[Interview] Natalie – Artists’ Music Resumes #32: Tracing Saito Soma’s Roots

Published: 2020/12/28
Original URL: https://natalie.mu/music/column/410376


The Yamanashi boy who yearned for Tokyo became an artist after numerous encounters

An elementary schooler who belted out PornoGraffiti in the bath

I’m told that I had a frail body as a baby, but from kindergarten up until elementary school, I was an active kid. Even though recess was only twenty minutes long, I’d still shout “Let’s play dodgeball!” and run outside—that’s the kind of boy I was. On the other hand, that was also when I started to enjoy reading books. My grandparents lived with my family, and my grandmother was an avid reader with a wall full of bookshelves. She had all sorts of literature, and I loved illustrated reference books. I was the type of kid who’d take out the Encyclopedia Britannica to read. Perhaps I still am, but at any rate, I already had both an outgoing and an introverted side back then.

In fifth grade, my mother had to move away by herself because of work. My father would drive us to her house which was about an hour away. In the car we listened to the artists my parents liked: the Beatles, the Carpenters, Matsutoya Yumi-san, etc. In sixth grade, I made my own cassette tape. I really loved Spitz and PornoGraffiti at the time—in fact, there are a lot of PornoGraffiti songs that I can still sing from memory. I think the first one I heard was “Melissa,” the opening theme for Full Metal Alchemist, and then I went back and listened to all of their previous songs. I love their first album Romantist Egoist so much. I feel like I’m still influenced by the slightly cynical tone of (Shindo) Haruichi-san’s lyrics.

Also, there’s something I really want to say *laughs*—in elementary school, I was the type who sung properly during choir. My school took it relatively seriously. There were times when the teacher had to go, “Boys, sing properly!” but in general, the class worked together during choir. I already liked singing back then, and I was always singing in the bath too. Now that I think about it, our neighbour must’ve heard me singing PornoGraffiti a lot *laughs*. But as a kid, I was never told that I had a “nice voice.” My prepubescent voice was really high, but I hit puberty early and thought, “_____-kun is singing the solo part with a really good voice, but I can’t do it because my voice is too hoarse…” It felt like the end of the world *laughs*. As an aside, I learned piano from elementary school until middle school, but I can’t play it at all now. In middle school after I started my band, I’d arrange songs with my piano teacher. Thinking about it now, those were strange times. *laughs*

A friend who introduced him to the world of Kinniku Shojo-tai and Marilyn Manson

In my first year of middle school, I made friends with a classmate who was really knowledgeable about underground music because of his parents. I said I wanted to try listening to Western music, and he made a crazy MiniDisc for me with everything from Marilyn Manson to Kinniku Shojo-tai on it. I hadn’t listened to that kind of music at all before, but I easily came to love it. I listened to Kinniku Shojo-tai’s “Ikujinashi” every night before going to sleep *laughs*. I later formed a band with that friend, and I’d bike for 20-30 minutes to his house every day, bringing my gear with me. His parents were in the Nagomu era (an indie music label), so they had tons of rare things like Hadaka no Rallizes (Les Rallizes Dénudés), Totsuzen Danbooru, etc. At the time, I thought of that friend’s house as a secret base; a treasure trove. Every day I went there, I learned about a new world. Thinking about it now, it was an amazing experience.

If I hadn’t met that classmate, I might not have chosen the path of a voice actor. I think it wasn’t just my taste in literature and music that was different, but my way of thinking and feeling. In my first year of high school, there was a period of time when I didn’t want to go to school. That was when I discovered anime and wanted to become a voice actor. It was probably also when the sense of distance I felt towards that world was formed.

Then my friend introduced me to wonderful songs from older generations, while I continued to explore the music of the current generation. Those were my two focal points in middle school. It was the so-called Japanese guitar rock era, and I loved ELLEGARDEN, ART-SCHOOL, and, since I was from Yamanashi, Fujifabric. ART-SCHOOL might’ve been the one that made the deepest impression on me. I can’t explain it in words, but a lot of their songs really influenced me, and I feel like I’m following their style of references and cutting up lyrics. Then came the rock ‘n’ roll revival era, and from there I loved the Libertines, Bloc Party, and Mystery Jets. I read the liner notes from the Libertines’ first album so many times that I can still recite them from memory. In my third year of middle school, my tastes aligned with my friend’s again. We lent Arcade Fire’s Funeral back and forth, going “Paper jackets are where it’s at!” *laughs* I guess we were trying to seem cultured.

Also, in my second year of middle school, I had another friend who I made through PornoGraffiti. We sent each other lyrics that we wrote. He was an absolute genius, and his lyrics were amazing. I have all of them saved on the cellphone I used back then, which is at my parents’ house. I think he’s still influencing me to this day.

The lingering influence from Good Dog Happy Men

I got my information from music magazines and, since my house got internet when I was in elementary school, from online as well. It was still the age of dial-up, so it was a struggle *laughs*. I still remember there was a band called The World/Inferno Friendship Society that I saw in a magazine in middle school. I listened to their music on Myspace and it was really good. Their CDs weren’t sold in Japan, though, so they could only be bought on Amazon. I wanted to listen to The World/Inferno Friendship Society so badly that I made a big presentation to my parents *laughs*. “The era is coming where you’ll be able to shop from home!” I still treasure that CD I bought. The song “Only Anarchists are Pretty” is amazing—it’s so upbeat that playing it on a holiday morning gets me finishing my cleaning in a flash. Please listen to it.

I think a lot of the songs we played in my middle school band were quite unique. They didn’t follow the usual A-melody→B-melody→chorus structure, and the parts were acoustic guitar, bass, melodica, and vocals. Our biggest influence at the time was the band Good Dog Happy Men. I’ll never forget that magazine interview I read with their vocalist, Monden Masaaki-san. For some reason it left a big impression on me, and I asked my internet-savvy friend to research the band for me *laughs*. From there I listened to BURGER NUDS’ discography (note: Monden’s previous band). Good Dog Happy Men’s “Most beautiful in the world” is a true masterpiece. I’m heavily influenced by Monden-san’s characteristic wordplay and cynical atmosphere, and how even when he sings about realistic things, he expresses them in a fantastical way. Also, in high school, I really liked a band called Hana no You ni, which had an accordion and a trombone. I wanted to do something like that, and wished my own band could have a violin and accordion too. But my other band members were like, “What in the world?” *laughs* I think Good Dog Happy Men and Hana no You ni would’ve been more successful in the current music scene.

