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Stephanie Yanez Vital Stats
Stephanie Yanez
Birthday: December 31st
Birthplace: Unknown mystery...
Favorite Anime: Sailor Moon
Favorite Food: Okonomiyaki

Sakura in Mitaka song sample

Sakura in Mitaka


DISCOGRAPHY

SIDES (2008)
1) Sakura in Mitaka
2) A Sweet Lolita's Dream
3) Candy Coated Panic Attack
4) Sekai Wa Subarashii
5) The Stars and You
6) Where Devils Roam
7) Princess Complex 00
8) A New Era
9) The Rising Sun
10) Black Tears


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Stephanie Yanez Interview

Stephanie Yanez - Photo by Agent Sakur9 - click for full size Love of culture is not something limited to the country you grew up in. For a growing number of people around the world, Japan's Anime and Cosplay culture is a deeply held passion. For Stephanie Yanez, it has become an inspiration for not just her look, but for her musical style as well.

So let loose the Pokemons and Sailor Moons and take a look at America's own Stephanie Yanez as she releases her first album, SIDES, and adds her own persona to this now undeniably international phenomenon.

On December 29, 2008 Stephanie Yanez was kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World. All photos courtesy of Stephanie Yanez with credits to Agent Sakur9, Paolo Ongkeko, Victor and Mike of cosplaymedia.


Let's start with the release of your new solo album "SIDES." Tell us about the concept of this EP.

Stephanie Yanez - Photo by  Paolo Ongkeko - click for full size The official CD "SIDES" showcases two different styles of music that has made me who I am today! I feel that everyone has two different sides, sometimes three or four. Example: the mother, the woman, the wife, the teacher, etc. Each one of us has many different roles that we have to live up to. And some people may never see a certain side that you may have.

As I have been traveling more and more to different anime conventions a very happy bubbly pop side was shown through my music and personality. Music is my true happiness which brings out my very happy, goofy, outgoing side. But I also wanted to convey my other side which is very complex and serious and felt rock music was the sound to showcase that. And it is all written in Japanese and English.

How long had you been working on the music?

For half a year on and off. It was first going to be just an EP (5 songs) but evolved into a full length CD.

Can you give us a little background story on some of the songs?

I really like to have each person interpret my song the way they want it to be. But a song I do like to talk about is Sakura in Mitaka. A lot of people ask why Mitaka? Mitaka is a city located in Tokyo, Japan. Mitaka is home to the Ghibli Museum, which is located in Inokashira Park, a popular destination in its own right, especially during spring cherry blossom viewing season.

As I was walking out of the Ghibli Museum, I saw a beautiful Sakura tree. It was actually my very first time seeing one in full bloom! And it was a very special moment that I cherished. The moment inspired me to write Sakura in Mitaka.

SAKURA IN MITAKA

Omoidasu no
Mitaka ni ita koro
sakura wo
Nagamete da ne
Anata to isshoni
Mitai no ni
Sakura no you ni
Aeru no wa ishun da yo ne

On a familiar road in an unknown place
I really miss those days with so much light shining on my face
You were right beside me
Just how it's suppose to be
For that moment in time
I have this little ring
And all I can do
Is think back to that one spring

Omoidasu no
Mitaka ni ita koro
sakura wo
Nagamete da ne
Anata to isshoni
Mitai no ni
Sakura no you ni
Aeru no wa ishun da yo ne

Back on the same street
Which way to go
Just relying on my feet
The air is so so cold
I'm standing in the same place
But the tree is too too old
And all I can see is your face
But no sakura to behold
Your face disappears
with everything
And all I can do is think back to that one spring

Omoidasu no
Mitaka ni ita koro
Sakura wo
Nagamete da ne
Anata to isshoni
Mitai no ni
Sakura no you ni
Aeru no wa ishun da yo ne

I'll remember you
I'll remember you

© Lyrics by Stephanie Yanez

Tell us a little about your song writing. Do you have a set process you go through?

My songs just come to me. I usually finish a song in less than an hour. I have been through my ups and downs. And have many things to tell through my music.

What types of things inspire you when you are writing and recording?

