[2019.09.18] Natalie.mu: Their 15 years as challengers recorded on a three disc best of album

Perfume’s best of album “Perfume The Best P Cubed” will be released on September 18th. This album includes 50 songs Perfume have released since their major debut, as well as the song “Nananananairo”, which was featured in the commercial for Kracie Home Products Hanabisei sheet mask series, and a new song “Challenger”, giving a total of 52 songs. All past songs have been digitally remastered by Perfume’s producer, Yasutaka Nakata, and are presented in chronological order over 3 CDs. Despite including this volume of songs, the price of the standard edition has been kept down to just ¥3500, so the album is the perfect introduction for people who want to try listening to Perfume after their long career so far. 

As the band approaches the 15th anniversary of their major debut, Music Natalie talked to them about their best of album, touring Asia and North America this spring, and their performance at one of the world’s largest music festivals, the “Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival”. 

The time they were the only ones on the plane.

It was a little while ago now, but how did this year’s world tour compare to the previous ones?   

(Nocchi) Since it was our 4th time, we had the best audience response so far. Until now, we’ve performed in various countries, and people all over the world have understood what is good about our music, but I’ve never felt able to convey what I want to say to the audience. The words kept on getting stuck in my mind. Not being able to put my feelings into words was very painful. However, this time A~chan’s English teacher kindly accompanied us, so before we went on stage they could translate what we wanted to say and practice with us. The words we prepared contained our true feelings, so I was the most confident I’ve been until now talking in front of the audience. I could perform knowing that people would get what I was trying to say.    

(A~chan) This tour was the first time we hired a studio overseas and rehearsed there.    

Until now you’ve had a schedule where you arrive at the location just before the show?

(A~chan) That’s right. Many studios in Japan are sound proofed, so you can’t hear anything outside, but with American studios I noticed a lot of sound getting out, it felt our music was spreading quite far . We rehearsed in places like ballet studios in historical buildings. Our staff got us a really huge tapioca tea.                 

Tapioca tea is popular over there?

(Nocchi) It seems to be. 

(A~chan) The cup was really huge so I couldn’t drink it all, but I wanted to hold a cup that big in my hand! That was a really luxurious experience.

You were able to rehearse over there, so this time you were able to be in perfect condition for the tour.

(Kashiyuka) However, moving between venues was tough. In terms of domestic travel, there were many times where we would take a flight then have to ride a bus for many hours, and there were also things like planes being grounded due to mechanical problems.

(A~chan) There was a time when our staff weren’t able to ride the plane with us. We had quite good seats, and there was a bodyguard with us, so were able to use a mysterious special passage and board even though it was crowded, whereas our staff were being held up and asked “Why do you need such large luggage?”

(Kashiyuka)  People thought they were up to something!

(A~chan) They explained “The truth is we are doing a tour, and we have the correct visas”, but the airport staff ignored them and said “Well, please step this way for a moment”. Even though we arrived at the airport quite early, they still weren’t able to board the flight

As a result, they weren’t able to fly with you?

(A~chan) We boarded the flight before everyone else, so one of us kept an eye out for our staff boarding. And then it was like “What? That person hasn’t arrived, and that person and that person too…”. In the end our manager came in drenched in sweat, and said “This is it. We’re the only ones on this flight”, then the door of the plane slammed shut.

(Kashiyuka) It was really lucky that we weren’t performing that day!

(A~chan) It was a big surprise. It just shows what a wonderful thing having a schedule with a little breathing room is!

The only time we didn’t consult our staff

While you were on tour you also performed at the “Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival” for the first time.

(Nocchi) I didn’t know anything about overseas music festivals, so it was only when I saw how surprised and happy people around me were that I felt what an incredible thing performing there is. However, I knew that our agents overseas worked hard for many years so that we would have the opportunity to perform at Coachella, so I was happy that their effort paid off. 

