Interview of Saeko Chiba published by the magazine hm3 special in June 2003, when “melody” was released. Thanks to riana for the scans and to ninetales for the translation
Interviewer: The first album we’ve been waiting for, “Melody”, is complete. And the theme is, frankly, “Smile”!
Saeko Chiba: That’s right. Working from an axis like “Smile”, we started to create from thoughts of putting out various facial expressions…and in 13 songs, we sketched Smiles that have all different colors!
I: So you don’t lack smiles in your daily life?
SC: Absolutely not. This time, with the working staff, the words “Smile Level” were born. Like “This cut has a Smile Level of 2”. As for the Smile Level of that area, what I present is the most difficult thing (laughs), but when I look at the jacket and the inner (booklet) photos, I think it’s understood very well.
I: How far does the Smile Level go to?
SC: It goes up to 10. From a Smile Level 10 where I laugh and show my teeth, I make a smiling face, and have an expression like a guest.
I: Of course you had a smile even in recording…?!
SC: I was overflowing amazingly with smiles. Originally, we began a theme like “Smile” because Kajiura Yuki-san, who produced this album, said “Chiba-chan’s smiles have a deep impression”. Even in the letters I receive from everyone, there are many mentions that the impression of my smile is strong. While working on this album, I kept thinking, “I wonder why I can always have a smiling face?”
I: Did you come to a conclusion?
SC: Well, it’s like, “Because it gives vital power to everyone, both the fans and the people of the rotating staff who support me, I’ll always be smiling!”
I: So the opposite, because Sa-chan always has a smiling face, we too stick on a smiling face, and become energetic.
SC: If there’s such a connection, that’s great. Of course, in this album, I thought, “I have the power to embrace the energy, if that makes people who listen to this album smile.”
I: We’ve been digressing, but I think you have a character that sends feeling to your face.
SC: Really! I think I can see a smiling face all throughout, but in times when it becomes very painful, I’ll strike an attitude that’s overtly in my face…. So even if I have secrets, the people around me will see them (laughs). Thus even in the diary I put on my homepage every day, I don’t conceal dislikable things when I write.
I: I think I understand the character that’s in your face. In the this album, Sa-chan firmly conveys 13 individual expressions.
SC: Since there are people who thoroughly listened to this album, I can say, “Seeming to sing for the same people is something I won’t feel.” I didn’t particularly think “I want to change my voice singing this” or “Let’s make it for various people” while I sang. When I received every composition, when I gathered the feelings for the images that I personally felt, because the voice I put out was for each separate composition’s ‘expression’, I had the feeling like I was singing to make a life-sized figure for myself.
I: This album is packed with love songs, so how did you get to that point?
SC: For this album, the figure (impression) of an unmarried girl beginning to fall in love was the original story. If you’re worn out by love, if you’re discovering new love, they’re independent even if you repeat the experience, so we finished with the figure of being always with the person you love. Of course, even for myself, if there were subjects like “I really understand this feeling” and “Really, a girl would feel like this”, because Kajiura-san wrote all the lyrics, they said “There are such feelings too”, as I studied them in-depth.
I: As for the woman who enters into the lyrics, while she strongly has feelings almost of love, she attacks positively, and there are many figures of her being able to wait anywhere. Are you, Sa-chan, usually in that vicinity?
SC: Hmm, I wonder if I am. Is that right, I can’t easily say…. I’ll finish by still not saying anything. But that puts out an aura I really like, positively going places (laughs).
I: While recording, which lyrics did you like?
SC: “Tokimeki” told of the feelings of a girl’s real motive, and I thought, “I understand.” If there are people (listeners?) who have experience with love, I think those are lyrics that everyone can sympathize with. For the others, I could sing to the stars because their lyrics seem so romantic (laughs). Like “Hoshi”, which I really liked the lyrics for. Again, “Moonlight Starlight”, in the first half of the album, has lyrics that spells out the feeling of yearning for love, like “feelings that last about from 10 to 20 years old”, and I sang while I remembered myself in those old days. If you think of a song like “Carry Me”, if people who had love in the old days and people who were once worn out by love meet with it again, it’s a song about feeling their old thoughts, and although I haven’t had such an experience myself, I felt like, “I see…”. In any case, there’s a continuity in all of it: “In the compositions I’ve recorded for this album, just the subject brings an image to mind when I listen to the music and read the lyrics, and it’s a work I really understand!”
I: I think so. At the same time, it’s while the love songs gather. It’s sort of an impression of this album being a presentation to clarify your intentions of where you’re advancing from here, is what I’ve experienced when I listen to it.
SC: For my thoughts in that area, everything I want to convey the most is in “Melody”. The reason for my singing, the beginning of my turning toward the future, the hopes for such things, everything I’m aiming at…. I sang that “Melody”, and I could see again that there was a place inside me with such feelings.
I: “Melody” itself is a magnificently eternal composition. At the same time, you revived deep feelings in a new scene, a self-cover of your debut song “Koi no Kiseki”.
SC: It’s the music when I met with Kajiura-san, and in this way, again, after how many years have passed, we can put it in this album we worked on together, which is a really happy thing. There were bright feelings in the original music, but we revived and changed it to an emptier arrangement. Previously, it was from a gaze that sang while it strongly and arbitrarily thought “try hard, try hard”. With something like “I understand your feelings too”, understanding your companion’s feelings perfectly…the impression that I could sing it from an adult gaze, that deeply grasps something like just one step, were very strong. Even if I continued through the entirety of this album, there are no arbitrary thoughts. While I reacted to those feelings of considering your companion’s life, the presentation continued before my face, and it’s “I wonder if I can personally sing like I have experience that’s piling up age and experience?”
I: For someone, even in these songs the emotions included are deep. Continuing through this entire album, healed by Sa-chan’s voice, I remember a sensation of being gently wrapped up. Surely “I can feel warmth”, so it isn’t a work that can feel various temperatures from normal to hot?
SC: Feeling temperatures is really great! The truth is, I had feelings of “wanting to convey”, and for me they were very strong. Even if I conveyed them, they weren’t wide and shallow; their being deep, thick and broad this time was delightful. When I listen 5 or 10 years from now, I have confidence that it’ll be an album I can love even more. And from now on, Chiba Saeko continuing forward is very important, and I think that’s the first thing that fills up my heart.
I: So on May 21st, the ending theme music of “Narue no Sekai”, “Ice Cream”, will be on sale too. And this is also a composition that Kajiura-san worked on.
SC: Yes, and the lyrics are wonderfully sweet. But the flute and violin are the center of the melody, and it has quite calm feelings, so it’s a good song that makes me have feelings of swaying through nature. But I can feel just a little bit of painfulness too. So, due to the combination of Kajiura-san and Chiba Saeko, and the different facial expressions of this album’s world, I hope you’ll enjoy “Ice Cream”.