The following is a translation of Ishida Ayumi’s pregame interview for ROCK IN JAPAN on Tokyo Sports, as published from August 1st-4th. This is the extended version of a previous article I translated via Twitter.
The end may sound a bit rushed, but I didn’t realize Morning Musume was due to perform in an hour and a half as of the time of publishing.
Morning Musume’s Ishida: ROCK IN JAPAN pregame interview (1) “Thoughts on a still unseen scene”
A special version of Ishida Ayumi’s “ROCK IN JAPAN pregame interview!” How is she feeling about the upcoming event?
Tokyo Sports (TS): You’ve secured the biggest thing for your performance at ROCK IN JAPAN.
Ishida Ayumi (IA): Right now, we just decided on the setlist a few days ago (as of 7/23, the date of the interview). We’re just about starting rehearsals now, too. Since the three 15th generation girls aren’t performing with us, this will be the last time the 11 of us (since Iikubo’s graduation) will be performing like this, coincidentally. With that said we’re fired up, knowing there’s nothing left but to show/give our everything.
TS: On your performance on the biggest stage there, the GRASS STAGE.
IA: Oh my goodness… Last year we were on a different stage, and so they showed us what the GRASS STAGE was like during Southern All Stars’ performance. We were watching from the extreme end of one side of the stage, and it was so big I couldn’t see the other side! There were so many people there to watch them too, so I think we all wanted to see what that crowd looked like.
TS: The capacity is over 60,000 people.
IA: Morning Musume’s had nothing like that before.
TS: Looking back at last year’s performance, it was your first time there.
IA: We challenged it fired up as if it was a match, like “we’re here to fight!!” I mean, it’s a rock festival, so we’re a little different from the general makeup of the festival… So we just wanted to be accepted somehow. Tsunku had said, “I only write songs that can be played around the world” about our music. So we had to challenge this festival with that thought; we had to have that level of confidence, or else it’d be a disservice to the OG members, to Tsunku, and even to ourselves. So, just have confidence. It was strange to not be nervous, but we felt “we just have to do it.”
TS: How was that first line in “HOW DO YOU LIKE JAPAN?”
IA: Just for a moment, I thought maybe my voice was quivering, but as soon as I yelled that first “YO!” and got a welcoming cheer, I thought “we’ve won!” To tell you the truth, we were afraid what kind of “away atmosphere” it was going to be. (wry smile)
TS: You were aggressive.
IA: At a normal concert the cameras close in on our face to show on screen, so we usually try to make nice, but we couldn’t really think about that at ROCK IN JAPAN. We were hoping to fire up the audience in front of us together. I think this was the first time were were able to show our aggressive side. Looking back at it now, my face… (wry smile) We were able to see a lot of Morning Musume fans, so that kind of relieved us a bit. “What, everyone’s here!” (laughs)
Morning Musume’s Ishida: ROCK IN JAPAN pregame interivew (2) “Endurance Monster Era”
A special version of Ishida Ayumi’s “ROCK IN JAPAN pregame interview!” Please enjoy this second version, entitled “Endurance Monster Era” (Tairyoku obake ki).
TS: Last year, you performed pretty much nonstop for 40 minutes. This is where you got your strange nickname “Endurance Monster.”
IA: We’re really happy about the audience to fully account for our performance in that way and express it with “Endurance Monster.” It’s something we haven’t had before. For example, when Takahashi Ai was the leader it was called the “Platinum Era,” so for something to even come close to that, I feel like these words/names have impact.
TS: So there’s the possibility that down the line, this generation will be called the “Endurance Monster Era.”
IA: ((laughs)) They might say this period was the “Endurance Monster Era.” In short, we think our distinctive ability is “always full-power, always serious,” so for that to come across to the people watching us and for them to come up with that on their own, and not ourselves? That makes us happy.
TS: What kind of set will it be this year? The audience is hoping for more “Endurance Monsters.”
IA: They are, we know they are! Our set increased 10 minutes to 50 minutes, but to be honest we’re not worried about the endurance side of things. But while considering those feelings of expectations, this year’s set list… Of course, we can’t show the same stuff as last year. Thus, I think our approach is completely different. It’s exciting, though… It’s kind of, “I mean, Morning Musume has that many songs, you know!”
TS: So it’d be great if you can show yourselves in a different way.
IA: Yeah, it would. But even I had feelings of “but we have XX song too” when I saw the setlist. It’s like Morning Musume is having all sorts of worries: we all have different thought processes, you know? The members, staff, etc. Bringing that all together, we all feel that we want to appear one more time ((laughs)). So we feel that have to perform well if we want to be invited back again next year.
