Translated interview with Tomoko Kawase (Marquee vol. 38)

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Post by denadel on Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:58 pm

A friend of mine translated an older six page interview with Tomoko Kawase, regarding her solo projects Tommy febaruary and Tommy heavenly. An interesting read, so I thought I'd share it here. I thin kthe interview is from 2003/2004.

Translated interview with Tomoko Kawase (Marquee vol. 38) Img_0811

Translated interview with Tomoko Kawase (Marquee vol. 38) Img_0812

Tommy February 6 and Tommy Heavenly 6 are the mirror-images. They are all about the opposites. I remember Kawase was saying a while ago that she wanted to produce a new pop idol image. I wonder if she created Tommy Heavenly 6 based on that idea. Heavenly 6 is known to keep the blythe doll (a fashion doll, about 28 cm (11 inch) tall, with an oversized head and large eyes that change color with the pull of a string) of February 6 around, so it seems obvious that Heavenly 6 has the mixed feelings of jealousy and admiration towards February 6. The character reminds me of Kawase, who is an avid reader of Ribbon (a monthly Japanese shōjo manga magazine marketed towards a female audience). Here is our latest interview with Kawase about Tommy February 6 including its beginning, transformation, and most recent activities.

Interviewer: Tommy Heavenly 6 is such an interesting idea. When did you come up with it?

“The initial idea came up at the same time when I thought about Tommy February 6, which means, it’s a long time ago. I’d say, December of 2000.”

Interviewer: Did you have a clear vision of its character and image back then?

“Back then, I simply had the vague idea and called it my ‘dark side’. Only recently did I start finalizing the idea. I’ve always loved shoujo manga, so that’s why I immediately thought about creating the opposing character. It didn’t matter whether I was actually going to produce the pop star; the idea came to me first as a ‘rivalry’, who was a twin sister separated at birth. Both girls shared the exactly same DNA, but they were raised in the different environments, and ended up having totally different personalities. Yet, since they are twin sisters, they are on the same wavelength. In the back of Heavenly 6’s mind, February 6 is always there. They are so similar, and they like each other so much that they feel annoyed with each other. When I started my solo career, I almost gave up on the idea of producing another idol based on my ‘dark-side’. But about a year and a half ago, the urge suddenly started to come back to me.”

Interviewer: And why do you think it happened?

“I was starting to feel conflicted as I continued to perform as Tommy February 6. Heavenly 6 was meant to be expressed at the same time. I felt like I was trying to suppress my dark-side of creativity”

Interviewer: Suppressing your dark side?

“That’s right. We all live in this society while we try to suppress certain aspect of ourselves. Simply put, Tommy February 6 is all about cheerful pop music, and the idol’s image has been already set up. But the reason I created February 6 was so that I could transform my imagination into reality. I created this character because of my personality complex. A few weeks before creating the image of Tommy February 6, I was watching the cheer-leading competition on TV. I was so moved by the cheer-leaders that I cried so much. I thought, ‘How come those girls are so cheerful, energetic and full of youth, yet I am so negative and gloomy?’ So I felt like a slacker and felt personality complex. Then I thought, ‘I should create an idol with happy cheer-leaders in the background so they can boost me up with good energy.’ I also like the character who can think objectively, and who is more caring and sympathetic. I’ve been an avid manga reader, and readers are able to see the world objectively, so I am gravitated towards a reader-like character.”

Interviewer: lol.

“Also, my eye sight has been pretty good but I know reading too much manga causes near-sightedness, and that’s why I wanted to try on eyeglasses. Also, I wanted the character to have ‘alcoholism’, which is an indication of mental weakness and instability. I tend to be negative deep within and I wanted to add mental instability to the character. In reality though, I can’t even drink a drop of alcohol, so I’m fascinated by the heavy-drinkers. As for similarities, Tommy February 6 has common teenage-problems, just like I did back in the days. When I was a teenager, I felt awkward and confused. It was mostly about. ‘I don’t want to grow up’ or ‘I refuse to grow up’. Growing up is all about being responsible, being restricted, and living with your job title as a boring identity. It’s about being forced inside the box. I’m really not into these concepts.”

Interviewer: In another words, you want to stay free.

“Yes, I wanted to enjoy freedom. That’s why when I was asked to be a solo artist, I refused right away. On the outside, a solo artist seems to have lots of freedom, but in reality, he/she would lose more freedom because of the extra responsibility. That’s why being in a band was more fun and free to me. There were 3 of us, and we looked after each other all the time. I was never comfortable with doing something on my own. I knew I lacked in confidence, and I didn’t like having extra responsibilities. I felt like it was going to be difficult to experiment and have fun. But once I started my solo career, the extra responsibility was the exact key to solving most of my existing problems. I realized avoiding problems was the hardest thing to endure. Nowadays, I’m not so stressed about having extra responsibilities. Sometimes, though, I feel like it’s getting too much and I feel like running away.”

Interviewer: Sounds like your attitude towards becoming a solo artist has changed a lot.

