Text Interviews » Kalafina Record – Solo Interview: Keiko

Thanks a million to carlenne for translating posting this translation on her blog.

Chapter I: Kalafina

Solo Interview: Keiko

She obtains results in everything she does, in a life that had been nothing but smooth sailing she was visited for the first time by discouragement….. Although Keiko has an impression of being cool-headed, inside her hidden true nature is extraordinarily ‘passionate.’ She tells of her determination and resolution towards Kalafina.

– Keiko-san, what was your very first memory?

Keiko: I often went to Karuizawa with my family for the summer holidays. My parents liked tennis so while my mother supported me from behind I hit the ball to the rhythm of ‘drop, bounce.’ I might have been about 3 or 4. Whenever I watch the video of it we took back then, I was really so mischievous it’s embarrassing, I had a kind of ‘Look at me, look at me’ appeal. It’s a memory that makes me think I must have been a lot of trouble (for my parents). I was the youngest child so I probably said ‘I want to do what onee-chan is doing too!’ at a lot of places. All the clubs my sister was in, I joined afterwards.

– Was your sister your role model?

Keiko: Rather than such a far-away existence as a role model, our relationship is that of very close friends. Maybe even best friends. Our physique is almost exactly the same now so we can share all our clothes and shoes. I didn’t grow any taller until I was in middle school.

– Did you have a complex about your height?

Keiko: I was completely fine with it (laughs). In primary school I was about second or third from the front. If I had been a little shorter I could have done this (does a pose with hands on hips) though (laughs).

– Was your family a musical household?

Keiko: Good grief. There was no one. My sister was made to learn piano. While watching her from the side I said ‘I’m not going to do that!’ I have never taken lessons even once. After school ended I loved having ‘adventures’ a lot so even though I had to go home by train from the time I started primary school, I was always gazing at the scenery outside the windows by myself. Even in the time it took me to return home I visited parks and played with the neighbour dogs and such. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my parents about my ‘adventures.’ I really loved the feeling of having a secret. I felt that lessons would take away my time alone while returning home from school, so I really didn’t want to do them. I hated playing with dolls; I was a child that loved running around outside instead.

– You’re from Tokyo, aren’t you? What kind of areas did you play in?

Keiko: I lived in Suginami until I reached primary school so there were a lot of gardens around, Asagaya and Kouenji’s shoutengai were some of the places I played in. When the Awa Odori and Tanabata festivals were on the front of the train station to the shoutengai was covered in paper lanterns, I used to run around with my hand outstretched to touch them. It’s a very nostalgic memory.

– Then, what is your oldest memory involving music?

Keiko:I have absolutely no memory whatsoever of the games we played in kindergarten and things like that. My first memory was during primary school, Yuming’s (Yumi Matsutoya) ‘Manatsu no Yoru no Yume’! I was allowed to sing such a mature song at karaoke (laughs). But we weren’t really a family that listened to music that often.

– So it was kind of like you had to find the music you liked on your own?

Keiko: At school festivals groups of girls who are a little loud must definitely sing and dance (laughs). When I was in my sixth year in primary school we divided into two groups, the group made up of the tall, mature and adult-like girls sang SPEED’s ‘White Love.’ I was a soccer girl so I was in a group of active girls, I sang PUFFY together with my friends (laughs). However at that time I was just playing along with my friends. I had never thought from myself ‘Let’s do this!’

– Was the time you realised the charm of music much later?

Keiko: It was much later on. Out of the three of us (in Kalafina) I was the one who took the longest to have an interest in the world of show business. When I entered middle school I became friendly with the mature girls from before. All of them were for some reason in the tennis club (laughs). Because my sister had also been in it I ended up joining too somehow and got to know everyone well. In my second year of middle school they asked me ‘Do you want to try taking the Morning Musume audition?’ (laughs) Of course, I wasn’t the one who brought it up, I was just going with the mood of the group. The one who ended up passing that time was Maki Goto-san. It was the first time I came into contact with the world of show business (laughs).

