On April 24, JAM Project had simultaneously released two new singles. One of which is the opening theme for TV anime “One Punch Man”, Seijaku no Apostle. The other, opening song for the game “Super Robot Wars T” titled Tread on the Tiger’s Tail featuring as the lead song on the triple A-side single Tread on the Tiger’s Tail/RESET/D.D.~Dimension Driver.
Seijaku no Apostle and Tread on the Tiger’s Tail were both produced by JAM Project’s Overseas Correspondent, Brazilian Ricardo Cruz, who is said to be the sixth member of JAM Project. While he was in Japan to work on these pieces, we caught up with Ricardo to talk about his involvement with Seijaku no Apostle and Tread on the Tiger’s Tail.
First of all, could you tell us about how you met Mr. Kageyama?
Our first meeting was back in 1999. Actually, at that time it was totally a (one-sided) fan meeting. I was 18, a third year in high school, and in 1999 I spent a year studying overseas and living in Utsunomiya, Japan. I had loved Japanese anime and tokusatsu [live-action series that utilizes special effect, e.g. Godzilla, Ultraman, etc.] since I was a kid, and that year I went to see “Super Robot Spirits”, an anime song live event. That was the first time I ever witnessed Kageyama perform live. After that, Mr. Kageyama had another show called “Power Live”, and I went to that, too.
“Dengeki Sentai Changeman”, “Hikari Sentai Maskman”, “Dragon Ball Z”, “Saint Seiya”, etc., all programs that Mr. Kageyama performed the theme song for were really popular in Brazil so people who were interested in Japanese anime or tokusatsu were aware of his existence.
After you returned to Brazil from your overseas study, you set up your own events in your hometown, didn’t you?
I started an event called “Anime Friends” with my closest friends. We wanted to do something different from other anime events. I suggested that we should have live anime song performances. Kageyama’s performance in Japan had such an impact on me that, when we were wondering who to invite to the event, I couldn’t think of anybody but him.
The first “Anime Friends” event was in 2003. From Japan, we had Hironobu Kageyama, Akira Kushida, and actor Hiroshi Watari come as guests. At that time, it was basically impossible for the original artists to come and perform in Brazil. Honestly, we didn’t know how we were going to pull it off. We couldn’t pay the appearance fee and we didn’t have enough payment for the travel expenses or manager’s fee, we could only arrange the fee for three people. Even with all that, those three came. If it was just a normal occurrence, it would have been impossible. It’s not wrong to say that, thanks to those three appearing at that event, myself and Anime Friends are where we’re at today
Since going to “Anime Friends” in 2003, because Kageyama was one of your first guests, every year you’ve been able to get various anime and tokusatsu singers to come to Brazil.
That too, it is all thanks to Kageyama. Actually, the opportunity to join JAM Project came because of Kageyama coming to Anime Friends, too.
Please tell us about it.
For the 2004 Anime Friends event, of course, Kageyama attended, but Masami Okui came too. When rehearsing for the event, Okui had come down with a cold and was reluctant to sing in order to protect her throat. Anyway, as I brought attention to myself at that moment, I suggested “well, how about I sing for Okui during rehearsal?” and sang in front of everyone. After watching, Kageyama said, “We’re auditioning for JAM Project members in Japan right now, you should apply”. After hearing those words, I recorded a track for the contest and applied. After that, I got an email saying “Ricardo, you got it”. That was in 2005. I didn’t believe it at the time! So in 2005, I went to Japan and recorded two songs as a member of JAM Project—“GONG”, and “Neppu! Shippu! Cybaster”. It is from there that my history as JAM Project’s foreign correspondent began.
And now, in South America, there are many anime events, and many anime and tokusatsu singers, and voice actors are also able to attend. I think the starting point was the Anime Friends event you organized, what do you think?
If any others in South America started thinking “We want to do that too” after seeing the success of Anime Friends where we brought singers across from Japan, I think it has created an environment that now makes it possible to tour South America. It’s the same for JAM Project.
