In-depth interview with Kobametal, the key person behind BABYMETAL

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Now Babymetal is ongoing sensation. With authentic heavy metal sound, mind-blowing but celestial stage performance without chattering to audience and manic merch items (from idol perspective), fans are increasing in both Japan and the world. We interviewed with Kobametal (Key Kobayashi), the key person.

Thank to Dokoiko on Babymetal on Facebook for the translation.
Official PDF file here: http://www.nexus-web.net/ongakusyugi/pdf/060.pdf

Q : We heard you loved metal from your junior high age.
Koba : Yes I liked vast range of musics but my main and ironclad concern was metal.

Q : What did you do in your early days in Amuse?
Koba : It was an era of Visual-kei so I worked on media promotion for Siam Shade and Cascade in two years, then did production and promotion of hardcore and related bands in in-house indie labels.

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Q : Did you explain how you began Babymetal, please?
Koba : I wanted to produce from scratch, find the talented, train and promote them. So I looked around from high point of view, I noticed any successor next Perfume didn’t appear. Then I started to find someone. I happened to hear there was someone with something worth in our kids division – for kids model and kids actress. So I went to their recitals and did some auditions, where one of current member of Babymetal applied. I made a business plan, made presentations, managements showed some interest, and it began.

Q : Did you have a vision at the beginning about its direction and characteristics?
Koba : A sort of, general draft in a good and bad sense. It is that when a movement comes, fan base goes big rapidly. It allows the less talented even in a indie scene – like “Even this terrible disks can be sold this much!” So does in idol scene. Now is the time when anyone can become some sort of an idol. Anything can happen. So when I began Babymetal, I thought, cuteness was necessary as an idol but it won’t last long only with cuteness. All long-time survivors do have something special – a solid backbone as an example. Something legit must have been essential, I thought at the time, so in addition to appearance, singing and dancing quality were must-have.

Q : How about songs? There had been no reference at all, so you must have endless trials and errors?
Koba : Yes. Some songs took half a year to be completed…

Q : An approach of Babymetal is completely different from other idol groups. The Babymetal world is extraordinarily well built as a package. Was promotional strategy fixed in the early days?
Koba : Not particularly. What I did was only made a video and upload to YouTube. So feed response came from worldwide fans. Then Japanese idol fans saw it and came to be hyped as “something interesting appeared.” Seeing these we came to think that this might be something unexpected and should work on it more seriously. So we had had no TV spot appearance, no tied-up with Anime, no CM. Just did make MVs and stage performances.

Q : And no handshake event.
Koba : Handshake events may boost sales figures… But simply I don’t like handshake. Maybe it is the reason. I want ask you, what did you think about no handshake?

Q (A?) : I thought it’s a strategy. Like “No obsequence at all”
Koba : I see. As Babymetal, (Koba) the primitive aspect of these girls are rather cute than cool, so if promotion insists heavier on their cuteness, Babymetal might be something expected, and something interesting, valuable in Babymetal might be erased. So, this is also only my taste, it would be better for Babymetal to be something devine, the opposite to what the girls are, like no chatting at all on stage.

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Q: what is the reason of no chatting of the girls on stage?
Koba : All the girls are so serious person. So they are not so good at responding with humorous answers like stage presenters. It doesn’t show their true value. So to make them shine as they should, better to concentrate on their strong points, singing and dancing.

Q : You should concentrate on what you good at to deliver the real thing.
Koba : Yes. I might be just extreme person… If you would do anything, everything you do is just mediocre, especially in show biz.

Q : nowadays Rock fans might be going to accept idol thing more and more. What do you think about it?
Koba : one thing might be that Rock gonna be boring? That’s my regret as a producer and also as a fan, Rock bands getting tamed… Less extreme enough to be a legend.

Q : the scene might have been more matured, in a good sense. But getting more difficult to break it through. Even if something appeared, it goes bad spiral – can’t generate healthy profit. What do you think about Rock scene nowadays?
Koba : there are few bands remained with huge influence, same bands appears at every Rock festivals. In this stagnation the idol boom came, people like me moved from Rock to idol industry, a Rock culture flood into – Idol scene with talented people.

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Q : In this context, as people like Koba-San began to migrate Rock culture into idol scene, there is possibility that someone does idol culture into Rock scene?
Koba : Might be. Rock is a genre to be cool I think. A life style as an example. But I think it is essential for Rock to keep bringing something new into it. Rock fans are most severe person to make judgement. If you show something mediocre without hardworking, they never give any consideration. So there is no excuse for us to say “because we’re just a band (or an idol),” we have to try hard – really really hard to deliver something.

Q : Where is Babymetal going to go next and the future?
Koba : Honestly we are not going to… (Laugh) trial and error everyday… The feeling at the time… once feel something interesting, do it ASAP. Main portion of idol scene now is, like Reality shows, something making a story of some idol setting an objective, working on it hard, and sharing their activities of struggling forward and making dream come true with their fans. In their voyage there are some happiness and sadness. But Babymetal is not about Reality show but about like Disneyland. Once customer put on Mickey’s ears, they live in the wonderland. When audience go to Babymetal live, enjoy our story with devoting into our world. They come back to reality when they exit a venue. But want another chance to enjoy it. I might somewhat want that – make Babymetal as a container – to ride people between reality and unreality.

Q : So are you going to sharpen the Babymetal world more solid?
Koba : Yes. I care less about others. One of Babymetal keyword is to be the only one, I want to go to the end of it. Rather I want anyone to copy Babymetal. Lately in idol scene there seem to increase someone called as “Babymetal like.” I feel deep about it… And say myself, “So shameful, do it more!” (Laugh).

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  • Kit Karamak

    Basically, what I got from this, is … I like Koba.
    Anyone who says, “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, so, please, flatter me! Copy me! Imitate me!” is open-minded and knows how the business works.

    I particularly enjoyed the euphemism in regards to Disney theme parks. He wants people to go into the show, have a good time, be entrenched and engrossed by the Babymetal show, and go back to their normal lives later on, with the desire to return to the fantasy at a later time.

    Koba, you’re a clever, clever person.
    I hope you show us a transition from ‘cute’ to ‘powerful.’ I wouldn’t mind the next album having the vocals of three women, instead of three girls. Voices are an instrument, and the girls are growing into adulthood. I look forward to hearing the evolution of their singing, from the perspective of “older, wiser megitsune.”

    • Duke

      Well said! I second all of it!