It’s been roughly two years since ACME came into our lives. What better way to celebrate than an intimate get-together to learn more about our favorite inter-dimensional street punks? Around the time of their show at Long Beach’s Toxic Toast Theatre on July 2, 2019, the band was generous enough to chop it up with our reporter Nicholas Dangelo. Special thanks go to the talented Rubab of FAKE STAR, USA for providing translation services. Of course, only the hottest questions were asked, like the eternal debate… Rei or Asuka?
What inspired the visuals and PV for Mononoke Requiem? It reminded me of fail-compilation videos on YouTube. Who decided what clips you would use for the video?
Chisa: We had a director for the music video for “Mononoke Requiem.” We worked with them on deciding what we would use and talked about what the video would end up like. The concept of the video was Mononoke: a monster and all the stuff of people doing things they shouldn’t be doing—trying to express the ‘monster inside’ trying to come out, so the video came out from that discussion. Of course, the parts of the video where we’re just performing was the typical way we would do a music video. For the other parts with images or actors hired to do specific scenes for the video, we really wanted to use that to express the ‘monsters’ inside of us that want to do something we shouldn’t be doing. We felt the contrast between the parts where we’re performing, but also these video clips of the ‘fail’ stuff is exactly the contrast we were going for.
Going off the YouTube theme, do you guys have a favorite YouTube video by chance?
Chisa: I like to watch live videos, I guess. We don’t really like to watch anything. Well, for work—we’ll watch YouTube for work [like] how to use specific software. [I like] to watch the ones that are easiest to understand. Then—not about music, but for coming to America—[I] spent a lot of time watching tutorials on how to file your US VISA online. It’s very complicated so [I] spent a lot of time researching how exactly you fill the paperwork to get your interview.
Since Mononoke Requiem has a heavier vibe than your other songs, what inspired you to go with a heavier? Was there a certain theme you were going for?
Chisa: We have a lot of ballads in our tracks and a lot of people said they wanted us to make more heavy songs, especially overseas fans. Coming to America really soon, [I] was the one who made the tracks and was like, ‘I wanna make the hardest song we’ve ever had’—like ever—so I came up with the hardest, most metal thing I could come up with. That was the end result and I hope people are happy with it.
When you guys are creating an album, do you have a certain process? Do you start with a general idea for what you want the album to turn out to do or do you make different singles and go with the flow?
Chisa: ACME only has one full album out at this time so for that album we put out all-new songs—none of those were pre-released tracks or anything. For the next album, we have a lot of singles out at the moment, but I think we might also go into making all-new tracks. Especially since the more we perform, we get to see what the reaction to our different songs are and that’ll probably influence what we end up putting into the album.
As for our process—when we decide our upcoming singles and what we’re going to release for that, we all bring a bunch of different tracks that we’ve made. We all come together and have a little party/group meeting, or if we’re all busy we’ll just do it online. But, we’ll all decide together first what the lead track is going to be and move into recording from there. Based on what the lead track is, that’s how we decide what the coupling tracks are going to be.
When you guys perform, it seems like you all are having so much fun onstage. Does that playfulness carry into the recording session or do you guys sit down and take your recording sessions much more seriously?
Chisa: (laughs) Definitely not serious—we have fun while we’re recording. We have a lot of fun when we’re recording. We’ll order bento and then decide what we’re going to eat today, order a bunch of stuff, and eat while we’re recording and have fun with that. We’ll also fuck around a lot when we’re recording like, whoever isn’t the vocalist will try to sing something and we’ll see what the fuck happens with that. We’ll mess around a lot and it’s pretty much the same as when we perform on stage.
Also, we have a really busy schedule so we sometimes have interviewers come to our recording studio and they’ll meet us there and do interviews while we’re all in one place. So, sometimes if there’s a part where we’re recording a background chorus or something we’re like, “hey, you want to record? Like, pop in and sing something?” We’ll put them in the background vocals and stuff so you know we have a lot of fun with it.”
Hal: (to Nicholas Dangelo) next time we’re in LA to record, you should come. (group laughs)
Before you guys go onstage, do you have any pre-show rituals you perform? Like, some artists take shots before, some people do exercises, etc.