TS: It’s an away battle…
IA: We get fired up, you know? Morning Musume is full of those kinds of girls. For example, when we appear with other artists on TV, a lot of us get fired up thinking, “other fans are watching… this is a battle!”
TS: An easy example would be when you performed “U.S.A.” with DA PUMP last year. You were lively in that performance.
IA: I was really vigorous, wasn’t I? ((laughs))
TS: The 15th generation members…?
IA: Right now, they’re coming with us to all the HaroCons. And when they’re not on stage, they’re watching us from the side. But I feel like they’re still having fun watching us, so I’m starting to honestly think that we need to do something to stimulate them a bit more. Hopefully this ROCK IN JAPAN stage will shake their spirits.
Part 3: H!P vs ROCK In JAPAN and Instagram
TS: What did you learn from other artists at ROCK IN JAPAN?
IA: How to fire everyone up. Typically we jump and have the audience copy us, that’s how we fire them up. We feel like we have to take initiative in that, but other artists seem to have this extra leeway, which seems as if they say “jump, everyone!” without much effort–we realized that’s another way to get everyone excited. Our selling point is our full-out performances, but I guess that’s another way to do thinks. It’s not that going all-out is the only way to do things normally, but having a push-and-pull pace or something, that’s important too. It’s more mature.
TS: What are you looking forward to this year?
IA: Realizing how I can jive even when I listen to someone’s song for the first time. I realized that’s how to enjoy this rock festival. So I wonder who I’ll meet this year: Kaga Kaede really likes bands and is quite knowledgeable, so I might tag along with her.
TS: ANGERME, Juice=Juice, and Suzuki Airi are all performing, so it’s like the entirety of Hello! Project is challenging this festival.
IA: Our set times are all different, so no matter what day you go there’s a Hello! Project act, and we all have our own individual personalities. I’m really looking forward to see how much Juice=Juice’s voices will reasonate on a ROCK IN JAPAN stage, how much ANGERME will get the audience to sing along, and how Suzuki Airi will take on this stage without a big screen with that delicate expressiveness she has. I’m super excited!
TS: Half the year has passed already. Any changes?
IA: Lately, with Instagram we’ve been thinking about how our fans found out about us and where they’re from, as the follower count slowly increases. I’ve been wondering personally why they’re noticing me now more.
TS: Updating it is difficult, too.
IA: Yeah, what I’ve noticed is if you quote things you end up losing your individuality. I love more funny posts, and I’ve noticed I get more likes when I post that kind of funniness. I’m still trying to figure out what my followers want, but I’d like to put my name out there more.
Part 4: My future self, Summer, ROCK IN JAPAN, Autumn, and Struggling with Sanma
TS: Half the year has passed–any developments as a talent?
IA: Makino Maria and I will be on the next “Downtown DX.” We were so happy when that was decided! I think it’s great to be able to have all kinds of people watch us in that sort of environment, so I want to keep that up. But television is hard, still.
TS: You’re upping not only your artistic skills, but your talent skills too.
IA: I’ve been focusing on how I should be using my time when I’m not talking. Do I draw attention during the “gaps?” I’m also trying to use my brain when I’m not talking. I’ve been thinking about how Momochi and Michishige were able to really create their characters on TV.
TS: Your current answer?
IA: They’re themselves confidently. They have their own fixations (on habits, what they like, etc.). They hold themselves as idols, no matter what they face. For them to be confident on TV, they must be strong as a regular human being as well. They can get teased because they’re so put together, I think.
TS: For yourself, you’re on “Sanma-san’s koibito kouho.” How is it being with him recently?
IA: How is it, I wonder? Have you been checking my blog recently? But, what’s left an impression on me was when he said, “whenever you do something narrow-mindedly or petty, it comes out in your face.” That really sank into my heart (wry smile). I kind of wondered what that meant though. “What’s a petty face?” Until now, it’s always been “I have so much in common with Sanma-san!!” but now it’s “Faces change based on your upbringing,” so he started teasing me as such. Lately, Murakami Shoji’s been great at following up on Sanma-san’s teasing. “That’s too much, Sanma-san!”
TS: So you can train while talking with Sanma-san?
IA: Lately, I’ve been feeling the difference between “regular” and “guest.” Since I’m a guest I’m always on the show as if I only have this one chance. But Yokoyama Reina, who’s a regular, is so much more calmer! In front of Sanma-san and Shoji-san! Even though I’ve been in the business longer! (Wry smile). That’s the one thing frustrating me the most right now!