Singer song writer, pianist and actress Mari Iijima, who lent her voice to the role of Minmay in the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross, attended Super Dimension Convention this year as a very special guest and performed to a packed hall. With the line for autographs afterwards reaching out of the lobby and well into the courtyard, we were unable to catch up during the con itself, however she was gracious enough to agree to the following interview afterwards.
(Photos by Nago Wk & Channel Chin, used below with permission)
Chaos & Stillness
Decultureshock: I’d like to start by asking about your recent album, CHAOS & STILLNESS (April 2018).
What would you say is the overall theme of the album?
Mari Iijima: Since my beloved Bunny’s death, my intention was to live peacefully with stillness inside.
But as life went on, I realized I was still a human being.
All kinds of emotions come up through everyday problems. We all deal with it and try to come back to stillness.
So this album is about the balance of “Chaos and Stillness”.
Also… America was very chaotic during the album production time due to Trump.
So that mood affected me greatly.
DCS: What was the creative process for the album?
For example, what is your writing process? How long did it take to put the album together?
Mari: The songs come to me naturally. I never struggled writing them.
Sometimes, a whole song came to me at once.
Other times, parts of the song came to me and I started building the song from that.
Album production time differs for each album.
If I want to take forever, I can.
But I always set the deadline to meet my annual Tokyo concert date so that helps because I don’t think it’s good to work on one album for too long.
You can process the music too much and lose the genuineness if you work too much too long. I always treasure the original-ness, the original vibe that I feel at the beginning of the process.
DCS: Track 2 of Chaos & Stillness, “News for You”, includes the following line:
“What are you seeking? Is it true happiness?”
In your opinion, what is true happiness?
Mari: People often think true happiness is the feeling of “I’m so happy!!!!!!”
But I don’t think that is it because that emotion goes away very quickly.
I think that happiness is the calmness inside you. Like when you suddenly feel
(Everything is ok . . . ) in the moment when you are not thinking about anything.
DCS: Track 4 of the album is titled “Cringe” and stood out to me a bit.
Could you tell me little bit about the inspiration behind this track?
Mari: It’s based on my emotional struggle with my son. It’s very hard to deal with adult-grown up children sometimes.
The song “Maybe” too. (It’s about my other son though)
I’m very fair so I gave them a song each. ;P
Anger is the new sadness
DCS: You’ve already released a new EP after Chaos & Stillness, “Anger is the new sadness.”
What motivated you to release a new EP so soon?
Mari: It was sort of an era for me during those months. So I wanted to carve it like a monument.
DCS: Is there a particular theme or message behind it?
Mari: Yeah… Let us be emotionally available for each other, people!!
DCS: The game Uta Macross has proven to be very popular in Japan with over 2 million downloads.
Of course, it also includes some newly recorded dialogue from you.
What was the recording process like?
Mari: I got the lines, flew to Japan, went to the studio the day before my Tokyo shows and recorded them with director Honda.
DCS: Did you receive any particular instructions or requests from the game’s staff regarding how to record/read lines, etc?
Mari: They were all there, the staff.
But I received directions from Honda-san as it went on.
DCS: Did you need to do any preparation to get back into the role?
Mari: Nope. Minmay was right there with me. I just had to remember to keep it young.
DCS: Have you played or seen the game in action? If so, what did you think?
Mari: No, I have never seen it.
DCS: The game seems to have introduced quite a few new fans to your music for the first time. If they are interested in listening to more of your music, do you have any recommendations or advice for them?
Mari: I don’t know… it’s hard to say. Maybe “Rose”? Because I was young when I made that album (close to the original Macross era)?
Crossover concerts and Super Robot Spirits
DCS: Congratulations on the announcement of next year’s Macross Crossover Live.
I was at the venue when it was announced and the crowd cheered like crazy when your name came up on the screen!
Mari: Really? Wow. Thanks for telling me that!
DCS: You also performed at the last Crossover Live in 2012, which was an amazing performance. According to your blog at the time, it was a rather special performance because you were able to perform with one of your sons on stage.
Do you remember what sort of preparation or rehearsals the two of you did for the concert?
Mari: Yes. We practiced in the garage. lol
DCS: I remember you mentioned that he rearranged your songs a little. Could you possibly explain what was rearranged or changed?
Mari: Dancing with Minmay EP was arranged by him (Andy Studer) so maybe I was talking about that?
DCS: How was the collaborative process? How did it feel to be able to perform together in front of thousands of fans?
Mari: He was a little intimidated by the size of Makuhari Messe at first but he got used to it soon and enjoyed performing, I think.
It was fun. It was a special moment for both of us.
DCS: More recently, last year in 2017 you performed at the annual Super Robot Spirits concert.
Was this your first Super Robot Spirits?
Mari: Nope. I did that in 2016 too and maybe 2006?
I did the China ones in 2016, 2017, 2018 too.
DCS: Was the crowd any different to what you are normally used to?
Mari: Mmmmm. I just do my job and I don’t think about that sort of things too much.
DCS: I guess you wouldn’t have much time for rehearsals due to flying in from the US. Were rehearsals primarily held the day before the concert?
Mari: Nope I just rehearse with the band at the soundcheck on the day of the gig.
DCS: You posted a photograph with Hiroko Kasahara and Yoshiki Fukuyama backstage after the performance. Do you get to catch up with them much? Is Fukuyama-san as crazy backstage as he is on stage?
Mari: Fukuyama san and I are pretty close. I think doing the gigs in China together made us closer.
He is often very quiet lately. I think we all matured through the years. 😉
DCS: Macross is currently celebrating its 36th anniversary.
Looking back, did you think that your work on the show would endure for all this time?
DCS: What do you think it is about the character of Minmay that struck a chord with audiences?
Mari: Well… I don’t know. We were both bashed a lot originally.
I think that Minmay’s music appealed to the world throughout the years.
DCS: You’ve released an amazing 25 albums over your career so far and have fans across the globe.
What is next for Mari Iijima? As an artist, what would you like to try or achieve next?
Mari: I will continue to be myself and appreciate every opportunity I receive and keep on going.
I’m going to focus on the piano a little more. My foundations.
DCS: Finally, do you have any words for your fans?
Thanks again to Mari Iijima for being so gracious with her time for this interview (be sure to check out marimusic.com ) and to Gregory A. Hignight of Tune in Tokyo for helping to put the pieces together.