Mikiko is BABYMETAL’s choreographer for ever song since they started! This interview was published in late September and has now been translated by a generous fan! We also had translated from that issue already the 100 question Q&A with BABYMETAL (Translated here by Lenzer)
Amazon Japan link to purchase (¥1,300)
- Long interview of BABYMETAL
- 100 question Q&A (with BABYMETAL)
- KOBAMETAL interview
- MIKIKOMETAL interview (this one)
- New York Show Report
PMC: MIKIKOMETAL-sensei, you have been watching closely how BABYMETAL have transformed and how SU-METAL and MOAMETAL have grown up, as the group entered a new chapter, starting its full-scale activity under a new system in 2019. First of all, how do you feel about the change within them after going through “the Dark Side” period in 2018?
MIKIKOMETAL: Well, true, it was the time of conflicted feelings and doubts on their mind, but even then, I think, they were always pondering like, “how can we connect the old BABYMETAL to the future?” As for the Dark Side, since supporting dancers and their numbers–whether four or seven (note: including the two members)–changed from time to time, they tried as much as possible to create an opportunity for conveying to the dancers the images and details of each song that they cared about. Whereas the two had been able to perform together on stage naturally just like breathing, they now had to explain things to others in actual words, with new supporting dancers being added. So, I suppose, this process of verbalizing the moves and routines that they do on stage; it was like time for them to establish a certain type of rules between the two themselves, as well.
PMC: It is hard to put everything into words, in the case of dancing, isn’t it?
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes, it is.
PMC: In an interview she gave to the PMC magazine (vol.13), MOAMETAL-san said she was able to take a fresh look at her own dancing, by performing with new dancers on stage.
MIKIKOMETAL: Looking from her side, you can say so. However, from the perspective of supporting dancers, maybe it was like “how the hell do you do that?” It means they all needed to have a time to ask and solve those puzzles to each other, and they did have it all right. I think that the way MOAMETAL used her body was aligned to BABYMETAL’s own distinctive moves, since the three members had been performing for long time from a very young age. It was a good time for her to learn from adult dancers how to take care of and move the body, when she was experiencing herself the change within her body.
PMC: Considering what has happened afterwards, it was a good thing indeed. When I saw BABYMETAL performing live in June at Yokohama Arena myself, her move was astonishingly beautiful and charming to the tip of her fingers.
MIKIKOMETAL: Her expression suddenly became more matured one, didn’t it?
PMC: Although they said in the interview for the PMC magazine (vol.13) that they were determined to keep going with the remaining two, the actual stage plan was not yet set at the time. In fact, it must have been an extremely rapid and radical development of things, from the day the new plan was decided—one of the three supporting members, “the Avengers”, performing in turns from show to show—until the date of actual live performance according to the plan. I can imagine that they met the challenge with quite a bit of determination and spirit.
MIKIKOMETAL: You are right. It was incredible, wasn’t it?
PMC: In order for them to be able to reach that level of quality performance at Yokohama, not only supporting dancers but also Mikiko-sensei who has experience of working under a tight schedule were invaluable, let alone the strong mind of the duo. The show became possible only because of the entire team, I think.
MIKIKOMETAL: Well, it became possible because the new “Avenger” dancers spent a lot of meaningful time with the two, going the limit in discussing together. On top of that, in terms of understanding my choreography or capturing the “feel” of SU-METAL and MOAMETAL, the new dancers were successful because they shared this “DNA”(note: the original term MIKIKO uses), I suppose. Without the “DNA” it would not have worked out, and that is the conclusion I reached.
PMC: Indeed, on the (note: Yokohama) stage, they instantly blew the audience’s anxiety away.
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes, yes. Anxiety and ambivalence. They surely did blow them away.
PMC: To get to the level, was there anything different in their power of concentration toward the new two-person system?
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes there was, very much. They had the feeling that “we do not want to put an end to this now”, and that “we do not want to disappoint anybody with our new formation.” One more thing. It was true that BABYMETAL was not something they started themselves but rather a “phenomenon” they were experiencing, therefore a “fragile” thing to them. However, while going through the “no-way-this-could-happen” kind of experience, they have been asking themselves for the past year “whether this is the thing that we would work on with our lives from now.” After all this, their absolute passion that “we want to do this”, that “we offer the newest BABYMETAL with a new formation”, and that “we want to bring people the BABYMETAL with a more sense of stability,” definitely reached both the audience and the added dancers on the stage. Since the dancer is alternated from show to show, the two members always practice as many times as the number of dancers.