– Incidentally, how far did you progress in the audition?

Keiko: My documents passed inspection. However, my motivation was impure, and none of the girls who applied with me passed so I also did not go to the second audition (laughs). That was also because I had no interest in it. When I was in middle school I was also scouted while in Harajuku, and again with an impure motive, in order to save pocket money I did work as a cut model. When I was in my third year of middle school there was some talk about whether or not I would like to become an exclusive model for the magazine ‘CUTiE’ but since I had no interest I turned it down. However at that time, because I was taking a standard afterschool course in which I sang karaoke while imitating artists like Namie Amuro-san, I began to think that, ‘Artists who can sing and dance are amazing.’ The first time I said to my parents on my own ‘I want to learn’ was my third year of middle school.

– Did you ask your parents about entering a school?

Keiko: That’s right. (At that time) Rising Productions had just opened a school and so I entered as a one term student. I remember showing the leaflets to my parent myself and saying ‘I want to go here.’ Amuro-san and SPEED were also a part of the same company back then so I wanted to attend the school there. I commuted to Harajuku five days a week and learnt singing, dancing and acting.

– So you went from singing karaoke to taking professional lessons all at once. Did you ever worry and hesitate as to whether or not you had what it took?

Keiko: I didn’t think about anything. The CD’s I bought by myself also were like TRF-san’s ‘BOY MEETS GIRL.’ They were artists who could sing and dance, so I thought they were cool. Because that was the kind of motivation I had, it wasn’t like I had a strong determination or anything like that.

– When you entered the company school did you take auditions?

Keiko: I did. However I remember absolutely nothing about them. I also took part in school performances at Nakano Sun Plaza, but again I have absolutely no memory of them. Because I entered as a scholarship student, it wouldn’t be strange for it to remain in my memory though.

– Becoming a scholarship student and passing the document stage of the Morning Musume auditions, Keiko-san definitely left behind results.

Keiko: Because none of those things had my own will in them, they wouldn’t have become any more than that. That’s why I think I have no memory of them. If I had had a dream and strong determination, they would have left more of an impression. However I didn’t have any of that. When I chose a set piece I would simply sing, I only remember dancing, acting was the only thing that stood out… and I think that’s about it.

– How many scholarship students were there?

Keiko: I don’t know that either (laughs). I had no interest in the others. If I think about it now, I may have just been full up with having to commute every day. At that time there was no one in my school who could dance so when some of my kouhai saw me dancing in the hallway they actually started a dance club. It was the very first time I had ever been that sort of existence to others so I was probably quite satisfied with that.

She awakened to singing through ‘Yutaka Ozaki’

– Was there a development when you first thought that you would aim to be a professional singer?

Keiko: One day while I was dancing after school some songs of Yutaka Ozaki-san that someone was playing on a radio-cassette player leapt into my ears. They were playing songs like ’15 no yoru’ and ‘I LOVE YOU.’ I thought, ‘Whose songs are these?’ After that I began to listen to Yutaka Ozaki-san. At that time I thought ‘I want to do singing’ and quit the school I was going to on the spot. This was in my first year of high school. I no longer had any interest in acting or dance.

– Was it the lyrics that captured your heart? Or the voice?

Keiko: The voice. At that time I was listening to J-POP artists like Amuro-san and Ayumi Hamasaki-san so I had never heard a voice or sound like Ozaki-san’s. Without even knowing whether it was rock or not in the meantime I thought, ‘This person’s singing is amazing!’ When I first started taking professional lessons under a voice trainer I was in my first year of high school. From this time on I lived while hurtling onwards. After school finished I commuted once a week to Yoyogi Studio and took lessons. On the days when I didn’t have lessons, with a tape recorder in one hand I went to a karaoke studio by myself and repeatedly recorded and listened to myself.

– What kind of songs did you sing at that time?

