- Aug 6, 2019
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[The ZOC Interviews] Vol.6 Oomori Seiko "I want to do more things that turn different people into gods"BY STORYWRITER
On February 8, 2021, ZOC stood at Nippon Budokan. The stage was the culmination of their struggle to reach it, but during rehearsals, Oomori Seiko was sick. Oomori in 2021 was prolific, so lively in her solo concerts and at ZOC concerts that you wouldn't believe she had been ill from February to October of 2020. Did something awaken in her through the torment she experienced as things burned around her?
Editing & Text: Munekata Akimasa
Photos: Makura Asami
I had been living like I wanted to hurry up and get old──There were 80 songs nominated for the Oomori Seiko Music Awards*. Why so many?
Oomori: Because I'm someone who is healed through writing songs. I believe those songs can help other people, so I felt like my only choice was to write a ton of them.
*Oomori Seiko Music Awards 2021
An event for fans and supporters, where they voted for their favorite songs that Oomori Seiko released in 2021. The results were uploaded to Oomori Seiko's official YouTube channel. A concert was also held on January 31, 2022 where she performed the ranked songs.
──So you have to write songs to save yourself first?
Oomori: Sort of, but I also had a lot of opportunities come up organically that got me creating. Situations where it was pretty much like, "We want this kind of song, so we need Oomori Seiko." Then, we also created MAPA, which I produce, so there were a lot of times when I had to go all out in writing songs.
──In July, ZOC's album "PvP" came out, which I consider a masterpiece. Do you feel like got the praise you were looking for?
Oomori: Ever since my major debut, every time I put something out, I think that I've created a masterpiece, but it's one of those things where nothing sells like I think it should. I always feel like I'm making something that more people should listen to, so I was kind of gloomy about PvP, like, "Oh, I guess no one will listen to this one, either." Like, I was sad making it, it's so sad that I created this world in this work that everyone should hear but they won't. The moment the mastering was done, I felt sad.
──Is it more a numbers thing, like you want everyone to hear it, or is it more that you feel like it's something people should be listening to ?
Oomori: I think what I do with ZOC, honestly, is for the undeveloped introverts. I think sentiments like, "you can always do things over," or, "age doesn't matter," are wonderful, but those statements alone give rise to some discrepancies, based on how people see themselves. Charisma is something that comes from taste and hard work and perseverance, so people who haven't developed those things feel really shaky when they achieve it, and so I want to build up support for people who live as themselves. It's like being self-produced. "Danshari Kareshi" brought about that line of thinking. Then, (Kannagi) Maro joined, and she's someone with hard work and perseverance and talent, so I thought it was absolutely worth doing to support that in her, so I made more ZOC songs.
I'm completely fine with people in their 40s and 50s auditioning for ZOC, but I don't have any personal frame of reference for how people in their 40s do things. I have lived being more aware of ageism in my own life, like I wanted to hurry up and grow old, so I personally feel like what I write is the absolute truth and everyone should hear it. You lose to ageism when you live your life avoiding everything, avoiding the truth or confrontation or things like that, so I'm sending people to a life of sincerity where you confront things that need to be confronted. I'm someone who has done that in my life, so you can experience that by listening. Is that not what culture is? You can see sights you've never seen, these things become your own experiences. That's what I think I'm creating so I absolutely think people should be listening.
──Ageism is basically, "younger is better," right? But from your perspective, ageism is thinking that people should work at being age-appropriate, and is that what leads to conflict?
Oomori: Right. In elementary and middle school, when you're playing, you can do whatever you want. There's also the myth that you have to take every chance that you get. I think it's dangerous to pay attention to things like followers and likes. It's all meaningless. It's ridiculous to think that there are things you can only do when you're young, like youth is the only thing of value. But when you live your life without valuing youth, people say you're more sincere, but really the people who have both youth and sincerity are the ones who come out best, right? I understand that I work in an industry based on individual introspection and introversion, but it's easier when you have charisma. But that's also a really boring life. I want to do more things that turn different people into gods so I have no choice but to act, but being gentle with people is akin to looking down at people. I know that you can't make a direct connection with someone when you're gentle and just give them everything, but it's about not having regrets... This is getting really hard to understand, with my word choice (laughs).
