InterviewBabymetal: „Breaking the boundaries of music genres is what we do best“

Interview / Babymetal: „Breaking the boundaries of music genres is what we do best“
Welcome, Momometal! The new member of the group was all smiles at Rockhal. Photo: Editpress/Julien Garroy

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Knebworth, Great Britain, 2014. Three girls from Japan, back then aged 15 and 16 respectively, are given a seemingly impossible task: to impress 60,000 metalheads at „Sonisphere“, one of the biggest rock festivals in the world. Before the event, there was criticism of the organizers’ decision to let the group perform on the main stage. Because few groups cause as much division in the metal scene as Babymetal: with its eclectic mix of metal and J-pop, the group is either loved or hated. But the three front girls boldly pull off their set with their band … and elicit one of the strongest audience reactions since the festival’s creation. The story of the three Japanese teenagers, who create huge mosh pits and sing and dance in frilly skirts to brute metal riffs, goes around the world.

A lot has happened since „Sonisphere“. It was one of Babymetal’s first international appearances, but even before that they were well-known in their home country and their songs went viral on the Internet. At the latest since their world tour in the summer of 2014, they have been among the best-known musical exports from the Land of the Rising Sun, even scoring a performance at famous „Wembley Arena“ and a collaboration with Metallica. On Tuesday, they performed in Luxembourg for the first time – alongside Lordi as the opening act for Sabaton at Rockhal. Babymetal are still controversial, even though their sound has changed throughout the years. Su-metal (25) and Moametal (23) have explained their evolution to Tageblatt. At the time of the interview, Momometal (20) had not yet been appointed a member, which is why she does not appear in it.

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Tageblatt: Su-metal, you are often referred to as „The Queen“ on the Internet. Moametal, you have a huge fan base too. Are you aware of your reach and the very dedicated fan community outside Japan?

Moametal: Oh, so I’m not „The Queen“? In that case, call me „The Princess“ (laughs). We can’t thank our fans enough for their incredible support over the years. We get such incredible energy from all of our fans, not just in Japan, but worldwide. We’re just so lucky to be loved by so many people, and hope everyone continues to follow Babymetal. I’m also the type of person who loves to be praised and complimented (laughs), so thank you for the continued support!

Su-Metal, what does it feel like to invite thousands of fans to do a „Wall of Death“ with only one hand movement?

Su-metal: It’s always so much fun during a live show to create this shared experience with the audience. When a big „circle pit“ forms, I notice how our fans look at me with a proud expression on their faces (laughs). Then I make eye contact with them and try to convey my enthusiasm to them. It’s a pretty fulfilling experience because I feel like I can communicate with our fans that way without even having to exchange words. We are able to share our enthusiasm and excitement, just be in the moment and enjoy the show.

You’re the future of metal, please continue making your music

Rob Halford, vocalist of Judas Priest

You started out as an idol pop group. Did you ever expect that you would become so popular worldwide – especially among metal fans?

Su-metal: I vividly remember when the music video for „Doki Doki☆Morning“ was released, there were just so many comments in a vast number of languages. And even though there were a lot of critical comments, I just took it as a sign that a lot of people were interested in us, so I ended up taking that experience pretty positively. We never thought we would get so much attention. And looking back, I also remember enjoying seeing how the critical comments eventually turned into supportive comments.

How do you feel about people who dislike your music?

Su-metal: I think it all depends on whether they are familiar with Babymetal or not. If they don’t know us or their opinion is mainly based on our older videos, I would highly recommend them to watch our recent live performances and then form an opinion based on that. We are constantly changing and evolving, so I hope they will give us a chance.

How has your sound evolved throughout the years?

Su-metal: At first, our sound was mainly J-Pop, paired with metal. Then when we started touring internationally, we started incorporating many different sounds from different countries. I also think that being able to collaborate with a lot of phenomenal artists allowed us to expand the parameters of our sound.

Moametal, did you have any moments on stage that were particularly memorable?

