think it's easy to fall into the mindset that the best shows can only be found in Japan, yet every year, great artists are making the trek overseas. Auncia tore up the stage at LA's Anime Expo along with Moi dix Mois. Solo artist Satsuki performed for the same crowd in Little Tokyo that weekend. He was so pleased with his experience here that he immediately turned around and booked two more performances in the United States.
Laura Brickman Director of Publication
Scheduling and Staff Management
Writers Evan Benner
We recently also had the misfortune of dealing with the heartache of losing Jasmine You. His band, Versailles, has been very consistent with their extensive efforts to make an inroad into the United States. I think that this leads us to a place where we must be sure to remember to support the artists and cherish the time that they spend with us here. In addition to showing support in order to bring them back overseas, we must also realize how swift and limited our time really is together. Bands dissolve or lose members often. The only thing we are assured is the present.
Billy Goss Jessica Hodgins Holly Interlandi Jess Johnson Kellie Lacey Cari McPherson Mai Koua Thao
translation Jessica Hodgins Rubab Rizvi
Thus, it is my hope to see more concentration on supporting Jrock from outside of Japan. It means going to shows, supporting local media, buying domestic releases, and being a part of the community. Picking up Askew is a great part of that, by the way. We've got this great block party in our own backyard, but nobody knows for how long.
staff PhotograPher Amanda Yungmann
graPhic Design Viktor Zheng
It's up to you.
Director of Publication askew Magazine
Special Thanks Sam "Dad" McPherson - for daring rescues Cure Media USA - for being awesome All artists featured - we couldn't do it without you! And to you - our dear readers
ContaCt email@example.com Askew Magazine is based out of Las Vegas, NV, and printed in the USA. All content contained in this magazine is under copyright and may not be used without written permission.
Tadahisa Yoshida Uchuu Sentai NOIZ
33 Samurai Attack! 34 Tomo Asaha 40
56 60 62 63 64
Jimi from Chemical Pictures
Women of Visual:
Suiya of DecoLa Hopping
Backstage: Yukika of A heretic sound music Album reviews:
The Gazette's DIM
From the Ground Up:
Indies bands to keep an eye on
auncia Tatsuki Tatsuki
[ ] hen it comes to big surprises in small W packages, Auncia has got
all bases covered. While their image is built around their own comfort while emanating an air of coolness, Auncia's musical and live energy is explosive. Shortly before they rocked the house at Anime Expo's Battle of the Bands, Askew had the opportunity to sit down with this Tokyo quartet for a candid follow-up to our previous issue.
I heard it’s your birthday today in Japan, Tatsuki. Happy Birthday! What’s something you want to do in America for your birthday, anything crazy?
Tatsuki: Generally I like to drink, so “Kanpai!” and stuff. Will you celebrate again when you return home?
Tatsuki: Uh… Sure! Why not? Well, I already celebrated in Japan at a concert we recently had. We had a cake and everything and celebrated with the fans, and then I had a party with friends before coming here. So that makes 3 celebrations if you count today’s party. But I wouldn’t object to more. [laughs]
So maybe next year top it off with 4 or 5 parties then, keeping pushing the limit. Did your bandmates get you presents?
Hikari: Oh, uh… well… [Auncia members each in turn present Tatsuki with their water bottles, pushing them to his corner of the table] Tatsuki: Wow! Thanks… For some of you it’s your first visit to the US. After interacting with the foreign scene, what’s your impression of the Jrock fans here?
Hikari: They have a very warm personality. We truly felt that music is universal by interacting with some of our fans. Tatsuki: [takes out his mic from a bag and holds it up like he’s on stage] I’m from the Kansai area of Japan, and people from Kansai have a loud, outgoing personality in general compared to people from Tokyo area. Americans are just like Kansai people.
Then you blend into America just fine!
Tatsuki: Well, my face doesn’t… Well, your personality sure does.
Tatsuki: Ah, probably. But I feel at home here, I guess. Yosuke: In Japan, fans don’t really show that much interest at a show. They will sit around and listen to music and whatnot, but here everybody stands up and really gets into the show. I’m kind of jealous of that attention. Hikari: In Japan, nobody knows Auncia, so they will sit around looking uninterested. But in America,
even though fans don’t even know who the heck we are they will still love who we are and what we play. That’s because when you come to America you become a superstar.
Hikari: Right? Well, when we started in Japan, we had zero fans. No one was interested; no one knew who we were. It’s not like that here.
a lot now. Hikari: We’ll be number one. How do you feel about the other artists at Anime Expo? There’s going to be a few famous acts.
Hikari: Well, I don’t care! What about Morning Musume? Are you secretly a fan?
So about how many fans have you gathered now?
Yosuke: Yes, but that was long time ago!!
Hikari: Uhhh, five thousand. [laughs]
Hikari: Well I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m not…
Tatsuki: Yeah yeah, that’s right. There’s
Are you lying? I bet you have a poster of one of them in your room…
Hikari: Yes. But everyone in Japan loves anime, it’s our culture!! So everyone’s an otaku.
Hikari: No! Well I did, but it was a long long time ago. I liked Maki Goto; she’s ex-Morning Musume now…
What are some series you like?
What about everyone else? Favorite Musume?
Yosuke: Ah, it was a long time ago, Rika Ishikawa, but she graduated already too. Jin: [quietly staying out of this conversation] I think it is interesting that you have the opportunity to perform at the same convention as Moi dix Mois and Morning Musume, as well as other artists. Not a lot of bands get that opportunity.
Hikari: Well… I think… You get to see Moi dix Mois. And then Morning Musume… I think we are the most normal ones among them [laughs] But we’re not nervous at all. We are confident in our ability. What do you hope to see at AX?
Hikari: Anime. Anime? So you’re otaku?
Tatsuki: Dragonball! Yosuke: Doraemon! [everyone laughs because Doraemon is a kid’s cartoon] Jin: Yuu yuu hakusho. So if you see cosplayers of your favorite series, you should take pictures with them.
Hikari: Oh yeah! I want to cosplay, too. Super Saiyan.
Oh yea, that would be cool.
Hikari: You’ve seen it? Ka-me-ha-meHA! [poses like Goku, a character from the series] Except I’ve seen the American version too, they say it all funny... Now that you will perform in America, how do you think it will affect Auncia? Will it push the band in a new direction?
Hikari: Absolutely yes… I want to become American. Why?!
[Everyone laughs] Hikari: Yeah, well… I didn’t expect you to ask that, I don’t have an answer now… [laughs] I don’t know. Well, that’s okay, you can pass if you like…
Hikari: GIVE UP! [laughs] Ok, ok. After coming here I think we were exposed to a new kind of expression, different from Japan. So I think we can gain more confidence here and then take it back with us to Japan. Yosuke: In Japan, I called up everyone and told them “I’m gonna play in America!” so I feel getting this opportunity gave me more confidence because not every band can play overseas. I want us to be popular in America, so back in Japan everyone will know how great we are doing. Hikari: I want all our fans to fall in love with us and be like “Oh, I want to marry Auncia!”
Good goal. I think you can manage.
Tatsuki: I want us to be liked in both America and Japan, and other countries. Jin: I want us to learn from this new experience. Yosuke: I think we’re gonna go back fatter too. Because American portions are huge! What are you eating here?
Yosuke: Panini’s. Wow, and the panini’s here are huge for you guys; Japan portions are small for Americans.
Hikari: Croissants too. Be careful, you’ll gain weight…
Yosuke: Oh, I already gained weight! These guys are the type that eat and do not gain anything, but I always gain weight… [Note: at this time Auncia had only been in America for 2 days] Are there any difficulties you’re facing in your musical career now? Coming and playing overseas is one difficulty with the language barrier, but also difficulties back in Japan?
Hikari: Nope. Jin: Well, I think that's because music is a universal language… I listen to Western music all the time, and I don’t understand the lyrics, but when listening to the songs I can still enjoy them because the songs are well made. I hope our music is good enough, too, that people here can enjoy it without understanding the language. How do you think you will promote yourself more in the US now?
Tatsuki: Passing out fliers. Oh yeah, stand outside AX after Morning Musume…
Hikari: …and Moi dix mois. I noticed your new visual look. Can you describe your style and why you chose that look?
Hikari: We always choose comfortable clothes. Something we can change into easily… a lot of the bands out there are wearing
heavy costumes, but we want to be different from those bands. So we wear a more casual look, but still with a visual style.
what are some American artists you are inspired by?
Jin: Cool but we still look like normal Japanese guys on the street.
Hikari: Oh, Green Day is cool!! I like Offspring, National Product, Yellowcard.
How did you choose what to wear? You’re kind of coordinated.
Hikari: Oh, we just find stuff that makes us go, “Oh cool!” Discuss it with everyone, pick a theme, go shopping… So this time, when we went shopping we picked black and white colors. So you pick your clothes yourself?
Hikari: Yeah, we style ourselves. Because you’re performing in America,
Tatsuki: Green day.
Yosuke: Linkin Park. Jin: Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue, Aerosmith, Metallica, Buck Cherry. Hikari: Somebody has to say Michael Jackson! [imitates Thriller] [everyone laughs] What’s next in store for Auncia?
Hikari: I want to go to Neverland. [laughs] Well, I think we just want to continue the same Auncia, but by producing new music of course.
Tatsuki: Always keep our originality, learn many more new things and rise to the top. Jin: I want people to know us more. Hikari: …So that when we die, I want a million people to come to our funeral. Oh, like Michael Jackson.
Hikari: Yes, like Michael Jackson. [Thriller pose again] Yosuke: Okay, that’s enough from you! [laughs] I want to continue to play good music forever. Last words?
Hikari: Start from Jin. Jin: I don’t know when we’ll come back to the US again, but at AX we want all the people that come out to see us and to not forget what they saw. Unforgettable memories. Tatsuki: Well, everyone knows L’arc~en~ciel, so I want us to get up to that kind of level. That so many thousands of people will come to see us. I think AX will be the first step for Auncia to get to that level. I want everyone to remember Auncia. Yosuke: Hopefully we can come back again to the US, and after performing again and again, people will really remember Auncia and we can establish ourselves here. Hikari: We want people to think, “Auncia is fun! When are they coming back? I hope they come back soon!” Also, our name is spelled AUNCIA but people say it AOWN-SIA. Please pronounce it right, it's “AHN-SIA”. [laughs] Thank you!
Everyone: Thank you very much!
interview by Rubab Rizvi
photos by Cari McPherson hair & make-up by Shino Suzuki
hen it comes to the staples of rock in Japan, it would be difficult not to acknowledge the enduring iconic presence of Balzac. Their notoriety has not been confined to Japan, due to their close friendship with Western punk outfit The Misfits. Dabbling in various subgenres of rock, particularly in punk, it is hard to place a finger on one definite classification for Balzac. Askew goes out to set the story straight with none other than Balzacâ€™s founder and vocalist, Hirosuke. What can fans expect from their upcoming release? Will Balzac rekindle their ambitions in the Western hemisphere? Want to know the answers? Keep reading to discover the answers to all this and more.
a chat with
Hirosuke interview by Evan Benner Balzac has been going strong for 17 years already. Can we expect a 20th anniversary, or even a 25th anniversary celebration? I guess that is something even I don't know. We will continue to do this as long as we have the fire inside us. What is the most important thing that has given Balzac its endurance? This is also something that I can't really answer. I guess only God knows. Is there any particular food that you eat often that enhances your creativity? I love eating "purin," which is custard pudding... but I really don't think that has affected my creativity! Is there anything in particular that you do
to inspire creativity? I read a lot of books when I was in school. Now I read a lot of Japanese mystery novels. Of course, listening to a lot of different music also inspires my creativity. I think having knowledge in a lot of different areas is important. There are so many things that have an influence on me, and not all of them are related to music specifically. Balzac was taken from the name of a French poet. What about this poet inspired you to use his name? Yeah, I like his stuff. I read his stuff a lot when I was younger. Balzacâ€™s themes are different from typical horrorpunk but they still get classified as horrorpunk. Why is this so?