PMC: All in all, they are incredible. My body still shivers with sensation, just recalling that live performance. How difficult is it actually, when you alternate the dancer each time?
MIKIKOMETAL: Each dancer has a different length of stride, gives off a distinct type of energy, and makes an eye contact with her own timing, I believe. But live performance is a one-time experience anyway with a different audience, isn’t it? The fact that they have cared about those live feelings as a group makes them possible to enjoy and even capitalize on such a situation.
PMC: I see. So, they do not consider the new formation of the band as something negative at all, do they?
MIKIKOMETAL: Oh, you are right. That is how they feel like. They are rather enjoying this situation itself, like “wow, things change so much just by alternating with supporting dancers!”
PMC: They rather enjoy it as an inspiration?
MIKIKOMETAL: I think so. Now every stage necessarily generates tension, which gives them another inspiration in a positive way.
PMC: Then, what are the things that you paid attention to, in terms of choreography, under the new formation that they have now, after releasing the last album “METAL RESISTANCE” and then going through the Dark Side?
MIKIKOMETAL: First, one big factor was that both SU-METAL and MOAMETAL grew up. Then, during the time of the Dark Side, both of them, particularly MOAMETAL, reconfirmed the desire to play “Kawaii Metal”. They could affirm that decision even more clearly after going through the Dark Side period. So, with this important pledge they made, how would I create their choreography now? That is what I thought about, and it all came out to me rather smoothly. You know, at the time when each of us was wavering, it was kind of difficult to think about what we were going to do.
PMC: You said, “each of us”. That means, Mikiko-sensei, you were wavering too?
MIKIKOMETAL:We all felt the same, including the fans, you know. The whole situation was totally unexpectable. But after the fog cleared and the new songs were ready for choreography, everything came out smoothly. (laughs)
PMC: Talking about the two “growing up”, you are incorporating an element of contemporary dance, aren’t you? There is an adult-like expression in the song “Starlight”.
MIKIKOMETAL: Up until then, their ballad songs were premised on SU-METAL–standing and singing in the middle—and her facial and natural bodily expression. I thought they could step up onto another “layer” (note: the original word Mikiko uses), by adding this adult-like rendering from MOAMETAL and a support dancer standing at the sides, like adding extra sound pressure. Drawn into this idea by listening to the song, I thought “I’d better do this”. Now I feel like all of the performers followed me faithfully on the idea.
PMC: Their facial expressions and moves are so mature and beautiful now.
MIKIKOMETAL: When they try to express something only with their hands, concentrating every emotion on their stretched fingertips and delivering it toward the ceiling or the sky, their bodies have come to synchronize perfectly with their minds, I think.
PMC: Wow! The synchronization of body and mind!
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes, that is it. Before all this, their moves were all wham-bam, so to speak. Although they were able to cover that part with their youth and cuteness, performing with other dancers or worrying about themselves during “the Dark Side” period made them evolve significantly. Now back again with the golden triangular proportion, the two must feel fitting and so do I, and all the fans too, I think.
PMC: I agree. There is this beauty of the golden proportion, as well. Now with the cornerstone of the band being cemented, “METAL GALAXY” is expanding the horizon of BABYMETAL with the concept of diversity, crossing musical genres and national borders. The album was exciting to you, Mikiko-sensei, was it not?
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes, it was. It was fun. Like bringing a bit of dances from all over the world into the songs.
PMC: There are Indian dance moves for the first time in “Shanti, Shanti, Shanti”.
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes, but for me, Indian dances have already been incorporated in Perfume’s choreography.
PMC: Although it(note: Indian dance) is a new attempt for BABYMETAL, how can I say, it has already become something only BABYMETAL can express.
MIKIKOMETAL: Yeah, how can we describe it?(laughs) It is like “rattling”?(note: the original word is “wacha wacha” in Japanese)
PMC: How are the two coping with a new type of dance like this as BABYMETAL?
MIKIKOMETAL: I think they are enjoying them.
PMC: There are many things that are characteristic to Indian dance, like its fingertip moves or ways to maintain body balance, aren’t they?
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes, you are right. Although I intentionally excluded body-waving or bodyline-enhancing moves from their choreo in the past, BABYMETAL now can perform those moves without appearing to be overacting, which gives them a broader repertoire of body moves, I think. Of course, they are not used to those new moves at first, yet that works as another motivation and consequently keeps them out of a rut.
