At last year’s Anime Festival Asia, (AFA) our reporters had the privilege of interviewing the energetic ZAQ who performed for that year’s I Love Anisong (ILA) concert! Known for her unique musical style which defies all common ‘rules’ of music, she’s definitely a personality to behold! Known for composing the emotional last insert song for the Love Live! The School Idol Movie, Bokutachi wa Hitotsu no Hikari and also the ridiculously peppy ending theme Tutti! for 2015 anime Hibike! Euphonium, ZAQ is also extremely flexible as a musician.
ZAQ‘s passion for music seems to shine in every single work she has had a hand in, and this shows through her enthusiastic answers to the questions we asked! Below is the full interview transcribed and translated for your reading pleasure:
Q: We’ve heard that you played classical piano in the past, but your style of music seems to be very different. May we ask why this is so?
ZAQ: Well, how do I say this…as much as I was into classical music in the past, after I first listened to anime songs (Anisong) I felt that I liked them a lot, even more than classical music – and I was completely absorbed in it. That’s why I prefer more upbeat, ‘poppy’ songs to classical music.
Q: Having performed recently as Aigis in the Persona 3 Stage Play, what would you say is the most outstanding part about acting and performing on stage?
ZAQ: Something about being on stage, huh…! Hmm… Aigis…to me, she was a ‘robot who could sing very well’, so that’s what I focused on. It was a very different job scope from being the usual ‘ZAQ‘, because I had never acted before, so I wasn’t terribly confident at first.
Q: Would you ever want to collaborate with Minori Chihara? (Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and outstanding anisong artiste)
ZAQ: Ah, I actually did that during the first Lantis Matsuri in Sendai. We performed my debut song, Sparkling Daydream! And we sang Kyoukai no Kanata too, in a medley. I also played the piano during the concert — that collaboration was a very valuable experience for me.
Q: As a songwriter and composer for other acts including μ’s from Love Live for their song Bokutachi wa Hitotsu no Hikari, do you have any difficulties in carrying out that sort of role?
ZAQ: Um…let’s see, I place emphasis on bringing out the intended ‘character’ of the song. So I face difficulties when creating songs that I’m sure I myself wouldn’t sing – for example, the μ’s songs are very cutesy (waves her arms slightly, going ‘kyappi-kyappi-kyappi-kyappi’), if I were to sing those songs myself, it would be absolutely unconvincing because that style is so different from mine. On the other hand, when the characters sing these songs, the beauty of these songs would increase by 30 or 40 times – and I think that’s splendid. I didn’t write the lyrics for μ’s, but I did write the last song in the Love Live! movie – so my impression was to create a worthy and grand ending theme for the movie’s close.
Q: What inspired you to be an artiste?
ZAQ: Well, listening to Anisong, and also watching Minori Chihara! When I went to one of her live show, I saw how the audience united as one in their support for her, I thought — ‘I wanna be a great singer just like her!’ And that’s how I was inspired to be an artiste.
Q: How would you describe your music?
ZAQ: The music of ‘ZAQ‘, huh? …Chaos! Chaotic! My music is like that! It’s all over the place. (laughter) Like, anything goes, you know? I like to challenge a lot of things and make new stuff. That’s how I make my music.
Q: So, with that in mind, have you ever considered writing songs for other genres outside of Anisong and pop?
ZAQ: Of course! I really want to. I’d like to try writing and performing hip-hop songs, since I like that genre a lot, and I want to make it popular in Japan. (our reporter does a ‘yo, yo’ handsign at her, she grins and flashes double handsigns) And, I’d also like to try produce songs for a foreign audience too, and see how I can adapt my style to cater to their tastes.
Q: Since you produce and write your own music, have you ever had writer’s block?
ZAQ: I do…it’s difficult.
Q: We’ve noted that your songs have a very unusual electronic style to them. What was your inspiration for adopting this particular style?
ZAQ: Mm, that’s right. Well…that’s because I feel that the ‘electronic’ style is easier to suit to anime because it has a lot of instruments you can play around with. That means you can put in a wider myriad of emotions into the songs, and it’s fairly mainstream. But I’m actually more confident in performing rock songs and ballads.
Q: What is the most difficult part of doing collaborations with other artistes?
ZAQ: Most of all, it’s pleasing the fans. I need to take care to perform songs which aren’t mine the very best I can so I won’t let their fans down! This was the most difficult with fhána (the band behind Wonder Stella, the opening theme to Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei Herz!) when I collaborated with them, because their song was so unique to them. We have very different vocal styles too, which made it even more difficult.
Q: To add on, who is the next person you’d like to collaborate with?
ZAQ: …Eh. The one I most want to collaborate with…? (a pause) …(laughter) Eeeeh?! …This is difficult. What should I say? Who…eh, wait a minute. Gah, who would it be…? Just in Anisong, or anything?
ZAQ: …Eh?! This is difficult! This is really difficult!! (puts her hands on the sides of her head) …This is super difficult, but it’s fun to think about. (laughter) …! Wakeshima Kanon! (the singer of Still Doll, the ending theme of Vampire Knight) I’d want to try playing the piano while she’s playing the cello, and then we can sing together. That’d be fun.
Q: Other than singing, what do you do in your free time?
ZAQ: …Free time. I don’t have free time… (laughter) Well, I dig around for new music on iTunes and in HMV and learn more about music, especially what’s mainstream at the time! I also go onto YouTube a lot.
Q: Since you’re one of the few artistes in the industry who was passionate enough to pursue a degree in music, what advice would you give to young artistes who are actually being discouraged from pursuing a path like yours?
ZAQ: …? (is confused)
Interpreter: Ah, well you see, a career in music isn’t exactly encouraged these days…
Interpreter: Singapore is a very practical country. If a career won’t get a lot of cash, then people don’t usually pursue it.
ZAQ: EHHHH?! Even dreams are seen as impractical?! Ehh…
Interpreter: That’s right, it’s all business…
ZAQ: No way…! I’m shocked. (frowns) If even dreams are seen as impractical, then what color is there to the world? Why would you give them up…? And there are so many people pursuing careers in music even now, why wouldn’t people want to follow after them? You can express so many things with music. Just go for it! Everyone has a dream…but music is the only path which can affect anybody, and to give those dreams to other people, a dream for a better future! A job which can really inspire someone! Instead of thinking practically, just go for it!
Q: So, what can we expect in the future from your songs?
ZAQ: As an artiste, I’m always changing, so I can’t really say. The next song from ‘ZAQ‘ isn’t something I can predict, either!
Q: Can you share with us the kind of preparation you’ve gone through for today’s concert?
ZAQ: Hmm, what to say? I feel like this concert is a lot like one of my ‘one-man lives’. That’s the mindset I’ve adopted. I want to be able to create a huge tension in the audience even if I’m alone!
Q: So, what are your best memories from your live tour?
ZAQ: Well, since it was the first time I performed with a live band, I learned a lot from the experience. There was one point in time when the bassist’s guitar fudged up because of some technical issues, and the other members immediately jumped in to cover up! I could really see how the team works then, and sense the bond between them. I had always performed alone before then, so this was a really valuable experience for me.
One thing’s for sure, ZAQ is definitely extremely passionate about her craft! Her words to young aspiring artistes are particularly inspiring. We look forward to seeing more from her in the future, and hope that she continues to inspire many more youths to reach for their dreams just like Minori Chihara did for her!
First, second images credits to ZAQ’s official Twitter
Third image credits to ZAQ’s official website
Featured image, last image by Tab (J-Network)