Keiko: Ken Hirai-san. Sometimes Rina Chinen-san’s manager came in to see the school that I was attending when I was in my third year of middle school and I received praise for singing Ken Hirai-san’s ‘Rakuen.’ I earnestly continued to practice that song. I often sang it… It’s quite nostalgic.

– Did the music you listened to change after your encounter with Ozaki-san?

Keiko: I really liked Ozaki-san, however apart from that I mostly listened to J-POP. When I was in high school I came to like ‘glamorous’ artists. Artists like Beyonce, Desuchai (Destiny’s Child) and Britney (Spears). I sang while indiscriminately memorising their behaviour. After I graduated high school I got into club music. I listened to nothing but hip-hop and R&B. There were absolutely nothing similar to Kalafina’s current style (laughs). I often went to clubs. Truthfully speaking my background is that of a ‘modern young person’ (laughs). When the three of us in Kalafina each tell the story of our various backgrounds it’s hard to talk about my background so full of impure motivations (laughs). The two of them studied vocal music and the like and are like ‘When I realised it, I wanted to sing’, right? I’m sorry (wry smile).

Living as a singer while working as a shop assistant

– I think that the Keiko-san who accumulated experience with music of women of the same generation and grasped on to the opportunity to be in Kalafina somewhere along the way became the person you are now. What kind of path did you walk after graduating from high school?

Keiko: I graduated at the same time I entered into the company I am in now (Space Craft Produce). If I had wanted to go to university I could have but even if I did go on to study at a higher level, I think I would only have messed around. That would have been discourteous to my parents, so I decided not to go. I didn’t think I would get work straight away, but in the mean time I wanted to devote myself to singing so I entered the company.

– How was it after you entered the company?

Keiko: I worked as a shop assistant while doing the occasional singing job. It was a fashion and accessory shop in Shinjuku. It’s in my nature to go all out when I start something so before I realised it I had become the shop manager (laughs). I wonder if it seems like I’m not the sort to work hard. Since I’m the type who only goes all out if it’s something I like. Serving customers was fun though.

– What kind of musical activities did you do as part of Space Craft Produce?

Keiko: The first singing job I did was as a guest vocal for a female sax group called IARA, singing their vocal songs at live performances. I consider my first live to be when I sang at Nishi Azabu Club (SPACE LAB YELLOW). There were R&B songs with a beat and I also had some songs with lyrics written for me. At that time it was decided that there would be an exhibition once a month of all the girls in the company aiming to become singers called ‘Female Voice Party!!’ I met Ayaka Itou who I would later form Itokubo with, as well as FictionJunction’s (FJ) Kaori (Kaori Oda) and Wakana and I truly felt that, ‘Singers in entertainment companies are really of such a high level.’ However if I did not have that self-awareness of being in a situation where I was being left behind, I don’t think I would have had as clear a sense of what I wanted to be in the future. I remember not being able to answer when my manager asked me, ‘In the future how do you want to sing and express yourself, what kind of artist do you want to be?’ They said ‘If you can’t answer that, then you won’t be able to become anything’ and I thought, ‘That really is so.’ Even though I had come so far, I still didn’t have a clear determination within me.

– In spite of having already begun jobs as a pro?

Keiko: I was simply satisfied with doing (the jobs in front of me) to the end. If I look back on that time I simply thought ‘That was really fun!’ after finishing lives. I simply chose songs, sang them, had fun, and that was it. I might have just been satisfied that people clapped and said ‘You were great.’ The time when we realised that we had to move on our own might have been from when we began our rock duo, Itokubo. My partner Ayaka (Ito)’s charm, appearance and vocal ability was all a big shock to me. I genuinely thought ‘I want to do it together! Even if it’s in a group, I want to do it together!’ Probably, that was the first time I ever thought of anything seriously. The one who suggested ‘Let’s do street lives’ was me. When we began street lives as Itokubo I felt ‘People are so cold’ and ‘It would be great if someone would listen to our songs.’ We first started out in Akihabara however about 90% of people simply took photos and then left. When we moved to Shinjuku, in addition to idol fans, there were also young office ladies and salarymen. We went at it recklessly with the feeling of ‘It’s our win if we make them turn and join our circle.’ This was something that came from myself. If we went there together, we could do street lives at anytime. It was kind of like anytime we brought the equipment on our own and connected the mike, we could sing.

