Anisong concerts are already pretty rare outside of Japan; anime instrumental concerts are even rarer. Given their scarcity, nearly any opportunity to experience one becomes a must-see and apparently, at least 500 people shared my sentiment. In a sold-out concert which filled the performance venue beyond maximum capacity, YouTube pianists Animenz, TehIshter and various other artists provided the audience with two solid hours of anime music at an event, aptly titled ‘Attack on Piano.’
After the concert, I had the honour of conducting an interview with the two pianists regarding their concert experience and music preferences. For the many people who so badly wanted to attend ‘Attack on Piano’ but found Singapore too out of the way, or simply weren’t quick enough in securing tickets, we bring you this interview:
Q: Is this the first time you guys are doing a concert of this scale?
TehIshter (TI): It was. It was also the first time we both have met each other in real life. Before this we just talked through channels like Skype, Facebook and Youtube.
Q: How was the experience?
Animenz (ANZ): The experience was very different from those I’ve had before. When I was younger, I used to perform at piano recitals. But the crowds were much smaller, usually between 40 and 100. The number of people at ‘Attack on Piano’ blew my mind. I never expected that many people to come. When I went to the stage and had a look at the crowd for the first time, I couldn’t believe what I saw. The sheer mass of people, cheering and applauding, it was almost an ecstatic feeling.
Q: Was there any moment during the concert you particularly enjoyed? Besides the standing ovation at the end, of course.
TI: I really had fun with the ‘Jiyuu no Tsubasa’ duet during the encore. But other than that, I think it was when we met the fans after the concert. We were literally mobbed by hundreds of people, but I was touched by the support we had. I had some people coming to me asking to sign a whole printed book filled with all of my sheet music transcriptions. Others actually flew in from Australia, Hong Kong, Germany, UK, China, and other countries just to see us perform. To see that kind of response… it was absolutely overwhelming.
Q: Both of you had some new pieces for this concert which are not on your YouTube channels. What made you choose those pieces in particular?
TI: When we were making the list of songs to play, the first consideration was how to make the audience relate to the music. It was our first concert, so we had no idea how the audience would respond. Therefore, we decided to include our favorites, but a few of the more popular songs as well. We had to cut some of the songs due to time constraints, but I think, overall, the song choices were really good.
ANZ: Also, we kept in touch with a few ‘insiders’ of the Singapore anime community, to find out which anime are especially popular in Singapore. Looks like Kuroshitsuji and Ouran High School Host Club still have a huge following, so we decided to perform some of those songs.
We did have a really hard time choosing the songs though, because there were so many songs we both liked and wanted to perform. It was really hard to narrow down to ‘only’ 40 songs. In fact, I changed four songs in my line-up just 24 hours before the concert, because I still wasn’t satisfied with the final line-up.
TI: Agree to the point regarding Kuroshitsuji and Ouran. The sound of the fangirls shouting in the audience still resonates in my ears.
Q: This brings me very nicely to my next question. Do you ever feel like the preferences of fans may be a little bit of a limitation to your work, because you have to consider things like popularity?
ANZ: Well, since we are performing live in front of a huge crowd, I thought it was strategically better to play the songs the audience can easily relate to. We were planning to perform a “best of anime songs” on the piano. For my personal transcriptions though, I usually only work on the anime songs I really like. This sounds a little egoistical, but I can’t transcribe songs of anime I don’t like, because it lacks true passion and inspiration. If you browse through my channel, you’ll see there are many videos I made of anime which are really unknown or have a very small following, such as AKB0048. I loved the anime and I transcribed all Openings and Endings songs and two Insert songs, and I am very proud of them.
TI: As Animenz said, in terms of a first concert, we had to think of pleasing the audience so as to make an impact; the point of a live performance is to entertain the audience. But for YouTube recordings, I’m also with Animenz in the case of us playing for the love of the music, and not for the popularity. Of course, we’re also human and like any other musician, we would like to achieve fame. But it’s not the priority. If one makes fame the priority, then one loses track of the passion involved with the music. Animenz and I arrange, transcribe and practice these pieces for hours and hours in isolation because we love the process and creativity involved in thinking of new musical ideas and new arrangement techniques, not because we want to be rich and famous. That’s why we have uploaded songs which are not as popular, and definitely will continue do so in the future.
Q: In terms of pieces, do you have any preferences as to whether you enjoy playing OP/ED songs or OST pieces more?
ANZ: That’s really hard to say. Usually I prefer to transcribe the opening songs, because they are more upbeat and more fitting with my “energetic style”. However, if I hear a really good soundtrack in an anime series I am following, I’ll transcribe the soundtrack too. In the most case, the soundtrack is not the full version, so I’ll take the liberty to extend it myself, the results can be quite interesting.
Q: Was there one particular piece for the both of you that made you decide that you’re going to start making transcriptions? Or was it just a gradual process?
TI: For me, I actually wanted to start transcriptions because I have discovered Animenz’s channel. If not for that, I would have just been like any other YouTube musician, just improvising and recording on the piano. But now, I’m really glad I was introduced to making sheet music. It gives our fans more reason to keep in touch with us as we provide them content that will help them improve their own technique as well as discover new ways of playing.
ANZ: For me, it all started when I watched Chobits and I heard the piece ‘Yasashisa no Shouzou’, which is a beautiful piece. I really wanted to play that piece back then, and I was really glad I found the sheet on Josh’s anime sheets. That was when I decided to always try to include the sheets of what I play in my videos, so other people can enjoy the piece the same way as I do.
Q: Do you guys have any composer, singer or soundtrack which you are particularly fond of?
TI: GATCHAMAN CROWDS OST! Iwasaki Taku is such a genius.
ANZ: Oh that’s a really hard question. I have way too many favorite composers to name one. If I were to really name a few, it’s of course the grandfather of all anime music composers: Joe Hisaishi. Then Yuki Kajiura, and Michiru Oshima. Recently, I am enjoying Iwasaki Taku’s and Hiroyuki Sawano’s works more and more.
Q: Now for what is probably the question everyone is asking: will we be able to look forward to more live performances in the future?
ANZ: Did you say something?