Chisa: Alcohol. (laughing)
Rikito: [I have] stretches that [I do].
Shogo: Brush my teeth (group laughs)
After you’re done with the show, what’s your most enjoyable way to unwind and relax?
Chisa: Because I’m a vocalist, I can’t drink before I perform like these guys; it’s not as easy for me so I’ll hold it until we’re done with the show and I’ll go drinking with them after.
When performing in front of American audiences, do you notice a big difference between them and your Japanese audiences? Are they similar?
Chisa: It’s way different
Chisa: The biggest difference is, in Japan, they only make noise when they feel like they’re supposed to so we have to put in a lot of effort to get them to react to us or scream or make any noise. We have to be the ones to initiate.
Coming here to America, we can feel that the audience is already having fun because it doesn’t take much to get them to make some noise. We can tell they’re having a good time. It’s really easy to see that [they’re having a good time] and we’re really happy that we have that reaction.
Americans are loud.
Chisa: (laughing) But also, if it’s boring they’ll just leave, sooo…
Getting into something a little less fun, have you guys ever had a bad show experience? If so, what/did you learn anything from the experience?
Chisa: We have a lot. Because we’re performing so much, there’s a lot of times that’s happened. There’s been times I hit a ballad and sound doesn’t even come out.
Rikito: Earlier, I said I drink before concerts—there’s been times where I drank so much I don’t remember the concert (group laughter).
Shogo: A lot of [mine] are also alcohol-related. There’ve been times where [I] drank so much that [I] had to pee during the show so they had to stop the show, and then [I go and pee]. There was one time [I] could tell—[I’m] about to come back on the track—and [I] would just come racing in with the guitar on stage right when [my] part was supposed to start.
Chisa: This was a long, long time ago (not ACME), but I’ve done a show before where there was one fan in the audience–I was the headliner. That person had a great time, though.
While you guys are kicking ass out there, is there anything you remember as a life lesson from when you were first becoming musicians? What was the most important thing you learned through the process of becoming more popular?
Chisa: I don’t consider ourselves super successful, but I think that’s important to keep in mind. It’s better if you feel like you’re not successful while you’re doing it because that limits your potential to grow. Don’t grow a big head and think you’re amazing. Coming to America, nobody knows who we are. Knowing that is a really good motivator to do better so more people know us. I think that’s one really important lesson to know: there’s always going to be more potential above you compared to where you are now.
Do you guys feel Jrock has the potential to be as popular as Kpop in the west? If so, why do you feel that way?
Chisa: That’s the Japanese government’s fault. They don’t care about Jrock. They don’t care about promoting pop culture like Korea. The reason it’s not popular is because of the Japanese government. They don’t do anything to support us so we have to work harder. We’ll work our hardest to make it as popular as Kpop someday.
Hal, you mentioned in our comment video how you felt the visual kei scene was declining—would you elaborate on that and tell us some reasons why you feel that way?
Hal: You work as hard as you can, but the fans don’t increase. The fanbase is not growing. We get older but the fans get older too, so they get old with us. There’s less and less fans and they’re getting older and older. For live houses in general, the tickets are expensive. It’s really expensive to perform live. When I was in school, it was great. You could go to concerts which is so much fun. Nowadays, kids can just be like poof and listen to what they want at any time. I think that has a lot to do with it. The CD shops are disappearing, the live houses are closing down, (and) visual kei is running out of places to go because it’s just so expensive to do a visual kei band in general. The makeup artist costs money and the fans don’t want to spend the money to go to concerts so we’re just seeing less and less attendance.
[It was at this point that we felt it appropriate to lighten the mood with some shamelessly weeb-centric questions]
Chisa, Which JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Joestar is your favorite?
Chisa: (pondering) Jotaro.
Who would you prefer, Rei or Asuka?
Chisa: (in English) Nice question!
Rikito: The one with the big boobs.
Chisa: For the outside, I like Asuka, but on the inside she’d be a pain in the ass.
Shogo: Rei seems troublesome, so [I’d] prefer Asuka.
Hal: I like girls who talk a lot.
Okay, for the last question… if someone was to write a book about y’all, what would you want the last sentence to be?
Hal: “… and then they saved the world! -Fin- ” (group laughter)