Never Caving In! The Rocking Flower of Fukuoka in Bloom on Nico, DECO*27
For the two days following February 4th, NicoNico Daikaigi 2010-2011 National Tour FINAL will take place at Tokyo's JCB Hall. Approximately 60 teenagers from NicoNico Douga will get up on stage for their many zealous fans - a "festival," as it were.
Standing seemingly above them all in the fans' eyes is the digital music/Vocaloid user, or "Vocaloid producer," DECO*27 (Deco Niina). Perhaps for most hardcore Nico users, it'd be simpler to say "the Mozaik Role guy."
For several months now, discussion of DECO*27 online has refused to peter out. Just recently, in fact, his collaboration with Shibasaki Kou, Mukei Spirit, topped the rock charts on the iTunes store.
Finally, he's decided to go on stage with his self-led band "DECO*27 feat. marina" on the 5th.
What kind of backbone does this guy even HAVE? And what goals does he plan to relentlessly move onto next? We paid a visit to the UMAA offices and had a chat.
Two Million in Six Months! Mozaik Role
Mozaik Role is an incredibly popular song posted in July of 2010 that has accumulated over 2.6 million views in a mere six months. Two other well-known hits of 2010 that follow it are Hachi's Matryoshka and wowaka's World's End Dancehall.
— This will be your first appearance at the NicoNico Daikaigi. How did you feel when that was arranged?
DECO: "Sure, I can do band stuff too!" Until last year, the meet was viewed more as a place for singers and performers - not so much representation on the song-making side. But this time, with "DECO*27 feat. marina" playing as a band, [the meet itself] will change dramatically.
— Well, you also did a similar performance at November's Ota-JAM. Or do you consider that a different kind of event?
DECO: That's different. Nico is where I show myself, so I feel it to be like my... well, "home."
— I see. Well, why did you start submitting songs to your "home" of NicoNico? Did you do music in the first place, and decide that sometimes you would put it up there?
DECO: No, it was actually the chance Nico presented me that made me want to have people hear my songs.
— Now then, what was the first time you came into contact with music?
DECO: First CD, I guess? The first ones I bought were SPEED'S "WHITE LOVE" and T.M. Revolution's "WHITE BREATH," way back in grade school.
— And you were born in Fukuoka, right?
DECO: Right! With the Genkai Sea right in front of my house, many a pair of pants was soaked.
— (laughs) I guess that's what it's like to be raised by a sea. So then, why did you start with music? Was it just "to get popular"?
DECO: Before I actually got to it, that was at least part of it. (laughs) Initially, my father had a huge influence. He'd come straight out of the bath with a towel wrapped around him, and would just start playing guitar and singing. He wasn't really anything amazing, but I was like, "Man, I don't want my dad doing stuff I can't do!", so I secretly began practicing.
— Meaning you were self-taught?
DECO: Yep. Back then, I liked Utaibitohane, and I wanted to try making a song just like that, just playing an acoustic guitar. Thanks to my father, I was also into Chiharu Matsuyama and Sadamasashi...
— Sadamasashi! That's quite a ways off from your songs now.
DECO: I used to do nothing but folk songs, but at some point I started listening to stuff like blink-182, Sum 41, Green Day, and I was like "ROCK!", and got into electric guitar. During high school, whenever I got home, I felt like making music.
— Did you ever play in any bands?
DECO: Sometimes I joined in just to help. Making songs however you wanted them to be was really what defined "music" to me, so I only let good friends hear the songs I made.
— Were you not using the internet back then?
DECO: Internet? I was barely even touching a computer! Cellphones and email were about the most I used. My home time was mostly just spent on music and games.
— Oh, you're a gamer?! What are your favorite games?
DECO: Now? Monster Hunter, Shadow of the Colossus... But back then, I played stuff like SIMPLE1500 THE SHOGI. I think that was parental influence, too.
Oh, also, I absolutely adore Megaman and play it all the time. I played for twelve hours straight once. I got up around 10 AM, went into my grandma's room with the TV, and until about 10 PM, it was Megaman o' clock.
— Nuts to granny's room, it's MEGAMAN'S room!