There are many things that inspire me! It could be from a friend I had a conversation with recently, to a favorite anime of mine, or about my adventures in Tokyo, and my Mother.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there today?

Bjork, Sting, Shiina Ringo, Yuki, Jun Togawa, Susumu Hirasawa, Olivia Lufkin, Anna Tsuchiya, Kishidan, Sia, Mflo, Bonnie Pink, Kimura Kaela, and the list goes on...

Tell us about your Anime Pop project.

Anime Pop is about everything dealing with the anime/jpop culture from anime to fashion to food. Recently we interviewed multi talent Shoko Nakagawa who is widely known for being an anime fan!

Let's learn about your background and how you got into Japanese culture. What was the neighborhood you grew up in like?

The neighborhood I grew up in had a few changes over the years. I noticed the change in high school. But yeah just to point out how I even got more into Japanese music, food, fashion, etc. A Kinokuniya (Japanese book and music store), Marukai (Japanese super market), Book off (Japanese book and music store, and Mitsuwa (Japanese super market) are all within 10 minutes away from where I use to live. So I was basically living in a "Little Tokyo" kind of environment.

I have always had an interest in learning about ALL different cultures around the world. I believe that it is very important to educate one self as much as you can. So you can break down the stereotypes that have plagued this world. I started learning more about Japan through the multiple friends that have come over to study. So Japanese culture was all around me among other cultures, which makes America the great melting pot that it is!

Can you describe what about Japanese culture you find so appealing?

I love how when I go to Tokyo I feel like I am in the future. Everything is convenient and right at your fingertips. You want something to eat walk a second and find a vending machine with hot soup coming out along with some hot tea. It is very clean and the food is so fresh. In Japan they always give me the right amount of food my body needs. I feel proportions of food is the secret to a more healthy life. I also love the clothes from Japan and think it is awesome that grown women over there can love EVERYTHING cute and not be looked down on. Just because they have a hello kitty wallet, toast maker, shirt, shoes, etc. ;p

I also love of course the entertainment that comes from Japan, be it variety shows, anime, drama, etc. There is so much about the culture that I find appealing.

How did you first get into music?

I was always into music. I remember when I was 4 dancing and singing around the house!

What kind of kid were you?

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Yanez - click for full size I was actually really shy and picked on while growing up for my "weird" humor, "weird" clothes, and "weird" hobbies. It wasn't until senior year in high school where I decided to stick up for myself. I told myself that I wouldn't let anyone ever get to me again. And ever since then no one ever has. Any negativity that I see I just laugh now about it. I am just very happy now who I am as a person. And I don't see anything wrong with being happy with who you are. And that is why I may come off arrogant. It's because I had to deal with so much negativity with classmates that I finally told myself that I am done living in fear. I am going to be who I am.

What type of career did you dream about when you were still in school?

I just wanted to sing. Singing & songwriting is my true happiness. I have always wanted to sing since I was 4 years old.

You recorded four songs at Paramount Studios on Geneon's Anime Karaoke Collection. Can you tell us about that experience?

Recording at Paramount Studios was a dream! I recorded at Paramount Studios in 05 before my debut. I couldn't believe I was recording where many great artists before me recorded. I even did a photo shoot in there with the Japanese Label I'VE. It was really a dream come true. The whole recording came out of nowhere.

When I won the singing contest AX Idol over at Anime Expo my prize was 100 JPOP CDS. I never thought anything was coming out of the contest. And it wasn't until days later that Geneon saw me randomly in a dealers hall and approached me saying "We want to work with you. We don't know how but we do". And a lot of people think I got that chance because that was the prize! Many enter the contest hoping the same thing. But you know I didn't get all these amazing opportunities just waiting for it to come. Everything that has happened is because I worked for it.

Can you tell us when and how you started to develop your Japanese-themed performance?

I developed my Japanese-themed performance when I started to work with Geneon and I'VE. They wanted me to sing in Japanese and English. I was honored, and from working with them I learned more Japanese over time. The Japanese language was something that I wanted in my first ever full length CD "SIDES" because of how it started many amazing opportunities for me.

