I use [anime] so, in a way, I can symbolize what inspires me to make music.
Anime SoundCloud is pretty rad. If you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance you don’t know what I’m talking about, though. I didn’t know about it myself until a few months ago when I just happened to take a friend up on his musical recommendation. It was exactly what I was looking for, and I allowed myself to be pulled into the “if you liked that, then try this” revolving door. Apparently, there is a steadily growing scene of EDM producers who both sample heavily from 70s and 80s Japanese disco and also use anime and manga art to reflect and enhance their aesthetic. After a few hours of following a link trail, my brain was soaked in the stuff. It’s still marinating in it months later, in fact.
Last week, while on the never-ending quest for new content, I stumbled onto the music of Tsundere Alley. I liked it so much, that I messaged them on Twitter, one thing lead to another, and they agreed to do an interview with WMC on how anime influences their music and just what is going on in that scene. Alley hails from Spain (though their current whereabouts are ~unknown~), is a self described “average shut-in goth from next door” and, while they are relatively new to this particular music scene, they’ve been playing music since they can remember. You can follow and support Alley via the links below.
Twitter | Bandcamp | SoundCloud
Here’s my interview with the Anime SoundCloud up-and-comer:
TheSubtleDoctor: Thank you for doing this interview with WMC, Alley.
Tsundere Alley: Thank you for having me!
For people who don’t know you or your music, can you describe it first on a technical level, like for someone who wouldn’t know what I meant if I said you were a future funk producer, and then describe it on an emotional level as well?
Well, future funk is a genre of music that comes from vaporwave. It appeared around 2012, I believe. It’s basically music with heavy sampling, and by sampling I mean using old 70s disco funk songs as the base for the track. On an emotional level I guess I just started doing it for fun, I have always loved disco music and funk and when I first heard of this I told myself, “hey, why not?”
When did you first hear it and become inspired to start making it?
Hmm, I think Summer 2015 when I first discovered Saint Pepsi. I remember the first tracks I ever heard were “Cherry Pepsi” and “Better.” I completely fell in love with it, but I didn’t got inspired to start making until I first heard Macross 82-99 and his song “Selfish High Heels” with Yung Bae and Harrison and his remix of “Pineapple Juniors” by Saint Pepsi. Moe Shop and Conscious Thoughts were big inspirations too.
Did you play music before then or were you jumping into music for the first time after hearing this stuff?
I grew up in a very musical environment. My dad is a guitar player, my mom was a singer, my dad taught my older sister how to play the guitar and then she taught me. I learned to play the piano by myself around the age of six, I think. I play a little bit the drums and the bass too. I had other music projects before Tsundere Alley but I ended up killing them because I really didn’t feel them anymore; they just felt empty. I started in the Happy Hardcore/Techno/Hands Up scene like four years ago.
What are you trying to convey to your audience when you make a song? What do you want them to feel or understand or experience?
I think I just want to make people happy. Every song I produce, I make it while thinking about my audience. I just want everyone to be happy, have fun, laugh and smile. I really love seeing people smile and be happy. Whenever I get a comment or a message saying my music made someone feel good or smile, I get this huge feeling of satisfaction inside of me, and it’s just something really awesome to experience. There was this one time this person approached me through message, saying that he was a huge fan of my music and that I had inspired him to start music production. When I heard those words, I suddenly felt like crying because I inspired someone to make something and it was just a beautiful feeling.
That’s very powerful and also pretty gratifying for you as an artist, I’d think.
I am so grateful for having such cute, amazing little tsunderes…I guess that’s what I’m going to start calling my audience now haha!
You’re a big anime fan. How’d you get into anime?
Woo! I have been ever since I can remember. I remember when I was around 2-3 years old, my older sister and my cousins were watching Sailor Moon on the TV, and I just sit there with them and completely fell in love with it. Then I watched all the Miyazaki movies and that just made me love it more, and since then I have led a life of watching anime and reading manga 24/7.
What anime/manga have you watched/read lately that you’ve really enjoyed?
I really enjoyed last season’s New Game! But I think the one that I enjoyed the most was Amaama no Inazuma. I completely enjoyed it. The whole story was beautiful and little Tsumugi just stole my heart! I actually really enjoyed Re:Zero too! I read the manga around 2014 I think. My cousin in Japan read it and shared it with me whenever a new issue came out, and I think the anime adaptation was really awesome! But, they did miss a few things from the manga/light novel. I recently started watching the Working!! series, and so far I have really like it too!
The old, die hard fans of future funk are saying that the anime is killing future funk, but to be honest, I do not see what is the issue here.
You’ve mentioned to me that anime plays a big part in influencing your music. Could you talk a bit about that?
Definitely! As you can see on my SoundCloud page, anime is my aesthetic. I chose it because, well, first I am obviously a big anime fan, and second, I thought it was something that would really fit with the music I do. I love to do cute music and what goes best with it is cute anime! I also think that I use it so, in a way, I can symbolize what inspires me to make music. Not just anime inspires me, though! I am a huge reading fan; I read a lot and trust me. A LOT. I read anything, from books to magazines to different articles, anything. Its just something that really fascinates me, for this I got called “bookworm” a lot in school haha!
