Hanging out with Perfume on Google+ October 16, 2013Posted by ayasawada in Music.
Tags: Google+, Jpop, Perfume
I’ll be honest, when it comes to Perfume, I’ve had a pretty amazing run of luck. After the incredible experience of World Tour 2nd, and having also drawn tickets to go see the group’s Tokyo Dome concerts in December, I thought my Perfume luck was pretty much exhausted. It seems not so.
Pretty soon after the album was announced, rumours started to fly around the net that there would be a physical CD release of the album in European countries. Not long after Level 3 went on sale, it was confirmed that a UK release would be coming from Wrasse Records – a British company who since 2005 (according to Wikipedia) have had the rights to all world music from the catalogue of Universal Music (Perfume’s record label).
Excited at this prospect, and keen to support J-pop releases (especially Perfume) in the UK, I pre-ordered the UK version from their website. And then thought nothing more of it (after all, I was buying a second copy of a CD I already own!).
Imagine my surprise when, last week, I casually checked my email to find a message from a Wrasse representative saying, essentially, “we noticed you pre-ordered the album from us. Would you be interested in a live Google+ Hangout with Perfume?”. Would I?!
Thus, on an otherwise normal Tuesday in October, I gleefully skipped (read: ran out) of work and down to Universal Music’s London office in Kensington.
Now, there are several things to think about here. For one thing, what exactly is a Google+ Hangout? (it’s a video chat over Google+). And isn’t that the sort of thing one normally does from the comfort of one’s own home? (yes, unless the people who are calling you are 3 of the most famous people in Japan!). More importantly, what does one wear to video chat with one’s idols?? (a PTA T-shirt of course! I considered wearing the same thing I wore in Cologne, but a friend pointed out that the girls might think I hadn’t changed since July :P).
There was the further conundrum of what exactly we were going to ask them, pushed further when the Wrasse representative asked if we could nominate 3 questions for the record company to vet beforehand. Crowdsourcing came to the rescue, first from the group of friends that were accompanying me, then from the Facebook fan groups and Perfume UK Twitter. In 12 hours we had a grand list of 20 questions that I sleepily emailed off the morning of the Hangout.
And then we were there, huddled outside the glass doors under Universal’s globe, wondering if it was polite to go in.
I hadn’t known how many exactly were coming. Reading accounts of the Asian Google+ Hangouts, there seemed to be at least 10 in each country, so I fully expected a large group in London and the same joining from France and Germany, particularly since Wrasse had put up a last-minute Facebook competition to win places on the Hangout. In the end though, there were just seven of us, a number that probably reflected less on Perfume’s popularity and more the fact that this was a last-minute thing held at lunchtime in west London. If the World Tour 2nd London gig was anything to go by, a large proportion of Perfume’s most ardent fans live outside of the capital, making it difficult (not to mention expensive) to suddenly drop everything for an internet video chat.
Still, video chat or not, I was surprised at how nervous I was. I’d have thought I’d have been calmer, seeing as they weren’t actually there in the flesh. But as one of my friends pointed out, you’re still meeting Perfume. A-chan staring at you is still A-chan, even if it’s through a webcam.
The offices themselves were plush and intimidating, all electronic barriers, logos, screens and Darth Vader chairs. I’d never been in a record company’s offices before – it reminded me somewhat of The Player.
Eventually we were led upstairs, through corridors of pop art wallpaper and Taylor Swift posters until we arrived at a tiny glass room containing a fussball table, a couch and a massive TV. This was our home for the next 30 minutes. The Universal guys talked us through the proceedings (I got somewhat flustered when he told me that my hastily written 7am email questions had been translated and relayed directly to the girls so they could prepare answers!) and showed us where the toilets were and kindly gave us water. We arranged ourselves on the couch/stools/floor and did that funny thing of watching the Internet waiting for someone to call.
And then they called!
It was all a bit surreal. A button was clicked and suddenly A-chan, Nocchi and Kashiyuka appeared on our screen, wide-eyed and smiley as ever. The girls looked well, dressed in matching outfits as ever (at least as far as I could tell – they were all sitting on chairs with the camera from the shoulders up).
The picture quality was pretty good, but sadly the same couldn’t be said for the sound, which cut out intermittently throughout (something the Asian fans noticed during their Hangout). This made it somewhat difficult to hear the girls (and the translator) at times, but at least we managed to get on the Hangout. The Germans were trying constantly throughout the whole half hour, their avatar coming in and offline in the corner of our screen, then silenced :( The poor French didn’t even manage to connect in the first place!
Thus, the seven of us Brits jammily got the whole 30 minutes to ourselves, representing Europe as best we could (^_^;)
(There now follows an account of our conversation to the best of my memory, but it’s really hazy – I’ll plead the nervous card – so friends please correct me if I got anything wrong or missed anything out!)
