Princess Principal Composers Interview | Ryo Takahashi (Void_Chords), Yuki Kajiura

“I was asked to create something not ‘anime song-like'”

Kajiura: The lyrics for ‘The Other Side of the Wall’ are in English, aren’t they? I was quite surprised by that – I remember going “Oh! It’s in English! That’s brave….but it sounds good!” Whose idea was it, if I may ask?  

Takahashi: This was a request from the production side. In the first place, it seems like they were originally thinking that they didn’t want something that was “anime song-like,” and that’s why there were discussions over making it an instrumental piece. But then they decided to go with a vocal piece, and then it was like “if we do it normally then it’ll be that” so they decided on having English lyrics.

Kajiura: And of course, the worldview of the song matches that of the anime. It’s incredibly cool.

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Takahashi: I can’t write lyrics, like not at all, so I always leave that to the lyricist. But I want the music to have a certain drive, so I give them some instructions about the parts that I want to be catchy. As a result, the lyrics were a perfect match not only for the music, but also for the show that this song was to be attached to, and that made me really happy.

Kajiura: Do you hand the lyricist a demo that you’ve sung yourself?

Takahashi: Yes, I do. I basically put together some pretend English, matching the music and the words such that you can sense the energy of the song that they give rise to. But how they take it in is something I leave up to them.

Kajiura: Indeed, there are some things that you can’t completely convey with the written music alone. Making a demo is also important for avoiding situations like “Oh, so you’ve put a phrase in here, huh?”

Takahashi: Agreed. Basically, it’s difficult to convey what you mean in a discussion, so it’s like “Just singing it would be quicker.”

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“Void_Chords is a place where I can detonate my musical desires in their raw state”

Interviewer: You’ve announced that you’ll continue Void_Chords as a unit without one designated singer. And for this first single, you’ve featured the female vocalist MARU-san.

Takahashi: That’s right. Around the time I felt that I wanted to make a place where I could detonate my musical desires in their raw state, that’s when I was approached about the edgy music that was being sought for Princess Principal. So that’s when I decided to start something under this new name. And because I wanted it to be a project that, musically, is interesting and a little strange, I figured that I could be flexible with the vocalists.

Kajiura: MARU-san has performed in the musical RENT, hasn’t she? She’s got an incredibly powerful voice, so I feel that she really clicks with the impressive song that you’ve come up with this time. Her singing is very, very cool.

Takahashi: Well, this song is, you could say, pretty full-on, what with the number of sounds it has, the tension running through it, its energy (chuckles). So I wanted someone with the power to oppose and overcome that. There were many candidates, but the moment I heard MARU-san’s singing, I was like “She’s the one. She’ll knock them all over!” (chuckles).

Kajiura: Indeed! She does have the power to do that.

Takahashi: In that maelstrom of sounds running amuck, she seemed to be someone with the vocals to mow them all over, so I made the offer to her just from hearing her voice. And it has really worked out well.

Kajiura: It’s really important for opening themes to garner a sense of excitement in the audience. On that front, I feel that ‘The Other Side of the Wall’ is ideal, both in terms of the sound and the tune. After all, no matter how realistic the story they tell, anime worlds are, fundamentally, not real. As something that serves as the door into those unreal worlds, opening songs have to generate a thrill that makes you forget reality. In contrast, the ending serves as an outro, one that gives you an aftertaste of the show and then returns you to reality. When I write songs that are meant to serve as openings or endings, I’m quite conscious of having them fulfil those two roles.

Interviewer: It sounds quite different from the approach that is sought when creating background music.

Kajiura: You could say that. It seems obvious, but a lot of background music is something that viewers must not notice – it’s bad if they do. On the other hand, if openings and endings don’t grab your attention, then you have a bit of a problem. In that sense, they’re completely different in terms of the level of self-assertion.

Takahashi: I completely agree. As with you, that line of thought is also what drives the way I work.

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(The interview continues in the next page. You can find the page numbers below the ‘related articles’ section.)

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