Yuki Kajiura Interviews » Kalafina Record – Solo Interview: Wakana
Thanks a million to carlenne for translating posting this translation on her blog.
Chapter I: Kalafina
It has been three and a half years since their debut. The existence that is Kalafina is still surrounded in many mysteries. Of course, that is to be expected. Despite the three of them having told their story as a unit, there have not been many opportunities for them to do so individually. In this chapter, as a first for Kalafina, the three were each interviewed personally. What emerged was the never before seen individuality of the three. In addition, producer Yuki Kajiura was also interviewed and illuminated the picture of the unit as a whole.
Solo Interview: Wakana
Her past is brought to light for the first time. Who could have predicted that she would end up living such a dramatic lifestyle? A move from her birth place to Fukuoka. The emotional time of puberty. A destined meeting during her high school years. And then, her challenges. Wakana herself passionately tells her story.
- First of all, please tell us about your early life.
Wakana: Sure. I was born in Choufu. I lived there until I was about 5-6 years old, in my last year at nursery school we moved to Fukuoka. I have a lot of memories of my time at nursery school. Even now I’m still in contact with close friends who were in the same group.
- That’s quite a long to have known one another.
Wakana: I remember nursery school as being a lot of fun. After I moved to Fukuoka I attended kindergarten. Everyone at nursery school was like family but at kindergarten my friends felt a bit more distant. On top of being thrown into a place I knew nothing about, with my Tokyo dialect I couldn’t speak in Fukuoka dialect so I was made fun of quite a bit. ‘Wakana-chan speaks like a boy’ and things like that. But, although I don’t remember, according to my teacher apparently we were all taught in Tokyo dialect (laughs). I made a lot of friends though so I think my life at kindergarten was also a lot of fun. I was quite a noisy child so the teacher got angry a lot.
- Were you a child who plainly spoke your opinions?
Wakana: If I was asked for my opinion I would say ‘Huh- I don’t know.’ (laughs) When the pressure was on I couldn’t be myself. (laughs) In any case I felt pretty strongly about wanting to be in the same circle as everybody else, so I thought to take the initiative and have fun. In the early years of primary school I made a lot of friends in my neighbourhood. Even now I’m still very close with a lot of the friends I made at primary school.
- So you still continue friendships from long ago.
Most of the friends who came to the Kitakyushu live ‘Anisong KITAKYUSHU 2011’ were childhood friends from primary school, so all of them were crying (laughs). They came bringing fans with the words ‘Kalafina’ written on them so it felt a bit like I was a Johnny’s idol.(laughs)
- Wakana-san gives the impression of having an open mind. Because Wakana-san opens her heart, other people must find it easy to do so too.
Wakana: Having you say that makes me feel very happy. Yesterday when I was talking with Keiko she suddenly said ‘I’m glad Wakana is in Kalafina.’ ‘I decide my first impression by Wakana. It seems like it’ll be interesting then so I think it’s great! (thumbs up pose)’ was what she said (laughs). I’m often told by other people that ‘You probably don’t even know the meaning of the word “shy”’ but I dare say I do have parts of myself that are like that. Because when I’m trying hard to find something to talk about I get nervous. I get nervous very easily so I try to make it as fun as possible. I think that whenever I’m talking to someone for the first time, if I’m having fun then the other person will too… sometimes I’m not too good at reading the mood though (laughs). Saying that I have an open heart, I think I have a lot of parts of myself that I don’t show to other people easily, so conversely, I’m out-going in such a way that other people aren’t able to get in. I don’t really open up to a lot of people. It may seem like I’m talking frivolously but I suppose it’s just my way of putting myself out there.
- What kind of things would your long-time friends say about Wakana-san do you think?
Wakana: Things like ‘noisy’ and that (laughs). In middle school they used to call me ‘alien.’ (laughs) I get embarrassed remembering it even now. During middle school I used to love (the magazines) ‘Zipper’ and ‘CUTiE.’ Back then, a fashion called ‘Decora-chan’ was popular and because I was also into Decora-chan I remember making a skirt out of some polka dot fabric I bought and also a hair band out of some strange pink cloth. ‘If you listen to music it must definitely be JUDY AND MARY!’ (laughs) I also often talked using strange words (laughs).