Since I lived in a rural area, in high school I really looked forward to the one or two times a year that I could go to Shimokitazawa’s Highline Records. I couldn’t attend many concerts either, but I did go to see Good Dog Happy Men. I also went with my friends to a joint concert in Yamanashi with ART-SCHOOL, POLYSICS, and a Yamanashi band called “the court.” Those experiences remain in my heart to this day. I feel that those influences are still everywhere in the songs I write now.

If it’s only enjoyable for yourself, it won’t get across to others

Before I learned about the voice acting profession in my first year of high school, I wanted to become a writer or a musician in the future. But during the period when I didn’t go to school, I discovered anime. My simple longing to be “someone on the creation side of anime” led me to take 81 Produce’s audition when I was 17. I didn’t have a clear vision at all; I just instinctively jumped at what had saved me. I moved to Tokyo when I started university and began attending training school at the same time, but I couldn’t keep up with both of them well, so I asked the agency to let me focus on university for the time being. Later when I was a third year, I attended training school for a year, and when I became a fourth year, I began voice acting for real.

I occasionally wrote music when I was in university, though I had no intention of showing it to anyone. But I’d say that listening to music, reading books, and acting had become more important to me. Tokyo had always been like an illusion to me, so after moving there, for a while I was really excited about all of the things I could do and the places I could visit *laughs*. It was so much fun that I thought, “I don’t want to graduate!” At university there were a lot of people who were knowledgeable about all sorts of things, not just music. The things I learned from the people I met then also formed the basis for quite a lot of my current interests and tastes.

Fairly soon after I began voice acting, I had an opportunity to do a vocal recording for work. I had a habit of immediately getting carried away, which hasn’t changed *laughs*. Since I liked singing, I thought I could do a pretty good job, but I ended up not singing well at all. Of course I didn’t—if you sing in a way that’s only fun and pleasant for yourself, it won’t come across well. I gave it everything I had, but was forced to face the harsh reality that simply liking something isn’t enough to succeed at it professionally. It’s a recurring situation in the voice acting industry.

My first leading role in an anime was in 2014. Considering that I received the 81 audition award in 2008, I feel like the agency waited a very long time for me to realize my potential. I couldn’t act well at all at first; I received a lot of criticism and even had my role changed on the spot… It was only natural, though, because I lacked ability. I was also naïve, hiding behind the fact that I was a student. In the second half of my third year of university, I resolved to become a voice actor, and from there, all I could do was focus on building experience. But while you’re acting, there are moments when you feel a tight grip on your heart. “Just now, I said those words based on feeling instead of logic.” “Oh, that really felt like a dialogue.” I got addicted to those moments. Even though I originally decided to become a voice actor on a whim, I grew to love it more and more as I kept going.

How the voice actor Saito Soma awakened as an artist

When I received the offer for an artist debut, I was attracted to the words “We’d like you to incorporate forms of vocal expression aside from singing.” I still wanted voice acting to be my core focus, so those words made me think, “Maybe this team will allow me to keep voice acting as my central focus while being a singer.” The team members are actually completely different now than they were before, but either way I’m glad I took the leap back then.

Artist photo at time of debut single Fish Story

My debut single, Fish Story, was released in 2017. It was composed by Oishi Masayoshi-san. I asked my label, “I know this is unreasonable, but could you ask Oishi Masayoshi-san?” and he actually accepted. I loved the groovy atmosphere of Oishi-san’s songs, and at the time I was fixed on this being the music of “the voice actor Saito Soma,” so I wanted the song to be something people would have fun listening to. Oishi-san included all of my requests and my detailed concept for the lyrics, which I’m truly grateful for.

デビューシングル「フィッシュストーリー」リリース記念イベントの様子。(Photo by yoshiaki nakamura)
The Fish Story release event

My third single Date was when I met my current producer, Kuroda-san. Ever since then, although my music is credited to Saito Soma, this team feels like a real band to me. In my 2019 release my blue vacation, there’s a song called “Paper Tigers.” For this song, Kuroda-san and the arranger Saku-san came over to my place and we had a jam session to create a song that uses a lot of major chords, since I didn’t have one yet. The three of us came up with the song in about an hour of guitar-playing *laughs*. And during the recording, we all discussed what would sound stylish for the harmony. We’re close in age, we grew up listening to the same music, and they’re kind and accepting of me. I really think it’s a great team.

When I had my first concert in 2019, it was my first time singing an entire concert by myself, so I wasn’t sure if my throat would hold up. But once it was over, I realized that I had a ton of fun. I don’t know how to express the greatness of concerts in words, but at any rate, I felt it even more strongly after that. I wanted to write more songs with this band—this team—in mind. So while the concert was fun, it was also an important experience that greatly influenced the way I wrote music afterwards.

His enthusiasm for making music is at an all-time high

When people ask me, “Who’s your favourite musician?” I answer with Elliott Smith, but that’s actually a really tough question *laughs*. I really like songs that say “you’re not alone,” and they do give me courage, but I prefer songs that say “it’s okay to be alone,” accepting isolation as-is. When I look at Elliott Smith’s life, lyrics, and world views, I can’t say he only sings about positive messages, but his music touched me when I was a teenager, and it still touches me when I listen to it now, just in a different way because of how I’ve changed. I really love his voice too, and he makes me think, “Maybe this is what you get when you pursue something to the end.”

