Interview: Ali Projectby Zac Bertschy and Lynzee Loveridge,
ALI PROJECT doesn't have a hard time getting recognized – if you're not familiar with their signature aristocratic fashion style, then odds are you've heard at least a few of their unique, chart-topping anime theme songs, seen in front of smash hit shows like Another, Code Geass, Rozen Maiden, Noir, and Katanagatari, among others. They've been a sensation in Japan since 1988, and have been thrilling their American fans with live performances since debuting at Otakon in 2008. This year, they performed at the Anisong World Matsuri during Anime Expo 2017 in Los Angeles, California, and we had the opportunity to ask a few questions before they took the stage.
ANN: Thank you so much for your time today, I really appreciate the chance to speak with you. Your partner obviously isn't here today, but I'm curious. Back in the day when you first got together, how did you come to the decision to start a musical duo together?
Arika Takarano: It was around 25 years ago, I had been looking for a composer I could work with, and he (Mikiya Katakura) had also been looking for someone to work with. We had a mutual friend through tape-swapping back then, and that's how we wound up finding each other.
What seeds of inspiration would you say led to your signature visual style? Did you try out a lot of different looks before settling on the one that made you famous? Or was it always right down the middle on the one that you have now?
In the early days we didn't have anyone tailoring our outfits professionally – only recently have we really started establishing the look we have right now. We can do whatever we like, really – our costumes are even more gorgeous now, and they fit the songs so well.
You grew up with artistic parents. Do you think that influenced your personal artistic outlook or your artistic philosophy?
Since both of my parents are painters, I feel that they were definitely an influence. I grew up in a world of color that absolutely influences my style. When it comes to the music, it's more like - yeah there's classic music, but I wouldn't say I've been influenced by it much.
Ali Project is basically synonymous with gothic lolita style at this point. How do you think it's changed since you first adapted the look?
It's really grown into this other culture. It's a culture all to itself at this point. I'm not really a pioneer in that world, but I've been into gothic lolita fashion stuff for a long, long time, and it feels like finally time caught up with me. I'm really happy to see kids dressing up in that kind of style, showing up for my concerts. I'm really happy to see it.
Your latest album -- the 25th Anniversary “Chi to Mitsu - Anthology of Gothic Lolita & Horror” -- centers a lot on the gothic lolita stuff. How did you narrow down the choices for what wound up on your Best Of album?
This album consists of two discs, as you know. One is selected largely from my personal taste, and the other one is goth Lolita. The first disc, for example, includes the theme song from Another – that one is very much to my taste. And on the other disc, the gothic Lolita album, that one includes the Rozen Maiden theme. Each disc consists of 16 songs or somewhere around there, and we basically picked whatever songs we felt the most "oh, we love it" for each disc.
Your latest music video was shot in a castle in Paris. What was like that? Were there really strict rules for shooting there? Did you have a good time?
That castle is open to the public and they only basically close one day a week. So we technically had that one whole day, plus the night before that. At night we shot mostly the horror stuff and during the day we basically needed to cover the music for two different tracks. So that was the hard part, having limited time.
In your opinion, what's the highest moment of your career so far?
Back when we first started, we didn't have any recognition and had trouble selling music, but what changed it is definitely anime, especially Clamp's Wish. So after that it just happened, and it felt like one after another. Code Geass, Rozen Maiden, a lot of stuff happened, boom <claps> at once. I feel like ALI PROJECT needed those anime. Not that they're writing for anime as a concept from the get go, but that was a great thing for the band.
Similarly, what would you say the biggest challenge you faced is?
The last 25 years haven't been particularly challenging. But I remember now, when we started getting a lot of anime projects, one after another, some fans out there were saying "oh, it's ALI PROJECT again?", but I enjoyed that kind of reaction. We had one recent challenge - when we made this 25th anniversary single, which is a seven minute long track. That's very long and difficult to perform.
Do you have a favorite really long song? Like over seven minutes? A personal favorite?
I don't really listen to other music, but I like symphonic metal.
Of all the anime you've done a theme song for, have you had the opportunity to watch any of them, and if so: which one's your favorite?
My favorite is Rozen Maiden – I'm friends with the author of Another, and that one is also my favorite. So I have two favorites.
Last question. Over the last 25 years you've sort of musically had stages in your career. Can we expect another shift anytime soon?
We're basically releasing an album every year. The fundamental part of our music style, I don't think it's going to change. But there's always a challenge out there, collaborating with others, for example jazz and samba and different genres of music. I'd like to challenge how those genres can be incorporated into our kind of music.
Thanks to ALI PROJECT, Anisong World Matsuri and Anime Expo for this opportunity.
Anisong World Matsuri YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/anisongworldmatsuri
Anisong World Matsuri at Otakon 2017
Date: August 11 & 12
Venue: Washington DC Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Lineup: FLOW, JAM Project, T.M. Revolution, Yousei Teikoku
Concert Info: https://www.otakon.com/concerts/anisong
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