Well, some people would say that everyday life is horror. So, I really put a lot of thought into what I think is my own personal horror. I think Balzac stands alone in its unique world of horror. I feel Balzac is something original, though we can still be a part of the horrorpunk scene.
"What is in your heart is true, no matter what it is."
-You often utilize the theme of “darkness.” What would you say is the meaning of true darkness? I think it is something inside of the heart. What is in your heart is true, no matter what it is. Who were some of the inspirations that lead to the formation of Balzac? Do you still maintain their influence? I think from the very beginning it was The Misfits and The Damned. When it comes to Japanese bands, it was The Mad Capsule Markets and Gastunk. There are a lot of other bands that have influenced me, though. A lot of hardcore bands. At the root of everything is The Beatles. You have played alongside bands from various punk and hardcore subgenres (RANCID, The Misfits, The Mad Capsule Markets). How have these bands affected the growth of Balzac? Playing with various bands is great. You begin to see things differently and you see their attitudes and their spirit. A lot of the bands we have played with are really exceptional. Who inspires you vocally? There are a lot of vocalists that have influenced me over the years. The first one, from way back when, is Glenn Danzig. I still respect and look up to him. And then in Japan I have been influenced by Kou Machida, and Kyono from The Mad Capsule Markets. I think both of them are amazing. How did your friendship with the Misfits begin? We first played with the Misfits in 1997. We were their opening band. That is really when the relationship started. Jerry Only really loved our music and we decided to put out a split CD together. We are really proud that Jerry saw us as something that stood out. The Mad Capsule Market’s/AA= member Takeshi Ueda has produced Paradox. What was the goal with this release? Takeshi is a very old friend of mine and he is an artist that I hold a lot of respect for. He really understands Balzac as a band and that is cool. We wanted to keep the release still very "Balzac," but I think he pushed us and the sound -- both heavy and pop sounds are intermingled perfectly. The melodies and even the horror imagery we were thinking of are more powerful than ever before. From the samples of the new mini album, the electronic distortion seems to be the most obvious element brought by Ueda. Are there other surprises in store? Of course. We have done a lot of stuff with electronic sounds before, that is not new for us. But Takeshi is an expert when it comes to that sort of stuff, so his skill really brought another dimension to things. I think the quality of this record is amazingly good. The US never saw a release of Hatred:Destruction=Construction. Can we look forward to a release of that and Paradox as well? We are going to release Hatred in North America right away. There is going to be a couple of bonus discs included as well. It is going to be a really cool release. Please explain the meaning of the title Hatred:Destruction=Construction.
The emotion of "hatred" is the driving force behind the album. I think the power that comes through that feeling is something really intense and important. The destruction and construction idea is from the build-up and break-down of things Balzac has gone through over the years. It was really an expression of that. It's everywhere in the world. Things are always created, destroyed, and then rebuilt. That is life. Balzac owns its very own record label. Would you ever consider producing other young artists? From the beginning the purpose was only to put out Balzac stuff. There was no reason to release other stuff on the label. But, I am not totally against it. If there was a really good band, I would consider it. Are there any current artists that you enjoy listening to? I have been listening to a lot of My Chemical Romance lately. Frank, who plays guitar for them, is a big Balzac fan. He is a friend of mine, and I think their music is really good. What do you have on your iPod/music player currently? There is a lot of variety on there. If I go with what I have the most of on there, it is The Beatles and George Harrison. Balzac is represented not only musically, but also in merchandise and fashion. What inspires the bandâ€™s output of fashion? How
do your roles as musicians and merchants coincide or conflict?
How much of your catalog of songs can you play collectively as a band?
Nothing conflicts. We all just do whatever we want to do. Of course music is always number one for us, but we also think it is important to do other things we have an interest in. That is the way Balzac has always done it.
There are a few songs that we no longer play. Live, there are a bunch of songs we have never played, or can't for various reasons.
Do you get excited when you see people on the street wearing your products?
We do practice our old stuff a lot. But, there are a bunch of old songs that we don't play anymore, too.
Yeah. I'm happy when I see it. What do you feel is the artistic connection between such a large range of merchandise and the music?
Do you still practice a lot of your older songs?
For performances, do you focus mostly on the most recent releases, or do you mix up the set list with a lot of your fan favorites?
I think there is a very strong connection. There is a connection between everything we do.
We just approach it in a way that we can play whatever we feel like playing. We also play requests from time to time as well.
There is lots of imagery and graphics used for Balzac products. Is the band involved in developing the concepts?
It has been two years since Balzac has performed in the US. Can we expect any performances overseas in the near future?
The concept behind a band is important, I think. We have created a lot of different graphics and concepts for Balzac. A lot of artists have also done stuff for us that keep with our visuals. We really respect the concept behind what we do and we are always doing things with these concepts in mind.
Yeah, we want to tour there again soon. I'm sure we will.
Who came up with the original idea of Paperbag Man? Why has he become the mascot out of all of the Balzac figurine collectibles?
I also hope everyone who has not heard us takes a listen as well!
I came up with him; I thought he was pretty cute, so it was a good fit for our mascot, that's all.
Do you have any message for your fans? I hope everyone will keep listening to our music and enjoy it.
Kanon W akeshima in my daily life. It’s like going to bed, brushing your teeth or taking a bath; if you don’t do it for a couple of weeks then you feel uncomfortable about it. So because it became a routine, I never did stop playing.
Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics? • Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Mother Goose, and Hans Christian Andersen. The stories can be dark but also are on the happy/cute side. I grew up reading these tales so I try to blend them together in my music. Tell us about the process of how your cello music is created. • I get the demo from Mana-sama but the cello is an instrument with a lot of range, so I have to adjust to the different notes and parts. So with that, I try to arrange the cello parts myself because I know how the cello works.
You just performed for the first time in the US and at an anime convention. How do you feel the concert went? It was very fun to perform here in the states for the first time. The audience was great and I loved all of the cosplayers. There were a lot of Vampire Knight cosplayers and fans here for you. Did you ever expect to gain so much popularity by doing the ending them music for the show?
Anything impressive you’ve seen at the con so far?
Could you give us a message for your US fans? • For those of you who made it to Otakon, how was my show? Did you like it? For those of you who picked up my cd, thank you. And those who haven’t yet please pick it up and listen to my music. Thank you everyone for your support and I would love to come back again. interview and photo on right by Cari McPherson
• It was the second time I was in Paris and the whole city was like a museum. The buildings were so beautiful! Of course the concert was great and the fans were very supportive. You and your producer Mana (ex MALICE MIZER, Moi dix Mois) seem to have a lot in common. Do you have a good relationship with him outside of your work?
During the concert you introduced your white cello as Mikazuki (crescent moon). What’s the name of your red cello? • Nanachie
What inspired you to audition for Sony?
Was there ever a time that you disliked the cello or became tired with it as a child?
• I originally had demo tapes and I found a flyer for Sony in the streets. So I decided to submit the demo and that’s why I’m here today.
• Yes, many many times I thought about quitting but it became such a routine
• Jaqueline du Pre. She passed away some time ago, but she gave me a good impression.
Recently you performed in Paris. Were your expectations of France met and how did you enjoy the trip?
• Because Mana is very famous and notorious for not speaking in public, we have to communicate through handwriting and telepathy. *laughs* But he knows where all of the best food is, so we go out to really fancy restaurants a lot. So yes, we have a good relationship outside of work.
• Definitely the cosplayers. Especially the people who come in for the autograph sessions, the quality of their outfits is amazing and they’re cute too.
Who is your favorite cellist?
• I would make one-piece designs such as dresses because I really like that style. Designing dresses would be great and interesting to do.
島 分 • I didn’t expect it, to be honest. But it’s great to have a lot of fans through the Vampire Knight series.
• Every cellist has a teacher, and my sensei once told me that the kanji for ongaku (music) is written as “fun” and “play”. Knowing that, the most fundamental aspect of music is to enjoy what you’re playing and have fun.
音 ww w. kanonweb .j p
What would your ideal Lolita clothing line be like?
Do you have any advice for aspiring cellists?
A gem of the rarest order, Kanon Wakeshima delivers what could be called nothing short of all-around artistry. Produced by none other than Mana, Kanon reinvigorates the Gothic-Lolita image in relation to the music scene. And all it took was a simple audition to launch her into the scene and into the hearts of music lovers alike. Her quick road to success should serve as proof of Kanon's talent to anyone not yet aware of her charisma.
s hard to compare with the utmost sincerity of Ken Lloyd. While he's undeniably a rock star, his attentiveness and concern lead to an astoundingly down-to-earth personality. Who would have thought that the frontman of both FAKE? and the recently revived Oblivion Dust would be similarly as approachable as one’s very own next door neighbor? Askew had a chance to revisit Ken Lloyd at AnimeNEXT for some follow-ups to our previous interview, as well as the low-down on the developments of FAKE?’s upcoming, unnamed album.
F a k e
What kind of sound can we expect from your new album? Ken: To be honest, we don’t really know yet because we haven’t gotten in the studio. I’m hoping to incorporate some of the dance genre because our producer, Yu, is really good at that. It’s still going to be rock-based, but we really want to mold the two genres together.
So maybe we can expect an industrial sound? Ken: Yeah, on some of the songs, but, as always with FAKE?, there will be a couple of songs that are industrial and like two songs that will be jazz, or something like it.
A little bit of everything, right? Ken: Yes, a little bit of everything.
FAKE? Has opened for a lot of mainstream bands such as Guns & Roses, Placebo, and Black Eyed Peas. Which was your favorite band to open for? Ken: Guns & Roses, just because it was their first show in ten years, and it was in Hong Kong, which I had never been to. So it was a whole
Ken: Well, a lot of the people that end up listening to us listen because it’s in English and it’s easy to understand what we’re singing about. So, I guess it is important, but if the person listening has an open mind and is willing to read the lyrics and find translations, then it’s okay. I think the Jrock audience right now has an open mind, but in order to spread out to people who aren’t in the Jrock scene language it's important. I think it’s the same in Japan, too, because in the end people want to know what you’re singing about.
You said during the concert at AnimeNEXT that you don’t mind people illegally downloading your music. How do you feel about artists who are very strict about this issue? Ken: It’s up to them; it’s what they believe in. For me, I don’t really have a problem with it because we don’t have a distribution right now, and our music is really hard to get a hold of. I don’t make music to make money from it. If there’s no way to get it then I’d rather have people looking for it and listening to it. If I was a fan, I’d probably prefer the band that doesn’t care about that kind of thing, but it’s still their thing. Some music is really hard to get, so I’m sensitive to that. new experience. I’ve also liked Guns & Roses since I was 15 or 16, so it was really cool to open for them. I mean, you don’t even think they’re going to release a new album, so I never would have imagined opening for them.
So have you listened to their new album, Chinese Democracy, yet? Ken: Yes, I’ve listened to it, but I haven’t been able to listen to it properly yet because I’ve been working on the new album so much. Part of the matter is that I try not to listen to too much other music while I’m writing because I don’t want to accidentally incorporate it into our music. It’s like, I don’t want people to say, “That sounds like this song,” but when the album is finished I’ll definitely listen to more music. I have a whole stack of albums at home that I need to listen to.
On the flipside, if you could have any band open for FAKE? who would it be? Ken: Any band. I don’t really mind. I mean, I started music just to meet people, so I can work with anyone. Guitarists, bassists... You could name any band off of the top of your head and I’d be like, “Yeah, that’s cool.”
What’s your favorite Japanese phrase? Ken: “Nande?” I’m always asking why.
Because you sing in both languages, would you say that language is the most important factor in bringing Jrock to America, or is it mostly the music?
You can’t buy it all, right? Especially if you listen to everything. Ken: Yeah, it’s not just with Jrock. I mean, when it comes down to it, if you like a lot of music then you’re just going to be broke if you buy everything you want. The bands want you to listen, but I think it’s more of the business side that puts restrictions on it. But maybe if they learn from it, then it’ll be easier for music to get out there.