- So you were very much an individual as a middle student?
Wakana: An individual for life! I hated being like others, so I dare say I was quite strange. At that time I wanted to be an opera singer or a mangaka, I had a lot of dreams that I don’t really understand. (laughs). I became an otaku when I was in primary school. In my first year at middle school I was really into ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ and was in the art club. Even I had a so-called ‘otaku’ era when I did nothing but talk about anime and manga (laughs). I did my best in the art club so by the time it was third year I was the club president.
- And what about your dream to become an opera singer?
Wakana: From my third year of primary school I was in a boys and girls chorus group. I loved singing ever since I was a child. My mother was a music teacher so I think it was because I had a lot of opportunities to get into music. I remember singing ‘Kita kaze kozou no Kantarou’ from ‘Minna no uta’ at nursery school pretty well. Also, when we sang a song about the sea called called ‘Umi wa hiroi na, ooki na’, I only knew this afterwards but I got the words wrong and sang ‘Umi da! hiroi da! ooki da!’ (laughs). After that on a recommendation from my mother I entered a chorus group when I was in primary school.
- So rather than listening, singing came first?
Wakana: Singing was completely first. In my primary school years I thought to myself ‘I’ll definitely keep on singing from now on’. I was the soprano in the chorus group but as I watched an onee-san from high school sing I thought ‘I want to sing like that too’, ‘I want to get a solo too’. On the other hand however, I got nervous easily so I also thought ‘But I wonder if I’ll ever be able to sing on my own.’ Around that time my mother quit school and began to teach piano at home and because of that I was also taken along to piano recitals and in addition to the performance there I was also made to sing accompaniment. I remember singing Miyuki Nakashima’s ‘Jidai’ at one of them pretty well. I think I was about 6th grade then. I battled on by always choosing unusual songs. If I could tell that it was an unusual song by looking at the musical score then I decided to do it.
- You didn’t like doing the same things as others?
Wakana: That might be so. I didn’t have much confidence in myself so I was a mass of complexes. That was why I acted that way I think.
The teenage years when she overflowed with confidence
- You have talked about wanting to be an opera singer, did you also have an interesting in vocal music?
Wakana: Yes. From my second year of middle school I also studied vocal music. A friend of my mother’s who was a teacher taught me. I wanted to enter the Shiki Theatrical Company. When I was in middle school a theatre was also built in Fukuoka, and I went with my mother many times to see various Shiki Theatrical Company shows.
- In order to enter the Shiki Theatrical Company not only singing but drama among other things would also be needed, right?
Wakana: That was a great hurdle for me. I had thought that if I studied vocal and classical music I would have a better chance of getting into Shiki but now that I think about it, all of the active people there had done ballet. In primary school I had taken choir and rhythmic gymnastics lessons but not ballet. When I entered middle school I quit rhythmic gymnastics and was completely involved in choir.
-Since you were studying chorus and vocal music your focus would have been on classical music, but when it comes to so-called ‘pop’ music what kind of artists did you first come to like?
Wakana: The first CD’s I ever bought were Kohmi Hirose’s ‘Romance no Kami-sama’ and FOLDER’s ‘Parachuter.’ I was mesmerized by Hirose-san’s and FOLDER’s Daichi Miura’s voices. I had never known anyone that could sing like they did and because it was something I myself couldn’t do, I listened to them often thinking ‘This is great.’
- So even from primary school you listened to music while paying attention to the singer’s voices.
Wakana: While I was in chorus group I thought a lot about how I should sing and in what way I could sing songs beautifully. When I entered high school I started to listen to western music but the first singer I got into was Whitney (Houston). I was like ‘What is this!’ It was quite a shock. So after that I awakened to western music and began to listen to a lot of soul and R&B. Celine Dion and Mariah Carey… what amazing voices! Such wonderful high notes! I listened to nothing but singers of that kind.
- I think high school is often an emotional time for many, but Wakana-san, what kind of high school student were you?
Wakana: In my first year of high school it was kind of… I didn’t really know what it was I wanted to do. You gradually come to understand more about reality. I wanted to sing, but I also had to study at the same time and think about whether or not I should go to university and things like that. It was still alright when I was in first year, but in second year I got quite depressed. ‘This is bad!’ ‘What am I going to do!’ and things like that (laughs).
