Ado & jon-YAKITORY Discussion: The "Shikabanese" Tag-Team Looking Back On Their Respective Vocaloid Scenes
In this past year, singer Ado has made great achievements: first place on the viral charts, a major debut, multiple million-view videos on YouTube. One of the causes of her expansion beyond her community to become known far and wide was "Shikabanese" ["Corpsese"], created by Vocaloid producer jon-YAKITORY.
The song was originally released as a Vocaloid song last year. When Ado accepted an offer by jon-YAKITORY to do vocals and the video was posted, it became a sensation on TikTok and subscription services. It shone at the top of the viral charts on June 25th; the tag-team of Ado and jon-YAKITORY has become a new star of the 2020 online music scene.
Though from different generations, they both have roots in NicoNico Douga. Before the start of the Vocaloid culture festival "The VOCALOID Collection -winter 2020-", we conducted a first-time interview. Why did they become active on NicoNico Douga? And what do they think about having experienced a smash hit?
— First of all, I'd like to ask why you two got your starts. Ado-san, your first upload was a cover of "Your Heat" (Kuwagata-P) on January 10th, 2017.
Ado: Yes, that was in my second year of middle school. I'm slow to pick things up, so it took me a long time to prepare. I had all the equipment itself since 6th grade, but I didn't know how to actually use it to record. I'd read a single how-to article over and over, figure things out like "oh, when it says that, does it mean this?", and finally finished a video in the second year of middle school.
— What led to your initial interest in "utattemita" covers?
Ado: When I was in elementary school, the Kagepro (Kagerou Project) anime was being broadcast, and things were getting really fired up. I started hearing utattemitas from there, and in listening to Mafumafu-san, Soraru-san, and Amatsuki-san's utattemitas, I found it to be an intriguing world.
jon-YAKITORY: I'm jealous you had Kagepro as a grade schooler! What an ideal generation.
— In an interview for your major debut song "Oh, Shaddup," you said you were watching NicoNico Douga on your Nintendo 3DS at the time.
Ado: That's right. I originally fell in love with the games on the 3DS, but at some point it became possible to watch NicoNico Douga on it, and I was glad to be able to watch on something I owned, even if it was small. Until then, I'd been watching on my parents' computer.
jon-YAKITORY: Around high school, I was listening to ryo-san, JimmyThumb-P-san, and Hachi-san's songs a ton. They had a lot of experimental passion to them, and I hadn't heard that sort of music before, so it was like "the heck is this!" I searched the tags and listened to all kinds of songs, and I realized, "seems like nobody's pros." Which meant maybe I could do it too... that was how I started making Vocaloid.
— Tell me what Vocaloid songs had an impact on you.
jon-YAKITORY: It might not be quite what you'd call "a Vocaloid song that blew you away," but Hachi-san's WORLD'S END UMBRELLA. The video had subtitles that were like narration, telling a story within the video. I thought it was amazing how it could so clearly be doing a "story music" thing, yet not feel lame at all.
Ado: There are lots, but one wild song that's left an impression on me is wowaka-san's World's End Dancehall. At the time I heard it, the way the sound was constructed made me go "What is this song?!" It was unknown music, so fast and high-pitched a human could hardly sing it. Yet it was still so addictive, which impressed me.
— It makes me kind of happy to hear Ado-san and jon-YAKITORY, who had a hit in 2020, name two legends. jon-san, do you remember what kind of reaction you got on your first upload?
jon-YAKITORY: I remember. I looked at the comments and kept swinging between joy and grief. If I saw "good song," I'd be like "whoaaaaaa," and if I saw "thx," it'd be like "only a "thx," huh..." The comments scrolling was definitely huge. It conveys this live sense of what everyone thinks of each part of the song. Though in NicoNico's case, it's closer to background chatter. (laughs)
— At around the same time, you were also uploading instrumental songs to YouTube. Were you treating them as isolated habitats?
jon-YAKITORY: No, I was feeling more like "it's probably better if I upload to both NicoNico and YouTube." If I had to choose, I'd say NicoNico felt like my main place and YouTube was secondary. Now it's the other way around, but NicoNico has always felt like my childhood home.
