Interview: Babymetal – 'I guess the British audience accepted us for being refreshing and interesting'
The Japanese pop/metal phenomenon talk about their calling by the prophecy of the God of Metal
'We were brought together by the prophecy of the Fox God who is the God of Metal. Henry Northmore gets to grips with Japanese pop / metal phenomenon, who are touring the UK with Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Nothing about Babymetal makes sense. A teenage trio of ultra-cute Japanese school girls (Su-Metal, Yuimetal and Moametal) who sing bubblegum pop vocals while performing choreographed dance moves over brutal death metal. It's ridiculous and stupid. But there's something so weird and incongruous about the bizarre juxtaposition of J-pop and thundering metal riffs that caught the imagination. The video for 'Gimmie Chocolate!!' went viral in 2014, and has now been viewed over 60 million times on YouTube, and as a result Babymetal went global.
It could have been cheap novelty, but the music stayed true to the genre, reminding headbangers that metal can be fun. 'I think it's not only Babymetal's sound but also the fact that we dance to metal that represents a new way of expressing this genre of music,' explains Moametal. 'I guess the British audience accepted us for being refreshing and interesting.'
To truly understand Babymetal you also need to understand the concept of Japanese idol bands. A quintessentially Japanese phenomenon, these are huge multimember manufactured pop acts – the nearest equivalent in the UK would be The Spice Girls or S Club 7, but on a much larger scale. The most successful, AKB48, currently hold the Guinness World Record for Largest Pop Group with over 130 members who perform nightly at their own theatre, with sales of over $200 million in their home country. They are sold as accessible, super sweet, cute (or 'kawaii') role models who usually sing upbeat pop, as well as modelling and acting across multiple platforms. However Babymetal broke the mould, adding grinding guitars and pounding blast beats to the formula.
Existing within their own mythological world, their history is a wonderful mix of fact and fiction. 'The three of us were brought together by the prophecy of the Fox God who is the God of Metal,' explains Yuimetal. 'Our actions are preordained by the Fox God's prophecy.'
'We have never met the Fox God in person but he assigns us inconceivable challenges, so he is crucial for the progress and growth of Babymetal,' adds lead singer Su-Metal.
In reality all three singers were originally members of idol group Sakura Gakuin (which translates as 'Cherry Blossom Academy') and didn't even really know what metal was before being asked to form the band. They originally sang live over backing tracks, but as their popularity grew, executive producer and mastermind Kei 'Kobametal' Kobayashi assembled the Kami Band, who dress in white robes and corpse paint, adding extra heft and weight to their live shows.
Metal fans have embraced the madness and Babymetal have appeared on the cover of Metal Hammer, collaborated with DragonForce and Rob Halford (Judas Priest), played Reading and Leeds, Sonisphere and Download, and were the first Japanese act to headline Wembley Arena in London. In Japan they are beyond huge, selling out two nights at the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome and starring in their own upcoming animated series.
Now Babymetal are making their Scottish debut supporting funk rock veterans The Red Hot Chili Peppers on their UK arena tour. 'We were able to see their show for the first time at Fuji Rock Festival in the end of July in Japan this year,' adds Yuimetal. 'Their music and live performance was so awesome!! I'm looking forward to learn[ing] a lot from them when touring with them.'
Babymetal support The Red Hot Chili Peppers at SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Thu 8 Dec.