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Five moments that differentiated BABYMETAL as what it is today

Prologue: To the Metal Resistance

Many reactions, reviews and news have been issued about BABYMETAL. Many of those referred to their forming as an Idol unit, their ignorance of Heavy Metal before the beginning, their going viral with Gimme Chocolate MV, and their successful performance at a main stage of Sonisphere festival.

But how many people know what happened between these moments? Everything has a chain of cause-and-result cycles. The same does to BABYMETAL. Here reviews a series of five critical moments from its birth to date that became causes/results made them what they are now.

1. Kobametal the producer found the way to shine Suzuka Nakamoto aka Su-metal, the talented lead vocalist most

Suzuka Nakamoto has been in show biz over 10 years even she’s 16 now. She’s said to have been always recognized as special talent and had already proved her powerful and distinctive voice and live performance skill when she was ten as a member of Karen Girl’s, one-year-only idol group act. They fired up an arena with 10,000 audiences by their performance. When the group disbanded as planned in 2009, her bright future was promised as an idol singer in Japan.

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But her voice and dance was just out of standard from Japanese idol, even too powerful and straight. The fact that her office Amuse didn’t promote her like that was the proof of it. Here was the one who worked at the office. His name was Key Kobayashi – future Kobametal the producer.

Key was decades-long fan of Heavy Metal, had experience on PR and an administrative job of some rock bands back then. He thought carefully about the best way for Suzuka to make full potential of her unique talent of singing and dancing out to the world. He saw her as a limitless type of performer. She said by herself that she didn’t remember anything when she’s in the zone on stage. And everyone saw her hit unexpected quality in singing and dancing.

An idea finally hit the man that a speed and loudness of Heavy Metal was the answer that could bring chemistry with Suzuka’s full power. At the same time he went to Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, US to see Japanese Metal band X Japan performing. He saw many people there finally jumping around here and there along with its Japanese-lyrics song with their X-shaped arms high up to the sky, even hard-looking reggae guy.

He felt confident in these jumping clouds that Japanese heavy music could transcend a border of languages, nationalities and music preferences to touch and move people who even didn’t understand Japanese at all.
So he was sure he could make it by blending two powerful weapons together – one was Suzuka Nakamoto the quality-proven performer and the other was heavy music, his lifetime devotion and profession.

2. BABYMETAL was formed with twins-like enchanting girls Yui Mizuno and Moa Kikuchi with Suzuka

Suzuka was a powerful asset but she’s so distinctive by any means. Also in Japan a solo idol became out of fashion. So he thought to add partners to her but at the same time standard girls’ group format didn’t seem to work. In the recruiting period, he wanted a feel of little twins dancing around of Suzuka like former famous twins idol The Peanuts signing for Mothra, and finally Yui and Moa caught his eye.

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Both of them were eleven years old, almost identical outfit like twins also had years of experience of CMs, fashion shows and stages at the time. The miracle was that those twins-like two girls were in the same office along with Suzuka. The two are becoming less identical now but they kept almost identical like twins in years.
Both of them easily cleared average qualities in performing, but each of them have different strong points. Yui is good at dancing and more modest and Moa is good at charming and communicative type. And Suzuka is also well known as gno-brainerh type of person at her own pace. They are capable also professional, synchronized also complementary like a stable triangle.

3. BABYMETAL came with a unique and quality coupling of Heavy Metal sound, J-pop melody, dynamic dance and Idol appearance by their debut song Doki Doki Morning

Doki Doki Morning was released on 2011/10/24 from Juuonbu Records label that was just built for BABYMETAL only. Juuonbu means a heavy music club that is a name of a subsidiary of Sakura Gakuin that is an idol academy in their office, Amuse Inc. The song is catchy J-Pop number with cute choreography of three little girls, but once you listen to its instrumental version you’ll find how heavy its sound really is. It uses some of PANTERA drum sounds (how many other girls’ groups use sounds from PANTERA?)

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It didn’t become a big hit but it could make BABYMETAL survive, and it set the tone of its sound since then – brutality of Heavy Metal and catchiness of J-Music with complexity of Idol song. Japanese Idol song is even chaotic. It can allow almost anything under the name of Kawaii girls. Many music talents from other genres have come to the genre and create vast range of songs, and it became like a meta-genre that holds a lot of genres underneath because it would be said that music industry has been shrunken much in Japan and Idol is now the only genre that generates enough sales to be able to sustain Japanese music industry.