There aren’t really any artists I aspire to be like, although there are definitely many who I like and respect… They say that habits in youth continue through life, so maybe I still subconsciously want to be different from everyone else *laughs*. In the past, a certain actor senpai said to me, “Even if you’re imitating someone else, anything expressed through your own filter becomes your own expression,” and I’ve taken that to heart. It’s said that the word “manabu” (to learn) comes from the word “maneru” (to imitate). Creating something from nothing may be difficult, but taking the things you’ve encountered in the past, connecting them bit by bit, and outputting the result is what makes it “yours.” I want to be able to create things like that. That said, I’m truly grateful for the amazing people who take the songs I write and make them into amazing pieces. If my music career can continue like this forever, that’s enough for me to be happy.

Lately I’ve been thinking that lyrics are a fascinating form of expression. I generally compose melodies with the awareness that I’m creating something that will have lyrics, but it’s still incredibly enthralling when I add the words, giving meaning to the song for the first time. Outside of my artist career I write compositions about topics I like and express myself through voice acting, and maybe both of those are involved in writing and singing lyrics. Right now, I feel like my enthusiasm towards my music is at an all-time high. It’s still early, but I’m already thinking about what approach I’ll be able to take after my second album… Will it be more introspective, or will it be wildly upbeat? I think either way would work. I’m really excited to see what creations lie beyond this resume.

Official Playlist: 12 Songs that Shaped Saito Soma
(Don’t ask me why there are only 11 tracks)

[Interview] Natalie – Saito Soma “in bloom” Interview

斉藤壮馬|アーティスト活動第2章で描く世界の終わりのその先

Published: 2020/12/23
Original URL: https://natalie.mu/music/pp/saitosoma

He learned about a deep world in his first year of middle school

—Since this is your first interview with Natalie, please tell us about the music that influenced you.

Up until elementary school, I listened to the music my parents liked and the artists that were popular at the time, like the Beatles, Yuming-san, Spitz, and PornoGraffiti. After that, in my first year of middle school, I made a friend who was a fan of all things subculture. He taught me about the deep world of music and literature, and I started looking for new music and artists myself too. It was the rock ‘n’ roll revival era at the time. For Western music I listened to the Libertines, the Strokes, and Bloc Party, and for Japanese music I listened to artists with a slight downer aesthetic like ART-SCHOOL and GRAPEVINE. I think the music I listened to in middle school became my musical roots.

—I heard that at the time, you frequented a CD/record shop called Birdland in your local area of Yamanashi.

My family didn’t have a record player at the time, so I bought CDs. Unfortunately, Birdland no longer exists… I miss it. In elementary school I listened to cassettes, and in middle school it was MiniDiscs and CDs. Thinking about it now, it feels like I was gaining listening experience during a time when music formats were changing. Speaking of which, the other day I finally bought a record player—although it was a cheap one, under ¥10,000. It feels like once you step into the world of records and audio equipment, you end up in the rabbit hole *laughs*. Recently I’ve been asking a knowledgeable friend about them.

—Your artist debut with SACRA MUSIC was in 2017. Was an artist debut something you originally wanted?

I had opportunities to sing character songs, but I didn’t really have a desire to sing under my own name. But when the topic of an artist debut was brought to me, I had a premonition that if I leapt at this chance, I’d be able to do new interesting things. So, I went for it.

—Your second album in bloom is the first time you composed and wrote lyrics for all of the tracks on a full album. Did you ever think you’d be writing so many songs?

In middle school, I was in a hobby band and wrote songs there. Even after becoming a voice actor, I still wrote music, even though I didn’t plan on showing it to anyone in particular. When it was time to make my third single, I told the producer, “I’ve actually been writing songs on my own,” and had him listen to the track that “Reminiscence” was based on. Then he said, “Let’s use this!”

I was really happy to be able to sing my own creations as part of my artist career. After that, I suggested more of my songs. The team I work with generally responds positively to my suggestions, and before I knew it, I was the composer and lyricist for every track on in bloom *laughs*. It’s fun to create each song with the team, like we’re a band. I’m glad I took the leap when I was first offered an artist debut.

斉藤壮馬

He wants to create introspective music, that isn’t pop style

—Do you use your voice acting experience in your music?

I do. My various experiences as a voice actor are heavily reflected in my music creation. I think these are all songs and lyrics that I couldn’t have come up with when I was in a band as a teenager. Even if I had the chance to release a song that I wrote as a teenager, the scope of it would probably end up being very small. These are songs that I’m only able to present because of my accumulated experiences as a voice actor—songs that I can only create now. It’s like everything has a reciprocal effect. Thinking about it that way, the opportunity truly came at a good time for me.

—You mentioned character songs earlier. How do your vocals differ between singing as a character and singing as a solo artist, in regards to approach and mentality?

When I’m singing as a character, I think the most important aspect is “How would this character sing?” Rather than my own singing style, I consider how the character’s personality would reflect in the song. Singing as myself is something I didn’t have the chance to do much since starting this job, so when I began as a solo artist, I thought, “Have I been spoiled by my characters all this time?” When it came time to sing, I thought, “Is this right?” and started out fumbling around with every song. It felt like I was reexamining what “my music” was.

—When I watched concerts from series like IDOLiSH7 or Hypnosis Mic, I got the impression that you prioritized characterization, putting on a performance that gave the fans exactly what they wanted.

That might be because my inspiration for becoming a voice actor was my admiration for their craft; the way they add appeal to their characters who take center stage. To be honest, I’m still not great at public appearances. I’m sure that when you were in school, there was always someone in your class that would pass on having his photo taken. That was me *laughs*. But when it comes to performing in-character at a concert or event, even though I’m still nowhere near perfect, I still want to perform in a way that won’t bring shame to the character or the fans. For example, at an IDOLiSH7 concert, standing on stage as Kujo Tenn is a difficult task, but as long as the audience goes home thinking, “I saw something amazing,” “That was fun,” “That felt great,” then I feel blessed to be an actor. I think that’s exactly what entertainment means.

—When it comes to your solo music, which do you prioritize: the desire to provide the fans with the performances and music they want, or the desire to bring out what you yourself want to do?