(Kashiyuka)  For a long time, people around me who like music have talked about going to Coachella or watching it through a stream when they can’t go. So, I knew that it’s a special festival that people all over the world look forward to. I thought that, if we are active overseas and touring in America, then I would like to appear at Coachella sometime, so I was incredibly happy when it was decided that we would perform there. As we don’t know if even one Japanese group will be chosen to appear there, I felt like it was amazing that we were chosen

It seemed like you got a lot of attention from the local media.

(A~chan) After the first week, Rolling Stone magazine included us in their article “Coachella 2019: The 16 Best Things We Saw”. Even though more than 150 groups performed, including famous artists like Ariana Grande and Kanye West, we were chosen among the 16. I couldn’t believe it

I really think it’s amazing.

(A~chan) Also, compared to the first week, the number of people in the crowd in the second week was crazy. We were able to make use of everything we learned in the first week, and change the things we wanted to, so we had no regrets about our performance

Could you give some specific examples of things you wanted to change after the first week?

(A~chan) You’re listening closely, aren’t you!

(Kashiyuka) Before we performed there, people who have experience performing at American festivals kindly gave us all kinds of advice. One of the things they said was “you should skip the MC segment and just play your songs”, so in the first week we performed without an MC segment. Then, at the end, before we did FLASH, we said a few things and people went crazy! We thought “Eh!? I guess we connect with the audience better if we talk after all?”, and we added an MC segment to the early stage of our performance in the second week.

(A~chan) I guess that, right until the end, our staff were probably thinking it would be better not to do an MC segment. MIKIKO too. However, we thought “We were the ones actually standing on stage, and we felt the audience respond. Adding an MC segment is absolutely the right thing to do.”

(Nocchi) That’s right. At the time, we all felt that way.

(A~chan) Normally we would consult with everyone, ask what they thought. However, at that time we all felt like “We’re going to add an MC segment”.

I think that going with your gut feeling was the right choice. Did you get the feeling that your Coachella performance left an impression on people?

(Kashiyuka) I myself have no idea whether our performance left much of an impression, but there was a time an artist we didn’t know called out to us “It’s Perfume!” “Let’s take a photo together!”. I really felt like people knew about us then. We said “OK” not knowing who they were, and found out after we had taken a photo together. It turned out that they were some kind of influencer who is super famous in America.

(A~chan) We said “Makes sense, they were really dressed up.”

(Kashiyuka) When we were coming back from Coachella, a man said “Let’s take a photo”. Afterwards, he put the photo on his Instagram and we found it. It turned out he was a DJ called Ookay. Later, when he came to Japan, he included one of our songs in his set. It was a shock that he liked us enough to do that.

(A~chan) He included it in some kind of mashup. I thought, “Wow, he’s so cool”.

(Kashiyuka) You kept on saying that! From right after he took the photo “Who was that now? He was really cool!”.

(Nocchi) He was cool.

(Kashiyuka) I couldn’t really see his face, so when I heard who it was,I said “No way, who? What was his face like?”

(A~chan) Normally I don’t really say things like that. I’m not into DJs and I can’t really tell foreigners apart. Their faces all look the same to me! He was cool though. Also, he said things like “That was the best show I’ve seen! I was really impressed! I cried”. I was happy that someone who looks so flashy cried at our show. In my heart, I wondered what would have happened if I could speak English.

Why the single version of “Magic of Love” is not on the album

I’d like to move on to talking about your best of album. 52 songs is a considerable amount. Did you intend to include this many songs right from the start?   

(Kashiyuka)  Not really, we didn’t always plan to include so many. As a first attempt, we listed all of our singles. Then, we talked together about how that looked and whether there were any other songs we wanted to include , and we kept on saying things like “That song isn’t on there? We can’t leave it out!”. In the end, we didn’t have a fourth CD so we could only include so many songs. That ended the discussion and decided the final number of songs. 

(Nocchi) “How about we include ‘GAME’?” “How about “Secret Secret”?” “Hey? Why isn’t “Seventh Heaven” included?” We had conversations like this, and the number of songs steadily increased.