In fact, there have been a lot of songs of Idols with heavy taste and Heavy Metal bands with cute girls in Japan. But the genius of Key and greatness of the girls are that they never accept BABYMETAL to stay just a taste but challenge to be a real thing. Their Heavy Metal sound is real. So is their Pop melody, choreography, Idol charisma, Suzuka’s voice and Yui and Moa’s cuteness, too. That makes the difference. You can tell by yourselves and those who came to see them live left their comments that even metalheads in decades really enjoyed their performance, held their breaths away by Su-metal’s voice and melt their hearts by Yui and Moa’s cuteness. And to our surprise their performances seem to keep improving from comments and reviews.

4. BABYMETAL made a successful first appearance to a big rock festival, Summer Sonic with the youngest performer record

Summer Sonic is a big rock festival in Japan with a long history since 2000 which now hosts over 120,000 audiences in two days. Its headliners were big names like Green Day, Marilyn Manson, Guns N’ Roses, Oasis, Linkin Park, Metallica, Stevie Wonder and more.
BABYMETAL appeared there in 2012 by invitation from its host which saw BABYMETAL as something new with potential though they had only 5 songs, released only 3 singles and no album and little appearance on TV and magazine back then. They played at sub stage rather small. But it was their first exposure to many non-Idol fans, musicians and persons in music industry and media of broader music genres.

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The band got into the second level from the performance. They didn’t play at small event space anymore, held first solo live with 1,300 audiences and did first performance abroad in Singapore. And these lead them to their major debut and to their back band, Kami Band.

5. BABYMETAL acquired authentic Heavy Metal feel with their major debut song Ijime, Dame, Zettai and introduced Kami Band as a back band in their live

And early in 2013 their major debut came with Ijime, Dame, Zettai. It was actually their second song, but it was their fourth single. It might be that Kobametal kept waiting for the release until the time came. It was a straight and strong power metal number with well-structured melody line that could maximize power of Su-metal’s power with impressive shredding guitar solo and endless twin bass drum roams.

Kobametal said that he “thought it’s time for a fast ball hard enough to surprise metalheads,” and they won the bet. He “finally got some credit to talk with metalheads,” and it earned “pretty good sales figure. The CD sales kept its moment long in the front of stores.”

And at the same time, he made a decision to introduce live back band into their stage performances. BABYMETAL had played with pre-recorded track till the period. Despite of financial and temporal cost, the back band could improve their live performance a lot. And it needs mentioning to the quality of these band players.

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It’s named as Kami Band. Kami is a word that refers to god. All the member deserve the name because every one of them is regarded as top notch musician in Japan. But why these best of the best join to this three-piece idol girls’ unit? They are the ones who never be pressed for good offers. More money? Maybe. A pressure of big music agency? Maybe.
But some of them said playing in BABYMETAL behind of these hard-working talented girls and trying different types of well-produced music are just so much fun also challenging. Also they said they felt confident that BABYMETAL was going to be something before it became as it is now. They even said these girls were so professional enough to respect as a musician. They are all top notch performers. Both the girls and the band. And here would be chemistry between them. So is there any reason that BABYMETAL is NOT going to be a real thing in the world?

Epilogue: The Metal Resistance is going on

So these are critical moments that BABYMETAL has had until it became the Internet viral with Gimme Chocolate. Maybe many of you know what happened after the song. And I want to say. The song IS – or was – viral. It is watched over 17,000,000 times from last April on YouTube. Some said it’s another WTF thing from Japan. Yes it’s very different from American or Europian Pop, Heavy Metal or any other music. It might have surprised tons of people in the world in various senses.

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But is BABYMETAL itself just a viral in the Internet? Three months later when BABYMETAL appeared into curios eyes from 60,000 people and left from a main stage of Sonisphere with great amount of applause under the opening-up UK sky on July 5, audiences there and so many other people in the world who watched it via YouTube later would have felt that BABYMETAL was something in the real world. Or anything different with potential to the future.
Now they just closed the Metal Resistance Episode II with live performances in Japan, Germany, France, UK and US. Audiences and media people from various countries felt their performance live by their own eyes, ears and hearts. They must have felt BABYMETAL was not another WTF from Japan but something new that can deliver quality experiences that  can trancend borders of languages, nationalities and music preferences to touch and move people who even didn’t understand Japanese at all. And BABYMETAL declared the beginning of Metal Resistance Episode III from O2 Academy, Brixton in UK.
We don’t know what it is yet. But whatever it will be we already know this will come next year with quality. It will come. We will see it before long.

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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).