Tell us about performing at Anime Expo 2005.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Yanez - click for full size It was another dream for me to debut at the biggest anime convention. A talented artist friend F!END--who actually did my manga for my CD "SIDES" which will be available soon--but anyway she designed a dress special for that debut. On the dress was a moon and sun which related to the lyrics to the song SHIFT which was produced by I'VE. And many of my friends that night were backstage just yelling and hollering. I am truly blessed to have such awesome friends. It took like all of my life to find them. But they are here now. And that's what sticks out the most about performing at Anime Expo: my friends just cheering me on as loud as they could!

What are some of the other performances you've done at Anime conventions?

Well some performances that stick out are AX 2007 where I had a concert at the summer festival stage. My hair was done and sponsored at East West Hair salon in Costa Mesa, CA. And my talented artist friend F!END created this beautiful pink fox necklace that I still wear to many shows that I perform at. And the event had so many supporting friends and fans. It got to a point where some of my friends who knew nothing about anime came out to the show. The whole audience and show just had good vibes going all around. And I had special guests -- a para para group called Angel Hearts and a very talented anime rapper Maja.

Speaking of Anime, what are some of your favorites?

I love Sailor Moon which turned me into the anime loving gal that I am! Other titles I am in love with are Serial Experiments Lain, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Paranoia Agent, Haibane Renmei, Fruit Baskets, Azumanga Daioh, Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Tekkonkinkreet, Samurai Champloo, and so much more. I also love anything done by Hayao Miyazaki. And another favorite director of mine is Satoshi Kon.

Are there specific Anime characters that have inspired your style?

I would say so. From Sailor Moon, Lain, Ayanami Rei and some Mima as well. Many characters have inspired my style! :)

Why do you think so many people in North America and Europe are drawn to the Anime culture?

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Yanez - click for full size I think there are many parts of the culture that draws people. From what I've seen some are drawn to the culture for the anime and nothing else. Where others are drawn in only for the cosplay without even watching some of the characters that they dress up for, just liking it due to how the costume looks. Others only like the manga aspect of the culture and would have nothing to due with the animation or cosplay. And others like all aspects of the culture and are involved with everything that the culture can give.

This question is very complex and is different of course to each anime fan. But I feel that people from North American and Europe are especially drawn to the culture because it is something new and different which can make you create a whole other world for your self.

You've done some street performance in Tokyo's famed Harajuku district. What was that like?

That was amazing. Many artists from Japan have a street live. So I really wanted to give it a go. And a good amount of people came out to the show too as well as people passing by to stop and watch. It was very different but an experience I will never forget!

I have also been honored to be invited out to Tokyo again to perform in Akihabara (otaku holyland) at a cosplay idol bar and cafe "Dear Stage". Since the show I was told that I was one of the first Americans to perform on an Akihabaran stage. The show was also a dream come true. Japanese fans from my MySpace came out to the show and I made some new fans as well.

Even the manager of Dear Stage bought my CD. I was very honored. And the whole experience was videotaped by AKIBANANA.COM which is a site that gives you up to date information about the anime culture and Akihabara.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Yanez - click for full size How did the Japanese and foreign tourists respond to an American performing a Japanese-themed show?

The Japanese always think for the most part that it is very "cool" to see an American perform in Japanese as well as be interested in anyway with their culture. But to foreign tourists most thought I was Japanese and couldn't tell I was American until I told them. And most tourists just thought it was neat that I was getting myself out there.

One of your job descriptions includes being a "Tokyo Reporter." What was that all about?

I was chosen to be Anime Selects Tokyo Reporter 08 where I was filmed doing crazy things in Tokyo. And the documentary was and still is being shown on ANIME SELECTS ON DEMAND. It really was an amazing time! The Japanese and American staff was awesome. We all became a big happy family by the end of the trip! :) I was totally honored to be their Tokyo Reporter! And it was great to show my goofy and sarcastic with a very weird sense of humor side!

What types of things did you do?

I filmed for a week or so doing various assignments like dressing up as a Geisha, taking a ninja class, eating snake ice cream, going into a Japanese themed haunted house (obake yashiki), and interviewing the burlesque troupe Murasaki babydoll, Nakano Broadway and the Mandarake staff, Hot springs, Cosplaying in Shibuya, etc.

