answers_shiori-mori

Every day you can see idols appealing to fans with their “performances” at event appearances and shows. There are even groups who have the hidden talents necessary to attract overseas fans. Tokyo Girls’ Update would like hear from those that possess these hidden talents for attracting fans, and dig deeper into finding out their roots. For our first session, we’ve asked PASSPO☆’s Shiori Mori, admired among many idols, and by many fans and staff that say she has a great and powerful singing voice, to let us interview her for a special spotlight on “singing”.

 

– You’ve enjoyed singing ever since you were a young girl, correct?

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That’s right. I really enjoy music. When I was in elementary school I loved Morning Musume. I clearly remember wanting my mom to hear me sing something when I was in the sixth grade, so my family and I went to karaoke, and I sang Ai Otsuka’s “Sakuranbo”. When I finished they told me I must be tone-deaf! (laugh) I was totally shocked! (laugh) After that I believed I was a terrible singer. But in junior high I started going out to karaoke with my friends almost daily. All of my friends were great singers. They motivated me to try harder and I would practice singing over and over again.

– How often would you go?

We went a lot! I’d go with a friend or two, and we’d stay about four hours during free time.

– Four hours? (laugh) What kind of songs did you sing?

I really liked EXILE back then, so I would always sing their songs. My friends liked Kaela Kimura so I’d learn her songs and sing them, along with Namie Amuro. I wouldn’t sing the whole song and was always the first to finish. We’d cancel the song and put in the next one. We’d do that for four and a half hours. We sang quite a lot (of songs). I’ve also always liked folk music, too.

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– Were you interested in entertainment back then?

I entered the entertainment industry when I was three years old. I would play children’s parts. I played them from the age of three up until the fifth grade, and then from the fifth grade until my third year of junior high school I stopped. After that I went back to entertainment again.

– How did you join your agency?

During my third year of junior high I decided I wanted to go back to doing entertainment, so I told my mom that. I was scouted twice in one year, and my mom allowed me to join the agency that the scout was with. That’s the agency I’m with now. It was fate.

– Where were you scouted at?

At the Shibuya Scramble crosswalk. (laugh) In front of L’Occitane there was a man who kept staring at me. I thought maybe I should run away, but then he started after me and I was like oh my god, he’s coming! (laugh) Then he said excuse me and told me he was with (my agency). He told me about the other people he represented and started showing me all these documents. At the time I really liked Chinatsu Wakatsuki. So I thought about joining. The agency was proactive about calling me back.

– You’re right, that really does sound like it was fate. Did you audition for PASSPO☆ soon after?

Not immediately, but it was within a year. When I joined the agency, Aipon (PASSPO☆ crew/member Ai Negishi), Naomin (Naomi Anzai), and Mio (Mio Masui) had also joined around the same time, so they told me to come in and meet them, and we became close after taking performance lessons together. One day they were holding auditions backstage and told me to come. They had us dance to Perfume. (laugh) We couldn’t dance at all. (laugh) But I remember them telling us to come on and just give it a go, just like that. We were terrible but for some reason they picked Aipon, Naomi, and I. None of us could dance but we got picked. We were like, huh?! (laugh) But the boss was like, “Don’t you want to be PASSPO☆ members in training?” It was like really? Even though we can’t dance at all? (laugh)

– So you formed PASSPO☆ without any dancing or singing experience. Was that difficult?

It was hard, but more than that we felt it was something we had to do. That feeling was much stronger. Like, “We have to get our names out there!” At the time the idol war era hadn’t begun yet, at first we just began doing free practices. Above everything else, we had to practice singing and dancing.

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Ms. Takenaka’s (Choreographer Natsumi Takenaka) dances were really great, and felt very fluid with their cheer-like, ballet-style moves. (I’m) good at dance-styles where you have to freeze in place. I took classical ballet when I was little, so her dances fit me (perfectly). I really lucked out. I would get praised much more doing Ms. Takenaka’s dances than doing more typical dance-style moves.

– Did you have a knack for for singing back then?

Nope. Not at all. When it came time to sing, it was more or less just trying to get my voice to carry. We didn’t have any solo parts and just sang in unison, and I didn’t have any attachment to the music. It was like karaoke.

– So at what point did you become more musically aware?

Hmm, when was it… Um… (she seems quite concerned, as if it was somewhat later) Well, I think it was after our major debut. We started getting assigned more solo parts. At one point I couldn’t figure out why, but suddenly they told me I would be the “main vocal”. It was like, “What? You want me as the main vocal?” Because of that I decided to do my best. (laugh) I was shocked, even though admittedly I do a lot of singing.

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– So that was when it hit you. (laugh)

Yeah. (laugh) At the time we hadn’t decided on one person to always be center.