What was the most challenging thing about starting your own label? Ken: Well, we have to do everything by ourselves, so it’s a lot of hard work. Things that used to take only a few days to sort out take longer now because we’re doing it on our own. But then there are also some things that can be decided much faster, like, done in five minutes compared to what would normally take longer. Like coming over to the States, we just had to do it. So, you have to have a reputation in business for that part. It’s not that tough, though, because it’s my music and it’s my life. When it comes down to it, I think we’re more dependent on the fans now. The more the fans ask for us, the more we can get out there. In that sense, we’re asking the fans to join in too and help us so we can do shows and release stuff.
So would you consider adding other bands to your label in the near future? Ken: Oh yeah, that’s one of the things we wanted to do. It’s not just for us. We set out to create a label that was different from everyone else. And I guess I’m lucky that I have both
cultures. I mean, it’s not just a Japanese label. We can have American artists or European artists. We want to get the artists that we like and create a really cool label where no one knows what we’re trying to do, one that’s different from other labels. With the label, we want to create a scene rather than wait for a scene to begin. You know, just start it ourselves.
During the Q&A at the con, you said if you and K.A.Z were ever in the same town you would prank him. Do you normally pull pranks on K.A.Z, or has K.A.Z pranked you and you’re trying to get him back? Ken: Well, he’s not really the prank sort of guy, so I have to learn to back off when he’s not in the mood. He’s a good sport about it though. He gets really serious in the studio, so we pull pranks on him to jolt him out of it. I wish I was in town when he’s going to be in the States. There would be some major pranking.
What’s the process like when you’re writing your music? Do you write it with the same energy that you have on stage, or do you write in a more mellow state of mind? Ken: It depends on whether I know if I’m doing a good song, then I won’t be able to go to sleep. I was writing the day before we came up to New Jersey, and I was up until 8 in the morning because I knew I had a good song going. Also, when I’m trying out the vocal melodies a lot of it sounds off key at first because I’m jumping around in the booth. Obviously, I have to stay still when we’re recording to get it perfect, but there’s a little energy going on. It’s nothing like on stage though, because you don’t have the sound surrounding you and the crowd, but, yeah, I have my little world going on.
Could you describe FAKE? in three words?
Ken: Sweet and weird.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at this convention so far? Ken: I saw this arena where these two guys with foam sticks were beating the living crap out of each other. That was right before we went on stage and we were headed to the bathroom, but we just stood still, like, “What the hell are these guys doing? They’re beating the crap out of each other and having fun.” I could have stayed and watched that forever. That was one thing I think I missed out on. I mean I was like, “I have to come back and see this.” That’s my kind of thing.
Your father is British, but your accent is American. Why is that? Ken: I went to an American school in England, so it just rubbed off on me. People say I have a Canadian accent, but I have no idea. I think I’m just messed up in every way possible. People in England think I’m American, and I have to show them my passport to prove I’m English. I used to have an English accent up until I was ten, and then I went to Japanese school and American school. And in Japan, they teach English with an American accent. So, I had eight years of straight American talking, and it just ended up like this.
Is there something that you always bring with you on tour? Something you absolutely have to have? Ken: Probably just honey because it helps my throat. I mean, I don’t have a ritual or anything; I don’t put candles in my room.
Right now FAKE? is seen as a solo project, but
would you consider letting any other musicians officially join? Ken: I treat it like a band, and the band feels that it’s not a solo thing. I never wanted to do a solo project; I like the family vibe from being in a band. Even after INORAN left, I never considered it to be solo. Just because it’s me and we keep changing members, everyone thinks it’s solo, but in my mind I’ll never do anything that’s just solo. It’s almost like a Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson kind of situation. We strive to be seen as a band and not as a solo project. In terms of direction, obviously I lead it, and I’m lucky enough to find people who will follow that. In terms of the live show though, it’s just a complete band. I don’t ask my members to stand back while I’m doing my thing. There’s none of that.
How do you balance FAKE? and Oblivion Dust, especially now since K.A.Z is with VAMPS? Ken: Right now it’s hard because VAMPS’ schedule is crazy, and it gets crazier every month. Originally, we had the idea that we’ll do a year of Oblivion Dust and a year of our own thing. So we were kind of taken aback by their schedule because it stretches for two or three
years. We’re still trying to figure out what to do about it, but it’s all good because there are things to do. We’re not going to be like, “No, you have to be here at a certain date.” Besides, music’s not worth doing if everyone’s not into it, right? As long as everyone’s happy then it’ll be fine. I mean, K.A.Z is doing VAMPS, but he tells us that his heart is with Oblivion Dust. It’s more that we feel bad for the fans because we reunited and we ourselves are waiting to accomplish something, so that’s the hardest thing.
Do you have anything you want to tell us about your next album? Ken: I think this will be the best album I’ve done out of all my bands. I’m really optimistic that this will really be the best thing I’ve done so far. I’ve got 25 songs, and I don’t mind which songs go on the album. They’re all good, and it’s hard to choose. You know, we could even release a double album. It’s just going to be really awesome.
interview and photos by Cari McPherson Check FAKE? at www.hedfuc.com!
photos by Cari McPherso
interview by Holly Interlandi
• I love both. Yes, I'm recording right now. I love everything about music.
know me know that I love this kind of alcohol.
• At first I wanted to be an actor. That's why I first came to Hollywood.
It must be nice having two languages at your disposal when writing songs. How else has your straddling of two cultures affected your career?
If you could play a concert with your "dream lineup," who would be in it?
id you ever want to do anything other than music? Was it a kind of ‘I will be a rockstar’ goal, or something less definitive?
What albums have you been listening to lately?
• It's not an album but I've been watching NIN live videos a lot. When you decided to live in America, why did you choose L.A., and more specifically, Hollywood?
• I loved music and movies so I always wanted to go to America. First I was planning to go to New York but it didn't happen so I came to Los Angeles. Do you enjoy recording, or would you rather play live? Any recordings in the works right now?
• I have two different tastes...Eastern and Western...it's a challenge but i don't think there's anyone else like me here. I think that makes me unique... and that's been pretty good for my career. Do you have any strange hobbies?
• I like to do interior decorating...I change the look of my house all the time. Japanese or foreign beer? Do you even like beer?
• I don't drink beer too often, but when I do it's either European or Mexican...I love vodka and tequila, people who
• NIN because I can relate to their style and Cinema Bizarre again because I had a such a great show with them back in April 2009. Does it bug you when people try to slap a label or genre on your music, or do you find yourself doing it?
• I don't care what people say, It's impossible to label my music in one genre. I'm happy as long as people enjoy my music. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
• Hallucinator; I wanna make poeple hallucinate.
Uchuu Sentai Formed in the late 1990’s, Uchuu Sentai NOIZ recently suffered the loss of two of their original members. They quickly recovered by inducting two new members and made a huge statement by performing overseas with their new lineup. Featured at Animazement, their appearance was certainly appropriate, in view of their anime-style image and themes. NOIZ brings their own brand of electro-rock with pop melodies entirely suitable for their role as space warriors.
Z I O
• How are you enjoying America and North Carolina so far?
Angel-Taka: We’re having a lot of fun, even though it’s only been one day. Kyo: I’m happy to be here because this is where black bass fishing started. [Kyo's hobby is fishing.]
their influence. It was beyond my dreams to join so I was very happy when they asked me to join the band. Kotaro: The musical and visual influence. I liked everything about them. I felt that it was fate when I was asked to join.
Angel-Taka: And the cityscape is very nice.
• How were you first introduced to NOIZ?
• Has performing in America been a long-time goal for NOIZ or is this something that the band has recently wanted to do?
Yamato: I saw them live for the first time three years ago.
Masato: It’s more of a checkpoint to show the whole world who we are. • Yamato and Kotaro are the newest members of NOIZ. What made you want to join the band?
Yamato: I wanted to join NOIZ because they’re a wonderful band sound-wise and because of
Kotaro: I was in a sempai-kohai (brother band) at the time so I knew NOIZ through connections. • Both the guests and otaku at Animazement have expressed a lot of excitement for NOIZ. How have you enjoyed these reactions?
Angel-Taka: It makes us really happy.
Yamato: We didn’t think we’d get such a great reaction.
weekend to play Guitar Hero with a few lucky fans. What’s your difficulty level?
Masato: I can’t believe it!
Kotaro: I’m moved.
Kyo: Fantastic! But if the girl we’re playing is cute then the game will go on forever.
• Are there any anime or manga that you’re into lately?
Kyo: Moyashimon. It’s a very recent anime. Angel-Taka: Baki the Grappler. Yamato: Cooking Papa. Masato: There are so many, but I like Air.
Angel-Taka: Majestic! Masato: To tell the truth, we’d probably do easy at best. Guitar Hero doesn’t exist in Japan. • Lastly, could you give a message to your American fans?
Angel-Taka: We’ll definitely be coming to America a lot more.
• Would you say that your costumes are inspired by anime?
Masato: We want to bring peace through our music and keep on going.
Angel-Taka: Definitely, but I’d say that we are influencing anime more.
Kyo: I will become the morning face of America! [Kyo is implying becoming a criminal]
• What makes NOIZ more unique from other Jrock bands?
Angel-Taka: High tension. Kyo: We’re very colorful. Masato: We can make everyone smile with our music. • You’re going to be holding a raffle this
Angel-Taka: That has nothing to do with music! Kotaro: I want you to experience ecstasy with my guitar. Yamato: We make very fun music, so I want everyone to enjoy the live.
Press conference at Animazement
• What is your favorite song to perform live?
Masato: All of them but I like "Flashback Flag." Yamato: Me too. Kotaro: "Flashback Flag." Kyo: "Bad Music Freaks." Angel-Taka: "Cry." • You’ve just released your new single Brand New World, how do you want your fans to feel when they listen to it?
Masato: We live in a society where it’s hard to do and say the correct thing. Being direct is very hard to do in Japan, so we want our fans to feel that they can be direct. Angel-Taka: When you’re listening to it with headphones on and you get hyped up…I want the headphones to
come out of the jack and make a “bam” sound. Like what happens when your mom comes in and yells at you. That’s the feeling I want our song to create.
of the scariest rides in the world. I really hate roller coasters but they threw me on there with Masato in my costume. Masato was fine but I was terrified.
• You encompass a lot of genres in your music, such as rap and rock; is it difficult to meld these genres together or does it come naturally?
Masato: There was drool hanging down his mouth. [laughs]
Masato: When we put our music together, no one denies anything. And from there, we start molding it into one piece. • Angel-Taka, you mentioned during the concert last night that you had a very scary experience in America. Could you elaborate on that?
Angel-Taka: Three years ago when we went to LA, at the last part of the show I messed up when we did our last transformation. Because of that, I was dared to get on The Stratosphere which is one
Kyo: What I’m scared more of is Taka’s emceeing. I don’t know if people will get his jokes. • NOIZ is a band with a lot of stage presence. Where do you get the ideas for your special moves and would Dragonball Z be one of them? I saw that you did the Ginyu Force formation at the end of the concert.
Masato: The answer is yes, but the ideas for our moves also come naturally. Angel-Taka: More than being influenced, everyone comes up with original moves. Kyo: If I were a character in Dragonball,
• Are there any other countries that you want to perform in that you haven’t yet?
Masato: England. Yamato: Cuba. Angel-Taka: Philippines. Kyo: Germany. Kotaro: Hawaii. Everyone: That’s in America! Kotaro: Oh… England then. • As a musician, what has been your most rewarding experience?
Masato: Because of our music, we helped someone live. Angel-Taka: Making our fans smile. Kotaro: Me too. Kyo: Me too.
I’d be Tao Pai Pai. We’re the Ginyu Force.
interview and photos by Cari McPherson
by Kellie Lacey
entrer en Soi announced their disbandment late last year and held their last live on Christmas Day, 2008. As they graced the cover of our first issue in January 2009 during their final days it’s only just that Satsuki, the enigmatic singer whose voice characterized their sound, graces our pages once again at the dawn of his solo career. “I’m using my solo career as an opportunity to start anew,” Satsuki explains, and that certainly rings true of his solo career so far. After being immersed in Rentrer en Soi’s band environment since 2001, Satsuki has decided to become a solo artist, surrounding himself with talented support members instead of forming a new band. He states that the decision was made because this way, he “can focus on just singing."
maxi single AWAKE, shows him on the cover with long windswept hair and a cross and rosary around his neck. Available only via the shop at his website, it’s evident from the very first listen that Satsuki really is starting anew. “The theme behind AWAKE is of my disillusioned awakening,” Satsuki explains. “I felt that was suitable for my first solo single. The lyrics to ‘La Lune’ detail how down I felt when Rentrer en Soi disbanded, but it is also a song about my hopes to keep moving forward after that. ‘Veil of MARIA’ is about a perfect holiness; one that exists with no impurities. The title track, ‘AWAKE,’ is a song that conveys the theme of ‘awakening’ through its energy and ‘In a Lucid Dream’ is as its title states; an image from a dream.”