The focus is around what I want to do, but I also prioritize pop appeal and entertainment value. But since I’m doing this under my own name, I want to take the music I’ve listened to and the books I’ve read, and express them through my own songs. I think this album is a particularly good example of what I want to do. My previous works had quite a large focus on entertainment value and ease of listening. I kept that for this album too, but I was a bit more self-indulgent with my technique.

—It feels like you can do this because you trust that the fans will accept your music no matter what form it takes on.

That’s true. I’m fortunate to have fans who write to me, “I want to hear deeper songs too” *laughs*. After releasing quantum stranger and my blue vacation, my desire to write more introspective songs that weren’t easy listening grew stronger. I think that atmosphere is in this album. However, my original intent hasn’t changed: when releasing songs under my own name, each song has its own story, and doesn’t contain any of Saito Soma’s own feelings or messages.

The journey that began with “Fish Story”

—The three “in bloom” singles that released between June and August were created as the second chapter of your artist career. What changes were there between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2?

It might seem pretentious calling it “Chapter 2!” myself, but I feel that my solo artist career is a journey that began when Oishi Masayoshi-san wrote “Fish Story” for me. “Journey” is a common motif in the lyrics I write, and when I created quantum stranger and my blue vacation, I felt that I’d reached a major milestone in the journey that began with “Fish Story”. My first journey had reached a conclusion for the time being. Then, as I said earlier, I wanted to try writing deeper songs, or rather, songs that weren’t too held up by pop conventions. Since I’d been singing about “the end of the world,” I wondered what expressions would be born if I thought of Chapter 2 as “what comes after the end of the world.” How do I put this… It was like, “Can I be a bit more self-indulgent?” *laughs*

At the time of this interview (late November), I still don’t know what the fans’ reception is, but I think each song in my second album has interesting elements that I hope they’ll notice. Rather than a major change in direction, I want to widen my scope, taking off the shackles to express myself the way I want. That’s what Chapter 2 is about.

—In Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu, you wrote that when you were composing songs as a student, the themes were “extreme sentimentalism” and “the end of the world.” You kept “the end of the world” as a theme for quite a long time, but now the theme of in bloom is “what comes after the end of the world.” Is that because there was a major change in your mentality?

Thank you for reading my essays. That might be part of it, but even right now, I still think that that decadent feeling is an important characteristic of my works. When I’m writing prose, it’s never 100% bright—there’s a dark, fuzzy side to it. So even though this is Chapter 2, I don’t think there’s been a major change in my intrinsic nature.

Basso continuo throughout the album

—It feels like you have a lot of conceptual works. When you’re producing a release, do you decide the overarching theme in advance?

I used to love coming up with things like plots of short story collections, but I don’t think that’s quite the case for my music. My first album’s title, “quantum stranger,” wasn’t decided until the very end. I was stuck between “étranger” and “quantum stranger”… I don’t want to admit it, but I named the album after the fact *laughs*. I really love creating things conceptually, but I don’t plan my albums out from the very beginning. I think it’s interesting to find common themes between the songs once they’re done. My belief is that when you’re in that unconscious creative zone, it’ll definitely show through in what you produce. In that sense, in bloom got its title because among all of the songs and stories in the album, there are a lot of people who seem to be enjoying themselves. I sensed this while doing various interviews and promotions—there’s something like a basso continuo throughout the album.

—A variety of musicians were involved with this release. How did this come about?

The music is released under the name Saito Soma, but I think what’s fun about creating music as a team is the unexpected chemical reactions that occur, so I’m not too specific with my orders—I let the label decide who to send offers to. As a result, I’m able to perform with incredible people, and I’m truly grateful for that.

—It feels like you’ve polished your band sound. When did the album production begin?

The original plan was to release a 3-song single in June to coincide with my third anniversary since my debut. Since it was going to be June, the rainy season, I wanted to write three songs about rain, and that’s when “Petrichor” was born. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we changed the plan to a series of digital singles released in time with the seasons. After creating those three songs we continued straight into the album production, so I’ve been spending essentially the entire year up to now working on music. It was a lot of fun.

—That’s amazing, considering how busy you are with your voice acting work too.

Music isn’t something that can be finished in an instant, but creating music has always been a hobby and a form of relaxation for me. So even though there were some really busy times, I still had a lot of fun doing it.

—How do you create your demos?

Since my blue vacation, I started using a DAW to create my demos. My main arranger, Saku-san, was overjoyed, saying “Now I don’t have to align the BPM anymore!” *laughs* Before, I always felt bad for submitting my demos as simple recordings of me playing my guitar and singing along. I’m glad that I brought a DAW into my workflow, because it has greatly improved the density and level of detail of the arrangements. I still have a long way to go before mastering it, but I’ve acquired a lot of equipment during the stay-home period. That said, while a DAW is extremely advantageous when creating as a team, I also think songs like “Canary” and “C” are better off sounding less polished; I like the distorted aesthetic that comes from imperfect pitch. I want to keep being able to do that, so understanding the DAW is a way of expanding my range.

—I see. Are you attracted to imperfections?

Yes, I’d say so. Perhaps ever since I was a child, I’ve been attracted to things that feel somehow strange, awkward, or warped, including lyrics. But on the other hand, part of me is also attracted to things that feel complete. It depends on my mood at the moment, and I’d like to express that through music and melodies.

“This will definitely become a masterpiece”

—It’s brilliant how each and every instrument and vocal in the leading track “carpool” stands out on its own. How did you create this song?

