Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Live Report 11/23/08, Urawa Narciss: LAVERITE, Vagu Project, etc


We'd known that Yue was going to be leaving for awhile, so we wanted to make the circumstances surrounding it as maudlin as possible. If Visual is anything, it is purposefully artificially melodramatic.


I mean, don't get me wrong; Ryota and I are indeed quite bummed that Yue won't be with us anymore, but we framed the whole thing around the concept of "graduation", as most Japanese bands do. And since Yue is against the idea of being in a band ever again, it certainly does feel like "growing up" to him. I sincerely respect this and am in awe at his resolve.


Preparations began last week at our final studio rehearsal. Ryota had prepared a new opening song to play as we came on stage, the incidental music to some old TV drama; and the new free CD was a music-box version of Sephirot. Ryota explained to everyone that it should be like a lullaby: "we'll be gone for awhile, but put this song on, go to sleep, and dream; when when you wake up, we'll be there."

How ridiculous is that? :D


Another thing we'd decided is that frankly we were just done with our costumes. We liked the graduation theme so we decided to wear suits, which was evocative of Raphael in particular. Luckily I was in the market for a new suit so I easily justified the purchase, and even got a discount because I was super nice to the older lady helping me out. (It's amazing how much being personable will get you over here.)


These are the CDs that we prepared; it was the first time we'd distributed something in a standard jewel case so I felt proud, I suppose.


Someone sent us floooooooowerrrrrrrrrrs


I got a haircut & straightening too, again at Harajuku Lipps, which is the place for which I was a dancer/hair model back in April at the Gatsby/Choki Choki event. They always do a great job and are always doing a lot of work for models and magazines. They are STILL giving me a scandalous discount so of course I keep going back. The fact that they count me as a friend helps too. If you click on "staff" and then on "photo" down at the bottom, there are a few pictures from that event.

It's nice to have bangs to speak of, it feels much easier to style, and of course I'm stick straight again. I've had this urge lately to start over and go back to my natural difficult curliness. I will probably regret this.

Yue has a cool hat.


The staff at Narciss has always taken great care of us, above and beyond the care I feel a band like us really deserves. Hidetora, formerly of G.O.Z VII, has been a particular friend of Laverite, giving us great advice, introducing us to great people, and the like. He also was able to get us to go last that night, "seeing as how this is an important night for you guys", and the staff was more than willing to make the schedule so.

Unfortunately this meant an awful lot of waiting. We got to Narciss at 11:30am with the other guys to load equipment into the place and filled out the paperwork for the show (guest list, reservation list, member pass list, song list with lighting cues and PA requests, I think that's it). Since the rehearsal order is the reverse of the performance order, we started setup immediately to begin rehearsal right at 11:50. That took until maybe 10 past, and then... waaaaaaaiting. Foreeeeeeever.


Luckily, Vagu Project was going to go on right before us, so we both had a lot time to wait, so we got to hang out a little bit in the dressing room to pass the time. Keita even came to see me, as I'd given him a pass, and we got to hang out before I had to go down and get ready. That night was also Masaki's birthday party, which I, for obvious reasons, was unable to attend. Keita took a little video message of me first, though, and then went down to watch us.

I was more nervous than I can remember, which is strange, because Ryota, Yue and I all had a beer before the show to prevent that very thing. Ryota barely drinks and ended up not drinking over half of his. Lightweight! Worse than me!

Typically numbers for Laverite are fairly low, but this time there were a staggering amount of people in the place. Inertia was there, Kyu, Bunny, Keita, one of the girls from the Lolita shoot I interpreted for this summer, long-time fans and new faces.


It felt great. Energy resonates back and forth between musicians and listeners and builds to high tension. We played Sephirot, Tenkuu no Kanata e, Kamen no Butoukai, Sexy Dance, and SOLIDARITY. Yue had a nice little MC after Sephirot, and just before Solidarity, we each said a little something. I thanked everyone for supporting this silly little group, and then switched to English to thank the large number of foreigners there that evening.