BABYMETAL in Metal Hammer magazine Sept. 2014 issue

The september 2014 issue of Metal Hammer magazine is featuring a Dom Lawson interview with BABYMETAL and an in dept intewview with the mind behind the band KOBAMETAL.

Scan: 4BABYMETAL

Transcription: jabberwokk Babymetal reddit

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If we hadn’t witnessed it with our own eyes, we would never have believed it. It’s July 5, 2014 and thousands of metal fans are gathered on the hallowed grounds of Knebworth, Hertfordshire, for the first UK Sonisphere festival since 2011. And there they are, on the festival’s main stage… three teenage Japanese girls, dancing and singing their way through the catchiest of pop melodies, with big grins plastered across their faces and fingers bent into what we soon discover is “the sign of the fox”. Behind them are a band of virtuoso metal musicians, clad in white and faces painted similarly, letting rip with a pinpoint precise and laudably modern barrage of scything riffs and pummeling rhythms. The crowd – sizeable as the girls hit the stage, fucking enormous by the time they leave it – is going righteously and thrillingly bonkers. Is it metal? Is it pop? It’s both and neither. It’s Babymetal, and within 30 minutes they have not only won over a supposedly hardcore crowd of Maiden and Metallica fans, but, even more enjoyably, briskly shut the mewing gobs of a great number of tiresome cynics and online try-hards. Joyful, triumphant, and utterly bizarre, Babymetal have arrived and the UK is plainly digging it.

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Although they have been building up a head of steam in their native Japan for the last couple of years, Babymetal only began to make inroads on these shores earlier this year, when YouTube links and bewildered blog posts started popping up across social networks and rock and metal media outlets. Understandably, not everyone was immediately impressed by the band’s unashamed blending of J-Pop (Japanese pop music, obviously) and thunderous metal. In stark contrast to Japan, where manufactured pop is widely accepted as a legitimate part of a wider pop culture that seems largely bereft of embittered whining, the UK’s rock and metal scenes are innately suspicious of anything that seems to have been conjured from the hellish mind of a record label mogul, rather than built from the ground up in a more earnest and “real” fashion. We hate Simon Cowell and we love Motörhead. The divide is clear. But part of Babymetal’s irresistible charm is that, whether for cultural reasons or not, they don’t seem to acknowledge that divide at all. Musically, they are as heavy and sharp as any modern metal band. Vocally? Well, yes, the squeaky and undeniably pop-orientated voices of Su-Metal, Moametal, and Yuimetal remain wholly untouched by, say, Slayer’s back catalogue, but the final product itself is so deliciously alien and peculiar, not to mention delivered with with joyous enthusiasm, that griping about Babymetal not being “proper metal” just comes across as pointless posturing.

OK, we admit it – we’re intrigued. And so Metal Hammer caught up with Babymetal at The Forum in London a few days later to have a chat with Key “Kobametal” Kobayashi, and to ask whether people’s cynicism about the self- evidently manufactured nature of the band is anywhere near accurate or just a knee-jerk reaction to something beyond our usual frame of reference. Softly spoken and unfailingly polite, Key certainly looks like a metalhead and, via the interpretive skills of tour manager Nora, is quite happy to explain how Babymetal came to be.
“I have been a huge metal fan for 30 years,” he states. “But of course metal is only getting older and older and the scene isn’t getting bigger anymore. I started thinking that I wanted to come up with something new, something that no one has ever done before, and that’s where Babymetal came from. The idea really just fell from the heavens.”

At some point, Key may grow weary of being asked whether his band are a cynical exercise in pop exploitation, but for now he seems perfectly happy to address the issue.
“I understand that people outside of Japan don’t really understand the pop scene in Japan and they perceive it differently from how the Japanese would,” he nods, thoughtfully. “As a longtime metal fan, I always used to say ‘That’s not real metal so I’m not listening to it!’ I’m a metal purist too, to be honest. But I realized that the scene isn’t really getting any bigger. All the old-school metal bands are still around and there’s still a fanbase, but it’s all getting smaller. So to bring Japanese metal around the world, it has to be something different and original. It’s like sushi! Sushi came from Japan and people had never eaten it before, and now everyone eats sushi all over the world. If I just started another metal band like any other, like Iron Maiden or Metallica or whoever, then no one is going to listen to it or be excited by it. Right now, Japan is known for the Idol scene and the J-pop, and I just thought that this amalgam of J-Pop and metal would be a good way to represent Japanese metal and Japanese music. And people seem to be enjoying what we do. It’s the power of the Fox!”

