Among the various anisong artists that performed at Anime NYC 2019 convention at the Javits Center, we were lucky enough to be graced by the presence of ZAQ, a singer with a prolific body of work in not only anime, but also video game themes! Since her debut in 2012, she has been featured in series such as Shokugeki no Soma, Trinity Seven, Classroom of the Elite, High School DxD New and many more.
In this interview, we discuss ZAQ’s feelings about performing abroad for the first time, her humble beginnings and advice to the newer generation, and how her multifaceted approach towards music contributes to her own unique identity.
This is your first time performing in New York, what is currently going through your mind? And what impression did you have of New York before arriving?
Since I was a child, New York was this sort of “dream city” you see it in movies, you hear songs about it, everybody wants to come here. To actually be able to come here and perform as a professional singer is really a dream come true. Being able to first-hand see all the Japanese singers, voice actors, and anime being accepted by an enormous amount of fans is crazy! I was really happy to see how my music was loved by the fans as well, so much that it teared me up last night [laughs].
You have obviously been composing and singing anisong for some time now, and we actually included your song BRAVER in our “Top 20 best opening and ending anime theme song“, the opening song for the food anime Shokugeki no Soma. On that note, what would you say is your favorite food to eat in America? Contrary, what Japanese food would you recommend to our international readers out there?
As for the food in America, meat is what comes to my mind and everything is so largely portioned! I had pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, the typical “American food” and it was great. My impression is that with the baked goods, they’re very doughy and have lots of flour, so I ate a lot of that—bread type of food like pizza.
When I went to Starbucks, I was surprised to see how a lot of products were organic and had lots of protein. I didn’t know that American people were so health-oriented which caught me by surprise.
For the readers out there, my recommendations for Japanese food would be the local specialties of Kyoto. Particularly “Kyo-yasai” which is organic vegetables from Kyoto. My other recommendation would be “yuba” which is tofu skin. The food in Kyoto is not boldly flavored, but rather gentle, soft and mellow, we call it “obanzai” (cuisine where majority of the ingredients are organically from Kyoto). Typically, it contains various vegetables with meat that has some slight flavoring so you can taste the flavor of the natural ingredients.
That sounds delicious, we will make sure to try that the next time we’re in Kyoto! So about your anisong career, in an earlier interview, you mentioned how anisong fit you the most after trying out different musical genres. What is the appeal of anisong that can’t be found anywhere else?
In the past, I’ve been listening and composing music with a direction of hip hop, soul, funk, Jpop, classical music, and more. As such, my spectrum of music genres is quite wide.
But when it comes to the anisong genre, it doesn’t really have any rules or theories on what it’s supposed to sound like. This means there’s a lot of room for my creativity to run wild, and that’s why I feel that anisong is my genre.
It’s kind of chaotic but because I have so many drawers to pull from so to say, I can experiment with my creative process like a laboratory to see what works and what doesn’t.
With the anisong genre being borderless, there’s a lot of potential in it, that’s why I want to explore more in this field.
We’ve been told voice actress and singer Minori Chihara (Suzumiya Haruhi series, Violet Evergarden) is one of the reasons you wanted to become a singer, we also noticed that you’re both in the same label, Lantis. What about her solidified the idea for you wanting to become a singer yourself? Did you aim for Lantis due to her influence?
The story behind it is actually quite heavy. Back when I first encountered Chihara-san’s music, I was in college and at that time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I was feeling really down. One day while I was watching TV I heard Chihara-san’s voice for the first time, this is when I discovered what anisong was. Naturally, my first anisong concert I attended became Chihara-san’s concert.
I have a really deep gratitude for her giving me an opportunity to change my life. I’m very thankful for her which is why I wanted to follow her footsteps. I love Chihara-san’s voice, and her music is also amazing seeing how she’s able to unite the audience in the venue is just incredible. All of this led me to my career path. I also decided to aim for Lantis because I wanted to be where she is at.
If you could pick any song that you’ve created or participated in in the past, which song would represent yourself the best? Why?
I’d say it would be NO RULE MY RULE from my second album. I fell in love with anisong because there are no rules in terms of the music, and this song really explains my determination for what I want to do through my music. This song particularly simply straightforwardly explains what I want to do with my music, so it’s kind of like my introductory song, I would say.
When you first decided that you wanted to become a singer, it is said that you failed all your auditions. How did you find the motivation to keep pushing for success despite this, and what tips do you have for younger aspiring musicians who dream of making it in the industry?
When I was auditioning for a lot of things, I had six different personas and I would pick the one that was suitable for the audition. For example, one of these personas was a rapper. There were so many different things that I did because I was so desperate, like promoting myself online by myself. I did everything I could possibly do.
Even though my desire to become a singer was strong, I would say that my voice is fairly normal and doesn’t stand out. I don’t have a cute or a cool voice, but rather, my voice is normal as a singer. Despite that, I did have the utmost confidence in my music that I composed, the melodies and the lyrics. I began creating my own music at the age of 22.
For any young aspiring musician out there who are experiencing what I did, I would say, just believing in oneself is key. As long as you continue doing it and trust in yourself, one day, somebody will see what you are doing. But it is important to also have fun during the journey because if you radiate negative emotions, it’s going to show in your music, and that won’t inspire the listeners. Simply enjoy what you’re doing and keep on having fun!
Do you have any influences from overseas? If so, what features did you implement into your music when drawing inspiration from them?
I would say I have very strong roots in hip-hop, and sound-wise, I constantly draw from that when I create music. But I love all kinds of American music from surf, funk, country, jazz, and so on. I just really enjoy listening to any kind of American music.
However, at the base of everything, I think that my foundation still lies within Jpop, like the typical melodies you’d expect of Jpop. With that foundation, I layer an American influence on top of it and shift it all towards an anime “2D” direction.
Please leave a message to our readers overseas and please let us know your future plans!
I’m going to continue creating my own music, and I hope that the fans will continue to support me. I will keep on writing songs for others that’s full of variety and different genres, so I hope that the fans overseas will continue to enjoy it! As for my other performances, I have a solo performance in Japan in December this year, but I really hope to perform overseas again, as I said at the panel, I would love to perform in Los Angeles, but most importantly, I’m interested in performing in big cities!
We want to thank ZAQ for spending her time to chat with us and also for her amazing performance at Anime NYC. We look forward to seeing more of her overseas activities.
Against The Abyss