Back in late January, I was contacted by a Japanese Vocaloid producer by the name of “ddh“, who requested to interview me for an article on Nicovideo Blomaga Blog. He was curious to learn more about Vocaloid fans from overseas, and wanted to share his findings with other fans from the Japanese community.
The interview is very in depth and covers a lot of topics, so you’ll find the full English translated interview in the rest of the story. Keep in mind that the following was written by ddh himself. The original Japanese interview can be found here.
Image: Jrharbort waiting in a fast food place one day.
Hello, I am an electronic music fan in Japan. I have also been watching Vocaloid cultures. This is my first blog update after about a year. As you know, in this internet era, Japan-born Vocaloid culture went abroad due to many incidents. I think Japanese vocaloid fans are curious about how vocaloid is seen by foreign vocaloid fans. Now let me mention a few videos that you already might have seen.
Although the generations of people in these videos are biased on both ends, I think the reactions of general people who don’t know vocaloid are like that. So, what is a vocaloid fan’s reaction like then? This has been my concern for a long time, after I watched the videos. I wanted to talk about it thoroughly if I got the chance. Fortunately I had the chance to interview a foreign vocaloid fan, Jrharbort. So I would like to share the interview here with people who have the same interest. (caution: long article)
Who is Jrharbort?
A young man who lives and works in California, United States. He is an earnest vocaloid fan giving much of his free time to vocaloid things. He enjoys vocaloid not only personally, but also publicly: Being the head writer of “MIKUFAN.COM” and having his Youtube Channel “Jrharbort Productions”, where he works hard to promote “Vocalectro” (electronic vocaloid music) to vocaloid fans worldwide. His activity is like a vocaloid missionary toward the world. FYI, he sleeps about 4.5hours on average and is a “ミク廃(Miku hai)” (Miku addict)! Just hope 3.9 hours sleep.
■Jrharbort Productions(Youtube Channel): http://youtube.com/jrharbort/about
His Youtube Channel. He focuses on vocaloid songs with electronic style. He uploads the songs with the producer’s permission. He does neat work about introduction of the songs and captions. Sometimes he creates elaborate videos for the songs. As of late Jan 2014, the number of uploads on this channel is 201, monthly playback count is about 240,000. Many worldwide vocaloid fans are watching and commenting on this channel everyday.
He joined as the head writer. He updates vocaloid (mainly Miku) information (like goods, games, events, interviews, etc.) for foreign fans.
His twitter. Tweets updates of the above two sites, recommended vocaloid songs, communicates with song producers and fans, and so on.
How passionate, fully-spec.. I never feel I can do more than him.^^;
Date of interview: Late January 2014 (via Skype)
Interviewer: ddh (below: ddh)
Speaker: jrharbort (below: jr)
Location of California, and image of Jrharbort’s hometown.
ddh: Thank you for this interview and your time.
jr: No worries, I was happy to.
ddh: I think you’d like to start this right away. First, other than for Vocaloid, do you
have any other interests?
jr: I am greatly interested in science and technology. I’m constantly reading the
latest tech news, and I try to get as much hands-on experience as possible.
ddh: So science and technology. I am also interested in these. Any experience?
jr: Since I was young, I always enjoyed taking apart electronics to see how they
worked. I built my first computer when I was 11 years old.
ddh: That’s such a great age. By the way, I’m also a desktop user!
jr: Ah… But now I use a notebook, and not for travel purposes. It’s very hot for
most of the year where I live.
ddh: I see… Because desktops = more heat. ^^;
jr: Although I still use my experience to help friends and family.
ddh: That’s great. (Jrharbort being a technology enthusiast, it does seem fitting for
a Vocaloid fan.)
ddh: For another question, what genres of music did you listen to
before Vocaloid? And has Vocaloid changed your music preference?
jr: I didn’t listen to a lot of music before Vocaloid, but I still preferred electronic
style music. Particularly trance. I cannot recall the names of what I used to
listen to, since I listened casually. But now I pay close attention to the details of
ddh: I also enjoy electronic music from the older days. We’d get along great!
ddh: Please tell me when you encountered Vocaloid for the first time. In addition,
what was your first Vocaloid song?
jr: It was in mid-December of 2007. A friend from Singapore I met in an online gaming
community had started using an image of Hatsune Miku in his profile. He knew I
was curious about the character, and knew I was interested in electronic music.