What about your trip to Japan surprised you the most?

That I ate that snake ice cream! I was like still experiencing major jet lag at the time and I had a dose of car sickness. But yeah I was able to eat that ice cream. Also I was major mecha surprised that I went into that haunted house. I was so scared and even told the staff that I may not be able to go inside. But I went through the whole thing. This was a big step for me as all my friends know! So anytime I feel scared about something I just think of how I conquered that Haunted house! Ha! ;p

What are some of your favorite Japanese foods that many westerners might not have heard of?

Stephanie Yanez - Photo by Victor - click for full size A big time favorite of mine is Okonomiyaki which I make at home too. Many people describe it as a dinner pancake. So kinda like an omelet but with whatever you want inside. Many put beef, shrimp, mochi (rice cakes) and you put Okonomi sauce and mayonnaise sauce on top of the Okonomiyaki! It is so good! But so hard to explain! I also love Oden. And also make that a lot at home. Especially now because it is cold outside. Oden is a soup that has fish cake and konnyaku (yam cake). It is so good and healthy too.

As anyone who has tried knows, learning a second language is very hard. How goes your Japanese language study?

I have never gone to school for my Japanese. But I am planning to soon to further myself. So right now I am just reading up on books, listening to music, watching dramas, I am also currently using "my Japanese Coach" on Nintendo DS. I also learn a lot of my Japanese from my friends, which makes things easier when I choose to write my songs in Japanese.

Who are some artists you've worked with over your career?

I have worked with Kotoko, Haru Yoshida (drummer of I'VE), Shoko Nakagawa, Yousei Teikoku, Mari Iijima, Random Ninjas, Akai Sky, the Shogunate, DJ Jinnai, Kristine Sa, etc.

When I made my debut in 05 I worked with Kotoko and Haru Yoshida of I'VE. Mr. Yoshida worked with me while I was recording at Paramount Studio's. And the staff of I'VE were very dedicated and passionate about their work. I also remember wishing Kotoko good luck before her concert, then her inviting me up on stage to introduce everyone to me. It was a great honor.

I also have many fond and crazy memories with Random Ninjas, Akai Sky, and the Shogunate. For a time all of us were appearing at a lot of the same conventions. So we definitely had a blast with our room parties and karaoke adventures. I also remember the bus rides with random rap battles!

All of the artists I have worked with have just been amazing. And I have so many memories that it would take a book to express my gratitude to all of them!

What should someone looking to book you for a performance know about you? Do you fanatically demand sushi and sake before performing? ;)

Stephanie Yanez - Photo by Mike of cosplaymedia - click for full size Good idea about demanding sushi but sake is a no for me! LOL! But for real, I am an easy going gal who is very passionate about her singing and gives her all with each show. I have full cosplay changes and perform anime favorites. And of course I tell my stories through my original songs that are written in both Japanese and English. I am always honored to meet new anime fans all over. And I love to do panels as well talking about all the crazy things I have stumbled upon.

Do you have anything else you want to bring up or comment on?

I feel like sometimes people don't give other people a chance due to a first impression. Because they feel like they know who you are just by watching one video clip or seeing one picture. But people should really try to fully understand things before making a judgment.

I also wanted to say that I am noticing within the anime culture a separation between "sub cultures." And I just hope that everyone can come together more and see the beauty within our differences. One thing that is true is that we all love anime! Once again you may think you know everything about a person just by a first impression. And I feel that right now it is important for everyone to try to become more open minded to the people around them. No one is perfect. And there is so much beauty within diversity. And I try everyday to live my life with an open heart and open arms.

Do you have a final message to all your fans?

I can't say enough how much your support means to me! I see all of you going on message boards, commenting on articles, purchasing my music, drawing fan art, telling your friends about me, spreading the word! It really does mean the world to me. And I know all of you know how much I put into my music. It is my true happiness. And my fans bring me that happiness! Thank you!


For more info checkout Stephanie Yanez's official site and MySpace page. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments