F Chopper KOGA & TOMO-ZO (Gacharic Spin) – Interview (2023)

F Chopper KOGA & TOMO-ZO (Gacharic Spin)

Interview by Todd Nelson and Brian Galloway
August 13, 2023

Gacharic Spin is a 6-piece all-female rock band known for their unique style of music, highly skilled musicianship, and engaging stage shows. The band was back for a performance in the United States, 4 years since their last visit in 2019. We were able to sit down with bassist and leader F Chopper KOGA along with lead guitarist TOMO-ZO to talk about their new album W and their activities for the current  year.

Thank you for taking out the time for an interview and for returning to Texas, it has been too long.  I know you’re probably very busy and very jet lagged.

KOGA: It’s OK. No, no, no, don’t worry. (in English)

Gacharic Spin generation 5 released their 3rd full length album last month titled W. What is the meaning behind the title?

KOGA: W as a title means, well people for example, me or you, there is a face that you show everyone, and there are other faces you show your family, your lover, your friends, etc. There are many versions or faces of yourself. The main meaning is that it is okay for you to be that way, we wanted to put all that meaning into the title of this album. There may be times where you start to hate yourself for using these different versions of yourself while you interact with the world in front of you, and have a hard time forgiving yourself, but all of that as a whole is you, so lets go ahead and love each one, every part of you. That is the message that we put forth with this album.”

Ah, that theme ties right in with “Replica” then.

Like so much of your existing catalog, W covers a wide range of genres, this has been such a constant for the band that I think of Gacharic Spin as their own genre. Did any of you or the band as whole have any specific goals or accomplishments that you wanted to achieve in making this record?

TOMO-ZO: Gacharic Spin is always striving to become something more unique in a sense, as making songs progresses, I believe that everybody in the band shares views somewhat similar to that.

In regard to the previous question, after listening to the album several times, I got the impression that each member was really pushing themselves with this effort. Many of the compositions seem very complex for every instrument and blend together very nicely. I feel the band has raised the bar with this album, maybe it’s because generation 5 is continuing to evolve – 4 years now! Just some examples are Angie’s range of vocal styles on this album, more dual guitar play, KOGA and Oreo seem to have a bit of dual play with keyboard and bass, and from the YouTube short I’ve seen Yuri’s drumming is insane. What sort of challenges and growth did each of you experience with W?

KOGA: Making this album, trying to figure out, and being able to portray through songs what Gacharic Spin is was a really hard challenge to complete. What is Gacharic Spin? How do we convey to people just by songs what Gacharic Spin is — it was a hard challenge for us.

The album starts off frenetic and a bit dark with ‘Replica’. The MV visuals seem to fit perfectly, since the music has a manufacturing/assembly line feel. Can you explain more about what the song is about and where the idea for the MV came about?

KOGA: We went this route because it was something we never really did before, having a stop frame animation style music video. Also, we wanted to incorporate something like that because it is a bit of a dark song, and we felt that if we made an MV featuring just ourselves with no animation or anything like that it would become a bit darker. So, we wanted to incorporate something to not make it too dark.

The first MV that was released, “Kachikachiyama” (3rd track on the album), changes the mood and is very funky, bright and light feeling, it even features an idol like cheer/chant in the bridge. The song has a positive message and also features Japanese folklore references. Can you tell us more about the song and its message?

KOGA: So the concept or message trying to be portrayed by “Kachikachiyama” is that you as an entity, you can function on your own, but having somebody next to you – you’ll be influenced by the people differently. So, by the influence of this person, you met this person over here, who helped you with this thing here, and stuff like that. If they weren’t there, then you know you would never really meet new people in that sense. Also if you knew this person and you thought you were in the right, but then you were thinking about what their perspective might be, it could be that you were the one in the wrong the whole time kind of thing, which is actually like in the song.

Oh, like the part in the song where you wonder if the demon was actually good?

KOGA: Exactly. For instance, in the song, when we’re talking about these topics, we’re using references to Japanese folklore because it’s not direct so it doesn’t come off as negative. It comes off as quite positive. There’s also the parts where we put dances in it to kind of lighten the mood in a sense, we also have yuri and Hana switching places you know, for the drums.

I did not pick up on the meaning of them switching, that’s really cool.

There isn’t a TOMO-ZO song on this album, but sections of this song feel very much like TMZ song to me.

TOMO-ZO and KOGA:  ehh!
TOMO-ZO:  Sou da ne (I agree)
KOGA: Which part?

