Momoi Halko is a legend in the world of Akihabara culture, having been active since the early 2000s in performing as well as producing other artists. She has appeared at many events and conventions around the world and continued to spread her love and excitement for Akiba culture across the globe for the last few decades, and this year, she was invited for another appearance in the US at the first Idol Matsuri.
Momoi took part in a number of fun activities around Idol Matsuri, starting with the opening ceremonies and Q&A session early on the first day of the show. She got tons of great questions about her career and activites and gave a lot of interesting and informative answers. Even with a full hour for questions, there ended up being more questions than there was time for her to answer them in the end.
After the Q&A, there was a few hours to take in the rest of the show and anticipate Momoi’s concert that happened later that night. Fans lined up outside the concert hall getting ready for the show and everyone filed in when the doors opened.
Momoi finally took the stage to a very energetic crowd and performed a great set of songs ranging from some of her originals to a host of popular anime songs and covers from the last few decades. Her vocals were very impressive in a live setting, and many said she even sounds better in a live show than on her studio recordings, which I’m inclined to agree with after hearing it for myself.
Momoi also did a number of fun activities with her fans including autograph sessions, photos, and handshakes, making it an enjoyable time for anyone who wanted to experience more Halko.
Later in the weekend, I got to sit down with her for a very interesting interview, so without further ado, here’s the conversation I had with Momoi:
SH: Welcome to the US again, how does this visit compare to the other times you’ve been here?
Halko: This is my third event here in the US, but this one is a bit different, given the nature of this convention. I mostly go to anime conventions, but this one being so closely associated with idol culture has a lot of meaning to it.
SH: What are some of your current favorite artists, Japanese or otherwise?
Halko: I’ve been on a big Nirvana kick lately, since I knew I was coming to Seattle, and I went to see the museum at Kurt Cobain’s house, it was really cool. Their songs are awesome and their lyrics seem to be like an early American version of an otaku’s mentality (laughs) Like their song “Lithium,” where he says “I’m so happy, ’cause today I found my friends, they’re in my head.” That seems to channel the spirit of otaku! I sing their songs at karaoke sometimes, too, it’s fun.
SH: Does being a producer for other artists affect being a performer yourself?
Halko: When I’m doing work for my idol productions, I always go for a really cute sound and image, but my own songs aren’t really quite so cute. When I’m doing production work, I try to do things I can’t do in my solo work, so I don’t think the two really merge or affect each other at any point.
SH: What is the thing you’re proudest of in your career?
Halko: I did a performance in Russia at an event called J-fest, and they don’t have a lot of Japanese performers come out there. At first, the audience just sat and watched at the beginning of my show, but by the end, they were all dancing and having a great time. The staff from the event said they had not seen young Russian people be so excited about anything in years, and that was special.
Live performances are usually important things for me that I’m proud of. I also had a very memorable Comiket performance that was really huge and got lots of attention around 10 years ago. They don’t usually do music performances at Comiket, but so many people gathered to watch my live that it was causing crowding problems and they had to use crowd control!
SH: When you’re approaching writing music or lyrics, where do you get your inspiration from?
Halko: I just think really hard about trying to come up with something that appeals to me, I don’t look to any certain set of ideas or any place/thing/etc. Sometimes I think “I should make this type of song” from the beginning of the conceptualizing of it, but eventually it ends up going in a random direction at some point.
SH: I’ve heard many people say they’re inspired by your work to become an idol or performer. Does it make you feel some pressure knowing that some people look up to you that way?
Halko: I’m very happy about it, really, but I don’t want to only inspire people who want to become more like me, but anyone who wants to work harder at what they do and accomplish their goals. That’s what idols are all about, isn’t it? (laughs)
SH: I know you do many cover songs as well as many original songs, but do you prefer performing the covers or your own material?
Halko: At first I just wanted to work within my own world and make a name for myself based on my own talents, but I’ve gotten a lot more confidence now, and I want to do more covers and try other things besides what I was used to doing for so many years. When I started, I just wanted to present myself for being myself, but eventually it got to the point where I’ll do whatever is fun, so it becomes a lot more relaxing. To answer the question, there’s no real preference of either, they’re both enjoyable.
SH: Do you think there are some major differences between your audiences in Japan as opposed to the ones in the US?
Halko: In Japan, I have many solo one-man lives, and even between one show and the next, they’re very different, even within the same country, so audiences are just different in general, regardless of where they’re from. My international lives almost feel more like home to me, since everyone comes from far away to see my show, I always feel so welcome, it’s like a “home away from home.”
I did a live in Germany where there was a crowd of people standing there watching my stage, but they were just normal people, not even Jpop fans or anything, so they all just sat and listened, and it was a unique experience, as that’s just the way they took in live music. It’s different here at Idol Matsuri, everyone is very aware of what’s supposed to happen at idol lives, so there was lots of interaction and wotagei, etc. This convention really is a concentration of the best idol fans in the US, it seems!
After the interview, Momoi had some more activities and fan interactions lined up for that day, but it was the last time I’d get to see her before leaving for home. My experience with Momoi left a lasting impression on me and I’m glad to have been there for it.
Thank you to Halko and her staff for coming out to Idol Matsuri and for taking the time to talk with us, and you can follow her activities through the links below.