(A~chan) But there are still other songs, “GLITTER” isn’t on there, “Negai” also isn’t on there. Even though there are 52 songs, there are so many that aren’t included.

What criteria did you base selection on?    

(Kashiyuka) We thought that, when people who don’t know us get into our music, it seems like they feel that it’s not just our singles that are important, but our live performances too. This is why, for example, “Magic of Love” is not the single version, but the album mix. We’ve performed the album mix live many times.

When I found out that 52 songs were included, I thought that, if there are that many songs, then maybe songs which are not easily available like “Counter-attraction” and other rare songs might be included. I think that there are songs that have not been released at all too.

(A~chan) You could say that.

(Nocchi) We didn’t have room for those songs.

(Kashiyuka) The other songs were too strong.

(A~chan) It’s our first best of album in the 15 years since our major debut, maybe our next best of will come out a little more quickly.

You can fill 3 CDs with the songs that didn’t make the cut this time.

(A~chan) It would be nice if that happened. Something like “Perfume’s Unknown Masterpieces”.

The other Perfect Star Perfect Style that they can’t remember

Speaking of songs that nobody knows about, yesterday I read a tweet about “Perfect Star Perfect Style” on your Twitter. It said that there were two demos with the title “Perfect Star Perfect Style”. I think it was the first time I’d heard that.  

(A~chan) What was that about again? We must have heard it, but I don’t remember what kind of song it was at all.

(Nocchi) I really want to hear it! If I heard it, I think I would remember it. I think there was something like that one year. A song we tried recording in a different way one time.

(Kashiyuka) It was a long time ago.

Compared to other groups, it seems like Perfume have few songs that got to the demo stage but were scrapped.

(A~chan) You’re right. It’s because we always think that the songs Nakata makes for us are good.

(Kashiyuka) The explanation that it’s because we have always worked with the same producer seems right to me. There is no competition between producers, so no songs are scrapped.

That’s certainly true.    

(A~chan) I wonder what kind of song the other “Perfect Star Perfect Style” was?  (She starts phoning their staff) Hello. On Twitter you wrote that there was another song with the title “Perfect Star Perfect Style”. What kind of song was it?

(Staff on the phone) “The tempo was similar to Electroworld. You don’t remember it? I think you would somehow remember it if you heard it. You recorded both songs, then there was a meeting to decide which to use.

(A~chan) Yeah, I vaguely remember that, but I have no memory at all of what kind of song it was.

(Staff on the phone) Shall I send to you later?

(Nocchi) Please!

(A~chan) Thanks!

Are there any other scrapped songs that you remember?

(Nocchi) There was one called “Konkonkon”? I remember something like that…

(Kashiyuka) There was! That makes me feel so nostalgic. I remember it too.

“Konkonkon” was the name of the song?

(Kashiyuka) That’s right. I think it was going to be an album song.

(Nocchi) It was a real downer of a song.

(Kashiyuka) I feel like Nocchi and I were the only people who went to the recording.

(Nocchi) Ah! That might be right! Something like that happened.

(Kashiyuka) Because of that, we said “Let’s give this up”.

The song itself is gone?

(Kashiyuka) It’s gone.

(Nocchi) But the lyrics were used in another song that was released.

Is that so? Which song did they end up in?

(Kashiyuka) I don’t remember at all!

(Nocchi) What was it again? Maybe I still have the card with the lyrics on it somewhere? I think I would remember if I saw that.

Why “Challenger” being first is chronologically correct

This best of album contains two new songs. The first song on the album has lyrics which look back on your career so far from your current perspective. As someone who has supported you for a long time, it had a big impact on me.

(A~chan) It was decided that our best of album was contain new songs, but we had many recording sessions where we didn’t manage to finish a song. Around the 5th session, when we were sent the song and lyrics, there was a proposal from Nakata. “A long time ago, when I was asked to be Perfume’s producer, this is the song that got the attention of your manager at the time. How about I change the current arrangement, write new lyrics, and we release it?”