I love the new suit, and with the new hair and slightly different makeup I felt more intense in my performance. Yue was on a roll, and while Ryota would tell me he made a few mistakes (typical Ryota grumbling!), I thought he was fantastic.

During Solidarity, I was beaming like an idiot (standard fare), when I spotted one of the girls in the very front row with an inexplicably forlorn look on her face, and man I had to look away or I woulda started looking equally sad.

And then it was over.


We went back, the curtains closed, and the album I always hear at Narciss, Abandoned Pools' "Humanistic" (which the PA guy always plays when we're there because he knows I love that album), come over the house speakers, and we paused to let things sink in. We heard typical post-show chatter from the fans through the backstage door. We, however, were silent. "And that's it," said Yue.

And then, "En-co-re! En-co-re!"

Wait, what? Us?

The backstage phone rang. Yue answered. He listened, then said, "Yes, we'll do it."

The chanting continued, and real quick we three just said, "Criticism? Yeah, we'll do Criticism," and one of the stagehands came back and said, "whenever you're ready."

I went out first, and then silence, which is the reaction that tends to accompany me. Ryota and Yue followed and a fan in the front row got Yue's attention and gave him a bouquet of flowers. It was seriously all Elagabalus up in there with all the flowers.


Then followed the wildest performance of Criticism we've done. It felt good. It does not feel good, however, two days later, and it especially did not feel good the day after either. I am in paaaaaaaain. Good pain. (Just kidding, pain is pain.)

Then a quick jaunt out front to greet fans, then back inside to clean up and talk to a potential new singyman maybe don't hold me to that, and then cleanup, which also meant taking home the huge bouquets at the door. At the demachi we went around to every girl waiting out there in the cold and gave them a flower.

So Laverite is on hiatus. I plan on doing sessions and other stuff and mostly just taking a break I guess, but Laverite isn't quite done yet. Things look moderately up in a lot of respects.

One is a session band with Hidetora (Akira, G.O.Z VII), with him on vocals, Yuuichi (G.O.Z VII) on drums, Kayuki (Homura) on guitar, and me on bass! That'll be December 8th at Narciss, so come check it out!


Yue will always be a friend; he is a genuinely good guy. I'm glad he's happier these days. ^_^

Thanks to everyone's well-wishes and support, whether you came to see us or not, we three were able to have a really neat year together.

What am I going to write about in the meantime?? :-P

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Night Before


It's the night before our final show. My new suit is hanging up ready to go, my new makeup is packed away, and am very glad I got my new haircut. We're playing with Vagu Project, we've got a sizeable reservation list. I'm very proud of the CD we're giving out, paltry though it may be, and I am in LOVE with the new song we take the stage to. I have a very promising meeting afterward with the Narciss staff as well.

It's more appropriate for my home country, but I really feel like hugging Yue and Ryota.

if they cry i am going to laugh at them and then probably cry too D:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jimi interviewed by: Kate


This time, Kate asks me about giiiiiiiiiiiiiiirls

Kate - the girls at lives seem really young. how do they act around you?

Jimi - They are indeed quite young. Most of them are in high school, so between 15 and 18. Of course there are quite a few girls in their 20s that come, and then a small handful of older and much older, but most of them are in that high school - to - mid-20's range.

Most of them act shy and nervous and it takes them a huge amount of courage to come up and talk to us or ask to by pictures or ask us to sign something, and I think that's adorable, so I really hope they had a good time. Some of them can be a little bold, but so far I haven't felt uncomfortable or afraid at any moment around any of them. And then of course lots of them don't pay me any mind at all! :D Or I'm just oblivious and can't tell.

Jimi interviewed by: Fuzzurin


Today, Fuzz and I are going to talk about touring and friends.

Fuzzurin - I had a question about the "scene," as well. How does touring work with VK bands and bands in general in Japan? I read a Dir en grey interview once where they were quoted saying that they don't actually travel around in a bus, they fly to each location, then go home, and fly to the next place. Are things like this common?

