The Path of the Diva, Discussed by the First Generation
The latest in the Project Diva series that "stars" Hatsune Miku, Project Diva Future Tone DX, will be released on November 22nd. Natalie.mu conducted an interview with two producers who have provided music to Project Diva since the first installment, kz (livetune) and OSTER project.
kz and OSTER began uploading their first Vocaloid songs early on, in September 2007, just after the release of Hatsune Miku. In this interview, we had them both play the newest Project Diva, asked about their favorite songs and songs that stimulated them, and got a look into the behind-the-scenes from the planning stages of the Project Diva series.
— kz, OSTER, you've provided songs for Project Diva since the first release in 2009.
kz (livetune): So it's been 8 years already. That one was for PSP, but now you can play it on PS4.
OSTER project: There are a bunch of different series, so I tend to forget which songs of mine are in what. (laughs)
kz: I played it a fair bit, but I remember there being so many Miku outfits that I could never collect them all.
— Before the interview, we had you play the newest edition, Hatsune Miku Project Diva Future Tone DX. What did you think?
kz: Now that it's on the PS4, the background textures have gotten incredible, and it's fun to play along to. But I kept pressing the wrong buttons while I was being distracted by the backgrounds. (laughs) It's a dilemma, because I want to focus on the game, but I'm curious about the video.
OSTER: I hadn't played in a while, but yeah, the graphics are superb. As someone who's been involved since the beginning, I feel like "wow, it's just got so amazing."
kz: There were still clear jaggies on the PSP. The picture's become so much clearer since then.
OSTER: I tried The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku, and once more was reminded that cosMo(@Bousou-P) is nuts.
kz: cosMo-san and sasakure.UK-san do tend to write some crazy songs.
— You both posted your first Vocaloid songs in September 2007, just as Hatsune Miku was released. Her release date was August 31st, meaning you were involved in Vocaloid as soon as she came out.
OSTER: I think I uploaded VOC@LOID in Love on September 13th...
kz: And I posted the short version of Packaged on September 22nd.
— This feature is commemorating Hatsune Miku's 10th anniversary, so I'd like to ask you what originally got you interested in Hatsune Miku ten years ago.
OSTER: I actually liked to periodically check Crypton's homepage. Because for those who did digital music, Crypton was an excellent provider of sound samples. I did know the Vocaloids Meiko and Kaito existed; however, I thought Hatsune Miku would be able to do the things I wanted done, so I waited eagerly for her release.
kz: What did you want done?
OSTER:I was generally thinking of Vocaloid like "ah, it's an instrument," but I wanted to make a song where the lyrics were also focused on Vocaloid. I thought it'd be interesting to make a song like VOC@LOID in Love - one that's from a Vocaloid's viewpoint, a machine's viewpoint, but depicts love. So I bought the software and posted the song.
kz: I think of that era of NicoNico Douga as lawless, in a sense. What did you think of all the comments and such?
OSTER: It was kind of super scary.
kz: I know.
OSTER: There was a much greater reaction than I expected, so it went past happy right into scary.
kz: I also freaked out right after posting my first Vocaloid song. There wasn't much genre division on NicoNico Douga then, so if you got 1st in the global ranking, your video would be seen by people who weren't looking for music. And such people could comment whatever they liked, so I didn't know what to do... (laughs)
OSTER: All these people's comments are anonymous, and they come in like a flood. And some of them are just mean.
kz: When I posted my first song, I didn't actually have the name kz. I uploaded my Vocaloid song, noticed it had gotten a ton of views, thought "Ack, I'd better not use this name!", gave it 5 seconds of thought, and typed in "kz." I certainly didn't think that name would endure for 10 years. (laughs)
— kz, what was it that got you interested in Hatsune Miku?
kz: Just like OSTER, I knew about Vocaloid from its earliest days. But when I saw news about Vocaloid 2 - that is, news about the release of Hatsune Miku - I got the impression that it was a little different from Vocaloid prior. It seemed Vocaloid 2 was more capable of singing Japanese lyrics, so I decided to give it a try. At the time, I liked auto-tune, so I thought it'd be fun to put a ton of auto-tune on a Vocaloid.
— And so you posted Packaged to NicoNico Douga.
kz: There was a feeling back then of "I'll just make something with Vocaloid and post it to NicoNico." So I uploaded it all casually, and then...
OSTER: The response was scary intense.
kz: Yeah. (laughs) A number of people, including OSTER-san, originally posted songs on the site "muzie," and with the release of Hatsune Miku, they all started posting joke videos, Vocaloid songs, whatever to NicoNico. I just hopped on that bandwagon.
— While having you play the game, we let you look through the 238 total included songs. Were there any there that you have a special fondness for?
OSTER: Actually, when I made the song Rain With A Chance of Sweet*Drops, I was influenced by kz-san. (laughs)
kz: Huh? Were you really?
OSTER: I really respect you greatly, kz-san.
kz: First I've heard of it. (laughs)
OSTER: I would think. (laughs) Out of all the people uploading songs soon after Hatsune Miku's release, your songs were a cut above the rest in quality. So I made Rain With A Chance of Sweet*Drops attempting to imitate it. By the way, when I arranged one of baker-san's songs once, you complimented my arranging ability.
kz: I don't remember where I would've said that, but I do still think your arrangements are amazing.
OSTER: I don't receive compliments from people I respect very often, so it made me really happy.
— kz, are there any songs in the game that you're fond of?
kz: Definitely Melt. I think Melt is a perfect song. Ever since I first heard it, I feel as if I've never seen a song that surpasses it. ryo-san is really amazing.
OSTER: Yeah, it doesn't get old, even listening to it today.