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Ah yes, the Fox. If you were at Sonisphere, you may have seen Babymetal’s into video, which recounted the daft but endearing fictional tale of how the band came together in answer to a request from the metal-loving Fox God to start something called the ‘Metal Resistance’. As preposterous as it sounds, there is something very clever and lovable about Babymetal’s back-story and the mystique that surrounds those who put the music together. While the metal media speculate about whether the band’s eponymous debut album was put together by members of much-loved noughties’ crossover crew Mad Capsule Markets or just some terrible Machiavellian producer with a hotline to the best session musicians, the reality is that in Babymetal’s world it really doesn’t matter a shiny shit. In fact, the whole thing works so brilliantly because it has side-stepped all the usual considerations in favour of the wholesale creation of a unique and fully formed world of its own.
“I was always interested in metal bands that had some mystery to them,” says Key. “I wanted to create something that was different from normal everyday life and people will be guessing about what’s going on in the band. It’s like Disneyland… it’s not reality and you’re transported to a different place. That’s what I wanted to create. The three girls were chosen because they’re suitable and they represent the band really well. They’re great singers and great performers. that’s why I created the story about the Fox and the Metal Resistance. The girls are like prophets, speaking for the Fox God. It just makes it different from everything else… and it’s fun!

What really comes across when speaking to Key is that he never expected Babymetal to be received so well overseas. The band have already exceeded expectations at home, becoming a huge deal very quickly and selling out two nights in the legendary Budokan in Tokyo – that’s 20,000 people per night – back in March. But conquering the rest of the world wasn’t supposed to be easy, not least due to the aforementioned cultural differences that make places like the UK so susceptible to a sneering, cynical outlook on anything that makes up its own rules as it goes along. As a result, Babymetal’s Sonisphere experience – not to mention the small matter of a show at The Forum that sold out in a matter of hours, after it had already been up-scaled from a much smaller venue – amounts to an unexpected but very welcome triumph for Key and the band and a very good omen for their collective future.

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“When this began I was just experimenting and it was a challenge,” says Key. “I didn’t know what was going to happen and I never expected it to become so big, so fast. We’d never played a big festival like Sonisphere before and we really didn’t know what to expect at a big festival full of real metal fans. In the end, it’s just trial and error. We’re always moving forward but we never really never know what to expect. Right now we’re getting a lot of offers from all over the world. We’re opening for Lady Gaga in the US and we’re doing a festival in Canada and more headline shows, so we want to travel more next year and just see where it takes us.

Key smiles the broad smile of a man who simply can’t believe his luck. He may yet end up making tons of money from Babymetal but it’s obvious that the music and the experience are what have driven this project from the start. And then, of course, there are the girls themselves. Metal Hammer is invited up for a quick chat with Su-Metal and her diminutive comrades before they take to the stage at The Forum and they greet us with excited grins but plenty of the extreme, disarming politeness for which the Japanese are famed.
“Sonisphere was an amazing experience, because it was the first time we’d played in front of such a huge audience!” beams Su-Metal, every bit the professional but very much a wide-eyed teenager too. “When I walked out I thought ‘Oh no, what am I going to do?’ but it was such a great experience. With Japanese fans, because we understand each other, they join in with the chanting and the call and response. What’s amazing with the UK fans is that even though they don’t understand the language, they still sing along with everything! And they also did the Fox sign which was wonderful to see!”

The Babymetal girls have all had a degree of experience within Japan’s pop and Idol industry through singing and modelling, but the metal scene is a very different world and one that they are clearly enjoying immensely. Su- Metal excitedly recalls meeting Kirk Hammett backstage at Sonisphere and not knowing who he was – “He just seemed like an ordinary guy and a very kind gentleman!” she says – and points out, with some bemusement, that the European crowds that have come to see Babymetal have been predominantly made up of diehard metal fans, as opposed to the Japanese crowds that are often as passionate about pop as they are about heavier music. Most of all, it’s obvious that their European adventure has gone way better than any of the three girls could ever have dreamed and that being a part of Babymetal is just about as much fun as any human being could realistically withstand. So yes, you can be cynical about Babymetal if you want. meanwhile, the band, their manager and an increasing number of metalheads are enjoying every second of this unprecedented and wonderfully demented phenomenon.

“We’ve received so many comments online from the UK and lots of people have been mimicking our dance routines and putting them on YouTube, so we’re getting such a great response and we never expected it.” Su-Metal concludes, eyes twinkling. “The response we’re getting makes us think we’re being accepted. It feels like a dream!”

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