There has also been an abrupt change in Satsuki’s look. The more fashionable clothes have been replaced by a heavy visual look and although Rentrer en Soi dabbled in Christian imagery before, most notably on the single Stigmata and the album Yurikago, Satsuki has taken it to another level for his first single release. The reason for the change? “Intuition,” Satsuki says cryptically.
Satsuki’s second solo release is entitled CRYSTAL. Will it follow the same route as AWAKE and have a central theme? “I see CRYSTAL as the Second Story, as it continues AWAKE's story. After such an awakening is a period of moving forward and this is the story of CRYSTAL.”
The three words he uses to describe his solo music are “rock, spirit and heart,” and all three can be heard flowing throughout every note of his first solo release. The
For Satsuki, moving forward meant a trip to Los Angeles shortly after the release of AWAKE. Rentrer en Soi had performed in America twice but had never ventured
atsu atsuki ki S
He laughs before adding, “And more Chrome Hearts accessories!” It’s not just America that Satsuki has his sights set on. “In the future I’d really like to tour Europe. I think that the borders between countries are disappearing and it’s easier to be heard throughout the world now than it was when Rentrer en Soi started.” Part of this change is undoubtedly due to the increase of high speed, reliable internet connections and the steady increase of internet users. There has been much heated debate about the role of the internet in the modern music scene, with illegal download sites and even more mainstream, legal sites such as YouTube being the subject of copyright claims and numerous cease and desist orders over the past few years. Still, there are a growing number of artists who are recognizing the internet as a very useful tool when connecting with fans.
to LA, and it was quite evident when Askew caught up with Satsuki at Anime Expo that he was very excited to be in sunny California. As well as his appearance at Anime Expo, Satsuki also performed a once-in-a-lifetime show at the very intimate 2nd Street Jazz venue in LA’s Little Tokyo on July 4th. It was a performance that saw Satsuki only inches away from the tightly packed, and very lucky, crowd. But why America and why so soon after going solo? “I get a lot of support messages and letters from fans in America, so I wanted to meet everyone there,” Satsuki explains. “As for the live, I was just so happy to be so close to everyone after all this time.” It’s clear that Satsuki has fallen in love with both America and the fans that have written to him and gave him such a warm reception during that intimate performance in Little Tokyo. When asked for his dream concert venue, the one place above all that he would love to perform, his answer is simple – “anywhere in America. I would like to play there again because I love American fans! In five years' time I want to be living in America.” “LA was beautiful; beyond anything I imagined,” Satsuki continues. “I was also happy that I was finally able to visit Chrome Hearts [one of Satsuki’s favorite jewelry brands]. I want to live in America someday, so something I really want is a house.”
Satsuki took the unusual approach of releasing AWAKE as a download from his web shop, but what does he think of the internet’s role in the modern music industry? “I think that MySpace and other similar sites are really valuable as they allow us to send music across the world.” With the world becoming ever smaller, there are still plenty of sights that Satsuki would like the opportunity to see. “I want to go to Finland as I’d really like to see the Aurora Borealis [commonly known as the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that causes the Northern skies to be alight with beautiful shades of color such as blue and green]. If I’m traveling and need to relax I like to look at the sky as it rejuvenates me.” After touring Japan extensively with Rentrer en Soi and performing in America three times, Satsuki has become accustomed to traveling and ensures that he always packs the most important things; “I never leave home without my hopes. I think that everyone should have an experience when they travel that makes them feel like they have something to improve upon when they get home.” But is there any part of home that he misses? “Miso soup,” he answers. “That should be served worldwide as I miss it when I’m traveling.” And what about the future for Satsuki, the solo artist? CRYSTAL is due in August, and his final words for those fans that have supported him through the disbanding of Rentrer en Soi and the disillusioned awakening of his solo career are three simple English words. “I love you!”
What is Satsuki listening to? What is your favorite type of music? Satsuki: Rock What would you consider to be your musical “guilty pleasure?” Satsuki: Nothing Complete the sentence: “Music is…” Satsuki: Music is life for me. What type of music do you find yourself listening to the most? Satsuki: Rock.
Satsuki's Album Picks: 1: VAMPS/VAMPS – "EVANESCENT" I really like this song because the melody is gorgeous. It’s my favorite kind of atmosphere; you can really feel "summer" in this song. 2: NIRVANA/NEVER MIND – "Smells Like Teen Spirit" This song is so stimulating. It has an uplifting feel and a true rock vibe. 3: ENIGMA – "SADNESS" I listen to this a lot at home. I feel this song heals me and purifies my heart. 4: DELERIUM/KARMA I like the whole album because of the melodies. I also listen to this a lot at home.
Please introduce yourselves. SA: We are Taisei [on vocals], Naoki [on guitar], Ken [on bass] and Shohei [on drums]. Was Japan Nite your very first US tour? Do you see yourselves coming back? SA: Yes, it was. I think that it was very positive for me, as I learned a lot of good things. And I feel that music is borderless! Are your musical influences primarily Japanese or American? SA: Sorry, it is British. But I have been strongly affected by American old style rock'nâ€™roll. All you need to understand that is to just look at my hairstyle. Many Japanese bands have recently become popular in the US. Any thoughts or opinions on why? SA: Although we are influenced by American and European music, we are still infused with the melodies of original Japanese music. I wonder if our kind of fused music is new for people outside Japan. I am very glad that there is original Japanese rock.
street level changed clearly. It is at the point where an artist pays more attention to the world. I think the level of musical expression is by no means inferior in comparison with the world. But it is a fact that very shallow love songs are still popular in the showbiz world. Is that the same in USA, I wonder? What's your deserted island album? - That is, if you got stuck on an island, what one album would bring with you? SA: Odyssey & Oracle by The Zombies. I don't want to hear punk rock on an uninhabited island. What was your favorite city to visit in America, and why? SA: It's difficult to choose because our tour schedule was so tight we couldn't explore as much as we wanted. But I could get high in downtown Austin where we performed for the first time. That town just rocks. And of course our last stop on the tour, LA, was deeply impressive, Because I was able to meet you! [laughs]
How has the musical environment in Japan changed since the 80s? SA: I think that the rock'n roll at the
Naoki is very cheerful and happy and positive anytime. He is like the den mother of the band. Ken is a quiet man. He has his own world. Shohei; he gets drunk anytime. And he sleeps anytime. He is like a younger brother in the band. Naoki's Response: Taisei; a tough guy like fire. Ken; a dynamite guy like water. Shohei; a nice guy like the wind. Ken's Response: Taisei; the big jackass with a loud voice about to howl. Naoki; the scrupulous spiky blonde. Shohei; the very fast and speedy Mohican. Shohei's Response:
SA: Anytime and anywhere. It is often that I hit on the melody and the lyrics when taking a walk at night. To learn it, I do a jam session with the band.
Taisei is daring, but is tidy. Naoki is nervous like a girl. Ken; his private life is mysterious.
SA: Naoki would win! Because he is crafty! [laughs]
SA: The early SA was too young. What I wanted was to open up the punk genre a little more, and I thought that would come about if I learned more music. After I explored various music genres, what I wanted to do and punk rock matched again. The re-organization happened just with that timing. I think that the SA after the re-organization can express more the attitude and the fun of punk rock. Because we can enjoy it, and weâ€™ve followed it for a long time.
How does your songwriting work?
fun Question: if the band were on an American reality show like Survivor, who would win?
Technically, you've been 'back together' longer than you were ever 'together' in the first place. Would you say you reformed the band for personal reasons, or did something else influence your decision?
Describe each of your bandmates.
interview by Holly Interlandi response by TAISEI special thanks to Go Nemoto for translating! www.myspace.com/samuraiattack
Stronger than non-conformity, it’s hard to decipher whether echostream’s guitarist Tomo just has a knack for the uncommon, or a compulsory illness for irregularity. Whatever it may be, it’s hard to encounter someone so heartwarmingly steeped in music as well as an irresistible personality and a deep soul. In our encounter with Tomo at Anime Expo, we were overjoyed to observe someone who lives and breathes music, evident through his insight into the ever-curious Echostream as well as his new band, Alias. - Tell us about your new band, Alias. How did it start and how did you decide to start it?
- You build what you want and then… level up and then become something else…
The drummer and I, we’re used to playing in Jrock themes, and we’ve known each other for ten years or something like that… We respect each other and are really good friends, but we’ve never worked together. So, when I went back to Japan I met him. He’s working in the music industry… He threw out some ideas, like he wants to go back to performing because now he works in the industry, producing other bands. He had some ideas about new projects, especially because the Japanese music scene is getting bigger in America and Europe; for example anime, Jrock, and Jpop. So we said, “Let’s do it.”
Well there is no level up though. [laughs] Our vocalist… she’s the heroine. She’s going to travel all over the world because she has a sad story. She wants to find herself, and she wants to do something different.
- So who is this mysterious partner? He is a drummer named KiYO. So we just started thinking about making a new project. And this project is not like… Obviously a band.
- What do you mean? You don’t want to call it a band? Yeah, because Alias means “alias,” right? So it’s kind of like a fantasy. We can make any kind of music. We can change into whatever we want. Also, you cannot touch an alias. Because I have Echostream now, my main band, we instead thought about making a unique band. One only for the internet, or something like that. Then we decided to make songs for anime and stuff. The concept is very much like “Final Fantasy.”
up Alias? Okay, we have the vocalist, named Mai. Electric guitar is me, Tomo, acoustic guitar is Ryutaro. The bassist is Mii.
- Oh… It’s not… you? No. [laughs] Mii.
- But that is like “Final Fantasy.” That’s like every single “Final Fantasy” ever made.
- Oh, okay [laughs]. I know you’re talented and you can play bass, but…
Yeah, she’s like traveling. When she gets to a different city and meets a new person with the same will or goal, then they go to a new city, and they meet a new person… It’s like that story.
No, no. I only play bass in Echostream, though… Well, whatever [laughs]. On keyboard, Kurenai, and on erhu, a traditional chinese instrument, Kiriko, and then the drummer KiYO. We have seven members. Three girls and four guys.
- How would you describe your new project as being different from Echostream? What are the main differences you see? For me, Echostream is very artistic and atmospheric. I believe Echostream is like art. But with this band we can do anything. We can be anything. This band is more like mainstream, catchy or poppy, but we still have that artistic, visual aspect.
- Something the more general audience could appreciate? Yeah. Echostream's music is very unique and specific, but this is also art too.
- We’ve talked about the mysterious drummer then, and the vocalist who travels. Who else makes
- And they all live in Japan? Yes.
- How do you make music from here then? Actually, some people are in Tokyo and some are in Osaka, and I’m in New York, and the erhu player is moving to China. Thanks to technology, we can record in Osaka, send it to Tokyo, download it, and they can record their part and mix it, and then upload it. Then I can download it, work on it, and upload it.
- That process seems a lot slower than just being there in person, especially if there’s a mistake or something… Well, we can always change. Everyone is
photos by Carroll Kong
busy because they have their own main band already. This is like an all-stars band. I work on Echostream, Ryuutaro works with Taiji from X Japan [project TAIJI with Heavens], and the the erhu player has gotten so many prizes at so many contests. She sometimes performs at celebrations in the Chinese embassy. When I saw her profile, I was like, “Wow!” The keyboardist, Kurenai, is very talented producer… Oh, this is a funny story.
- Tell me! There is a band in Japan called Kobukuro. Very famous, right? They asked him to perform together, but he refused because he had his own band practice. That’s it. “I have band practice today so I can’t do it.”