It’s the smiles of our fans that I see when I’m performing on stage. That’s the reason I perform, and it’s always so fulfilling. If I can be the reason you smile, I’m incredibly happy. Now that we’re back, I think there will be more opportunities to see our fans again, and I can’t wait to get out there and perform.

In the course of your career, you have already worked with a whole range of musicians. Which experiences have had a particular impact on you?

Su-metal: I would say the one with Rob Halford (Judas Priest vocalist, ed. note). Our performance together on stage was fantastic, of course, but what really impressed me was when he said to us, „You’re the future of metal, please continue making your music.“ Those words from such a metal legend meant everything to us and it’s thanks to him that we were able to continue on our path and are where we are today.

Babymetal in Luxembourg

Babymetal have announced that they will embark on an European tour this year. The Japanese band will find its way to Luxembourg for a second time in just one year. The concert is scheduled to take place at Rockhal on December 7, 2023.

Are there any other artists you would like to collaborate with?

Moametal: There are so many! We^’ve already had the opportunity to tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica. I would love to do that again, and also with Bring Me The Horizon. I’d also like to meet Måneskin, who I’ve really enjoyed listening to lately. The list is endless. (laughs) Just recently I had the opportunity to meet the members of the Backstreet Boys and we talked about how cool it would be if we could be on stage together. Their kind of music is a little different than ours, but breaking the boundaries of music genres is what we do best. That’s why I would be incredibly happy if we could collaborate with them in the future.

Metal and dance – a daring combination that the world hasn’t seen very often so far. You are constantly on the move during the performances. How do you manage to do all that at the same time without getting out of breath?

Moametal: Practice, practice and practice. All beginnings are hard, but hard work, dedication and perseverance make it possible. You just keep practicing and before you know it, you can sing and dance at the same time. This is not something you are born with nor something you can achieve with talent alone, it’s the result of repeated practise.

Not only your music stands out, but your appearance too. Can you tell us about the outfits you wear on stage?

Moametal: Our outfits are mostly black. I think that the color black suits Babymetal best, it gives a sense of elegance, grace and dignity. This costume has become a battle suit for us. Once we put it on, we feel invincible and it feels as if we can overcome anything and everything. Our current costume contains gold-colored elements, it shines and glitters from all sides. I like this costume because it seems to be a sign that „our future will shine“ (possibly a reference to their song „Shine“, ed. note). But to be honest, I would love to try on a different costume in a color other than black. Do you think the fox god will grant me that wish? (laughs)

Can you explain to our readers who don’t know Babymetal what the fox god is all about?

Moametal: I believe that the fox god (Japanese Shinto mythology includes a fox god, ed. note) can be an unpredictable and sometimes even a mean being. He presents us with a variety of challenges through which we grow both spiritually and physically. The Babymetal project has been a chain of miracles so far. They are not only due to our luck, but also the blessing of the fox god. Therefore, like our fans, the fox god is also a necessary and important figure for us.

If I can be the reason you smile, I’m incredibly happy

Moametal, Babymetal dancer and backing vocalist

Su-metal, you wrote the lyrics for „Divine Attack“. Would you like to write lyrics more often in the future?

Su-metal: That was the first time I wrote the lyrics for a song. It was a very interesting and educational experience. I see it as another way to communicate with our fans. But writing also taught me respect for the process of creating the songs. But I would like to try it again if I get the chance.

Moametal, is there any song from Babymetal discography that you particularly like?

Moametal: My favorite song changes all the time, it all depends on how I feel at the moment. That’s why it’s hard for me to single out just one. „Road of Resistance“ is one that I’ve always loved, though. I think the melody is very cool and it’s definitely a song that represents Babymetal. The lyrics reflect our great determination. But I also love the song because Herman Li and Sam Totman from DragonForce played the guitar parts for us. I think it’s a song that could appeal to both metal and J-Pop lovers. Please listen to it.

Who are Babymetal?

