Interview: Greg Ayres and Brina Palencia, pt.2

by Bamboo Dong; transcription: John Salzer,

We were able to sit down earlier this year and chat with Greg Ayres and Brina Palencia, who play the parts of Koyuki and Maho in Beck. This is the second half of the interview-- to read what else the two actors have to say, pick up a copy of Protoculture Addicts #93, which is on store shelves now.

About the songs—a lot of the lyrics in the original are not always grammatically correct, nor do they make a lot of sense. So how did you compensate for that? Were there some times where you thought that they were really trying to say something else?

Brina: Well, Mike McFarland is the one who did all of the songwriting, and he did a really great job of keeping it as close to the Japanese as possible, but still making sense. Even with the songs that were in Japanese that we dubbed in English, he tried to make sure that when they would insert random English words, that on that beat, we would say that word. Like with one song, the rhythm of it is so specific, and he did a really good job of making sure it stayed that way. I know that a lot of times you have to change the rhythm many times whenever you're trying to dub a song in English, but he went through painstaking measures so make it stayed that same rhythm.

Greg: I appreciate one song specifically that people won't make such a big deal of, where Saku, Koyuki and Koyuki's weiner friend Tanabe want to do a song for the school's talent show. And Tanabe, of course, flakes out at the last second, but it's a song called “Yōkai Ningen Bem,” which most people didn't even realize it was about a really, really old anime series. And the chorus is “Bem, Bera, Bero, Yōkai Ningen Bem” Well Bem, Bera, and Bero, I believe, are three characters from the show. And they wrote this totally nerdy song called "Apparition Beasts," which is "Yōkai Ningen Bem." So it is this hysterical song that Mike tried to keep as true to the fact as possible. It was fun, and Mike did an amazing job. The music from this show is great, the thing I have to applaud the Japanese on this show for is that they didn't just go out and find some songwriters, they went out and found some very good established Japanese rock bands. Not J-Rock bands, not visual-kei bands, but just Japanese rock bands with solid music, so there's nothing lacking in that.

Brina: I'm a huge fan of Beat Crusaders now; I absolutely love them. Also, whenever we got the soundtrack to listen to learn our songs, I would just pop the CD into my car stereo and just listen to it when I was driving to work.

What are your personal favorite bands and personal influences as far as music?

Greg: Well, I met Osamu Kobayashi when I was here two years ago. He's the director of Beck, and we surprisingly have a lot of the same musical influences. He's a big Nirvana fan, a big Ramones fan, and it shows all over the show. The coolest thing about the show is that his fascination and Sakuichi's fascination with American and British rock music totally shows even in the shirts, like when Koyuki wears a Pixies shirt, and it says Pixis. Ryusuke wears a Red Hot Chili Poppers shirt. There're all these great send-outs of American rock bands. A lot of the bands I love are paid tribute to in the show, especially the Ramones and Nirvana. I'm a music geek, and to say what my favorite music bands are, I would have such a hard time. My newest obsession though, is Lauryn Hill. I'm enthralled by the story of and the voice of Miss Hill. Those are my three right now. The Ramones never change, Nirvana never changes, but the new flavor of the month is Miss Hill.

Brina: I am a huge fan of Rufus Wainright, and I like Jeff Buckley a lot. As far as female singers go, I like Nina Simone, and Lauryn Hill, of course, is awesome. In my music endeavors as far as my degree is concerned, I studied classical music, so I don't know that much about popular music, which is strange. I know enough, but most of the stuff I listen to is not that mainstream. Rufus Wainright is about as mainstream as I can get. I love Björk, too. Björk is one of my favorites. I like the singer/songwriter types. I like folk music a lot, like Don McLean and James Taylor.

Greg: My other two big ones were Roberta Black and Stevie Wonder.

Brina: Michael Jackson is pretty much awesome.

Greg, I heard you wanted to be the dog.

