Masked creative duo AmPm discuss their 2020 releases, past collaborations and their hopes for the future.
Often mentioned as one of the first Japanese artists to really master promoting their music on Spotify, creative unit AmPm have managed to rack up millions of plays on the platform in just a few short years. This year, they have also
ventured into the "anisong" field a bit, creating a theme song for "Fruits Basket" and releasing remixes of two other popular themes in October.
We had the opportunity to interview the duo in November, and they shared some thoughts about their recent releases, past and future collaborations and their hopes for 2021.
Could you please introduce yourselves and explain a bit about your musical style, for any readers unfamiliar with your work?
AmPm: Hi JaME readers, we’re AmPm! We’re a Japanese creative duo centred on dance music and we create songs that mix in a variety of other genres. We also invite vocalists from all around the world to collaborate with us and release
songs together. Besides working on our own music, we write songs for musicians like Ken Hirai and V6, as well as make remixes of songs from artists like Afrojack, Nicky Romero, R3HAB and
so on. We also work as music producers for other musicians. It’s a little hard to put it into words, but I think you’ll get a better idea of our style of music if you give our songs a listen!
You have collaborated with singer-songwriter Michael Kaneko many times since your debut. Why did you originally decide to collaborate, and how has your relationship evolved over the years?
AmPm: From the very beginning, even before Michael made his debut, we came across some footage of him singing and performing on YouTube, which inspired us to reach out and collaborate with him. His unique voice really stands out;
he’s a singer-songwriter gifted with the capacity of conveying gentleness, forlornness and a whole other range of emotions through his singing. Since our first collaboration, we’ve had the pleasure of having him perform at some of our live shows
as a guest artist, and of course, that collaboration wasn’t our last one, as we’ve worked together many times since then.
For your latest single hurt you, you reunited with Nao Kawamura after three years, and the track is also a duet with Michael Kaneko. What was it like to collaborate with Kawamura again and to combine their voices?
AmPm: Not just Michael but including Kawamura, all four of us understand and gel with each other well, so our past projects went off without a hitch. It’s true that we’ve released many songs with Michael recently,
and on the contrary, only worked with Kawamura for the first time in long while, but we’ve always been keeping in touch with Kawamura so it didn’t feel strange at all to collaborate with her.
Earlier this year, you released Prism, the opening theme for the second season of the anime series "Fruits Basket". It was your first original song entirely sung in Japanese, and also your first time producing an anime
opening theme. How did these differences from your previous works affect the process of creating this song?
AmPm: It was our first time writing a theme song for an anime, and also our first time creating a song with Japanese lyrics, so it was definitely a new challenge for us. That said, just like for other songs we’ve produced so far, I think it was
a rather smooth process. We began by creating the main melody, then writing the lyrics, before finally recording the vocals. This time we had Miyuna as the vocalist, and she was also involved in writing the song lyrics. Thanks to her
lyrics, which helped add another, deeper dimension to our music, I think we were able to create a song that’s really fitting for an anime. Moving forward, besides Japanese, we would also like to have a crack at creating songs in many other languages.
As you do not have one fixed vocalist to work with, how do you choose which vocalist is most suitable for a song?
AmPm: We don’t really look out in particular for anything; perhaps their vocals? Once again, it’s difficult for me to describe how we choose vocalists for our songs with just words, but I think we do it by simply listening to their songs, and focusing
on the parts that resonate with us or align with our worldview.
You recently remixed a song by Ai Otsuka, a well-known artist, and also broadened your horizons by collaborating with international artists. Are there any particular artists that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
AmPm: We’re Japanese, but we’re also Asian, and we are definitely looking forward to more collaborations with many other Asian musicians. There’s a plethora of phenomenal Asian musicians out there, all stemming from diverse backgrounds and cultures,
so we really hope to collaborate with them if we’re given the opportunity to do so.
You recently also remixed one of the themes from the “Lupin the Third” franchise. Are you fans of “Lupin the Third”, and what did you consider when working on that track?
AmPm: We’re big fans of "Lupin the Third", and it goes without saying that we were thrilled to receive the offer to remix one of its songs. Even across Japan, many other artists were part of the remixing project for "Lupin the Third", and it’s
a great honour for us to be involved in it and to be a part of its history. I didn’t consciously attempt to do it, but I was intrigued by the thought of just how much individuality we could inject into the remix without destroying the mood and atmosphere
created by the original composer, Yuji Ohno.
You’ve had a lot of success using Spotify to promote your music independently, which is something that many Japanese artists are still learning to adapt to. However, you recently teamed up with avex. Do you feel that your approach has changed
at all since partnering with a major label? Have you learned anything new from this experience?
AmPm: That’s a really tough question. We made our debut as independent artists, and we built up a wide international audience that listens to our music. Also, the work of artists goes beyond mere songwriting and live performances. Aside from PR
and promotional activities, it’s also crucial for artists to have operational matters like the copyrighting and licensing for their music in order. Therefore, we are always on the lookout for more partners, since there are many things that we artists
are incapable of handling by ourselves.
With regards to our partnership with avex, we’ve been able to maintain our independence as musicians, while they’ve been able to assist us in a myriad of complicated operational matters, so I think it’s been a rather fruitful and valuable partnership.
In a sense, we’ve been able to retain many key aspects of AmPm through this partnership, while simultaneously being empowered to explore and create other new things, so I do think we’ve established a great relationship. And of course,
this very interview wouldn’t have been possible without avex!
Are there any particular goals you would like to achieve as AmPm?
AmPm: The world is facing a huge crisis at the moment and it’s going to be hard to make it happen, but we hope we’ll be able to perform live overseas as soon as possible. Additionally, we hope that we can play an active part in drawing greater
attention and exposure to the vocalists that we’ve worked with thus far. We’re artists ourselves, but we also see ourselves as a platform to introduce brilliant vocalists like Michael Kaneko and Nao Kawamura, so
we hope that we can gain more fans and get people all across the world to fall in love with our music through our ventures abroad.
What can fans look forward to from AmPm in 2021?
AmPm: More than anything, we really want to perform live again. Not an online concert, but a live performance where you can enjoy our music, LOUD. I wish that day will come as soon as it can. Besides that, we’re also working on some new songs. We’re
looking to collaborate with even more artists than we did this year to release a diverse range of songs. Stay tuned!
JaME would like to thank AmPm and avex for making this interview possible.