J-rock Band Interview: “Hikari” Rock Mix

Jackie: Can you introduce Animadness for our readers? Where are you all from and what instruments do you play?

Paulo Wirth: Hello everyone! We are Animadness, a Brazilian j-rock band from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Today, the band is composed of 7 members: Rodrigo Takei (Vocals), Bruna Higashi (Vocals), Daniel Miura (Guitars), Fabiano Shimura (Guitars), Paulo Wirth (Bass), Filipe Muler (Keyboards) and Renato Ikeda (Drums).

We also play anime songs, game music and some international hits.

The band, Animadness.

Jackie: Please tell me about how the band started. When did the band first play together?

Daniel Miura: Both my parents are Japanese and I spent 1 year living in Japan, in 1991. Since then, I always kept in touch with the Japanese culture, including its music.

The idea of forming a band of this genre came when Felipe Kamakura (former keyboardist) and I saw a j-rock band playing at an anime convention in 2005. I already liked a lot of J-Music, but to see the positive reaction of the audience at that moment was the key point to make the decision to create Animadness.

We both knew that we couldn’t be like any other existing band, so we decided to play a wide genre of songs such as anime songs, game music, j-rock and our own stuff as well. We formed the band and our first gig took place in the same year, at Anime Friends, which is the biggest anime convention in Latin America.

Jackie: How many performances have you done since Anime Friends?

Bruna Higashi: The first function that Animadness have played at was Anime Friends 2005, in São Paulo. After that, I don’t know exactly how many we have performed, but since this first performance, we’ve been invited to play in several events related to Japanese culture (especially Anime, Mangá and Games) in São Paulo and also other cities.

There are some traditional local Japanese festivals like Tanabata Matsuri, Toyo Matsuri and others which the Japanese community celebrate in São Paulo. Animadness used to play at these festivals.

Jackie: What is the biggest influence from other artists for Animadness?

Paulo Wirth: Each member has his/her own influences. As for me, I have a solid rock/hard/metal background, along with Brazilian pop and game music. Since I entered the band back in 2009, I’m still discovering the world of J-Music.

Right now, MintJam, Versailles ~Philharmonic Quintet~, Dream Theater, Queen, Nobuo Uematsu and Djavan come to mind. My influences differ greatly from time to time.

Bruna Higashi: I am actually kind of similar to Paulo; my influences changes along with my mood. To name some artists that has influenced me from the beginning: there is Utada Hikaru and Angela Aki, from the J-music scene. Also ABBA, Alanis Morissete, Celine Dion, Heart, Paramore, Adele, Evanescence, Pink, Deep Purple and Queen, already known worldwide. I think that the union between all of them helped me to construct the way I sing and perform today. There is also a sonority influence by some other artists which I really enjoy listen to and it kind of contributes to my musical identity such as Muse (I am a big fan of them *-*), Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, Enya, Michael Jackson, Offspring, Dire Straits, Phill Collins, System of a Down and many others.

Animadness has covered "Hikari" from Kingdom Hearts

Jackie: Is there a special reason why Animadness chose to cover Simple and Clean and Hikari?

Paulo Wirth: Bruna showed me some old videos of her singing at karaoke contests held here in Brazil. One of them was her interpretation of “Hikari” and I was blown away by the beauty of her voice. At the time I didn’t think of arranging a rock version, but I started to listen to “Hikari” and “Simple and Clean” more often and some other songs of Utada and Angela Aki as well. I was attracted by the song’s peculiar mood and melody. Sometime later, when I heard the “Rising Sun” version of Hikari and thought, “Whoa, I believe there’s a way to make a rock version with Bruna singing, it would be perfect for her voice.”

I talked to Daniel, who also had the same idea at the time and we decided to work out our own version, blending some known versions of the song. We had to make several adjustments until we achieved the final result. We also researched and knew that Kingdom Hearts is quite popular worldwide, so we think that would be great to target several audiences: fans of Utada, fans of Kingdom Hearts and fans of hard rock music.

Bruna Higashi: “Hikari” is a very special song for me. I simply loved it from the first time I listened to it. I used to sing at “Animeke” which is a karaoke contest with only anime and game’s songs. “Hikari” was one of the Utada Hikaru’s songs that I sang at these contests and the people used to call me as “the Brazilian Utada” (laughs).

