Even though there hasn’t been much attention given to the Japanese idol industry on AVO Blog, there always have been kept an eye on it. I got a notice about a new idol band that is kind of interesting; a group consisting of only foreign guys living in Japan: Guy人48 (read: Guyjin48). That is when I decided that I need to talk with this group. I talked with the creator of Guy人48, James Collins, about the start of the band and what we can expect!
AVO: Guy人48: Japan’s first all male and all foreign idol band. This is really serious, right?
James: Yup, it’s totally serious. I definitely get people from time to time who are totally convinced that it’s a hoax or a prank. Considering that the project is still in a very early stage, I think it’s natural that there are people who think that way. Once we have more to show that will change though.
AVO: When did you come up with the idea for this project and what exactly is the concept of Guy人48?
James: I actually came up with the idea about 4 years ago when I first moved to Japan and was teaching English in Kuki, Saitama. I remember sitting in my little apartment that my English school provided and searching for Japanese music to help with listening comprehension. That’s really when I first learned about idol music. After coming across AKB 48, I realized there wasn’t an all-foreign version and shortly after I thought of the name of the group, Guy人48. So after that, I continued to think about how cool it would be to actually start a project like this and over the course of a few years and after talking to tons of people, I was able to think of the concept as it is today and eventually try to get it started. As for what the concept actually is, I am really just hoping that Guy人48 can become a sort of platform for introducing Japanese people to Japan’s foreign population, while at the same time promoting cultural understanding and hopefully attracting more people from overseas to come and study and live in Japan. I truly believe that Guy人48 can be another example of how through the power of music people can be moved and influenced in a positive way.
AVO: What were the reactions from people after you announced the project Guy人48?
James: The reactions were mostly positive. After the CrunchyRoll article got posted and was translated into a bunch of different languages, I got a lot of good feedback. I, of course, got some negative response but I mostly got people who are excited about the idea and like the concept. A lot of the attention I have received in terms of media exposure has been from people and groups overseas though. I have yet to get attention from Japanese media outlets. I expect once the first single and music video are done we will start to get attention from our Japanese audience.
AVO: You have been looking for new members for a while now, how difficult is it to find enough interested guys from different nationalities to join Guy人48?
James: Well after the CrunchyRoll article I had a lot of applicants. Actually the first language the article was translated into was Indonesian, so almost half of the applicants were from people living in Indonesia. The other country I got a lot of applicants from was America since I was using Craigslist to try and reach potential applicants. So yeah it has definitely been extremely challenging trying to find new members from different countries. I even made flyers and went to places like Shin-Okubo to hand them out to guys who looked like they might fit the bill. That was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be and I ended up finding zero new members from directly scouting on the street. I think once we have something to show and people can see that we are a legitimate group, and once we have more press it will become a lot easier to find people who want to get on board.
AVO: Are you still looking for members?
James: Yup, we’re still looking for a lot more guys from countries all over the world. We have China, America, Philippines, Korea, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and England right now. I’d like to get a lot more countries represented so I am still on the lookout for eligible members.
AVO: You are working on the music at the moment, what kind of genre music and subjects can we expect from Guy人48?
James: Our first single is going to be pretty poppy. I think it sounds a little like “Morning Musume”. Since we will have so many members from various backgrounds who speak various languages, I think we could possibly do a little of everything. Our first single is going to be pretty mainstream idol style, but as for what we produce, later on, that will be entirely up to what kind of guys will join later on and what will work. I don’t think I want our group to be bound to just one genre and only do one sound, but at the same time, I would like a signature style for Guy人48. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure where we will end up musically, but it should work itself naturally as we go along. Even I’m excited to see what direction we will go.
AVO: From the very beginning you have been looking for male students who reside in Japan to form a group with them. Being an idol means that you have to practice a lot if it comes to dancing, singing, but also prepare new songs. That will probably be a very tight schedule next to studying. What is the practising schedule at the moment?
James: Well seeing as how difficult it has been to find members, especially members that are actually studying at language schools or Japanese universities, I decided to look for people who are working as well. So not every member is actually a student right now. Everyone is studying Japanese in some way though. But yeah scheduling is extremely difficult. Everyone either has school or work every day, so the time we are able to meet and practice is limited. Right now we have the demo made by Soul’d Out’s Shinnosuke for our first single and we are preparing for recording at the end of September/beginning of October, but we are only able to meet up once a week right now. Most of the time the guys are practising on their own. Once things start to take off more I’m sure I will need more of the guy’s time so scheduling will get even trickier. I’m sure I’ll be able to make it work though. It will just take a little effort.
AVO: Tokyo 2020 is in a few years, do you want to accomplish something with Guy人48 before the Olympics will start?
James: I’m really hoping we can make a good deal of progress before the 2020 Olympics. Since the concept is really focused on cultural acceptance and creating a more multicultural environment in Japan, I think we could possibly become sort of the face of a more foreign friendly Japan. Japan is actually in the midst of trying to create an image of being more foreign friendly/accessible in light of the upcoming Olympics as well as some other pretty serious social issues that Japan is facing at the moment. I’m really hoping that we can play a big part in making that image a reality. In the end, the goal is really just to reach as many people as possible and spread our message, but I think it would be really cool if we could be a part of the Olympics in some way. We will, of course, have to work very hard to make that actually happen though. We will do our best!
AVO: If you can start dreaming about working together with other idol groups, with which group or groups do you want to work together?
James: Honestly I’d like to work with any group who would be willing to share the stage with us. If we make it to the level of being able to perform with the likes of AKB48 or Morning Musume, that would be like a dream come true, but just being able to perform as a legitimate idol group in Japan would be such a privilege. I actually have a lot of respect for the creator of You’ll Melt More, Taichi Take. I read his book on how to create your own idol group and the way I’m creating Guy人48 is very similar to the way he put his group together, so being able to work with him would be amazing. Performing with Korea’s first all foreign boy group, Exp Edition, would be interesting as well. Also, one of my guys is a huge Baby Metal fan and he mentioned he would love to one day perform with them.
AVO: Is there something you want to say to the readers?
James: Guy人48’s debut is still a little ways away but please keep your eye out for us! We are working hard on the single, then on to making the video and getting on stage with the first group of guys. Everyone is really excited and are looking forward to giving their all to spread our message and make great idol music as foreigners in Japan, so please support us! Also, if you have any friends living in the Tokyo area that you think might be good as a Guy人, please let them know we are looking for members! Thank you!