Interview: Kana Hanazawa [2/2]

Acting in countless anime titles, receiving fanatic support from her fans—that is Kana Hanazawa. Currently, Kana is playing an active role in the music industry. Following the discussion about her thoughts on the live concert at the Budokan, we inquire about her 3rd album, Blue Avenue, and her personal life.

Read part 1 of the interview here.

[Kana Hanazawa’s Profile]
Japanese singer and voice actress. Entered the entertainment industry at a young age as a child actress, and made her debut as a voice actress at age 14 with the role of Holly Mad-thane in the TV anime series Last Exile. Gained popularity within the industry for her talent for acting and her good voice quality, and since then has acted in over 100 anime and game titles. Currently established as one of Japan’s top-class voice actresses. Debuted as a singer in February of 2012 and, since releasing her 1st single, Hoshizora Destination, under Aniplex in April of the same year, has released eight single tracks. Her 1st album, Claire, was released in February of 2013, and her 2nd album, 25, in February 2014. Her 3rd album, Blue Avenue, was released in April of 2015, and she is currently on a nationwide live tour throughout Japan (as of now, June 2015).

The 3rd Album was a Challenge

—The theme of your 3rd album, Blue Avenue—which is also the title of your nationwide tour—is New York. How was this theme decided?

Up until now I’ve had the opportunity to sing a variety of songs. My 2nd album had 25 songs. In my most recent album, Blue Avenue, because of my attraction to jazzy melodies, I decided to take up the challenge of singing some jazzy tunes myself.

It all started from my acoustic live event, Kana Matsuri. Starting last year, I found that the sensation of making music while jamming with nothing but a guitar, a piano, and myself was so much fun. After I brought up the idea that I wanted to do songs like this (in my album), the discussion turned into, “We want you to challenge a variety of genres.” In the trial and error process, we realized that if New York were the theme, we could include songs like this, and include songs like that, and that is how the theme was decided. Genres like reggae and fusion, which I had never tried before, are also included.

—After it was decided that you would be challenging a variety of genres in your newest album, did you begin listening to genres such as jazz and reggae?

I received many recommendations from the sound producer, Katsutoshi Kitagawa (ROUND TABLE), such as the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, James Brown, Billy Joel, and more. While imagining in my mind if I could sing as freely as this, I listened to them on repeat countless times.

—This album includes some scenes shot in New York as well. How was the actual city?

We did shoots in front of Times Square, Central Park, and The Dakota. The architecture in New York was large in scale and very stylish. Even at Starbucks, the size of a short cup was the size of a tall cup in Japan; I was so surprised. I also went to a jazz bar. At jazz bars in America the house gets excited as those in the audience talk with the performers on the stage, to the point where anyone is free to get up on stage if they wish; that was really surprising.

3rd Album Blue Avenue Regular Edition Jacket © Aniplex Inc. All rights reserved.

—What is the appeal of this album?

The most appealing part would be that there are songs of a wide variety of genres prepared for your enjoyment. Thanks to my past experiences, I wasn’t adverse toward genres that I was singing for the first time, and moreover I was allowed to sing them the way I wanted to. For the song “Pool”, I composed the lyrics myself, and they ended up with a rather serious and heavy feel. At first I thought that if I sang in a serious tone it would create an unnecessarily depressing mood, so I tried to sing cheerfully, but the mood turned out totally wrong. As a reference I tried to learn from listening to the songs of Fishmans 1, and what I got out of that was that songs with serious moods should just be sung seriously, and so I tried to pile such feelings into my own songs. I thought that it would feel better if I went all out, the way that Fishmans does, so I decided to make my song “Pool” one sung with a serious mood.

—In this album, you took on the challenge of composing the lyrics for not only the song “Pool,” but “Tap Dance no Oto ga Kikoetekitara” as well.

It really is tough to compose the melody first and then the lyrics afterward. “Tap Dance no Oto ga Kikoetekitara” is a short song. Mr. Kitagawa gave it the theme “tap dance,” and I composed the lyrics, packed with my desire for everyone to enjoy and have fun with the song. I think that I made Mr. Kitagawa go through a world of hardship over this song.

—What do you mean by a world of hardship?

After I submitted my lyrics to Mr. Kitagawa and they were edited, I felt that the revised version no longer portrayed anything of what I wanted to say, and so I insisted on having the lyrics rewritten (laughs). Even though I think that that was probably really troublesome, I still acted spoiled and stuck with my insistence. With “Pool,” on the other hand, the lyrics came first, so I was able to have the lyrics composed the way I liked.

—Where did the inspiration for the lyrics come from?

When I was in university, I was in the literature department and I loved reading novels. I also took courses in poetry. Thus, undertaking the project of writing out expressions that I like and describing the feelings that remain inside of me is something that I have experience with. I think it’s related to those times.

—Who are some of your favorites novelists?