– Does the experience you obtained at that time connect to your present situation?

Keiko: I gained courage from it. When I started out in Kalafina it was completely different to the music I had been listening to and singing up until then, however the single thing that came in handy was my experience doing street lives. I think if I had not been doing street lives I would not have been able to face the audience while singing naturally. When doing street lives, even if you sing while looking down no one will stop to listen to you, so it was a given we sang while facing our audience. I thought ‘As I thought, the only thing I did on my own was what ended up having value.’ To be honest, apart from that nothing else I had done prior had any merit.

– Regarding when people would not listen to your street lives, did you experience a sense of discouragement?

Keiko: No, I did not feel discouraged (laughs). With Itokubo, we couldn’t sell live tickets but when we kept on trying our hardest I think our best record might have been gathering about 150 people. We did Itokubo for about a year but in that time, the amount of people (mobilised) never grew bigger than that. However I never thought ‘This is disappointing.’ When I quit it was strange that I had no regrets. Even though I was 22 with my future yet undecided, if one does not feel any uncertainty one cannot feel impatience either. I simply might not have known how to best to move forward from then. For about half a year it felt as if time had stopped, so I even thought ‘Maybe I should become an actress or talent.’ I also went to an audition for an MTV VJ as well as for a yakisoba CM (laughs). However I never thought about quitting this job, of changing occupations. Not feeling discouraged might just have been because of my personality. It was right about that time there was talk of Kalafina.

Her first meeting with Kajiura-san, and also her first setback

– How did you feel taking the audition for Kalafina?

Keiko: Mori-san (Yasunori Mori, Space Craft Produce) knew of the music I had done and called for me saying ‘I don’t know if it will suit Keiko-san or not, but how about it?’ If I think about it now, he was very respectful of my own will. If I had said ‘I’m not interested’, it would have probably ended there.

– You didn’t think that Kalafina would become a ray of hope for you?

Keiko: I didn’t think of that at all.

– Was the audition your first meeting with Kajiura-san?

Keiko: Before that I had already been acquainted with Kajiura-san through FJ. It was just a one-off job so I thought of her as someone from a different world. Wakana was also at the audition so I think I was able to be more at ease. Kajiura-san’s songs are difficult with a high key and thus unsuited for my voice; I could only sing one song, ‘Houseki.’ ‘It’ll be the types like Wakana-chan who can sing high notes (who will pass)’ I thought while in the waiting room. It was because I didn’t want to decide on my own whether or not I would suit, all the more because I didn’t want to be the one to decide, that I went and sang with all my might, however I didn’t have any confidence that I would be successful.

– How did you feel when you knew you had passed?

Keiko: It didn’t feel real at all. I didn’t even know what would happen from then on. It was just like, ‘Yes, thank you very much. I will do my best to sing.’ I heard that Wakana had been successful as well however it felt just like with ‘Kaze no machi e’ from ‘Tsubasa Chronicle’, an image where we didn’t appear.

– Was there a development in which your feelings towards Kalafina changed?

Keiko: As expected, it was from when we began to appear in public. The truth is the event that caused me to face music in earnest happened when I was in FJ. Our first live as FJ was in O-WEST and it was there for the first time that I did things like look at written music and became acquainted with chorus work, even though I went to a rehearsal studio I didn’t understand my own notes and was unable to sing… It was there I felt discouraged for the first time.

– The Keiko-san who never felt discouraged experienced discouragement.

Keiko: First there was the grand veteran Kaida-san (Yuriko Kaida) as well as Kaori, who had been working hard doing chorus work in CHIX CHICKS and Wakana, with her overwhelming vocal ability. And then there was me who could not read written music and had simply been going on through confidence alone, the fact of the matter was that I could not sing. I was holding everyone back, I felt my own incompetence in one stroke. It’s nostalgic but also… mortifying.