──You said it's about not having regrets, but what about people who just never have things go their way?
Oomori: Some people never have things go their way, but some people also just never learn. You can try to lead by example, but there will always be people who don't know why things happen the way they do. When you take it personally, you start to think you're the problem. Even if you don't try to take it personally, if you let it bother you, you're allowing it to affect you. That's why, I guess, you shouldn't have regrets or failures. You just did what you did, whatever else can't be helped.
──Is turning people into gods a philosophy you have taken with ZOC?
Oomori: I think my idea of what a god is is different from a normal person's. All people are gods at their core. Philosophy that is difficult to understand or fixed ideas just get in the way and obscure that. I think doing what is natural is what makes humans more than human and therefore gods. That's what we can do.
I thought my music career was over
──I know I just brought up PvP, but it's been about a year since you and I spoke last. I feel like a lot has happened since then.
Oomori: But nothing has happened (laughs). I got sick once.
──What, you got sick?
Oomori: When I was 19, I didn't sleep for about a month and I got some crazy hallucinations.
──So you lost about 1000 hours of sleep?
Oomori: Yes. It impaired everything, I was seeing things and I'd write about them in my blog so I could figure out what was real and what was fake, but I got it under control when I was 22, 23. But when we started rehearsals for Budokan, when I looked at pictures of the members besides me on the whiteboard, black maggots came spilling out, and every time I went to Shibuya, it looked like Shibuya was in a blackout. Our meeting place for the PvP tour was usually in Shibuya. I'm not choosing my words very carefully, but I thought I was going insane. I felt like my problems would only get in the way, so I spent so much time alone. That's about how 2021 went for me.
──This was around the time of the Budokan concert?
Oomori: That's right. When we were shooting for AGE OF ZOC, someone asked me to write a punchier song, and I got it twisted and thought, "Oh, so all you care about are the songs." I have an artist friend who had the exact same issue. 2D art is something that doesn't have as much of the artist's face in it, right? For me, I more or less have to haul my body around to represent my work, but with a drawing or painting, you create it and it's appraised without your face or body there with it. We started to believe that being alive was getting in the way of our work, that our entire personalities were limited to what we could create, and then she passed away. That was so hard for me that I started seeing things again. I got better when I made MAPA and went and got messed up with Koshoji (Megumi) (laughs).
──You did post that you went to Shibuya with Koshoji, even though you hate Shibuya, and that's what made you better. I didn't know the awful story behind it, though.
Oomori: But it wasn't something I thought I could get over so fast. I'm glad I did, though.
──So what was it like being sick around the Budokan show?
Oomori: Being sick doesn't mean I can't live my life, so I just hoped things would be normal, even though it seemed like I was getting in the way. Maro and I were kind of like Anna and Elsa, I think. We'd have fights like, Maro would say, "We're in a group so let's work together!" and I'd tell her to shut up, but that got out of control (laughs). Maro really is a kind person.
──You endured a lot while you were sick.
Oomori: I thought my music career was over. I really thought it was the end when my voice was making the rounds and people were furious online. A "good morning♡" tweet doesn't get 100 replies, right? I decided to keep doing as long as at least one person responded, but then it jumped up. I really felt like it was a situation where I could only make it better by not saying anything, but people were hoping that I would wish them just a good morning. But it's ridiculous to think I would quit when I still had even just one person waiting for me, you know? Just when I thought things were over for me, they really weren't.
Koshoji gave me a place I could belong
──I think you went through a lot on social media. There was so much speculation flying around, the story got massive. What is your relationship to the internet like now?
Oomori: Hmm... Way back when, it was a place where fellow introverts could find each other, wasn't it? I really liked it, but then it became this culture of suspicion (laughs). So I don't think I really belong there, and I generally quit using it. The internet is for promo.
──Shizume Nodoka didn't really use social media, but she started using it every day leading up to the Nakano Sun Plaza concert.
