Since AVO has already existed more than 13 years and AVO Magazine more than 4 years, it was definitely time for an interview with the founder: Francisca Hagen.
AVO: You’ve kept AVO Magazine and Forum standing for quite a while, mostly by yourself. What is your motivation to keep putting so much time into this?
Francisca: My perseverance has gotten me very far. I’m not the kind of person that throws in the towel and walks away when things get tough. I never thought I’d still be running a forum after 13 years. In all honesty, I never thought about the responsibilities involved when starting a forum, but eventually, they grew. AVO is a name I want to make even more well-known and I’m willing to fight for that. The fact that AVO isn’t known to everyone, is a reason to keep going. By now I’ve put blood, sweat, tears and money into AVO, which makes me want success for AVO even more. And AVO isn’t just a forum anymore, this shows there’s more to me than just an admin.
AVO: AVO Magazine has a broad audience with a lot of different interests. How do you keep everybody interested?
Francisca: This has to do with the fact that I have a lot of interests myself. I’ve always seen this as a disadvantage when I had to decide what to study. I didn’t have any idea which direction I wanted to head in, because I could go in many directions thanks to my many interests. I chose a study that I thought would make it easy for me to go to Japan: Tourism. Pretty naïve of me, since I ended up not going to Japan until this year. Teachers of that study thought I should do something with computers, because I always helped them solve problems. Eventually, I ended up at a Multimedia study. Because other people kept telling me I was a good writer I even studied journalism for a little while. But eventually I ended up doing what I like: writing, photography, organizing events, presenting and I try to take on as many new challenges as possible! This immediately shows that it was simply impossible to pick 1 study, because there were so many interesting options. On top of that the world is ever-changing when it comes to work, often I see people who have to go back to college because their branch doesn’t have a lot of job opportunities. So I encourage people to have several interests and hobbies, this keeps you open minded. I share all sorts of things on AVO Forum, because these things seem interesting to me and that’s exactly the same as what I do for AVO Magazine. I enjoy discovering new things and hope people discover new things because of my articles.
AVO: Every workday AVO Magazine has new articles, the subjects are very diverse. Are there specific subjects we can expect in the future?
Francisca: Of course there are a lot of ideas, AVO Magazine is always evolving. If you look at how AVO Magazine looked in the beginning and what it’s like now, you see very big differences. I think it’s a good thing AVO Magazine keeps changing, I view this as growth. Standing still is moving backwards, in my opinion. I try to offer more and more when it comes to the journey to Tokyo 2020. I also want a lot more balance for the website, at the moment you mainly see a lot of my expertise shine through: music. This has to do with my activities in the music world, I organize concerts in the Netherlands with AVO Events & Promotion. This way I meet new people who can contribute something to AVO. So at the moment a team is busy to review more anime, manga and games for the website. But I also want to do more interviews, tell more about the country Japan and give more attention to a few subjects that haven’t been in the spotlight. I’m still looking for serious people who would like to write for a website like AVO! On top of all this I want to expand our Youtube channel.
AVO: What would you like to see in AVO Magazine’s future?
Francisca: What mainly keeps me busy at the moment, is expanding AVO Magazine. At the moment the website is mostly known in the Netherlands. But making it more known in Belgium hasn’t worked out yet after all these years, even though I have (had) several Flemish writers. On top of that, I want to look beyond the borders. The name AVO has been mentioned several times in Japan, thanks to my activities for AVO Magazine and AVO Events & Promotion, but the website still mainly publishes in Dutch. What if I offer a complete English version?
AVO: AVO Forum has more than 300 members and is active, despite the fact that more and more forums fall silent. How do you keep it so active?
Francisca: I’m known for being perseverant – as I mentioned before – I don’t give up very easily. I make sure that I post some messages in the morning, afternoon and evening. This makes it easier for me. I’m active on the social media and get news this way, sometimes I get tips from other people. This enables me to post a message pretty quickly. I make sure to start discussions every now and then, because these create extra activity! The website has been more active in the past, but has also been very quiet for a period of time. At the moment the website is active, the core being a set group of people who respond to several subjects. I’m glad the website is still going, despite forums being outdated. Especially because of social media. But there are still plenty of people who visit the forum and post there. On top of that the forum has already existed for a long time and there have been plenty of members who came back after years of inactivity to experience that AVO-vibe again, that they miss on social media. On Facebook you sometimes get a few reactions as well, maybe a few on twitter, but on the forum a lot of people choose to respond. I offer a very diverse subjects and I’m always open for new subjects, which makes people stay a lot quicker.