Brazil is a country where Japanese pop culture has deep roots. Anime and tokusatsu, and related history, it has been around for a really long time. Even now, my dad loves singing the song from “National Kid”, a tokusatsu program from the ‘60s. From that time, even in Brazil, things like “Ultraman”, “Ultra Seven”, “Ambassador Magma”, “Giant Robo”, “Spectreman” and such were broadcast, and when I was a kid, things like “Dengeki Sentai Changeman”, “Kyojuu Tokusou Juspion”, “Saint Seiya” and “Yu Yu Hakusho” were all really popular. And later, Naruto, and Pokemon, etc., that flow just continues from now until forever. I think it was particularly easy to set-up this kind of event because Brazil has such a long history with and is very familiar with Japanese anime and tokusatsu.
In your case, Ricardo, the style of those anime and tokusatsu singers from when you were an exchange student really had a big impact on you, didn’t they?
Until then, whether it was anime songs or tokusatsu songs, I thought they were just songs I heard from TV programs, honestly, I wasn’t aware of this genre. But, seeing a band perform anime and tokusatsu numbers, I had a huge realization like, “Ah, so this is a genre too”. From that time onwards, my life’s mission became “Spread anime songs internationally” I think.
Your heart was captured to that extent, is that so?
Yeah. Because anisong is an amazing style where you can mix together so many different genres. From the anisongs in the ‘60s and ‘70s, there have always been rock and enka elements, and you’ve got James Brown’s groove and Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western style of music, etc. just packed into this genre. That’s been refined gradually over the years, to become what anime songs are today, and I think I’d like to continue refining them.
In your case, even though you’re living in Brazil you’ve been contributing to JAM Project for a long time now, isn’t that right?
Yeah, first as a singer, and then as a guest on recordings and at live shows, but around 10 years ago I started writing songs for JAM Project myself. To be able to make anime songs for Japan as a Brazilian, and for those songs to be influential, is something that truly makes me happy. This isn’t something I would ordinarily be able to do, yeah?
Anime songs surely flow through your veins.
I think so! Since forever, I’ve lived an anime song life. I also like ‘70s funk with a strong groove, and Brazil has always had samba and bossa nova around, which is ingrained into my being. So when it comes to the songs I make, there’s definitely the anime song element, and I can use the groove from funk music and samba-like rhythms naturally to spice it up. While I believe it is a strength of mine, I want to get even stronger. For JAM Project especially, I want to get to a place where I understand a lot of different types of music. I think the mixture of Brazilian music and anime songs could be really interesting.
From the Japanese point of view, JAM Project has already made an impression on the global market. On the Brazilian side, how do people see JAM Project?
Various members contributed towards a lot of anime theme songs, which has even penetrated Brazil and each member of JAM Project is a superstar—and when you gather those members together you get a dream team. The impression in Brazil is the same as in Japan.
JAM Project has come to Brazil twice. Both times they performed in front of audiences of more than 10,000 people. The first time was when Kageyama came to Brazil. JAM Project really expanded the scale at which we could bring anime song artists to Brazil in one fell swoop. This is the point of view in Brazil but, I really believe that JAM Project took the anisong scene to the next level. More than anything, JAM Project is beloved by fans all around the world. For me too, JAM Project equals anisong, and I think that impression is worldwide, and people all over the world may recognize that.
Next year will be JAM Project’s 20th anniversary. Ricardo, you joined the group in 2005 so…
Oh, next year will mark 15 years since I became a member of JAM Project. Not only will it be 15 years since I started making music with JAM Project, but also my life as a musician.
You carry the name of JAM Project with you even when working on other things, don’t you?
That’s right. I’m a member of JAM Project, so even when doing other projects I feel like I should make great music. Now I’m working with famous anisong singers in Brazil as a Brazilian dream team, Danger3, but I’m also considering the path of a solo singer. Though I’m constantly aware that I am always representing JAM Project as a member.
JAM Project was responsible for “Seijaku no Apostle”, the opening theme song of the second season of One Punch Man, which started airing in April. One Punch Man is also really popular all over the world, isn’t it?
