Myself, fellow journalist Emily and photographer Simon are lurking at the backstage entrance of The Forum concert hall in London waiting to interview Japanese death metal/pop music viral sensation Babymetal. We are hopelessly early.
We have just seen guitarist Leda from the band mosey on past; Dana Yavin, tour photographer, virtually run out for a cigarette and a host of other randoms wander in and out the venue. There are fans already camped outside, chatting, sleeping, dancing (I believe a Megitsune cover). We really have no idea what to expect. It is now 12.45 PM and we have 15 minutes till our 1 PM interview and I sense Babymetal are kind of a big deal.
You must be familiar with Babymetal. They are the most absurd fairy tale to hit recorded music in recent memory; a smashing together of two mutually exclusive musical genres. A cartoon with 35million Youtube hits. And I am about to sit down with them, if I'm being brutally honest, to see if they actually exist.
They do. Another few minutes pass and there is a minor commotion behind us and then you see the red of the dresses, then the gladiatorial outfits. And there they are, Babymetal in full-on concert gear. They are absurdly beautiful.
As our interview kicks off, I suppose the most obvious thing I want to find out is how they are feeling about the European tour and what the main cultural differences between Europe and Japan are. Lead singer Su-metal (Suzuka Nakamoto) fills us in:
We have been to countries in Asia, but we have not been to any other countries before. The atmosphere in the city is nothing like Japan. So we were shocked by that. But the people are very warm and welcoming, and the people get really excited at our live shows, so it has been such fun.
In Japan the audience does the chanting, but in Europe people put up the fox sign in rhythm as well as Wall of Death [mosh pit] is occurring in different places; every time I am surprised.
Suzuka also explains that there are unexpected differences between different European countries:
Every country, the atmosphere is so different. Like in France, how do I say this... I like Japan or I like Idols fans, but in Germany there were a lot of metal fans. The most shocking moment was at Sonisphere... the stage was so big... and the audience 50,000? We have not stood on such a big stage before... it was our first time. At first, "they won't be able to understand us", "they will not know what we are saying" was making us very nervous. But when we ended the performance the audience was like this "Waa" and clapping; that made me very happy.
As our interview progresses it's obvious the tour has been tiring. Moa-metal (Moa Kikuchi) looks sleepy and a bit withdrawn compared to the other two (the third band member is Yui-metal or Yui Mizuno). I wondered just how physically draining the live performances are.
When I first started, my stamina could not keep up. I did not know what metal was, so I never head banged before... I used to have muscle pain that lasted 3 days... but now I am used to it and I have more stamina now.
When Moa-METAL first started I had not danced before [to heavy metal music]. I did not know how to make the choreography look good, and like how Yui-METAL was saying, I did not know metal, so the choreography was hard to understand; my neck started to really hurt, it was difficult. But now I have got used to it. I like feeling one with the audience, making the whole venue feel like one, it makes me happy.
Babymetal are supported by 4 virtuoso musicians, the line up of which slowly rotates; they are referred to as the Kami (god) band and after watching numerous Youtube videos I wanted to know if they would ever become part of Babymetal.
What will happen, only Kitsune-sama [the band's fox-god master, apparently] knows. That said, Kami-band are in the same group, we share the same stage working hard. So we look at it as 7 of us working hard. On top of that we have the staff, and One, The ONE! The FANS! We build the performance with the FANS, so all that combined is BABYMETAL.
It seemed relevant so I decide to ask Moa how her guitar playing was coming along:
Since I am overseas right now, I have not been able to play the guitar. But yesterday in London, when I was shopping, I bought 5 picks: a pick design with the Union Jack and there was one with a cute soldier.
During the interview we are constantly interrupted by people wandering in and out. I am aware that there are probably about 6 people behind me and combined with the three girls, Emily, Simon, myself and the translator, that's an awful lot of folks to have in a tiny press room; there's something strange going on with this band; something very professional and well organised and as I wound up the interview I wanted to ask them what the end product, a Babymetal concert, would be like.
Suzuka smiles and says:
For the people in London, I think our charm is in our live performance, so we hope you feel our warmth at the show. Also today, there will be a live streaming of our show in Japan; it has been a while since a Japanese audience has been able to see us, so we hope to entertain as many people as possible in tonight's performance.
So there you have it. I have just interviewed three shy, down to earth, giggly teenage girls. I have also interviewed three Disney cartoon characters. And I have interviewed the unstoppable metal machine that is Babymetal.
It's obvious to me now that they are on the verge of something very big. When Babymetal says this is the beginning of the metal resistance they weren't joking. Bow down to your Kitsune.
All photographs above copyright Dana (Distortion) Yavin.
Babymetal are supporting Lady Gaga on tour in America later this month and their debut album is available to buy on iTunes.Suggest a correction