Interview by David Cirone
November 1, 2018
As a solo artist and as founder of JAM Project, you’ve been traveling the world and performing outside of Japan since the 1990s. For many international anime fans, you might be the first Japanese musician they’ve ever seen in a live performance. Do you feel a responsibility as an ambassador of Japanese music?
Kageyama: When I began traveling overseas, I went to places like Spain and Brazil, where a Japanese anisong singer like myself had never performed. Because of that, I tried so hard not to tarnish the image of Japanese anisong. In a sense, I felt like I was carrying Japan on my shoulders! (laughs)
You started writing English lyrics for the first time in your song “Beginning” from “A.O.R.” Why was it important to you to challenge yourself this way?
Kageyama: First of all, I think it’s the most exciting thing to challenge yourself to do something new. I always wanted to create music with rock artists from all over the world. That dream came true when I collaborated with (producer and Grammy Award winner) David Foster on “Beginning”. The reason why I tried writing in English is because David told me that I should.
You have so many popular anime theme songs in your history (Dragon Ball Z, Saint Seiya, One Punch Man, Cardfight!! Vanguard). When you begin work on a new project, do you feel pressure to not repeat yourself?
Kageyama: The other day, I came up with a really great melody so easily, but I realized that is was really similar to a song I released a while ago and I was shocked. When you write songs for a long time, things like that tend to happen more often. I don’t necessarily feel pressured, but I do think it’s important to constantly pursue new styles.
Is it important to create a totally different theme and style each time?
Kageyama: I’m always on the lookout for something new. Especially with JAM Project, I’m looking for ways to incorporate rock styles that connect to modern teenagers.
Your website and social media names have Western names, like “Air Blanca” and “Highway Star”. Where do these names come from?
Kageyama: “Air Blanca” is a name of the bar in Daikanyama where we used to go a lot, and it’s also the name of my old band. “Highway Star” came from the song by Deep Purple, which was the reason I wanted to do rock. It’s a big part of my roots, and for the president of Lantis as well.
How important is Western culture to your artistic style?
Kageyama: I want to incorporate all kinds of different styles, not just Western — but because America and England are my biggest musical influences, I’m still inspired by them.
You perform with such high energy and power in your live shows. At Otakon in Washington, D.C., you started doing high jumps on stage over and over — it looked exhausting. How do you keep up your energy during long live shows?
Kageyama: When I get on stage, I get so excited that my body naturally moves. Especially for JAM Project, the fans have so much energy that I get excited even more. I think it’s the most important thing to perform with all you’ve got. Of course quality is important, too, but you have to start with emotions.
You’re coming back to America in November for Anisong World Matsuri in New York City. There’s going to be lots of cosplay at Anime NYC. What character would you like to cosplay as?
Kageyama: We also host a cosplay event once a year, and I really like cosplay. Right now, I want to cosplay as No-Face (from Spirited Away)!
How do you feel when you see American kids and adults cosplaying as characters from the anime series you’re connected to?
Kageyama: It’s amazing. Every time I see a cosplayer at an American event, I become really happy.
What types of themes are on your mind right now? What’s influencing the new songs you’re working on?
Kageyama: Right now I’m working on the new theme song for One Punch Man. The first theme song “The Hero” was really popular overseas, so I want to create a song that’s even more powerful.
Hironobu Kageyama performs live at Anisong World Matsuri at Anime NYC on November 17.
Tickets & Info: http://animenyc.com/anisongworld2018