“Definitely. It’s a lot easier for sure. But I was starting to feel some inner conflict between the original concept and the reality. I’d been focusing so much about overcoming my responsibility issue, and was starting to lose fear of acting on my own, so I was willing to take up lots of more challenges. I ended up accepting lots of new requests and favors. Most suggestions were fun and cheerful in nature, which were completely different from the original concept of Tommy February 6.”

Interviewer: Do you feel you were being judged based solely on the appearance?

“Yes. I understand because I’ve been speaking mainly about the image, which is superficial, and it should be about music, so I didn’t explain my original concept to staff in detail, for I might’ve come across as being too stubborn and inflexible. So I don’t think I could do much about the situation. Also, I was rushing to those new ideas because they sound interesting, It was also a great feedback of Tommy February 6’s image and how general public saw me. Actually, at one point, I was managing so many projects that I forgot about one of the main crucial aspects of the character, ‘alcoholism’. If I remember correctly, there used to be a drinking scene in every music video up until ‘Kiss One More Time’, and ‘Bloomin’!’ and ‘Je t’aime, je t’aime’ did not contain any drinking scenes at all. So the image was becoming ‘healthier and cleaner’. I felt like I was feeling inner conflict all the time, and I was getting sick of being misunderstood about my original concept and compromising my creative integrity. At that point though, it was already too late, for I’d taken up way too many projects and re-established my new image, which was getting more cheerful, brighter, and happier. I felt like I had to suppress my urge. And my inner conflict was getting bigger. ”

Interviewer: And that’s how the one-sided, bright and happy image of Tommy February 6 was created. This new image was removed of all the ‘dark-side’, Tommy Heavenly 6. When you began February 6, both brighter side and the darker side existed and maintained its balance, right?

“Exactly. That’s why the original February 6 wasn’t as flashy and a bit gloomier compare to the current February 6, but I felt very comfortable as an artist.”

Interviewer: But now you feel that the original concept is very different from the current image.

“Very different indeed. That’s why I started incorporating the ‘drinking scenes’ into the latest music video once again. The level of conflict and frustration has reached the maximum point, and the solution to my inner conflict was unleashing Tommy Heavenly 6. Also, another turning point was when I went back to The Brilliant Green. In my mind, there is a clear separation between Tommy February 6 and The Brilliant Green. Just because I did something as February 6, that doesn’t mean I’d automatically approve the similar concept for The Brilliant Green, but many people had a hard time separating those two. That’s when I started to feel that I had to start Heavenly 6 as soon as possible. A new image that was stoic, with strong and opposite concepts. That’s how Heavenly 6 filled the gap for me.”

Interviewer: In another words, February 6 and Heavenly 6 are there to maintain the perfect balance.


Interviewer: It’s like two parts to complete one image.

“That’s right. Heavenly 6 is a part of February 6. It’s like a missing piece of puzzle.”

Interviewer: When I first heard about the concept of February 6/Heavenly 6, the first thing came to my mind was Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. I feel like those two characters were supposed to be one character. One is the brighter side, and the other is the darker side. By the way, I’m sorry to suddenly derail the interview by referring to Harry Potter.

“I’m a fan of Harry Potter too, but I never thought of my characters that way. Maybe you’re right about the similarity. Harry has the same ability as Lord Voldemort. As for February 6/Heavenly 6, those two complete each other. February 6 needs the missing part, Heavenly 6, in order to feel as a whole.”

Interviewer: As for Harry Potter, I don’t think it’s about the superhero or anti-superhero. The story isn’t about the superhero winning all the time. Harry is carrying a curse and that’s why people act differently around him and treat him as if he’s a bad guy.

“And that’s his unfortunate fate. What a heartbreaking story. Harry is such an industrious boy. Lol. And Harry is not a cheerful, happy boy either, which is just like February 6. But honestly, I am worried about Harry Potter. I am desperately hoping that the creator is going to plan a happy-ending for the movie. I can’t stand bad-endings. I am negative and therefore always afraid of something bad would happen. As for fictions, I prefer happy-endings. The reality is pretty dark as is, so let’s make the fantasy something happy and cheerful.”

Interviewer: So you mentioned you felt the need to express your dark-side. You seem so focused on Heavenly 6 nowadays.

“Heavenly 6 has been so refreshing. It’s my current number 1 priority. I feel very protective of this ‘child’ of mine. I am fully committed to stay true to the original image of Heavenly 6.”

Interviewer: As for the style of Heavenly 6, has it always been yours?

“The Brilliant Green was originally like that. Specially in terms of general atmosphere.”

Interviewer: A not-so-friendly look?

“That’s right. The look of ‘I don’t give a damn about what the world think of me’ sort of style. We didn’t know how to behave in front of the large crowd when I started The Brilliant Green, so we looked a bit shy, out-of-place, and uncomfortable. During the photo shoot for Heavenly 6, I was saying, ‘wow, it feels like I’ve gone back in time when I just started The Brillian Green’. This is a true indication of how much The Brilliant Green has changed since its original concept. As soon as we became popular, we were immediately different. And rightfully so, because we were curious, and we were up for big concerts and different projects. And over times, our ‘awkward image’ went away. So maybe I wanted to recreate that same feeling once again.”

Interviewer: So Heavenly6 is the image from the beginning of your music career.