The part when the band is doing the cheer , in the bridge (I perform the ‘Mountain, mountain’ hand gestures)

KOGA and TOMO-ZO: ahh.
TOMO-ZO:  Ah, I see. Because it’s a happy space.

One other thing I wanted to discuss; GS has always had a very bold fashion sense. In this video, my son described everyone’s look perfectly when he said that everyone looked like they popped out of a JoJo anime, everyone looks so cool. Did any of the members come up with the ideas for this look?

KOGA: Oreo selected everything for that music video, she was talking with the stylist as well, but it was all, ultimately, her decision.

*Editor’s note we had a special follow up question for Hana but she was not available at the time of the interview, we were able to get her response later and are placing the question and answer here.

(To Hana) Since we are at an anime convention, and I hear that you are a JoJo fan, we want to know If you had a stand what powers would it have? 

Hana: If I had a stand, I would have one that could make clones so I could play all of the instruments at once and have a sort of one man band.

I’d like to ask about your songwriting process. Music and lyrics are always credited to the entire band, unless there’s a collaboration. Can you tell me where the ideas start and describe the process of how they become finished songs?

TOMO-ZO: For me, my ideas for songs, usually come listening to songs on Spotify or hearing something, listening and finding the song on Spotify or something like that. I’ll add it to a playlist and when I start songwriting, I think as I’m listening to random songs, ‘I wonder what Gacharic Spin would sound like if we were to use this style composition in terms of notes, or this style, or this beat, or this feeling to the music. I wonder what Gacharic Spin would sound like with that.’ With everything saved in a playlist, when I want to get more creative and start making stuff, I listen to a lot of those songs and be like, ‘oh, yeah, I could use this style and incorporate it into this song.’

So you come up with the basic idea and bring a demo to the rest of the band and everyone else adds their own flourishes and parts to it.

TOMO-ZO: Basically the patterns are endless in terms of how it fruits into a song, there will be times where I compose, arrange and do everything for the entire song. Other times there will be just parts where I give a demo and everyone else takes care of the rest. Sometimes it will just be Hana who does the drums, bass lines and stuff like that, or Oreo comes up with like lyrics and stuff like that. Yeah, there’s no, like, straight process that’s really been concrete with Gacharic Spin.

I was just very curious because I didn’t know if the band got together and just started playing and until something clicked or where the germination came from.

KOGA: So for instance, the process that Hana uses a lot of the time is she’ll basically give TOMO-ZO a tempo, like literally just a metronome tempo, to come up with a guitar phrase, or she’ll tell Angie with just the tempo to come up with a way to sing a song; like the ways that it’ll be done, in terms of voice, you know, ups and downs with just the tempo. Or for me, she’ll tell me I’m going to use this tempo, just come with some words that have this feeling. To just a beat, nobody knows what it’s supposed to be about, but everybody comes up with something, and Hana will take that information and turn it into a song, sometimes also into multiple different projects.

Perfect, thank you.

KOGA and TOMO-ZO: (laughing) Perfect! (in English)

I understand the song “Voice” has special meaning for Angie. Could you expound on that a little bit?

KOGA: Fun fact, “Voice” was actually the final song to be confirmed, placed into the album, we couldn’t decide on whether to put in. Towards the end of making the actual album it didn’t actually have any lyrics. So, Angie wanted to write the lyrics for the song, and she wanted to dedicate it to her late father, who passed away when she was younger. He’s the reason that she sings and likes singing today because he inspired her and influenced her in that aspect. The reason it’s in the album is actually because it just so happened that all the lyrics fit in perfectly, you know it was just a really good fit. All the recent songs, our past songs, there’s not too many members who actually write lyrics that pertain to themselves or have personal meaning to it, so this feels like a very pure song in terms of Gacharic Spin songs lyrically speaking. It’s very pure and straightforward, so I feel very, very fitting.

You also had the cool idea of making a reaction video to fans reaction videos of this MV, how did that idea come up? It must have been fun going through all the entries.

KOGA: Basically because of COVID and not being able to really interact with people outside Japan , we wanted to have some sort of event that would involve those living overseas. We really wanted to interact with them, so we came up with the idea of a Gacha reaction video; if you react, and we like it, we’ll react to you.

We were able to meet Wave (here at Anime Matsuri, Wave Potter the winner of the reaction contest) , so that was cool. I wouldn’t have probably interacted with him or met him without the react video.

KOGA: I love seeing whenever all the fans get together, and seeing the vast differences between fans, like their backgrounds, or how they are as people, just to see them all together and congregating, it’s really fun.