“carpool” came about quite late in the process. The release timing for the album was confirmed, and we calculated backwards in the schedule to determine the deadline for the music video filming. Before “carpool” was made, the plan was to film an MV for either “Schrödinger Girl” or another song. I personally like both of them very much, but neither of them felt right as a leading track with an MV, and in the end, we chose not to include the other song on in bloom. At that time, I decided, “I’ll reset my thinking and just play my favourite chords however feels right, and figure it out from there.” I sang up to the chorus in a flash, coming up with the chorus’ lyrics at about the same time. I sent it to the label and they told me, “This is really good!” Saku-san said, “This will definitely become a masterpiece, so please let me do the arrangement,” which made me happy to hear, although I replied doubtfully, “Are you sure? I still have no idea.” *laughs*

From there, the rest of the song came along smoothly, and I thought, “This is going to be the leading track.” It’s strange—the songs that I don’t put too much thought into, letting the melody and lyrics come to mind naturally, are really easy to listen to. The same thing happened with “Date,” and it was the first time in a while that I felt that sensation. The team members said things like, “This is the kind of song we love!” and “This is the kind of band we want to be!” *laughs* Also, since the album was going to release in winter, I wanted the leading track to have both a good melody and an ominous air to it. Fortunately I was able to create this at the last minute.

—Do you think that because it was created at the last minute, it represents your current style the most?

Perhaps.

—Next, I’d like to hear about “BOOKMARK” and its rapping parts. It’s credited to both you and J-san, and it’s also the only song on this album where you’re credited for arrangement as well. Who is the guest vocalist for this song, by the way?

The guest vocalist is J-san as well. He’s an old friend of mine. The base song that became “BOOKMARK” was originally a candidate for the 3-track single I mentioned earlier. But since the plan was changed to digital singles, this song was set aside. I happened to show it to J-san, and he did a really cool arrangement of it and added the rapping. When I showed it to my producer, he gave it the greenlight.

J-san and I did the arrangement together. It’s unique, right? The song is about a student who stays up all night, looks around at 4 a.m., realizes that the sky’s already blue, thinks “I’ve wasted this time”—but definitely doesn’t feel bad about it. It might be the most straightforward “adolescent” song on this album. Also, J-san has a nice voice, right? He’s so good at rapping *laughs*. It’s interesting how this kind of song becomes an accent of the album.

—So J-san is your friend. What kind of discussions with him led to “BOOKMARK”?

I’d created the full-size of the base song, and I asked him for advice on how much rap to add. Also, we made it almost completely remotely, although I’d attribute that to the pandemic. I only met with J-san in person for the recording. Being able to create a song while restricted by distance and time was fun in its own way.

—”BOOKMARK” is a straightforward number, but the lyrics of the songs you write always have room for interpretation.

Yes, that might be true. I think that using complicated words to say complicated things is actually simple. My writing style changed quite a bit for this album. My current mood is that linking two simple words to create something new is the wonder of language. I’m still probing around, but personally, I think I was able to write lyrics that were interesting in a new way.

Creating a “space” with fans

—Tell us about your future activities. Your official fan club “space” opened on December 11, right? How do you plan on using it to connect with your fans?

As I continue with my releases and concerts, I want to create a peaceful place for the people who support me by buying my CDs and attending my concerts. That’s why I named it “space”—it’s a space that we all build together. It also has other meanings, like “Saito’s pace,” outer space, and so on. It also represents my original wish of wanting to produce music at a gentle pace for a long time. I don’t know how “space” will evolve yet, but I hope it becomes a good place for my supporters.

—And then there’s your live tour “We are in bloom!” which will be held from April to May next year.

We’ll have to deal with practical issues and we don’t know how the pandemic situation will change by then, but I’m looking forward to it. I had my first concert after releasing my first album, and I’ve gained quite a lot of songs since then, so I don’t plan on limiting the setlist to this album. I hope you’ll look forward to it too.

Also, as I thought during my first concert as well, since I was a band kid to begin with, I truly feel blessed to be able to sing with a live band. To be honest, I wasn’t that thrilled about performing live at first, but once I did a concert, I realized that there was something I could only relish there. I’m excited about what kind of performance I’ll be able to put on next, so please wait patiently until then.

[Interview] Natalie – Yuukoku no Moriarty – Saito Soma x Sato Takuya x Kobayashi Chiaki – Afternoon Tea Experience Report

Published: 2020/12/10
Original URL: https://natalie.mu/comic/pp/moriarty02

Features:
Saito Soma (William James Moriarty in Yuukoku no Moriarty)
Sato Takuya (Albert James Moriarty in Yuukoku no Moriarty)
Kobayashi Chiaki (Louis James Moriarty in Yuukoku no Moriarty)

※This is a report + interview on the “Afternoon Tea Experience” that was filmed as bonus footage for Vol.2 of the anime’s BD/DVD release.
※※Due to visual similarity between Saito and Sato, I switched to using first names outside of direct quotes.


Saito Soma x Sato Takuya x Kobayashi Chiaki
Afternoon Tea Experience Report

A few days before the TV broadcast of Yuukoku no Moriarty began, Soma, Takuya, and Chiaki gathered at a certain location—Salon “Three Tiers”, a inconspicuous hideaway in Meguro, a residential district in Tokyo. On this drizzly day, to coincide with the setting of Yuukoku no Moriarty, the three of them came here to learn about British-style afternoon tea.

First was the filming of the opening footage. The weather was unfortunate, but they said, “This weather is actually Moriarty-esque, right?”, “London doesn’t give the impression of clear weather”, “I can imagine nobles using umbrellas a lot.” They already had the friendly atmosphere of the three brothers.

It was their first time experiencing real afternoon tea, and they nervously went inside. First, the owner, Shintaku Hisaki, explained Three Tiers and the 80-year old Western house it inhabited, which is a registered cultural property. Faced with the historical building and the numerous furnishings inside, Soma murmured, “I want to live here…”


Five types of black tea were brought to the table. “Royal Wedding” makes an impact with its rose fragrance and bright flower petals. “Darjeeling First Flush,” which uses the first-picked leaves, has a clear astringency similar to green tea. “Farrer’s Lakeland Special” is notable for its small leaves, and is suitable for milk tea. “Elderflower” has the sweet fragrance of osmanthus. Lastly, there was England’s representative tea, “Earl Grey.” Soma began by smelling the tea leaves. It was such a diverse lineup that he had a different reaction to each one.

Next, Takuya and Chiaki enjoyed the fragrances as well. “It’s like the scent is coming straight to my brain,” Takuya said. He seemed to be relatively knowledgeable about black tea compared to the other two. “Simply enjoying the fragrance is nice too, right?”