- I suppose that is something that happens to a lot of girls in high school(laughs).
Wakana: I decided that ‘I have to do something to pick myself up!’ and so when I said to my mother, ‘I want to learn singing at a school’ she said ‘Alright, here’s the town page then’ and held it out. (laughs)
- Just like in the CM!
Wakana: If I should someday meet Yoshizumi Ishihara I want to give him my thanks (laughs). When I opened it all enthusiastically… there was an ad saying ‘The school that brought up MISIA.’ I forgot to say this before but when I was in middle school I loved MISIA-san and I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like MISIA-san in the future. MISIA-san was also from Fukuoka as well. So I thought ‘This is it!’ In any case, the female principal at the school was a strange person, she would suddenly get up on top of the desk and begin to say ‘R&B is, well~’ (while making her body bend loosely back and forth) ‘this kind of feeling.(laughs) It was there that I came across gospel. The principal said to me ‘Learn gospel plea~se!’ (laughs) She was an interesting person (laughs)
- So you ended up drawing that principal out of the town page (laughs).
Wakana: Even so, about half a year after I started at the school I was able to meet my esteemed Sensei. Sensei taught me ‘Sing, it’s what everyone’s feeling.’ He said ‘The pleasure of someone singing with feeling is immeasurable’, the things he taught me are still inside my heart even now. When Sensei made his own school I also transferred to there. That was my second year of high school and I also ended up quitting high school as well. It became a big problem at my house. My mother cried and my father was silently angry. I only stubbornly said ‘I’m not going (to high school) anymore. I definitely want to quit.’ Going to high school, working part-time and taking lessons at the same time had become an agony for me. All the money I earned at my part time job went towards the fees for my lessons. Because that was my lifestyle at the time, I became estranged from my class friends. I’m still in contact with my high school friends and there are many I’m close with but at the time I didn’t feel any attachment at all towards high school. After that I was accepted into a correspondence high school and continued my lessons. I did my part-time work, took gospel lessons and from then my days of auditioning began. I sent about ten every month.
- What kind of places did you send them?
Wakana: To Sony Music auditions (laughs). I was rejected twice. Because I’m now a part of the Sony Music which I dreamed of I realized that if you believe dreams do come true, so I’m truly grateful.
- So rather than for musicals like that of the Shiki Theatrical Company you took auditions with the intention of becoming a vocalist?
Wakana: That’s right. By that time I had faced reality. I wasn’t doing ballet and I had never done acting or dance. I couldn’t hope to enter the Shiki Theatrical Company like that. That’s why at that time I thought ‘I want to be an R&B singer!’ At auditions I always sang nothing but MISIA songs. However, one day Sensei said to me, ‘I know she’s popular, but it’s not good to keep singing only MISIA songs.’ When I said ‘Eh-, but I want to become a singer just like MISIA’ he replied ‘But, there is no need for two MISIAs’ I was liked ‘Huh?!’ All the things I had thought until then crumbled away and I began to think ‘I can’t be like MISIA’ and that I had to do things different from other people. The songs I put on the CDs I sent to auditions from then on were three songs: an acapella version of ‘Amazing Grace’, Celine Dion’s ‘To Love You More’ and Chihiro Onizuka’s ‘Gekkou.’ I made a CD that showed that I could sing soul, gospel, R&B and classical music. With that I made it until the end of Sony Music audition’s final selection but in the end was turned down. The year before I had also made it to the final screening before being turned down. I chose those three songs so that I would stand out from other people… it was something I had really thought out. For example, the reason I did ‘Amazing Grace’ acapella was that I thought the long intro of the song would be tiresome for the people judging at the audition. I thought that if a voice suddenly came out of the silence they would be more likely to listen. In the end I passed the audition for a certain production and when I asked one of the judges he said ‘That’s exactly right. That was a well made decision.’
- So your strategy was successful. At that time you were 19 years old, weren’t you?
