JAM Projectby Bamboo Dong, Mike Toole,
We had the privilege of interviewing the members of JAM Project earlier in the year at the Anisong World Tour Lantis Festival in Las Vegas. JAM Project was founded in 2000 and is currently comprised of Hironobu Kageyama, Masaaki Endoh, Hiroshi Kitadani, Masami Okui, and Yoshiki Fukuyama, each of whom are also well-known for their solo recording endeavors. JAM Project has performed theme songs for several anime properties (JAM itself is an acronym for Japan Animationsong Makers), including Super Robot Wars Original Generation - The Animation, MazinKaiser, Garo the Animation, Bakuman. and more.
JAM Project has been headlining concerts in America for a long time now. What keeps you coming back?
Kageyama: We've been coming back more and more over the past few years because anime's getting to be more popular in America. So there's more festivals, and we keep getting invited, and we actually want to come to America anyway, so it works out great for us!
What is one of your favorite things about touring?
Kageyama: We really enjoy eating all the local foods at the places we visit.
I wanted to talk about your most recent anime song, the second opening for GARO THE ANIMATION. It has a very different sound from some of your previous singles. It's very jazzy. How was that created?
Kageyama: GARO's broadcast extends to a lot of rural areas, more so than some other anime, and the show has a lot of adult fans. So to appeal to GARO's more adult fanbase, we decided to put a lot more jazz influence into the music.
Many anime fans have grown up listening to your music. How does it make you feel to be a part of so many people's childhoods and lives growing up?
Kageyama: We get a lot of fan mail all the time! When we play a live show or put out new music, we get a lot of power from the audience. Likewise, fans will tell us that when they're feeling down or having a hard time, they can listen to JAM Project and get rejuvenated from that. Knowing that and seeing the effect our music has on the fans is what keeps us going.
When I was watching the concert earlier, I noticed that Sushio, the character designer for Kill La Kill, was dancing and singing along with all of your songs. So there are people who grew up with your music and are now working in anime as well!
Kageyama: We hear that a lot, from producers in Japan who say, "I've been listening to you since I was a kid." We're so happy to be playing as long as we have!
When you're creating songs together, how do you decide who sings which part?
Kageyama: It's all based on feelings, really. It always seems to come out the way we like it, when we base it off of gut feelings. If we want a more "lovely" section of music, we will assign it to "this" person (gestures towards Okui), or if we want a more "rock" section, we will assign it to "that" person (gestures towards Fukuyama), and it always seems to work out the right way.
JAM Project is often associated with giant robot shows and tokusatsu. Are you all fans of these types of shows?
Kageyama: All little boys in Japan love tokusatsu growing up. Everyone loves it, really!
If you were asked to create a song for something very different, like a magical girl series, would you be interested?
Kageyama: Yes, of course we'd do it!
Do you have any personal favorite anime genres that you like to watch?
Kitadani: I like sports anime.
Kageyama: Me too.
Okui: I like mystery series. And series where there is an anti-hero, stories like heaven vs. hell. I like that in Hollywood movies as well as anime. Also, vampires. I love vampires.
Endoh: I like anything that moves me. Anything that will make me cry.
What's an anime that has made you cry?
Endoh: Heidi. A Dog of Flanders too.
In your opinion, what makes an ideal anime song? What are the essential ingredients?
Kageyama: It's really important to pay attention to the genre that you're working with. If it's Super Robot Wars, the robots will be moving fast and there's a lot of action, so of course we'll do a fast-paced and heavier song. If it's more like a human story for an anime, we would focus on a nice melody as opposed to high-speed rock.
The JAM Project lineup has been the same for a very long time now. Do you ever think about adding new members?
Kageyama: We're totally fine with just these five. Right now, the balance is just right. Maybe in the future if there was some style that we couldn't do, or someone that could bring something new to what we need, we would go looking for someone. But for now, we really like this balance.
After so long, it must feel like family.
Kageyama: It is a lot like a family, but we're also very cognizant of each member wanting to do their own thing, so we all support that. When we have a day off, we all split and do our own thing.
Endoh: Kageyama is our father. Fukuyama is our grandfather!
Are there any other artists you would like to collaborate with on a project, even as just a one-time thing?
Kageyama: We've never actually done that before, but it is something we're looking into in the future.
Do any of you have a "dream project," either as JAM Project or just individually?
Kageyama: I'm the oldest member of the group, and I made my debut 38 years ago, but I still have dream projects too. One thing I would like to do is make my own full album and record it in New York, London, and other various places. Record it all around the world.
Kitadani: I would like to play sessions with different artists across the world, through a tour.
Endoh: I would also like to tour more countries and play my music for audiences across the world.
Fukuyama: Music is my hobby even outside of touring, so I would love to do solo, two-piece, three-piece, or four-piece classical music performances. I have a huge list of endeavors I would love to accomplish.
Okui: Because of my position, I have potential influence on society around me. I would most like to participate in helping younger generations in some way through my music or other endeavors.
Do you each have any favorite current or past musicians that you would dream of working with?
Kageyama: There's a lot of artists I'd love to work with, but I really love KISS! Right now there's also a band in Japan called Momoiro Clover Z who are doing sessions with KISS themselves, and I'm really jealous.
Fukuyama: I would really want to work with Motley Crue or Guns N' Roses.
Kitadani:I really like U2. My dream would be to do something with them or to play something like what they play.
Endoh: I want to play backup for Paul McCartney.
Okui: I don't really listen to other bands much, but I'm a fan of Kageyama-san's band, Lazy. So now there's been talk of us working together, and I'm considering that now. I've been pushing his buttons a little.
What can fans expect in 2015?
Kageyama: Actually, this year is going to be our 15th anniversary, so we're considering a 15-year anniversary album, and we're also planning a 15-year anniversary concert in Japan in autumn. If you go to the JAM Project official website, you can request songs for the 15th anniversary concert. It's all written in Japanese, but we definitely want to hear from all our fans.
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