— During the time you started posting Vocaloid songs in 2013, I get the impression the scene had calmed down a bit. What did that world look like to you?
jon-YAKITORY: With Kagepro winding down, it did feel a bit like the initial frenzy had cooled. But personally, I was thinking "Everyone's had that frenzy imprinted into them, so I'm sure a time will come that things fire up again."
— I really get what you mean by the frenzy being "imprinted into you."
jon-YAKITORY: It really was incredible when Kagepro was going - minutes after Jin-san posted a video, it'd already have tens of thousands of views. I was like "I'm just gonna be buried under this! But the song's awesome, so I can't say anything!" (laughs) That gradually settled down, and it felt like everyone was looking for the next stars and hits, so I hoped to squeeze myself in there.
— Ado-san, your first upload was in 2017. I was thinking, wouldn't a elementary/middle-schooler around that time be more familiar with YouTube?
Ado: NicoNico Douga is a childhood home for me, also. Besides Vocaloid and covers, I also watched things like dance videos, game playthroughs, and song MADs [roughly equivalent to YTPMVs]. I watched YouTube too, of course, but I admittedly was attracted by NicoNico Douga's scrolling comments. Thinking "I want to see comments scrolling on a video of mine" was important.
jon-YAKITORY: There's an addictiveness to them.
Ado: There is.
— Hearing how you recorded inside a closet in your house was striking.
Ado: That was the only recording space I had. I'd go in like "guess I'll record" and slam it shut. It'd certainly look strange if you weren't in the know, hearing a super loud voice coming from the closet. After a while, I'd say "I'll take a break," open the door, and do some gaming.
— I'm sure you've done recording in other ways since your major debut, yes?
Ado: I do go to a studio, yes, but it's all the same as recording in a closet. I put my computer on a desk. I sing alone, and record alone. I've had an engineer accompany me at times, but I keep wanting to rerecord until I'm satisfied, so I wouldn't force someone to go along with that, and even if they said they'd gladly go along with it, I'd still be concerned. So I settled on a style similar to when I was recording in a closet. I go in like with the closet, and come out when I want to take a break.
jon-YAKITORY: But you know, that seems super cool when I imagine it. Singing alone in a wide-open studio.
Ado: It is cool, isn't it?
jon-YAKITORY: I could see that on Jonetsu Tairiku [documentary show about people's passions]. "Again, Ado went into the studio by herself..." (laughs)
— I'd like to talk about the creation of Shikabanese.
jon-YAKITORY: For Shikabanese, we coordinated entirely through Twitter DMs.
— Under what circumstances did you find Ado-san in the first place, jon-san?
jon-YAKITORY: Around summer last year, a video of Ado-san singing "bin" (NekoAllergy) was getting retweeted around, and I thought "This person's super good at singing!" I went on to check Ado-san's videos, and listening to her cover of Basket Worm (Napoli-P) moved me, like "her shouting's amazing." When I made Shikabanese, I was already thinking "I'm absolutely going to have this person sing it!"
Ado: Thank you very much.
— What kind of orders did you give Ado-san?
jon-YAKITORY: Just "feel free to do what you want." I already trusted in her having heard "bin" and Basket Worm, and knew very well that leaving it to her would get me something good back. Though to be honest, it exceeded my every expectation.
In particular, the "AAH AAH AAH" bit in the interlude - it's used a lot on TikTok, but that's not in the Vocaloid version. Ado-san just added that mix-up in there, and I immediately sent her a high-energy DM. "This is wild!!!!!!!!", with like 8 exclamation marks. (laughs)
Ado: I fundamentally have no confidence in my ability to rearrange things, so I just do it thinking "well, I'll give it a shot." I try putting things in there, and if they don't work, I rethink it. I try to pay respect to the original song while trial-and-erroring my own ways of mixing it up.
— After Shikabanese's release, how was the response you two got?
jon-YAKITORY: I personally thought "We've made something great!", but it didn't spread that much in the first month or two after posting. Then it started getting used on TikTok, and that's where it began. More than the views going up, we received more of a response when it got first in the viral charts.
Ado: I couldn't really determine the response very well, but I was surprised when I went to look at the video a while after release and went "Wha, why'd it get so many views all of a sudden?!" It made me feel the immense power of TikTok.