Greg: Kind of. The story came about because I am so anti-bootlegging and piracy. I haven't always been this way, but I've been privy to conversations with a lot of Japanese that changed my opinions on it. I, like anybody else, used to have bad Hong Kong bootlegs, would download things when I could, but I would have a bad connection so nothing would come out that well. But after realizing how what kind of strain it's putting on the industry, and how bad it's hurting the industry in Japan, as well as their opinions on it, all of that changed. So, my knowledge of Beck was only the music and the artwork that I had seen, and it wasn't until I had started reading the manga I was like, “Oh my God, this is an amazing story!” So when I met Kobayashi, he asked me who my favorite character was. Not having watched the fansubs, I said, “Well, I like the dog a lot.” So the joke was, when we saw each other later, I told him that I was pretty sure I was working for the company that had the rights to the show. The translator said, “Oh, you have to audition for the show.” And then he smiled and said something and then the translator said, “You can't play the dog.” So I think it's funny, but if I had seen the show, there would have been no way around wanting to play Koyuki. And as I started to read the manga, I would have buried people in my backyard to keep them from the part.

Brina: I felt the same way about Maho. Typically, any time that I've auditioned for an animation, I don't care who I am. I just want to be in it, because I think it's fun; I'll be anything. But with this, all the stuff that I had read about it, and the artwork, I fell in love with Maho. I was so sure that I wasn't going to get the part, and the audition process was out of control. We had our reading audition, then our singing audition, and I had to do a second round.

Greg: They had cast me, because it was pretty well known who was going to play Koyuki. If they didn't let me know, then they were going to let me sweat every minute of the audition. But then whomever they cast as Maho and Ryusuke had to sound good opposite my voice. And so it was Brina and two other people, then it was really between her and one other person. It was based on how Brina and I sang together, that she got the role. And it was weird, because when I heard her voice, as we sang together, we sounded weird, but very much the same.

Brina: We blend really well, and you wouldn't think that, because the first time when I heard “Follow Me,” I was like, whoa, that sounds awesome, because we didn't record the songs together, we recorded them separately. So when I heard the final mix of it, I was like, oh my God that's Greg.

Greg: The song they had us sing for the matchup was “Moon on the Water,” and there were times when we singing on the water where they had to take the wave forms and separate them because they were clashing, because they sounded so much alike, it was de-tuning itself. It was really neat. I didn't know it until I heard the clips of us singing “Vibes of Boston,” where I felt like we really do sound alike.

Do you have any favorite songs?

Greg: I think we're probably going to end singing more songs from this show more often, and the one that I hope I get to sing live is “Slip Out,” because it's an awesome song. When we did Anime Boston, I was told nobody knows these songs yet, so I don't think I'm allowed to sing any songs yet. But it's a great song, I love it.

Brina: At first my favorite song to sing was “Follow Me,” because I love harmonizing, but when we performed at Anime Boston live, it became “Sly.” I had so much fun with that, and honestly, that one is so much more in my range. Because I am a soprano, the higher it is, the better.

Greg: I think Brina doing “Sly” is good especially at Anime Boston, because the first time we meet Maho, she's onstage in a big nightclub with flashing lights and she's dancing, so what better way for her to do that. When we sang “Moon on the Water” and “Follow Me,” we were singing to a seated audience, but she was singing at the Rave. There were kids with glow sticks and screaming, it was the most perfect recreation of the show. The neatest thing about this show is, I'm getting emails from kids in Canada about the show, because it's airing on Much Music. They're saying they don't like anime, but they like this show. That's because they're rock and roll kids who have never seen a story like this.

Brina: It's really nostalgic, if you were ever one of those kids where you'd go to a show every weekend. It's so close to my heart, because I was one of those kids.

Greg: I have a lot of hopes that this show can leave its footprint behind when it's done, not so much because I'm in the show, but because it's one that I love so much, and because it's got such a great story. I've been watching anime for a long time now, and I don't think there's been anything I've been able to identify with as much as this show. I actually haven't seen the end of the show, and the first time when I saw the “Break the Sound” episode come to its finale, I was crying, and not in a way that it's sad, but more of it was so moving. I can't talk about it, because it's a gigantic spoiler, but there're so many things that happen so perfectly. As you're watching it, it's amazing. So I'm really hopeful for the end of the show, it's going to be great.

Thank you so much.

Greg: Thank you for letting us talk about the show; you'll absolutely love the show.

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