August 8, 2022

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Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Talks ‘GUM GUM GIRL’ & New Label

On behalf of Billboard Japan, music journalist Fukuryu caught up with Kyary, who shared her thoughts on the launch of her new label, her latest single and video, how the pandemic has affected her this past year and more in this latest interview.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed how we live in 2020. How did it affect your daily life?

I had important concerts lined up outside of Japan in 2020 and it was going to be a pivotal year for me. I was set to appear in a music festival in Mexico and Coachella in the U.S. Not only me, but my team and sound crew were like, “Being able to work at Coachella is like a dream come true,” and we were so happy about it.

But the pandemic hit the U.S. hard and the festival was cancelled, which was a blow at first. I didn’t expect to not be able to perform live for so long. Last Halloween season, I did a virtual concert called The Family 10.31. I originally didn’t want to perform onstage unless it was live in front of an audience, but realized that livestreams enabled people living outside of Japan to see me in real time and we can connect online even though I can’t actually travel overseas at the moment.

2021 is your tenth year in music. How does that feel?

I didn’t expect to last ten years when I first made my debut. I’m not the type to set goals, so I really owe everything to my fans and my team.

You launched your own label, KRK LAB. What do you envision doing with it?

The name is a shortened form of “K Reversible K.” My real name starts with “K” too, so the “K” in Kyary and the “K” in my name are both me. That’s the meaning behind KRK LAB. 

I’ve mainly focused on music these past ten years, but recently ventured into producing perfume and doing voice acting, among other things. It feels like a deep part of my brain that I hadn’t been using has been activated. So I founded the label to do things I want to do from my eleventh year.

So that experimental aspect, you branching out from music, is what the “lab” in the label’s name means?

Right. Until now I was careful not to become a “jack of all trades.” Music is absolutely my axis, so I cherished it and didn’t collaborate much with other genres. But with the launch of my new label, I’m interested in experimenting with various things in a more challenging way.

You released your first single, “GUM GUM GIRL,” off the new label on Jan. 29. Tell us a bit about it.

First off, it was easy to sing. Mr. Nakata’s melodies and lyrics tend to be difficult and even I have trouble singing them at karaoke sometimes, but this one might be suited for karaoke. We actually recorded it twice and changed the lyrics a bit the second time around. We usually don’t re-record anything, so it’s rare. But thinking back on it now, the one we re-recorded leaves more of an impression.

It was featured as the commercial song for Nintendo Switch’s Ninjala video game.

Yes, we visited the company that created Ninjala and played it with the developers. When you beat an enemy in Ninjala, “IPPON” is the call you hear, so I think that’s where the “IPPON IPPON” in the song comes from.

I already have a song called “Ninjya Re Bang Bang” that evokes ninja imagery, so I think Mr. Nakata wanted to change up the mood. And because I’d already done a ninja-themed music video before, I really didn’t want to throw shuriken knives for this one. So we went with a kind of near-future ninja girl.

The music video for “Gum Gum Girl” is basically a full-blown battle movie. The action scenes must have been tough to shoot.

We collaborated with Mr. Kenji Tanigaki, who directed the action scenes in the Rurouni Kenshin movies, for the shooting of the music video. Leading up to the actual take, I trained on my own after he coached us. The impact of the scenes were expressed through the balance between the photography and me and the person who played my foe, and it felt like it wasn’t really me when I saw the completed clip. The difference between dancing was how you have to sort of kneel and keep a low posture in order to make it look credible.

Why did you decide on this action theme for the video?

I like a movie called Kingsman: The Secret Service, and when I spoke to Mr. Jun Tamukai, who shot my video, for the first time in a while, it turned out that he likes it, too. So he was the one who suggested that it might be fun to shoot me doing a hard-core fist fight for the “Gum Gum Girl” music video. I’m being clobbered in this video, which is new. In my previous visuals, I would have been the all-out powerful heroine, but this time my foe was really tough.

Mr. Nakata’s lyrics are distinctive, like always.

There’s a line that goes, “Hora ki wo neruneruneruneru hodoni,” and another rhyming line that goes, “Hora ki wo neruneruneruneru hold on me.” I hope that people who don’t speak Japanese can enjoy such details, too.

What do you envision doing in the next ten years?

Whenever artists try something new, there will be people who criticize them. For example, “Harajuku girl” was my image when I first made my debut, but what I’m wearing today is probably a lot more mature than that. People will write stuff like, “Are you toning down?” or “Are you changing styles?” online just for that.
But there are ways of expression that I’m interested in at a given moment. I used to let those critical voices get to me and couldn’t try new things, but from now on, I’m going to venture into new areas and experiment through KRK LAB.

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