OSTER project is soon to release her new Vocaloid album Attractive Museum.
Featuring the twenty-minute Vocaloid musical "The Music Wizard of Oz," it demonstrates a wide breadth of genres and styles in Vocaloid music. It stands as another testament to the originality of OSTER project, who holds a unique position as a female Vocaloid producer who's been active since the dawning of the scene.
For the album's release, Natalie conducted their first interview with her, and asked about her work and the ways of her own creativity.
- Vocaloid is a Thing I Can Never Abandon
Q. OSTER, you posted "VOC@LOID in Love" in 2007, right after the release of Hatsune Miku. Taking a long look back at that, what were you thinking at the time that led to posting that song?
A. At the time, covers were the main thing and it wasn't really a culture of original songs, so I gave that a shot since I thought it would be neat. Ever since then, I've watched Vocaloid itself unfold, as a producer of it.
Q. And you were actually posting songs before that.
A. That's right. Basically, I made instrumental songs.
Q. Who would you say had an influence on you?
A. Really, I'm influenced by a lot of different artists, but in my instrumental days I was very into the Konami game Beatmania. I made a lot of works inspired by that.
Q. Your tunes have a bit of a fantasy flair, and including your videos, you have a taste for pastel colors. Where did that sort of style come from?
A. Well, I've always really liked snazzy songs. But when I was making instrumental songs, it was the complicated ones that were more popular. (laughs) I focused on pretty avant-garde, progressive fusion stuff. But then I thought, I want to make something to sing. When I learned about Hatsune Miku, I felt like I could do what I'd been itching to, and gradually I made more songs that suited her lovable voice. That's sort of how it happened.
Q. I get the impression that those who have remained a constant producer of Vocaloid works from Miku's release in 2007 up to the present are very few. In particular, many make their debut singing with their own voices, or moving to projects with other singers, or changing in various ways like that. But while you've expanded your work, it's all centered around the singular axis of Vocaloid. How do you see it?
A. I guess Vocaloid really just has a charm that nothing else has. I like Vocaloid music myself, and I can freely express myself with it. I think that's a big plus. For that reason, Vocaloid is something I can never abandon or part from.
- I Want to Pursue More Than Just Cute
Q. When did you begin making your new album Attractive Museum?
A. Actually, all my albums come about like "I guess I should make a bunch of songs and release one soon!" By the time I have a bunch of songs gathered, people say "I'd sure like to give you my money soon," and I'm like "Okay, please do!" (laughs)
Q. So you don't write albums with any particular themes in mind?
A. Right. Rather than writing songs for an album, it's more like I release an album as the fruits of my usual activity.
Q. This album is full of songs from the 2010s. Do you personally feel like your style has changed in the past years?
A. Initially, I had a snazzy pop style because my concept was to make cute songs to fit Hatsune Miku's cute voice. But I came to realize I wanted to pursue more than just cute, so I took on rock and harder stuff. Thus, while this album also has many cute songs, that's not all it is - it's plentiful with more intense and cool types of songs. I guess that's different from usual.
Q. Is the expanding of your horizons related to the advances of Vocaloid as a tool?
A. That's also a big thing. It's partially because I wasn't as used to them, but before, I felt that Vocaloids kind of lacked sufficient punch to be used for intense songs. But when the engine moved from Vocaloid 2 to Vocaloid 3, there were a lot more possibilities in tuning. With that, I decided to challenge some different stuff.
- Taking Care Not to Make Boring Songs
Q. What was the story behind "Le Chocolatier Enchanté," the collaboration with Clémentine based on a French bossa?
A. It was to be the theme song for the event "Salon Du Chocolat," so I just made a song that seemed appropriate for that. I've been getting more requests to make songs, so thinking about how I can have fun within that is always something to look forward to.
Q. Are you the type to take a theme, then expand from there?
A. Right. Yeah, it's interesting having a theme. In a way it's like testing my mettle and challenging myself, and I have fun with that as I go along. For example, Summer Idol was originally a request from Sega, to "make a song perfect for swimsuits." But I was concerned, thinking "a regular idol chic feels boring." Then when I went on a trip to Hokkaido, during dinner at the hotel, there was a super vintage band performance. I was like, "Eureka!", and made idol pop weaved with a vintage American mood.
Q. Aside from themes, what do you think serves as the main core when you make songs?
A. I'm always taking care not to make boring songs. I consciously try to do something different even in songs with flat chord progressions. I mean, if it's not doing anything different people will get bored listening, and more importantly so will I.
- What Music Do I Like That I Haven't Done Yet?
