Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? I heard you were a member of a rock band called LAZY with Hironobu Kageyama of JAM PROJECT who is also signed to your label.
-The band LAZY was established in 1977. We were like 16 or 17 years old at the time. We were together as a band for about 4 years and disbanded when we were 20. All five of us still wanted to work on music after we disbanded. The two members who liked hard rock formed a band called LOUDNESS which is still active today. I created a band called NEVERLAND with our bassist, Tanaka. We were active for about 10+ years. Around the same time, Kageyama made a debut as a solo artist where he started singing anisong, well at the time, more like Tokusatsu songs. I believe it was CHANGEMAN. After that, he worked on DRAGONBALL.
So it wasn’t anisong first?
-Yeah actually people who sang for anime at the time didn’t start off with anisong. A lot of them started off as a JPop or JRock singer and were re-discovered through anisong. So Kageyama started working for anime songs and told me to come to the anisong world. I’m not a singer so I worked as an arranger and also composed music while still being in a band. When I say anime songs, at the time, it was actually not full on anime songs on television. It was making image songs for manga and comics.
Comic image songs?
-Yes, I think they still have it right now. There’s no animation, but we make music based on the story and concept. We started working on that and were able to gradually move onto anime songs.
Is that how you established Lantis?
-Yes, this company was established in 1999. I was an anime song director first. While working as was a director, the former company I was working at closed down. I created Lantis with the remaining four members.
Was Lantis meant to be an anisong label from the very beginning?
-Yes. We wanted to make a label that specialized in anime and game music and established this company.
That’s amazing! I think you talked about this a little bit earlier but, when was the first time you worked on anime songs.
-I think it was around 1990. It was a song for a manga called, Silent Möbius. I was an arranger and Yoshio Nomura was the composer.
So you started off as an arranger?
-Yes, that’s right.
Who was the first artist signed to Lantis?
-The first artist would be Hironobu Kageyama. There was also Sho Hayami and Megumi Ogata who were already veteran voice actors. It wasn’t just anime tie-up songs, but their original music as well.
That’s great! With such amazing members!
-When we first started it was just the four of us and we couldn’t work on big projects such TV anime yet. We started off making original songs with artists and built our way up.
That’s just amazing. What’s the anime you worked on as being part of Lantis?
-I think this was around the same time. I remember working on Galaxy Angel, Onegai Teacher, Azumanga Daioh. Do you know these animes?
Yes of course!
I’ m going back to the first question for one second. I’m curious on how you found your band members for LAZY?
-Oh! We were actually in the same neighborhood gathering and were classmates.
-Yes, all from the same town in Osaka. There were members who knew each other since kindergarten and elementary school. I met them in high school.
Wow! So high school classmates that participated in the same neighborhood meeting.
-Yes. LAZY is actually a title of a song from the band Deep Purple. We were influenced by British hard rock. We couldn’t make original songs yet, so we did a lot of covers.
I need to listen to that!
So I’m going to move on to talking about your company Lantis. Now that I know how Lantis all started, can you tell me the type of business Lantis is doing once again?
-So Lantis was established in 1999, and this is our 19th year. In prior to move onto our 20th year, as you know Lantis is a record company that makes anime and game music. Of course we do concerts as well. We are going to join forces with Bandai Visual, which works on motion pictures as well as some of Takeshi Kitano’s movies. Our company is going to be called Bandai Namco Arts starting April of this year. So for people reading this article, the company’s name will change within a few days. The name Lantis will stay as a label and logo.
The company is going to change but the label will still stay as Lantis?
-Yes. The reason why we decided on that is because we wanted to make animation that leans more towards music, and it will be great to do animation with anime musicians. We want to grow our company with music and animation more internationally. That’s one of our goals.
That’s remarkable! With next year marking the 20th year, are there any projects or events that left a big impression on you for the last 2 decades?
-We do a lot of concerts and events with our partner group Bandai Namco Live Creative. We do about 800 shows a year.
-Yes(laughs). Not every day but there are concerts taking places in different prefectures as well. We’ve been able to do a lot of these events and on our 10th year, we did an event called Lantis Matsuri at Fujikyu Highland Conifer Forest. After that, on our 15th anniversary, we did Lantis Matsuri at 4 different prefectures, Aichi, Sendai, Osaka and Tokyo. After that, we were able to do Lantis Festival overseas in Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai, Singapore, and Korea. Being able to do that with artists that grew up with you as well as well as staffs and making an event from scratch is probably the most memorable thing we ever did. Next year, 2019 will mark our 20th year so we are thinking of doing an event celebrating our anniversary.
Different countries too?
-Speaking of different countries, we were able to do Anisong World Matsuri after Lantis Festival. It was a concert consisting of artists not just from Lantis but with Japanese artists and musicians from other labels and companies as well.
Seems like the event is going to keep getting bigger.
What’s the advantage and what’s interesting about doing business with specializing in anime songs?
-Well, it’s going to change a little starting next month but, there were no labels that only specialized in anime and game songs. I think the biggest advantage is being able to team up with companies such as Pony Canyon, Kadokawa and other companies and makers to make music as well as motion pictures. The company is going to change but we are still going to be making music and motion pictures with other companies. So that part will not change.
That’s very exciting! There might be people reading this who’s never heard of Lantis so can you explain what kind of company you are?
-Yes. Lantis is a company and will now become a label that specialize in making anime and game music. The easiest way to put it is that we produce and sell anime related songs. The difference between other record companies is that the artists actually belong to the company, not just signed to it and we produce our own events.
I didn’t know Lantis was the first anime only label.
-We were the first label that only specialized in anime songs. There are other companies such as King and Victor that does anime songs as well as motion pictures.
Next: Shunji Inoue Interview #2 – Their visions to bring Anisong overseas.
It will be published on 2 April, 2018!