Jimi - Japan is roughly the same size as California, but it's not nearly as easy to get around by car as it is back in the states. (And I know L.A. traffic is rough, but I'm not from L.A.) A bus would just constitute an 8-hour drive to Osaka overnight, and that sounds horrible.
I'm only a dinky little band dude, and really I shoulda asked Hizaki or Ryo how this all works, but there are quite a few smaller airports around the major cities where bands like Deg play when on tour, so I can only assume they ship the equipment ahead of time and then catch up with it on a plane. I can't really say if it's common, because most bands we play with drive around in their vans and don't go much farther than Shizuoka or Nagoya (if they ever leave Kanto, that is), which isn't a terrible drive. I'm going to have to say that I'll get back to you on this, as a simple phone call could clear all this up.

Fuzzurin - Also, are bands usually close friends in VK bands in Japan? It seems as though most bands in America are like a family, but I've heard that things can be more impersonal in bands in Japan.

Jimi - All my bands back home felt like close friends and family, but that was because we were all still in school, saw each other every day, and generally had tons of free time. Here in Japan, I found the Laverite guys through a classified, so we weren't friends before and had no other purpose than doing the business of making music together.

At first I found this new arrangement thrilling; there was no time wasted during rehearsals, preparations were made quickly, efficiently, and economically, which was a stark contrast to the lazing about that plagued some members of my previous bands.

But the fact that I wasn't friends with Yue and Ryota felt weird. We didn't hang out outside of band stuff. Sure we were friendly in the studio and at lives, but other than occasional emailing there wasn't much non-musical communication.

As we went on some of that changed, and in fact the whole Yue leaving thing has brought us closer and tighter as a band and as friends than we had been before. Ironic I know but whatever.

Still, I am much closer friends with dudes in other bands than I am with my own band members. This is because when you play shows together, conversations flow a lot more naturally in that setting than in the deep thinking of whether someone will work in your band or not. My first conversations with "bigger" names in the scene were much less awkward than my first conversation with Ryota, and I honestly believe it's simply a matter of why we're even talking in the first place.

I understand what you mean by impersonal, but I want to stress that readers should take any negative connotations from it.

If you wanna ask me anything, send me an email!

Live with Becca, Shibuya 109


A coupla weeks ago, I played a showcase live with Becca in front of the 109 building in Shibuya.
There had been a TV filming in Osaka to which I had been unable to go, so that morning when I went into Becca's makeshift dressing room to make the requisite greetings, she hugged me and said "I'm so glad we have you back!" and it was really neat to feel like I'm an important little cog.
I look bewildered here because no one has pointed out my Yes shirt yet.
Security was out in force and it felt crazy to be treated like that. I almost didn't like being rushed from one place to another, or getting screams from the crowd almost as excited as the ones they gave to Becca herself. Come on guys, this ain't my show, it's hers!
This crowd extended pretty far and security was trying to keep them within a barricade so as not to block off the street or at least a small walkway.

All these pictures were taken by La Carmina, who unfortunately is no longer in the country, but back home finishing up her book. Due to security and the fast-paced nature of the whole thing we didn't get to speak much, but I thank her for coming out all the same!
Okay fine I'll look like I'm enjoying this! (hint: i was enjoying this)

And I guess you've gotta have a shot of the artist in question, right?

We played 3 songs; the song from the video, one of her other singles, and a Cyndi Lauper cover. Once at 2, once at 4. Some friends had come to see me as well and I made sure to give them a heads up while I was up there. Masaki and Keita came to support me and were making fools of themselves waving and cheering to get my attention. I adore those two.

Afterward, I came back down relatively disguised (per advice of security) and called Keita to see what he and Masaki were up to. They were playing pool nearby, but he told me to wait in front of 109 and he'd come get me. I was definitely spotted a couple of times by stragglers and asked to take pictures with them, which I don't mind doing at all but it just all felt so strange. It was almost too quick a jump, from lame VK band of questionable popularity to being filmed by the media and squealed at for being someone's fake guitarist. Not complainin' at all, just... a lot to process.