Its popularity is truly amazing. Everyone sings along to the opening from the first season, THE HERO!! ~Ikareru Kobushi ni Honō wo Tsukero~. Particularly overseas. Of course in Brazil. YouTubers all over the world have covered it, too. With this kind of impact, it will gradually spread across the planet. It really is a popular piece.
You were in charge of creating the opening song for the second season of One Punch Man.
It started when Kageyama said to me, “Hey, I’m entering the song contest for One Punch Man, why don’t you submit a song, too?”. At that time, I was challenging myself by listening to songs that were more punk-inclined. I typically think about songwriting when I’m in the shower. When I’m there, I kind of enter my own world and it’s easier to become inspired for the melodies, for example. The melody at the base of Seijaku no Apostle came to me during a 10-minute shower. I got out and went straight to get my phone, humming the tune so I didn’t forget. I was really surprised when I found out that they’d selected my song—I felt like I was going to cry.
For a foreign person to be making songs for Japanese anime, maybe I’m the first one to have a hand in a song for such a major title. I was incredibly happy and could really feel the weight of the responsibility. “JAM Project will be responsible for the second season of One Punch Man. The songwriter will be Ricardo Cruz”. After Lantis announced the news, it was picked up in Brazil too, and before I knew it, a major website had published a story titled “For the first time, a Brazilian has been chosen to create a Japanese animation theme song”. Various news outlets picked it up after that. Up until now, this kind of thing had never happened. So, I’m ecstatic.
Listen to a preview of “Seijaku no Apostle” at 0:40 in the promotional video above.
You’ve carved a new chronicle into the history of anime songs as a foreign composer and musician working on Japanese anisongs.
Yeah. When Seijaku no Apostle goes on sale, I think my own career will start to change from there. I think Seijaku no Apostle will be for me what CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA was for Kageyama. And for a song that came to me while I was showering… that’s kind of amazing, huh [laughs].
When you were making “Seijaku no Apostle”, what kind of image did you have in your mind?
One Punch Man is a series that really feels like the kind of anime and tokusatsu that I longed for when I was a kid. I started production with that sentiment… I wanted to tell the story of One Punch Man with the melody—first, building the tension before the battle, and then the chorus comes in swinging like, “Bang!”. I made it with that kind of idea in mind. So it starts with a thrilling atmosphere and moves straight into the intense, grand chorus. One of my favorite parts is when it moves from the verse into the bridge, where Endoh sings “HERO!!” powerfully. Another part of this song that is interesting is in the chorus, where the music shifts all at once.
You also worked on the opening for “Super Robot Wars T” together with Kageyama.
I wrote the intro and the chorus, Kageyama wrote the verse and bridge, and Tread on the Tiger’s Tail became a song that we created together. Though it is the lead song for “Super Robot”, it feels like a JAM Project anime song kind of track, right? My favorite part is in the intro, where the vocals and music come together in a mysterious battle. I think that kind of mysterious intro has a new feeling to it. I love the “Super Robot” series myself, so I stuffed the track with elements that make you think “When you say Super Robot, this is it”. I really like it.
I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of exciting new things you will bring to JAM Project from hereon.
As a member of JAM Project, because it is me, I want to create something new, and bring different elements, stir things up a little within JAM Project. That, and I have one more dream.
What kind of dream is that?
Right now, Japanese anime theme songs are being played all around the world. Isn’t JAM Project a group that is supported by people all over the world? On top of that, anime and tokusatsu are made overseas. Brazil is the same. So someday, I’d like to be able to make anime and tokusatsu music from overseas too. I want for JAM Project to have a hand in making music for anime and tokusatsu made in Brazil, and to send out songs made overseas by JAM Project. In order to make that a reality, I have to bring more to the anime and tokusatsu world to Brazil. I would love to get people really excited about Japanese pop culture.
Seijaku no Apostle
Buy at CDJapan
Buy at CDJapan
Tread on the Tiger’s Tail /RESET/ DD~Dimension Driver~
Buy at CDJapan