Chuck* is smiling as she performs on the Hyper Street Live stage, singing popular vocaloid to an excited crowd. She’s dressed all in black, in platform boots and a dusty brown wig. There’s a regal aura about her as she sings, which makes her character, Prince Charlie, seem all the more appropriate. The prince is a boy from another world, one that is floating right above us, who is trying to find his lost memories and is one of the personas that she uses on stage.
With a name that translates as “zipper” in Japanese, Chuck* enjoys zipping into a variety of characters. In Japan, she normally performs as part of a duo but in here she is singing alone. She doesn’t seem fazed by this challenge, and sings her heart out on stage. Before she began her set at Flyjam Creative Agency’s special concert, Chuck* sat down with MyM Buzz to talk about her work.
You recently released an album called Johannes Factotum. What was the concept for the album?
“The album was released last year and I adapted the name Johannes Factotum from a 16th century English term which means a “Jack of all trades”. It sounds like German, but in the 16th century there was a really great playwright who was criticised by another for being an absolute johannes factotum because he was doing everything. He would do many things really well, but it wasn’t perfect. I like doing lots of stuff too and I end up having imperfections, so, in a way, I feel the same. I am trying to ridicule myself with the album title.”
How did you find this out?
“I am in love with 16th century English culture, and especially theatre and entertainment culture at that time.”
What was the name of the playwright?
It was Shakespeare! That makes sense now. When you were in Hyper Japan you performed vocaloid and anime songs as well as your own songs. What interests you about that type of music?
“At the beginning I started by creating songs under the name Chuck The Magpie. All the songs were really personal; I wanted to share my inner stress, love, and any of those feelings with other people. Whereas under the name Prince Charlie I try to do a bit more fun stuff and pop songs so that I have fun with the audience. It’s a very different way of approaching them, because under the name Chuck* I want to share my personal feelings, and with Charlie I want them to enjoy the songs. I would call Charlie my alter-ego.”
How do you come up with your original music?
“I try to imagine many different things when I’m with someone. I like creating stories, and using my imagination. My song about fairies was written for my niece, for instance. When I was walking around with her I would see male birds, and I started to think that fairies are living inside them. I thought about how we only see a small part of the world, and if we were to open a box there would be the fairy world down there. I try to imagine things like this when I’m writing. Even when we are in a place like this, I would imagine that under this chair there are stairs which would lead to an underground world and I could write something about that.”
In Japan you perform as a duo when you act as Prince Charlie. How did you come up with the characters and their storyline?
“It’s quite a long story! The girl I perform with used to come to my gigs a lot, and I really appreciated it. She was performing sometimes in an idol group as well, so I told her that I would go to her gig but then she said that if I wanted to see it I had to pay. So she asked, ‘Why don’t you perform with me?’ We started to perform Time To Time together around January and February, and then in March we decided to do it more regularly.
“So we started to think about a story, and we created the idea of a boy who has no memory and is living in a floating kingdom. When he comes to he doesn’t know who he is or what he was doing there. Then there’s a girl who has an understanding of that world and she started to help him find pieces of his memory. Using vocaloid and original songs we made a musical-type show so that the audience would enjoy the journey with us. This time I came to England to just perform vocaloid songs, but back in Japan we perform in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka to do this story-based show which uses these songs.”
When you perform as Prince Charlie it brings to mind the Takarazuka (female-only theatre group), and it seems like you would suit them very well.
“When some Japanese people see our performance in a musical style, or with a storyline they often refer to as something Takarazuka-like as well!”
Why do you like performing as your characters?
“I like putting on theatrical performances, and I try to appeal to people’s hearts not only through my music but also through visuals. I can take people into my story with these characters, and I can do more with them than just performing by myself.”
What was the reception to your music like at Hyper Japan?
“They were a really nice audience, because when I was looking into somebody’s eyes they were looking back with really warm eyes. Instantly I could understand how they felt, and they were a very nice audience so I liked that. I would like to come back to Hyper Japan to meet them again.”
Did you notice anything interesting about Japanese culture in the UK?
“It’s quite difficult to say, because it was my first time seeing Japanese subculture in the UK. But they consider the details quite a lot here; like when I see people in costumes they seemed to consider the details very well.”
Are there British musicians that you like?
“I love Kate Bush, because my mum loves her; she also likes Queen, Muse and this kind of music. Personally I like Muse, Kate Bush and Bloc Party. I love French music as well. Actually, there’s one band that only uses toys as their instruments which I find really interesting.”
Do you have any future plans?
“I am studying sonography and a little bit of performance art now in university, so I hope I can use these techniques in my performances in the future.”
Interview by Roxy Simons, all photos copyrighted to Chikako Osawa-Horowitz