enka singer Iwasa Misaki chats with jpoprocks

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JpopRocks.com: I understand this was your first visit to San Francisco. Did you go sightseeing? Eaten anything good?

Iwasa Misaki: Every time I visit a foreign country, I really like to go to the supermarket. Not for anything in particular, just to see what is different. But I really yogurt and I like trying all kinds of yogurt from different countries.

 

JPR: You graduated from AKB48 over a year ago, now. What is the best skill or lesson you took from your time with AKB48?

Wasamin: Almost everything I’ve learned from my time from AKB48 has helped me with my career, from how to make everyone in the audience smile and be happy to the importance of speaking properly. Personality is important!

 

JPR: While in AKB48, your first debut as a solo artist was an Enka album. Have you always been drawn to Enka?

Wasamin: Living with my Grandparents, I was heavily influenced by them listening to Enka. I also used to sing a lot of Enka songs at karaoke.

Before [AKB48] I really didn’t have much experience singing in front of people, but after I participated in the AKB48 Karaoke competition and won, I gained a lot of confidence, and became more comfortable singing in front of people.  

 

JPR: Enka has been around for a long time. Who are your favorite all time Enka artists? Songs?

Wasamin: The most memorable Enka song for me was actually the song I sang for the AKB48 Karaoke competition “Tsugaru Kaikyo Fuyugeshiki”. This is a song that all Japanese people know and was originally performed by Ishikawa Sayuri.

 

JPR: What do you think are the key ingredients to a great Enka song?

Wasamin: Enka songs usually draw from life experiences like love for someone else. Life experiences are the key ingredient to any Enka song. In terms of that, I still need more experience [laughs].

 

JPR: Could you tell us about your single Saba Kaido which was released in January?

Wasamin: This song was written Akimoto Yasushi, producer for AKB48. The Saba Kaido is a real road in Japan, between the Fukui and Kyoto prefecture. It’s a rough and wild road. The song is contrasts between the road and a woman who is feeling a yearning, and painful feeling of love for someone. Her love is like that long and rough road.

 

JPR: You are wearing such a beautiful kimono! Is there a particular pattern or color that you are fond of?

Wasamin: Well when I’m standing on a stage, I wanted a kimono that had more colorful and vivid patterns, so I wore this bluish colored kimono.

 

JPR: Enka videos always feature such beautiful scenery.  Where was your favorite location to shoot a video? What makes it so special?

Wasamin: Usually, my songs are themed to a location, so I usually visit these locations for the music video. For example, I visited Saba Kaido for that video, and went to Hokkaido for another song. Hokaido is a really cold and snowy environment. It was really freezing there. Sometimes, I couldn’t even open my eyes because of the snow!

 

JPR: You have performed in many countries all over the world. Do you have any funny, crazy, or memorable stories from the road?

Wasamin: I've had many unexpected experiences outside of Japan! When I visited New York for the first time, I was staying at a hotel. And while I was still sleeping, the cleaning person came into my room. They came right in without permission and started cleaning. That was really unexpected!

JPR: Did you know about the little sign for the door that says “Do Not Disturb”? 

Wasamin: Yeah, we have those signs in Japan, but [In Japan] they still would knock before entering! They knocked, but came straight in after a few seconds. I stayed there just stunned for awhile as they were cleaning up, but I eventually left!

JPR: You left? 

Wasamin: Yes! I actually left the room as they were finishing up because I felt like I should leave.

 

JPR: That does sound unexpected! Speaking of visiting other countries, JpopRocks is heading to Japan for the first time early next year.  Do you have any other recommendations for us or anyone else wanting visiting Japan?

Wasamin: For fun, or business?

JPR: Both! [Laughs]

Wasamin: Visit a maid café in Akibahara. You will be a master and the maids will greet you with a "welcome home master!"

 

JPR: What new projects can we look forward to?

Wasamin: I am currently focusing on performing more, to improve my skills and spread Enka worldwide.

 

JPR: What do you think would help Enka become more popular around the world?

Wasamin: I think people who are a little interested in Enka should look up songs online. Most Enka songs are inspired by real locations in Japan. Having knowledge of those locations would go a long way, especially people not from Japan, to understanding the lyrics.

 

JPR: Is there any special message you would like to say to your fans here in the US?