Female Japanese novelists such as Kanako Nishi, Hiromi Kawakami, Amy Yamada, etc. While I also enjoy the works of writers such as Haruki Murakami, I feel that the ones who paint scenarios that I can resonate with and can make me think “I want to become this kind of woman” are female novelists like them, and before I know it I just end up reading their works.

—This time, the merchandise from your live concert is being sold on the Tokyo Otaku Mode Premium Shop as well. Please share your comments on a few of the items.

Some of the items I’d like to comment on are merchandise that aren’t really sold elsewhere. This time, perfect for the summer, we’re selling an item called the “Ka Nainai,” which is a wristband that just might repel mosquitoes (laughs). The can that the wristbands come in has the design of a yellow canary on it, which I think is Japanese-looking and cute. Please do take a look at it.

This time we’ve also prepared a USB memory stick called the “Kanabi.” Included inside the USB are system voices and a short audio drama. The drama is based on original characters that I created myself, and the script is always done by scriptwriter Shintaro Asanuma. For the voices of the characters, I received the help of many voice actors that I love and personally picked to be part of the cast.

And then there’s the 60-page pamphlet. Although the pamphlets are always packed with content, included this time are also drawings of myself by manga artists whom I am familiar with, interviews, and more. There are also booklets and photos inside, so it’s really packed with a variety of content.

I Want to Travel to Various Countries to Meet Everybody

—How were your experiences going abroad, either for events or for pleasure?

For events, I’ve been to places such as Singapore and Hong Kong. When I was little, I visited Australia once. I have memories of people doing barbeques there; it’s a country that I feel a fond sense of familiarity with. That’s why I was very happy that I got to go to Australia again when we shot the music video for my single, “Happy Endings.”

—How does communicating go with foreign fans at events?

In Hong Kong I was so busy that I literally only went outside once. Since I don’t really get the chance to meet my foreign fans, I worked really hard with all my energy. I often receive fan letters from my fans from abroad as well. Some letters even have Japanese written below the paragraphs written in English.

When I went to Hong Kong, I also met huge crowds of passionate fans there. I have released photo books, but the event was an anime event unrelated to them; yet, even so, people had my photo book in their hands, and were cheering “Kana! Kana!” I was so surprised.

Also, when I did the radio show for the anime Oreimo, I was really surprised to receive a surge of fan mail from abroad. Thinking, “There are this many fans!?”, I’ve personally felt how much passion exists for Japanese anime abroad. I dream to travel to various countries someday and meet all of the fans out there.

© Aniplex Inc. All rights reserved.

—What countries do you want to visit?

I want to visit Germany. It’s because I’ve come into contact with a lot of things related to Germany. For instance I have friends from Germany, and I majored in German in university. There’s a spot in Germany called the Fairy Tale Route; I really want to try visiting there. And I want to experience being welcomed by people in traditional clothing. I also want to visit the UK and various other regions.

—I’m going to change the topic a little, but how do you spend your days off recently?

About a week before my day off, I start thinking about what I should do and create a plan. I do things like watch two movies in a single day, and walk around visiting bakeries. Usually alone (laughs). Recently, on my days off I just walk around and think about what to say when I MC at live performances. Rather than staying at home, visiting different places, stopping by cafes and listening to people’s conversations can help new ideas spring up.

—What is a recent failure you experienced?

Hmm, I generally don’t really notice my own failures; I’m the type that realizes them after being told by someone after the fact. Something I do remember recently though is something that happened when I was at a jazz bar in Japan. The ice cream that I ordered had a fancy cookie on top, and I carefully tried to eat the crunchy-looking cookie without making noise by attempting to gently split it with my fork, but the cookie broke with a super loud sound, and the crumbs spilled all over the table and floor. At the time I thought “This is the worst!” and wanted to cry.

—What is a challenge you would like to try taking on in the future?

From here on out, I will continue doing many tours. At each place that I visit, I want to give performances that people will remember. I’m thinking long and hard about how I can give everyone a fun and enjoyable experience. Another thing is that someday I want to go all out with recitation, which is something I’ve been interested in for a long time.

© Aniplex Inc. All rights reserved.

—Lastly, please leave a message for the readers.

This project of my musical pursuits, with its various focuses, is happening at a hectic pace all throughout Japan. While I worry about the stamina of the fans who follow me everywhere, when I meet everyone and am able to directly feel everyone having fun, it gives me energy too, and I feel very happy that such a positive space is being created. For those who are coming out for the first time, too, please feel completely free to come join. And of course I humbly look forward to the visit of fans from abroad as well.

^1^ A Japanese music band. Founded in 1987, they produced pop songs with reggae style as the foundation. Later, they began incorporating rock and hip-hop into their musical compositions, and tackled a variety of music. With the death of their vocalist and guitarist, Shinji Sato, due to heart failure, the band discontinued their activities.

Kana Hanazawa’s Official Site

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