– I thought it was because you liked music and you wanted to sing.

Not at all at first… In the beginning I wanted to become a TV personality. When we were asked who wanted to do music, I was probably the only person who didn’t raise their hand. But maybe some small part of me actually wanted to do it. It was like I had finally realized it.

– Maybe that was it. (laugh)

Oh, and since way back when I would always ask the staff after a flight (concert) about how the show was. Everyone would have a different opinion, which was a great reference point. I would especially always try and ask our pilot (PASSPO☆’s music producer, Penne to Arabiata). Like, “How was our singing?”

– So you asked everyone what they thought?

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That’s right. That’s all I would do. I’d write their answers down and try to make improvements for next time. Whatever flight music PA had recorded or anything we had finished recording I would take home and listen to, and I would check whether or not certain parts were in-tune. I would do the same thing for our dances, replay our dance clips and always write about it in my notebook.

– What kind of things did you pay special attention to during recording?

I would try and not mess up on the note duration! (laugh) That was number one. They would tell me it sounded like I was really into the music, but that the duration was wrong so they couldn’t use it! (laugh) It always happened.

– The note duration, I see. (laugh)

For me, that’s what it was. I would always make a mistake. I would remember it wrong and not be able to easily correct myself. If I took too long it would press into everyone else’s recording time.

– That is something to consider. (laugh)

Totally! I would try to focus on that and tell myself I needed to finish quickly. You can’t hear how many takes it took on a single CD, and I really wanted to make it as great as possible.

– How were you able to fix it?

During recordings our pilot would tell me I had made a mistake and sing it for me. Then he would ask me to sing it back to him and we’d do that over and over. (laugh) If we were doing a song I had never sung before, I would have no idea. I would keep thinking about difficult it was. (laugh)

– Is there not much time from when you get the music?

Not really. The complete one would come about three or four days before. Last time it was the day before.

– (laughs)

I remember thinking, “This is impossible!” I didn’t have any time to practice and I remember just doing it like that. (laugh) It was really bad then. I had listened to it so much, though. It was no good. It was just too late. For “GPP” it came the night before. I had school before and I couldn’t use my cell phone, so during recess I listened to it as much as I could… It really sucked! At the time I was so busy that I couldn’t attend club practice. At the time it seemed normal. Even now, when I get it the morning of the day before, I’m still a little thankful (bitter laugh). With pretty much everything we would start by doing much of it ourselves. (laugh) It was the same for costumes and selling goods. We would all do our own decorations, and besides our shoes we would wash everything by hand. We did our make-up on our own, too. Because of that everything feels fine now.

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– What would you say your turning point has been after forming PASSPO☆?

When we changed our name and we started emphasizing our rock style. From that point we started playing more powerful songs. I’m good at doing American girls’ rock-style numbers, but I really like the feel of hard rock. I feel like we started doing more songs that were suited toward me. And then we changed our name to PASSPO☆ so it was like, “Let’s do it!” (laugh) I think only recently I’ve been able to sing with expression. Or rather, I feel that way about songs like “Candy Room” and “STEP & GO”.

– So it’s been a recent change?

It has. Like really recent. I felt like something became clearer doing the main vocals on “Perfect Sky”. Oh, and it was then that I first started doing voice training. I felt like for the first time I was learning how to sing.

– You only started going to voice training from then? That’s unbelievable!

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I think maybe somewhere inside I felt like I had reached my limit (laugh), for both technique and singing style. I was terrible at nuance, or setting the tone. I was really awful at medium ballads like “Growing Up”. I felt like if I kept things up like that nothing good would ever come from it. Since around “ViVi Natsu”, even our stage director was telling me it was about time to start voice training. Also during “Perfect Sky” everyone was playing instruments, but I disliked the fact that I wasn’t doing anything. Even though I had been a vocalist for five years somehow I wasn’t impressed when it was decided I was going to be the vocal. To myself I thought, “Who would support that?” I didn’t want to think that way so I decided that I had to put in just as much effort as everyone else was into learning an instrument into raising my vocal level, and started taking vocal training lessons.

– Speaking of which, did you think any differently when it came to the ground crew units and Band PASSPO☆ or Hacchake-tai outside of regular PASSPO☆?

We’ve only done the band with the ground crew a few times, but in the sense of just singing and doing my best it was the same. I’m still on the first step. Not letting the music overpower our singing is number one. For Band PASSPO☆ we don’t have a main vocalist or any dances, you know? So it might seem a little boring, but it’s the kind of stage that makes me the most nervous. As for Hacchake-tai, it’s a feeling like just trying to really get Japan pumped up. Like, “Everyone get into it and get excited!” like an after party. If we can just do that, it’s enough, as far as Hacchake-tai goes. (laugh)

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– Do you have any ideals as a vocalist?