Wasamin: The Jpop Summit was my first solo Enka performance in the US. And I heard this is the first time the Jpop Summit had hosted an Enka singer. I hope it will be a good opportunity for me and Enka music. The US has always been a memorable place for me as it was the first foreign country I visited.

a Study in Emotional idorock: our Q&A with babyraids Japan

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Jpoprocks.com: Your performance at the Jpop Summit was great! What are your thoughts about the how the show went?

Babyraids Japan: It was our first concert and performance in the US, so we were a little bit nervous how the audience would respond, but right from the very first song the audience was very responsive, so really there was no point in worrying about it.

 

JPR: How do you compare the Japanese audience versus the American audience?

Babyraids Japan: There was really no difference, but Japanese audiences clap hands and dance. American audiences have a bit more rhythm but what really surprised us was to see so many people wearing Babyraids Japan T-shirts!

 

JPR: Did you get a chance to explore San Francisco? Where are you going, or where have you gone?

Babyraids Japan: On the second day, we had a chance to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, and have clam chowder. At first, we couldn’t see the top of the Bridge because of the fog. Eventually, the fog cleared up and we were able to see the whole bridge. Very beautiful!

 

JPR: If you had not become idols, what do you think you would be doing instead?

Riko-pin: I am currently a student, so I would focus more on studying. But I like writing novels and painting pictures. I think I would pursue maybe being an artist or a novelist.

Den-chan:  I would probably get a normal job and be a regular office lady.

Manatsu: My age is the same as a college senior, so I would probably be doing that. I’ve also always wanted to study abroad, so I would probably do that.

Nao-suke: I would still pursue a performance type career, like acting.

Rio-ton: I would want to be a teacher at a preschool. I actually still have that dream. I haven’t given it up!

 

JPR: In 2015 you created the “Emotional idorock” genre. How has this genre you created evolved overtime?

Babyraids Japan: We established the “Emotional idorock” genre after we changed our name to Babyraids Japan. Since then we have had more initiative and direction in our performances. This has also allowed each of us to express our individuality, and have more powerful performances.

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JPR: Your song Maru Maru Maru Maru Maru was featured in the anime Nana Maru San Batsu. How did you get involved with the anime?

Babyraids Japan: The ending song is really related to the story of the anime, which describes a quiz bowl student’s life and how they go through many challenges and hard work in order to win the Japanese quiz bowl nationals. The song expresses their emotion, like how nervous the characters are and the spirit they have during the competition.

We actually got to participate in a quiz event, so that we could experience what the characters went through.

JPR: Really!? How did you do in the competition?

Babyraids Japan: A lot of participants were pressing the buzzer before the entire question was read. Luckily, we knew that from the anime so we enjoyed that as well.

 

JPR: I heard that Nao-Suke was addicted to the Manga Kuroko's Basketball.

Nao-suke: [exclaims] Oh! Yes!

JPR: Any other anime or manga you are watching/reading?

Nao-suke: One Piece! I really like to read Weekly Shonnen Jump. Right now, I’m really into Yakusoku no Neverland [The Promised Neverland].

 

JPR:  You've been a group for over five years, how have you kept your relationship with each other strong?

Babyraids Japan: In the last five years we haven’t had any fights! We really try to understand each other more.

 

JPR:  We are excited that your mini album, The BRJ, comes out later this month. What can we expect from the album?

Babyraids Japan: This mini album is kind of like our business card. The songs showcase what we have been doing over the last five years. It is also a glimpse into what we are doing in the future! There are five new songs in the album, and we put a lot of feeling, emotion and energy into the album. We did that so our fans could appreciate what we done in the past five years and also look forward to the future.

 

JPR:  We are heading to Japan for the first time early next year.  Do you have any recommendations for us or anyone else wanting visiting Japan?

Babyraids Japan: Asakusa! [laughs] Over there you’ll find a significant and iconic gate called Kaminarimon [Thunder Gate] and many shrines. Going there you can experience traditional Japanese culture/history, and enjoy original Japanese food. We would love to introduce and show you around that area!

 

JPR:  Speaking of Asakusa, your group has been involved with the show Asakusa Babe q. Please describe what your roles were in the program?

Babyraids Japan: Asakusa Babe q is an entertainment/variety show in Japan. This only airs in Japan, so you probably can’t see it. On the program, we show a really goofy side of our group. We also visit various locales around Asakusa like a haunted house, massage parlor.