Does anime play a part in the musical composition, or is it only a kind of visual aid to reflect the tone of the finished product? Are you drawing on thoughts, emotions or experiences you felt from anime when writing your music?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I usually use a picture related to how I felt when I was making a song or how I felt when I finished it. The music I make really varies with my mood. It’s funny because when I am happy I tend to make sad, dark things, but when I’m sad I make really happy and cheerful stuff. Most of the samples I use for my music are from anime songs or old Japanese disco songs. So yeah, Japanese culture is a big influence for my music, also because I grew up with two Japanese cousins and I remember spending a lot of time with them whenever we went to visit them to Kyoto.
You released an EP Welcome To The Alley earlier this year. It seems quite upbeat, so were you in a darker place when you made that?
Yes. I suffer from Dysthymia which I form of depression. It’s something I have had for a while and it comes and goes without warning. I wasn’t enjoying things at that time, and I was actually considering just quitting music forever. But when I released it and got a lot of positive feedback, it made me feel really good about myself. I got the support of a bunch of people including Hentai Dude and Moe Shop, and it made just want to continue and try harder.
Can you tell me what inspired the cover? I recognize Kirino from OreImo.
The cover was made by my very good friend Tsukii. I want my EPs to tell a story, but I will leave to the audience to figure what it is about, haha. I added Chitoge because I love her so much, and she is probably my favorite tsundere. Kirino was added as a personal preference of Tsukii.
Any clues you can give to help the audience start piecing together the tsundere story?
Sure! Well, what I can say is that it tells this story of a girl who wants to learn how to be a tsundere so she can get the attention she wants from the person she likes (who has a thing for tsundere girls). The rest is for people to figure it out! The next part of the story coming out in my next EP!
Oooh, intriguing! You’ve also done some hip-hop collaborations. How did those come together?
Oh! Those are a little secret I have been working on for a while! And they will come out soon eventually.
Why do you think so many people in the future funk scene are drawn to anime as an accompanying visual aesthetic for their sound? I sometimes refer to the scene jokingly as anime-porwave because it seems like every album cover is an image of an anime lady. Is it something to do with the music’s connection to anime, the people making it…what’s happening here?
There is kind of like a “conflict” right now between the…if you want to call them the “anime future funk” and the “normal future funk” scenes. The old, die hard fans of future funk are saying that the anime is killing future funk, but to be honest, I do not see what is the issue here. Future funk is future funk; if some people can enjoy it with or without anime (like me) why can’t other people do so? I guess what attracts people to the anime aesthetic of future funk is all the “kawaii” sounds and maybe sometimes hearing your favorite anime song being sampled. I just want people to enjoy music without criticizing the likes of the producer or the aesthetic they use.
Agreed. Why are so many future funk producers drawn to the anime aesthetic, though, in your opinion? What makes it such a fit for future funk and vice versa?
Hmm, maybe just because it’s what they like or probably because some future funk songs use old 80s anime music from Sailor Moon and such. In the worst case scenario, and I have sadly met producers who feel this way, there are people who just use the anime aesthetic to gain plays and likes and just build to fame quicker. They know there is a big portion of the audience who watches to anime, so they just use it as bait.
So, there are anime posers in the scene? Man… I won’t ask you to name and shame.
Yup…it’s really sad.
That’s interesting, though, that they feel that using anime imagery will get them noticed more. I tend to think of anime as a rather niche interest, so the notion that someone would hitch their star to anime in order to become famous strikes me as strange. But maybe this thought process is due to me being from America?
It’s just so weird. Oh god, this issue creates so much conflict. It annoys me, haha. The fact that just people are doing this things to achieve fame and they just don’t seem to be doing it because they enjoy it…
Projected date for the next EP?
I plan it to have around five or six songs. Right now I have one almost done, and I’m starting the second one. I will be taking a break in December to spend time with my family so probably around late January, early February, I expect.
Looking forward to it! Thanks so much for giving us your time, Alley. Anything you want to say to your tsunderes out there?
Thank you so much for having me! I want to thank all my little tsunderes for being so cute and supportive! I love every single one of you with all my heart and soul! Stay cute my darlings! I want give a huge huge shout out to my lovely Tsundere Twintails (Doc – Alley’s significant other). I’m sending you lots of kisses and hugs I love you, bye!
Re: the hitching yourself to anime thing, it’s precisely because it’s a niche that it works, but it’s also a double-edged sword. If you can appeal to a small niche, then you can rise to a certain level of popularity very fast just by exploiting that niche–but you also limit yourself to that niche in the long run. People who haven’t had any fame don’t really see the endgame, though–they see what will get them from 0 listeners to 1000 listeners in a short amount of time, but they aren’t thinking about how they’ll get to 10,000 from there. It’s an understandable desperation when you have no listeners at all, and if you’re really good and really lucky then you might even be able to carry over those niche fans when you switch to something more broad, and then build your audience back up from there. Source: personal experience.
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Yeah, that makes sense for sure. I think the idea just caught me so off guard, not because of an averse reaction to the line of thinking you articulate, but literally because the thought “anime will make you famous” goes so against the grain. Once I step back and frame it in the terms stated above, it seems like an obvious and viable strategy. To a point, as you say.