– And so you were unable to do anything.

Keiko: That’s it. Oh dear… I’m going to cry.

– Before this you had never been in a situation where you held others up.

Keiko: Never. I ended up remembering that (wipes cheeks). It was the first time I had felt so discouraged. I thought, ‘I hate this!’ I couldn’t cope with a situation where I was being left behind. I wanted to do it perfectly next time. In the mean time I holed myself up in my apartment and sang it over hundreds of times.

– Until this point in time you had always been the one in front. When you entered the school it was as a scholarship student, when you danced at school a dance club was formed, when you went to work in a shop you ended up becoming the manager. The you who had always been in the front in different ways ended up behind those in FJ, did you feel the necessity of being a cogwheel in the midst of a group of people?

Keiko: That’s right. It was there a lot of feelings sprouted and I was able to see what I needed to do clearly. First, I have to do these things before the next rehearsal, before the live I have to do such and such. They were things I was able to do depending on how hard I worked. I became reckless in those days. …. As little as I want to admit it (laughs).

– Since those experiences became your motivation, did your sense of Kalafina and your placement within a unit change?

Keiko: Before that, we had done a live performance as Kalafina as the opening act of Kajiura-san’s live (“Yuki Kajiura Live vol. #2) at O-EAST and so because I had already had an obstacle to overcome with FJ, there was nothing else that happened with Kalafina. Because Kalafina was different to FJ in that it has a strong group feeling, and the advice I received from Kajiura-san (regarding Kalafina) was always things completely different from with FJ that I had not heard before, I got the sense that Kalafina was something completely different for Kajiura-san and everyone else too. I had the feeling that they were pursuing something surpassing FJ with Kalafina. This was in ’08. We have had various things happen since then leading up to now, however I have never felt shaken or discouraged regarding myself in Kalafina.

– What do you think Keiko-san’s role is in Kalafina?

Keiko: To draw attention, position-wise.

– So you would say that your role is to look at Kalafina from an objective, overhead view?

Keiko: That’s right.

– You said earlier that ‘I had no interest in the others.’ Do you think a deeper concern of the effect you gave on the other members was desired of you for Kalafina?

Keiko: In the one year since Kalafina debuted, though we had done some performances as the opening act, we really didn’t do that many lives. During that period I wasn’t interested in the other members. There wasn’t really much group feeling so it felt individual to the end. It might have been after Hikaru moved to Tokyo… We did a live at morph-tokyo (“Onna no ko no uta @morph-tokyo”). As expected, the beginning was probably Kalafina’s kick-off event (“Kalafina Kick-Off Greeting Vol.0”). My memories from then on are very clear. To the point where there isn’t a single thing I don’t not remember. I don’t remember things that happened a really long time ago though (laughs). The approximately three years since the kick-off event are full of things I could never forget. Small events, things that Kajiura-san said to me, I remember everything.

– You are unable to forget the events where you acted on your own will. Your body and heart are honest.

Keiko: I am honest. It’s because I am a very upfront person.I want to sing in Kalafina, that’s it.

– I think the way in which you looked at and perceived the other two members changed. What kind of person is Wakana-san from Keiko-san’s point of view?

Keiko: Wakana… is a very human person. Whether she is working or moving during off time, all of her behaviour is very human. She doesn’t cover anything up, everything is a big deal (laughs). In any case she has abundant sensitivity. She is a person that perceives even things that other people normally can’t express to that extent. I have never seen anyone else so sensitive. She senses the atmosphere like an animal would. She is that delicate. Wakana is not like everyone thinks she is. I’m able to say that because it’s me. I don’t think other people would understand. The Wakana everyone sees is ‘A girl who is bright, cheerful, likeable and talks a lot.’ However, I don’t think there are many people who have such a sensitive interior as her. I think that I would like Wakana to be more natural. When she is trying hard I would like her to naturally show those areas where she is working hard, when she is about to blow her fuse, I would like her to naturally show those areas when she is about blow her top. I don’t want her to hide it, I don’t want to create an environment in which she will want to hide it. I think I have been able to create a relationship of mutual trust with her where I am able to accept everything about the natural Wakana. She is that fascinating a person.

