Interview: Mio Himemiya/Mooma – J-Pop Singer/Songwriter, Voice Actress & Race Queen
“I’m like a child. If I’m interested in something, I think about it all the time.” (Mio Himemiya)
Born into an artistic family, Mio was exposed to music, art, and animation at a young age. After graduating from Keio University, she started performing. Not only doing music, Mio has a talent in design, MCing, and modelling. She reached the 1st Rank in Myspace Japan’s “Pretty Collection” contest. In 2010 she began working as a voice actress and started her solo music career as Mooma.
With her beautiful singing voice and a talent for writing lyrics, Mio is set for great things.
DJ is very grateful to Mio for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk about her life and career.
When and where were you born?
I was born on 27th January in Hokkaido, my mother’s hometown. A few months later we moved to Yokohama.
What was your childhood like?
Every day I practiced the violin, but I didn’t like it. I felt happy only when I was singing a song or playing TV games.
Do either of your parents have any artistic talents?
Yes, my parents were manga artists. My mother doesn’t do it anymore but my father teaches it in universities and schools. Also, my aunt is an actress in a big musical company. When she heard I started to learn acting, she was more pleased than my parents were. She felt it was in the blood or something.
What was it that made you decide to try for a career in the entertainment industry?
I don’t know, but before primary school I had already decided to go this way.
In 2005 you formed a duo with Manik, called HimemaniK. How did this come about?
I met Manik when he and I, and 3 other musicians got together to form a rock band. That’s when we first met. Manik and I formed the duo HimemaniK after the rock band ended. Manik came up with the name by joining our names together, Hime [miya] and Manik. It’s memorable and similar to nothing else. It was a good name!
The song “The Beast” is a great track. What exactly is the beast you are referring to in the lyric?
Oh, really? Thanks. I wrote the lyric of that song. I was describing the world of a self-centred man. The song title was named after the eye-catching title NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. I wanted it to mean not only the animal but also the demon.
You went solo this year (2011). What made you decide to go it alone, and do you still keep in touch with Manik?
HimemaniK wasn’t my unit, but Manik’s. I knew I couldn’t use my whole talent while I was there, and the sound of HimemaniK was going away from what I wanted to express. So, for me, starting a solo project was really natural.
Actually I don’t know what HimemaniK is doing now. We are both doing completely different music now.
Can you please explain the concept behind Mooma and where does the name come from?
I want to sing and let people see the world of picture books, lullaby or dream at first. Dream is “Yume” in Japanese, so there is kanji of yume in Mooma’s name.
The meaning of Mooma is dream demon; it’s like incubus. Mooma sounds like”mama”, it will give you kindness, warmth and a comfortable feeling with lots of love. So in Mooma tunes there are sexy or cute points like a girlfriend or words that soothe you like your mother.
The music you are now producing is very different to the Electro/Gothic-style of HimemaniK; it’s much more mellow in tone and melodic, and suits your voice perfectly. You seem to be more comfortable in this role, would you agree, and how would you describe this new sound?
Thanks, I agree about I’m feeling more comfortable to mooma’s music. I imagine the world of Tetsuya Nakajima or Hideki Noda. Tetsuya Nakajima is a famous movie director who made “PACO And The Magical Book” and “Kamikaze Girls”, and Hideki Noda is a famous stage director and scriptwriter.
In HimemaniK, I was describing negative emotions in the lyrics; like addiction, fear or hatred mainly. But in Mooma, I want to sing about love, but not-complicated love. Everyone knows this feeling, so you can listen and feel easily, I think.
As a songwriter, what inspires you to write?
Many things inspire me. The huge earthquake which devastated Japan this year (2011) inspired me a lot. I wrote three songs soon after it. One of those songs, “a-un” is a really cute song which is full of love.
What was the inspiration behind the track “ikenaiwa”?
Well, it’s really hard to explain! Do you know most Japanese girls say “iie” when they are having sex with their boyfriends? Iie means “No”, but the girls don’t want to quit the sex. It sounds odd but many Japanese know. “Ikenaiwa” is similar position.
The meaning is self-discipline. A girl loves a boy so much, but she doesn’t know how to get along with him. So she imagines many, many things; what smell, what shape, what kind of voice he will love. And she thinks if she can be jelly, his skin will accept her easily. If she can be a game character, he will see and love her easily. But these are mere thoughts of her imagination. She notices it and looks fact with saying,”No, no, no, I imaged too much – ikenaiwa”.
When can fans expect to see the release of your debut album as a solo artist?
I’m planning to release the mini album on iTunes store before my live show in Los Angeles this October. Please check out Mooma’s information.
Of all the songs you have recorded, both as a solo artist and with HimemaniK, which is your favourite?
HimemaniK was one part of me, but not the whole of me. Mooma songs really suit my voice, you know. I think it can’t come true with meeting one genius composer. Yasufumi Watanabe a.k.a. frottageshi. When I usually make Mooma songs, I write the lyrics and hand them to him, and he composes the melody. His work is wonderful enough to image the stage performance or the new music video. He’s a really shy guy but has a big talent. I love his talent and his works.
