Sound Decision

by Jonathan Mays,
What, you didn't buy Please Teacher! for the music? Shame on you. KOTOKO didn't get much attention when her first anime theme hit the US a couple of years ago, but then again, hardly anybody over here was paying attention to J-Pop in 2003. Luckily, that didn't stop Geneon from enlisting KOTOKO and her entire band to perform at Anime Expo last July. With her Starship Operators theme set to arrive in December, there couldn't be a better time to get to know one of anime's best techno rockers.

How long have you been singing?
As a professional? For about five years.

When did you decide that music was the career for you?
Really early, actually. I'd say it was back when I was in elementary school. There wasn't one "episode," but I always had that feeling, and I tried to get into a lot of auditions to give me a chance.

Take us back to your first successful audition.
The I've Sound team, that audition was the start. They asked me if I wanted to try out to sing the theme song for a game, and that was the beginning.

What was the first song you recorded?
Hmm... [long pause]... it was actually an adult game, so...

The point I want to get to is... how your singing has changed since you started.
In the beginning, before I joined I've Sound, when I was doing it pretty much on my own, as an amateur, I was writing songs. But it's a little different now. For example, I had to write the theme song for a particular game, so I had to look at the game, consider the scenario and everything. I still try to reconcile it with my inspirations at the moment, so that led me to enjoy writing theme songs.

What was it like the first time you saw a KOTOKO CD in the store?
Embarrassing! [laughs]

Been on the radio before?

That's always fun.
It was unbelievable. I was very happy.

You've done a lot of live performing, right?
Yeah—well, my first live was last year in May or June, so it's only been about a year.

Your most memorable one?
Anime Expo, of course! [laughs]

Ever had something go wrong on stage?
Quite a few things.

Please do share.
Last winter, I was on a pretty big stage. There was a live TV broadcast, and I got quite anxious doing it. I forgot quite a few of my lyrics, so it was quite an... experience.

How long have you been doing anime themes now?
In 2000, I did the theme song for Please Teacher!. That was the first one.

What different music styles have your tried?
Right now I'm doing pop and rock.

Rock is probably my favorite—singing and listening.

Oh, that's hard... I've always felt I could relate to it. And I like the sound of acoustic guitar.

Now that you're doing mostly anime stuff, do you still write your own songs?

Melody and lyrics?

Give us some insight into your writing.
Each song, depending on the situation, has a different theme. And I get inspiration from everyday living—small things and day to day life. But underneath all that, I feel there's an underlying message. I wonder about why I was born as a human, what's the meaning of life for a human. That's probably my real message.

[Laughing] Okay, so what's the meaning of life?
Still looking.

Me too.
I will tell you when I find it.

So what really inspires you? Like, specifically, more than "everyday life"?
A lot of musicians, I think.

Like who?

Anybody else?
Well... Ashlee Simpson.

Right now I'm pretty spread in terms of genre. There might be a little bit of pop and rock, and I might do a little bit of pop with some techno or something. Maybe in the future I'd like to do something more... pure in terms of genre. Like if it's rock, I would want to do something heavier, or just into techno.

We're out of time! Would you like to give a parting message?
This time around, I was very pleasantly surprised. I didn't expect that kind of reception from American fans, so I was very happy, very touched by the reception. I'd like to have more opportunities to come here and to, you know, perform, to share my songs with everybody.

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