— Could you begin by talking about your personal favorite Hello! Project albums?
Tsurugi: I like Matsuura Aya’s First KISS and x3. Her first album is often called a masterpiece by fans. There was something about Matsuura back then that you can only hear on that album. Idols sometimes tend to “de-idolize” — for Matsuura, that change into “singer” came rather quickly. Her debut was the only album where she was purely an “idol,” but even on that release there was already a mix of both youthfulness and maturity. She had the technical skill that made her seem like the complete package, but she also had that youth and that idol-ness about her. And that expressiveness… the variation she showed on each and every song. I don’t think that album has much of the so-called “Hello! Project flavor” on it. It just maintains a fantastic balance throughout. She’s never going to make an album like that again. With that said, I also like her third album a lot.
— That one’s great, but in a different way from the first album, right?
Tsurugi: She showed so much growth. I actually prefer the album tracks on that release more than the singles. In short, it just has so many songs I like. Back then, whenever Matsuura was releasing a new song I was always both nervous and excited, and so to suddenly receive an album with this many songs I loved… You know what I mean?
Oomori: Matsuura’s singing always really stands out, so when she puts out an album, they’ll have those those certainsongs on there that can be a touch weaker in the sound department — you know, the not-as-serious “album tracks.” And it’s actually those songs that I tend to prefer from Matsuura.
Namba: Seeing as this book is about the albums of Hello! Project, we’ve each been asked to list five of our favorite Hello! Project album songs.
Koide: I must begin by saying that out of all Hello! Project albums, past or present, Berryz Koubou’s first album might be the best one out of any of them. I’m afraid that might be the case.
Hyadain: You’re afraid? (laughs)
Koide: Berryz Koubou’s 1st Chou Berryz and Dai ② Seichouki might be the best of them all — conceptually as well as in terms of their degree of perfection. Like, if you were to look at specific songs here and there, it’s not like there’s not a single track on there that’s not a bit… you know? (laughs) But they both have overarching stories and the songs all serve a meaning. Both releases stand on their merits as concept albums. When you listen to H!P releases with that mindset, there are actually a couple of other conceptual albums like that as well. v-u-den’s Suite Room No.1 comes to mind — that’s a good one to listen to in order.
Hyadain: Hmm. I’ve never done that.
Koide: v-u-den only released that one original album which means it has all their singles up until that point. That’s the main draw for most people. But the concept is that it’s a “hotel” — the album actually begins with the group checking-in.
“Is there anyone you personally respect?”
Tsunku♂: Well, my parents — naturally.
But as for someone I admire?
“Positive Hon — Pucchi Seikou e no Chikamichi” (2005)
Henkka: The Beatles are, without a doubt, my favorite band. If someone asked me why I like the music of Tsunku♂, my answer would be along the lines of “well… because I like The Beatles.” Some people might not understand what I mean by that. But if they didn’t, I would assume they don’t hear the music of The Beatles or the music of Hello! Project in the same way as I do.
There are endless of nods to The Beatles in the music of Hello! Project. There are so many callbacks to their sounds, melodies, chord progressions, recording techniques, and even direct allusions to their song titles, if you didn’t notice them you’d have to be intentionally trying not to.
I would make the case that, regardless of whether you care much for The Beatles or not, their music is unquestionably linked with the musical output and outlook of Tsunku♂, including all of the works he has produced for Hello! Project throughout the years.
Thus, here are some translated texts of Tsunku♂ talking about perhaps the biggest musical influence on Hello! Project and his work in general: The Beatles.
— Could each of you tell us about your responsibilities?
Kamata Koji: Well, I do a lot of things. But basically, I’ve been in charge of Morning Musume and S/mileage.
Yamao Masato: I mostly work with Berryz Koubou and °C-ute.
Hashimoto Shin: You’ve been with them since their debut, right?
Yamao: Right. I’ve been there from the beginning with Berikyuu.
Hashimoto: And Taisei has worked with Mano, Melon in their later years, and…
Taisei: Also later Matsuura, SATOUMI, SATOYAMA… Mostly the non-Tsunku♂ songs. Nowadays I work on ANGERME and Juice=Juice.
Hashimoto: I was involved with pretty much everything beginning with the creation of H!P up to around 2002 — up until “AS FOR ONE DAY,” I think. Then there were some personnel changes and I had a long break from that kind of thing as I worked as the chief manager of °C-ute. Recently, I’m back to being the general production manager.
