VOCALOID, which uses synthetic singing voice technology developed by Yamaha, has continued to advance since it was first released in 2003 and is now on version 5. Other companies also sell voicebanks for VOCALOID. A genre has been established for music sung by virtual singers created using singing voice synthesis technologies. Called “Vocalo” in Japanese, numerous tracks of this now beloved genre are uploaded every day. “Vocaloid Producers with VOCALOID” is a series of special interviews that delves into how the producers who sustain Vocalo culture first encountered the VOCALOID singing voice synthesis technology developed by Yamaha and what their relationships with it are now.
This time we spoke with PinocchioP, a Vocalo producer whose new songs “Reincarnation Apple” and “God-ish” have achieved enormous popularity, especially among younger audiences.
This producer started activity as PinocchioP by releasing a song using VOCALOID on a video sharing site in 2009.
Since then, as he has energetically continued releasing original songs, he has also been active in many other ways, including creating illustrations and music videos as well as providing music to other artists.
He also participates in live band performances based on combining and harmonizing electronic and physical elements, adding drums, scratching and samplers as support members.
<Reincarnation Apple(Tensei-Ringo in Japanese), released in June 2022, is a new song that is already loved by many people.>
Y: Where did you learn of VOCALOID?
P: Around 2007, I was watching game playthroughs and other videos on Niconico when a VOCALOID video was recommended. I kind of felt that it was becoming popular.
Y: So, you encountered VOCALOID in a natural way. Please tell us the very first Vocalo Song you heard, if you remember.
Y: At that time, what kind of impression did you have of VOCALOID?
P: When I first heard them, I was not thinking about making songs with VOCALOID. How can I describe it? My impression was that it was being enjoyed like a toy.
Y: I think that certainly there was a toy-like aspect to the Vocalo scene at that time. Did you feel any resistance to the machinelike non-human voices?
P: I had no resistance. I felt it was interesting. It was like, “This kind of music is being made!” I might have accepted it easily because I liked and listened to Denki Groove, Aphex Twin and other music with picky programming from that time.
Y: When did you start thinking about releasing Vocalo songs?
P: When songs having them sing unrefined things like “Double Lariat” by Agoaniki were released. That is when I discovered this new VOCALOID appeal that it would also be okay for them to sing my own unrefined parts, and I started thinking about making Vocalo songs.
Y: Tell us the specific spark that made you think you wanted to create Vocalo Songs.
P: I had been out drinking with a friend until morning when at the station on the way home they said, “Aren’t you going to try Vocalo to make songs?” I thought, “Maybe that’s it?” (Laughs.) That was the spark. After that, I went to the electronic music department of a large electronic retailer and bought Hatsune Miku (V2). I input a melody using a free MIDI sequencer called Cherry. Then, I loaded the MIDI data into the VOCALOID Editor and it sang that melody just as it was. I was like, “This is all right!” I will not forget the feeling at that moment.
Y: What did you think the first time that you output Hatsune Miku’s voice?
P: If you think I had it singing with the same feeling as a famous Vocalo song that could be seen on Niconico, it was not like that at all. (Laughs.)
It was not just VOCALOID, I did not know anything about sound production of a song making or other things. Miku’s voice was thin and it would be buried by the music, so I raised its volume and created harmonies. Looking back on it now, though, it did not harmonize all. (Laughs.) I remember working hard in various ways to somehow make it seem good.
Y: Had you been writing songs for a long time? Please tell us your musical history.
P: I liked the band Spitz from around when I was an elementary school sixth-grader. It was not just the songs. I also liked the covers, the lyric sheets and other parts of the packaging. While I was listening to Spitz, I would do things like imagine the way that I would want to make my own CDs and wrote notes about it. I also wrote lyrics and, in my head, thought about melodies. When I was in high school, I bought a guitar and practiced playing “Cherry” by Spitz. Then I knew that I could create songs if I had chord progressions, and I bought a 4-track cassette MTR.* My first experience composing songs was what I made with that MTR.
But, I never played in a band or anything. I just had my friends listen to the songs I made and that was it. Later I also learned how to record on computer, but basically I was always making songs by myself.
*A multitrack recorder (MTR) is a recording device used for musical production that can record multiple parts separately.
Y: So, only your friends listened to the songs you made then.
P: I posted them on a music sharing site, but nobody listened to them. (Laughs.) But, I had an unfounded confidence that I had made interesting songs. Then, I was totally shocked when I tried posting a Vocalo song on Niconico, because someone I did not know commented right away. Someone I did not know reacted saying, “Interesting!” The feeling I had at that time still motivates me when I make songs now.