Wakana: It was the summer of my 19th year. For about half a year I went back and forth between Fukuoka and Tokyo, I moved to Tokyo in the second month of my 20th year. I think the power I had at that time was tremendous. I had a lot of confidence, I wonder why. A lot of things happened and I ended up entering Space Craft Produce.
From days of uncertainty to Kalafina
- What kind of life did you lead after moving to Tokyo?
Wakana: I took voice training together with Yuu-chan (Yuuka Nanri). Yuu-chan is an amazing singer, she is able to produce a reliable sound and because she had been doing classical music more than anything else her voice is beautiful. That was a culture shock. Because we took voice training together I began to understand many of my own weaknesses. ‘I’m weak in these areas, ‘I’m not very good at up-tempo songs so I need to overcome that’ and things like that. I was taught many things by my teacher and Yuu-chan. There were also many other girls aiming to become a singer at Space Craft and there was talking of gathering them together and doing a live show (“Female Voice Party!!”), it was there I met Keiko and Kaori (Kaori Oda). But again I got another culture shock. Kaori was still only a high school student but because she was also a model she was not only cute but tall as well. My own high school years weren’t so bright (laughs). Having never seen such a shining high school student like Kaori before I thought to myself ‘Wow, Tokyo is amazing!’
- After moving to Tokyo did you have any things that made you anxious?
Wakana: At the beginning it went almost too easily but until Kalafina was decided I always felt uneasy. To the point where I thought to myself ‘Where did all the energy I had when I first moved go?’
- How did you overcome the uncertainty that had built up?
Wakana: It was really horrible when I was working at my part-time job. ‘I can’t take this anymore, I want to burst out of here right now!’ I thought. I curled it all up inside me. I really enjoyed the chorus work I sometimes did for Kajiura-san, and I was happy to be of use to her, so I continued to think ‘It’d be great if I could get a job from this one day.’ About two years after I’d moved to Tokyo there was talk of Kalafina. However, I was very anxious about it. Firstly, to be frank, I thought ‘So it’s not as a solo act, but a unit…’ I had to think about what it would mean to work as a group. Keiko too, we were acquainted with one another as fellow colleagues at Space Craft but that is not to say that we were close friends. When it was decided we would be in Kalafina together I still didn’t know what would happen. We had seen one another before but it was kind of just in a ‘Nice to meet you…’ way.
- So it felt a bit formal with her.
Wakana: Hikaru joined at ‘sprinter’ but it was not until ‘fairytale’ that I finally understood just what Kalafina was. When ‘Lacrimosa’ came out it was said we were ‘moving into new territory’ but the truth is before that I had been thinking ‘Kalafina must end once all (Kara no Kyoukai)seven movies are over, I don’t what I’ll do if it does end.’ However, we began to do lives and I realized there were lots of things I had to do, I remember all the things we did at lives and up until now. It’s kind of like, ‘So now I’ve become a person who is able to meet everyone like this and do lives.’ If one is able to think that ‘We have all the things we do now because of all we’ve done up until this point’, the situation I’m in now is a very happy one, I’m able to reaffirm that. I’m not thinking about that Kalafina might end someday, on top of the fact that each one of us might someday search for our own path… for myself I think that I might probably finally be able to find my own music when I’m about 35-40 years old. What I mean by my own music is not music that I like but rather music that I am able to make on my own that is able to show my own type of charm. I think the time when I am able to understand what that is on my own is much, much further on. Right now doing everything I can ought to be good for both Kalafina and for myself so I feel I have to try my very hardest.
- It’s been over 3 and a half years since Kalafina began, has there been an event that was a development for Wakana-san?
Wakana: Firstly it was the time we began doing lives. When ‘Seventh Heaven’ and ‘Lacrimosa’ were released simultaneously we had a ‘closed live’ (“Kalafina Closed Live Premium”), it was the live that I realised ‘From now the three of us will be singing together as Kalafina’. Up until then I had sung mostly for recordings but from then on we had to sing and move in front of our customers and do so in a charming way. It was like the Shiki Theatrical Company that had once discouraged me so much. The things that I was not good at, when I had left them just like that, I then had no choice but to do them later. It was at that live that I truly understood that I was no good at being in front of others. I get tremendously nervous and disordered. However at that time I strongly felt that I definitely had to be able to overcome that. … As I thought, I didn’t really want to say this but…, last year, I thought to myself that I’m really not suited for this world.