“Yes, and I’ve added my current emotions to it. I feel like I’m not trying to be someone else by dressing up. I feel like wearing my loose comfy shirt. And I’m a lot more confident as an artist, like wearing rock star glove on one side. Lol. And I always carrying the doll of February 6 to show her support. Heavenly 6 is a visually out-spoken idol.”

Interviewer: I can see that February 6/Heavenly 6 are closely intertwined. When I read the lyrics for ‘Love is forever’ and ‘Wait till I can dream’, I could tell their relationship.

“Yes, during the brainstorming process, the temporary idol name was ‘Tommy February Dark Side’. But as I came close to the completion of ‘Wait till I can dream’, the image was starting to be not so dark. It was pure and innocent, and optimistic. The character’s perverse side of the personality was still well-reflected, but staff had a hard time matching the idol name and the image of the song. So the name change was the last minute decision, and it was a difficult one.”

Interviewer: And finally, it was decided as Heavenly.

“Yes. I find the purity and freshness of Heavenly is dreamlike. February is forward-thinking, optimistic, and Heavenly is a performer who admires February. Heavenly’s character is a bit more nervous. Also, the words ‘February’ and ‘Heavenly’ sound alike and flow nicely together.

Interviewer: I agree. Now, do you express the true, hidden side of who you are when you perform as Heavenly 6?

“What do you mean by true, hidden side of me?”

Interviewer: Actually, I’m not sure which one is your true, hidden side.

“Honestly, I don’t think I have such a thing. Recently, I had an opportunity to work with an astrologist. And I was told that I had no true self. In another words, I always perceive myself as a third person. I have a hard time expressing myself subjectively, so when I feel a temperature, I tend to analyze it rather than simply saying, ‘it’s hot’ or ‘it’s cold’. Lol.”

Interviewer: Lol.

“If I was a calm person, it’s easy to handle such a personality. But I tend to over-think simple things. Honestly, it’s complicated and exhausting. Since I began as a solo artist, I am often asked a question like, ‘What would you like to express most as a solo artist?’ I never thought I’d write songs objectively, but I realized that I am expressing myself nonetheless, especially as a solo artist. Because of the build-up frustration, I felt like I needed the outlet to let it all out. And I really love seeing myself expressing fully like that. It’s a strange feeling. ”

Interviewer: Some fans simply like your songs without reading too much into the lyrics. Other fans like to analyze your lyrics and understand so much about who you are. Which do you prefer?

“I prefer the listeners who simply like the songs just the way they are. I think music is best enjoyed with your heart, and not with your head. It doesn’t matter what my lifestyle is or what my philosophy is. I analyze myself for my own sake in order to express, but I don’t want listeners to go through the same tedious process at all. When they listen to my music, I want them to find out whether they like it or not, and that’s all I want. Interviews like this are for the latter type of my fans, and I don’t expect all my fans to read and learn who I truly am.

Interviewer: And what’s your goal for Heavenly/February?

“I want the characters to stay lively, so I don’t want to restrict them by setting rigid goals. As for Heavenly 6, I’m going to do it whenever I get frustrated as February 6 or myself.”

Interviewer: In another words, whenever we see the release of Heavenly 6, does it indicate your mental instability? Lol.

“Yes, it means that I’m in a danger zone and that I am about to explode! Lol. Doing Heavenly means releasing my frustration. So long as I feel content and fulfilled, you won’t see Heavenly. For me, the existence of this image itself is an important message. I may sound unstable, but you’re just seeing my creative energy, and the music itself is well-contained and well-organized, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it without mixed feelings. My simple goal is to release each album, as Heavenly and February.”

Tommy February and Tommy Heavenly are indeed mirror images. For example, February’s role model is a cheer-leader, but Heavenly’s role model is a rock star. As for blythe dolls, we’ve taken photos of both February and newly produced and coordinated Heavenly models side by side in order to show the complex relationship between the two. When you see the photo of those two dolls, you’ll understand the real two figures. It’s getting too complicated, isn’t it? Just take another look at the cover photo once again and you’ll get the picture.

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Post by Kokoro on Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:03 am

Oh! Thanks a lot Very Happy

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Post by I'mAPlayerInTVGames on Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:04 pm

Thanks very much for posting Smile

Some interesting things there - about her not wanting her fans to analyse her lyrics. I don't think fans can help doing that sometimes if you're into an artist who is also the lyricist, but I don't think there's anything too deep in Tommy's lyrics - they're honest and heartfelt, but nothing that would wrap Freud in knots - although having so many personas and projects is obviously something to think about in that context.

Her reasons for creating Heavenly are also interesting, she wraps it up in a little mythology, which a lot of artists do - but I also think from a business and marketing sense, Heavenly was a way of still connecting with the original Buri Guri fanbase and not letting them slip away because of her concentrating on synthpop rather than indie rock. I'm sure she also missed writing and producing in that style too.

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Post by ghitgo on Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:43 pm

Very interesting read, thanks!

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Post by shizuenjune2 on Mon Mar 11, 2013 2:36 am

thank you very much, was an interesting read I love you love knowing more about her

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