DECO: I played it so much, I think it was starting to get detrimental to my vision toward the end. That happens with music, too, getting really absorbed and not being able to pull away. Whenever I gamed like that, my grandma brought me onigiri, which made me so happy. (laughs)
— So does your family know all about what you do?
DECO: Oh yes. They've told me that they all go out to karaoke and sing my songs.
— Aww, that's so sweet...! (sniff)
— Did posting music to Nico start when you entered college?
DECO: Around my second year of it. In the first year I bought a computer, and while at a friend's house, he was all "Have you heard of NicoNico Douga?" This was around the time Perfume was popular.
— And when did you start making songs on that computer?
DECO: Well, I didn't have a clue how to use computers when I bought one... I saw kz's Packaged on Nico and thought it was incredible. I wondered, "Are there really people out there with voices like this?" So I looked it up, learned about Hatsune Miku, and a switch flipped that made me go "Wow! I want to do that too!" So I got everything in order pronto and began to study.
— You say all this, but your first song, "You, Like Me, I, Like You" (2008), was a finished product unthinkable for such a beginner.
DECO: Oh, I was studying all sorts of things for a good year before I submitted that. I mean, you want to hear something good from the get-go, right? Just like a game - it needs to be amusing all the way through.
— So everything other than college work was directed to musical study.
DECO: Yes. I'd listen to my songs on the way to school so I could think things like "Alright, when I get home, I'm gonna change this." I was just starting, so I really, genuinely wanted to make something that sounded good.
— That's some impressive devotion!
DECO: That's all thanks to Megaman! Getting tons of comments on my videos made me phenomenally happy. So then I began to feel that even I wanted to hear what was in store next!
— Did Nico users start to become aware of techno-ish rock from then on?
DECO: Yeah. It was a time when there was a lot of Hatsune Miku technopop, but not much rock yet. And rock was what I'd been doing, so I thought I'd do well to fill in that gap.
— And that's how the 2.6-million-view Mozaik Role came into being.
DECO: 2.6 million views... man, that just stuns me. Even getting 100 or so made me so happy at first, but the walls came down and it was out of my hands. The lyrics were rather stimulating, so I was uneasy at first, but the fact of the matter is that it's now come to please a great number of people. So I'm certainly happy about it.
— In what kind of way do you make a song like Mozaik Role?
DECO: It involves making something solid out of an image or atmosphere. That's paramount, above even the melody and lyrics. To use Mozaik Role as the example, "everyone scoops out their painful parts." It's intertwined with my own experiences, and putting it with the PV adds to a "stabbing" feeling.
— Before Cowardly Montblanc, you only used Hatsune Miku. Why is that?
DECO: I tried Rin/Len and Luka, but they didn't fit with my image. But then doing a remix of Campanella for one of sasakure.UK's albums gave me my first exposure to Gumi. I thought, "Well, now, this is interesting - can't I do new and different things with Gumi than I couldn't with Miku?" So I got a feel for Gumi's voice and made my first song with her, Cowardly Montblanc.
— After that, you released a CD at Vocaloid Master, straying somewhat away from NicoNico. Why did you decide to go in that direction?
DECO: Well, because I wanted to release my own CD, duh? I'd heard there were lots of participants, so I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't go to Vocaloid Master too.
— You didn't have any opposition to the doujin scene?
DECO: I fit right in. I actually first saw Lucky Star from parts of mashup videos on Nico, and thought it was pretty neat. I hardly think I'm some dirty otaku or anything. The same goes for Hatsune Miku.
— Hatsune Miku is strong as a character, too. Any qualms with that as a songwriter?
DECO: Whichever or whatever if the listeners enjoy it, I say. If you like the character, you can read the lyrics and imagine Hatsune Miku along with them. If you like music, you should enjoy music, simple as that.
— I see. So after that, you joined what's now UMAA, whose offices we're in.
DECO: I got an email from them in fall of 2009, and that was that.
UMAA's Bunsho Kido (henceforth Kido): I'd always listened to [DECO's songs] on Nico, so I went to Vocaloid Master as a guest. There I bought his CD like usual, listened to it like usual, realized there was definitely talent there, and shot him an email. It was just "I love it!" or something. It was a love letter, really.
