I heard about Lantis expanding overseas so I would like to talk about the past, present and future goals. Lantis is getting bigger by year, what triggered you to start thinking about expanding overseas?
-We have a project called JAM Project. It stands for Japanese Animation Song Makers. A project to make Japanese Anime Songs. We started this project around 2000 and in 2008, on their 8th year they were able to hold a concert at the Budokan which was their goal. After that, we had a discussion about what their next goal is going to be. That’s when we decided that we should expand overseas and bring anime songs to the rest of the world.
Ahh so that’s how you first thought about expanding overseas.
-Yes. Back then we had oversea concerts where we held all the risks and also events where we were given offers to perform. We couldn’t bring every member every time we went abroad. I think we went to about 8 countries. We had hardships where there were only three mics even though there are 5 members. That was in 2008.
JAM Project world tour
It must have been tough to only have 3 mics.
-They were veterans so they were passing around the mics every time it was their turn to sing. But we noticed that there were fans oversea and decided we really need to actually start something. That how it all started.
So Lantis expanded with JAM Project performing at the Budokan to performing overseas. Did you get any requests from fans to perform overseas.
-Yes, in the past Kageyama got a request to sing the theme song for Dragonball Z in Spain. It was very popular there. We made a song called No Border, meaning there are no boundaries, that we are all friends even if the counties didn’t get along, and that we will go anywhere to perform.
Yeah even I know Cha-La-Head-Cha-La is really popular overseas.
-Yes. We saw videos on YouTube of people singing it. At first, I was like “there’s no way it’s that popular right?” After finding out how popular it was, we decided to go overseas.
Where was your first oversea event? Is there any in particular that you remember?
-There were several events we attended to sing Suzumiya Haruhi songs like AX. The most memorable event was when we went to Taiwan for JAM Project. There was big venue where 4000 people came to watch the show. We didn’t really plan anything else nor did we have the expenses, so we went with just the members, band, and the sound team. We didn’t bring the lighting team, so we had the local people set up the lighting for us. It was kind of hard because they had to memorize the song. So we would be like the “next song is a ballad” and there was a lot going on backstage but it was really fun.
I get an impression that anime is really popular in Taiwan.
-Yes, they also love anisong and even like the same anime that’s airing in Japan in real time.
You’re probably aware that there are many anisong fans oversea, do you feel that there is a difference in what’s popular depending on the country?
-Not so much anymore. They seem to like similar things but in South America, such as Brazil, Tokusatsu songs seems to be popular. Songs for Kamen Rider was actually broadcasted with the episode. So the attendees would be people who used to watch Tokusatsu when they were younger. In Europe, I noticed Dynamic Production work and anime like Gurren Lagann and Mecha were popular.
They didn’t change the songs right?
-That’s what I heard. Last year in America, Love Live’s Aqours, Idolm@ster, Wake Up, Girls! and Walküre had a one-day concert. I was a little worried if the Americans would be able to accept them and was pleasantly surprised… About 6000 people attended! I was surprised and happy. I felt like they would enjoy something more like KPop or something similar to Madonna but glad they enjoyed watching voice actor idols.
Aquors in Anisong World Matsuri, 2017.
I think it’s because they really like the series and it’s also a type of music that’s unique.
-Yes, that’s true.
I’ve noticed that Lantis has been attending oversea events for a long time now and now Lantis is holding their own events oversea. Can you tell me a little bit of how it is working with Amuse and holding your own event?
-We do Lantis Festival which is a festival only for Lantis. But I also thought that depending on the place, there is more demand on something that Lantis alone cannot provide. There may be demand for Avex pictures, Sony Music Entertainment, Horipro, and Amuse which helps us book artists internationally because they have branches out in different countries. We are now shifting to work with oversea companies and hold the risk in doing oversea events.
How do you book venues?
-When we go to AX, we use a big venue called Microsoft Theater next to the convention center. We made the decision on our own and had people oveseas booked it for us. We plan all the event and we’ve had events in Los Angeles twice already.
Seems like a lot of work. All the staff members go too right? That’s a lot of people.
-We have about 150 people go. Depending on the artists we have different staffs and of course our main staffs. There are also make-up artists, band mates, musicians that come along too.
Oh even make-up artists?
-There are times we have Japanese make-up artists come along. Sometimes we work with make-up artists in that country. We have to get working visa’s for everyone. All the staffs that come along also must get interviewed at the embassy too.
It must be a lot of work getting a visa for every country.
-Yes, we have to get visa’s for every country. It takes us 4 days to have everyone visit the embassy.
How long have you been doing Anisong World Matsuri?
-We started in 2016 and had a two day event in America. Last year we also did 2 days. I think this year we are thinking about 3 days.
JAM Project in Anisong World Matsuri, 2017.
Wow! Yeah since it was successful last year, adding another day might be good!
Will everyday have a different genre in Anisong World Matsuri?
-We are thinking of having solo artists for one day, an anisong day, and maybe a day for artists that are more in the Jpop genre but still sing for anisong.
That makes me want a 3 day ticket!
What’s great about holding your own event and what are some hardships you’ve encountered.
-It cost a lot of money to go overseas.
Yeah. That’s true. Even just staying at a hotel cost money.
-Yeah traveling expenses and actually having the same layout for the concert overseas. We bring over props as well as having them make some for us. But for people like Love Live’s Aquors, they go overseas as an extension to their Japanese tours. JAM Project and OLDCODEX go tour around Asia with the mindset of touring other prefectures. It’s become more normal to perform overseas. We only have concerts, but we want more people to contact us through JAMLAB. to let us know which country to perform at. This is the main reason why we started up JAMLAB. Also listening to anime music could be hard overseas so we made this application called AniUTa which is a subscription service that plays only anisongs. Our goal is to launch this application globally.
I actually wanted to ask you about AniUTa. Is it a service available only in Japan?
-We launched this application in March of last year. It was launched in Japan first. We first started off with 50,000 songs and now we have 60,000 songs. We added 10,000 more songs in one year.
60,000 anime songs?
-Yes. We have anime songs from the 60’s and 70’s, some of these songs aren’t sold in CD shops anymore. We have songs that aren’t released digitally.
-We have anisong events, rankings, and you can reserve tickets first through the application. There are also artists lists. We are trying to make more contents besides just listening to anisongs.
So you can listen to whatever song you want just by clicking on it?
-Yes. You can listen to anything and it’s only 600 yen a month. It’s pretty cheap right?
Yes, 600 yen is really cheap.
-The reason we made it 600 yen is because we wanted to make it 5 dollars oversea. We have it release it globally by this year.
This application is great way to spread anisong to the world!
-This application is something we are working on with RIAJ(Recording Industry Association of Japan). It’s hard to release music because of copyright issues but this application has got all the copyrights issues cleared. It’s an application that teamed up with 10 record companies and they are able to upload new anime music by themselves. It’s a new kind of application.
International anisong fans will be thrilled because it is hard to listen to anisong overseas.
-So having events overseas and having more people listen to anisong is definitely something I look forward to. It would be nice to make goods overseas and have it become more similar to our anisong markets here in Japan.
Next: Shunji Inoue Interview #3 – Future visions of Lantis and how Inoue feels to Anisong.
It will be published on 9 April, 2018!
ANiUTa official site: https://aniuta.co.jp