– Then, how do you feel about Hikaru?

Keiko: Hikaru is strange girl, she is probably the strongest of us among the members. From my point of view, Hikaru is the exact opposite of Wakana. They are contrastive in every way. In any case, she is a strong girl and though she has a very gentle image, fundamentally has a strong inner core. There is a lot of background to that, I think that is why she has such strong feelings towards songs. I think she might have a bit of an image of being ‘Energetic while singing but normally quiet and doesn’t talk a lot’ but now she is able to convey her thoughts level-headedly through her words and speak in a dignified way even on stage. I see that Hikaru’s strength has been able to come through to the surface. Hikaru entered Kalafina afterwards, however I don’t think she would have been able to do that if she didn’t have that inner strength. She is a very strong girl.

– The three of you get along well, however in the way in which you manipulate the mood and also in your own roles you each have different characteristics, I think that really gives the feeling of a unit, a group feeling

Keiko: As expected, I think that we each feel the same towards Kalafina because we are all adults. I think ‘This is a really great group.’

– Now then, what kind of person of person is Kajiura-san to Keiko-san?

Keiko: Every time feels like our first meeting. Each time I get nervous and feel tense. I don’t think there has been a time even once when I have been able to speak with her in a conspiratorial way with me being just like that. Kajiura-san has a very gentle air to her, however my body just becomes that way on its own. I think that the three of probably each have our own ways of recording however as for myself I’m probably the type to work things out on my own. Getting heated up, worrying and being about to blow my fuse, I have never shown those parts of myself to Kajiura-san. Because that is something I decided on ever since my time of discouragement during FJ, whenever I sing Kajiura-san’s songs, I always know what I have to do by myself. That’s why my behaviour towards Kajiura-san hasn’t changed. From here on, no matter how many more years we work together that is something that will probably never change. Just recently, we have exchanged ideas as there were parts within the songs when I came to think ‘I want to sing it this way.’ In the midst of recording ‘After Eden’ for the first time I asked Kajiura-san about some of the things I wanted to do. However, I couldn’t do it while facing her (laughs). I told her my feelings via email. However fundamentally, I think I definitely don’t want to show my weak points to Kajiura-san. Surely from now on as well. Kajiura-san isn’t someone who I consult about things, she is someone who I want to show the results of my troubles.

– Hereafter how you will go on as an individual singer and what kind of singer do you want to be, please tell us about your objectives.

Keiko: Is it alright if I speak honestly? I…. want to sing in Kalafina. That’s it. I am not thinking at all about my individual life as a singer later on. Adult people often tell you ‘Whether it be work or your private life, you have to be thinking about what will happen in 3, 5 and 10 years’ but as for myself I don’t think it’s necessary to be thinking about what will happen in 5 or 10 years. I have the will to sing in Kalafina, so that’s all I’m thinking about. Truthfully, I am always thinking about Kalafina.

– You want to be Keiko of Kalafina?

Keiko: That’s right. I want to devote my twenties to being Keiko of Kalafina, and walk together with Wakana and Hikaru. That is all. There are so many things I want to do so much that I think that it hasn’t been enough. Because I’m still overflowing with things I want to do, there isn’t any space left in my mind to think about later on (laughs). It’s all full up.

– I think that Keiko’s way of thinking is always consistent. When you’re switched on you go all out.

Keiko: My switch is always on in my work for Kajiura-san. That might be because be it for FJ or Kalafina, what I want to do and express is always clear.

– It seems you have but one switch.

Keiko: That’s right. I’m a very extreme person (laughs).