 

JPR:  Is there any special message you would like to say to your fans here in the US?

Babyraids Japan: It’s really hard to come to the US so often that I really want our fans over here to really get to know us through YouTube and Twitter. We like delivering our performances on social media. We work really hard to improve our performance, so if our fans over here can come to Japan please come see our show.

Meet Marco Atendido: Winner of the J-Pop Idol competition at the 2016 J-pop Summit

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JPopRocks.com: Hi Marco.  Thank you for allowing JpopRocks interview you.  You were awesome during the J-Pop Idol competition last year (2016). How was the whole experience for you? 

Marco Atendido: It was really amazing. My sister and I have performed growing up at school events, but this was our first major performance. We kind of grew closer together because of it and we plan to perform more together in the future. 


JPR.com: What was it like to be awarded by Silent Siren and hear their praise of your performance?

Marco: Performing in front of my favorite band was a "What if" type of thing in my head. Like, "it would be cool if this actually "happened". Then it happened, and even today my heart races still thinking about it. 


JPR.com: I heard you will be preforming again at the 2017 J-POP Summit?  Any insights on what you might be performing?

Marco: My sister and I are sticking true to our style. We didn't grow up listening to Japanese music till actually a couple years ago; we were all about R&B and singer-songwriter music. You will see that style come out with our next performance! 


JPR.com: How were you introduced to J-pop? What is J-pop to you?

Marco: It started when my friend introduced the all-female rock band Scandal to me in the beginning of 2015. As I fell head over heels for them, I eventually fell in love with the Japanese language, especially in music. From there, I branched out to many different artists and genres and the train is still rolling to this day. J-pop to me is a big part of my life in that it led me to meeting many different people along the way, whether at concerts, online, karaoke sessions, festivals and such, it has been amazing. I've also found a new direction in making my own music through J-pop. After I graduated high school, I lost the desire to make music online, perform, and jam with fellow musicians. That fire got rekindled as I fell into the J-pop hole; I'm still falling deeper into the hole to this day, haha.


JPR.com: You have many musical talents, from vocals, guitar, and drums.  How long have you been performing and among all those talents which do you enjoy more than the rest?

Marco: I've been singing all my life because I grew up in a musically oriented family. Guitar was my first instrument and it's my primary instrument to record with. However my favorite instrument is my drum set! I've been playing for my church every week for about 8 years and for other events, and I've grown the most as a drummer through those years. The way I like to put is that I can be pitchy at times as a singer and I can play the wrong guitar chord, but I can't play a wrong note on the drums.


JPR.com: You have done covers for Silent Siren, SCANDAL, and other bands. Are there any other artists that inspire you?

Marco: I wouldn't point my inspiration toward single artists. It's a culmination of everything I listen to that manifests in my covers. As of recent, I've been wanting to perform songs by Shimizu Shota, Nishino Kana, and Little Glee Monster.
 


JPR.com: Where would you most like to do a concert and what artist would you like to perform with?

Marco: I would love to sub in for Hina or Rina on the drums one day as a cameo, haha. But realistically,  I would love to perform with artists that reflect my style, such as Sakai Yuu, Little Glee, and also Goosehouse!
 


JPR.com: Beyond your upcoming J-POP Summit performance, are there any other projects we can look forward to?

Marco: You can look forward to more upcoming covers on my YouTube channel! My sister and I will be collaborating more frequently. I'm also working on some originals outside of J-pop, so look forward to those as well! I'm having so much fun doing this. 

Catching up with Kazuha Oda - Lead singer and Bassist with Kazha!

JPR.com: Hello Kazuha Oda!  We've actually met at a couple of conventions last year—Sabaku Con 2016 and Saboten Con 2016. Is there something particular about anime conventions that draws you to perform at so many?

Kazuha Oda: Hello :) I'd say that we are just fortunate to be able to attend a lot of anime conventions. My band is not anime related at all, but the members of the band are all Japanese, and we all have artist visas to work in the USA as musicians...and because of all those things, I guess it's definitely easier for conventions to invite us as their guests. And of course, I hope the organizers and staff of those conventions loves our music :)

I love seeing Japanese culture and Animation being loved by so many people, and we're happy to be a part of it. And I'm trying to be the bridge between Japanese and American culture through my music, so attending Anime Conventions is something I want to continue from now on.