The fact that Babymetal would one day perform at the world’s biggest rock festivals and build an international fan base wasn’t part of the initial plan. Originally, the band was founded in 2010 by Japanese talent agency Amuse as an idol group. Idols are young pop artists who are characterized, among other things, by their closeness to fans and are currently popular in Japan. Babymetal was a „subunit“ of idol group Sakura Gakuin until 2013. The faces of the band were three teenagers who had little to no previous exposure to metal music. Babymetal as well as their fans show the fox head instead of the common hand sign in the scene. A whole concept was built around the so-called „kitsune sama“ (fox god), a figure from Japanese mythology, which inspires and guides the band.

One of the most surprising aspects was probably the age of the three girls, who were also coming more and more into the international spotlight: Su-metal (1997) was barely 16 at the time, Moa- and Yuimetal (both 1999) 14. They are accompanied live by the Kami Band (Jap.: god/gods or spirits), a group of musicians with white-painted faces and ghost-like clothing.

Metal with influences from Japanese pop music, paired with energetic choreographies: the band’s concept is unique and daring – and leads to different reactions. Fans describe the group as creative and innovative, while metal purists in particular just shake their heads and see it as a gimmick. Besides the somewhat unconventional set-up for a metal band, it is also difficult to pin down their actual musical genre. Although metal (thrash, speed and power metal) undoubtedly dominates, the band integrates influences from other genres, such as J-Pop, EDM and rap. The band gives itself the label Kawaii Metal (jap.: sweet, cute). The lyrics are also unusual for a metal band: among other things, the lyrics deal with bullying, the role of women in Japanese society or even the love for chocolate.

In 2018, Yuimetal left the band for health reasons, after which Babymetal became more of a duo, accompanied live by the Kami Band. The death of guitarist Mikio Fujioka in 2018 also shocked fans. Yuimetal has since been replaced by different dancers, but they never took her representative role until April 1, 2023, when Momometal was announced as the band’s third frontwoman.

The fourth studio album „The Other One“ was released on March 24, 2023. The sound has evolved – Babymetal themselves describe it as more mature. So the legend surrounding the fox god continues.

Scroll through our picture gallery for some impressions of the performance (© Editpress/Julien Garroy):

Luis has been a fan of the band since 2015
Luis has been a fan of the band since 2015 Photo: Laura Giacomini

Musings from a Luxembourgish fan

Luis from Esch is a huge Babymetal fan – and bought his entry tickets immediately after the announcement of the Babymetal gigs on April 25 and December 7. His taste in music is more in the heavier range. „I like everything that rocks“, he says. „From The Doors to Nirvana and Guns N Roses to Disturbed and System of a Down.“ He first came across Babymetal in 2015 – „a complete coincidence“, as he reveals. „They popped up in my video recommendations on YouTube. The first song I heard from them was ‚Gimme Chocolate‘. And like almost every Babymetal fan, my reaction was, ‚Okay, what the hell is that?’“ After three or four listens, however, he said he wanted to hear more of it and. By the song „Road of Resistance“ at the latest, he had fully entered the Babymetal universe. „After that, I spent the next few days listening to Babymetal on continuous loop“, Luis says with a laugh.

What intrigued him most about the group was the innovation aspect. „Not only was it something completely new, but it was also extremely well-done“, Luis says. Above all, he was impressed by the live performances, „They just give one hundred percent at every show!“ In some ways, they are comparable to Linkin Park in this, he says. „They’re doing what Linkin Park did around the year 2000: creating a completely new genre, yet constantly trying new directions. That’s what’s special about Babymetal: they keep surprising you.“

His favorite songs besides „Road of Resistance“ are „Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!“ , „Ijime, Dame, Zettai“, „BxMxC“, „Pa Pa Ya!!“ and – from the new album – „Divine Attack – Shingeki“. There is something for every mood, says the fan from Esch.

Nathan and Pierre
Nathan and Pierre Photo: Laura Giacomini
Peter and Brad
Peter and Brad Photo: Laura Giacomini