On Saturday the 25th March, 2006, at the Hard Rock Café, Paris Visual Prod, the organisers of Akino Arai’s concert, made their appearance. Several people were already present for the signing session, which would begin at 4pm. A dozen or so minutes later, the Japanese staff arrived, followed shortly after by Akino Arai, who was dressed quite simply in a pair of jeans and a dress-length jumper.
After a short wait, the journalists were invited to enter the room for the press conference. Akino Arai remained very cheerful if a little embarrassed as she sat next to the two translators and the other Japanese woman who made up her staff. The questions were then able to begin.
For your European fans, you seem to embody daydreams. Is that something which you can relate to?
Akino Arai: I knew that there would be people who would come to the concert but I never imagined that there would be so many and I’m really happy about that.
You have notably sung many songs in French and have a passion for France. Could you describe this attraction for us?
Akino Arai: I was introduced to French music thanks to a French pop musician from the 70s, Daniel Vidal, and since then I started to become more interested in French art, music and cinema. I’m very accustomed to it now and can appreciate more and more things which have come from France.
On the subject of French pop, in a previous interview you mentioned knowing Serge Gainsbourg. How did you discover him and what do you like most about his music?
Akino Arai: In fact, I didn’t come to it through Serge Gainsbourg himself. I first heard songs which he had composed for France Gall, Jane Birkin and their daughter, Charlotte. And because I really liked his compositions, I started to listen to Serge Gainsbourg in particular.
At the beginning of your career, you collaborated a lot with other artists. What made you decide to launch a solo career?
Akino Arai: I started my career twenty years ago and at that time I didn’t really like singing in front of an audience, which hindered me a lot. After a while, I realised that I preferred to remain in the background composing for artists who did like to perform on stage. Despite that, I found that there were a lot of fans who had followed my career from the beginning when I was singing and I then wondered whether I should start again. My producers told me that a lot of people were requesting my return, so I decided come back.
Why did you choose initially to produce yourself in Germany and then in France?
Akino Arai: It was Julien (the person in charge for Paris Visual Prod), here, who invited me to organise these concerts.
Could you speak to us a little about your collaboration with Yōko Kanno (A famous composer of music for anime)?
Translator: Is this about any particular anime or project?
Macross + amongst others
Akino Arai: As you all know, Yōko Kanno composes a huge amount of songs. When she heard my voice, she said that she immediately thought of me for her songs and requested that we work together.
Are you still in contact with Yōko Kanno or Hajime Mizugoshi [Also an anime music composer]?
Akino Arai: We have a lot of trouble keeping in contact, but it happens that from time to time our paths will cross in the studio.
What state of mind are you in concerning the concert tomorrow?
Akino Arai: For the longest time, I’ve imagined so many things, but I never believed that I’d come to France. It’s like a dream come true and I still have difficulty believing it. For the moment, with regards to the concert, I’m quite relaxed, but tomorrow the pressure will mount, as will the stress.
When composing anime music, do you first have actual images from the anime, or does it start from a concept or storyboard?
Akino Arai: In composing the theme tune for an anime, I try to meet with the director of the anime first to ask them the message which they want to transmit through their work. After, I look at characters, places and so on, then with all of that I get down to finding a suitable melody and lyrics to correspond with the information. Nevertheless, the thing that remains the most important is that which arises from the anime, with whatever emotions.
Is it easier for you to compose when it is for more personal works; what are your sources of inspiration?
Akini Arai: First of all, the topics which I approach start from feelings which can come from a beautiful landscape that I can see or a conversation with friends. These images come to me, with a melody added to them. Lastly, I look for words which will express and recreate these images that come to me.
Out of all of the themes which you have composed, which is your favourite, and in which do you most see yourself?
Akino Arai: My tastes depend on my mood, as with everyone, but I think I’d lean more towards Kakusei Toshi from the series Tokyo Underground.
There has already been a community of fans of Jmusic and Jpop in France for a few years now. You were the first Japanese Jpop artist to have an album released in France. How would you explain the passion for your music in France and what Japanese artists can bring to the French market?