Really? In that case…

(A~chan) That’s right, it’s a song that was there at the beginning. From 16 years ago, when we were 14 and met Nakata for the first time. I heard it was a song that Nakata was performing with his own group at that time.

Wow!   

(A~chan) Our manager asked us if we remember listening to it before, but we had no memories at all of what kind of song it was.     When we tried listening to it, it sounded like the kind of song Nakata was making at that time, a song with a retro future feeling. So, when Nakata told us that he wanted to remake it and include it our best of album, we said “Really? Amazing!”.

It’s amazing, isn’t it.

(A~chan) When I read the new lyrics, I was really moved, I cried so much. Around the time of our 15th anniversary, Nakata presented us with such a lovely song.

Come to think of it, the songs in your best of album are arranged in perfect chronological order. The first song is from before you were produced by Nakata, and that last song is your new song “Nananananairo”.    

(Kashiyuka) It’s true.

(Nocchi) Nakata is really a genius.

As “Challenger” is a song from the beginning or your career, did recording it feel different from your other recent songs?

(Nocchi) When I sung, I couldn’t help putting on a childish voice.

Ah, indeed.   

(Nocchi) Also, the pitch changes sharply, so it was difficult to sing. However, in contrast to the childlike parts in Japanese, the part where we sing “We are Challenger” feel like something a grownup would say. I like this contrast.

The Other “Perfect Star Perfect Style” Arrives

Previously, when I interviewed you about STAR TRAIN, you said it was the first time you looked at the lyrics and thought “This is our song”. I felt that, even more than STAR TRAIN, Challenger is written from your perspective.

(A~chan) I’m happy to hear that.

In writing lyrics, did Nakata do something like listen to your stories and then incorporate the things you told him?   

(Kashiyuka) Not really, so it’s a little magical. I thought the same thing about STAR TRAIN. For 15 years we’ve always been performing and doing promotions together, so he wrote the lyrics from that perspective.

(Nocchi) Which is why I felt a deep affection in the lyrics. Even though he would never say it out loud, he was probably thinking about Perfume more than we imagined.

For example, there’s the line “should have meant we could live comfortably 10 years later”. Did you all really have this type of feeling?

(Kashiyuka) We didn’t think about things that were 10 years in the future. At the time, we had so many things right in front of our eyes, I can’t remember thinking “I want to make this a success, so that 10 years later the three of us are standing on the stage together”. But I have said things like “There’s no way I thought we would continue until our 20th birthdays”, and now we are 30. Thinking about it, the lyrics are right for this moment in time.

(A~chan) If we had arrived at this moment in time having only performed at Sunstreet Kameido, I don’t think we would have earned this song. Over the past 15 years, we’ve had so many experiences, to the point where we have earned it, and I’m grateful for this.

The perspective of the lyrics is close to your own, so when you sing it is it easy to identify with them?

(Kashiyuka) I don’t think we get so carried away when we sing it. When I listen to the song, it moves me. However, when we recorded the song we did everything as usual, so these feelings didn’t really come out so much. Of course, I like the song, and when I went home I kept on singing it.

You were conscious of performing it in a Perfume way, without putting too much emotion in.“   

(Kashiyuka) It was less that, more that I felt like Nakata didn’t want us to sing it in that way.

(A~chan) I know we’re in the middle of something, but the demo for “Perfect Star Perfect Style” arrived.

(Nocchi) It’s here!

(A~chan) This is extremely valuable. Let’s listen to it together right now.

(Plays the songs)

(A~chan) Ha! I know it!

(Kashiyuka) In know this melody!

(Nocchi) Because we sung for this demo! Ah, it’s true, this is “Perfect Star Perfect Style”.

(A~chan) This is great!

(Kashiyuka) This is crazy. It’s a bright and nice song. This sound brings back memories.

(A~chan) That “TUKTHUN” sound!