Hirata Shoichiro — in the past ten years, this man has been one of the constant mainstays of Hello! Project music. Morning Musume’s “Kono Chikyuu no Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterun da yo!” and “Renai Hunter,” °C-ute’s “Kiss me Aishiteru,” “Crazy Kanzen na Otona” and “Aitai Aitai Aitai na,” Berryz Koubou’s “Asian Celebration,” “Aa, Yo ga Akeru” and “WANT!,” ZYX’s “Shiroi TOKYO,” DEF.DIVA’s “Suki Sugite Baka Mitai“… He has been involved with over 100 Hello! Project works. Considering how much his exquisite arrangements of edgy dance music and kayou-influenced pop seem to be loved by fans, one doesn’t know what to expect him to be like. But in this interview, his words proved him to be nothing if not a man full of humility!
— Jumping right into it: I want to start by asking what you found a difficult song to work on?
Hirata: Most of the time I just get to do what I like with my arrangements, but I’d say “Piriri to Yukou!” (Berryz Koubou) was a tough one just because they specifically wanted the song to feature sanshin. I had to think about the beat I wanted to give it, so I’d listen to lots of ska for inspiration. Well, truth be told, since this was just around the time when I was first starting out, it’d be more accurate to say every song felt difficult to do at the time. I enjoyed doing the remixes though — something like Gomattou’s “SHALL WE LOVE? (Cool groove mix)” was just great fun for me, making that 2-step remix.
— Meanwhile, a song like Morning Musume’s “Pyoko Pyoko Ultra!” was actually quite heavy on the dance music influences.
Hirata: I got word from the office that they would appreciate it if it did, yes. You know how these days people love songs with high BPM’s, right? Songs that it’s easy for fans to shout “oi, oi!” to. And I mean really high BPM’s — up there in the 170’s and 180’s. Even the average Hello! Project song around the time was pushing 150, so this was actually a period of serious struggle for me — I felt like I was starting to run all out of ideas. (laughs)
Yesterday, I asked you guys for your advice: from now on, should Wota in Translation be the place that I post all my Hello! Project translations on (with the exception of radio), or should I do what I have done so far and keep posting all the non-2ch stuff on a separate blog?
Well, the people have spoken.
When it comes to Hello! Project singles, no one has arranged more than Suzuki Daichi Hideyuki. Morning Musume’s “Do it! Now” and “Resonant Blue,” Matsuura Aya’s “The Bigaku” and “Kiseki no Kaoru Dance“… Countless of signature songs have been arranged by him. But what to him constitutes a perfect arrangement?
— What sort of music did you personally like early in your life?
Suzuki: I lived right through that biggest band boom — I loved bands like BOØWY and Blue Hearts and I played in a rock band myself. But I also found myself quite liking idol music along the lines of Tokyo Performance Doll and such. Nakayama Miho, too… I loved all the kayou kyoku type stuff. I played guitar in the band I was in, but I originally started out with programming back in junior high, thanks to the influence of TM NETWORK.
— I can’t imagine there having been too many junior high schoolers playing around with music programming in the late 80’s. (laughs)
Suzuki: Probably not, no. (laughs) I loved computers and I was into computer programming, too, so it was easy to get into music and the hardware side of things through that. So then I went out and bought myself a sequencer. With programming you had to input written music which would then output into actual sound… that’s how I got started. It was only later that I picked up the guitar and started playing in bands.
Beginning with his keyboard contributions on “Ai no Tane,” Kono Shin has since gone on to leave behind a number of notable works, including Morning Musume’s “Manatsu no Kousen” and “I WISH,” Melon Kinenbi’s “Kokuhaku Kinenbi,” and ZYX’s “Iku ZYX! FLY HIGH.” Having worked on a great number of arrangements, he describes his work with Hello! Project in particular as having been “considerably free.” How exactly did these Kono works come to be?
— The first work you did in relation to Hello! Project was playing the keyboards on “Ai no Tane.” How did that happen?
Kono: I was playing in a band called SPANK HAPPY at the time. (Note: the band’s lineup consisted of Hara Midori, Kikuchi Naruyoshi and Kono Shin. They have since disbanded.) Our company at the time was working with this band called COSA NOSTRA (a band led by Sakurai Tetsutarou). Through that connection, I would often play keyboards on Sakurai’s works, so when he was called in to compose and arrange Morning Musume’s “Ai no Tane,” he asked me to play keyboards on it. The musicians who played on “Ai no Tane” were mostly all close acquaintances of his. Another thing is, I had already been a supporting member for Moritaka Chisato so I wasn’t even that far removed from Up-Front. That was a big reason as to why I later became an arranger for Hello! Project.