— jon-san, you wrote in a Note article that the way you used precision guitar was inspired by Billie Eilish's "bad guy," and the feel of the phrases was influenced by Pharrell Williams's "Freedom." Do you have a lot of Western music in your roots?
jon-YAKITORY: That's true. Early on, I did a lot of listening to Western music, thinking "I wonder how it's doing this effect?" and Googling it. Lately I've learned to ask others for help, so I discuss with Vocaloid producer friends or knowledgeable mixers "How do you think this is done?" I keep things that make me think "oh, this is good" in the back of my mind, and pull them out when I'm making music.
— Even if you had references, it's more like you're doing a montage.
jon-YAKITORY: Ah, I suppose you'd be right to call them references. There was a time I took composition jobs, and I've participated in competitions too. I would get three or so references, and had to think about how to put them together into one song; that experience might still be helping me now. To get back to Shikabanese, the drums were influenced by Kanye West's Black Skinhead, and the lyrics by the muddled feel of RADWIMPS's Mayfly. But just combining those two would be imitation, so I knead those elements in and touch things up over and over.
— I imagine the environment around you two has changed quite a lot this year.
jon-YAKITORY: It hasn't changed that much for me. Of course, I've gotten more people listening thanks to Shikabanese, and I've gotten more subscribers on my YouTube channel. But have I gotten explosive amounts of Twitter followers? Not so much, and I'm not getting fawning replies sent to me either. I thought people might start finding me attractive or something, but nope, nothing of the sort. (laughs)
But thanks to that, I haven't gotten cocky, and can keep an objective view over my circumstances. This year, a door has been opened for me, so I'd like to step things up next year. Ado-san... made a major debut, after all.
Ado: What's with the dramatic pause? (laughs) It feels like it's been a nonsense year. Sure, I do feel like I've been doing my best with things, but even so, I had no idea it would end up like this. Several videos passing a million views, a major debut, things changing around me... It's been the most unheard-of year I've ever had.
— When you started, did you have any idea of your major debut?
Ado: I did have a dream of it happening, but thought, surely not... Now, oddly enough, I'm actually calm about it. Instead of "Yaaay, I made a major debut! Isn't that amazing!", it's "Ahh, what do I do? I'd better not mess up..." Recently, when "Oh, Shaddup" broke 10 million views, I did think "Whoa, amazing!", but I immediately felt a sense of responsibility, and thought "I'd better work hard on the next thing too!"
— You generally emphasize that you're an "utaite" (singer) rather than an "artist." Will you continue to walk that path as a singer?
Ado: I wonder. I'm not sure either, but I want to treasure my childhood home of NicoNico Douga, which is why I also want to treasure being an "utaite." But on the other hand, I want to take challenges that expand my horizons as an artist. I'll debut my next song soon, and it has a different mood from "Oh, Shaddup." I want it to be a song that can fight against "Oh, Shaddup."
jon-YAKITORY: I have songs sung by vocalists like Ado-san getting popular, but I'd like to make the sorts of songs that will get me heard more in Vocaloid too. Also, I'm listening to Western hip-hop lately, so I'd like to do rap in Vocaloid.
— Ooh, rap!
jon-YAKITORY: Yes. It might be a bit difficult for Vocaloid, but that's exactly why I want to make something skillful. This year, Eminem released a song called Godzilla, which has a super fast part. That rapid speed made me feel some deja-vu, and I realized I was associating it with The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku (cosMo@Bousou-P). Thinking about it now, that song was rap. I wondered if maybe Eminem could sing The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku if he tried. (laughs)
When I think about it, there aren't any songs like The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku now. I want to try that sort of breathless rap. Either for an experiment or for fun, I want to do something that'll make people think "oh!"
— Lastly, could I get a message for new or future Vocaloid producers who are going to participate in The VOCALOID Collection?
jon-YAKITORY: The era of Vocaloid that's left the biggest impression on me was a bit different from the J-pop scene up to that point, was still being formed in places, and indeed, was off-the-wall. Since we have this opportunity, I hope for everyone to create off-the-wall things and make this a true festival.
Ado: You don't have to think about whether it's singable or not, so just make songs for Vocaloids that are packed full of your own style. It's fun just to listen to them, and it's also fun to challenge yourself like "it's hard, but I'll try singing this." I want people to write a lot of wonderful songs.