Private Interview with KOKIA

interview - 05.20.2008 08:00

JaME spoke with KOKIA the day before her concert at Théâtre de la Mutualité in France.

The day before her concert at Théâtre de la Mutualité, we found KOKIA surrounded by her staff. We were the last to arrive and despite a long series of interviews, she appeared to be very cheerful and ready to start this final media interview.

KOKIA: Bonjour!

The French audience have had the chance to welcome you for the third consecutive year. Looking back, what do you think of your previous concerts in France? How have you prepared for the new concerts?
KOKIA: This year will be my third concert. The first concert was relatively small, the second at The Bataclan was slightly larger and this one tomorrow will be even bigger. I feel significantly appreciated every year, although the scale of this has escalated over the years. I'm told that the concert last year was greatly appreciated and I personally feel that it was a very successful concert. So this year, I feel a little bit of pressure to be able to offer an even better concert, but I can't wait.

On the 25th of March, you are giving your first concert in Belgium. Have you ever had the opportunity to visit Belgium as a tourist? Are there any other European countries which will be able to have a KOKIA concert soon?
KOKIA: No, it will be the first time that I've been there. There aren't really any precise dates for other countries, but I'll speak to my staff.
And what about America?
KOKIA: I'd really like to go there too!

The VOICE marks your second collaboration with Wasabi Records. What were your propositions for the European release of the album? For example, did you choose an exclusive track for each version?
KOKIA: The song say goodbye & good day was released as a single in Japan and we asked ourselves, why not include it on the CD? So it was my choice (laughs).

The song il mare dei suoni is one of the strong points of the new album. Could you tell us a bit about this song and why you chose to write the lyrics in Italian?
KOKIA: I studied opera for seven years at college and university and it just came to me to sing in Italian. Of course, as I don't understand the language, a friend of mine helped me to write the lyrics. The concept of the album is "the voice". There are many different aspects of my voice, for example softness or loudness. I think that one of my voices, close to classical, is one of my strong points, which other J-Pop artists don't possess. Therefore, on this album I wanted to include a song which portrayed this particular angle.

So, it's this wish to show these aspects of your voice which is the origin of the album's title?
KOKIA: We chose the concept of The VOICE because in April, I'll celebrate the tenth year of my career. I'd been reflecting on what had the most appeal in my music. In fact, people tell me that no matter what song I'm singing, it's my voice which holds the greatest attraction. I think that even in the future my voice will remain the strong point of my music, whatever the genre. So that's why I wanted to give it that title. It's like a response to the ten years of my career.

Like you said, you will celebrate ten years of your career this year. What view do you have when you think back on your beginning as an artist?
KOKIA: (laughs) You know, I didn't know ANYTHING back then! (laughs with everyone) I didn't know anything about singing, recording, production, communication... When I return, I'm doing a tour in Japan. For this occasion, I'm releasing a DVD with a book which covers the ten years of my career. When I look back at the first few pictures it makes me a little embarrassed! (laughs)

Will there be a European version or at least a distribution of this release?
KOKIA: Probably not...

What is your best memory of the last ten years?
KOKIA: Hmm... Just one thing?
Yes, just one!
KOKIA: Ah... (laughs) Hmm… Um, in fact, I'd say that each concert is important for me as well as everyone that I've met.

How did you choose the songs which should appear on your new album?
KOKIA: The concept of this album, The VOICE, was already fixed. So I chose the songs by how you could appreciate the different ranges of my voice, for example, classical, softer or louder.

During your career, you've had the opportunity to work with many talented artists. Which of these collaborations is the most notable in your opinion and who would you like to collaborate with if you had the chance?
KOKIA: (laughing the whole way through; it's a difficult question for her) Up until now, the collaboration which I appreciated the most was with... Um... Senju Akira-san. He's a very well-known classical artist. I was really happy to work with him. Now he's recording in Ireland. But I like working with different people of different nationalities, like various producers, directors, artists or musicians. I'd like to meet some in France as well! (laughs)

Your fans seem to greatly appreciate the new versions of Arigatou... and Chouwa.
KOKIA: Ah, really?
Yes! Do you think you might give more of the songs from your repertoire new arrangements?
KOKIA: There are lots of versions of Arigatou... and Chouwa, it's true (There is a brief exchange between KOKIA and her manager about the different versions of these arrangements. Then KOKIA returns to the question). If there are particular songs for which fans wish to hear a new version then why not? But I think that right now, the fans would prefer to have new songs rather than new arrangements of old songs.
KOKIA's manager: And you? What arrangement would you like to hear?
I'd really like to hear the very old songs which I could rediscover with the current KOKIA.
KOKIA: Ah, yes! (laughs)

Your second album Trip Trip is really appreciated by your fans.
KOKIA: YEAH!!! (laughs with everyone) It was self-produced!
The music videos of the singles from this album were quite successful, but there weren't any available from your video compilation Jewel...
KOKIA: Unfortunately, that was on a different label, so we couldn't do it.

You are a talented pianist, as we have been able to see since your first concert in France in 2006. Yet, it has been remarked that it is quite rare that you play piano on your albums. Why is that?
KOKIA: I'm not very confident on piano (laughs). I'll play a bit of piano at the "VIP" concert and at the concert in Belgium.

And as for the violin, why don't we ever see you playing that any more?
KOKIA: (laughs) I decided that I'd play it once a year and eventually one day in France, who knows... (laughs)

Since your first famous concert in France, you have used a small African instrument, the kalimba. How did you discover this instrument?
KOKIA: Quite simply in a music shop!
In Japan?
KOKIA: Yes, of course. I found it interesting and thought that it would be very useful, knowing that I was going to have a concert in France. Ultimately, I bought one and learned how to play it. (laughs)

You now have a lot of fans in Europe. Have you thought of creating a European branch, for example making an international fan club?
KOKIA: Yes! Got it in one! You would be the president of the club! (laughs) I have fans who have sent me messages in French and English… In Japan we can't really translate them… And what's worse is that they don't really display well in general.

What are your musical projects after these three European dates?
KOKIA: After I return, in April I'll be preparing my tour to celebrate a decade of my career in Japan and then I'll be rehearsing a lot. After the concerts, I'll make a new album!
Do you already have finished songs?
KOKIA: (shows that she has everything in her head still and everyone laughs)

Last year you starred in a short film in homage to your grandfather.
KOKIA: You know so many things! (laughs)
Could you tell us a little about this idea?
KOKIA: I'm preparing a memorial book for the tenth anniversary of my career. There's a lot explaining about my history and two DVDs which are full of videos and this film.

A last message for your fans?
KOKIA: I've been coming to France for three years. I feel that my music is becoming appreciated more and more as well as listened to in Europe, which really makes me happy. In the future, I hope to go to everywhere where fans listen to my music and are waiting for me, not just in Europe, but throughout the whole world. (in English:) Keep supporting me!
Has France become your second home?
KOKIA: Since I arrived in Europe, France has been the first country to welcome me. That's why I came to France, but also Belgium. However, France always holds a special place in my heart.

Thank you!
KOKIA: Merci!

JaME would like to thank KOKIA and her team for their kindness, Wasabi Records for allowing this interview and Karine for translating.
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