Saturday, December 05, 2015

ZAQ Interview: "My Music? It's CHAOS!"


"Chaos." She replied when asked to describe her music. "It's all over the place."

In 2012, anisong singer ZAQ, who had made her name composing and writing songs for other artistes, released her first single, "Sparkling Daydream". The opening theme for anime Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! went on to become a major hit and since then, her solo career has been on the rise, with an impressive nine singles and an album to her name.

One of the nineteen acts invited for Anime Festival Asia (AFA)'s I Love Anisong Reboot concert this year, she performed on stage alongside acts such as Japanese rock band BACK-ON and singer extraordinaire Aimer in Singapore last Friday night.

We sat down for a media interview with the multi-talented singer-songwriter-composer where she shared about the workings behind her unorthodox music style, things she'd like to try and her experience performing in a stage play.

How are preparations for tonight’s concert (AFA’s I Love Anisong Reboot concert on Friday night) going?

I’m looking to recreate the same atmosphere of my one-man lives in Japan! Even though I’m performing solo, I want to invigorate the crowd and give a hair-raising performance similar to those by big multiple-member groups.

Your second live tour, KURIZAQ, just concluded earlier this month. What are your best memories of it?

I did 3 shows and during one of the performances, there were some technical issues with the bass. The other band members covered for each other immediately when they realised there was no sound coming from it. I could feel the strong bond between the members at that moment in time.

I’m a solo singer so I don’t have many experiences of working in groups. However, I got to understand and learn how a team works together on stage from that episode. It was a great memory.

Performing on stage in Singapore (Source)

How would you describe your music? What kind of singer do you aspire to be?

CHAOS. CHAOTIC. (laughs) It’s all over the place. Anything goes. I like to challenge myself in many different ways and try new things. (laughs)

Your songs tend to bear a very unusual electronic style. What is your inspiration for such a style?

Electronic music incorporates many different instruments which I can play with and goes well with anisongs. I can also introduce a mix of elements and emotions into it easily.

I like intense songs but I like rock and ballad too! Ballads are my forte.

However, I use electronic music because it’s easy to get to listeners’ ears and it is a rather mainstream style for anisongs.

You used to play the piano in the past but you've stopped recently. Your music has transformed to being very upbeat now. What was behind the switch?

Yes, I used to play a lot of classical music with the piano at the start of my career. Down the road, I discovered anisong and felt that it was the ultimate style for me. I really like it. When I listen to anisongs, I think they fit me perfectly, hence the switch.

ZAQ performing "VOICE", the opening theme to anime Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

Who inspired you to be a singer?

My anisong inspiration is seiyuu-singer Minori Chihara (voice actress of Nagato Yuki). I’m awestruck whenever I attend her live performances. The energy and passion of her audiences are out of this world. I’m marvelled by how the entire arena can become one with her. I want to become a good singer like her.

Have you had any chance to collaborate with her?

We did a collaboration at the Lantis Festival in Sendai! (Both ZAQ and Minori Chihara are from the same record label, Lantis). We performed a medley with my debut single, Sparkling Daydream (anime Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! opening) and her song, Kyoukai no Kanata. I also got to play the piano there. It’s a moment that I treasure a lot.

From fan to fellow singer - ZAQ with Minori Chihara (Source)

Besides being a singer, you are also a song writer and composer for other acts, including Muse's for " Bokutachi wa Hitotsu no Hikari ". Do you have any difficulties when writing for others? 

The most difficult thing would be considering the personality of the character who is singing, which tends to be totally different from mine most of the time.

Take for example “Kapikapi” (cute) songs, which I will never sing. When sung by other characters, they are able to bring out the goodness of the song 30 or even 40 times better then I can, which I think is a very amazing thing.

That’s how I was able to write the song for Muse which would be befitting for the ending of the Love Live! movie.

Besides anisong and pop, have you considered writing songs of other genres? 

Yes, I have! I would really want to! I hope to be able to write songs for foreign artistes someday. I really love hip-hop and would love to write a hip-hop song if possible. I hope the genre catches steam in Japan too!

Autograph session with concert atttendees in Singapore (Source)

In this year's Animelo Summer Live, you had a fantastic rap battle with motsu, as well as other collaborations with fhána, Suzuki Konomi and Chihara Minori as well. What is the most difficult part of doing collaborations with other artists?

The collaboration with fhána was rather difficult. The song was a well-known fhána song so I was worried if fhána’s fans would accept me singing their song. fhána and I also have distinctively different voices. Therefore, it was rather difficult to figure out how to sing it in a way that would bring out the same emotions in the listeners.

You also performed recently as Aegis in the Persona 3 stage play. What was the most outstanding part about acting and performing on stage? 

It was a very different experience. I had never performed in a play before so I was not really confident. I played Aegis, a robot character with no emotions. Although we did stage battles and such, Aegis’s role was more of a talented robot singer. Therefore, I thought about myself as ZAQ, the singer, applied it to the role and managed to play it quite well.

ZAQ as Aegis for the Persona 3 stage play (Source)

You are one of the few artists in the industry who was passionate enough to pursue a music degree. What advice would you give to young artistes who are discouraged from pursuing a path like yours (in Singapore)? 

EHHH! (replies in shock when told that Singapore has a very pragmatic society). Why isn’t anyone pursuing their dreams of music career when there are so many music lovers in Singapore? You can express so many messages and inspire so many people with music!

I don’t think there are many other professions similar to those associated with music that can inspire others to dream. I feel that you should just go for it! Go for it (in English)!

At Anime Festival Asia in Singapore last week (Source)

Who is the next person you would like to do a collaboration with? 

(laughs) It’s a very difficult question but fun to think about. There are so many people who I’d like to work with!

(after thinking for a while) Kanon Wakeshima! She’s a cellist. She could play the cello as I play the piano, and either one or both of us could sing. It would be such a magnificent collaboration!

How do you usually spend your free time? 

(laughs) I don’t have much free time. (laughs) Whenever I can, I do “information gathering” and look up different music on YouTube, HMV, iTunes. I walk into CD shops, check out what’s popular and mainstream at the moment and look at CD jacket designs.

What can we expect from you in the future? 

ZAQ is pretty different from most other artists in that ZAQ does not have a specific style of music. There's nothing concrete for the future yet. ZAQ is always changing, never staying in the same style. You can always expect something different from ZAQ!

Always defying expectations with her unique music, we wonder what chaotic songs ZAQ will come up with next. We certainly enjoyed her concert and hope to see her back in Singapore again. One thing's for sure, you can definitely expect something new and innovative from her everytime.

Interview photos by Eugene Chua