— (laughs) What did you think about receiving a love letter, Deco?
DECO: I was like - (happily) "WHOAAA?!" Well, I was kinda wary. I mean, if someone I haven't met tells me they love me - er, or my music... I don't know what kind of person they are.
— You didn't have any desire to enter the music industry before then?
DECO: Nope. When I began to get more involved in music, I thought it'd be nice, but it was nothing definite that I saw happening. But through various conversations, there was a part of me that began to think "Yeah!" I figured I could be doing even better things than I was now.
— And so you released your first album, Theory of Relovetivity. Did you meet marina from her band involvement then?
Kido: marina was on vocals for the band Girls Dead Monster in the anime Angel Beats!. DECO and I both liked the anime, and we said to each other, "marina is pretty sweet."
So we went to a Girls Dead Monster concert together. Even heard live, those were some impressive vocals! Though it was our first meeting, we handed marina the album and said "If you like, let's do something together!"
DECO: It was a two-person proposal!
— Amazing! The second love letter of the story.
Kido: Then marina fell in love with the album, saying it really made her feel something, and so we came to do things together. I'm very glad for it.
— So marina did some vocals for your second album, Love-Lost Elegy. Additionally, Bird Love Song had lyrics supplied by Shibasaki Kou. How did that come about?
Kido: First of all, at the office, DECO*27 doesn't show himself as an artist, but thinks of himself as a "writer that provides songs." He tries to consider new ways of being a creator.
Thus, various parties got to hear DECO*27's albums. Among them was Ms. Shibasaki, who was given Theory of Loving Each Other, and she was very grateful and pleased with it. So that's where that started.
— How did working with Ms. Shibasaki go?
DECO: Maybe this isn't the answer you're looking for, but... she was adorable.
DECO: Kou wrote some really great lyrics. For Bird Love Song, the song was already done, but she pressed on the point I wanted to communicate and tried to take the image further. It seemed to me that Kou's lyrics expanded the world of my own songs.
— Your collaboration with her, Mukei Spirit, topped the iTunes Store rock charts. Since your debut about a year ago, it's been up and up for you.
DECO: Well, it sure does feel great. When I finished my first album, I considered what I would do in 2010, and the office. From there I just kept at it, and now, I just can't believe it. Working on songs with Kou was pretty much totally beyond my expectations.
— So then, what are your plans for 2011?
DECO: I want to do concerts. Though NicoNico Douga has been my "home" for these two years, I'm starting a band with marina this year, and I want to deliver the music directly.
— So more about shows than Nico?
DECO: Weeell, I want to extend an axle across both.
— Two wheels?! You sure you can, uh, survive that?
DECO: I'll be fine. Concerts are great fun and all, but I have no intention whatsoever of giving up on Nico. The listeners may not be before my eyes, but getting real-time feedback is just too good to pass up.
— But it'll be a thorny path...
DECO: Bring it on! I'll be fine!
— H-How bold! Well, for now, do you feel the NicoNico Daikaigi this weekend will be different from other shows?
DECO: Nico is my home, so I think there'll be lots of people who already know of my songs. So it is quite a bit different from performing in front of people who aren't so familiar.
— Not feeling 3000 guests to be too imposing?
DECO: Man, I'd be more nervous performing in front of a hundred. No, the more there are, the less tension.
— From what I've heard, you don't have a huge amount of experience with concerts. But you're getting used to it?
DECO: I've got guts, which is what it takes to get used to concerts. Uploading videos to Nico gets you ridiculous emotional strength, trust me. (laughs) There'll be an echo of happiness, of course, but great comments don't have to come if they don't want to. Posting things to Nico means performing in front of tens of thousands of people.
— Aha! That reminds me, the first day of the NicoNico Daikaigi is "Convex" ["deko"], but on the second day, the subtitle is "Concave" ["boko"]. Are you disappointed to have gotten the "Concave" day?
DECO: Oh, but there's a reason to appear on such a day. If something has become concave, by my might it shall become convex. "I shall never cave in!"
— What a way to end it! Thank you very much. I look forward to the meet!