She is a huge influence to me, but I’ve never thought that one day Animadness could cover any of her songs since we are a J-rock band and I didn’t see how to suggest a J-pop song and how it would fit in the band style of playing. I remember that the day the boys told me they were thinking of covering “Hikari” and “Simple and Clean” but in a more hard-rock vibe, I was just amazed.

I confess that in the beginning I was a little uncomfortable with changing the song the way they wanted to, because vocally, it is a very difficult song and changing it to a hard-rock mood would raise even more the difficulty. The recording process ran so smoothly and the boys listened to every suggestion I made until I was satisfied with the new arrangement (thanks for the patience guys! ^.~). I just love the result.

Jackie: Now that you’ve seen more Kingdom Hearts material, what do you think of the game?

Bruna Higashi: I haven’t played Kingdom Hearts yet, but it is on my waiting list of games to play as soon as I get the time.

I first heard about it when a friend told me that a new game was going to be released and it was an association between Disney and Square Enix. I was pumped up because I loved the Final Fantasy series and I just couldn’t imagine the union with some Disney characters.

Daniel Miura: I have liked all of Disney’s productions since I was a kid and I played Final Fantasy since I lived in Japan in 1994 (at the time the most recent was FFIV).

In the beginning, I think it was strange to see both universes combined in Sora’s world, because it is not everyday you see Goofy and Donald Duck as allies in battle (laughs). After some time, I found the game very fun and original. Although the game deals with intrigues, it also deals with themes such as dreams, optimism and positive messages, something quite hard to find these days.

Paulo Wirth: Unfortunately, I didn’t play the games. But I’m into the songs of the soundtrack.

Jackie: Are there any other particular songs you’ve heard from the soundtrack that you really like?

Bruna Higashi: I really enjoy listening to the “Piano Collections Kingdom Hearts.” I just love the theme song for Kingdom Hearts 2, “Passion”.

It’s another Utada’s composition and it has a very special meaning to me. There is an “Animeke” contest named “Animeke Show”, a show with the winners of all the contests in the period of one year. Each singer presents a song and there are some Japanese artists who elect a single singer to win a trip to Japan. A friend of mine helped me edit the Orchestra Instrumental Version with the original karaoke of “Passion”.

It turned out amazingly and for my surprise I have won this trip!! I will never forget that!!

Paulo Wirth: From the first game, I like the “Menu Theme” a lot (for its beautiful orchestrations), “Kairi’s Theme” (the piano arrangement), “Dearly Beloved”, “A Day in Agrabah”, “Forze Del Male”, “Always On My Mind”. From Kingdom Hearts 2, “Passion/Sanctuary”, “Missing You”. From Birth By Sleep, “Rage Reawekened” (this one would do as a good rock theme). In general, I like more of the orchestrated and piano arrangements rather than the synths, save few exceptions.

Jackie: How would you like to have a keyblade-shaped instrument?

Bruna Higashi: A keyblade-shaped microphone would be very lovely!

Daniel Miura: I would love to have a guitar with the shape of Demyx’ Sitar, but a keyblade-shaped guitar would be amazing as well!

Paulo Wirth: I cannot imagine how the keyblade-shaped guitar would look, but maybe Daniel would like it (laughs). Is there a keyblade-shaped bass instead? Jokes aside, a keyblade-shaped guitar is perfectly fine.

Jackie: Has Animadness released any singles or albums at this time?

Paulo Wirth: We haven’t released any albums as of now. We always release the single format. We are an independent band, so basically we deal with all costs regarding our activities and productions. And in Brazil, J-Music has very little demand in the media.

This year we have released three singles, all available in our official YouTube channel. “Hikari” is currently our most recent material, but the band already have a schedule of releases planned for 2012, comprised of new material and new cover arrangements. Currently, some material is available exclusively at YouTube, but we plan to release the mp3 in the near future for download.

Jackie: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat! It’s been wonderful to meet you! The KH Ulitmania staff would like to wish you continuous musical success!

The band: We’d like thank Jackie Law, all staff from KH Ultimania and Gaming Union for the opportunity of giving this interview and to show our work to you. We really dedicated ourselves to make this cover and we are very happy with the result. We hope the fans of KH like it!

We are very grateful for this and we hope to bring more songs to rock together with you!

Up the Madness!

View Animadness’ Youtube channel here!