Today we feature our second guest column from BobIsRandom who, when not hanging out on the Homicidols’ Discord server, is busy bugging idol producers for interviews that we are happy to publish.
It’s an amazing time we live in. I can be a fan of creative people working locally thousands of miles away, but I can even interact with them, without knowing their language, and all without leaving the house. For instance, I’ve recently become a fan of REBEL REBEL. Being the fanboy that I am, and wishing there were more fans, I recently decided to write and submit an article about REBEL REBEL here on Homicidols. Whether that article succeeded in gaining REBEL REBEL any more fans, I have no idea, but it did hatch a crazy idea in my head. It just so happened that, even before the article was written, the producer of REBEL REBEL had followed me on Twitter (likely because the majority of my scant few tweets are about REBEL REBEL), and the crazy idea in my head was that perhaps this article could afford me an opportunity: maybe I could leverage this article and DM him asking for an interview?
Well, I shot for the moon and low-and-behold he agreed. And the reason I’m starting the article this way is to stress the point that I am just a fan and not a professional interviewer or article writer. I am not part of the Homicidols team. So I will do my best here, but I do apologize if this all falls short of expectations. Though Hirayasu-san was very accommodating and affable, which helped. Thank you in advance, Hirayasu-san, for agreeing to do this and bearing with me.
Meet Keisuke Hirayasu (平安慶丞)
Hirayasu-san is the CEO of Spiritwalker Production. Spiritwalker, for those who don’t know, is an idol production company that also runs a café called POP iD and manages various events. Spiritwalker is currently home to idol groups REBEL REBEL (“electro funky” is how they describe their music), EVERYTHING IS WONDER (80’s pop sounds), as well a group for potential new idols to Spiritwalker named Star Platinum and past groups PiGU, No Surprises, and Cecil. Perhaps in recent years Spiritwalker isn’t what they once were on Homicidols in terms of stature and number of mentions, but POP iD is known in the annals of Homicidols’ lore, and rock idol group PiGU seemed especially liked on Homicidols.
As CEO, Hirayasu-san produces the idol units that exist under Spiritwalker and helps write the music and lyrics (along with 4 other songwriters). As producer he gives direction to the units and their sound. He manages the POP iD café. He manages events (Kawaiiiiii Extreme, Spiritwalker Jam, etc.). And manages the Spiritwalker record label. Whew.
Homicidols: How did you get into the idol industry? Were you in the music industry before Spiritwalker?
Hirayasu: When I was young, I was in a band in Tokyo. When that group did not sell well, I turned to working behind the scenes at an entertainment production company as a talent manager. At that office, I was assigned to create idol content under a company mandate to create an idol group by revitalizing the talent that was not selling well.
Homicidols: What’s the history of POP iD? How did that get started?
Hirayasu: Due to serious health circumstances in my family, I moved from Tokyo to Osaka. When I started my own business in Osaka, I had to deal with the issue of how to pay salaries to talents who were not yet making enough money. I had attended Dempa Gumi’s Dear Stage when I was in Tokyo, and I adopted their system in my own way to open the restaurant. So POP iD is not just a café space, but now functions as a salon-like space to cultivate fans while honing my art. From the beginning, I had dreams and plans to open other restaurants in various areas, but my basic skills are not suited for the diversified management of restaurants, so I am still in the middle of my dream.
Homicidols: How long ago did you start Spiritwalker? How long ago for POP iD? And how many people did you start the company with?
Hirayasu: This year marks exactly 10 years since I started my business. POP iD Café will be 10 years old in December. I have collaborators, but I am basically the only staff member.
I asked about musical influences, but later realized Hirayasu-san has fairly recently talked about his favorite music and influences on Twitter. For instance, favorite Western albums:
— H.R.Y.S.K.S.K (@richy529) December 10, 2022
And Japanese albums:
— H.R.Y.S.K.S.K (@richy529) December 10, 2022
He’s even helpfully (helpful for the purposes of this article, at least) tweeted about the musical influences for REBEL REBEL:
私のプレイリスト「Songs That Influenced REBEL REBEL」を聴いてみませんか？ https://t.co/a06u6PMpup
— H.R.Y.S.K.S.K (@richy529) January 16, 2023
And EVERYTHING IS WONDER:
— H.R.Y.S.K.S.K (@richy529) January 14, 2023
Homicidols: I’ve noticed on Twitter you like a lot of Western music, especially British. Do you hope to gain an international audience?
