mikan music articles
Interview Akino Arai
By Shito, on 2009-04-18 22:00 - Translation : Shito
A few hours before the first performance of her 2009 live tour in France, we had the opportunity to ask Akino Arai a few questions. In this interview, we've been talking about live concerts, her new album and collaborations.
(This interview was prepared by Van and Shito, and also published on Van's fansite : http://akino.arai.free.fr/).

Akino Arai
mimu: Already three years have passed since your first concert in France. What memories do you keep in and what are the main differences that can be expected between the last concert and the ones you'll be giving this weekend?

Akino Arai: My first concert 3 years ago was a great first as I had never made a performance outside of Japan. I keep very fond memories of it; because I could sing with an enthusiasm that I could never have imagined coming from a foreign audience. I was literally surrounded by waves of warm applauses, I felt good, I felt protected, safe in this concert. It is an unforgettable experience in my life as a musician.

The main difference this time is in the composition of the stage. Hogari-kun, my sound producer, is back with me, but there will also be another person: Tohdo-kun, a violinist with whom I have performed concerts for a few years and who is involved in my new album.

mimu: You do a lot of rearranging of your songs for live performances, but you also pay a great attention to lightings, staging ... For this weekend you also announced animations made from your drawings. What are your main concerns when you plan a new concert?

AA: In concert? Undoubtedly the atmosphere... This is a complicated issue... I want to create a special atmosphere. The crucial point for me on stage is to concentrate fully on my work, my universe. But it is not me back on myself, on the contrary it is to be myself in a form of outward radiation. This is not the ego which is put forward, it is in fact a search of non-self.

mimu: French fans know you mostly for your anime themes, and indeed the rearrangements on the best-known songs had surprised part of the audience three years ago. What about your japanese audience? Is it also made of fans of your work for animation, or are they people who know your entire work?

AA: Personally, I do not make any difference between anime themes and the rest of my work when I design a concert. All these songs are my personal creations. What interests me at a concert is to take all these songs and make them mine again with the team. We try to think about what we want to express at the time, the atmosphere we want to create, and then we choose the songs that serve it the best. Each live performance may be different: my Japanese fans know that. If the audience expects to hear anime themes like they sound on the CD, even if this might not be nice from me, they may be disappointed.

Akino Arai
mimu: Many of your fans are hoping for a live DVD : are there any projects in this direction?

AA: A DVD of a concert? No, this is not likely to happen... A PV DVD is possible, but not really a live DVD. But an existing project is to create an animation DVD of my songs using the visuals that appear in my concerts, including the drawings you will see tonight. However until now most of my concerts were filmed, so it is possible that we include part of them on this DVD or with a forthcoming album.

mimu: Speaking of albums by the way, several of your CDs use the term Sora ("sky", but also "imaginary" depending on several writing specificities of the Japanese language), each time written in a different way : you used kanji in Sora no mori, hiragana in Sora no niwa, romaji in Sora no Uta, and katakana in Sora no Sphere.
Is there any explanation to this choice?

AA: There is no rational explanation for this, I didn't really pay attention to that difference. It is true that in the end I used all the possible ways of writing for the term Sora on these albums, but it is pure coincidence!

mimu: So how are you going to write it next time?

AA: (Laughter) Well, since all options are exhausted, maybe I will never use the term "sora" again!

mimu: Why did you let 4 years pass before releasing this new album ?

AA: I would have liked to release a new album without having to wait for so long, but I simply didn't have enough tracks to make a complete and consistent album. The creative work takes time, and the decision to make a new album was taken as soon as I gathered enough songs.

mimu: What are the new features of this album? New inspirations, new themes, a possible new way of working ?

AA: The main difference between this album and the previous one, Eden is the view of the world it expresses. When I produced the album Eden, I wanted to share my vision of the world as it was seen from my own world. I watched what was happening around me: the events of September 11, 2001 affected me terribly, as several personal experiences also did, and I had to overcome all this. Eden is a reflection of this gravity, of this sadness.

This time, the production of this album was mainly influenced by my encounter with Dalai Lama's philosophy. I had the opportunity to travel to China several times, and I studied the philosophy of this man. This has changed my spiritual position in the creation process: instead of looking at the world from my usual place and let myself being overwhelmed by everything, I made a step back, trying to observe things from an higher point of view, without any barriers.

mimu: There is on this album a song that you sing in French : Mizu. This is the first time you sing in French since "Rêve" on Furu Platinum (2000). How did you decide to use this language again? Is it different for you to work on a song using a different language than Japanese?

AA: As for the song Rêve, the inspiration came from the novel and movie Zazie dans le metro. I wanted to put in this song all the joy and innocence of a little girl. This time on Mizu, I first thought of singing in Japanese. But as I was composing this song, I thought the melody would fit with french lyrics. I then asked my friend Adeyto, who perfectly knows my world and who is someone I really trust, to write the lyrics of this song.

Akino Arai
mimu: This is not the first time we hear about this person, how did you two meet?

AA: I met Adeyto through a mutual friend, Vincent. She is both French and German, so she doesn't speak French perfectly, but she lives in Paris. When I came to Paris 3 years ago, I met another French woman who came to Japan a few months later and helped me correct my French pronunciation. For the record, that person is of Cambodian origin, but was born in France and speaks perfectly French! She made the final touches to the french lyrics of Mizu. In fact it is an accumulation of coincidences that made me able to sing this song in French on my new album.

mimu: You also worked with Yula Yayoi on this album, 10 years after Goddess in the Morning. How was it to work with her again? Do you have other projects in common?

AA: Yula Yayoi's been my friend for many years, so we cannot say that our relationship is really a working relationship... Since that first collaboration, we said that we should do something together again on occasion, but we both have a busy schedule that gives us a lot of work everyday. So we haven't ben able to find the physical occasion to collaborate again before a long time... However as I knew I wanted to work with her, I wrote songs that could match her inspiration. We finally achieved all that two years ago, and these are the fruits of this work I'm offering you today.

mimu: We read that you really like the French artist Emilie Simon. What is it you like about her music, and would you like to be able to work with her?

AA: I love her work. My friend Vincent, who introduced me to Adeyto, made me discover this artist. I love her, and she is so "kawaii", but I do not know her personally. It would be a pleasure to work with her. If you know her, please introduce her to me!

mimu: You've also been working as a producer for other artists, including Aoi Teshima and minakumari. What makes you decide to support this or that artist? Do you have other production projects for other artists?

AA: Aoi Teshima is a great singer, and someone from the staff of this artist came to me asking me to write for her. I never could sing such songs myself; Aoi Teshima's voice has completely influenced my work as a musician. For her and with her, I could give birth to songs that I could not have imagined otherwise.

Regarding Minakumari, which will perform in Paris this week (NB: minakumari had planned several dates in Paris over the week, but without any promotion, so the announcement of these concerts was a complete surprise), she sings and plays the zither, she has a very cute voice and she took part in choirs in some of my songs. When I sing alone, the musical impact is limited. Thanks to all these collaborations, I can expand my universe, and I need it as artists. Currently I have no particular project regarding a collaboration with a particular artist, but when I have a clear idea, I never hesitate to involve other artists.

mimu: Thanks for all the answers, and good luck for tomorrow with your first concert!

Akino Arai
Thanks to Akino Arai and her staff, Damien Marronneau and all j-music Live staff, and Emiko San Salvadore for her help.
Any partial or complete copy of this interview or the photos is strictly forbidden without explicit authorization.