— Since you were posting Vocaloid songs before it, how did you perceive Melt?
kz: That song being posted made the entire community turn Melt-colored. In a sense, it was like the world collapsed.
OSTER: It showed us all "we've been posting songs in such a teensy tiny world."
kz: It was as shocking as Perry's black ships coming to Japan. Plus a ton of people became interested in Vocaloid through Melt. But as time has passed, I've come to be very glad that Melt came into being.
— Why is that?
kz: If there hadn't been a song like Melt to overpower all the others, maybe the culture of Vocaloid would have long since ended as something enjoyed only by a small gathering of people. Melt took down the walls in a good way.
OSTER: Also, I like kz-san's Yellow.
kz: You're really piling on the compliments today. (laughs)
OSTER: The intro has an incredible way of building up the energy - a sort of "hell yeah" feeling. Plus at concerts, it makes the crowd's penlights turn into a sea of yellow. So it's really ideal for concerts.
kz: I work as a DJ at times, so I'm always thinking about how people on the floor will react. Yellow is a popular song with overseas Vocaloid fans as well, which I think is thanks to Project Diva.
— Why is it thanks to the games?
kz: Of course, some songs can become popular just by being uploaded to NicoNico or YouTube, but when a song is put into a user's hands by being packaged into something like a game, it can reach people it couldn't just by being uploaded online. They find the song without having to dig for it, and they'll even play it repeatedly. In playing songs I've contributed to Project Diva as a DJ, I've come to realize the influence of the games.
OSTER: I'm jealous of how your songs can suit that mood. A lot of mine are a little too overwrought. (laughs)
kz: Yes, many of your songs are good to listen to intently with headphones. But I definitely think they'd fit a venue like Billboard Japan.
— kz, are there any other songs you like besides Melt?
kz: baker-san's Sound. I believe it was posted in November 2007, and not many people could write classy songs at the time. I still love baker-san's songs now. They have a really good "90's Tokyo" feel.
OSTER: I love baker-san, too.
kz: baker-san felt like an oddity back then. Just after Hatsune Miku's release in 2007, there weren't yet any people making songs with a rock sound. In fact, half of the videos on Nico were joke videos using Vocaloid, and initially many people used Vocaloid as an extension of technopop and synth.
OSTER: Now, there are a lot more rockers.
kz: First baker-san posted his songs, then Melt came out after that, and then Vocaloid rock started to explode - that's how it felt.
— The first Project Diva was released in September 2009. Do you remember anything from that time?
kz: I do. OSTER, do you remember when you were first asked to write songs for Project Diva?
OSTER: I think it was Rain With A Chance of Sweet*Drops and Marginal. I believe at first, each artist had their own story.
kz: Right. Early in development, Project Diva was more of a character-based game. Myself, I think I was asked to write songs for a sci-fi love story.
OSTER: I had the story of "Miku encourages a sad young artist with song." So the lyrics of Rain With A Chance of Sweet*Drops have the message "change your viewpoint, and even sad things can be positive." And all the colors that appear in Marginal are because of the planned protagonist being an artist.
kz: And since I had the sci-fi theme, I made a song titled Star Story.
— In contrast to those initial plans, it ended up being released as the rhythm game Project Diva.
kz: That's right. I mean, I think making it a rhythm game was the right choice. (laughs)
OSTER: The songs each of us made, and the background videos in the first Project Diva, still have traces from when it was planned to be a different game.
— What do you two think of the character of Hatsune Miku?
OSTER: Especially considering we've been together so long, I feel like I don't know her like I thought I did at first glance. (laughs)
kz: I agree.
— What do you mean by that?
OSTER: I originally considered Hatsune Miku like an instrument, but as it became a whole movement, I became conscious of Miku as a character. But of course, when I'm making songs as a creator, I'm going to see her as an instrument... It's like that. I wonder. Since so much has happened in these ten years, I do also feel like Miku's gone really far away.
kz: Sometimes I feel as if Hatsune Miku is more of a concept. I'm both a DJ and a creator, and between people who like it as synth, people who like listening to Miku songs at home, people who like the excitement of concerts, and people who make illustrations and videos, there are many different ways in which people see "Hatsune Miku." The content is so diverse, so if you're asked "what do you think of Hatsune Miku?", it's hard to find the common point. So I feel like "I don't know anymore."
OSTER: Still, I feel like kz-san and I have a similar impression of Hatsune Miku.
kz: Yeah. At first, we took her to be some sort of fun-looking "voice-making toy." I have the same sense of her as an "instrument" that OSTER-san described earlier.
OSTER: You can try out anything with Miku and she won't get mad. Plus, no studio fees.
kz: You think of her as a toy, and before you know it she's doing a concert in Las Vegas. (laughs)
OSTER: My image of Miku differs from what it was back then, and it also varies from person to person. I think she's a strange, wondrous entity.
— Project Diva Future Tone DX also features Hachi-san's song Sand Planet. Have you two heard this song?
kz: Yes. I was astonished. Such an amazing time to write an amazing song.
OSTER: Honestly, it's just peak Hachi-san that he's able to make a 10th anniversary song that's so cutting.
kz: No doubt, (Kenshi) Yonezu-kun is an artist. OSTER and I, I guess we think too much about the client. When providing songs or producing, we try to meet what our client wants from us, while also exceeding their expectations. We definitely can't do an approach like Sand Planet.
OSTER: When you're an arranger, you have to know exactly what's wanted from you and do up the song accordingly. In that sense, I feel like I can't do the kind of "tossing the ball back" Sand Planet does.
kz: Simply put, if it were me, I'm sure I would've written a more joyous song. I'm too much of a coward to put out such a song, so I'm impressed with Yonezu-kun's courage to put out Sand Planet at the time he did.