Oomori: I need to work harder to show people how charming Nodoka is. There's no one else like her; she's cute, she works hard, she's not lacking in anything. So there's no excuse for someone like that to not be popular. We were all just so obsessed with being careful because of the internet mob surrounding us. We all brought the quality to our live performances, so I was hoping that we would steadily grow via word of mouth, which changed in 2021, but I really, really wanted Nodoka to be noticed more. Like, there's no way teenage boys wouldn't be into her, right? When I was thinking of how to break her out, I realized that she first had to have more of an internet presence. I don't really tell the other members what to do, but when I asked them to post every day until Sun Plaza, they all agreed and thought up their own tags. Nodoka's videos were so funny. A little strange, though, using those voice effects (laughs). Or using the blur on her background but you can still see half of it, it's too funny. So I watch her posting with joy.
──What did it take for your to have such a positive outlook?
Oomori: I was getting better while I was making MAPA's "Shitennou" in February, so it took about 8 months of things look bleak. I think that's pretty quick. But I guess that's because my earlier experience had been 5 years (laughs).
──Did you make PvP while in that dark place?
Oomori: So dark. But I made while feeling like I wanted to get out of it. I wanted to save myself.
──MAPA's Shitennou sort of marks something for you, like there's the Oomori Seiko before MAPA and after MAPA, right? I could feel your frustration on that album when I listened to it.
Oomori: It's less that I was purging my feelings through the songs, and more that I had a month to write 13 songs so the material naturally reflected that stress (laughs). Like the deadline came before searching for anything else. But I did make it in the middle of that firestorm, so that bled into the music. I had to make it in two weeks, with the deadline approaching quick, so I did end up putting some of my personal feelings into it. That happens when I'm working that fast.
──13 songs in two weeks will do that.
Oomori: It will. I feel bad about it, but using my own feelings as material is kind of my specialty, which is why I avoided using those songs for ZOC, but I did end up giving them to idols I produced, anyway.
──And so you came out of the shadows around October.
Oomori: I was completely free of it, thanks to Koshoji. I started feeling like the way the world was treating me was who I really was, which turned into feeling like I was the worst, that I couldn't associate with anyone, after all the criticism. But you know, I'm weird, but not that bad. I try to live a pleasant life, being as kind to others as I possibly can, and even though I can't hide anything when I'm angry, with how infrequently that happens, I think I'm fundamentally a peaceful person. But I started feeling like such garbage as a human being, that I wondered why Koshoji was willing to have anything to do with me. I still agreed to work with her, though. I found out that Maison book girl was breaking up online, too, but we talked about creating space where there isn't any because we're the type of people who have to be on stage. There were lots of book girl fans who were not happy about me working with her, but she didn't care at all (laughs). That made me feel better, like I wasn't bringing her down. I felt like she had brought me back to where I belonged. I thought it was amazing how she had the power to bring me back to that neutral state.
I can't write a song unless I am deeply in love with someone
──When AGE OF ZOC came out in January 2021, you sang, "bring on the internet rage," but you really went through it this last year.
Oomori: Hahahahaha. You wrote a really good review of it, I thought.
──I wanted to ask you how it was during that firestorm, but it seems you were making music. You answer questions from fans in your Instagram Stories, but that must have been hard when so many more people got involved, and there was a point when you wrote that you were tired of it all. How do you feel now?
Oomori: Right now I have to focus on getting Nodoka out there to teenage boys (laughs).
──That is very important (laughs). After everything happened, it seemed like you became more about the music. In MAPA's "Idol o yameru hi," they repeat, "Let's meet in the music," and it's a great song, I think.
Oomori: Really? I wrote it at home while riffing. I didn't think about it that much.
──Was there no reaction from the idols?
Oomori: A lot of people found that song when their idols quit, like people would cry hearing it after finding it when their favorite idol quit. Every time, it's like, "I hate that Oomori Seiko writes stuff like this" (laughs). What kind of person do they think I am? I've always been an otaku, even now. I have experience both in being an otaku and in being on stage, so that's what I can write.
──You also started zoc, and brought new members from that into the main ZOC. What are your thoughts moving forward as a producer?
Oomori: I started zoc simply because it would make it easier for ZOC to move around, and people around me were saying, "You're giving too much, you're too involved, put some distance between yourself and others, you have to go back to where you belong, you're the boss, you're in a higher position, you have to go back to a normal gap between you and everyone else." Every time they said that, I felt like, am I someone who gets too deeply involved? Someone has to pay people, right? That's basic. And that person should be involved, should be watching over things. I think I made a system where I can have that distance but still keep an eye on things, I think it's a good arrangement.
