wish if she could draw a picture of us..." LOL!
- By the way, which character did you ask her to draw?
K: I asked her to draw "Shinobu". She is my favorite character.
N: In various interviews, I said things like "I love Harada-sensei", "Nikuman(*)-kun is so..." and things like that. But when I actually had an opportunity to ask her to draw a character, I asked for a handsome one, "Arata". At that moment, I realized like "Ah, after all, I'm a woman" LOL!
N: And as I am a kimono-fetish, I even asked her "Could you draw him in kimono?" LOL!
A: I asked her to draw "Chihaya". The interesting thing was, she draw eyes first.
N: Ah! That's right!
A: She told us that she differentiates characters by their eyes, that's why she draws eyes first. I really love the eyes she draws. So when I heard that she's particular with them, I was shouting like "I can tell that!" LOL! That was such a happy moment.
- If a manga story "FLASH" for which this drawing was used as the cover of the 1st volume would exist, how would the story be like?
K: A story of a dance club, I guess?
A: I thought this drawing has the fantasy kind of atmosphere. So, how about a story like "The girls can use magic when they dance"?
N: That sounds cute!
A: Like when they dance, Tinker Bell's pixie dust kind of stuff came out and those who get sprinkled that dust can fly.
N: That's nice! I hope to make a video game based on the story and develop a business about that in the future.
A: Wow, you're trying to make money!? LOL!
We'd like to find something in the upcoming concerts in the U.S.
- After the album release, the arena tour has already been decided. As the anniversary live concerts you held at Budokan and Hiroshima Green Arena last year were so highly reputed, fans must be expecting a lot for the next one-man concerts. Sorry if this sounds as if I'm trying to raise the bar and put pressure on you. LOL!
N: LOL! Yeah.
K: However, the live concerts we held last year as "Anniversary for 15 years from forming and 10 years from major debut" and the release tour with new tracks would have completely different taste, I think.
A: I hope the concerts will be like something we, ourselves can enjoy. We always have set a several obstacles to get over when we faced something big such as the tours and we've regarded it as ordinary things to do. But after all, we realized that we've got better feedbacks when we did something we could proudly say "It's really fun to do this!" and laugh about from the bottom of our hearts. And that was just the anniversary live concerts we held last year were all about. So, I'd like to enjoy the tour with the lessons we learnt from these concerts.
- In this tour, you're visiting several cities in the United States. Holding the concerts in the U.S. as part of your album release tour must be a new challenge for Perfume, I guess.
N: That's right. The venues we hold concerts in Japan and venues that suit to our name recognition in the overseas is totally different in size, so in the oversea concerts, it was impossible for us to show the stage productions we performed in Japan and we had to come up with new plans that suit to the size of the venues. But generally speaking, you'll have same shows regardless to where you perform, if it's a tour for the album release. That's what we thought. So from that point of view, this American tour is a big challenge for us.
- This is the 2nd time you tour around the United States. Do you have any plans like "We'd like to do this", in accord with the 1st tour you experienced?
A: It was our dream to hold concerts in the United States. So for the last time, it was simply awesome just to stand on the stages. Moreover, far more audiences than we expected had gathered around and cheered for us. It was unbelievable moment just like a dream. So for this time, I'd like to have a sense of reality during the live concerts.
- Like you wanna enjoy the live more than 2 years ago?
A: Yeah, that's right. I'd like to find something new when I come back to Japan rather than performing in a frivolous mood. And I'd like to regard "Going to the United States" as a good memory. That's because we had set a new, big dream. So we need to work hard to achieve that.
- You mean the one-man live concert at Madison Square Garden, right? You're holding more live concerts than your former American tour. That makes me feel as if you're getting closer to the dream you had set.
N: Well, we'll chase after the dream little by little, without working too hard. LOL!
This might be what we've going after
- You had faced various turning points before, like the release of "Polyrhythm", the first concert at Budokan, your contribution to Cars2 and things like that. And I can't help feeling that the anniversary events you held in 2015 to be one of these turning points.
That's just how I feel. But do you feel in that way?
N: We've appeared in the commercial of iPhone and Mercedes Benz. We've also got featured in "Ame Talllk!" Those things meant pretty big to us, I think. What we've been doing was, something really impactive for those who are interested in us, but not for those who doesn't care about us.
However, thanks to "Ame Talllk!", what we've been doing suddenly spread out to those who were not interested in us. There are fans who started to support us because of that TV show. And I started to hear conversations like "Well, Perfume is..." while walking down the street more often.
- Wow, really?
N: So thanks to those stuffs, we felt that we could take a new step from where we treasured ourselves so carefully and open a new door a bit in the last one year. I don't know how to describe, but it's like finally our new foundation to challenge what we haven't been able to do before is being built up.
K: That's right. I think Perfume will be freer and freer from now on. Through the year 2015, we had so many opportunities to challenge so many, various stuffs and that made us realized that doing what we'd love to do is such a delightful thing to do even more. Nowadays, we're able to consider "Do what we'd like to do" pretty simple, I think. We'll be able to challenge things we might hesitated to try more easily, I guess.
- You mean you're having less constraints than ever, right?
K: Well, there still are things that are needed to be protected at all costs. But now we can imagine our possibilities more flexibly
A: It's such a happy moment when we say "We'd like to do something like this", our staffs goes are excited with that like "Alright! Let's do it!" and our audiences enjoy it. It's such an honor that what we love from the bottom of our hearts is what our audiences enjoy. In the anniversary live concerts we held last year, we could finally felt that "This might be what we've going after..." after 15 years from the formation. At the same time, I was so impressed that we've come a so long way that we Were allowed to do what we'd like to do. So, now we can do what we'd really like to do. That means Perfume is on a new start line, I think.