Interview: JAM Project's Hironobu Kageyama

by Cindy Sibilsky,

J-Pop and Anisong superstar Hironobu Kageyama has spent the majority of his life making music and has become a major force in the world of anime music. His anisong solo debut was the theme song for Dengeki Sentai Changeman and he continued singing various theme songs for Saint Seiya, Casshan, Shinesman, and the megahit Dragon Ball Z – including the iconic “Cha-La Head-Cha-La”. He has also produced numerous hit anisongs and remains very active worldwide.

Kageyama is the leader of the anisong supergroup JAM Project, and the current lineup is now celebrating their 15th anniversary. Since 2003, he has received offers to perform at anime conventions all over the world, and in 2008, he led JAM Project on a world tour across eight countries. His invitation to participate in Anime NYC and his solo performance at the inaugural Anisong World Matsuri at the Hammerstein Ballroom on November 17th marked his first time in New York City. Though he has been in the Japanese music business for many years, he shows no signs of slowing down. Kageyama was kind enough to take a break from his busy schedule to take an interview with us.

I understand it's your first time in New York. Before you arrived, what was your impression of New York City?

Kageyama: Most Japanese feel the same way about New York—it's the biggest city in the world! It feels so grand with lots of energy!

Your solo work and your work with JAM Project are known for having extremely high energy. What's your routine? How do you keep up that energy?

I'm 57 years old now, so all of the energy we put out with such a band like JAM Project and all the live shows could be hard on me, but I've developed a routine to keep me fit, healthy, and energetic. I do various sports and train every day.

Last year you released two songs that were entirely in English. Why did you decide to go in that direction? What was the process like?

This happened in 2017, my 40th anniversary of working in the music industry. I was working with [Grammy Award-winning producer] David Foster on my album “A.O.R.”, and it was David who suggested that I sing in English. It was really challenging at first, but my Australian friend helped me a lot to feel more comfortable and confident when singing in English.

Do you express yourself differently when writing in English or Japanese? What's the process like?

When I'm singing and writing songs in Japanese, the process might take me something like three days. For English, it was more like three weeks to write and feel comfortable with the songs and singing them, then an additional two weeks for more changes, so the whole process took over a month versus under a week. However, I'm really glad that I did it, and I would really like to challenge myself with more.

How has JAM Project evolved in your 15 years together? What's changed the most and what has stayed the same?

I don't know if this is our biggest change, but it's a constant one -- JAM Project's sound always takes on new challenges by exploring fresh and exciting rock elements. When we're working on anime theme songs, we're always aiming to create something completely new in the world of rock music. One thing that we will never change—we need to always remember to love and honor anime and the true heroes it creates—otherwise, we wouldn't be able to call ourselves JAM (Japan Animationsong Makers) Project.

What style or theme can we expect from the “One Punch Man 2” opening?

I want to keep the same vibe as we had for the “One Punch Man” season one theme song, “THE HERO !!” We need to keep that energetic, vibrant, pumping rock sound!

Thanks to Hironobu Kageyama and Anime NYC for the opportunity.

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