Mari was at the opening ceremony on Friday, and her concert was Friday night. The concert
was a stand-alone event, like the one in Baltimore. She was in the dealer's room on Saturday
selling the new No Limit CD, t-shirts, and concert booklets. Her panel was
Sunday afternoon--she answered questions for part of the time, and then signed autographs.
Before the con there was a "composer panel" scheduled with both Mari and Yoko
Kanno, but it mysteriously disappeared once AX started. Too bad, I would have like to have seen
I missed the opening ceremony--I only got there about an hour before it started, and there was a
three hour line to pick up my page.
Several of Mari's fans from Japan were there. One of them was kind enough to bring a copy of
Love Season, Mari's eleventh album, which is hard to find.
The concert was very good. This was the first convention appearance where Mari has had
a live band, and it was definitely more enjoyable than with recorded music. The sound was
good--remarkably good for Anime Expo, in fact. The room was too large for everyone to see
the stage, so there was a projection screen set up with at least two cameras. The video people
did an excellent job.
The AX people initially told me there would be no photography allowed. They later changed their minds,
but by that time it was too late for me. However, some other people did have cameras, so I may be
able to put up photographs later.
She sang No Limit, Us, Sudden Kiss, and "D"
from the new English CD, No Limit. After those songs, somebody in the audience called for
her to sing in Japanese. I thought that was really weird, and a bit rude. After that she sang
Rain & Shine, from the Rain & Shine album, in Japanese.
Next, she introduced her band members. They were: Jim Studer on keyboard, Matt Bissonette on
bass, Tony Pia on drums, and Danny Jacob on guitar. After that they left the stage except for
Finally, she sang the piano version of Ai Oboeteimasuka. This version isn't on any CD, but
it's really good. Several people have told me recently they like it better than the original version, and
I agree with them.
During the concert, Mari announced that she would be selling No Limit at a table in the lobby
after the concert--this was the first time the new English CD was sold. When the concert ended, most
of the audience got up and stampeded to the table. It was so crowded that I was sort of worried about her,
in the middle of that mob. Later she told me that she had sold 300 CDs that night.
The audience was very enthusiastic and loud. I spoke to several fans who said that it was like a dream come
true, and one man said that he had waited ten years for that night.
Mari's panel was held Sunday afternoon. She answered questions from the audience for about 45 minutes,
then gave autographs and sold CDs, t-shirts, and concert booklets to anybody who wanted one. My
experiment with recording the panel on MiniDisc at Otakon was a success, so I did it again here. This has
one important effect for readers--when I was writing notes by hand, I would omit answers that had
been answered before at another con, so that I could keep up. Now, I don't have to do that, so all the
questions and answers are here.
She enjoyed Anime Expo. It was busy, because she went back and forth to her concert in Torrance
on Saturday, but she was doing fine.
Making the English album has been one of her goals. She feels good about doing it, she likes listening
to it, and is proud of it.
It was kind of interesting when someone at the concert on Friday asked her to sing in Japanese.
She wrote a song for Sally Fields, who is one of her favorite actresses. She's sure Sally Fields
doesn't know about it, though. The song is called Miss Sally, it's on her album
Sonic Boom. She may put it on her next English album if No Limit does well.
The character she will play on Pacific Blue is named Kiko, a Japanese girl who works as a travel
coordinator for Japanese tourists. It will be for one episode. This is a big chance for Mari, because
she's never acted before (in live action).
There are many musical artists she admired when she was younger. When she was in junior high
school, she loved Queen, because the way Freddy Mercury played piano and sang was almost like
classical music. She could relate to that, because she is also a classical piano player. Others
include Paul McCartney (she loved Wings), Hall and Oats (she thinks they were influenced by the
Beatles a lot), and Top Ramblin.
When he was younger she liked Elton John's compositions a lot.
Now she is a little less interested, because he became to "show biz." Since he did
Lion King, it started to bug her a little. She didn't say she doesn't like him, though--
she emphasized this.
Now she likes Rock music. A few years ago, she was into R & B music like Boys to Men, but after
a while everything sounded similar. Now she likes Goo Goo Dolls, and Lit. Sometimes if you listen
closely, a band isn't playing so well, but Lit is really good. Their mixing engineer, Brian Malouf,
is one of her friends, and she used to work with him a lot. He did a very good job mixing their album.
