Yuri Kuriyama Interview on the Vocaloid Songs That Shaped Him – Billboard
The VOCALOID Collection, also known as VocaColle, is a biennial event showcasing the work of Vocaloid, held every spring and fall. Participants compete for first place in five different categories: TOP100, Beginners, REMIX, Enso Shitemita and MMD&3DCG. The number one songs in the TOP100 and Rookies categories are included in the “Colorful stage of the SEKAI project! feat. Game for smartphones Hatsune Miku. There is also a Chokaigi 2023 theme song contest, a collaborative project between VocaColle, UtaColle and OdoColle, and many more ways to enjoy Vocaloid culture.
We interviewed Yuri Kuriyama, producer of Vocaloid and member of Van de Shop, a few days before this year’s VocaColle. He spoke about Vocaloid songs and producers who influenced him, the future of the Vocaloid scene and more.
We asked you to choose which of the countless Vocaloid songs made a big impression on you and influenced your own creativity. One song you mentioned was “Melt” (2007). It was the song that led to the creation of supercell, a group of creators led by producer Vocaloid ryo.
Yuri Kuriyama: A lot of the first Vocaloid songs had very fast vocals or vocal melodies that the human singers couldn’t reach. In other words, they had aspects that took advantage of the unique capabilities of the software. Meltdown was different. It was a somewhat calm song. It’s a great song that would be great even if it was sung by a human singer and I think it really shows what makes Ryo such a talented producer. Hatsune Miku’s delivery in this song is also beautiful. In the early days of the scene, there were a lot of songs that had a slightly off-topic tone, and that always seemed awkward to me. There is none of this in the “Firelight”. It seems very natural. Among Supercell songs, I especially like “Juuzoku Ningen” and “Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari”. ryo was one of the first artists to break out of the vocaloid scene into the mainstream music scene.
“Last Night, Good Night” (2008) – song by livetune, kz’s solo unit. “Matryoshka” (2010) is one of Hachi’s most famous songs. Later, Hachi began releasing songs under the name Kenshi Yonezu, becoming one of Japan’s top performers.
Kuriyama: In ‘last Night Good Night’, kz used autotune on Hatsune Miku. When I met him in person and asked him why he uses Auto-Tune, he told me, “Because I’m worried about pitch,” which made a lot of sense. It was because of this song that I liked the voice of Hatsune Miku and it really drew me to the vocaloid scene. It affected me a lot, to the point where I think it’s fair to say that if this song didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be listening to Vocaloid music.
“Mother” Hathi for me is the platonic ideal of Vocaloid songs that I like. It uses a “MaruSa chord progression” (a chord progression often used in J-pop songs such as Shiina Ringo’s “Marunouchi Sadistic”) but it does something really new.
I think the drum part for “THE WORLD END UMBRELLA” is really interesting.
You need four hands to play it live (laughs). The arrangement is only possible because it was done on a computer. I like the way the emotions of the song are directly conveyed. “Wonderland to Histujinouta” is another example of Hachi’s influence on the vocaloid scene.
There is also “Nihonbashi Koukashita R Keikaku” (2012) by Shizen no Teki-P (Jin) and “Kimi no Taion” by Kuwagata-P.
Kuriyama: Jin’s Kagerou Project was amazing. (The Kagerou Project is a mixed media project with novels, comics and anime based on Jin’s music.) Also, none of the songs sound the same. The chord progressions are different, the sounds are different, and all the songs are great. “Nihonbashi Koukashita R Keikaku” is a perfect combination of song and anime video. The music videos for Vocaloid songs that came out before were usually stand-alone static illustrations or animation, very much like handmade, and I mean that in a good way. When I saw the music video for “Nihonbashi Koukashita R Keikaku”, I thought, “Wow, that’s professional!” (laughs)
“Kimi no Taion” featured both piano and guitar. I think it also used the MaruSa chord progression, but the piano part was ahead and it showed me a new approach. I think it influenced my own arrangements.
You also listed Sasanomali and Sasakure.UK like the Vocaloid production scene performers you liked.
Kuriyama: Sasanomali used to be a vocaloid producer under the name Neko Boro. His songs are beautiful, but so are his sound engineering and mixing. Mixing involves several steps, and when you do it, you think about how the music will sound differently – from headphones, headphones, speakers, etc. Sasanomaly sounds good no matter how you listen. I like a lot of his songs, but last summer I had “game of life feat. Boku no Lyric no Boyomi” on repeat. He was also in a band called Dios and I was impressed by the breadth of his musical activities.
I also love sasakure.UK! Everyone in our group (Van de Shop) really likes UK Rampage (a group led by sasakure.UK). He is both the producer of Vocaloid and a member of the band, and his technique is excellent in both cases. I always wanted to do what Sasakure.UK does and I had so many questions for him when I actually met him. (laughs)
You also said that syudou, Yoh Kamiyama, nulut and Harumaki Gohan resonate with you.
