Babymetal: What the Japanese Viral Sensations Learned From Metallica
How the “cute metal” pioneers balance life, school, world tours
Babymetal’s self-titled debut was theÂ best-selling Japanese album in AmericaÂ last year, and the viral sensations (whoseÂ “Gimme Chocolate!!” music videoÂ has racked up over 26 million views on YouTube) continue to blaze their unique path in 2015 with an official Stateside reissue, which is available digitally now and will be released physically on June 16th. When they’re not in school, the group ”” Su-metal (the group’s 17-year-old lead singer) along with Yuimetal and Moametal (15-year-olds whoÂ handle most of the intense choreography of the group’s live show) ”” are hard at work solidifying their brand of “kawaii”Â (“cute”) metal with a world tour that’s taking them to U.K.’s Reading Festival, America’s Rock on the Range and their first concert in Mexico City. The group talked toÂ Rolling StoneÂ during a brief stay in New York before jetting off to Toronto.
How was performing in Mexico?
Su-Metal:Â We did not expect them to be that crazy ”” it was really hot, on all levels. It was our first time meeting the fans in Mexico but, even then, people were singing along, reacting to us and they really knew our songs.
What differences have you seen among international fans?
Moametal:Â It feels like the fan demographics are very different when we’re in Europe, America and Japan. One big thing that I’ve noticed between the Japanese fans and the overseas fans is that the people outside of Japan always sing along ”” the whole crowd sings along with Su-Metal ”” instead of people in Japan, who are more connected to Yuimetal and me.
Before your shows start, you play Metallica over the P.A. What do you like so much about them?
Su-Metal:Â It’s not only something for us, but the fans get excited when they listen to Metallica and, with Babymetal, it keeps with the rhythm. Before we joined Babymetal, we weren’t that familiar with metal, but we learned a lot from Metallica. Watching their shows and even meeting them, they were really nice to us.
Did you get any advice from Metallica when you met them?
Moametal:Â We never got any advice, but just watching their stage we learned so much. They separate who they are onstage and who they are backstage. That’s something we learned from them and we hope one day we’ll be able to reach that kind of level onstage that Metallica has onstage. It feels like they do receive power from the metal gods when they’re on because it’s amazing.
How much do you prepare for a tour?
Su-Metal:Â For this tour, we had about two weeks of rehearsal, but that’s probably not enough. Just being onstage, looking at the fans reacting to us and looking at each other, we kind of support each other onstage. That’s where we get our energy to go on. We see each other, we look at the fans, the fans are enjoying themselves and that’s enough for us.
What’s a typical day of rehearsal like?
Su-Metal:Â As you know, we have to go to school, so we can only practice after school. So, we do about four hours after.
The Babymetal album is being re-released with two bonus tracks. Why are these tracks important to the band?
Su-Metal:Â We decided to include a live version of “Gimme Chocolate!!” because it’s one of the songs that are really known here and we know that the fans outside Japan really love the song. Everybody remembers every single part of the music, how to react to it and how to dance to it, so that’s why we wanted to present a different take on this song.Â The second song isÂ “Road of Resistance.”Â The song is about basically paving a new path, this is what we’re trying to do with our second world tour. And, of course, it’s the song that features Sam [Totman] and Herman [Li] of Dragonforce. Dragonforce is known for their speed metal so this track has really fast riffs. It’s a very, very cool song.
What are your favorite lyrics on the record?
Su-Metal:Â [In] the song “Ijime, Dame, Zettai,” there is one phrase that means “I will protect you no matter what.” I feel very connected to that because we play the song at the end of our set. All of us are super tired from the whole show, but there’s one part in our choreography where we all walk to the center and look into each others’ eyes and it’s like, “OK, let’s do this.” It also reflects to where we are in reality. To me, it’s a very, very important part of our show and that’s why I like it.
Yuimetal:Â This is not really my favorite lyric, but “Road of Resistance” is my favorite song. . . . I like it because the lyrics reminds me that when things get tough, you still can do it.
What hopes do you have with the album reissue?
Su-Metal:Â Obviously, we don’t come to America often. It’s very difficult, you know, schedule-wise and everything. With this album finally being physically available here, I feel that, hopefully, the album will be the medium that keeps the fans close to us. They will finally be able to hold it in their hands. Even though we’re so far away, this album’s going to connect us with fans again and we just want to keep that relationship going.