Hirayasu: Of course. My ultimate dream is to have our content accepted in Europe, America, and Asian countries, and have a live tour. Step by step, first of all, I hope that our Japanese music will be accepted.
Homicidols: What got you into Western music?
Hirayasu: Since I was a child, my parents listened to Beatles and Stones records at home and in the car, so I think I had a foundation. The decisive thing was when I saw a Japanese group called RC Succession on TV. I was shocked as if I had been struck by lightning. It may be the root of me as a human being. As I followed the music that the members of RC liked, I started to like various bands from the 60s and 70s in the UK and the US.
Homicidols: I feel the Western influences make Spiritwalker’s groups stand out among idol groups. Do you find it’s a tougher sell to Japanese idol fans? Or it helps?
Hirayasu: The mainstream of Japanese idol groups is AKB, Morning Musume, and so on. BABYMETAL and WACK are not mainstream and the market is small to begin with. However, it’s not an industry that can be tackled by the royal road*, so we are hoping to target the general music-loving public and ultimately connect with people who like Japanese idols and rock music on a global scale.
(*Editor’s Note: “Royal Road” is a term that refers to the J-pop idol mainstream. Colloquially, it means, “the easy path.”)
Homicidols: I think I may know the answer based on favorites you’ve talked about on Twitter, but do you like metal music at all? I think a good portion of Homicidols readers like metal and likely became fans of idol because of BABYMETAL.
Hirayasu: First off, I love BABYMETAL. They are pioneers in terms of overseas strategy, and I am also influenced by them in terms of production if I can get some hints. And to your question, do you like metal? I was into it for a while when I was a kid, and although I don’t know much about it, I do like some groups: light metal from the 80s, like Metallica, Iron Maiden, MSG. They may not be metal, but I also like AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Van Halen.
Homicidols: Do you listen to other idol groups? Have they ever influenced you?
Hirayasu: In order to make the content we specialize in, we regularly make time to listen to the music of many idol groups in order to constantly analyze the market and trends in the industry. There are some groups that we have grown very fond of. However, while there are some major trends that we incorporate into our content, we are not directly influenced by them.
Homicidols: The funkier and jazzier direction of REBEL REBEL seems a little different for Spiritwalker. What prompted going in that direction musically?
Hirayasu: I simply started a concept that I had been wanting to do, and because the Corona Disaster came, I had the time to prepare slowly. I was trying to see if I could take it in that direction with the latter stages of No Surprises, or just experiment a bit with it.
Homicidols: What’s the song writing process like?
Hirayasu: The basic concept of each group is firmly established at the inception of the group and is perfectly shared with each artist. Then, when we create a new work, we have careful discussions about how to change it and how to surprise the audience before we start the process. It is a very enjoyable time in my life.
Homicidols: The four other songwriters who write Spiritwalker songs, what other idols or bands have they written songs for?
★Hideki Hoshi, He is a famous writer in Kansai. Other groups are:
- Girl Mannequin
(Editor: Also, NEMLESS)
★Junichi Matsuda, A major writer:
- Ayumi Hamasaki, “Daybreak”
- SUPER ☆ GiRLS, “MAX! Otomegokoro”
- Nogizaka46,“Yasashi-sanara Maniatteru”
- YORUWA KOREKARA
Most of the songs are co-written by Darl and I.
Homicidols: Do any members of Rebel Rebel or EVERYTHING IS WONDER contribute to the song writing process? Do they ever write music themselves?
Hirayasu: There are currently no members who contribute to or compose songs. However, the composition of the members of each group and the quality and skill of each voice has a significant impact on the songwriting process. We may also put on hold what we want to do, waiting for the skills of a member to grow.
Homicidols: Speaking of songwriting, do you know musical theory?
Hirayasu: Not in particular! Because I live in dance music lol
Homicidols: What’s your favorite Spiritwalker song (from the entire catalog)? What’s your favorite REBEL REBEL song? Favorite EVERYTHING IS WONDER song? And what’s your favorite song that you’ve personally written?
Hirayasu: Right now, my favorite song in REBEL REBEL is definitely, “Wish to the Universe”, the song that embodies REBEL REBEL.
For EVERYTHING IS WONDER it is, “Promise Me”.
My favorite songs with Spiritwalker,
There are so many of them!
Homicidols: From your perspective, how is the idol industry doing overall? How about the Japanese and global music industry in general?
Hirayasu: What I feel is that the idol market in Japan is small. Half of that market is dominated by the majors, including AKB, Hello Pro, Stardust, WACK, etc. We are trying to survive in this half of the market (underground idol industry) with more than 1,000 groups. And since half of that market is concentrated in Tokyo, local idol groups are in a very difficult situation.
Homicidols: What challenges did POP iD and Spiritwalker have during Covid?
Hirayasu: Since I am very knowledgeable about medical care and made every effort to gather information about the virus and vaccines early on, I was able to provide accurate information, countermeasures, and treatment to the staff, talents, and their families, and I believe we were able to overcome the situation without causing any major upset or fear of activity. However, although we were able to take care of the organization in such a way that it did not collapse, the economic stagnation certainly damaged our earnings and group development, as well as the food, beverage, and entertainment industries nationwide.
Homicidols: SO GOOD PAIN by Rebel Rebel might be the shortest single I’ve ever heard. Is there a story behind such a short single?
Hirayasu: The reason SO GOOD PAIN is so short is partly because we wanted to make a big impact on the public, but also because most underground idol shows are 20 minutes long, so we wanted to cram in as many songs as possible.
Homicidols: The music videos for REBEL REBEL’s “Romantic” and “Paper Moon” were good. Will we see more music videos any time soon?
Hirayasu: Actually, the music video for “RAVE OUT” was scheduled to be released after the one-man live concert on November 20 to coincide with the release of “NO CHEATING,” but one of the new members left after that date, so it was put on hold. We would like to try again when we release our next piece.
Homicidols: Do you have a guitar collection? A favorite guitar?
Hirayasu: I don’t have an expensive instrument, partly because I don’t work in the public eye right now. As for guitars, since my band days, I like lightweight ones, and I still use SG models. I also prefer Fender Stratocasters because they are easy to use.
Homicidols: Anything you’d like to say or promote to international readers?
Hirayasu: Not only our content, but there are some great Japanese idol groups and songs. Since the world is connected through YouTube, AppleMusic, Spotify, etc., it is now my challenge to create a strategy to find and deliver such good Japanese groups and songs to people who want to catch them beyond the language barrier, and how to create a system to connect and find them. This is my challenge.
I think Homicidols is doing its part in attempting to find these wonderful groups.
This interview may have been tricky to navigate since I believe both of us were relying on Google translate (Editor: we’ve refined the translations a bit post-machine translation), but music is the universal language. Without even understanding lyrics we can listen and connect through this shared love of music. It’s my sincere hope that anyone reading this checks out Spiritwalker’s catalog of music. Though I don’t have direct confirmation, I think Hirayasu-san would likely prefer anything that increases the numbers he watches, such as listening through Apple or Spotify, or following the various Spiritwalker Twitter accounts. I know through my brief stint with “clicker games” and love of RPGs that people like numbers that increase.
On a personal note, music is what got me into the idol scene. I sincerely think there is some great music coming out of Japan, and I feel like I can feel and connect with that love of music that seems to emanate from some of these groups, like the groups in Spiritwalker. Maybe you have listened to their music, and maybe it isn’t your cup of tea, that’s perfectly fine (to me, at least. I don’t know Hirayasu-san’s opinion on the matter haha). But hopefully this article has brought a more personal face to Spiritwalker, a promotion of our connections through music, and maybe even some new fans.
I did ask one more question of Hirayasu-san who answered wholly in English:
Can I officially have the title of REBEL REBEL’s #1 overseas fan?
Hirayasu: I think it’s good lol
I’ll take that as a yes!