Kuriyama: They are active producers of Vocaloid, active soloists using the same name, creating new units with different names and such. They all have different approaches, but what they all have in common is that they write and sing their own songs.
I’m sure they had different reasons for this, but for me there were definitely sounds that I could learn by working with Vocaloid and sounds that I could learn by changing my approach and environment, which made me realize that I I can enjoy music even more deeply. level.
I think the wider your musical horizons, the better. I want to make Vocaloid songs that reflect what I’ve learned and not just follow some pattern.
For divisions made up of a Vocaloid Producer and a Singer like YOASOBI or DUSTCELL, if you just look at their structure, it’s the same as a Music Producer and Vocaloid Software, but it feels like they’re creating new sounds that you don’t I hear in typical Vocaloid songs. If people appreciated Vocaloid by learning about it through them, that would be great.
Who knows, maybe one day Yonezu will say, “I’m back!” and release another Vocaloid song. The vocaloid scene is now really free and fun.
The number of Vocaloid producers writing music for idols and groups is on the rise, and we’re seeing a lot of crossover between genres.
Kuriyama: Right. When I write music for my band, I often think: “I want to make a Vocaloid song” and vice versa. It’s fun to switch between the expressive style of humans and the expressive style of software. It’s like switching between eating potato chips and eating chocolate. (laughs)
Let’s talk a little about your own music. The first is Spotlight (2017). You posted this under the artist name “Hachiya Nanashi” and it was your first song to hit a million streams. It’s an electro swing song, a genre that you especially like.
Kuriyama: Originally, electro swing was created by taking samples of swing jazz or new songs based on swing jazz, and then altering them in an electro style. There’s been a lot of swing pop music made entirely on the computer lately, but I’m more interested in the first approach. I like to actually play music using an old mic to record it and then deliberately degrade the sound quality. I made “Limelight” this way, on my own. Of course, some fellow musicians helped me, but I wanted to take on the tasks of writing songs and arranging on my own, working only on my own ideas. There are elements of glitch hop and dubstep and I think it’s an interesting song.
When you uploaded “Neurosis” (2019), you commented that it was your “first love song”. “Jitterbug” (2019) was a fun song, a new evolution in electro swing.
Kuriyama: I wrote “Neurosis” when I was suffering from a broken heart. As for genres, it’s rock at 200 beats per minute. I didn’t think much about it, I just did what I felt when I wrote the song. I used a Les Paul guitar and it sounded a little weird.
With “Jitterbug” I decided to go back to electro swing again based on what I did with “Limelight”. The rhythm was really tight, and when the song was included in Project DIVA MEGA39’s game, people on Twitter complained that “Jitterbug” was too heavy. I’m not very good at rhythm games, so I thought, “I know how you feel!” (laughs)
In March 2022, you uploaded Pheles, which has elements of both jazz and rock. The mysterious lyrics and feeling also really stand out.
Kuriyama: I wrote the song for “GABULI”, a manga project about mask fights, and I think I really captured the feel of the world of GABULI. I put the distorted guitars front and center and gave the song a swing feel. It has a “rock swing” groove, so I think I was able to achieve something new with it. I don’t want to repeat myself, if at all possible. I want to try new approaches, and if there’s something I couldn’t do in the past, I want to overcome that hurdle.
You have a lot of live instrumental songs, which should take a lot of time and cost some money.
Kuriyama: I can be a bit of an outcast in the Vocaloid world. My friends will say to me: “Instead of spending hours in the studio and paying so much money to record live parts, wouldn’t it be better to just go online and look for samples?” Or will they say, “You’re really focused and working on this part, but do you really think the audience will notice at all?” In the end, I think, “Yes, maybe,” and sometimes I feel a little stupid for paying so much attention to some details (laughs), but I’m sure there are people who will understand what I’m doing.
What future do you see for the Vocaloid scene?
Kuriyama: Vocaloid quirks and “meta” patterns seem to change every two years. Of course, there are wonderful chords and styles that never change. Over the past few years, I felt like there were a lot of programmed melodies and EDM-like songs and few live instruments. But lately there has been an increase in the number of songs trying new things and I am discovering songs that suit my current tastes. I like the feeling that now everyone is doing what they are doing because they sincerely want to. They all bring their passion and release what they really like. I feel that we will see many new things soon.
In closing, could you share your expectations for VocaColle?
Kuriyama: I always thought Nico Nico Douga was the real home of Vocaloid. I’m glad that this event, which started with Niconico Chokaigi, is still going on. However, it has also become a gateway to success for people who want to make a living from music, and focusing on views and likes detracts from the fun magic of the event. It takes away the thrill. Of course, people can enjoy it however they want, but I would like it to be more like a carnival, more like a relaxed party.
I love carnivals myself, and when people who like Vocaloid get together because they think something is fun or interesting, it really makes the atmosphere electrify.
—This interview with Tomoyuki Mori first appeared on Billboard Japan.