- For this world?
Wakana: I thought that I’m not really suited for this kind of job. It became a situation when I thought ‘I can’t do what everyone wants me to do! What should I do…’ From the beginning of last year I began to worry, and for about a year until the beginning of this year it was very hard. A lot of things happened….
- The thing you thought that you ‘couldn’t do’ at that time, was that singing at lives?
Wakana: I get absolutely exhausted at them. I’m afraid of them. They are … my trial, the reason I was born. I think being able to overcome such feelings will be a step. However I’m not able to convince myself. I think that everyone says that ‘If I myself am not satisfied then I can’t show it to anyone else’ but it really is like that. I look at myself for confirmation and say ‘Yes, that’s really no good.’ That’s why I get nervous.
- So you’re determined that this is something you’ll wrestle with for life.
Wakana: That’s exactly right. I talked with a lot of people and that helped a lot.
- The more earnest you are about your music the less likely it is in your whole life that you’ll think ‘I’m satisfied with this.’
Wakana: Oh dear… I’m going to cry. I’m sorry…. You’re right (tears). It’s been very hard… I really thought that I was going to quit. Last summer I talked about it with the other members. When I did everyone cried… They said ‘Thank you for talking about this with us.’ So then I thought that I was glad I did talk with them. Being in Kalafina is a source of strength for me. My thinking has changed so that I believe the reason I’m able to continue to sing is because everyone is here. Unexpectedly I was able to say that. Even though I thought countless times ‘I’m always getting nervous and nothing goes well, I should just give up’ but because I have everyone it’s alright now. I’m grateful to everyone. That’s why I definitely can’t quit Kalafina, it won’t end. I definitely want to realise the dreams of the three of us. I’m always working now with the mindset that it’s not good to be alone.
Trials and worries, there is meaning in everything
- What kind of existence is Keiko-san to Wakana-san?
Wakana: Keiko… lately she’s just so amusing, you can’t do anything about her (laughs). I want to talk to her a lot (laughs). She’s of tremendous help to me. The way she talks is just so funny, and also the expressions she uses. For example, one day when I had a lot of money in my purse she said ‘You’re prosperous today.’ (laughs) She’s so much fun I just want to cling on to her. She’s a fun person.
- So the parts of her that are fun are of great help to you.
Wakana: On the musical side as well, she regulates the sound. There is a reason for that, because low notes are hard to hear it was decided to entrust those parts to Keiko. No matter what we say, it’s a task for a different level of hearing. We rely on her. I listen to Keiko when it comes to songs too. Of course I listen to Hikaru as well, but because Keiko sings the lower notes one is able to listen to the higher singing of the two of us objectively. She takes the initiative and gives us advice like ‘I want to move like this’ and ‘I want to do this part here like this’ so we’re also easily able to say ‘Then, I want to do this part like this’.
- So Keiko is like a big sister. Are you the oldest Wakana-san?
Wakana: Yes. Keiko has an older sister. That’s why she has freedom. Surely the one who thinks that someone will stop her one day is the younger sister. I am also a younger sister so I understand, even if you overdo it someone will stop you. All the more because she has confidence, she has freedom. I think she is cool because she is honest.
- Then, about Hikaru-san.
Wakana: Hikaru-kun (laughs). About Hikaru… I feel healed just looking at her. I love staring fixedly at Hikaru. My favourite movement of Hikaru’s is her habits when eating (laughs). It feels kind of like you can just see the words ‘munch munch’ around her (laughs). Her usual movements are just so calm, and that’s another thing that feels healing about her. However, when she is singing her appearance becomes much more powerful, so different from the ordinary you can’t imagine it. Not long ago, we had a recording the next day but two lines of the lyrics and musical score still hadn’t been finished. So then she said ‘It still isn’t finished. I can’t decide how to sing it then.’ I thought the way her feelings were so honest was kind of cool. Of course all of us feel strongly about our songs, but I began to feel that Hikaru also feels very strongly about them. While recording it was her policy to wear clothes that matched the songs as well, but I think that this is also her way of expressing her need to truly create a feeling of herself within the song. That was the moment I caught a glimpse of that from the extremity of her words. ‘I’m not satisfied with myself like this’, she has those determined areas to her regarding music. ‘So this is Hikaru,’ I thought. She has a sort of strictness towards herself. Hikaru is stronger than anyone, and doesn’t rely on others. I see that so sometimes I worry and talk to her but she always says ‘I’m alright.’ I thought to myself ‘This person must be a big sister.’