To be honest, as I vocalist I don’t really have any. But I have a strong desire to sing PASSPO☆’s songs. Someday it would be nice to go solo, but if I ever have the free time to think about it I feel like I should just work harder as part of PASSPO☆. More than doing solo activities, I want to keep singing PASSPO☆’s songs together with everyone. So I always want to keep on singing them. Forever. I really felt like that during Band PASSPO☆ when I was standing in front with the other members behind me. While I was singing “Perfect Sky” I couldn’t see anyone behind me, and it felt like I was singing up there on my own. Up until then we had always been facing each other, giggling, and having fun while dancing, and it felt lonely.

– Just as I figured, PASSPO☆ is number one!

It is! It would be nice to do a solo corner as part of PASSPO☆.

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– It’s amazing that after six years you’ve been able to completely re-invent yourselves. On February 24, 2016 you’ll re-debut with your single “Mr. Wednesday”.

It’s really good timing for us to be making our re-debut, as well as “Mr. Wednesday” going on sale. Another new turning point for us was just a while ago on November 28. We had the opportunity to hold a solo flight at Shinagawa Stellar Ball and it really made our feelings change. We were like, “We can’t keep going on like this.” I’m sure everyone in our crew was thinking about how nobody really wanted to see PASSPO☆ sing and dance without holding anything back like that. But we’ve been thinking about how we have to do something in 2016 to get to the next level. I don’t think anything we’ve done up until now has been a waste, but we have to try a little harder to work on the things were we still have a little more work left to do. Like definitely putting more singing into our daily schedule or other ways to improve our skills. Like running and things like that, too. We have to fill in our schedule with something every day.

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– What kind of song is “Mr. Wednesday?”

It’s a really good one. It’s really cute. The lyrics go through the week while on the way to meet that special guy on Wednesday.

– It’s cute, but the song is cool, too. I feel like it’s pressing towards the same outlook that your album “Beef or Chicken?” had.

I agree! You’re completely right. It has the same feel as “Honey Dish”. We picked it from a long list of choices, but this was the best one. When Ms. Takenaka heard it she was like, “This is the one!” This time we have cheerleader-style costumes and the movements go along with that.

– So it all ties in together? What are your goals with your re-debut?

It’s always our goal, but we’d like to rank on the Oricon charts. Not necessarily with “Mr. Wednesday”, but it’d be great if we could really gain more (PASSPO☆) fans. I really want everyone to give us a listen!

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– You debuted on Oricon as number one.

We did. (Her voice drops) So I’d definitely like to do it again and be number one.

– So you want people to get to know PASSPO☆’s music.

For us it’s okay if people start liking us because of our look, but it makes us happy when people get into us because of our music. Like ideally it would be best if they got into our music first and then began thinking about how cute a certain member is. “Pretty Lie” is a good example. We call it “letting Pretty Lies run wild”. It’s a good song so it got a lot of people to come. I was surprised to hear my local pub first found out about PASSPO☆ from that song.

– You’ve all had consistent hits since your indie days.

There are a lot of PASSPO☆ songs that I think a lot of people will love, so I feel very strongly about wanting people to get to know them. I’ve felt that way since the beginning, and even with our currently popular songs I don’t feel any different. Instead of thinking about how we’ve changed from the beginning, I don’t think there’s been a year where we’ve changed on the inside. So I’d like to continue on like that.

– Maybe this re-debut was meant to be, then. On that note, please tell us about your goals.

I want us to be famous!! I want to appear on TV, like on a variety show. I want to be someone who appears often on TV!!

– (Both laughing)

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Shiori left us with the comment, “I hate excuses. I don’t like to make them about anything.” These words really describe the group, underlying the fact that they kept giving their all and pushing forward, even clumsily, with their activities. She wants to keep singing PASSPO☆’s songs forever, but not only be limited by musical fame. Again we were able to feel her thoughts and resolution when it comes to singing. Telling us that, “We’re really putting everything into our re-debut”, no doubt she will continue cherishing PASSPO☆ and putting her heart into singing and being on stage as much as ever.

Their re-debut isn’t a fresh start from zero, but from the experiences, changes, and everything else they’ve accumulated along the way. With Shiori telling us “we’re going back to our roots”, it looks like PASSPO☆ will be making great strides in 2016.

Author
livemaster
livemaster

Through a label supervised by a management office/music publisher, I am currently active as a "Music Connect-er", working to connect people, city, and sound. I can take on anything enjoyable with a focus on music, including: planning, promotion/support, writing/editing, event production, lecturing, online communications, etc. I can be found almost every day at a live venue or CD shop somewhere.

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