Interview: nano

by Kyle Cardine,

If there is one phrase artist, singer, and songwriter Nano says the most, it is “Rock on!” Regardless of saying it to pump up the crowd or used as a casual sendoff, Nano carries the spirit of a high energy, rock and roll performer.

Born and raised in New York City, Nano would later go to Japan to pursue a career in music, with the particular strength of being bilingual in both English and Japanese. Since then, Nano has performed many opening themes for anime including “Bull's Eye” for Aria the Scarlet Ammo Double A, “Savior of Song” for Arpeggio of Blue Steel and “Utsushiyo no Yume” for Kakuriyo -Bed & Breakfast for Spirits-.

Nano came back to New York City for their first hometown concert with Anime World Matsuri at Anime NYC, and Anime News Network had a chance to sit down and talk about the creative process of writing in two languages, Nano's favorite anime, and what it is like covering other songs with other prolific anisong artists.

ANN: What's it like being back in New York City?

Nano: I could talk about it forever, but New York is my home city. It's been the top on my list of places I wanted to sing at. It's a dream come true to be back here. The concert Friday night was amazing. It was more than I dreamed of. I'm just a very happy person right now!

What's your favorite spot in the city?

Actually, this time I've been able to go around with my staff. Not much sightseeing, but going around the city and doing shopping, going to cafes, and eating. I like the whole city. Just walking around makes me happy.

Have you been to East Village?

Not this time. But when I was living here before I got around a lot.

It's interesting, it's like a Japantown now.

It's amazing, but there's so many Japanese places and restaurants everywhere now too.

How does being bilingual influence your singing/songwriting?

It's everything to me, because it helps me connect with fans worldwide. Of course, I think music breaks down language barriers, but at the same time it's really great to be able to connect directly with my fans overseas with English because I don't need a translator, and that helps me tell my fans directly what I'm feeling and talk and sing with them. That's the reason why I definitely wanted to shape my career as a bilingual singer.

How do you decide when to use English in your lyrics, for example your new song “Star light, Star bright” from Conception? When do you say “This needs to be in Japanese” or “This needs to be in English?”

It depends on the song, but it's completely based on inspiration most of the time. I listen to the demo track, just the melody, and I listen to it over and over and I start hearing these sounds and lyrics and rhythms. Of course, Japanese and English are different rhythm-wise, so at times the melody might feel like it fits better with Japanese and at times I feel like it's better in English. Sometimes, perhaps if it's a tie-up, the anime side might say “We want it all in English,” or “We want it all in Japanese,” or maybe “We want it in 80% Japanese.” I try to do my best to fulfill their needs as well.

You've been a professional artist for six years now. What has changed most from when you first started?

Everything, I think. Before I made my debut, it was just me experimenting with myself and not knowing whether I had a future in music or not. It was just me chasing after my dream. But after I made my debut, it's been me trying to just connect with people around the world, which is what I had wanted to do with music all along. It's been dream come true after dream come true. Honestly, sometimes it's been tough as a professional artist. There have been tough times. But the happiness that has come along with it easily overcomes that, so I've totally forgotten all about the tough times.

I understand you're a big fan of Detective Conan.

Yes, I am!

What gets you excited about the series?

It's one of the first series I really fell in love with as a kid. I just think it's realistic, but in another sense it's not. You feel like it could happen in real life. Of course, it'd be horrible if so many murders happened every day, but it's just so realistic. One of the other things that really intrigued me about it is the music that went along with it -- it didn't have the feeling of regular anisong. It had the regular J-Rock feel, like B'z. It's really cool that they decided to use that sort of J-Rock. It was a good collaboration. Actually, I originally liked Sherlock Holmes. The mystery really intrigued me.

Do you feel like the series is close to ending? Where do you think the plot in Conan is?

Well you know, Conan has been a first grader for, what… 20-something years? I think he's come so far that he's just going to stay that way forever. In a way, I would like to see how it ends. But in another, I would be really sad if it ended. I think the ending is very important since it's been so long. A lot of the fans could be heartbroken or fulfilled depending on the ending. I think Aoyama is very, very careful about how he wants to end the story.

Yeah there are a lot of loose ends...

The world is just contemplating who's the real culprit. Who knows? Someone unexpected might be the real one...

What other anime and manga are you excited about?

I was also a big fan of Fullmetal Alchemist. I watched it on DVD actually. I rented every single DVD and watched it probably sleepless for three nights in a row. It was the first time I did that with an anime. It was just a great series. The characters were awesome. The music too, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, L'Arc-en-Ciel… I was just like, wow this is a perfect series. I have nothing to complain about with it.

Who's your favorite character?

It sounds really normal, but Ed is just one of my favorites. It's too hard to pick though.

You performed an exciting surprise collaboration at Friday's concert. How do you feel about that experience?

We didn't know we'd be collaborating at the beginning, but when Anisong World Matsuri said “You guys are going to be collaborating.” I was totally like “oh my gosh!” and nerve-stricken, like “Am I going to be OK?” To be honest, I've never collaborated in my life at these events before. I've never covered an anisong on stage before. But when we rehearsed in Japan and I met these amazing performers, it was completely “Oh, I'm going to be OK.” If I mess up, these people are going to cover up for me. It was fun. I was able to collaborate on my own song with Suzuki Konomi. "Invoke" is one of my favorite songs by T.M. Revolution as well. That was awesome, the crowd really enjoyed that song. "God Knows" is also a great song to cover as well. I think these events are great because of these opportunities to do things you've never done in your life before. I'm really grateful for that.

Especially opening with "Sousei no Aquarion".

Yeah, that was god-like.

What were your feelings looking out at an audience full of New Yorkers?

I want to say “I'm home! Tadaima!” The feeling on that stage was different. I think New Yorkers have a very distinct sensibility. They know what's good. They are very honest about what they like and they're so fired up. It was just a great feeling to be home again. I knew they were having a good time. They were just awesome.

Any last thing you'd like to add?

Thank you so much and I will be back. When I do come back, I'd love all these readers to be able to rock out with me again!

Our thanks to Nano, Anisong World Matsuri, and Anime NYC for this opportunity.

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