Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Talks New Single, World Tour, Meeting Katy Perry: Interview

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Courtesy of Billboard Japan 

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

<a href="/music/Kyary-Pamyu-Pamyu">Kyary Pamyu Pamyu</a> dropped her latest digital single, "Kimino Mikata," on April 11, a little over a year after the release of her previous single, "Easta" ("Easter," in English). The new song written by longtime collaborator Yasutaka Nakata veers slightly away from her previous sugarcoated pop sound to a more groovy, dance-oriented beat featuring rap-like vocals. 

The Japanese pop icon hasn't been releasing songs as often as she used to, but she's been upping her presence in the performance department, putting more weight on concerts and touring in recent years. She'll be kicking off her world tour, THE SPOOKY OBAKEYASHIKI: PUMPKINS STRIKE BACK, in May, an ambitious endeavor that will take last year's Japanese haunted house-themed Halloween show to her overseas fans.

Billboard Japan caught up with the 25-year-old singer to find out about her new single, upcoming tour, and how she feels about balancing her "kawaii" (cute) image with her age and personal growth.

The vocals on your new single "Kimino Mikata" sound like rap. Do you listen to hip-hop?

I do. I like (Japanese hip-hop group) <a href="/music/Rip-Slyme">Rip Slyme</a> for example and sing their songs a lot at karaoke. But it was the first time rapping on my own song, so that was a surprise.

What was striking about the song was the social message behind the lyrics and in the title ("Kimino Mikata" translates roughly to "I'm on Your Side"). How do you feel about the content?

Watching the news in recent years, I've felt that there's been a tendency for people to single out an individual and then piling on them as the "bad guy." Of course, it really is bad if that person has definitely committed a crime, and I don't know if Mr. Nakata feels the same way. But especially online, if someone says something is "over" then everyone echoes the sentiment, and it's also true when something is declared "awesome," and everyone follows up with the same opinion.

There aren't too many balanced, fair comments, and I feel that the voice of the majority is becoming stronger in our society. So I thought that the lyrics of this song was very 2018. I think it reaches out in a world that's becoming more difficult to live in.

Watch the "Kimi No Mikata" music video here:
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You posted on your Instagram (see below) the other day that you met <a href="/music/Katy-Perry">Katy Perry</a> when she performed in Japan. What did you two talk about?

I went to see her before her show. She remembered me and told me she checks out my Instagram. Katy sometimes "likes" a trivial post of mine. (Laughs) Things like that, and maybe the interpreter was being nice, but Katy apparently said that she respects and loves me! I love her too and still think she's so cool when seeing her perform live. So when someone you've loved for a long time says something like that to you, it's confusing -- taken aback that someone you looked up to is suddenly so up close.

You're quite a star yourself now, though.

I found out about Katy in high school and used to listen to "Hot N Cold" while riding my bike. I recalled such things while watching her show that day, and it really struck home that my current position would have been unimaginable to me back in those days.

I'm also indebted to her in that about a year or two after I made my debut, she introduced my music video for "PONPONPON" by linking to it from her <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter account</a>. That led to my becoming recognized overseas. So I think my first world tour was thanks in no small part to Katy.

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For your upcoming world tour, you'll be reproducing last year's domestic Halloween concert on the same scale overseas, right?

That's right. People who had seen the show last October had been telling me that it would probably go over really well with my overseas fans.

On my previous world tours, since the people who were coming to see me had only seen me in videos, I either performed a scaled-down version of my solo headlining domestic tour, or simply wore the outfits I used in my music videos to present an easily recognizable version of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu that everyone wanted to see.

But my upcoming tour is more elaborate and is more like an entertainment show than a simple music concert. The show is about Halloween in Japan and how it only focuses on Western monsters like zombies and Dracula, and points out that there are lots of good Japanese monsters (called "yokai"), too.

My previous concerts would have an opening, the main set, then a "happy ending" to close it out, but this show has a heartwarming story that conveys sadness and love, so I'm confident that it'll be an exciting live performance. Taking a concert we worked hard on in Japan and showing it overseas in its original form is a new endeavor for me.

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Speaking of new endeavors, you're featured in your new photo with darker hair and a more grown-up look than your previous image.

Well, I'm 25 now, so usually that's grown up. (Laughs) But after trying it this time, I found out that creating a mature look is actually easy. So I'd like to try something different next time.

Your career has always been firmly linked from the very beginning with the "kawaii" (cute) culture of Harajuku. As you evolve, how do you think your connection with that culture will change? 

I think the answer to that depends on how people interpret what I do. But something I noticed while watching Katy's show the other day was that she hasn't changed at the core after all. It was the third time seeing her perform live, and this time she had her hair cut really short and looked mature and sexy, but I was convinced that deep down her "pop and cute" side hadn't changed. I'll keep evolving too, but hope to maintain that basic "kawaii" side.

What is your basic "kawaii" side?

I've always taken care to express "girlishness" through my outfits and choreography. "Making something dreamlike into reality" is another concept I value. The fantasy element in my visuals came about because I wanted to bring something unrealistic into reality. Like adding fairytale-like perspectives to my concerts, and the latest haunted house, too.

Something I haven't done yet that I'm interested in is history. For example, starting a show with Himiko, the shaman queen of ancient Japan. Clear-cut, kawaii things have been at the base of my creative output until now, but from now on, I'd like to take up things that I'm interested in at the moment to express myself.

Could you tell us why you find "girlishness" important?

Maybe it's because I like guileless women. Katy is like that, and the Japanese singer <a href="/music/YUKI">YUKI</a> and Miwa Yoshida from <a href="/music/dreams-come-true">Dreams Come True</a> also come to mind. Whenever I see them, I'm amazed at how they've managed to hold onto their childlike qualities. I think it's great when a woman at any age has that element of innocence. Not just onstage, it's something I think about in my personal life, too. I don't want to forget my inner innocence.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu World Tour 2018
May 20: KOKO, London
May 22: Columbia Theater, Berlin
May 23: Die Kantine, Köln, Germany
June 18: PlayStation Theater, New York
June 20: The Regency Ballroom, San Francisco
June 22: The Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles