Interview with PIKOTARO

interview - 09.06.2018 20:01

Viral star PIKOTARO moves on from pineapple to sushi.

On June 27th, viral star PIKOTARO gave international media the rare opportunity to interview him before his new single Can you see? I’m SUSHI and re-release album I have a PPAP were released on July 13th. JaME had fun understanding this extraordinary artist!

Hello, thank you for this rare opportunity to interview you.

PIKOTARO: It's a rare opportunity for me too, so thank you!

The trademark feature of your songs is their repetitive words and phrases. How do you choose which words or phrases to use?

PIKOTARO: The most important thing for me is that the words have to have a good sound and roll off the tongue well. As you know, I can’t speak English well. My level of English is about that of a three-year-old maybe. So in a sense my choice of words may be around that of a three-year-old, and if the word sounds good for my three-year-old ears, I use it! The words that sound really good to my three-year-old ears recently are perhaps "hippopotamus" and "pumpkin".

Even though the songs may be short and be repetitive they are really catchy and melodic, showing the work put into it (comedy is an art after all). Do you also have input in the music or is it just the lyrics? Tell us about a song creative process for PIKOTARO.

PIKOTARO: (thanks reporters for saying his songs are catchy while the translator translates the question) As you both know, Mr Kosaka and I are two different people. So, my job is to find an interesting word that makes you want to sing.

Usually when I take a bath, or I’m in the toilet or driving a car, words come to me. In other words, when I’m in a good mood songs come to me. And when I’m in a good mood and songs come, I record that immediately! Then, I give that recorded data to Mr Kosaka. So, I come up with the lyrics and sing, I give that to Mr Kosaka and he arranges it and remixes it. Once he is finished with that, I listen to it and dance according to how that makes me feel.

This may sound weird but Mr Kosaka and I don’t speak with each other. There is no communication.

Of all the things commonly associated with Japan, such as anime and cherry blossoms, why did you choose to feature sushi in your new song Can you see? I'm SUSHI?

PIKOTARO: I’ve been traveling all over the world recently and realized that sushi is really famous all over the world. Obviously Japanese people love sushi too. But there are no "I love sushi" songs! Most songs around the world are about love. I love you, you love me. But I really love sushi, so I wanted to make a song about "I love sushi" too.

When I went to Belgium, I had the chance to speak with the people over there and we started talking about how we would like to write a song, a Japanese song that would be taken to anywhere all over the world. So I asked this person "What comes to mind when you think about Japan?" And his immediate response was “sushi”.  And I went with it! I wanted to go with my first impression.

As soon as I realized what I should write about, inspiration arrived and the lyrics came to me in about two minutes. “Sushi, sushi ... can you see? ... I’m SUSHI!” And that is the secret to the creation of the song!

Unlike traditional Japanese sushi, American style sushi tends to pack on the sauces and condiments to create bold flavours. What are your thoughts on American style sushi?

PIKOTARO: It’s great! In particular, when Japanese people bring things from overseas we kind of put a twist to it as well, our own twist; I believe that that is innovation! As a native, when you go abroad and see things from your own country changed a little bit, it becomes innovative and very surprising! And it's also very refreshing!

I love it when things evolve and progress but it's also important for me that people know where the original comes from, so in this song you have the Japanese terms and what it means in English.

What is your favourite sushi? What do you like about it?

PIKOTARO: Ah, it's not in the song! But, do you know natto?! It's fermented soybean. I love the natto roll. You must have it with soy sauce!

You said you needed to work more hours at the end of the music video for Can you see? I'm SUSHI. Is your life as a singer-songwriter really tough? How do you think you can boost your popularity?

PIKOTARO: First of all, I never thought I would become this famous, especially having people like you interviewing myself. Just think about it: I started of with “I have a pen, I have an apple”; I never would have thought that people all around the world would take an interest in me. I’m very lucky and very happy. So, to be honest, I’d rather meet with the people who like what I’m doing, as opposed to thinking about how I can boost my popularity.

The first thing that I’d prefer to do is to meet up with everybody who likes what I do, and dance PPAP together with them. That is what I aim to do for the next couple of months. I’ll be travelling all over the world again. Like I said before, first ideas are most important to me and my motto is “The most important thing is the first idea that comes to mind.”  So, I’ll be making lots of music from now on, whether it be long or short; I’d like to present my ideas through the songs. Rather than becoming famous, it’s more important for me to share my ideas with as many people as possible.
So, in my case, first ideas are most important to me. In the case of Mr Kosaka, what’s important to him is developing intricate songs based on hours and hours of thinking and experimentation.  If we don’t respect each other on the importance we place on creating music, then we can’t come up with a song that can resonate with many, many people. This is what we’ve learned through working together these past couple of years. So, what I should be doing, is not to be thinking about deep, deep things, but just to dance and write music that makes me feel the way I do.