And luckily at the end of the day, it was just me playin' billiards with some buddies, going home, and trudging to work the next day like normal. I think I can only manage playing dress-up a coupla times a month. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jimi interviewed by: Xio



This time, Xio had some questions about the "scene"--WHATEVER THAT MEANS.

Xio - 1. Is there a social stigma around the visual scene? What does the general public think of the scene? Also, how well-known is it among the general public? Does most any young person in Japan know about vkei or is it only really known by people who follow music closer?

Jimi - From what I gather, most people are at the very least aware of the term. Most music-savvy people will be able to recall a few much older VK bands from that boom period--Luna Sea, Glay, Shazna, and the like. If it wasn't hugely major then no one knows. In terms of any social stigma, I feel like it's viewed, on the surface, as a superficial genre of boys with egos putting looks and popularity over musical ability.
I'm going to agree with that sentiment, insofar as I think that myself and the several earnest fellow VK musicians I've had this discussion with are merely trying to put on a good show and help some lost lonely young people have a cathartic experience and make some friends in the process.

Some people will certainly turn up their nose at the mention. I mean, there certainly is a lot to make light of. I know one girl who saw X on TV when she was a small child and they scared her and she just can't view Visual positively. That's fine.

And in any case, even the "bigger" VK acts we think of in today's scene--Nightmare, Gazette, Alice Nine, et al--are still only really known/paid attention to in the visual scene.

I think I'd sum this up with: those who know about it, know about it.

Xio - 2. A silly but popular U.S. fan rumor/speculation is that some of the bigger people in visual kei are actually associating with organized crime. Is there any backing 'yakuza-like' or 'under the table business' support going on with the bigwigs in vkei, that you know of? Or is it just fans overthinking all the scene heirarchy or, in KENZI's case, taking his image too seriously?

Jimi - I have actually never heard anything about this until recently, and even then only from one non-Japanese. I don't think I'd have gone this long and made the contacts I have without hearing at least a hint of something like this if it were true. And since Kisaki got caught I hardly think it was *organized*, har har!

Again, to many non-Japanese peoples' dismay, I know next to nothing about Kenzi, so.

A lot of money does indeed flow in strange ways but I don't know I'd call it shady or anything. but I think it's just becase I'm not used to how business is done, and indeed I had not come this far in bands back home.

Being completely amateur and indies, I can't really comment about any actual business or being on a label or nothin'. :(

Xio - 3. In relation to the first question, is there a social stigma around *foreigners* in the visual scene? Is it simply the language barrier that puts them off wanting to work with gaijin, or is having a gaijin in your band considered risky business at all?


Jimi - If you're asking about being a foreigner in Japan and going to shows, so long as you're a nice person and you speak Japanese well enough, I think you'd just be a minor curiosity. As for actual working in the scene, the language barrier is HUGE. Almost no one on the Japanese side knows English as well as foreign fans seem to think, and while I admire and appreciate a lot of the effort put forth by organizers and people on the non-Japan side of things, there are many who I think are promoting themselves as though they were actually band people "in" the "scene" as well.

And as far as I'm aware, I'm only the 2nd or 3rd foreigner to do VK in Japan with Japanese people. I can see it being risky if they foreigner didn't speak Japanese (sorry, "music is a universal language!" ain't gonna cut it) or if they didn't play their instrument well enough (a low standard, I realize). But Ryota and Yue hardly gave it a second thought when considering me, they confessed.

Japanese people have been much, much cooler about my foreignness than I had originally expected. And while I have so much great support from all y'all readers, by far the meanest/silliest comments have come from the foreign community.

My big revelation is that, despite differences and misunderstandings, once you get to know people as people and not just their language or their country or race or orientation, things like that suddenly become incredibly unimportant.

Xio - 4. Have you met any bands/artists that weren't exactly the friendliest people? Any dirt at all you can spill about anyone in the scene in particular?

