Beckii Cruel is a name that’s probably best associated with the fame she achieved through her YouTube channel. Posting videos of herself dancing to J-Pop and anime songs, one of the videos featured the young Becky Flint dancing to Danjo. It was this video that was in turn uploaded to the popular Japanese video streaming website Nico Nico Douga and established a booming fanbase for the Isle of Man-based youngster – who also adopted the name Beckii Cruel.
In 2009 she visited Japan and took part in a one-off collaboration titled The Cruel Angels (featuring 2 other UK girls). She was signed to the Tokuma Japan Communications label (home of Perfume) and released material on albums that focused on singers from the Nico Nico Douga community. Her first DVD titled This Is Beckii Cruel! reached No. 8 in the Japanese DVD charts.
In 2010 she featured in a BBC 3 documentary about her success which brought her more attention from a UK audience. She had also started work with songwriter/producer Tom Nichols (better known for working with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Sugababes and also co-wrote the No. 1 single Black Coffee for All Saints). This collaboration resulted in You Can’t Kiss Me which achieved success with a No. 8 position in the Music Week Club Chart and No. 15 in the Commercial Club Chart.
Beckii performed for Hyper Japan this February and following her performance, both herself and her father Derek Flint kindly took time out to answer a few questions for J-Pop Go…
What are your thoughts on Hyper Japan?
I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been to some other conventions in London but this one is becoming my favourite because it’s about Japan and that’s what I go to these conventions for. So I’ve had an amazing time and I feel like it’s nicely set out and all the focus is on the fashion and the food – they’re all in the right places. It’s been a fantastic experience and I hope I can keep coming back.
What are your thoughts on performing in the UK compared to performing in Japan?
It’s really different. In Japan I guess if you do a bigger performance the fans will be more energetic. They get up with their glowsticks and do wotagei – all these crazy things which are really weird if you’ve only just seen it! But it’s nice to have that sort of interaction. Over here it’s more understandable, because I’m English, I understand they appreciate more quietly. It’s nice and I’ve enjoyed it.
How did you think you did today compared to previous performances?
Well actually the first time I performed on stage was in Japan in 2009 at the Anime Summer Live 2009, which is a really big one – 25,000 people – and that was the first time I went to Japan. I was in the final act and that was my very first stage performance so it’s kind of like downsizing here but it’s nice because it’s more a closer community and you can really get to know your fans a bit better. So it’s different, but it’s a good different.
Are you back in Japan very often?
I haven’t been back for a year now actually. I’ve been concentrating on my schoolwork quite a lot. But I hope to go back soon because I miss it like crazy.
I see the YouTube performances are still very popular. Are you going to continue these going forward?
Definitely. I don’t want to stop doing YouTube ever so even when I’m old and grey I’ll be making videos about all my life experiences I guess. It’s just such an amazing place to get your thoughts and opinions out and also your expression of dance and that’s what I’m really into on YouTube.
How did you begin working with Tom Nicholls?
Derek: Tom was put in touch with us by a high-powered A&R in the UK and he’d been following Beckii from the wings, if you will, and she really appealed to him as an artist. From there he just started writing and just written another couple of songs for Beckii recorded 2 weeks ago, so those are still in production. So it’s been a real privilege to work with someone of his calibre really. He’s been very, very supportive and committed to the Beckii Cruel project.
Yeah he’s stuck with us all this time so really owe him a lot.
How happy are you with the success of You Can’t Kiss Me?
Yeah I’m really happy because I don’t have a record label, so this is off my own back, this is my own promotion, I’ve done it all myself and we actually charted at No. 8 in the Music Week Dance Charts which is really just as well as I’d hoped I’d do and more. It’s so great. I never thought about getting into the club music scene but it’s something which I’m kind of into now, so it’s all working out, it’s all planning out how I want to.
Have you had interest from potential record labels?
Yes, we’re talking to a few of them at the moment which is kind of exciting. It seems like 2012 is probably going to be a really good year for me because everything seems to be coming together a little bit more. We’ve been talking to some labels in Japan and in the UK of course so see how that goes. Don’t want to say too much, don’t want to get everyone’s hopes up! (laughs)
Are there any current particular Japanese bands or artists that you like?
I’m kind of an old school person I guess. I’m not really into the whole new Japanese music. I’m into the stuff that was around in 2009 when I first got into Japanese culture, 2008/2009. So it’s all the big idol groups and their old songs from that time. That’s what I really, really like. So I still carry on supporting them but the old ones always have a place in my heart.
I did notice that you were performing to the likes of Pink Lady which most people would think is an unusual choice for someone of your age
Yeah, well the thing is I remember being in Japan and we all had a sort of wrap party at a karaoke booth in Japan and the stylists they were really into Pink Lady. They were doing all the dances and singing and it looked like such fun and the songs are so catchy. I’m very into Pink Lady. I really want to carry on doing more stuff like that but I guess I need a double of me so I can probably do it! (laughs)
How well is Danjo the fashion label doing at the moment?
Danjo is pretty good actually.
Derek: It’s launch was today really.
Yeah, this was our first sort of event launch I guess. It’s been on the website and people are giving me really good feedback. We’re doing some original designs soon. I’m going to be debuting them at London Alternative Fashion week. Also, we’ve got a dress lined up for the Olympics. We’re working with NHK for that. It’s a really great design so I just can’t wait to show everybody but I think it’s best if we keep that one a secret until the airing of it really.
Any other plans for the rest of 2012?
I’m just working more on the fashion side of things with Fay, doing more music with Tom hopefully.
Derek: Passing your exams!
Passing my exams! (laughs) That’s a big one actually – sometimes forget about that one!
Derek: There’s a manga on the way as well.
Yeah actually, we were chatting before to some manga artists who are really interested in making a Beckii Cruel manga. So the idea is there and the idea has been there for a long time but these people really seem keen to make it happen.
Derek: People working out in China too.
Yeah the Chinese market is really interesting because I got a parcel on my 16th birthday from China in my PO Box filled to the brim with letters and little presents from all my Chinese fans saying how much they’ve been supporting me since 2009. It’s been phenomenal because I didn’t even know about it because they’ve been bubbling along in the background for 3 years and suddenly they let me know that they’re there so I’m trying to communicate more with them now and hopefully we’ll see something working out over there as well.
J-Pop Go extends its warmest thanks to Beckii Cruel. Thanks also to Derek Flint and to Mary Moreton at Hyper Japan
U Can’t Kiss Me is available via Amazon and iTunes.
Danjo Fashion Label: http://www.revelation.me.uk
Interview and photos by Paul Browne
8th March 2012