Q. Where did the title for Attractive Museum come from?
A. It's my goal to make lots of types of music without sticking to one genre. So, since I always make songs with that mindset, when I finally bring them together for an album, well, I guess I did make a lot of genres, huh. It being an album with lots of variation gave me the notion of a museum of sounds. Thus, an alluring, attractive museum.
Q. You really did make a lot of genres. After all, The Music Wizard of Oz is a musical that incorporates heavy metal and big band into the same song.
A. That's right. I wanted that song be one that represented my own style. It'd be nice to expand the genres I can do, and make myself a more and more "attractive museum."
Q. Where did the idea to make a Vocaloid musical come from in the first place?
A. Well, before this I did the song Alice in Musicland.
Q. In 2011, yes.
A. As I was thinking about new challenges for myself, I thought, what kinds of music do I like that I haven't done yet? "Ah! A musical!" I was raised on Disney movies and always had an interest in the musical songs. So I thought it'd be fun to try a musical with Vocaloid, having each Vocaloid play an actor.
Q. And it had a bigger impact than you expected.
A. Indeed it did. Honestly, I didn't think so many people would watch it. I thought it would be a waste to leave it at that, which turned to the idea of making The Music Wizard of Oz.
- At the Song-Making Stage, "Let's Have This Image Here"
Q. By the way, how much do you touch on the video creation process?
Q. For the Music Wizard of Oz video, I did most of the programming myself. Though YOjisan drew the illustrations, and I asked Usagi-san to help with the lighting plan.
Q. How was it making the video?
A. For this one, I bought 3D software and messed with it for the first time. There was a lot of new stuff to tackle, but when I look at the completed product, I feel really emotional, like "I made this!" A definite sense of accomplishment, and of being glad to have done it.
Q. Has making the video yourself had an effect on making the music?
A. At the song-making stage, I had ideas like "let's have this image here." Like lasers coming from her eyes, or the tofu-seller passing by. There are parts I added because I thought they'd be really funny when put into the video.
Q. Earlier you said you "try not to make boring songs," and it seems like this would allow you to incorporate more ideas toward that.
A. Particularly since The Music Wizard of Oz is a 20-minute song, I was extremely attentive to the matter of not boring the viewer. A fulfilling story without major dips, musically lots of genres to stave off boredom, and even the funny and weird parts are nicely tied up at the end. I considered that balance throughout the creation process.
Q. Not only melody and rhythm, but story and jokes had to be taken into account as well.
A. It took a tremendous amount of time to create it. I worked over ideas for it in my head for over a year.
- Vocaloids Are Singers, But Can Also Be Actors
Q. I thought I should ask you about how you view the Vocaloid scene, OSTER. Has the scene itself had any influence on you?
A. Dare I say.... not really. I used to listen to it all the time, but I've had less opportunity lately, so I don't think the Vocaloid scene has influenced me much.
Q. There are really very few female producers in Vocaloid, too. So you're really very unique both in what you're doing and your position.
A. Yeah. I don't know many others. Though I also haven't mingled with many other people, period.
Q. What do you think of the past and present of Vocaloid? What would you say is the biggest change these days?
A. What I feel most is that the minimum age of listeners is dropping. There are lots of grade- and middle-school listeners now. I went to last summer's Magical Mirai performance, and when I was headed to the bathroom, I saw this looong line of little girls, and I was all "Eh...?" (laughs)
Q. I wonder if there might be some connections between what you liked around that age and what these Vocaloid-loving girls like now.
A. Nah, I had old-man tastes. (laughs) I liked big band and musicals and Dixieland jazz, all that vintage music. So I think I'm kinda off-base from what normal girls would like.
Q. What do you think led you to admire those things around grade- or middle-school?
A. That would have to be Disney. I always watched movies like Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty at home, so I think I got it from there. Musicals have this unique quality of expressing all your thoughts through song, and I think I was captivated by that.
Q. And when you set out to make musicals in Vocaloid and based them on Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz, was that also a large influence?
A. Right. I definitely think the effect of Disney movies was a big one.
Q. When you made your own musicals, did you also feel there was an affinity between Vocaloids and storytelling songs?
A. I did. While Vocaloids are singers, I think they can also be actors. So I thought maybe they would be suitable for the role of telling a story through music.
- Back to Where I Started, Making Cool Instrumentals
Q. Lastly, tell us where you'd like to head from here. What's your vision of your future as a creator?
A. Right now, I'm thinking of putting some effort into making instrumentals again. In the past two years, I've been contacted by people involved with the Bemani series, and now I'm writing a few songs for that. So I'd like to go back to where I started and make some more cool instrumental songs.
Q. You can't change the fact you're essentially a maker of music?
A. That's right. It's the most important thing to me. I'd like to provide songs for lots of artists, and become someone who can do anything.