She also likes Silverchair.
She may work with The Squeeze. People talk about them as if they were an '80s band that doesn't
do anything any more, but they still keep going. They were just in California, and may come back
in September. She got to know their members, and some of them wanted to produce her record,
but nothing is happening right now.
Nobody asked her to do any anime roles after Minmay. They may have been afraid to ask, because
at one point she was struggling with a strong image that "Mari equals Minmay equals
anime singer." At one point, she couldn't enjoy it, because that wasn't her goal. It was like
she was going one way, and an opportunity came that she turned left for, and then it kept going
left and she couldn't get back to her original direction. So, she had to just stop. Now, if someone
offers her a good deal, she would do it.
She admires Duncan Sheik, a singer and songwriter who had a hit single,
Barely Breathing, about two years ago. She met him after one of his shows.
The first time she thought about being an international star, not just in Japan, was when she was
in London making Kimono Stereo in 1985. One of the arrangers, Max Middleton (who
used to play with John Beck), liked her music very much and suggested that she try singing outside
of Japan. At that point, she felt like she wanted to do it, but when she talked about it at that time,
everybody said, "What are you talking about, Mari? Do you have a fever?" Since then
she has slowly built up her confidence and studied English. If she didn't have that ambition, maybe
should wouldn't have moved to Los Angeles.
She started to write songs when she was in fourth grade. Her first song was a class song that her
teacher asked her to write. She wrote it with a little help from her father, who is a dentist, not
a musician (but he likes music). By the time she was 18, she had written about 150 songs about
baseball, a school examination that she hated, and lots of other things. At that point, she had to
decide if she wanted to be a classical piano player, or a singer/songwriter. If she didn't try
sending out her tapes, she was going to go to Germany to study piano. She couldn't do that, because
she didn't want to regret anything, so she made a demo tape and sent copies to a few places.
She heard back from JVC Victor, who she didn't send a tape to--somebody had passed the tape on
to them. She went to see the record company people, and that day they told her that the next day
was the last audition for Lynn Minmay, and asked her if she wanted to try it, because the Macross
soundtrack would come out on the JVC Victor label. It was like a good accident.
Most of the songs from Macross were written by somebody else. Her favorits is Ai
Oboeteimasuka, and then Angel's Paint, which she did write. She doesn't know
why Minmay did the "one, two, three, four" thing.
She sometimes sings Angel's Paint in concerts in Japan, and she would sing it here
if people want her too.
She thinks the Japanese music industry is closed. She's not really in the middle of the music
business here yet, but she feels like when she is in Los Angeles, she can do anything she wants.
She feels like there are more chances, and if she really believes in herself and tries hard, she can
get it. When she is in Japan and hears things on the radio, she feels depressed.
She doesn't know for sure, but her guess is that Japanese record companies like new artists and
people who have high sales. They don't try to promote people like her who have steady but
unremarkable sales. Instead, they just give up on such people. They like young girls, and care about
Mari's age. (I think this is unreasonable, since Mari looks like a young girl, regardless
of her age.) In America, people like Lindsay Wagner can still make commericals and nobody complains
about her age.
Music is better here. When people make records, they care about the pitch and the time much more
than in Japan. It's more real here, and she wants to compete with real people.
In response to a question stating that many people compared her to Namie Amuro, she said,
"No one compared me!" Her partner Jim Studer is going on the road with Namie Amuro.
Mari is happy for her if she keeps going, especially because she had so much tragedy lately.
She didn't keep in touch with Ryuichi Sakamoto. She tried to send him email, but it bounced with
a "no such address" error, and she thought, "Shoot, I'm acting like a fan!"
She doesn't have any tour scheduled. The main thing she has to do is find a manager in Los Angeles.
People can contact her through email and her web page. She found out about anime conventions and
her American fans through the Internet.
Somebody in the audience asked her about AnimEigo's announcement that they would be doing a
subtitled release of Macross. Somebody told her about it on Saturday, saying "I did the
subtitles." She responded, "I hope you did good." She wondered if she would be
getting any royalties, but thinks probably not because nobody contacted her. (AnimEigo is
sublicensing from Harmony Gold, that's probably why.)