I know the band toured quite a bit last year, but I understand that covid restrictions were fully lifted just a few months ago. GS shows are well known for fan involvement. What has it been like finally being able to interact with the fans in full force once again?

KOGA: It’s been about, I would say, three years, maybe a little over three years that we were not able to let the fans be really vocal and animated. In general, for them to go back to what it used to be prior.

Like “Broken Lover” (a song where the Gacha fans in Japan are at their wildest).

KOGA and TOMO-ZO: Yes, that’s right!

KOGA: So, when restrictions were lifted fans were finally able to do it. It was at LINE CUBE SHIBUYA in February, one of the first releases for the album W. They were finally able to shout and sing along in a sense. On the first song everybody cried because the audience was able to interact, all six of us pretty much. Everybody came out in full force, we basically were very, very emotional about it.

(TOMO-ZO and KOGA laughing)

I had similar feelings last night (Gacharic Spin’s AM concert), even though things have been back to normal for almost a year, it was very emotional for me. Seeing the band perform here in the US, it felt to me like COVID was finally over.

Ah (nodding).

You will be performing at Hibiya Yaon in November, your 2nd one man there, congratulations! Your special event shows almost always have a cool surprise for the fans, like Hana and Yuri’s dual drumkits during “NEXT Stage” a few years back. Do you have anything planned yet?

KOGA: We’ve been working on W, and it’s been very, very busy, so we actually haven’t gotten that far yet. Right now, we’re planning TOMO-ZO’s special birthday live that’s coming up. So, we haven’t really gotten past that. That’s coming up, so enjoy that if you can.

Over the last couple of years, I know from people who on the ground reporting so to speak, in Japan, that you have performed a lot of new songs that have not made it to albums yet. Some of them, maybe haven’t even been played live yet, just talked about through internet chatter. Do you think you may end up slowly playing one or two of those new songs at lives later this year or next before something is officially released? (similar to what you’ve done with songs on W)

KOGA: Pretty much at almost every live right now, we’re actually playing songs that haven’t been officially released yet. So, if you come to one of our shows, you’ll probably hear some.

KOGA: There’s probably about 10 songs that have yet to be released that we’ve played at the lives right now, and there’s more really unreleased songs that haven’t been performed.
(Gacharic Spin’s manager at Houston shared with us that there are some songs he hasn’t even heard yet)

So that brings up another question. With so many unrecorded songs that become fan favorites, how do you choose which ones make it to the album?

KOGA and TOMO-ZO: When it comes to making an album we want to add and make new songs for the new albums and not use old songs, so we want to keep incorporating new songs and maybe we’ll use some of the old songs. In the end we’re left over with more songs. So, it’s a never-ending cycle.

It’s like choosing which children to leave behind.

(TOMO-ZO and KOGA laughing)

TOMO-ZO: Surely.

One question we have asked artists is what type of gear they use, as many of our readers are gearheads and are very interested in that. I looked at our past interviews and we have never asked that question to Gacharic Spin. What gear do the two of you use and why it may be special to you?

KOGA: Some of my favorite gear is the compressor from BOSS. It’s very, very good for the compression. When it comes to recording or live events, it pretty much never fails to reproduce the sounds that I need for Gacharic Spin specifically. One other thing of course is my signature model 5 string bass. I wanted it to be as light as possible, so they kept as much structural rigidity as possible while making the bass as light as possible. So, it weighs less than most bass guitars, yet it still has a very solid sound to it. Also, the neck itself is a bit sloped/chamfered because my hand is smaller, which makes some of the things I do easier for me.

TOMO-ZO: I used two guitars in yesterdays live. One of them is the PRS 24 custom. The first time I actually picked that guitar up, I noticed it was a really good fit for me because it kind of molded to me in a sense. I really enjoy using that specific guitar, because it covers a wide field of things in general, like all the genres, I guess you could say all of the different styles of Gacharic Spin and it plays it very well.
The other guitar I use is my okashi (snack) guitar. Contrary to how it looks, the sound that it produces is quite metal I guess you could say. So, I feel like I can relate to the guitar personality wise in contrast to how it looks.

Well, that’s it. Your guitar playing is very much a juxtaposition in styles because the way you dress and everything, very kawaii. Then your guitar playing. There’s a very big contrast there and it’s great. I love it.

TOMO-ZO: Oh, thank you.

The live show last night was amazing! It was great finally seeing you perform in the US once again. I have a couple of questions pertaining to the concert. I was really surprised about the proximity that the band had to the fans last night, it was very close. You could really feel the energy. I was wondering how you felt about that?