The music video for Lullaby Lullaby shows you lying down and getting up to dance, then lying down and getting up to dance again. What is the story you want to tell through this music video?

PIKOTARO:  The video to Lullaby Lullaby is about what PIKOTARO’s dreams are like at night. I wanted to portray this without computer graphics, so what is in the video is:  I’m sleeping, but in my dreams I am waking up and dancing.

I shot the video in the same white studio that I shot PPAP, and the mirror-ball is actually mine. I bought it on Amazon. I was looking for a way to utilize it in the video, doing something fun — and that was it. So, this video was shot very economically.

What was the inspiration behind WOMAN KEEPS CHANGING?

PIKOTARO: (laughs) This was all in Japanese, so you didn’t get it, did you?  It’s a gag song. So, I met a girl that I’ve known for a long time, but it had been a while since I met her, and her face had changed drastically. Her breasts were much bigger than they used to be as well, so that song is about that. (laughs) It’s a comic song.

Most of your songs are pretty short but Love & Peace: ONDO is a little over four minutes long. What made you decide to create a longer song?

PIKOTARO: So, like I said before: If I can say what I want, if the message is clear, then I think that my song is finished. Like “I like OJ” ... or “Apple-Pen”, that’s a short message. So, if my message gets through, I am happy. The meaning of "ONDO", at the end of Love and Peace: ONDO, is like a rave, kind of like EDM, but it’s very historical and traditional. So, the purpose of an "ONDO" is to have people dance … but, if we only have a minute then once people start moving, the song has ended already.  So, I thought we at least needed two minutes. There is a thing called “Bon Oboni”, where people dance to remember their ancestors. So, I put the “Bon Oboni” dance together with robot-dancing and made it — UH! — into one. So that is Love and Peace: ONDO, to put love and peace together in the "ONDO"; traditional and new together as well.

Please describe your experience collaborating with Momoiro Clover Z on Vegetable.

PIKOTARO: I don’t know how much you know about Momoiro Clover Z, but they are an idol group in Japan that brings in one of the largest audiences among idol groups. They do two nights in 50,000 capacity venues. But they are filled with humility; they are not the type to say, “We are so great!" They are just really kind-hearted girls. So, when I got the offer to work together with them, there was a song that I thought would really work; a song I was thinking about since PPAP.

Momo means peach, and it’s a fruit. So, because they are fruit, I went to vegetable. There is one thing that has puzzled me for a long time, and it’s that the vegetable tomato is pronounced “to-MAH-to” in Japanese, not "to-MAY-to".  You know pumpkin, so in America they say “PUMP-kin”. I love the way that “PUMP-kin” kind of pops upwards. For me, the sounds of “to-MAY-to” and “PUMP-kin” are really interesting. I’ve been wanting to do a song about that, and it turned out to be a very sweet song; it’s kind of cute. So when I got the offer from Momoiro Clover Z, that was the song that was perfect, and that was a song I wanted to do with them for over three years.

Visiting 12 countries in a year must have been quite the adventure. What are your best memories of traveling abroad?

PIKOTARO: I’ve got so many great memories so it’s hard to pin one down, but being appointed a goodwill ambassador by President Museveni of Uganda and performing the opening concert with children at the African World Cup preliminary stadium was a priceless experience.

What has been your most important performance since you became a viral star? 

PIKOTARO: Standing on stage is obviously important, but I feel it’s also important to come into contact with people at photo sessions and handshake events and speak to them in-person.

We saw news reports saying that your promoter/producer Kosaka became a father recently and calmed his baby with your famous PPAP song. What do you think of that? Would you be inclined to compose for children too?

PIKOTARO: Mr Kosaka is eagerly working on compositions right now. Look forward to it.

Did singing PPAP in an emotional ballad style ever cross your mind before YOSHIKI invited you to sing the song to the tune of X JAPAN's Forever Love on his web program?

PIKOTARO: I really got into it when he asked! I don’t want to say too much, but it was an honour to be praised by YOSHIKI!

What did you enjoy most about collaborating with YOSHIKI? Are you a fan of X JAPAN?

PIKOTARO: X JAPAN is a godlike existence that transcends things like the idea of “fans”! I was happy to be able to sing along with YOSHIKI’s piano!

What's next for you?

PIKOTARO: On July 13th I’ll release my new album I have a PPAP in 150 countries all over the world! There’s a song on there I haven’t put on YouTube yet themed around sushi called Can you see? I’m SUSHI that I’ll upload the MV for soon as well!

To wrap up our interview, please leave a message for JaME readers.

PIKOTARO: I’ll do my best to appear all over the world, so please look forward to my YouTube videos and concerts!

JaME would like to thank PIKOTARO and avex for this interview opportunity.

Listen to I have a PPAP on Spotify:

Watch the NHK version of the Can you see? I’m SUSHI music video below:

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