Y: VOCALOID and VOCALOID Editor has also continued to advance. Please tell us which version upgrade or product release has inspired you the most.
P: I was really inspired when Miku Append* was released. I was happy when Hatsune Miku Solid was released because it became possible to make the voice have a full feeling. After that, it was the addition of Cross-Synthesis in V4. I was happy that I could mix from SOFT to SOLID. I am still using it.
*Miku Append expansion packs added various voice expression to Hatsune Miku.
<Hatsune Miku product packages when purchased>
Y: Voice synthesis has been advancing to increase expressiveness to make singing that is more human possible. How do you feel about it becoming more human?
P: I personally have not thought much about pursuing a human-like VOCALOID sound. Whether it is a sense of innocence or uncanniness of something not human singing, I feel that itself is appealing and has other potential. I am also probably not suited to or capable of adjusting the voice to add expression. I really respect, for example, the editing techniques of Mitchie M-san.
Y: Please tell us more about the potential of VOCALOID that you feel.
P: To be frank, my impression the first time I heard it was, “I cannot make out the lyrics.” (Laughs.) At first, I was just focused on how interesting it was that something that was not a person was singing. But, then I gradually started to think that the appeal created because it is not human is itself something that can be expressive. In my case, since I often write lyrics from an outside perspective, this really suits this kind of lyrics. I think that nuance is really interesting. I can make it sing like a cartoon character can be made to speak.
<PinocchioP-san also creates illustrations. This is Aimaina-chan.>
<He also illustrates icons himself.>
Y: I think you have a lot of cynical and pessimistic lyrics. Is it actually because of VOCALOID that those lyrics are singable?
P: I think there is also that. But, I am not thinking, “I will say something cynical!” like throwing a rock. The feeling is like, “I think this is interesting. What do you all think?” I have always liked pessimistic music and other music that I feel is interesting, for example, Kinniku Shōjo Tai. Early Spitz songs also have something like that. When listening to this kind of music, the sense of value that we normally get is shaken.
Then, in manga, I like Fujiko F. Fujio. Along with their short horror stories for adults, there is something pessimistic in their work. I read their manga since I was in elementary school, so I have been influenced by them. The nuance is that VOCALOID lets me capture that kind of musicality.
Y: Is Hatsune Miku good for expressing your music?
P: As an appeal of Miku, saying this might invite misunderstanding, but it seems empty-minded, or “the unfocused feeling” is far stronger compared to other voicebanks. Whether it is stylish or whether it is harsh, this is neutralized because of the “unfocused feeling,” or do I say it disables them? That is what I really like.
Y: So, without VOCALOID or Hatsune Miku, you might not have been to express your music.
P: I think that I might have sung or had someone else sing, but I do not think it would have been like PinocchioP now. If I had someone else sing, I would probably adjust things to suit them. I think this would put the brakes on the lyrics. So, I think it is really true that I would not have been able to express myself if VOCALOID did not exist.
Y: Please tell us about something that has been memorable since becoming involved in Vocalo culture.
P: In the early days of Vocalo, the VOCALOID category included people into pop and into metal, for example. The interaction during this chaotic period without fences between genres was stimulating. I thought that it was a miraculous space where every genre became one just because Hatsune Miku was singing.
Y: Is there anyone that you are still working with now?
P: Since I like variety, I have always been close to Utsu-P. (Laughs.)
Vocalo could be said to be the link, and I have been taught many things by people I have come to know since starting Vocalo. I guess I have continued learning music while doing Vocalo.
<“Ganesha-ish,” an arrangement of “God-ish” by Utsu-P>
Y: I had this image that you knew a lot about everything from the beginning, so I am surprised that you have continued growing with Vocalo.
P: I really did not know anything at first. I have grown with VOCALOID to reach where we are now.
Y: Finally, please give some advice to creators who want to become Vocalo producers.
P: I believe social media have become indispensable as places to announce songs and that techniques to have even more people see the songs have been increasing. Still, I would be happy if you really bring out aspects that “are not done by other people but that you think are interesting.” I think that digging into what you think is interesting should probably bring out the power dwelling in your songs. This should also make it valuable for you, the person making the song. I think that this is especially important in the current era.
Y: Thank you very much for the interesting conversation today.
P: Thank you too.
Article : SoundWorksK Marketing LLC.
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