PMC: MOAMETAL-san said that MIKIKO-sensei creates choreography of a song according to its lyrics. Is there anything in your choreography (note: of the new songs) that you want others to pay attention to?
MIKIKOMETAL: Well, let me see. All of my choreographies are made along with song lyrics and rhythm, but in the case of “PA PA YA!!(featuring F. HERO)” there was a request for “waving a towel”. The tune is played for heating up the audience, and it was a fresh experience for me to dare do the choreography for a firing-up rap music.
PMC: Doing the choreo for a rap tune.(laughs)
MIKIKOMETAL: Yeah, really. Pushing things toward the edge of a cliff, so to speak.(laugh) On the part of “matsuri-da, matsuri-da”, I put a little move from the Awa-odori(note: famous traditional dance from Tokushima area in Southwestern part of Japan). Or how about the routine in the part “Accha, Accha, Accha, Accha” in the song “Shanti Shanti Shanti”?(laughs) We still have choreographies for the songs that they have not performed yet. Well, as for “Elevator Girl”, every move almost fits in with its lyrics, like “we are going up, we are going down, and watch yourself with the closing door.(laughs) It is kind of like a drama.
PMC: “Elevator Girl” is a good one, isn’t it? Well, to go off the subject a little, we are now asking the two to answer one hundred questions, one of which is “what are you going to do if the elevator is actually going down to hell?” We are looking forward to seeing their answer.
MIKIKOMETAL: Wow. That sounds like fun. They are likely to give you an interesting reply, aren’t they? (laugh)
PMC: We asked them to do the same thing in PMC vol.4, and they were like pros in doing that with intuitive sense.
MIKIKOMETAL: Oh yes! They are smart.
PMC: Having a feel for that kind of thing is somehow related to dancing, I think.
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes, yes. Ugly or cool, we are challenging to find that fine line between them. So, I dare go into the area where my choreography would be deemed not ugly, just barely!(laughs) Plus, they are good at performing with a bit of humor, particularly MOAMETAL.
PMC: She is, really.(laughs)
MIKIKOMETAL: Yeah, she is good at that. (laughs)
PMC: In a song like “Elevator Girl” or “Shanti Shanti Shanti”, particularly, she is good.
MIKIKOMETAL: So is her facial expression. (laughs)
PMC: That humorous part stands out well just because of the fact that they have been giving hard and intensive live performances, almost like a life-and-death matter. Moreover, they are still evolving by adding a new type of expression which is only possible for the matured BABYMETAL. All in all, they have reached an incredible stage of their development, I think.
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes, they have. And, there will be no change in them regarding a live performance as a life-and-death matter. (laughs)
PMC: No change for that, after all!
MIKIKOMETAL: While continuing to perform at full power, their stage performances now embody their body enhancement and mental poise. Before all these changes, they were following the story that adults around had prepared for them, yet they overcame, truly by themselves, this difficult situation where “there really may be no more road for us to take, after walking where there is no path,”. I wanted the two to keep pushing toward the direction that they chose, and now they can see their future themselves, delivering to the world whatever they possess with confidence and pride. Right now, they are on the verge of leaving for the U.S. tour. Doing rehearsals for the tour with them, I could feel their sense of thrill which is apparently different from what I felt before.
PMC: With an unprecedented number of shows scheduled in the tour, they will be visiting new places as a result of finely covered regions. They are onto another stage, kicking into high gear from the start.
MIKIKOMETAL: Yes, yes.
PMC: Last of all, Mikiko-sensei, what do you think of, as an organizer of ELEVENPLAY as well, the current BABYMETAL which evolve by embracing multiformity?
MIKIKOMETAL: Here is the thing that can be said for every artist I was involved with. For Perfume, BABYMETAL, and ELEVENPLAY, there is something which they possess, only because they have been continuously performing for a long time, like ten years or more. There is definitely a rewarding thing that you will earn only after going through a lot. Those who have performed on stage in a grateful way, one by one as a sacred opportunity, should have confidence to shine on any stage and at the same time be aware of the fact that it is up to them if you can turn around the atmosphere or not. Plus, those people also understand that, in order to accomplish what you started, there must be no distracting thoughts. Perhaps, BABYMETAL have already come to acquire that understanding. They have become one of those artists who can completely deliver that message to others!
(End of Interview)