- He said no to Kobukuro? [Note: Kobukuro is a Pop/Folk rock band who made their major debut in 2001] Yea.
- Wow. Weird guy.
- He’s either really brave or really weird.
- Thank you! Going to put that in the article.
He’s really weird. [laughs] He’s a genius though.
- Well, he’s really dedicated. That’s nice at least.
- Do you have any CD releases slated for the near future?
He has his own vision. He doesn’t care about how famous they are or how much money they have. He just wants to work with his own person.
- Do you think you’re the same way? I think that’s why you’re so personable. That’s why I moved to the States. I just want to make real music. I think we’re losing something from the origins. Like where music is from.
- Where is music from? I don’t know. [smiles]
- So when can we expect Alias to debut? Debut? When? Actually we put up a song on MySpace already.
- Oh, you have a MySpace! What is it? http://www.myspace.com/aliasjapan
We are still thinking about that because we might only work on the internet.
- I kind of feel that working through the internet on something like music, it’s not as easy to connect with your partners. Do you think that? Being there in person with somebody and making art is a very different feeling from doing it through the internet where you can’t see the person or feel them in real life. We kind of make the basic master of the song, add the vocal melody… we make the vision first. Guitar, bass, keyboard lines… After that we share it. Then, we think about each of our own phrases. Then we can make changes… They are all talented artists, so they know how to make it beautiful. They can see where to put things. And I can tell, too, by their personality in their music how to make things. So we don’t need to actually meet or see each other,
because I can see them through the music.
- So your sound would be really different if you did play together in person? Yes, I can concentrate more because I am alone. I think if I made the music in the studio with them I would produce a different sound. But this is kind of like a trial too. Like, how can we feel each other even though we are far apart? We are trying to see the others through the internet. The internet is like our glasses. Seeing from here to the other person through it.
- Yeah, a lot of bands don’t really do this, so it is pretty unique. You’re doing a PV now? Yeah, the director is working on it now. I was supposed to give my shoot to him by the end of June…
playing guitar in front of Manhattan. I also am playing in front of the Metropolitan Museum. That was kind of embarrassing though.
- Why? Because lots of people were looking at me…
- Well, you’re a rock star. Of course they’re going to look at you… But back to AX. Did you get to talk about Alias to any of your fans there, or did they just ask about Echostream? Yeah, they… OH! Actually, I didn’t get to talk about Alias…. Hmm…
- Aw… Just promoting Tomo as a member of Echostream…
- [laughs] Who the hell is that?
- Which has passed…
Yeah, who the hell is that guy?! [laughs] Actually, I didn’t have much time to do that.
I was busy preparing for Anime Expo, so I told them I didn’t have time, but they are giving me more time so it is okay. I took a video shoot in New York City for it. I’m
- Well, your fans will be reading this interview because you’re going to be posting it on your MySpace, right? And then they can learn more
about Alias! But let’s talk about Echostream. What’s crackin’? Echostream? We are working on a new album right now.
- So, no shows. What are people doing all summer in New York now that they can’t see Echostream live? Yea we are focusing on the recording now, but… I don’t want to complete it solely by deadlines…
- Well, when do you think you’ll be done? I cannot say. I can’t make real music if I feel rushed.
- You have 2 albums out already for Echostream. The first two were concept albums that sort of matched. Is the third one going to match the first two? It’s going to be something new. But you can still hear the Echostream.
- How? I cannot even imagine. Please explain. How? I really don’t want to explain. If you listen
to it you can just tell, “Wow, it’s a new style.”
- But it’s not going to be like Final Fantasy. No, uh, I don’t know. Hmm.
- I’m looking forward to the new album, new stuff. What kind of themes are behind it? We are trying to make a new range, a new variety of sound. The first one was more electric and ambient with a little bit of rock. The second one was like rock and a little bit of ambient electric. But the third one, we really want to use more real equipment rather than the computer for the special instruments. Now it is kind of unique because we have two drummers [Echostream is unique for having two drummers, one acoustic and one electric], and the keyboardist and the electric drum is the electronic sound, right? And me, the guitarist, and the acoustic drums make the acoustic part.
- It’s a good mix, I think. I saw a live show once, and I really enjoyed that aspect. I’ve never seen a band with two drummers. Usually a band thinks
that one drummer is enough, but obviously that opened up a whole new possibility for Echostream. But where do vocals go? Acoustic or electric? Well, when we use effects on the vocals, like reverbs or something, we can make it an electric sound. But we also use the hard, real voice. I want to keep Ryoko's beautiful voice. It’s pure and clear.
- Do you have a title for the album? Not yet. The first one is Identity. The second one is The Duality of Courage. We use –ity so maybe something like that. Maybe third one can be Green Tea. [laughs]
- Any inspirations behind this album? This is kind of like a trial for Echostream. We’re playing with more major chords instead of minor chords, but the voice is sung in the minor chords, so it’s kind of a distorted feeling with that sound.
- So, that’s the Echostream quality.
We are talented very.
- We are talented very? I’m going to keep that. No, stop! [laughs] Hmm. I’m always breaking the beautiful parts of Echostream. I mean break in a good way. Like, if this is a beautiful ambient sound, I will find a way to break that. That is why we have no category. We have no genre. Generally, a musician will want to follow the arpeggio or make it more beautiful, but I don’t want to follow that law.
- So what do you do? I just break it. I’m always thinking about a different angle. I will follow the chords, but I will just find something else. Now we have music textbooks and all that, but I don’t want that. I want to make my music. Something crazier. I just want to play everything. I want to be one.
- One? One what? I want to be just… one. Only one. But Alias is more like following the law. That’s why my guitar
is like that different.
- Yeah, if I didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t know it’s you on the guitar. It doesn’t sound like Echostream Tomo. So what’s next on your agenda? Well I’m going to go back to Japan this fall to work on Alias. We are going to meet for the first time. I’ve never met them before, except for the drummer.
- It’s like a blind date. That’s kind of cool, right? We’ve never met each other, but we have songs. That’s beautiful.
- So, how are you going to find each other then? Will you have signs with ALIAS written on them and hold them up in the air? [laughs] Yeah, right. Well, I know their face through MySpace, so I kind of know them, but I’ve never met them in person.
- It’s going to be exciting. Tell us about it in the future! So what about Echostream after the album comes out? You should tour California, come to LA. Yeah, I would love to come back to California. I really want to go all over the world. Actually, we will be at Oni-Con, so we are preparing for that.
- Any closing words? I’m trying to make music from a different angle. Echostream is my main band. Alias is a different approach. Both are different but from the same person, so I hope everyone will like them. I feel like music nowadays is getting cheaper. Music should be heard, in my opinion. I really want to make real music, so every day is going to be my trial, and it’s going to be a never ending story. interview by Rubab Rizvi
www.myspace.com/heavensfactory www.myspace.com/echostream www.myspace.com/aliasjapan
overpower over powering power ing
very musical life has its greatest hits and its biggest disappointments. Although some may seem to live the life of fortune, behind every triumph is ten stories of defeat. Singer/ songwriter Kiryu's musical career serves as no exception. Having succeeded so well so early on, time hid the mystery of what was eventually to come. But like many talented but downtrodden, Kiryu chose perseverance as his guiding light. He made time his tool and has wielded it wisely. Taking his future into his own hands, Kiryu is making a name for himself while exploring the furthest recesses of his musical mind. And nothing can stop him now. With the level of commitment and resources that he has devoted, it is unsurprising to find out that Kiryu felt the pull of music when he was just a toddler in Osaka. Unique awareness as a vocalist, he focused his attention on becoming just that. “I was spellbound. I don’t know why.” And by happy coincidence, the fates agreed. One day, at age 14, he discovered an
acoustic guitar in the lumber room of his childhood home and quickly began exploring new avenues: playing the guitar while singing. Now, just because one finds a guitar doesn’t necessarily mean one will be drawn to it. But Kiryu indeed felt the pull. “There are a lot of cool guitarists in the world. They are gorgeous, aggressive, violent and beautiful. The things fascinated me. And I also thought if I can play the guitar and sing, like the guitarists, I’d be a cooler artist.” This discovery may have very well saved his life. In junior high, after relocating to Tokyo, Kiryu’s life spun a bit out of control —alcohol, smoking, adult language, even fighting. On the edge of oblivion and with the distinct possibility of becoming just another statistic, music literally changed Kiryu’s life. This new passion led to new people, new experiences, and all for the better. As a result, Kiryu has developed his musical style to compliment his life and himself. Using music as an artistic tool, it represents more than just a part of his life. “It
describes my existence. My whereabouts.” In high school, Kiryu formed his first band Pen~dant, who quickly went on to participate in the Hot Wave Festival. They won at each stage, beating out 2,000 other bands, and finally made it to the final. As a result, Kiryu was given the opportunity to sing at Yokohama Stadium in front of 25,000. Winning the final stage, he marks this as one of the highlights of his musical life. “It’s the biggest place I ever sang. That was amazing. I’ll sing there again someday.” Becoming the heroes of Meiji Gakuin High School, Pen~dant released their first live album on November 17, 1998 through Columbia Music. Rocketed to stardom, Kiryu was now participating in magazine and radio interviews. It seemed as though he could do anything he wanted. Though his musical career slowed when he decided to attend Meiji University, through joining the department of engineering, Kiryu became a favorite of Shinichi Kobayashi.
Kobayashi asked Kiryu to join his band, R-ONE, as the vocalist. In October 2004, they released their first album, True Story, through Inter Label. Once again thrust into fame, the band led a successful nationwide tour. But this success was short lived. Through a series of lies and broken promises, the band never released a second album. Now depressed and without hope, Kiryu returned to the torment of his younger years. Feeling alone and destroyed, Kiryu wasn’t sure where to turn. In September of 2005, Hurricane Rita devastated America’s Gulf Coast, causing millions of dollars in damage and taking several lives. Kiryu understood the loss they felt but saw the hope in their eyes for a new future. And so Kiryu formed a new band, Rita. Hand-picked by entertainment giant Infini, Rita was ready for whatever may come. But it wasn’t what they had hoped for. After two years with the company, Rita was cut by overzealous producers and Kiryu was faced with defeat once more. But this time, he wasn’t backing down. In April 2007, Kiryu established his own label, White Wolf. Determined to succeed, nothing could stand in his way. “When I was in the entertainment company as an artist, music was just painful for me. There were a lot of complicated things in it.” After striking out on his own, Kiryu discovered more about himself: “I remembered why I was doing music then. I got back to the basics. I liked the music and I wanted to enjoy it. I thought I should do music I believe in. And I kept my faith. I decided to become independent of the entertainment company. And then,
White Wolf was born.” Undoubtedly a product of his past, Kiryu has chosen not to dwell on it. Despite the hardships, he simply refuses to give into the negative. Now solo and independent, he has opened his mind and music to new possibilities. “I don’t wanna be stuck by only music things. I wanna do anything that is mixed up in entertainment.” And with rock band Steal Hearts, for which he is the lead guitarist and main composer, supporting his new ventures, he is well on his way. In May of 2009, Kiryu released his first solo album, Hydra. Approaching his solo music much the same as he approaches his band’s material, he focuses on how to construct the melody line. And claiming to have a concept for everything, Kiryu had a very specific concept in mind for Hydra. “On this album, I wanted to describe the combination of various multi-dimensional elements of music. The new age sound.” Though he is keeping his newer material under tight wraps (It’s “top secret,” he says), he admits that creating new material isn’t always easy: “Arranging sound is difficult. I’m more conscious of groove, harmony and the beauty of things.”