AVO: On top of AVO Magazine and Forum you also started AVO Events & Promotion in late 2014, where you help organize music events with Japanese artists. What was your motivation behind starting AVO Events & Promotion?
Francisca: I’d already kept myself busy with organizing concerts in the Netherlands for two years at that time and I thought it was time to put the AVO label on it. Organizing concerts is something I happened upon, because a Japanese band I’ve been supporting for years first asked me if I wanted to organize a concert for them in the Netherlands. Eventually I got a request to become partners with a European tour organization and ever since I organize concerts. I didn’t even know if it was something that I’d enjoy, but by now I’m sure it is. It’s as if I accidentally stumbled upon something that fits with me perfectly. By now I provide of several concerts in the Netherlands, also at conventions, events and conventions ask me to advise them and I managed to present an event myself as well. I never thought it’d work out this way and I still feel like I’m in the starting phase of this.
AVO: With AVO Events & Promotion, you’ve already been able to get quite a few musicians to come to the Netherlands, among which NIA, Satsuki, ADAMS and REMNANT, to name the most recent. Has anything ever gone wrong?
Francisca: The job I have is to make sure everything runs smoothly. This starts with a clear planning, worked out agreements and maintaining communication at all times. After that it’s important to be able to fix possible problems in a flexible way, but also as good as possible, without panicking. If the latter would happen, then you’re not cut out for this job. During a job I’m always very focused and I try to keep cool, no matter what happens. During conventions I run into a lot of familiar faces who want to have a chat with me, but if I’m working then I’m focused on work and can’t chat for very long. This is a downside, since I do enjoy talking to the people I run into. But there’s no time, I have to continue!
AVO: Which musicians would you like to get to perform in the Netherlands in the future?
Francisca: There are quite a few I’d like to see coming to the Netherlands. Do you have a moment? To make it easier I’ll name a few: GOATBED, emmurée, cali≠gari, THE NOVEMBERS, Lillies and Remains and FOXPILL CULT. Most of these bands I got to enjoy live during my first trip to Japan with the idea that I wouldn’t get to see them in the Netherlands any time soon. I think it’d be really amazing to get them to come to this cold little country. The band that made it possible for me to do the things I do now, lloy, I’ve never been able to get them to come to the Netherlands. I’d still like to do this sometime!
AVO: AVO’s birthday gets celebrated in a grand way every year, this year with video submissions of artist and a giveaway. Can you give us a hint as to what we can expect next year?
Francisca: I thought it was great that so many people submitted a video to congratulate AVO, this makes you feel good! At the work that was put into this is taken seriously. Next year everyone is welcome to send in something like that again. But secretly I’m also already busy with 15 years AVO. After AVO J-Rock Fesival ended in 2013 I got a lot of questions about when the next edition would be. Could it be?
AVO: AVO Community currently exists out of AVO Forum, AVO Magazine and AVO Events & Promotion. Can we expect more expansion of the AVO Community in the future?
Francisca: I’m deep in thoughts right now. After making AVO Forum I didn’t think there would be a blog. But the blog seemed like logical next step to strengthen AVO Forum. AVO Events & Promotion seemed like a logical next step after the work I did as a promoter, I thought it was better to give a name to it. At the moment I’m not specifically busy with something that doesn’t have the AVO label yet. But I don’t know what the future might bring!
AVO: Thank you for this interview. Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers of AVO Magazine?
Francisca: I’m going to do this the same way Japanese musicians often do: Thank you for this interview and thank you for reading this interview. I hope you keep supporting me and the work I do with AVO, but I also hope you keep supporting AVO. I think it’s important that as many people as possible get to know about AVO. I’m also open to feedback, so please voice your opinions. And lastly, I’d like to say that without your support I wouldn’t have gotten this far. Of course, I have a lot of perseverance, but you should see this as an engine that works on gasoline. Without gasoline it won’t run. You are the gasoline I need to keep going. Follow AVO, but also me personally and come visit AVO’s stand at one of the many events.