This is an amazing song. It’s too good to be shelved.   

(Nocchi) That would be a waste.

(Kashiyuka) But, because this was not released, people were later able to hear the other  “Perfect Star Perfect Style”, and that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Like Hell Teacher Nube’s sealed demon fist

You’ve already performed and talked about it on music programs, but I’d like to hear about the other new song “Nananananairo”.Parts of the song have a cute oriental tune, but the atmosphere completely changes in the interlude. I find the way it changes interesting.

(A~chan) Yeah. It really crunches. Mikiko-sensei said that she wanted to try making a TikTok style dance for it.

You’ve all been doing TikTok recently.

(A~chan) I think she did it because she thought we were enjoying doing TikTok videos together. However, Perfume songs haven’t had this type of song until now, have they? So, instead of making us do normal Perfume-type things, she made a dance that was just on the right side of being cheesy. I really like it.

(Nocchi) Yeah, it’s good.

(A~chan) But there’s no time to breathe.

(Nocchi) That’s right, it takes a lot of effort, so you’re gasping by the end.

(Kashiyuka) Even though it would be very painful, if I really couldn’t breathe I would stop dancing! Mikiko-sensei said that this dance would release Perfume’s hidden hip hop demon.

A hidden hip hop demon?   

(Kashiyuka) We didn’t intentionally hide it! When we put on sneakers, it reminds us of the hip hop style dancing we used to do. We usually wear heels, which keep it sealed away. The choreography for this song releases it.

It’s like when the character in a fighting manga who normally wears a heavy dogi takes it off and can suddenly move very fast.    

(A~chan) It’s like Hell Teacher Nube’s sealed demon fist.

(Nocchi) That’s funny!

5 years that are so fulfilling, they won’t feel like a moment

In February 2020 you plan to hold a dome tour linked to this best of album. There are 52 songs on the record, so all of them…   

(Nocchi) We can’t perform them all.

(Kashiyuka) If we did a four day show, I’m sure we could perform them all.

(Nocchi) That’s a scary thought!

(Kashiyuka) I think that would finally push our staff over the edge!

So, that means we should look forward to seeing how the set list turns out. Until now, you haven’t done a 4 city dome tour either.

(A~chan) It’s a tour for our best of album, so we thought that it would be best to do it in big venues where many people can see it. We will also be doing “Reframe” over 8 nights as the opening performance for LINE CLUB SHIBUYA. What we want to do most of all is to challenge ourselves with lots of different types of live performances.

That sounds good.

(A~chan) In 2014, when we appeared at the last event in the national stadium before it was rebuilt, I thought “In 6 years, when it’s time to open the new national stadium, It would be nice if we were still doing things that we think are cool”. So, in the year of the 15th anniversary of our major debut, we want to do things that we think are cool.

Before you said that in the past you didn’t try to imagine what you would be doing 10 years in the future. Perfume have been cool for a long time now, so I feel like now it must be hard to imagine Perfume not being around in 10 years.

(A~chan) I’m happy to hear that.

(Kashiyuka) It’s nice of you to say that kind of thing.

(Nocchi) Yeah

(Kashiyuka) We have no idea at all what the future holds, though. We don’t know how the world is going to change.

(A~chan) I’m always anxious about things. Until now, I haven’t been able to relax. In 10 years, we will be 40?

(Kashiyuka) It will be the 25th anniversary of our major debut.

A quarter century!   

(Kashiyuka) Only really eminent groups reach that point.

However, if we start at your formation, it will soon be 2020, which is 20 years since your formation. The 25th anniversary of your formation will be here soon.   

(Nocchi) 5 years is just a moment. Definitely.

(Kashiyuka) I want to have a fulfilling 5 years, so that we won’t be able to think of them as just a moment. 

Perfume official site:  http://www.perfume-web.jp/ 
Perfume YouTube:   https://www.youtube.com/user/Perfume/

Translator: gyudon_nau (A-Chan fan from the UK)