Jimi - Haha, I don't know that I would ever spill dirt, but yeah, you learn funny things about people for sure, most of it rather harmless. And in terms of people who haven't been cool, well, I'm obviously not going to name names. But when we first started out and we had a staff girl working for us, there is a band that's no longer around that was very rude to her. And we briefly had a misunderstanding with another band that got smoothed over quickly and painlessly. Ryota and his former bandmates in various bands still have some hard feelings, but then again out of all the people I've ever played with I can think of one or two I wouldn't like to run into again.

So I'm going to answer the opposite! If I've written about them here before, they've been truly wonderful to me. If they weren't, it would just look like name-dropping. And I can't stress how great of a friend Masaki (ex-Sulfuric Acid) has been to me. That's him, me, and Keita (ex-DieLa'Vice) playing billiards in Shibuya after they came to see me when I played with Becca in front of 109. Carmen was there too and snapped a few pictures which are on her bloog.

I hope this answers your questions! If I have not and only brought up more, then ask those! :D

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Jimi interviewed by: Lemon


Here are some general foreigner-in-Japan questions from Lemon! I'm going to answer them broadly and not direct them just at him, because I realized that I just wanted to sort of give my advice to a faceless "all y'all".

Lemon - What is the best way to gain Japanese fluency? I'm on my 3rd year of Japanese currently, but I really want to know what the best path is to pursue from there. Is simply living in Japan the surest method?

Jimi - If you're not currently in Japan, I sure hope you have Japanese friends who don't mind talking with you. I would try to be prudent on this one; a lot of Japanese exchange students want to speak English all the time and ignore any Japan talk; others will sort of retreat in fear with other exchange students and speak Japanese exclusively. Try to set up an exchange if you can.

If there aren't that many Japanese speakers around, go for reading fluency first. Get good at being able to gloss over large sections of hiragana (useful for gleaning verb endings when you're skimming) and get your katakana straight: mind your 'so's and 'n's (and your 'shi's and 'tsu's). And finally, DO. NOT. NEGLECT. KANJI. And do NOT trick yourself into thinking it's really really hard. This is the one thing about learning Japanese I have been unable to relate to others with: I have had no problem with kanji and it was certainly one of the aspects of learning the language I enjoyed the most. Do whatever you can to find a kanji learning method that is best for you. Also, don't ever use romaji ever again. :)

Okay, once you've learned a couple hundred of those then I'd suggest listening fluency. The best way to do this, I've found, is to watch a lot of bad Japanese comedy TV. One, because at least it won't be dry, and two, because Asian TV tends to subtitle everything in wacky lettering. So if you can't catch everything going by so fast with your ears, at least you'll be able to see it on the screen. And then your reading fluency comes into play.

For me, personally, I watch the dry, boring news programs, because now I need to learn all the legal, political, and economic jargon that comes with the language of news. I also read newspaper articles on the brief occassion I can sit down and willingly focus enough to make sense of them.

Watch Japanese movies with the Japanese subtitles. Watch Japanese movies with no subtitles at all. Watch some cheesy dramas. Don't watch anime because that's not real and no one talks like that. Listen to music and try to write down what you hear phonetically. Double check it with the Japanese lyrics. Writing fluency? Keep a diary, mixi, livejournal, anything, in Japanese. Keep it simple.

Speaking will come last, as it usually does in language learning. Force yourself to try, if the opportunity presents itself. Do not be afraid to make mistakes or say something silly on accident. Laugh at yourself. Try not to "sound" so "foreign"--when I was a teacher, many of my students asked how they could fix their English pronunciation not to be so "Japanese". The best way to do this, when learning any language, is to over-exaggerate when you repeat the sounds you hear. I encouraged my students to respond to me as if they were "mocking" me. Actors who have had to do diction or accents or musicians (trained vocalists in particular) get this faster than others.

Obviously, the best place to do this is in Japan, as there is no dearth of material. However, I have several non-Japanese acquaintances who have been here for 10+ years and still do not speak Japanese, or vastly overstate their ability. You have to actually TRY to be that bad, so just keep your ears and eyes open at all times and let your tongue be loose. It's sensory overload but it's a good kind of exhausting.