JPR.com: Your love for your fans is deep! At Sabaku Con, you interacted with the audience frequently throughout the show. What do your fans mean to you?

Kazuha Oda: I wouldn't be who I am as a musician without my fans. I can never imagine myself retiring from being a musician as long as there is a fan who is waiting for me.

JPR.com: Out of all the concerts you've performed, are there any special moments or events that stick out?

Kazuha Oda: I honestly enjoyed every moment and every event I've performed at, but if I had to choose one, it would be Saboten Con in Arizona. I can't say which year it was, but I've been there every single year since 2011 and it feels like going home every year. It is something special seeing the convention grow and to be able to be a part of it.

JPR.com: Kazha has toured all over the world.  Has there been any specific countries that you especially enjoyed?

Kazuha Oda: We enjoyed Mexico and of course USA :)

JPR.com: Many of us here at JpopRocks are based in the San Francisco Bay Area. You made your debut in San Francisco back in 2009.  Any plans on returning to the Bay Area in the near future?

Kazuha Oda: I do not have specific plans yet...but I really hope to return!

JPR.com: When did you first start to sing and how long have you been playing the bass? When did the other members start playing instuments?

Kazuha Oda: I started classical vocal training when I was little, but I started playing bass since 2014, so I'm still very young as a bassist.

My bandmates have been playing their instruments since they were in Junior High.

JPR.com: It shows! Hideki Matsushige is a talented guitarist. How did you meet and decide to form Kazha?

Kazuha Oda: I met him when I was a singer in another band in Japan. We had similar thoughts and influences in music, and we learned that we work very well together writing music, so we decided to start Kazha.

JPR.com: How did your drummer Masaya come to join Kazha?

Kazuha Oda: Masaya was in the band since almost the beginning, when we started touring in America, but he was absent from the band here and there. Working as a band in a foreign country where you never grew up is very difficult, so I've had to decide on a drummer replacement time to time.

JPR.com: Who are your influences?

Kazuha Oda: We all love classic rock. Rush, Metallica, Journey, Alice in Chains... too many great bands!

JPR.com: If you could choose any band to cover one of your songs, who would that be and what song?

Kazuha Oda: I would love to hear Rush covering "Break Into Pieces" !

JPR.com: We would love to hear that too!  

"Frozen" is an absolute favorite here at JpopRocks. It has a great combination of lyrics and rhythm.  Do you have a favorite song, and what makes it so special?

Kazuha Oda: I also love Frozen, but my favorite might be "Wake Up" (the first song on our first album) because that is the very first song that Hideki and I ever made for Kazha when we first started the band.

But to be honest...I love all of Kazha's music LOL It's too hard for me to pick one, and that is why I make albums.

JPR.com: Before forming Kazha, you were a solo artist. What are your thoughts about being in a group versus going solo?

Kazuha Oda: 

For me, both being a solo artist or being in a group are great, but I think it really depends on what you want to pursue. 

It was easy for me to be a solo artist in some ways... like you can control your own schedule, and do what you want to do. And you can also travel alone. However, I felt alone at so many situations when I was a solo artist.

I grew up listening to rock bands and my dream was to sing in a rock band. But when I realized, I was signed to a music label as a solo singer already... and I almost didn't have time to think of what I really wanted to do.

I was always feeling lonely even when I had a back band that plays for me at a concert. I felt that they were playing music with me mostly because they work for me. I guess I was hoping to have someone that I could call "band mates".

Few years later when I started to sing in a group, I realized what I really wanted to do...and finally decided to form my own band "Kazha".

This is my personal opinion from my own experience, but being in a group gives you the opportunity to grow (as a musician) with your people who respects each other, and who believes in you. Finding the best (right) people for your group is the most important part which is not easy at all... but being in a group could give you a great feeling that you have someone who can follow a dream with.

JPR.com: We think you expressed both situations very well! Regardless, we think your work with Kazha and your past solo projects are both great!  

Thank you for allowing us to interview you! Is there anything you would like to say or mention to the JpopRocks fans out there?

Kazuha Oda: Thank you very much. If you never knew about us until now, please check out our music! If you like our music, please follow us and tell your friends about us. And thank you all for reading my interview <3