With such a career behind him, what does the future hold for such an artist? Many set their sights on some specific prize: a gold record, performing at a certain venue, even collaborating with another artist. As much as he would love to play the Tokyo Dome with BON JOVI, for Kiryu the future is limitless. “I have no goal. I’ll keep running.” When asked what word he would use to describe his music, his style, everything that is Kiryu, his answer wasn’t what I had expected. The word he chose? “Sexy.” And I think I’ll leave you with that.
by Jess Johnson
owthatyou’vereadabout N him,checkoutKiryuonline: www.k-i-r-y-u.com
sugar* JULY 4th 2009
... Shibuya O-East
ugar’s last oneman live took place on July 4, 2009, at Shibuya O-East. Passing through the entrance, there were many beautiful floral arrangements wishing Sugar luck and encouragement. We ascended the stairs to the balcony level and had the best possible seat a person could ask for – front and center. By 5:30, the audience was already packed, and fans patiently waited for the start time. In the interim, you could hear a few chords being played behind the curtains as the instruments were being tuned and prepped for the show. The concert began promptly at 6pm. The curtains opened, and the stage lights turned on. Atsuto, drummer, walked on stage first.
Then guitarist, Sizna, followed by Shingo, bassist. Loki, the vocalist, strutted on stage with flamboyant confidence and caressed the microphone. Atsuto had multi-colored braids flowing out of his hair. Sizna had a lush mohawk while Shingo’s bleached hair was combed to his right in a beehive style. Loki’s long, wavy locks were a great compliment to his mid-riff baring leather outfit. What happened next was a true test of endurance, and I have new respect for Loki because of it. From the moment he came on stage, Loki sang his heart out for two and a half hours with no break. During the bridges, he would take a drink from his water bottle, but he never stopped moving and sang
every song with such depth and emotion. He did not call it in, and you could see that he was savoring every moment of this live. Loki showed off some of his footloose dancing when he was not singing. While Shingo tended to stay back, content to smile quietly to himself, Sizna moved around with more excitement. Loki was enjoying himself so much that he became entangled in the microphone wires a few times and had to try to get untangled as inconspicuously as he could. At one point, one of the bracelets on his right wrist fell off, and he noticed it but did not let it interrupt his performance. After a few minutes, a stage hand came on stage to pick it up.
At 8:20, they took their first break. The fans screamed â€œEncore! Encore!â€? and finally Atsuto came out to perform his drum solo which was received with enthusiastic applause. Sizna and Shingo returned, and the trio did a jam session for about five minutes before Loki came on stage to offer another 20 minutes of non-stop vocal work. For the second encore, Atsuto shared the many instruments he had learned and about the teachers who trained him. Then he seemed to run out of things to say and looked to stage right, wondering why the others had not come out yet. The audience laughed, as they saw that he was feeling lonely there all by himself. They played for yet another 30 minutes. After the second encore, Loki collapsed on stage to catch his breath. Logical, since the second encore had some of the most aggressive performances of the night. I was amazed that Loki still had the energy to persevere and even lead the audience in jumping and headbanging. It was fascinating to observe the girls in the front row alternating between furious headbanging and becoming suddenly demure.
At 9:30, the band left the stage again, and in the darkness you could see the stage hands putting covers on the speakers. We thought, could that possibly have been the last performance? The fans screamed for more. “Encore! Encore!” After several minutes, the band came back to the delight of the fans. This time, Shingo came out first and thanked everyone for coming, and then asked them what they wanted to hear. A few fan girls screamed, but no clear song was given. When the rest of the band members returned, Loki finally spoke. During this whole night, Loki had not done a single emcee. “Thank you for coming. This is really, really great. I’ve enjoyed myself very much.” And then Sugar played a ballad. At first the lights were dim but slowly brightened while snowflakes fell from the top of the stage. It was a really nice visual effect for the song. This truly was the last song, and as Loki and Sizna were getting ready to bow, Atsuto and Shingo began leaving the stage. Loki called to them, but they did not hear, and he had to run after them and grab their hands to stop them from exiting. They returned to give a bow and received fervent applause from the audience. Sugar exited the stage for the last time.
report by Mai Koua Thao photos courtesy of Sugar
009 ho0w 7.24.2
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OVERâ€™s first live took place at Shibuya AUBE on July 24, 2009. The concert was sold out, and you could feel the enthusiastic anticipation of the audience as the 7:00 pm start time approached. XOVER is the team project of Kouichi (solo project Everlasting K, ex-Laputa) and Shaura (formerly known as JUKA, ex-Moi dix Mois, Hizaki Grace Project). At about 7:10 pm, the black curtains were pulled back and blue lights showered the room. Supporting members Shingo Shimizu (drums) and Masato (bass) entered first. Then Kouichi stepped out to wild applause. When Shaura appeared, fierce screams filled the air. Fans were especially excited to see Shaura in action again after his hiatus from the music scene. The members wore no fancy costumes or outlandish hairdos. Tonight was just about the music. XOVER opened with their hit â€œ~for
... Shibuya AUBE
haling future~,” Shaura looking comfortable and at home as he belted out one strong note after another. Kouichi delighted his fans by frequently jumping up on the platform alongside Shaura throughout the night. During every break, fans endlessly chanted, “Kouichi! Kouichi! Kouichi!” During the first emcee, Kouichi let Shaura speak. Shaura seemed to be holding back his emotions a little as he thanked everyone for coming and showing their support. He was very happy to be singing again, and one could clearly see the joy in his eyes. For the second break there was no emcee, but in the third break Shaura introduced the band members. Shingo Shimizu and Masato got some solo time and rocked the house while Shaura and Kouichi rested. Finally, Kouichi spoke, and he and Shaura shared some playful banter, to the delight of the au-
dience. Shaura teased Kouichi then quickly ran to stage left to avoid Kouichi’s wrath. The two of them seemed to have marvelous rapport. For the third set, Shaura removed the tie from his neck and asked the audience to also bring out something they could wave. Many of the fans brought out their face towels. Prompting the audience to wave, one might think the song would be a ballad, but much to my surprise it was not. It was another hard rock number, as all their songs were tonight. Musically, the songs have a strong sense of direction this time around, as opposed to Shaura’s previous solo work, “7th Sense,” which seemed to lack focus. After the third set, the group left the stage again, but the audience was insatiable and begged for an encore. The band gave two encores, the second time Shaura and Kouichi came out wearing their black matrix coats. They sang “~for haling future~” once again. Alas, this would be the end, and the fans unwillingly, but happily, dispersed. For Juka fans, this concert offers an immense relief as he had taken an indefinite break two years ago due to the formation of throat polyps. If tonight’s performance is any indication, Shaura is on his way to a very strong comeback. This is also great news for Kouichi fans, as all of the songs had great rhythm, and the audience blissfully bopped and jumped the whole concert. It is great to see both of these artists back in action.
VAMPS by Laura Brickman
asted Space is a great little joint just inside of the Hard Rock Casino, right off the strip here in Las Vegas, with large bay windows that open the venue up to the casino floor outside its doors. The venue is set up like a rock club, sporting a dance floor in front of the high rise stage and a multitude of plush booths. A small bar sits off to the side, serving drinks in cups stamped with the “VAMPS” logo. Someone got a little carried away with the drinks, and we watched as a girl was hauled past us by venue staff towards the back. The show was billed as the “VAMPS Official Party,” so it's just like any other night at the bar, right? Not for all, the tour has been set out as a prime opportunity for the power duo Hyde and K.A.Z to set a firm foot in America. Before winding its way around to Vegas, the tour made stops with Warped Tour and trekked across the entirety of the United States. One fan, Amy, took the chance to see her long-time idol Hyde and flew all the way from Australia to California for the show. “Although Japan is closer to travel to than the US,” she tells us, “the advantage of knowing the language here was a definite plus! As well as the fact that getting tickets was much easier for the US shows than for the ones in Japan.” Was all the time and money spent worth it to her? “I'd do it all again in a heartbeat!” Back in Vegas, the band opened with
songs that are familiar to any casual VAMPS listener, but what happened after that is what really surprised me the most. They launched into a set of songs from Hyde’s solo albums including “Jesus Christ,” “Its Sad,” “Countdown,” and “Dolly.” At the end of “Dolly," stage hands swooped around the drummer to replace parts on his drum kit. Yes, they were hitting it that hard. We were then treated to a lovely jazzy interlude featuring Ju-Ken on an upright bass. The lights dimmed further and set the room into a breathless hush. They returned with “Hideaway” and “Midnight Celebration” before Hyde stood up to chat with the crowd for a bit. “I like to gamble, but I always lose! Why?! Yesterday I lost a lot of money.” He turned to Ju-Ken, “Did you win?” “No!” Ju-Ken answers, and Hyde repeats the question with the other band members who didn’t win anything either. Arimatsu, the drummer, chimes up and tells us happily that he won over a grand. Hyde’s flabbergasted. Hyde turned back to the crowd and looked around, “Looking for a cute…little…love! Where’s my baby? Where’s my love?!” The question repeats several more times before they launched back into their set. Their rendition of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” a track only available as a B-side off of one
photos: courtesy of VAMPS of Hyde’s singles, was a special treat and the cover of “Trouble” set the room ablaze. Ever seen a Lolita decked out in glow sticks freely jumping up and down? Me neither, but the whole room moved this way almost the entire night. I think that a lot of people dismiss VAMPS as some mishmash side project with no guts or glory. “We’ve heard this all before,” has been said to quite an extent. Yet, I was standing in the middle of Wasted Space, and I couldn’t help but think to myself that surely all of VAMPS’ critics couldn’t deny the incredible energy of their live performances. Then again, I think Hyde is in the habit of surprising people. After all, this is the man who once performed in a school girl outfit for Halloween.
... Los Angeles
n the heat of this blistering summer, Jrock kicked it up a notch during Anime Expo in Los Angeles. Con attendees had the opportunity to see performances by Auncia, Moi dix Mois, Satsuki, and were given a chance to meet guitarist Tomo from Echostream. Moi dix Mois kicked things off early on Thursday, July 2nd, with the first concert of the convention. Later that same night, Auncia hit the stage as an energetic conclusion to the Battle of the Bands. Unknown to a lot of people, this was actually their second performance that week, as they had secretly taken the stage for a surprise live at Rusika's Otogenic event. On Friday, Jshoxx sat Auncia down at their booth with some pens for a surprise autograph session. News quickly spread, and the growing crowd threatened to take over the convention floor. Despite security, Jshoxx, and Auncia working together to keep things under control, the line was shut down by the convention.
Saturday turned out to be the busiest day for Jrock fans. Satsuki had two singing sessions: one at the convention, and one at the Cure Junle shop along with Auncia. Not to be outdone, Tomo of Echostream personally hit the convention floor with his staff in order to pass out fliers and invite people to his meet and greet at the Cure booth. When he rounded the corner towards his autograph session he expressed surprise at the large crowd waiting for him. His hard work paid off and turned into a meet and greet that rivaled even Auncia and Satsuki's. After fans got their turn with Auncia and Satsuki at the Cure Jungle shop, everyone headed over to 2nd Street Jazz for that night's show. Auncia opened and gave their best, despite a less than ideal stage setup and severe sound level problems. "These guys give it their all," an onlooker told us. "You have to admire that." Satsuki's only performance that weekend really stole the show. He playfully bantered with the
crowd in English between songs. The set was bandless, backed only by a tape, but here it rarely mattered. There's nothing phoned-in about his natural singing voice. Crystal clear. His guitar became little more than a stage prop when he got so wrapped up in the vocals that he forgot to keep playing it. Yet, nothing could have been more elegant than the number he played on the piano. The funniest moment for Askew that weekend came when Satsuki stood up on the lip of the stage with his stash of paper notes. "Yesterday, I learned some new English." Pause for dramatic effect. "What the hell are you doing?!" The room erupted into laughter. We're not sure if there is a clear answer to that question, but a fun-filled weekend in California was probably a part of it.
by Laura Brickman
his issueâ€™s GEARBOX features a very unique artist to the Visual scene: Jimi from the up-and-coming band Chemical Pictures. Joining prominent artists such as Kurtâ€™s ex-vocalist Tenten and guitarist Joe (formerly of Sugar Trip), Jimi cranks up the bass as one of the only Americans in the Visual rock industry of Japan. Askew Magazine sits down with Jimi to talk about bass, music, and inspiration.
:J i m i
Tell us about your current setup please.