Then he showed me the 3DPV for “Melody…” on the day it was uploaded to
3DPV for Melody… from Nicovideo.
jr: At first, I was fascinated with the fact that the vocals were synthesized. After watching this video, I started reading to learn more about Vocaloid, and I also started listening to more songs.
ddh: I can imagine your surprise when you learned the speech was synthesized.
jr: Yes. Very much so. Although it was just curiosity at first, I found that my emotional attachment towards Miku’s character increased over time.
ddh: Ahh. People like you are considered “ミク廃” (Miku Addict) among Vocaloid fans in Japan.
jr: What does that mean? “廃” seems like it has a negative meaning…
ddh: “廃” by itself certainly has a negative meaning. But proud Miku addicts call themselves “ミク廃” in a positive sense. (`･ω･´)
jr: I understand. ^^
ddh: Why do you think the Vocaloid culture attracts so many people?
jr: This is a difficult question to answer. I think the reason is different for each person. Some people might enjoy the music, other people like the videos, and others might like the artwork. Some might enjoy everything. Due to the large creative freedom in the community, there is a wide range of content for many people to enjoy.
ddh: That is definitely true. So, what are your thoughts of commercialized Vocaloid products? When Vocaloid culture started, many people liked the CGM (consumer generated media) potential, whereas later Vocaloid fans like popular commercial products. There is always controversy over this…
jr: I know how this feels. But commercialization also helps Vocaloid culture spread. It is a different experience to own something physical, like a figure, than it is to own something digital, like music. Commercialization has allowed this to become possible. In the end, anything popular will end up being commercialized, not just Vocaloid. Many of us may not be truly happy with it, but we just accept it.
ddh: This is true.
Jrharbort’s figure collection.
jr: Speaking of commercial products, I own all three Project Diva games for PSP, Project Diva F for PS3, and I also have F 2nd reserved!
ddh: So much enthusiasm. Do they have any trance styled songs in them?
jr: Unfortunately, no. But there’s been a few electronic songs.
ddh: It would be good for trance songs to be used in the future. Come to think of it, the song Project Diva Desu by UtataP, a former Trance producer, has been used before. Although the song itself is not trance.
jr: Have you ever met UtataP? I have a CD autographed by him.
ddh: Is that so? ((；ﾟДﾟ)) Amazing.
jr: It was possible since he lives in Los Angeles. We met at Anime Expo 2013.
ddh: Ahh, “Los Angeles” was written in Utata’s twitter profile, come to think of it.
jr: Personally, I wish Utata made more trance like he used to.
ddh: Same here.
CD autographed by UtataP (composer) and Wogura (illustrator).
ddh: Can you tell us in what ways you enjoy Vocaloid culture, and what you enjoy the most?
jr: I enjoy the music the most, of course. A great PV can also enhance the experience, but it is not necessary to enjoy the music itself. I also enjoy browsing Pixiv for new illustrations.
ddh: Which Vocaloids do you like, and why?
jr: Hatsune Miku and IA are my two favorites. Miku’s vocal style is very flexible and works well with a wide range of genres. But I personally think her voice sounds the most beautiful when used at a slower pace. Such as with Trance. IA also works quite well with electronic styled music, but is unfortunately used more often with pop and rock genres.
ddh: Can you give one example of a trance song where Miku’s vocals sound the most beautiful?
jr: A good example I think would be the first original song by Aerial Flow titled “Memory“.
ddh: Very calm voice that’s nicely melded with the music, very comfortable. Gives a spine-tingling and refreshing feeling.
jr: Of course, this is only one example. There are many other great songs from various producers.
ddh: Yeah. I think so.
“Memory” by Aerial Flow.
ddh: Additionally, do you have any examples to show IA’s compatibility with
jr: Let me see… “Dream” by PTaka was the first IA song I heard. It’s also how I met
PTaka for the first time. Later on, I also helped promote his first album.
ddh: That built a good relationship.
jr: Other songs I’ve enjoyed include “Not Found” by Kirin, and “Twilight Star” by
ddh: Her voice style does indeed seem well suited to electronic music. Out of the Vocaloid songs that have been uploaded to Nicovideo, can you comment on 5 favorites?
jr: Yes. Although all of the songs featured on my own channel are favorites of mine, I’ll try to list 5.
■Electric Angel (Aerial Flow Remix)
An amazing classic. Timeless and always enjoyable.
■Unfragment (Hiroyuki ODA 2012 Remix)
The original was great, but I love listening to the remix more often.