Chiaki said he liked milk tea, and when he smelled each type of tea leaves, he gave honest reactions like, “Whoa!” “Oh, it’s completely different!” and “It’s a simple, nice scent.” Soma and Takuya seemed to enjoy his pure reactions.


After much deliberation, the teas they chose were brought to them. They tasted them and shared their impressions.

Soma was impressed, saying, “Interesting! It seems like the refreshing type for a moment, but then the astringency comes when it reaches your throat… This is really good. I seriously feel like I’m going to awaken.”

Next, Takuya said, “It feels like it showed me a different side of itself from when we first met. It has a slight astringency too… it’s not only sweet.”

“That sounds kind of lewd…” quipped Soma.

“Is that love?” continued Chiaki.

Chiaki’s comment was, “The fragrance doubled. It’s astringent at first, but then the mellowness comes out. You can enjoy the transformation.”

To find out which teas they chose, please watch the BD/DVD.

Then, the centerpiece of the day was brought before them: the afternoon tea set. The bottom tier had sandwiches, the middle tier had scones, and the top tier had colourful desserts. They were amazed by the beautiful sight.

The three listened earnestly to Shintaku’s explanation of each dish: the cucumber sandwiches which were considered a delicacy back in the day, the freshly baked scones that aimed to recreate the taste of England, and the compote and Mont Blanc made with plenty of seasonal fruit.


This being their first time having afternoon tea, Soma asked about table manners. Shintaku answered, “Japanese people worry about manners and etiquette, but when you ask British people, they say, ‘Can’t you start from anywhere?'”

Surprised by the answer, the three each began with what they were interested in. First, Chiaki reached for the freshly baked scones. He put plenty of jam and clotted cream on them and dug in, letting out a quiet, “It’s good.” Combining it with the tea, he declared, “I could have this for breakfast forever.”

Next, Soma said, “I think I’ll try the scones too…” but went for the beef stew instead. After one mouthful, he beamed happily, made eye contact with Takuya and Chiaki, and finished eating it while nodding silently. “The stew is good, but so is the pie that goes with it… I’ll introduce this to my diet.”

Takuya the sweet-tooth began with the desserts. Using the antique knife and fork to eat the small Mont Blanc, he said, “The cream is rich, yet the aftertaste is light…” He sipped his tea, smiled, and said, “It cleanly resets the palate.” Soma and Chiaki couldn’t hold back their laughter at his numerous words of wisdom.

They enjoyed their afternoon teatime to their heart’s content while talking about Yuukoku no Moriarty. “That was a great time,” “I want to come here every week,” they said, reluctant to leave. The filming concluded with Soma reflecting on the day and saying honestly, “I wish this would become a regular thing… I’ll be praying for the powers that be to do something. *laughs*”

Saito Soma x Sato Takuya x Kobayashi Chiaki
Discussion

“We learned a lot about Chiaki-kun today *laughs*” – Soma

—How was today’s filming?

Takuya: Ahh, it was a lot of fun.

Chiaki: I was purely enjoying myself, forgetting that it was work.

Soma: I knew about afternoon tea, but I’d never gotten the chance to try it, so this was a valuable experience. Also, personally, I was happy that the three of us got to film something together. It’s actually the first time for us.

Takuya: It’s the first time we’re all together outside of the anime recordings.

Soma: These days, even at the recordings, we can’t get the time to talk properly… I’m really glad that the three brothers got to spend this time together today. Eating together really does deepen bonds.

—Even though you weren’t eating from the same pot.

Takuya: It really does. It’s strange—eating the same flavours and sharing the sensation feels like the fastest shortcut to closing the distance on a spiritual level.

Soma: Also, we learned a lot about Chiaki-kun today. *laughs*

Chiaki: …What?!

Takuya: Yep, we did. *laughs*

Soma: I even asked your manager just now.

Chiaki: About what…?

Soma: “Is it okay for Chiaki-kun to be like that?”

All: *laughs*

Soma: It’s great for us, though. *laughs*

—During the Episode 1 screening, Kobayashi-san was the only one who could only appear in a video message. It was amusing how you two watched over him. *laughs*

Takuya: He was the only lively one there. *laughs*

Chiaki: I mean, you don’t appear as a video message that often, right? I didn’t know what the mood was going to be like there… *laughs*

“It was shocking when I added clotted cream and jam” – Chiaki

—Did anything particularly stand out to you from what you ate today?

Chiaki: It’d have to be the scones.

Takuya: They were extremely delicious.

Chiaki: I’d never eaten scones before, so I thought they’d be more flavourless…

Takuya: It was like, is this bread? A cookie? Which one?

Chiaki: Sweet but not sweet… It wasn’t an easy-to-understand flavour. But it was shocking when I added that clotted cream and jam. The scones themselves were already delicious, but eating them like that was a surprise.

Soma: What surprised me was that it was okay to eat with our hands. I thought it’d be more formal, and that we’d have to eat elegantly, but it was unexpectedly casual, if I can call it that. We were allowed to have fun, which let me savour it more genuinely.

Takuya: True, that was a big factor.

Soma: Also, when Shintaku-san gave us information like how cucumbers used to be a high-class delicacy… it made them taste “extremely cucumber”…

All: *laughs*

Soma: Learning those things was fun too.

Takuya: Cucumber sandwiches come up a lot in British novels, right? I always wondered why, but now I know. It was an extremely enjoyable and luxurious time spent, where we got to enjoy the country’s food, history, and culture. I thought about why the British value teatime so much, but realized that it must be because tea and food are important for building human relationships.

“I said that line without thinking” – Takuya

—I’d like to ask about the tea as well. You each chose from the five types of tea leaves, and I thought it was brilliant how Sato-san compared tea to a woman…

Takuya: *laughs* I knew about names like Darjeeling and Earl Grey, but I didn’t actually think about how different the tastes would be. There were five types prepared for us this time, and the differences were an unprecedented surprise for me. I said that line without thinking.