But I asked him to re-compose one song, “Amazing Tokyo”. It became my favourite song; I’m preparing the music video to this song now. You’ll be able to see it on Youtube soon.
You’ve also been a Race Queen, haven’t you? Many Race Queens become gravure idols, don’t they? Do you have any desire to go down that road, releasing idol videos and photo books etc?
I know it was a wonderful experience for me, but I feel it’s not my way now. I learnt many things from those jobs. That was nice.
What area of your career do you find is the toughest?
Well, I didn’t have any tough experiences as a Race Queen or Campaign Girl, but voice acting is tough. I started to learn by going to a voice acting school at high school age, acting was harder than it seemed. But it became one of my jobs. Life cannot be expected.
What other parts of the entertainment industry would you like to explore?
I have an interest to make short animation now. It’s like a picture book. When I draw the picture board for the music video of “ikenaiwa”, I found it really exciting!
As a voice actress you have dubbed characters from many foreign films, especially those in the genre of horror. Could you tell us some of the titles you’ve worked on and which ones have been the most enjoyable for you?
Movies include “Blood moon rising”, “Island of the Dead”. I played a minor role, but both were fun. “Fear Itself”, an American serial drama title. Every title is enjoyable for me!
Do you like horror films or do you prefer to work on dramas?
Actually I didn’t really like watching horror films before; they scared me. But as part of my work, they are interesting. Sometimes they contain many enjoyable points, such as homage to some famous films or original stupid comedy scenes. If there aren’t such enjoyable points, I came to like zombies or werewolves. Compare to Japanese horror, foreign horror works might be fun.
Am I right in thinking that the length of time you work on a film depends on the screen time of the character you’re dubbing?
For example, in dubbing a two-hour movie, the actors and actresses are gathered for one day, and record together from the beginning. So there’s not much difference in if the character speaks a lot or a little.
When I’m preparing, I feel and think about the character. That’s all. And for the voice, if possible, I try to keep my voice close to the original actress’ as possible. But sometimes I’m thinking about other actors or actresses. You cannot know who is talking when there are many similar voices, right? So a balance is needed.
Is it common for you to voice many characters in one film?
Mmn, that depends on the case. But I like to do many roles. I can enjoy it!
Have you ever voiced for a male character?
No, my voice is not good for a male character, but I think I will try a kindergarten-boy’s voice some day.
How are you approached to work on a film, do you get a call from your agent, and do you have to audition before you are hired?
There was an audition, and fortunately I was hired. I had no experience in dubbing before that. I couldn’t believe that.
On average, how much rehearsal time are you given for each film, and are you given the script to learn in advance?
I can get the script and sample movie about two weeks before recording. I have never checked how much rehearsal time I spend on each one, but probably over six hours for one film, I think. I soon get nervous, so I rehearse carefully enough to memorise the lines naturally.
You’ve been involved in VA Project. Can you explain what that is exactly and your involvement in it as a voice actress?
VA project is the circle made by voice actors, actresses and wannabes. They share the place for practice and raise the hope of the people who are aiming to be voice actors.
I got a main role in the Drama CD of VA project last year. I’m not a member, but I’m practicing there now. One of the practices, the voice sample has been uploaded. Please check it out. You can listen to my voices. VA project: http://va-pro.jp/top.html
How would you describe yourself?
I’m like a child. If I’m interested in something, I think about it all the time. Sometimes I’m surprised at my concentration.
What would you say is your greatest talent?
When the HimemaniK split up, one of my fans said to me, “You’d better keep going. Whatever you do, your creation has the taste of Mio Himemiya.” This sentence tells all. It’s not the talent, but me the person.
Who has been, or who is, the greatest influence on your life?
Hirokatsu Kihara has been an influence on me so much. He is an author of horror stories and was a former member of Ghibli. He has many talents within the entertainment industry. When I made the music video of “ikenaiwa”, I begged his advice. One of my dreams is to work with him.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like watching movies and American dramas. Of course they are fun and exciting, but I’m also trying to hear the lines sometimes. If it’s in English, I can learn from it. If it’s in Japanese, I can learn for dubbing job.
What is the number one quality you look for in a boyfriend?
Someone who is shining as a human being. It comes from sexy looks, charming gestures, artistic talents, quick-witted or kindness. Sometimes I fall in love at a glance because of it!
What are you plans for the future, both professionally and personally?
Mooma will act the live show this October in Los Angeles, and also upload Mooma’s tracks onto itunes store during the same month. I want to play gigs abroad next year too.
And someday I want to partake in Japan Expo. I think it’s really wonderful that there are so many people who love Japanese otaku culture. I don’t know yet in what role I will go there; a musician, a voice actress or a short video producer. But in the near future I’d love to be all of them.