Lemon - Secondly, what opportunities are there for foreigners in Japan to gain some sort of occupation to support themselves while living there?

Jimi - Teaching English, pretty much. That's going to be it at first, and you'd better be willing to stick it out as long as your contract is. I originally came to Japan on the competitive JET program, so you ambitious currently-in-college people should look into that. I did that for one year, and when they wanted me to renew my contract, I declined, and it was a huge gamble. If things were going any worse than they are now I don't think it would have been worth it, honestly!

And then there are of course any other number of eikaiwa. Now that NOVA is bankrupt I don't have to write a zillion paragraphs about how horrible it is, so poke around and see what you like.

The thing is, you'll most likely have to get the job BEFORE coming over here--and along with that, the visa. Even if you come over here looking for work, many jobs want you to already have a proper visa lined up.

I no longer teach Jr. High School English; I do some pretty strange work I suppose. But that's all been luck and talking to the right people. English teaching is in high demand and can pay rather decently.

After that, depending on your Japanese skill you can try your hand at looking at translation/interpreting work, but other than freelance you're looking at stuff in the growing IT field. I gave up looking for work in that field because I just don't know anything about that, and I don't have the drive for freelance translation. I occassionally do freelance interpreting but only when it falls into my lap.

Lemon - and thirdly, are there any opportunities for higher education in Japan for freigners? And what about those that don't have complete fluency?

Jimi - I never did it, but there are study abroad and transfer programs through many universities. Many of my friends who did the year-long or semester programs had a great time and really extended their language skills. I had already done an unrelated internship at Japaanese orphanage, so I felt that I wanted to do the rest of my education back home, but I do by all means recommend it. In the end I think I would recommend doing the majority of your higher education in your home country, but if you can find a good 2- or 4-year program here that does what you want to do then by all means go for it.

A final note: On your own time, by all means study the things that interest you. For people reading my blog and in this scene, that's probably obscure VK bands and random stuff like that. But in conversations with regular Japanese people, try to stay abreast of everyday, normal conversations. For example; not talking about anime all the dang time! :)

And in general: ask people for help. Ask your teachers to point you in the right direction; ask friends for advice; use the guidance of the people around you to acheive clarity on your path. Most of all, stay positive.

LAST THING: If you've got any interesting questions or things about the scene you want answered, let me know and I will pit your questions against each other in a battle to the death!

Jimi interviewed by: Klisk


A couple of weeks ago I got a great email from Klisk, filled with some cool questions, and I thought I'd answer them in an actual post.

Klisk - 1) So in Laverite I noticed that Ryota plays a Jackson guitar, which I think is utterly awesome since it's not the usual fair. But that ties in to my question: Is there no longer a huge emphasis on VK bands nearly 'requiring' to play a Edwards/ESP/Killer/Fernandes/Etc style guitar, and it's more flexible now? Because lately I've seen a lot more variation, whereas in the years prior there was a huge brand-loyalty thing within the VK scene specifically.

Jimi - Glad you noticed that Ryota plays the Jackson; he's a fan of Randy Rhoads and I'm not sure but I recall Mayu of Lareine also playing Jacksons. I wouldn't say there's a "requirement" to play ESP and the like at all; that "brand loyalty" we seemed to see was all about endorsements. A band gets big enough and they'll enter an agreement to use those guitars/pedals/cymbals/sticks exclusively. It's a huge for a company like ESP to make a big deal out of, say, displaying Nightmare's dude's new guitars at their shop. ESP guitars cater more toward that sound so it's a logical connection. I would argue that any tiny little band spending that much money on a guitar without sponsorship is being foolish, though.
And personally I play a 5-string Ibanez. :)

Klisk - 2) When you guys are prepping for a live, what seems to be the most common way to cover up post-shave-beard-shadow amongst everyone, if waxing or plucking isn't an option? Just concealer? Or some sort of powder cover up? The answer to this has always alluded me even though I'm sure it's a pretty simple makeup trick.