All: *laughs*

Takuya: I’m just saying whatever I want. *laughs*

Soma: I don’t drink a lot of black tea, but I liked the format of afternoon tea. I like being able to choose from different things, like obanzai or those sets where you can choose three small dishes. The restaurant also had a lovely atmosphere, and I’d like to come back many times. I also want to try the other types of tea.

Chiaki: I usually eat strongly-flavoured foods or box lunches from the convenience store, so I think my tongue has become less sensitive. But this time, I thought, “Maybe this is what true deliciousness is.” And though there was no alcohol involved, I really enjoyed drinking together with you two.

—Do you think that this experience will influence your future voice acting and character building?

Takuya: Extremely so. At the very least, I’m sure there’ll be a difference in the atmosphere when the three brothers are at home together.

Soma: In the tea-drinking scenes, I’ll have a definite idea of the taste, so the way I handle those situations will change.

“The drama and the realism are both depicted with care” – Soma

—Now then, I’d like to ask about the series as well. First, what were your impressions after watching the anime?

Takuya: Fans of the original manga may have been surprised that Episode 1 was an anime-original story. However, it was created to be an optimal introduction to the brothers’ stories. I think it was done to say, “This is what Yuukoku no Moriarty is like.” With only 30 minutes per episode, I imagine the director and the rest of the staff have a difficult time deciding which stories and scenes to show from the manga, but I get the impression that they’re making sure not to leave out anything important.

Chiaki: Manga and anime have different presentation styles, and there are directions and expressions that shine more in anime. In that sense, I think the anime is created in a way that you can enjoy it as an anime. Today we were given the opportunity to see and feel an antique building and furniture resembling England’s at that time, which made me realize that the anime depicts that era realistically. The director and the staff did a lot of research.

Soma: Exactly. (said in English)

All: *laughs*

Soma: It’s really as the other two said. I think the anime takes the manga’s essence and presents the appeal of Yuukoku no Moriarty in a different medium. Manga and anime each have their own strengths, and both of them show the series’ charm in their own ways. To give a specific example, “So when William is smoking, there is music in the background and feathers falling from the sky.” *laughs*

All: *laughs*

Soma: I think the drama and the realism are both depicted with care, so I hope you’ll enjoy it whether you’re a fan of the manga or you’re starting with the anime.

“William is a ‘Louis Protection Extremist'” – Soma

—One of the themes of this series is the bonds between the three brothers. How do you interpret the characters’ relationships in your acting?

Soma: Albert is an extremely sharp and capable person. Ever since he was a child, he felt uncomfortable with the world, but he couldn’t tell what exactly was the problem or what he should do. Then he met the young William, and the path was opened to him. To William, he’s the most trustworthy partner in crime. He thinks about things from the same perspective and can take practical action from a different position. In that sense, Albert is the brother who does the most actual work. On the other hand, Louis is a special person to William. I think that William has a “Louis Protection Extremist” side to him. *laughs*

Chiaki: *laughs*

Takuya: He can’t stay logical when it comes to Louis. *laughs*

Soma: William is prepared to face self-ruin as a result of using crime to reform the world, but he doesn’t want to get Louis involved. He wants to keep Louis away from uncleanness. So even though it seems like it’s Louis who admires William, William seriously cares about Louis too, in his own way. I think it’ll be shown in the anime later too, but their bonds deepen after Louis speaks his mind. The change in the brothers’ relationship is one of the charms of this series.

Takuya: I think that Albert is quite unusual. The three of them are on the criminal side, taking the lives of the greedy, arrogant nobles, but Albert grew up right in the middle of those nobles. He should’ve been raised to think that it’s normal for nobles to act like that, and not to question it. Yet, he felt that his world was crooked and even reached the point of thinking that it had to be destroyed. It wouldn’t be wrong to say he’s eccentric. If anything, he’s a dangerous individual. He experienced a form of divine revelation when he met William and Louis, and found his purpose in life.

—He found partners who he could trust.

Takuya: I guess you could say… he met a business partner who could turn his ideals into reality, with the actual results to back it up. He trusts William and Louis to accomplish his dream, but I think part of why it works is because they aren’t his real brothers. Since they aren’t related by blood, they don’t get overly reliant on each other. There’s an absolute sense of distance and tension between them, which I think is one of the curiosities surrounding the Moriarty brothers.

Chiaki: I agree that to Louis, there’s a sense of distance between him and Albert, because unlike William, he isn’t related to him by blood. But on the other hand, he does trust Albert. I think that William and Albert trust Moran and Fred to some degree, but Louis felt wary when Fred visited their house at night—he doesn’t really open up to others. In that sense, I think that Albert is the only non-blood relative that Louis trusts.

—And he has something resembling absolute trust towards William.

Chiaki: Right. If carrying out their plan meant losing William, I can’t even imagine what Louis would choose. His trust exceeds the realm of brotherly love. But that doesn’t mean he blindly believes William—at first I thought it might be better to voice him with affection towards William (though not to the point of having hearts at the end of lines *laughs*), but as I was reading the script, I saw that he asked William questions like, “What does that mean?” or “Isn’t that dangerous?” If he really trusted William wholeheartedly, it wouldn’t be out of place for him to accept everything without question, but he thinks about William’s words and voices his concerns. I think that Louis wants to protect William and Albert’s home in his own way.

“I’d like to go to a pub and drink beer from large mugs with Hudson-san *laughs*” – Soma

—By the way, are there any characters you like besides the ones you voiced?

Chiaki: I like William-niisan.

Takuya: So fast! It’s as if you’ve never changed from your first impression. *laughs*

All: *laughs*

Chiaki: I always answer that question with William-niisan.

Soma: …But what’s the truth?

Takuya: …Do you mean it?

Chiaki: I think that Jack is austere and cool, but… No *laughs*. I tend to get immersed in my role, so it’s easy for me to like the characters that my character likes. Regardless of gender. So William’s scenes catch my eye, and I end up following him with my eyes, thinking that he’s cool.