──Do you feel good about the distance with the new member?
Oomori: It's a good distance... yeah. I tend to overstep more than most, I think. I can't write a song unless I am deeply in love with someone, so I can't write without overstepping. I think I look into things I don't have to. I look after people to a fault, which isn't good, so I have to think about things outside of that. I can be in denial about it as a person, and I wish I could create a system to accommodate that. Before my artist friend passed, some of her selfies were suddenly leaked. I guess there's some divergence between the work we create and our own bodies, but I wondered if that was something I could tolerate, because I was stubborn about having a hand in everything ZOC did. But it's not like ZOC would stop if my body were no longer here, that's sort of how I wrapped my head around it. It's been about a year, I still have my body, I still have my talents, but maybe I'm a little more relaxed.
──Does that mean you don't really speak to the new member?
Oomori: It's about like, "Why do you see zoc as being so small?" (laughs) She came in around the tabloid coverage, so her parents were worried, you know? I told her parents that it would be better for her to change her name, I said, "We got dropped from our agency so I'm making my own and while we're going to get heat for it, I'm going to keep working to protect my creativity and ZOC's name." That's when her mom approved of her joining.
──I'm glad she did. The more I hear about it, the more I think it's amazing that you pulled Budokan off.
Oomori: Me too, I really don't even remember it (laughs). I seriously want to do it again (laughs). I'm aware of how close together I have built Oomori Seiko as a project and ZOC as a project; they're both Japanese "entertainment," which is amazing, isn't it? Because what I do is absolutely avant-garde. I put my energy into a crazy image and crazy music, and I always planned on getting famous through pop culture. When I looked at the Japanese flag inside of Budokan, I thought, "You're standing under the flag, why aren't you present?" That's all I really remember. Lots of different artists perform at Budokan, right? There are also times when people go, "What kind of show is this?" Whenever I'd think we we're going to fail at Budokan, I'd make sure to look up at that flag. That's generally what I was thinking on the stage below.
ZOC is taking responsibility for what must be done as people who stand on the chopping block
──ZOC is a group that makes commentary on society, so you surely can't hope to make it mainstream that way. Will you change anything moving forward?
Oomori: I won't. I've returned to my old self, so we have to get on with things.
──I'm glad to hear that. How would things look if you didn't come back to the group?
Oomori: That would be wild (laughs). I worked hard to come back after all of that. When that recording was uploaded online, I said, "I'm finished." I feel like that's just what you say as a person when things look like they're over for you. (When the news in October came out) I got a phone call from Watanabe Junnosuke, and I asked him, when the news came out that he had been caught, "Did you say, 'I'm finished'?" And he said, "What? No," to which I responded, "Wait, really!?" (laughs)
──Hahaha. Where are you taking ZOC in 2022?
Oomori: We did the Ahohodo tour, and I'm feeling really confident in our abilities now. If this business is going to be cutthroat, we're not going to lose to anyone. I believe that ZOC is taking responsibility for what must be done for people who stand on the chopping block, so on the contrary, I was actually very surprised that so few people were willing to do that. And if that's the case, then I feel like we have to show people what we're made of, we have to be a bit more showy to get people to see us. I have lots of ideas of what I want to do musically, so I'm looking forward to being able to act on that.
──How do you think 2022 will turn out for ZOC, personally?
Oomori: ZOC brings my life into unexpected directions, and it's my personality to do things like this, so I'm sticking with it. I think I learned how to respond to things that happen like they did in 2021, so I think I'll be fine no matter where we go. Also, we all have ideal versions of ourselves that we make up, right? So we're all acting a little, we're being a little try-hard, you know? I realized that the idol inside of me is someone who realizes how futile that is, who steps up to direct rather than act, to make things my own. I'm a rebellious spirit, because I come from rock. For me, an idol is someone who idolizes themselves more than they do other people, make no mistake. People might say I'm ruining idols for them, but idols from the start were just one category in a long line of counter-culture in Japan, so whatever I do, I can put it within the context of idols and I wouldn't be wrong. I'm doing what I'm doing and saying, "ZOC is idol."