It started with a “Perfume desu!”, of course, to which we replied: “Fish! Chips! Fish and Chips desu!”.That seemed to break the ice a bit and the girls relaxed quickly into questions about whether we were at the London concert and what our favourite memories were. We should totally have said “Sweat Girl”, but I think I said something about seeing their passion and earnest efforts.
Truth be told, I got a bit over excited, answering openly in my awful Japanese – apologies to my fan-mates if I dominated too much in proceedings! (>_<) The girls did say, no doubt for the sake of the others in the room, that I could speak in English, though they did ask me what my favourite Japanese word was. I have many, but on this occasion my mind went totally blank and all I could think of was フワフワ (fluffy), ペコペコ (hungry) and other onomatopoeia. Lessons in how to look like an idiot in front of you favourite pop group. (>_<)
We talked some more about that wonderful day in July and the songs they played. The girls said how happy they were to be able to get Seventh Heaven on the playlist. One of our group said it was her favourite song and that she’d cried when they started singing it.
At that point they noticed one of our friends at the back, who’d come in a T-shirt with a massive picture of A-chan on the front.” 恥ずかしい！！(embarrassing!)”, squealed A-chan, covering her face with her hands. “Why are our pictures so much smaller?” asked Nocchi and Kashiyuka. :P
I then asked whether they recognised our other friend, a certain tattooed leader in the Perfume UK fan community who (notoriously!) showed them some of his Perfume skin art at the London concert meet and greet. “The tattoo man!”, they exclaimed, saying how they still mention him a lot on Japanese TV and radio. “We know!,” we exclaimed, explaining how YouTube and the Internet does indeed allow one to hear Perfume Locks and any number of multimedia appearances.
We were then onto the proper questions, the girls – in true Japanese TV presenter style – holding up a typed up English print out of each question mounted on a piece of card (then delighting in pulling it away quickly to see if we were surprised at the sudden reappearance of their faces. Peek-a-boo with A-chan. I think I could die happy right now).
We started with an easy one: What were the biggest culture shocks from their visit to Europe?
A-chan talked about how the size of everything is really different, like the beds and the mirrors. “The mirrors are so big that when I looked into them all I could see was my bangs!”. They did say again how much they enjoyed the different foods, especially fish and chips. XD
Next: If you could cover any song by any artist, what would it be and why?
We didn’t really get a straight answer for this. But they did tease us by asking if we know The Cardigans. Of course we know The Cardigans.
I fell into the trap though and started singing Lovefool a cappella like an idiot. (>_<) We even acted out the Pepsi-bottle-opening kcschhh action from the start of the CM. The girls then turned the tables by asking us what song we would like them to cover. Our minds went blank, so A-chan started singing We Will Rock You a cappella. We settled on a Lovefool-We Will Rock You mash-up. Who wouldn’t pay to listen to that?
Now the hard question: Given the choice, would you rather have a short international career or a longer one, but only in Japan ?
This was a somewhat evil question that I was surprised they let us ask. The girls were a little hesitant (they’ve been PR-trained well!), but somewhat unsurprisingly (at least to me) Kashi was the first to answer. She definitely strikes me as the most open of the three and spoke eloquently of how she’d love for Perfume to be known internationally even if it’s burning bright for a short time. A-chan said they’ve been lucky in that their career has already been long and thin, and this international success is a real bonus, with the girls really appreciating the chance to travel. Nocchi copped out: “Both!”
Bonus question time, since we had the Hangout to ourselves: What’s your favourite song from Level 3? This was a good one, allowing us to talk about the whole point of this event (to publicise the album!), getting them to sing a bit of each of the songs a cappella (!) and allowing us to say what our favourites were too.
Kashiyuka: Clockwork. “It has a rhythm that sticks in your head and goes round and round.” (she did the action too!)
Nocchi: Dreamland. “It’s a song that really makes you feel.”
A-chan: Furikaeru to Iru yo. “I think it’s a beautiful, dreamy song.”
We said how much we loved all those songs and especially Party Maker.
And with that we had to say our goodbyes. But not before we snuck in a cheeky last question of “When are you coming back to London for fish and chips?”. The girls laughed and said they would love to come and see more of the sights, maybe on a bus tour. In fact, they’d love to go on a bus tour with all of us one day. “Really?”, we asked. “Really!” they said. I held out my little finger – “約束？” (pinky promise). “約束!” they said, and we and the girls all held out our pinkies to the camera as A-chan recited the yubikiri pinky promise.
指切りげんまん、(“yubi kiri genman”)
うそ ついたら (If (you) tell a lie…)
針 千本 飲ます (Drink 1000 needles)
指切った。(and cut my finger.)
I think that means we have a date :P
Massive thanks Ian Ashbridge and Angelo Carlos at Universal Music, and Alison at Wrasse Records for a surreal but very cool afternoon. We needed a beer to calm down afterwards!
Update: Here’s a group photo of us at the Hangout, as posted on Perfume’s Facebook page.