Kimi Kato Gives Us An Insight Into His Work With Sum 41

Kimi Kato Gives Us An Insight Into His Work With Sum 41

Hi Kimi, nice meeting you. Let’s talk about some of your amazing work as product manager for Sum 41, while working at Universal in Japan –and what did your role involve?

I was the product manager for Sum 41 in Japan from 2001 to 2005 until I became the International marketing manager for 4 record labels in 2005; Interscope, Polydor UK, Mercury UK and Island UK. I worked on 6 releases during my 4 years in charge of the band.


-Half Hour of Power (EP, released in Japan in 2001) 200,000 units sold

-Introduction to Destruction DVD (2001) 50,000 units sold

-All Killer No Filler (2001) 300,000 units sold

-Does This Look Infected? (2002) 350,000 units sold

-Chuck (2004) 250,000 units sold

-Sake Bombs and Happy Endings DVD (2004) 50,000 units sold

Basically, I was their guy in Japan and was responsible for pretty much everything from what came out in the media -where and when. I would look after the band when they would come for a promo or tour. 

The band visited Japan every year from 2002 through to 2004. The group ended up playing at significant festivals and multiple arena shows and sold over a million albums in total. Japan became one of their most successful territories after the US.

What did you think when you first heard Sum 41’s music?

I thought their music was great from the first time I had heard them. The band was signed to Island Def/Jam although I was not in charge of that label at the time -I wanted to work with the band, so I managed to grab the project as no one else was going to market them.

I went to see them perform in Washington DC on May 28th 2001 @HFStival. The crowd was not as big as expected but their music and their performance were excellent. Then I saw them again in the UK in the fall of 2001.
Their energy was over the top! Sum 41 was a punk rock band, but they were unique in the fact that they had a heavy metal touch and a sarcastic humor to go with it. Their songs had great melody, speed, and energy. They also had crazy fun videos that were very useful in marketing the band in Japan.

I released their first album "All Killer No Filler" about 5 months after it was released in the US.

What was one of the biggest challenges while working on this project?

The challenge was that there was no influential media platforms focusing on punk rock music. I also felt that marketing this band through conventional music media would not reach the target to whom I wanted to reach. Sum 41's music needed to be heard not just by music fans but to people that loved action sports. It was at the time when snowboarding/skateboarding was booming in Japan and therefore I found a way by collaborating with the most prominent action sports retail store and a significant snowboard brand, and it worked!

What was your favorite album of theirs to work on and why?

It was their 2nd album "Does This Look Infected?" The band had surpassed 100,000 records in Japan by the time we began working on the 2nd one. No one knew the group when we first released their music, but we managed to build their fan base to a point where the media took notice, and demand and expectations were getting higher. We knew that if the band came out with an influential album, they would get to the next level. And they did!
Tremendous sales which pulled the sales of all the other releases and the band began performing arena shows and significant slots at major festivals.

What do you think the key is to these albums and artists reaching superstardom?

1: A hit record; no artist has success without a hit record. For Sum 41, the gate opened up for them with the mega-hit single 'Fat Lip' which is probably still one of their biggest singles.
2: Continuous momentum
Successful artists never stop. They continue to release excellent music and are always one step ahead of the trend but not too far ahead. This is usually the biggest challenge for any artist.
3: Hard work
Superstars usually never have much pf a private life -meaning they are working almost all the time. They need to be everywhere and are exposed at all times. Many people take great music for granted but creating the best music at that moment in his/her career is probably the hardest part of being an artist and to continue being one.

Did you have a chance to meet Sum 41 in person, if so, what were they like?

I have met them many times. Every time they came to Japan, or when I was traveling and if the band was touring in the same area, I would go and see them.
The band always like to have fun and used to go out almost every night when they were in Japan.

They liked Japan so much that they released a DVD titled, "Sake Bombs and Happy Endings". Although, they usually were not so happy the morning after!
It was a challenge getting them up to do press, especially in the mornings. Having said that, it is incredible that they even did any press. Many memorable nights but almost all are forgotten the next day!

Did you have any idea they would become this huge?

Yes. But I was hoping that the band would get more significant than where they are now. 

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