The American Producer Who Made His Own Japanese Idol Group: Ricky Wilson

By: Rin
05/30/2022
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Image courtesy of NECRONOMIDOL.

It was 9 PM JST, but NECRONOMIDOL producer Ricky Wilson was as alert and ready to talk about NECRONOMIDOL as ever. He was sitting in a room with props and background sets, reflecting the self-made nature of his idol group and his own can-do attitude. Fitting in with the black metal style of NECRONOMIDOL, he was sporting a black t-shirt and black hoodie with his group’s logo. After a brief introduction, we delved into his backstory and experiences as an American who has launched and produced his own Japanese idol girl group. 

From Fan to Producer  

After graduating from university as a film major, Ricky moved to Japan to work for an online hobby shop, where he gained skills in translation and handled international sales. His company became involved with the adaptation of the television program American Ninja Warrior, holding a festival and contracting idols and performers to promote the show. Through involvement with this festival, he learned about the idol group Momoiro Clover Z from Stardust Entertainment, became a fan himself, and attended events. As he became more familiar with the idol scene, he encountered idol groups that hadn’t come from large companies. 

“I started seeing some groups that were not part of any agency. They were just run by a guy or a few people. And I thought, ‘So it’s kinda like a band! You can just make an idol group; you don’t have to have this large agency or big company behind you.’ And so I said, ‘Oh, I’ll give it a try,” Ricky recounted. 

His decision made, Ricky got to work on ironing out the details of his group. Inspired by the work Necronomicon by H. P. Lovecraft, the Japanese word for magic, and the word “idol,” he came up with the name NECRONOMIDOL. His group would embody a combination of various genres, including black metal, punk rock, darkwave, and witch house. After recruiting and selecting members, NECRONOMIDOL made their debut in 2014 with the song “あたいの爪痕” (“Atai No Tsumeato / Scars of Value”).  

Image courtesy of NECRONOMIDOL.

“A One-Man Show” 

However, the path to that debut was not an easy one. Ricky had past experience playing casual shows with friends in a band when he had just moved to Japan, but he found himself encountering new responsibilities and tasks. 

“I had never done music production; I didn’t know anything about choreography. I knew about the music itself as a genre having been in bands and having done live music production or live music mixing. But yeah, there were so many things,” he explained. 

Ricky also had to overcome hurdles as an American trying to network and establish a group within the Japanese music industry. Of course, having an international background is helpful when planning events overseas, such as NECRONOMIDOL’s upcoming performance at HYPER JAPAN. On the other hand, not having a strong grasp of the Japanese language can make things difficult. 

“At the end of the day, it’s all about results,” Ricky began. “How many people can you get to this show? How many CDs can you move? How many hits did you have on your last music video?” He explained that a crucial part of making those results happen is communication and collaboration throughout the work process. “The networking and the people skills are a big one too, because you don’t get cut any breaks because your Japanese isn’t that good or because you have communication difficulties. Either you can communicate, or you can’t.” 

“There Is No Typical Day”

After being asked what a typical day in his role is like, Ricky laughed. “There is no typical day.” As the sole producer and creative behind NECRONOMIDOL at the moment, he takes care of everything for the group. “I’m handling all of the merch orders. I do all the lyric writing, I do the booking, I do the graphics…I do a lot of stuff for the group,” he explained. 

His 1:1 work with NECRONOMIDOL’s members like their rehearsals, lessons, and shows are usually held on weekday nights or weekends. To give an example of what a performance day is like, Ricky lays out the events of a recent show. 

“We were up at 5 am getting reservation information out and getting merchandise ready. We got into the venue at about 9 or 10 in the morning. Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal, and then the show started at 7 pm. The show finished at 8:30, and then we had a special fanmeeting at another venue. At the venue we used for the performance, you couldn’t take photos with fans, and so for idol fans, that’s kind of a dealbreaker. I had to rent out a separate venue that we could use for our fanmeeting, and we were doing that until about 11 o’clock at night.” 

Not every day is like that for Ricky, but even small events are incredibly hands-on. When the group does live-streamed events, he’s in charge of the back-end work. He makes sure everyone who purchased a ticket gets a link, sets up equipment, and coordinates the technical side of the livestream to make everything come together. 

Ricky’s work has even led him onto the stage himself. On May 13, NECRONOMIDOL member Tsukishiro Himari performed at the 魔界 (“makai / Demon World”) festival, and Ricky joined her on stage as a performer. 

Playing many roles for NECRONOMIDOL, Ricky loves the creative freedom and liberty that his career affords him. 

“I love writing the lyrics. I write all the lyrics for NECRONOMIDOL, and Himari actually helps me polish the lyrics up. I really love that creative element of putting all the lyrics together. Directing music videos too. I majored in filmmaking when I was in school, and for years and years, I didn’t have the chance to put that into practice for work. It’s been really cool being able to do the art direction for the videos. Everything from the uniforms and outfits for the music videos down to the props that we use–I make those myself,” he enthusiastically explained. 

The Future for Ricky and NECRONOMIDOL 

Ricky is eagerly looking forward to new creative projects and outlets for himself and NECRONOMIDOL. “I’d love to do a movie. I’d also really love to do a game. We’ve been saying for years that we’ll do a video game, like a visual novel or even like a retro side-scroller kind of game. I see fans do pixel art of the members sometimes, and I think ‘I’d love to actually make that something people can play!’” 

There’s so much to look forward to with Ricky’s work with NECRONOMIDOL. He just finished recruiting new members for the group, who will debut on June 20. Not ready to slow down any time soon, he’s continuing to support his group throughout their upcoming endeavors, including their journey overseas for HYPER JAPAN and member Tsukishiro Himari’s solo project Isiliel.   

Enjoyed our interview with Ricky Wilson? Interested in more career spotlights? Check out our interview with K-pop translator Kim Soyeon here!