- Then lastly, about Kajiura-san.
Wakana: I’m often asked ‘What kind of person is Kajiura-san’, but as for myself she is an ‘amazing person.’ That might sound a bit flippant… She is someone who has something I definitely can’t imitate. Once I understand what my own voice and musical style is I want to be someone like her. This might end up sounding egotistical but she has a lot of things that I like and because she makes music I like, I think she is amazing. I’m able to see it this way all the more because we have things in common. All the things I learnt while doing classical and gospel music I was able to use for Kalafina. At first I had thought, ‘The songs are being made in order to match our voices’ but because I gradually came to think that ‘We have to have the necessary elements in order to express Kajiura-san’s songs’, I thought that I was glad that I had done classical music. Because Keiko came from doing rock music and Hikaru from J-POP the both of them are very good at producing a feeling of rhythm and an honest atmosphere. I think it’s not so much that we were chosen, but that the necessary singers were gathered. As regards my own life, I definitely think it was a necessary time. When I die, I want to think ‘I’m glad that this alone happened.’
- When you die?
Wakana: I’m a person who thinks a little about spiritual things. To live is to improve the soul, to discipline the soul. That’s why, no matter what is said to me now I’m resolved to never say ‘I can’t do it!’ If I’m asked, ‘It’s a very difficult song but can you do it?’ I think it is only right for me to reply, ‘I’ll do it!’ I want to be able to satisfy Kajiura-san. While living knowing that I will someday die, I aspire to live a tremendously rich life like Kajiura-san. It’s great to be in close proximity to such a role model. She encourages me, scolds me when I need it, and pushes me to the limits, she is an amazing person. I think I’ll be able to learn a lot of other things from her from now as well so I’d like to keep on following her, ready for anything she can throw at me.
- Has your impression of Kajiura-san changed from the time you first met until now?
Wakana: It hasn’t changed. The first time I met her was for ‘Fist of the North Star (The Legends of the True Savior)’ and since then it’s been five years. At that time, there was an event for Raoh-sama’s funeral where I had an opportunity to sing. I was totally nervous and I remember Kajiura-san saying ‘It’s still early, you know’ and replying ‘I’m sorry!’ I’m doing my best thinking that I definitely have to recover from that. I want her to say ‘Wakana-chan, you did a great a job today’ at a live one day. She has mildly said ‘Kalafina was great today’ but never while pointing anyone of us out by name. I have been praised for lives before. Like, ‘You looked really great out there today.’ I cried out aloud while saying ‘Thank you!’ Ah, it has happened (laughs).
- After all! (laughs)
Wakana: However, when I listened to the live’s sound source later, I couldn’t accept it! I want to be praised when I myself think ‘I did well.’ I’m very selfish, aren’t I? (laughs) I was happy to be praised but I can’t make too much of it. This was something my parents told me but basically it’s a case of ‘Don’t be proud if you win, don’t be discouraged if you lose.’ I think that I shouldn’t feel proud, that I have to keep on trying my best. Kajiura-san said to me, ‘I’m expecting a lot from you.’ This was really heavy. I can’t fall down now, I can’t stumble now. Advancing onwards while being scolded and having things expected of her, that is Kalafina’s Wakana. That’s the way I think of it. That’s why I won’t be crushed so easily.
- So your thoughts are that the path that you walk as a singer is for the sake of improving your soul, something that you must do. There were a lot of things that happened, but I don’t think there is anything meaningless in life.
Wakana: That’s exactly right! I think that there was meaning in everything. In quitting high school and being rejected by Sony Music auditions as well. Even now I can’t believe it. Miracles do happen. Wishes do come true. A lot of things will surely happen from now on but I strongly feel that while reflecting upon the meaning of the three of us being together I must live the present with all I have.