• My current bass is a black 5-string Ibanez SR305; I like the relatively smaller body and the very versatile EQ. I use Elixer strings, .045.105 plus .130. Some people don't like the coating or the way it wears down, so I avoided them in favor of D'Addario, which I still keep as a backup set, usually. My dad introduced me to the Elixers, however, and I don't care how ugly the strings start to look, because they still sound great for a long time. For cables, I use CBI Bottom Zone. When using a wireless rig, I have a Line 6 X2 Digital Wireless. It is the easiest thing in the world to use, which is great for someone like me who likes to keep things simple, isn't really a gearhead, and still has a lot to learn regarding sound equipment. I bought it at Guitar Center in the US during a great sale. [Guitar Center is a musical megastore in the US, popular on the West Coast] Japan could use a Guitar Center, but I worry it'll get just as full of kids trying to play Metallica as an American one.
Where do you buy stuff then if there’s no Guitar Center? • There's a Guitar Center near my home back in the States, but for my normal musical needs I just spend half a day wandering around Ochanomizu [a part of Tokyo that’s chock full of music stores].
What about amps and pedals? • My preamp is a 3-channel programmable Sansamp Bass Driver DI. I don't use any other effects pedals at the moment. I usually play through Ampeg amps during live shows, though I am often beholden to the amps that the venues provide onsite.
Do you have a separate set of amps for live versus recording? • In a live setting I'm limited to what the live
house has, which is usually an Ampeg combination of some sort that I'm generally pleased with. Before I was playing larger venues or heavier music, I would often just go from a direct box into the PA system and use a practice amp as a monitor. Now I have to compete with two loud, effects-laden guitarists! But for recording, studios have a lot more resources at their disposal, especially since everything is digital and almost any effect or amp can be simulated. During recording for "In My Dream," I used my Sansamp as a direct box and plugged directly into the board and sound system, preferring to get a dirty tone that way. During recording for the Praparat single, I recorded through the Sansamp first and then put those tracks through an Acoustic head. That way I was able to mix and simulate different bass tones. In "Praparat" for example I needed a funkier slap bass and in the middle it goes into a sort of fretless sound, and in "Reincarnation" I made a picked J-bass tone and then ran it through a Boss Blues Driver in a couple of spots. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what other sort of big toys I'll be able to play with when we record some of our other songs.
What kind of bass do you prefer, or what’s a brand you really enjoy playing? • I used to be a 4-string purist, but having gone to 5 strings I don't think I can go back. I definitely like my Ibanez, but there certainly is something to be said for the standard Fender J- and P-basses as well. I'm also interested in Warwick basses, as I've always liked their tone. Once my dad built his own bass from scratch when he was a teenager and he uses it to this day. That might be the best bass I've ever played.
Well, if you could buy any bass in the world, what would you buy and why? • Rickenbacker used to make two models of 5-string basses, but they discontinued them some years ago. I'd love to track down one or both, if money were no object.
I heard you're quite the musical genius. What else can you play besides bass?
• My basic style is pretty funky; I want to make people want to dance or move somehow, no matter what genre I'm playing. I don't want to be completely overshadowed by a talented guitarist, so I incorporate lots of slap technique as well as tapping, strummed chords, and harmonics to try to stand out without stepping outside my boundaries, or I like to double a fast or complex guitar riff. I try to be as versatile as possible to meet the demands of whatever music is thrown at me, especially since Chemical Pictures incorporates lots of styles, and I am sometimes called on to play decidedly un-Chemical-Pictures-like music for other work. Chemical Pictures is a band that shifts sounds a lot, from alternative, to jazz, to metal, blues, punk, funk, anything that gets us movin' and groovin'. My guitarists use almost no low end in their sound, solidly occupying the trebles and highmids, so I have to really support with the bass frequencies and utilize the low-mids if I want to cut through at all.
• Almost everyone in my family is a musician in some form, so I was surrounded by all sorts of instruments in the house growing up. My mom taught me piano from a very young age, and introduced me to a lot of classical piano music that I still enjoy, with my favorites being Debussy and Rachmaninoff, and to a lesser extent Khachaturian and Chopin-- basically anything that sounds lush and dreamy. My dad then taught me the basics of guitar and bass around the same time, then turned me loose, so I also play guitar competently enough, I guess. I do almost all of my composition on guitar, anyway.
Wait, you compose your bass lines on a guitar? • Actually, vocal melody comes first, and then I craft guitar chords and parts around that. Only when drums are figured out do I even think about putting bass in the song! I start thinking about the bass when the song comes together in band form with all the others.
Anything else you play? • I taught myself how to play drums when playing in bands that took more breaks during rehearsal than actual rehearsing. There was also a short stint when I was younger playing the trumpet but I lacked the drive on that one and felt artistically liberated when I could finally quit!
What about your musical style has changed or grown since joining Chemical Pictures?
I have enjoyed the unspoken challenge to become more versatile, and even if a line I'm playing sounds simple, to make it my own somehow. I've learned how to put more emotion into my sound and playing, which I must have missed when I was playing jazz for five years! With playing more complex music, my ear has gotten a lot better too in regards to crafting the right sound. In general, I'm just learning so much so quickly, filling the sometimes embarrassing gaps in my knowledge.
How long have you played in bands? • I've been performing from a young age, but as for bands, I started in several long-term projects almost simultaneously in 7th grade or so, with other musician friends from school. The first was a progressive-rock/ jazz inspired outfit I played keyboards for that performed very sporadically at first but eventually morphed into a straight-up jazz combo. There were a few lineups for that; I played bass briefly but ended up enjoying jazz piano a lot more. That group ended at the end of high school, and since I haven't constantly been around a piano since then my piano skills have regrettably gone way down, although I would love to work them back up. Also, starting in junior high I'd formed a ska/punk band that
went on for about the same amount of time. I was the singer and guitarist for that group. We played a lot, mostly school events and stuff. I had a lot of fun in that band, but we also broke up toward the end of high school. I spent my final year of high school in a flurry of different musical projects, from goth rock to hip-hop, but ultimately I was trying to focus on college stuff, so they weren't terribly serious efforts.
What made you decide to start playing in visual bands? • For Visual Kei and stuff, I first came across it via one of my teachers in Japanese school back home, and I thought it was interesting, and I was aware of a small handful of groups but I still had all these other styles I was consuming, like progressive rock and other contemporary Japanese popular music that comes with the territory of being in Japan or surrounded by Japanese speakers. In fact, after living in Japan for a little bit and feeling the itch to get back into performing again, I was really looking for any sort of band, and Visual never really entered my mind. For a lot of different reasons, many groups didn't work out, but the large majority of the people I'd met when I interviewed with Visual bands treated me so utterly normally that I knew this is where I needed to be, somehow. It was so much less about my perceived advantages or disadvantages as a non-Japanese, and more about my ability as a player and my character as a person, and that's been my biggest motivator. I made some contacts in the beginning, and you never know where those friendships will take you. So far they've led me to Chemical Pictures, and it's pretty exciting. As for the actual Visual side, I've done a lot of theater work, too, so I'm used to wearing funny clothes and makeup, so to me that was never a hang-up. Some people back home had a hard time understanding it all at first, such as saying we look like girls or it's weird or scary. But the more they realized that I was still Jimi, they now seem sort of proud of me.
What artists do you particularly admire? Any inspirations? • Even though I consider my strongest instrument these days to be bass, I tend not to focus on the bass as much as I should when I listen to most music. Even among my favorite bands, like Yes or Dream Theater, I actually pay attention to everything equally because there is so much going on. And in the case of Yes's bassist, Chris Squire, whom I admire a lot, my sound and playing style are almost his complete opposite. I suppose what I take
from him are his unique voicings, as he sort of doesn't play the bass like a bass. Having mentioned Dream Theater, of course, I have to say I like John Myung and his ability to match a lot of what John Petrucci plays, and he is just all-around talented. He also sort of makes me want to try a 6-string on stage soon. Tony Levin also plays the Chapman Stick wonderfully and I think it would be kind of neat to bring some of that into the mix. So as for bassists I actually do take stylistic cues from, I definitely prefer funk and R&B bassists. Les Claypool (Primus), P-Nut (311), and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) showed me funk and slap from a rock perspective, and through jazz I became familiar with Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, Brian Bromberg... this is one of those situations where I could go on, but I'll just leave it like this. I'm certainly just a baby when it comes to some of the techniques I'm trying to incorporate, especially when compared to a lot of those phenomenal musicians. I'd like to see more bassists in Visual try to go just as overthe-top musically as some of their guitarists. There are already a few around that I can think of, and certainly bassists better than me, so I've got high hopes for the state of bass in Visual.
What are you listening to a lot lately? • I enjoy listening to the other bands we play with when we're out on the road; it gives me a sense of immediacy to the scene and it's exciting when we can talk about which songs from each others' repertoire we like. Other than that I've been digesting Kaela Kimura's new album “Hocus Pocus.” While I wait for my next post-rock fix, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with the newest album by The Dear Hunter. [Act III: Life and Death] And Chemical Pictures demos!
Chemical Pictures is going to release its debut single Praparat soon. What can listeners expect to hear from you and your bandmates? • Praparat has a lot going on in it so I hope everyone finds something to enjoy. I hope we can attract people who don't just like one style or another, but music of all kinds. That said, you can expect us to bring the rock!
interview by Rubab Rizvi
uiya is the vocalist of up-and-coming Nagoya Visual Kei band DecoLa Hopping. Female vocalists are still rare in the scene today, and Suiya is one of the first in the "Oshare Kei" genre. Her band's cute aesthetic combined with her powerful death vocals make for a fresh combination that's sure to be turning heads. Askew had a chat with Suiya about how she got her start in music and what it's like in the Visual Kei scene for a woman today...
• When did you first start with music?
• Do you compose the music for the band and/or write the lyrics?
Ah,butinthedressingroomsthere's oftenonlyonetoilet(andusuallythey areforbothmenandwomen),soIhave tobecarefulthere...
IguessitallstartedwhenIwasabout fiveyearsoldanddidmusicatschool. Istartedoffwithplayingkeyboard. Then,inmyschoolclubsIwasinthe marchingbandandthewoodwind club.Ialwayshadhadaninterestin rockbands,butIneverreallyacted uponit...NowIkindofregretthat.I wantedtoplayguitar![laughs]
Isometimeswritethemusic. Usually,I’llcontributeamelodytothe riffsthattheothermembersmake.I writemostofthelyrics. Ihaveawoman'spointofviewandall theothermembersareguys,sothey can'treallyinterferewithmywriting. [laughs]
• When did you start singing?
• Which female musicians do you admire?
• Do you get much fanmail from overseas fans?
IfirststartedsingingwhenImadea coverband(whichleadtotheformationofDecoLaHopping).Iguessthat wasaboutthreeandahalfyearsago now.Butifwe'retalkingaboutdoing livesproperlyandearningmoney,it wouldonlybelikeayearandahalfat most.IguessyoucansayI'mstill ahatchling![laughs]
Asfarasvocalistsareconcerned, deathvoicesinparticular,Iadmire ArchEnemy'sAngelaGossow.Women's deathvoicesarereallyamazing.Not onlythat,butheraddedweaponisher womanlinessbecauseshe'ssopretty, andshealsohasanamazingpresence; becauseofthatIadmireheralot. AsforJapaneseartists,IthinkYuki, fromJudy&Mary,andShiinaRingo arereallycool.Bothofthemunhesitatinglyexpresstheirworldview,and theydothingstheirownway,different fromotherartists,buttheyarealso acceptedinthemainstream. Ithinkthat'sgreat.
Yes,sometimesIdo!Itmakesmereallyhappy.However,I'mprettybadat English,soevenifIkindofunderstand whattheletterisabout,Ioftencan't reply,andthat'sapity.Somebody translateforme!![laughs]
• What other bands do you respect?
• Your band's image is very bright and colorful. What are you visual influences?
• Can you play any instruments?
Mainlypianoandsaxophone,abitof trumpetandclarinet,andI'veeven touchedonviolinabit. • I noticed in your single Papillon you use death voice. Tell me a bit about your singing style.
WhenIsingindeathvoice,Idon't usemythroat.Ifocusongettingdeep soundscomingupfrommystomach areabecauseI'mawoman,andIdon't likescreeching,high-pitcheddeath voices...Butthat'sjustmy ownstyleIguess.