Jimi - I think my facial hair is pretty thick, but still, I simply let it grow for a few days and then shave the morning of the show and just throw on my regular foundation (I use M·A·C). Yue and Ryota pluck, but Yue had sort of been letting himself go for the last coupla shows which was why he still looked stubbly! Ryota is like a naked mole rat. My beard is too thick to pluck and waxing sounds out of reach.

Klisk - 3) I'd assume that pretty much all the bands use whatever in-house amplifiers are provided at the live, if not only for ease, but because it would probably be pretty impossible to haul around amps as an indie band in Japan. Plus I think I read that most people use modeling amps at home simply because it's tough fitting an amp into common living quarters. Which is really different from the US, where we're almost always expected to lug an amp to the gig, at least in all the bands I've played with.

Jimi - I use the in-house Ampeg that Narciss and Area have, and I love Ampeg so I ain't complainin'. However, they charge you a tiny fee for "equipment rental" based on how much in-house stuff you use. Some bands want to minimize that cost altogether and will bring their own wireless mics, amps, and most of their own drum kit. This makes the whole place really crowded if you've got a night with like 8 bands and more than half of them are standard 5-pieces. Even Ryota's equipment (Digitech pre-amp, Marshall power amp, digital tuner, wireless, and random useless chameleonic neon light thing) seems like a lot. The only thing I bring with me is my Line 6 X2 digital wireless, which is seriously wonderful. I don't have the money or the space for my own amp, and we have no equipment truck to lug all the junk around, so this will have to do. The equipment fee also feels nominal when lumped in with the price of all the unsold tickets we have to pay for anyway.

Back in my home country when I'd play guitar in bands, I had a Line 6 amp that I'd lug around, and when playing bass I had this deceptively small amp whose brand I forget, but it was extremely powerful for its size. I used to run direct through the PA and use that as a monitor, which I would also trick the PA with because I rarely trusted their management of the bass sound in regards to the space. I learned this from my father the musician.

In both cases, I always had a car or at least a ride, so lugging junk around was never a problem. My drummers always had a van and plenty of band members willing to help load/unload.

As for Japan, most bands do have their own equipment vans, but it makes me nervous. I don't have a Japanese driver's license, and I don't recall if Ryota does. I know Yue does. The parking spaces are tiny, the roads are narrow, and the loading areas tight. It seems like more of a necessary evil than anything.

Klisk - 4) What's more common for effect pedals? All-in-one boards like the Line 6 Pod XT Live modeling board, or the Boss GT-8 board... Or are individual stand-alone pedals on a home-made pedalboard more common? Or is it totally a mixed bag and depends on the specific guitarist? I've found it's a pretty mixed bag with everyone I've played with, so it's another topic that pops up in my mind often enough.

Jimi - Yes, it is a mixed bag. I have seen home-made pedalboards that look like a shoegaze band got lost in what they were doing. Rarely do I see individual stomp boxes, however. Most of what I see, and indeed what Ryota uses, is, if not the Boss GT-8 exactly, certainly a very similar Boss board. He has two; one is a much older model he uses for our studio rehearsals, along with his black Fernandes guitar, and the sleek black Boss for the actual show. I love them and I'm saving up for one. Wish I still lived with my parents so I could use rent money on it! It'd be nice to have a Pod, too, to play around with.

Many of you have asked great questions in comment threads, shoutboxes, and other comments, and I would love to give them a voice on the main page. If you have something about playing in a band, Japan, the music and/or VK scenes I'm involved in, send me an email! I'll put the best questions and their answers up here!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008



We (I) at Rock Japan Elec-tric hereby endorse Barack Obama for president. All American members of Laverite are also overwhelmingly supporting him.

oops i think im a little late

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tommy Heavenly6 - PAPERMOON PV


A wonderful guest in the shoutbox found this before I did! How do you guys DO this?!

And thanks for all your comments. I hadn't been aware that Tinman and Lion were pulling such funny faces! Love it.