■Piece Of (Original Mix)
This was Blue Twinkle’s first Vocaloid song, and it still impresses me today.
■地平線 (by Tranceformer Yuno)
An earlier song by Tranceformer Yuno. the song and video are very relaxing.
■Cold Leaf (Aerial Flow Original)
Aerial Flow’s first song after returning from a 2 year retirement. The production quality amazed me, and I was happy to see him return.
ddh: All kinds of beautiful trance. (His faith in Aerial Flow is particularly high
jr: Well… I really do enjoy trance. ^^; It helps relieve stress, and it also helps me
concentrate on my work.
ddh: Definitely. Many people have mentioned a similar effect with trance. It is
because of the supersaw sound, I think.
jr: Of course, I do enjoy other styles. Like complextro, for example, which is a
sub-genre of electro-house. Soh Yoshioka allowed me to feature Tractrix, a song
in this style, on my channel.
YouTube version: http://youtu.be/TSRu6P8kjhM
ddh: The intro and exit, as well as the various sounds are fun to listen to.
jr: There’s also dubstep. This is Jinnosuke’s remix of VENUS by y0c1e. I was allowed to upload the song, and I also made my own video for it.
YouTube version: http://youtu.be/sGjbmtLO9iY
ddh: I see you also prefer the newer genres.
jr: Rin/Ginsuke’s dubstep is also quite good.
ddh: By the way, have you heard of DJs using Vocaloid in the United States?
jr: Such an opportunity in the U.S. is rare. But a friend of mine, who’s a Vocaloid
DJ, played some music at Anime Expo 2013. He’s the first Vocaloid DJ in the U.S.
that I’ve heard of.
ddh: What was the reaction from the audience?
jr: There is a video on his Facebook. [Link]
ddh: That was exciting for me to see.
Vocaloid DJ Revolution Boi performing at Anime Expo 2013.
ddh: You’ve mentioned you enjoyed illustrations from Pixiv, but can you tell me if
you have a favorite illustrator?
jr: Yes, I have many. Mariwai, Gumo, AO, Yuzuki Kei, and Chinese artists like TID and
Rella. These are just a few.
ddh: There are various styles of Vocaloid artworks, just like with Vocaloid songs.
Rella’s works seem to match delicate sounding songs very well, for example.
jr: I have purchased her art book. Out of the top 20 most popular Hatsune Miku
illustrations on Pixiv, 7 were created by Rella. She is very popular.
ddh: It appears so.
jr: In particular, I really enjoy the design of Ahe Miku.
ddh: Ahe Miku? ( ﾟД ﾟ)
jr: Annyui (bored) + Heiwa (creator’s name) = Ahe. It is the name for the design.
Description is here.
ddh: Ah, it is a design with an atmosphere of older fashion. (You are really familiar
■Yuzuki Kei： http://www.pixiv.net/member.php?id=24460
ddh: Thank you for telling us about the things you enjoy. Now I will ask you about
your activities. Through your actions of educational activities on MIKUFAN.COM
and YouTube, you seem to have obtained the support of many Vocaloid fans
around the world. Can you tell us about your prehistory?
jr: Sure. For the first few years I knew about Vocaloid, I actually hid my interest
from most friends and family. But in March 2011, I purchased the Hatsune Miku
Support version Nendoroid. It was a charity product that donated a portion of
the sales to aid Japan after the unfortunate earthquake disaster. Because of
such an important event happening in Japan, where Vocaloid was born, I chose
to stop hiding my interest. I also purchased charity music from Crypton’s music
ddh: Thank you for your warm feelings towards Japan.
Hatsune Miku Support version Nendoroid.
jr: Not long after buying the Nendoroid, the MIKUNOPOLIS concert event for Anime
Expo was announced, which I attended in July. Around the same time, I decided
to use my YouTube channel to start promoting electronic-style Vocaloid music.