Ican'tthinkofanybandnames,butI reallyrespectbandsthatdothingsfor charity.IfIbecomemorefamous,I wouldalsoliketodothat. • Is it difficult to be a female artist in VK?
Peopleaskmethatalot,butit'snot likethat.[laughs]Therearelotsof femaleroadiesandhairandmake-up staffaround,soit'snotthatunforgiving. staff around, so it's not that unforgiving.
• Are your fans mostly male or female?
Theyaremainlyfemale!IknowIhave somehiddenmalefans,soIwantthem tocomeoutofthewoodworkandstop hidingfromme.[smiles]
• You have a very unique hair style. What is your inspiration and how long does it take you to do it?
Thankyou!Myinspirationis...Well, Ithinkaboutwhatwouldmatchmy costume,andsomehowitjustcomesto mindlike"Bingo!"WhenIgetmyhair andmakeupdone,ittakes30minutes toanhourIthink.
Ilikethingsthataredream-like(like fairies,princesses,andtalkinganimals orinanimateobjects)orunrealistic picturebooksandmanga.AndIalso likeDisneymoviesandDisneylandand itsparadesandshows,soIalsouse themasareference. interview by Jessica Hodgins
This issue's Backstage features Yukika, musical artist gone producer. As the former vocalist of many independent bands (such as Et Cetera, Fils, and Clutch) and currently the only known member of Buddy, Yukika has set out on a mission to scout new talent. Through his label, A heretic sound music, Yukika seeks to give opportunity to Visual Kei bands with great potential.
interview by Laura Brickman
• For someone who is not affiliated with your work, how would you introduce what you do?
gressive sound, so I wanted to help them make it.
Y: Generally, I’m someone who produces and promotes new indie bands, to show a fresh side of visual kei.
• Would you say that is the quality you look for when you decide to bring a band to a label? Aggressive sound?
• So you only produce Visual Kei?
Y: Visual Kei doesn’t necessarily always have to be heavy. Visual is the most important aspect, of course. A band’s sound doesn’t really matter; any kind of sound from soft to heavy can fit into it.
Y: No, it includes some general rock bands as well.
• When you first started the label, was it something you’d had experience with before, or was it totally new for you? Y: I had plenty of experience with my own band. For the experiences that I didn’t have expertise, I did get support from others, but I went out on my own two feet to seek new talent from far parts of the country.
• What made you decide to move from your own band to starting your own label? Y: I found bands that I thought should be out there, bands that should have the chance, like I did, to go after their dream. So, I decided to start doing this. There’s not much help for bands with a more ag-
• What makes your business unique from the other labels out there? Y: Well, the visual aspect. My label is first and foremost a label for Visual Kei bands.
• Is marketing overseas an important plan for your company right now in addition to promoting in Japan? Y: For me, I’m not just thinking about Japan. I’d like to give audiences overseas a big chance as well by promoting and touring overseas.
• Would you market differently overseas? Y: Even though the bands may be popular
in Japan, I think once they go overseas, they have to start from zero all over again because they are fresh to foreign countries.
• When it comes to sales, do you feel that live shows or CD sales are more important? Y: Live ticket sales.
• What's the easiest thing a fan can do to support their favorite band? Y: For fans, the best thing you can do is come to the lives. Plus, buying CDs and merchandise at the concert shows them your support. Just supporting them overall as fans and encouraging them on helps, too.
• What advice can you offer for people who want to get into the music business as a manager or working with bands? Y: Believe in your own mind and have your own confidence. For anyone who wants to enter this industry, you need to believe in your own ability. Just be active in pursuing your goals and do what needs to be done.
Billy Goss DIM is the sound of a band finding their sound. After the relative disappointment of 2007’s Stacked Rubbish, it’s good to see that instead of copying its scattered approach of clashing styles and moods, DIM is much more thematically unified, stronger in identity and a gripping show of force from a band more confident in their abilities. There is almost an hour of music here, peppered with brief interludes to give the listener a respite from an otherwise dark and bleak album. The new version of “Guren” features more prominent acoustic guitar and slightly altered vocals and sounds stronger here than it did a year ago. By contrast, “LEECH” redux is robbed of its bite by a dull mix that numbs the guitars. It is unfortunate that the band felt the need to change this song as it was perfectly fine in its original form. Of the new songs, “THE INVISIBLE WALL” stands out as a highlight with its pounding riff
and driving rhythm, but the true star of the show is “13STAIRS [-] 1.” Gloriously pulsating and snarling through its slow burner opening, the song then thunders into a grinding head-banger. Positioned perfectly as the tenth track on the album, it manages to keep things interesting rather than allow itself to drift into the mid-album lull that plagued Stacked Rubbish. It sounds completely different from anything The Gazette has tried before and it will go down as one of the best songs in their catalogue. “IN THE MIDDLE OF CHAOS” will divide fans with its very Western power chord structure, but the album ends a little too typically with a fast heavy song (in this case “OGRE”) and an eerie but heavy slow song (“DIM SCENE” - doing exactly what previous closers “Taion” and “Chizuru” did better). It’s a minor complaint in what is an impressive comeback from the jewel in the PSCompany crown. We will see if The Gazette can maintain this high standard with the single Before I Decay, due for release this October.
laura Brickman The Gazette returns with this explosive new album nearly two years after the release of Stacked Rubbish. If there was an album out there this year that would be capable of heading up against American music, this one would definitely be it. Its walls are lined with great production, a mixture of pop-rock aesthetics and metal, as well as The Gazette's surprising capabilities to continually write excellent music. Yeah, you have to pick that out from the pointless and sometimes insane non-song tracks (What the hell is going on in "Shikyuu?"), but that's such standard practice now I doubt anyone finds the trick either artistic or surprising at this point. "13STAIRS [-] 1" is obviously the best thing this band has put out in a long time, but it is a perfect accumulation of the path these
TheGazette's Evan BEnnEr Following the very first listen, DIM created a multitude of frustrations for me. While it contains some of The Gazette’s best work, it also continues to show their struggle with a few key elements. After a few days, however, these frustrations gave way to the complete acceptance that this album does significantly well at showcasing a much more solid and mature Gazette. First, allow me to vent my frustrations over the amount of material from the preceding singles, even including a B-side track. Omit the several SE tracks, annoying at best and adding nothing substantial to the album as a whole, and disregard the intro track that sounds uncannily similar to Dir en grey’s “SA BIR,” and one will observe a significant amount of material that has already been released. SE tracks aside, the inarguable successes
of the album are “THE INVISIBLE WALL,” “A MOTH UNDER THE SKIN,” and perhaps their saving grace, “13STAIRS [-] 1.” “A MOTH UNDER THE SKIN” disappoints only in length and in its almost bewilderingly chopped finish. “THE INVISIBLE WALL” could perhaps be improved only by changing Ruki’s glottal warbles into harder, fuller screams. The rerecorded version of “LEECH” did well by upgrading the hit single with better balance. The invitation of strings to “DIM SCENE,” the distinctly Asian pentatonic Shingo of "Nakigahara," and the well utilized electronic effects ultimately prove to be effectual and impressive. Fans hoping for a nod to their previous works would find “THE INVISIBLE WALL” and “IN THE MIDDLE OF CHAOS” to be quite suitable, but the majority of the album is a significant transgression into a band seemingly having found a much more reliable sound that speaks wonders for them. However, their continued struggle with creating effectual slow songs remains pretty apparent,
guys have been headed down for a while. I'm not convinced that the backing vocals aren't another member of the band, but I could be wrong. It just sounds so unlike Ruki. Even if that new direction isn't to your taste, this album is full of material that hearkens back to even their earlier works. "OGRE" reminds me so much of the fun thrasher "DISCHARGE" off of their 2006 album [NIL], except that "OGRE" is pitted with random pits of slowness. It doesn't work for the CD but is probably fun for the mosh pit when played live. The album just drops off flat into the introduction for "DIM SCENE," which doesn't match the gutted edge of "Taion" or "Chizuru" from previous albums. Yet, with all of this album's shortcomings it's hard not to be left with the feeling that The Gazette are out there, successfully cutting a path of their own.
www.pscompany.co.jp/gazette and perhaps a better awareness of the length of these might do them well. The few songs that still touch a sore spot are “Shiroki Yuutsu” and “OGRE,” which do much to confuse my overall perception of the album. "OGRE" exhibits nonsensical pace alteration and tasteless monotony of vocals. Surprisingly enough, there were several points throughout where I was expecting to hear their staple female R&B backing vocals, but their use was much more limited. I would be very intrigued to hear a second version of “THE INVISIBLE WALL” with an increase in the R&B, but there’s no denying that the current version is thoroughly satisfying. All taken into consideration, The Gazette seems to have developed a successful concept album with a varied, balanced, and overall well realization of their sound. Such stabilization was much needed after the extreme highs and lows of Stacked Rubbish.
by Evan Benner
here are several aspects about LOKI that make them stand out from the typical scene. First, one might notice that LOKI is composed of only four members, something not commonly seen in a scene dominated by five-member bands. Both guitarists provide vocals, with YUI taking the role as lead vocals and Kazuhiro Negoro taking on a choral role. They are joined by bassist CRJU (read as one might imagine it is said, “Kerju”) and drummer Tumi. Another distinguishing factor for LOKI is their mixture of styles that lend a brooding detachment to the feel of their sound
and bright, upbeat grooves that bring the music to life as though it were a material force.
One might be able to distinguish subtle elements similar to Nagoya-based band Deadman, but mixed up with a more pop-oriented melodic base. It’s an intriguing combination, because although they use nearly pop melodies, their sound maintains the sensation of some underlying melancholy. It works well alongside their clean but darker visuals. Hopefully it won’t take too long for this Kyoto-based band to grab listeners’ attentions.
Lostthing of MeMory
Although still a young band, having only formed in March of 2009, ASLLICIA has already begun to develop a well-varied sound. They've just released their first demo as of June, but the two songs set a great foundation for diverse releases to follow. (You can read a full assessment of the demo in the reviews on Askew’s website!) ASLLICIA’s style blends high-pitched and melodic vocals, layered guitar melodies, and diverse rhythmic percussion. The lineup consists of Tommy, former vocalist of Start with Topknot, guitarist Junk (Start with
This two man, two woman quartet began their activity in 2006, and they recently celebrated the release of their first mini album, -DEAR SILENCE-. Their style is composed of smooth, deep female vocals and bass grooves, both provided by Cra, steady drum rhythms by yato, and wide ranged guitar melodies by Makoto and MASA. LICKER is currently signed to Crow Music, home to bands like Villain, n’Dool, Whiteblack, and formerly Aikaryu.
Topknot), guitarist Shoichi, and bassist Take (formerly of Shit Alive). The latter three also function as a backup chorus for the vocal lines. Completing the lineup is drummer Shige. ASLLICIA's sound takes form as a conglomeration of their diverse experiences in their former bands, coming to fruition as emotional, melodic, and expressive musicality. It won’t take much for this band to outshine much of the extensive emotional rock scene in Tokyo music underground.
hard to rival. LICKER has made a lot of progress since their demo releases, with their latest mini album reflecting their growth. They have a lot of potential, made clear by their improvements in recording and their noted live, a combination that many bands fail to succeed on both levels.
If there is any one adjective that would describe them, it would be melodic. Their sound is relative to that of exist†trace, and word of mouth has assured me that their live presence is
Though it has only been two and a half years since the formation of the five-member Lostthing of Memory, their momentum seems to be increasing at an uncontrollable rate. Incorporating influences of Heavy Rock, Pop, and Screamo, they brand their style with the term “Melodramatic Rock.” As melodramatic as it may be, the prominent melodies provided by vocalist Ryo, accompanied by the choral screams by guitarist mios, result in a style both emotional and enjoyably
inciting. Adding to their layered instrumentals are guitarist Yudai, bassist Tanaka, and drummer Kenryo. Anyone interested in hearing what this band has to offer might find their self-titled EP easily suited for that purpose. The songs are uploaded to their MySpace in full, and I’d suggest beginning with “Lost Answer.” Also posted are full songs from their first full album, Picture, released in June of this year.