Soma: I see.

Takuya: I like Inspector Lestrade. He seems like he’s seen much of life *laughs*. He also prioritizes his own justice over his police work. He must have quite the mental fortitude in order to associate with a problematic person like Sherlock, and I also really like the human kindness he shows in not being able to do things coldheartedly.

Soma: I like von Herder. As for why, I’ve always liked that kind of unconventional character *laughs*. Also, Hudson-san. She’s very charming as a woman, and I’d like to go to a pub and drink beer from large mugs with her. *laughs*

Takuya: Oh, that sounds nice. In that case, I want Moneypenny-san at our office.

Soma: Ohh, I know what you mean!

Takuya: She’s very capable. *laughs*

“Will there be a swimsuit episode, as I hoped for at the Episode 1 screening…?” – Chiaki

—This feature will be published when the first cour has reached its climax. Please give us a message for the readers.

Soma: First, thank you for reading this far. At the time that we’re doing this interview, we’ve just finished recording up to Episode 8, and we’re enjoying encountering new mysteries, characters, and anime-specific appeals. Please enjoy the show that we’ve put 120% of our excitement into, and use the manga to speculate about what’s to come. We hope for your continued support.

Takuya: I’m always looking forward to every recording because of how fulfilling they are. The production team is also doing their best, adjusting every last detail to deliver the best that they can. We want to bring you a wonderful story and characters. I’m sure there will be various developments from here on out—after all, I never expected to be going for afternoon tea with these two today *laughs*—so please look forward to those as well.

Chiaki: The manga and anime present the story in different ways and some of the developments differ as well, but on the flip side, I think that means the people who read the original manga can also enjoy new things in the anime. And personally, I’m interested in what role Louis will play later on. Will there be a swimsuit episode, as I hoped for at the Episode 1 screening…? *laughs*

Soma: Yeah, it could be an anime original.

Takuya: It’s not a complete lost cause.

Chiaki: Right? It could even be a 5-minute anime. I won’t abandon hope. *laughs*

All: *laughs*

Chiaki: Well, I’m only half serious *laughs* but I think it’d be nice to have scenes where they take a breather. I’m looking forward to the story developments, and I hope the viewers will continue to do so as well.


[Interview] Natalie – Books that Make the Artist Vol.27 – Saito Soma

Three books that got the young Yamanashi boy into music

Published: 2020/7/24
Original URL: https://natalie.mu/music/column/386924

This is a series where musical artists introduce books that influenced their creations and ways of life.


1. Gummi Chocolate Pine (Kadokawa Bunko) / Ohtsuki Kenji

Middle school, when he first formed a band

This book was recommended to me by a friend that I formed my first band with during middle school. Thinking back, he really was mature for his age, and it was him that showed me Tsutsui Yasutaka-san, Nakajima Ramo-san, and various musical artists and whatnot.

For my first band, well, setting musical style aside, on a spiritual level I really wanted to do punk, and I felt like I had something in common with the characters in this book (I especially sympathized with Kawabon for some reason). Come to think of it, the first Tsutsui-san book I read had commentary written by Oh-Ken too.

When I was a teenager, I went through that impatient, restless feeling of wanting to go somewhere else, the assumption that there had to be something about me that was different from others, and the futility of it all. This book depicted those feelings brutally and honestly, without trying to make them look good, and if I hadn’t encountered it, I might never have gotten so absorbed into music.

My band at the time had lyrics that were more on the serious side, but—and it may be presumptuous of me to say this—I get the feeling that Oh-Ken’s ideas, that draw from delusions, leaps in logic, and other illogical resources, are somehow similar to my current style of lyrics.

2. Please Save My Earth (Hakusensha Bunko) / Hiwatari Saki

Turning his impressions into music and writing

Recently, I was led to reread this all at once up to the latest series, and no matter how many times I’ve read it, it always has me crying my eyes out. It was originally my mother who liked it, and I love it so much that we still talk about it as a family when we have the chance.

The series often uses imagery of “dissolving into the atmosphere,” especially for Mokuren-san. It’s a grand story that takes place across the Earth and the Moon, but the ideas of “going around,” “dissolving,” and “soon fusing into one” were very close to the vague intuition I’d had ever since I was a kid, so I felt nostalgia the first time I read it. I use these motifs quite often in my songs and writing compositions, although how they’re handled differs depending on the song. Even when it comes to listening to music, I like songs with those themes (e.g. Mystery Jets’ “Soluble in Air,” Sunny Day Real Estate’s “One”).

When I’m writing songs, I don’t have any intent of conveying a message at all. Instead, I create them as if they’re films or novels. I often turn the impressions I’ve received from books, films, and novels into music.

3. Quip Magazine (Medicom Toy / no cover)

Imagining the unknown from short introductory articles

This might be a bit of a change-up, but back when I lived in Yamanashi and sites like Myspace and YouTube had just emerged, the city of Tokyo was like a mystical utopia in my mind, and I considered Shimokitazawa the ultimate holy land. On the very rare occasions when I got to visit, I spent the precious few hours I was given desperately absorbing the music, atmosphere, and essence that (I believed) only existed there.

In the past, there was a store in Shimokitazawa called HIGHLINE RECORDS that sold things like 2-track CD-ROMs self-produced by brand-new indie bands. I would make sure to go there every time and buy “Quip Magazine.” That was how I encountered new music that couldn’t be found anywhere on the internet. It gave my younger self hope that one day, this could become reality for me—a place where I could spend my daily life.

Once those dreamlike hours were over, it was time to go home. On the way back, and even after returning home, I’d read that Quip Magazine over and over again. I was intrigued by the short introductory articles that only spanned half a page each, but I didn’t have the means to find out what the songs sounded like. So, I imagined with all my mind. The thrill I felt towards the unknown back then was undoubtedly a driving force behind my creative endeavours.

As an aside, when I finally did start living in Tokyo, the once-dreamlike Shimokitazawa gradually became clearer until it truly was a reality. The Shimokitazawa I saw back then might only exist in my memories now.