There's yet another surprise coming up, vaguely connected to this one.

Also, today in Shibuya in front of 109, I'm playing guitar with Becca, so everyone should come out at 2 and/or 4! 'Booya, 109. Got it? :D

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Live Report 10/19, Urawa Narciss: LAVERITE, OZxBONE, CKroll, etc.


For our 2nd live in October, we all decided that we'd wear something a little different. We only had two lives left for our current lineup, so we didn't mind experimenting.
Yue went with a black zippered vest, Ryota went with his old black costume, and I went sans white jacket, darker makeup, and much bigger hair.
The show itself went very well, but because the set list was all our more energetic numbers, it felt like it was over pretty quickly. And then of course was our big announcement.
Just before our last song, Yue told the audience that our next live, 11/23 at Narciss, would be his last as Laverite's vocalist.
I always used to sort of scoff skeptically whenever I read that a member was leaving a band because of "musical differences". However, when Yue mentioned for the first time that he was thinking about leaving back in September, it was clear that he was having a very hard time reconciling how much he enjoys playing with Ryota and me, and the kind of music he would actually like to do.
It was clear that he was struggling with it, as he and I had grown pretty close and were better friends than ever. He thought that I would be sad or upset or angry or something, and while I was indeed surprised, I tried to look at it from his perspective. If this sort of Lareiney, Malicey music isn't what he would really like to do, and we keep playing with a handful of bands who are doing what Yue would actually like to do, he would just end up resenting our music and his fellow bandmates. He's had too much of a good time up until now with us to throw that away by keeping his head down and plowing forward with a style he's not that attached to in the first place.
He and I talked a lot about it, and I tried to encourage him. Even if he just stuck it out for a full year, I said. Finally, he broke the news to Ryota, whose usual taciturnity was thrown by this announcement into something that resembled a vow of silence. But they talked a lot as well and there are absolutely no hard feelings.
I know that may seem hard to believe, like we're trying to put up a brave face, because airing intraband grievances publicly, which I have seen a few Japanese and Western bands do, is supremely tacky. But it's absolutely true. I think everyone's looking for that group of guys and that style that just locks into a groove for them. Most times you find one and not the other. Sometimes the pros outweigh the cons and you stick with it, but I think Yue wanted another shot.
The first live we played after Yue had told us officially, we played with a band called Ray. Ray was going to lose their singer, and their drummer and Yue became friends. They were being produced by a former member of GOZVII, whom Yue had loved and respected. The drummer asked Yue if he would be interested in joining.
Long story short, Yue decided he would join that band. But it wouldn't last very long. Rehearsals were far enough away to require a trip by shinkansen, and because there was a label and actual studio recording/CD pressing involved, not to mention talk of buying a van, the amount of money he would have to invest just to get things rolling was absurd to the point that he would have had to take out a loan. And it just wasn't worth it. He was having a rough time, until he finally had an epiphany one day at rehearsal after talking to me. He quit the new band that day, told me he wasn't going to do music anymore, and seemed very, very happy.
And you know, I'm happy for him. Because now he's returned to the Yue I remember up until he started thinking about leaving this summer.
He made a promise that we were going to make the last few shows great, and so far, we've lived up to that promise. The last several have been quite good, and I'm excited to play our last one.
What will happen to Ryota and I? Well, Ryota's tracking down a drummer first, and then we can worry about vocalists. Hidetora and Narciss are committed to helping us out, and they're suggesting certain bands and certain guys we should chat with. I am grateful for their intentions.
So in the interim, session bands might be in the works. We'll see. That I shouldn't really talk about yet.
Kyuketsuki & friends as well as Bunny came because they're just way too awesome friends.
La Carmina came again, and this time took wonderful 70's glam/80's goth-esque black-and-white shots.
And once again, here's a truckload of shots I couldn't narrow down because there were tons and I liked a lot of 'em.

Last one with the "original lineup" is 11/23 at Narciss, and there's a free CD for anyone who reserves a ticket through our website, so I'd love to see you all there!