Then I received a message from the owner of MIKUFAN.COM in October of the
same year, with the invitation to be a writer. There was a lot of luck for things to
lead where they are now.
ddh: I see, that is a great story. Although I think the support you’ve received is
reward for your own dedication.
jr: Personally, I feel the popularity of Vocaloid in the U.S. has been underestimated
by the Japanese. Did you know that 50% of music purchases on Karent come
from the U.S.?
ddh: Eh?! That’s so much. I’m really surprised. （;´Д｀） Vocaloid is really popular in
ddh: I also have some questions about your YouTube channel. Do the statistics show
the number of subscribers from each country?
jr: They do. This is the subscriber locations for the past 30 days: 277 from the U.S.,
59 from Japan, 46 from Germany, 36 from Taiwan, 33 from Brazil, 32 from the UK,
and 31 from Mexico. A total of 830 new subscribers from various countries. There
is a 52% ratio for men, and 48% for women.
ddh: Wow. There really are people from all over the world. That’s interesting.
jr: The most-viewed song for the past 30 days was Cold Leaf by Aerial Flow, with
12,000 views gained.
ddh: I also love that song. It’s good that it’s popular abroad. (I later noticed that
the nicovideo upload of the song only had 9,000 views… Aerial Flow is amazingly
ddh: When you upload Vocalectro music to this channel, you seem to always
negotiate with the author for permission. Is that a lot of work?
jr: That is correct. I have spoken with many creators. But as news of my activities
spread, it has become easier to request permission. Some even re-render higher
quality videos for my channel. I hope to earn enough trust and reputation from
producers to where they will approach me with their own request, rather than
the other way around.
ddh: I see. It seems like dedication and a considerable amount of time is needed.
Do you hope to earn money from this activity at some point? Such as through
advertising on YouTube?
jr: I do not. I do it completely voluntarily. As written in my channel description, I
want to be in a positive relationship with producers, and provide music for
Vocaloid fans from around the world to enjoy.
jr: I’ve experienced happiness from my activities without earning money from it. I’d
like to share a story, as an example.
ddh: Sure, please do.
jr: During the spring of 2013, Tranceformer Yuno, a producer I had promoted a year
prior, was invited to participate in a compilation album that would be sold at the
upcoming Spring M3 and VOC@LOID M@STER events. I spoke to him about buying
a copy for myself, but I was surprised a few weeks later. I received a copy of the
album from Yuno in the mail, as a gift.
jr: He included a written message, where he said that if I had not found him at the
time I did, then he would likely not be composing music today. It was a very
jr: While this alone would have been enough, the story goes further. He created a
song titled “Arigato” to express his gratitude towards his listeners, and he also
dedicated a part of it towards me. The lyrics of the song at 4:29 are in reference
to the letter he sent me. It still makes me cry today.
ddh: !! (Oooh, goose-bumps. Yuno is so stylish, and handsome-minded.)
jr: And a few weeks ago on January 10th, his first solo album “Trajectory” was
released on Beatport. It managed to reach 2nd place in the Trance rankings. I
was very happy for his success.
ddh: He is undoubtedly the real deal. And I think this result is partly derived from
your continued promotion since you found Yuno.
jr: This is just one of many cases, and I’m thankful to see the positive responses
from the producers. This makes me happy enough, and I do not wish to receive
money from what I do. If someone wanted to donate something, I guess that
would be okay. But I will never ask for money.
ddh: I think that way is good, too. Come to think of it, I didn’t know such a nice
story was behind a song I was casually listening to. Impressive.(ﾟ*´Д⊂”
ddh: For the next question, where do you see the Vocaloid culture heading for?
And how will you be involved?
jr: I’ve been watching the Vocaloid community since 2007, and it continues to grow
in unpredictable ways. I am unsure where it will lead in the future, but I plan to
stay with the community for as long as it’s around.
4chan and Vocaloid culture mixed together. Meme story: [Link]
ddh: I see. Do you have any other messages about Vocaloid and fans?
jr: Yes. I understand that there is often conflict between Western fans reprinting
videos, and Japanese producers. This is why I focus my channel on working
directly with Vocaloid Producers, and introduce content to fans overseas with
permission. I hope to see more producers acknowledge overseas fans and make
their content more globally accessible. This would make many fans more happy, I
ddh: Thank you for taking your time to respond to the interview. I will happily look
forward to your activities with Vocaloid fans in the future.
jr: Thank you for the offer! I was happy to reply.
Though this interview with Jrharbort, I can see a real image of what a foreign vocaloid fan (also with the same music taste as me) is like, and get to know many interesting things. But what impressed me most is the great passion of people towards their interests and how vocaloid can work as a medium to link their passion and motivate the people. This must be what is said so often, but this time I can feel it as hands-on experience, and I’m really glad to know the passion can come together without country borders. Passion and 39(thankfulness) are what’s to be valued, aren’t they? (；´Д｀)
Thank you very much to those who kindly read the long interview up until this point.