She saw the Robotech series when her boys were watching the Cartoon Network. All
of a sudden, she saw Hikaru on TV and was surprised. Her first impression was, "Wow, she
sounds like me." At first she thought it was her, but she didn't do that job. The dub company
did a good job to find somebody who sounded like her. The music they could have done better.
If Robotech had been done after she moved here, she would have wanted to do the
Minmay part in English.
She gave a synopsis of the story in Rain & Shine, which she had performed at
the concert on Friday night:
That song is about, I'm outside standing--it's like, it can be your back yard, anywhere,
and one raindrop dropped on my hand. I feel like maybe rain's coming, but then I was thinking
maybe I should go back in the house, but then I hear some sound from the sky, like "stay
there," like, from an angel maybe, and I'm staying there. It's like, maybe if you use your
imagination it's going to be like Saturday Night Live comedy, maybe. So, I
think this is a beautiful situation, and then I stay there, and all of a sudden the rain starts falling,
right, and maybe it's a little bit cold and I'm wet, but the rain is washing my heart. Maybe I was
so down and I have so much problems in my heart, but it's all washing and I feel so refreshed
and I feel so good. But, every day is not a rainy day and maybe next day it's going to be a sunny
day. And then a few days latter I'm in the house and I'm thinking about my past and being a little
bit nostalgic or sentimental or something. The next thing is that I hear again some sound from
like a star shining, "just go outside, go out" and all of a sudden a lot of sunshine
came to me and now my heart is all warm and it's already clean, so I started to have more
energy, so the sunshine is teaching me that valueing youself is the most important thing. The
rain taught me that forgiving yourself is another of the most important things. So it's like,
maybe it's raining now, but next day it's going to be a shiny day, so don't give up and keep some
hopes in your heart.
Saying things in Japanese takes more space, so when she translated songs into English, she could
say everything in one verse and chorus, because the English pace is much faster. She had to add more
story to the song and it became much deeper than the Japanese version.
The most important theme for No Limit was choosing her best songs. It was really hard
to choose the best songs. She chose seven of her favorite songs, and also wrote a lot of songs and
chose three of the brand new songs. Every song is different, but they're all true stories.
She can do many types of songs. She tried to do rap once, but she couldn't because rap people have
to be angry and she's pretty peaceful. She wasn't angry enough then. This album is more like
a pop rock sound.
This year she will try to sell No Limit through her web page, and see how well it does.
She did very well at Anime Expo. If she has many left, she may contact Amazon or Tower
Records. She doesn't have a distributor, so she has to work on it.
She liked Friends, the song she sang with Tomo Sakurai for the Macross fifteenth
anniversary. JVC's A&R guy called her and told her about the concept, and the song came to her
about fifteen minutes later. She's floating in the forest and Mylene is walking, and they meet each
other in the forest. She wrote the song in 30 minutes.
When she writes a song quickly, without having to think about it, she will like that song
for a long time. If she struggles, she will have doubts about it.
She wrote four songs from scratch in English on No Limit: Everybody's
Lonely, No Limit, More than yesterday, and Irony of
Fate. The other songs she translated, and they all became deeper than the Japanese version.
She has been making CDs in Los Angeles since 1987, so she has many connections with
musicians. The musicians she used in her album are all her friends.
She was surprised that the audience at the Macross fifteenth anniversary concert was so loud.
She was a little afraid of getting on the stage, because she didn't know what the reaction would
be. She was relieved and glad she went when she was welcomed so warmly.
Towards the end of the Q & A period, Don Yee gave Mari a cloth backpack from Lillith Fair,
a celebration of women in music.
After the questions, everyone in the panel lined up to get things signed, and people who didn't have them
yet bought CDs, t-shirts, and concert books.
As the line for autographs was almost finished, Mari called a greeting to Noburo Ishiguro, who had
come in at some point and taken a seat. Mr. Ishiguro was the producer of Macross, and many other
famous sci-fi shows. Mr. Ishiguro bought No Limit, and then posed with Mari while everyone
there took photographs.