Akino Arai: Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who is interested in my music. I never would have thought that that could happen until now. Concerning this passion, it is through the medium of anime that the fans could initially discover my music and thanks to that to discover my music in general (Akino Arai accidentally taps her microphone and apologises, quite embarrassed). For me, most of my fans came to know me through my work with anime especially in France and Europe.
You released the limited edition album VH Music, which was distributed at the end of your concerts in Japan. Does this name have a particular significance, like the name of your website, Viridian House?
Akino Arai: Basically, Viridian House was the name of a radio show I presented seven years ago. However, it was also the name of a house in which I lived; a house surrounded by greenery. The aim of giving the same name to the website was so that everyone could find themselves in that house. At the same time, the CD VH Music is named in the same manner so that people who listen to my music could join me there as well.
Do you hope to republish it for your fans?
Akino Arai: At the moment, I am in talks with my production company (Victor Entertainment) to try and republish this album and release it in Europe.
You have explored a lot with music genres like rock, symphonic, electro, pop, etc
Do you have a musical style which you particularly enjoy at the moment?
Akino Arai: I don’t really have a precise type of music, I usually think of the 'type' as the specific piece that I imagine. From there, I try to think of a musical style which could be appropriate. My tendency at the moment would be mostly electro; I really like rock and acoustic guitar though, because it has a heart.
Are all of your songs for anime themes original songs written for each particular series, or are they sometimes drawn from your own compositions?
Akino Arai: I usually meet with the director to think up and create the songs. There’s just one exception however, with the anime Windaria.
For composing a song such as Wanna be an Angel with French lyrics, do you have someone to help, or do you speak a little French?
Akino Arai: Je ne parle pas français (I don’t speak French in French, which creates a little laughter in the room). Since I was very small, I have managed to decipher French and I know how to read it, but I don’t know how to speak it.
Concerning the song Utsukushii Hoshi, why have you reprised it with a new version on the album Sora no uta?
Akino Arai: There are several reasons for that. Utsukushii Hoshi was released on my first album, Natsukashii mirai but it didn’t really work for me. People liked it yet it wasn’t the version I wanted them to hear. Now I have the opportunity to make the music that I want to make; I used the release of the last album as an opportunity so that everyone could hear the version I wanted them to discover.
Were you influenced by 70s rock for your compositions, for example Pink Floyd?
Akino Arai: (Short pause for reflection) I was very much influenced by that group, among others. The first time that I heard that style of music, it was a great discovery and shock, so much so that I found myself in my room unable to move, like it was some kind of revelation!
You have just sung for a German audience; the first time in front of a European audience. How did you feel on this occasion, even if it is known that the Germans are a lot less 'warm' than the French? [Laugh from the room]
Akino Arai: During the performance I gave today, I realised that the reactions of the German audience were very similar to those of the Japanese audience. So I wasn’t really surprised by that. As to the French, who may be more 'warm', well it doesn’t really worry me whether the audience gets up, applauds or watches calmly; the main thing is that everyone feels the music in their own way.
How were you introduced to the record label Victor Entertainment? How did you discover them?
Akino Arai: A friend of mine who worked at Victor Entertainment showed the owner one of my demo tapes. He said he immediately liked it and recruited me.
It was said at an interview that you dreamed of living for your songs and music. Now, after twenty years of your career, it is possible to assume that you have done this. With the discovery of your international fans and your concerts in Europe, will that also influence your future compositions?
Akino Arai: That wasn’t exactly my dream since I was very small; I didn’t focus myself on that right away. More precisely, I did a lot of different things, like drawing for example. However, after a certain time, it was singing and composing which came out above everything. As for the influences from concerts given in Europe, it is great to know that I have fans of all kinds. I want to enlargen my universe with lots of experiences and it is possible that coming to Europe may help to influence me.
You shared your intention to release a new original album in 2006. What will be the principal music style and are there any songs already completed?
Akino Arai: For the moment, there is no image coming to mind and I don’t really know what style I will give to this album. My aim is to always start from the beginning for composing a new album, so there will be an evolution of the genre. That’s all that I can say at the moment, knowing that no title has been thought up.
It is with these last words that the press conference ends, before a short photo session followed by a signing session.
JaME would like to thank Akino Arai and Paris Visual Prod.
Akino Arai Press Conference
interview - 03.25.2008 08:00
Press conference of the singer and composer Akino Arai in Paris.