Bringing up baby

They may look cute but Babymetal are revolutionising the macho world of metal

Hero image

It’s about the only sunny part of the Download festival weekend, early Friday afternoon, and we’re sat in the media garden. Suddenly there’s a hurried and excited scramble as Babymetal walk through the gate. Instantly recognisable, the elusive trio of Japanese teens have been winning over crowds with their brand of cutesy, brutal, metal J-pop everywhere they go.

They are accompanied by a small but effective entourage, including a security guard akin to Cersei Lannister’s new pet knight. He keeps the crowd forming around them in line with nothing more than a glance.

Looking excited, nervous and bewildered, yet still confident, the girls happily give us a brief moment to snap a couple of photos before they are ushered off to get ready for their set. We’d get the chance to speak to Suzuka Nakamoto, AKA Su-Metal, later. Like a lot of Japanese things it’s all very efficient.

Making our way to the main stage to catch the show, sun still shining, we naively leave our waterproofs in a locker backstage. Big mistake. Just before Babymetal’s set there is a torrential downpour. I end up soaked through to the skin. Delayed by the weather, after staff wipe the puddles from the stage Babymetal finally come out to rapturous cheers, backed as always by their incredibly talented Kami band.

“Despite the extreme pouring rain, people stood before our stage to watch us to the very end. It was a spectacular view from the stage,” says Su-Metal, the band’s 18-year-old singer. The rain may have been pouring but that didn’t stop the frenzied crowd forming circle pits at her request. “Our live performance is very intense so the rain actually helped us cool down a bit.”

I first caught Babymetal live at last year’s Leeds Festival but the girls have played most rock festivals now, steadily climbing their way up the bill in a few short years. “Download UK was amazing but really every festival brings a different experience so it’s hard to choose one over the other,” she says.

“The crowd is probably the most different. Over here everyone is just enjoying the show in their own way. In the beginning we always see people in the crowd who have never seen us before, who don’t know how to react, but by the end of our set we always see everyone holding up the fox sign [Babymetal’s version of metal horns], which shows us that they are enjoying our show.”

“As for a full tour, only the Fox God knows!”

Back home in Japan Babymetal have been selling out arenas for years, but with their recent Metal Resistance album being the highest-charting by any Japanese band in the UK, they are also the first to headline Wembley, where they set records for merchandise sales.

“We’ve been so blessed to have experienced so many things here in the UK. As for a full tour, only the Fox God knows!” she says, citing the name of their current tour and the mythology that underpins Babymetal’s very existence. The Fox God is said to have recruited the girls as heroines of a metal revolution. Their show is often introduced with a video explaining their mission.

With a devout fanbase, they’ve succeeded. But nevertheless there are some (grumpy old elitists) who deny the ways of the Fox God and Babymetal’s inclusion in the world of metal. Last month White Zombie frontman-cum-horror movie director Rob Zombie caused a stir when he fired back at his own fans who posted negative comments on Facebook after he had his picture taken with Babymetal.

Su-Metal says: “First of all, thanks to Rob for being so kind to us. We really feel happy for his support. There may be people who don’t like what we do, but that is all fine for us because we just want to continue doing what we believe is the right thing.”

Zombie also told fans that the girls had 90 per cent more energy than most of the bands he’s played with. Where does it come from? “All the yummy food in the countries we visit and from all our fans and people who come to our shows. We just want to have fun with all who show up at our shows.”

Another fan is Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, with whom they have an upcoming performance. One of the reasons they seem so accepted in a genre dominated by gruff hairy men is the respect they pay their elders.

“We are extremely honoured for this amazing opportunity. I must say I’m nervous but I’m even more excited. Every band is cool and we are happy to be able to share a stage with so many legends.”

If they could collaborate with just one of those legends living or dead? “We respect so many of them, how can we choose just one?”

Having formed in 2010 Babymetal have had a niche fanbase here for a while, but success in the west really started in 2014 when their song Gimmie Chocolate!! – a catchy, fast-paced dance-pop number backed by riffs that would make Slipknot or Slayer jealous – went viral. Since then there’s been no turning back for the band, who fans categorise in the genre of Kawaii metal.

The music is less of a distinct layering of J-pop and metal and more a cohesive blend of the two

“It’s a fusion of cool metal sounds with cute influences – for example, in our dance and look. We strive to be the only one doing what we do, as our aim is to create a new genre called Babymetal.”

The developing maturity of the band – fellow members Moametal and Yuimetal are now 16 and 17 – shows their new album. The music is less of a distinct layering of J-pop and metal and more a cohesive blend of the two. Plus the riffs have got even heavier.

“We build our songs together with our fans through our live performances. Everything that we learn and absorb through our world tours is reflected onto our songs, for sure.”
With western success comes a dilemma for some. Many foreign bands end up singing in English to reach a wider audience, but others like German band Rammstein, Download headliners on the Friday night, stick to their native tongue and still achieve great success. It seems Babymetal have no plans to change.

“We made an English version of The One, because that song is about getting everyone to come together through our music and we thought that English would be the best to reach out to all our fans all over the world. We have no idea if we will make more English songs in the future but we take pride in the fact that we are from Japan and the Japanese language is very important to us.”

Success doesn’t seem to be going to their heads either. “There are so many musicians out there who are amazing in what they do so it’s not only us,” says Su-Metal with characteristic diplomacy. “All we do is believe in our work and our music, and strive to bring the best music and the best performance to everyone.”

Photo: Wendy Keogh

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Bringing up baby

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.