KOGA and TOMO-ZO: Fans do love coming up to the band as close as possible, but there’s also a feeling for the band members wanting to get as close to the fans as possible. In terms of the actual stage, it is very different from Japan, because in Japan we always have like a small bit of space, usually between the stage. So, there’ll always be like a small little spot where some people can go. But here yesterday it was very, very close. It actually kind of made me feel happy that we could be so close to the people while performing.

KOGA and TOMO-ZO: In Japan, recording typically is a no go and not allowed while we perform. Even when they do record, the people in Japan for the most part, they’ll be watching you perform, but they won’t be having fun. They’re like fixated on their phones. But here, we were surprised at how people were able to record and have fun at the same time. America’s quite advanced there.

We spend a lot of time on phones here, so lots of practice.

Sort of a follow up on that that, I noticed stage layout was quite unique. Did the band Have to do a lot of improvisation on the fly after seeing the setup? For example, I noticed for example when TOMO-ZO was out doing some of her solo work, Angie actually had to run back and work some of the effect pedals.

KOGA: So, for the effect pedal part that’s what Angie normally does.  But, because the stage was so large, she had to from the front of the stage run back to the pedal board. Because the stage layout was as such, there were a lot of things that we had to change on the fly, we had a meeting about it and everything. We had to change a lot of stuff. So, like. when Hana was at the front stage for instance and she does a solo thing, usually she’ll just start playing the solo, press the button and finish the solo while walking up to the front. But because she’s already there in the front, somebody else has to do it. So, we had to figure out who can walk over there during that time and press the button. Yeah, so we had to figure out how all of that would work.

Well, it went flawless.

TOMO-ZO and KOGA: ehhhh? (Really? Are you sure about that?)

At least to us it seemed flawless. (laughs)

KOGA: So the night before, we all had a meeting, and we were really planning stuff out. Very like quick, small specific details and what not. But when it came to the actual live a lot of us forgot what we were talking about. (laughing)

During the MC right before “Kachikachiyama”, I walked up to the front stage and everything and we’re all talking like, ‘OK, now on to our next song’. Prior to that, I had to push the mute button on my bass amp, so nothing goes through to disrupt the MC or anything like that. I noticed at the last second that I forgot to unmute it, so I was like ‘Yabai!’ (Oh my god!)  and had to run all the way back. It’s the first time I have ever run that hard. (laughs)

It seemed a lot of thought was put into making the setlist a special experience for overseas fans which featured an anime medley. Also, I was really happy when I saw the umbrella prop on the stage since I figured (correctly) that meant “Magic Umbrella Girl” would be played, and I believe that’s the first time overseas that a TMZ song was performed. From the medley I especially enjoyed “unravel”, that was so good!

(About “Magic Umbrella Girl”)
KOGA: Yes that’s right.

TOMO-ZO: I’m glad it was good.

KOGA: When it comes to the anime medley part of the actual thing, because it’s Anime Matsuri, John (convention founder) said to come up with a place in the setlist to feature one anime song. Since one of our managers lived in America for a while, we asked him what would be popular. He suggested if you wanted to like, stick out to the crowd play just the anime opening, the 1:30 version. Play multiple songs and it’ll be easier to remember, and it’ll stand out more. So, he chose three songs he figured we could play, to make it look cool, and pretty much everybody knows.

Thank you again for your time, it was great catching up with the band again.

TOMO-ZO and KOGA: Thank you, it was fun!

Order Gacharic Spin’s EP from CDJapan!

Ace [w/ Blu-ray, Limited Edition]
Title: Ace [w/ Blu-ray, Limited Edition]
Release date: February 28th, 2024
Description: Gacharic Spin brings an EP including “BakuBaku” and more for five tracks in total. Comes with a bonus Blu-ray featuring the live performance “Limit Breaker – Kessei 15 Shunen ni Mukete -” held at Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall (full length) and bonus footage.

Ace [Regular Edition]
Title: Ace [Regular Edition]
Release date: February 28th, 2024
Description: Gacharic Spin brings an EP including “BakuBaku” and more for five tracks in total.

Gacharic Spin Website – http://www.gacharicspin.com/
Gacharic Spin Twitter – https://twitter.com/Gachapin_info
Gacharic Spin YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/gacharicspinch
GachatoTV – https://www.youtube.com/user/GacharicSpin

Member SNS Account Info
KOGA – Instagram / Twitter
Hana – Instagram / Facebook
Oreo – Instagram
TOMO-ZO – Twitter
Angie – Instagram / Twitter
yuri – Instagram / Twitter

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