Saturday, December 27, 2008

Notes on Christmas


December 21st.

-After months and months and months, finally re-connect with college friends and have a great time.


December 22nd.

-Enjoy some great Christmas cake with coworkers.


-Go to my boss's daughter's piano recital. Adorable.


December 23rd.

-Hizaki invited me to the Versailles tour final at Shibuya Kokaido, which will always and forever be a way better name than "C. C. Lemon Hall". That name is the worst. I let him know I would be bringing Ryota as well.

-The show was great--the stage had FIRE and EXPLOSIONS SORTA and stuff like that. There was a huge tiered stage that Yuki was up on, and periodically Teru would scramble up and down it. The performance was spot-on as usual, although at one point I remember thinking that I really didn't care for the song they were current playing. I turned to Ryota and asked what song this was. He said, "Princess. I don't like it much either." Ha.

-So Versailles is going major in June and that's pretty cool and I'm happy for them. They're also playing 5 days in a row at Rokumeikan. That is insanity. Kamijo told me that originally it was going to be 3 days, but Hizaki pushed for 5 BECAUSE HE IS RIDICULOUS.

-At one point Ryota went to the restroom, and when he came back he hurried back to my side and said, "I just peed next to Shinya." I patted him on the head. "Good for you."

-After the show, people without guest passes were ushered out, and there was a short short after-party on the 2nd floor lobby with everyone. Matenrou Opera was also there, and I randomly ran into people from Hear Japan and J-Rock Revolution as well, so 'sup guys. Also Noriko Shouji was there and she is the VK grandma basically and she is tiny and really sweet.

-'Zaquitos had me come to the final uchiage, and there we talked a bit of business that was quite neat indeed. Basically it was just chillin' and maxin' and relaxin' with Versailles, Matenrou Opera, Dollis Mary, Shinya, and then a small handful of roadies, hair/makeup staff, and then their management and recording engineer.

-I never, every thought that my path would cross with Dir en grey in any capacity, but sure enough Shinya told me that he and Die were learning English but that he wasn't advancing as fast. "So you want to practice right now?" I asked. Nervous and embarrassed, he refused, very Shinya-like.

December 24th.

-Spent the evening with the regular crew of Masaki, Yanagi, Keita, and a nice handful of others at a really relaxing darts bar in Shinjuku. Yanagi is currently in the band SwallowtaiL, and their other two members Rai and Ryuji were also there. Ryuji sang Ayaka's "Mikkazuki" and... I am not exaggerating; Ryuji may very well be the best vocalist in visual kei that I have ever heard. He nailed that song in terms of both technique and soul.

-We did a gift exchange, sort of white elephant style, and pretty much everyone did a great job of gift-giving. I don't think I'm very good at gift giving, so the reaction everyone had when my gift was opened felt pretty good. The one I received is sort of an O. Henry situation; one of our friends is a tattoo artist and part of his gift was one free tattoo. While I am far too fickle to get a tattoo, nor have I really thought about ever getting one ever, I appreciate the gesture and loved the rest of the gift. :)

December 25th.

-I met up with Reina, who had gifts for me from people, and that was great. We headed to Club Quattro in Shibuya, which was smaller than I expected. I got my pass from Ryo and in we went. The crowd was diverse, with lots more foreigners than I'm used to seeing in one place, and a healthy number of males. A few girls there were in those Santa dresses and that was cute, and some of the stage lighting in the beginning felt Christmas-y, so that felt appropriate. :-P

-It was my first (and last, obviously) time really seeing Rentrer en Soi, and it was neat to see them. They seem to have a more relaxed, swaggering energy. Banter is minimal, but when Satsuki did speak he chose his words very carefully. Quite a long set; several encores, and in the 2nd one there were a lot of old songs, which I liked.

-After the show the guests went down to say hello to the guys, and Jasmine You showed up, which was good because otherwise I really only know Ryo. Ryo was excited to introduce me to the rest of the guys, who were friendly and talkative, particularly Mika, and Satsuki was friendly as well. Ryo gave me a really cool business idea so I hope I can find the time to put it to work. :)

December 26th.

-I bought an mp3 player that is modeled after SOUNDWAVE the DECEPTICON TRANSFORMER and it ACTUALLY TRANSFORMS, and I subsequently win all y'all so flippin' hard.

I had a very unconventional Christmas. I'm excited for the developments and happy for the experiences I had, but I wouldn't have much of a problem trading it to spend some time with my distressingly awesome family. :)

Friday, December 26, 2008


Merry Christmas to me! This has completed my life. I win, guys. Just give up.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tommy Heavenly6: "Unlimited Sky" PV



Some notes:

-We filmed this the same day as the "Papermoon" video, near Mt. Fuji. It was my first time seeing it (the mountain), so that was neat.

-I don't know if you can tell easily but the band is the same as the first video.

-The drummer is wearing my shirt and tie, and the jacket I am wearing is one of hide's. (This was the secret; sorry it's not that amazing... didn't realize the lengths to which people would fantasize! :-P)

-Finally, that guitar solo in there, as well as most of the lead guitar parts, were NOT in the mix that they gave us that day, which is why no one is playing it! It came out of nowhere for me on my first viewing of the finished product. :-P

Also how do you guys find my stuff before I do?! You are the best, seriously.

Massive props, thanks, and kudos to sneakglove. :)

Jimi interviewed by: Toaster


This time, Toaster gave me a big ol' list of questions, and if you make it to the end there's a surprise!

Toaster: What exactly happened after you declined to renew your contract? Did they cancel your visa too or did you find another sponsor? Sorry, I'm not too familiar with all the visa and paperwork stuff since I'm quite young but it gets rather fuzzy after you declined to renew your contract! And how did you find work after the declination?

Jimi: After I declined to renew, all I had to do was move out of my apartment and sign some papers with the board of education. They didn’t cancel my visa, but as I understood it when I talked to immigration people I had a few months of leeway to find a new job/sponsor. This ended up being a good thing because I changed my visa to the much more versatile Humanities visa from merely Education. I’m still not sure precisely how it all works; I just talked to immigration people and my employers on both sides. I did need to get a certification of completion from my BOE.

After I quit, my first order of business was finding a new place. Once I settled in, I started the job search via various sites and the power of googlin’. :)

Toaster: Would you advise foreigners to do freelance translating if they cannot do English teaching for some bizarre reason? Or find some other job?

Jimi: I don’t see what would prevent someone from finding a relatively decent job teaching English, but let’s say that was the case: I would recommend doing freelance translating if you can find the work that pays, and good luck with that. I have no interest in translating anime or video games, nor do I have the patience to handle the more technical stuff. Maybe when I settle down. In any case, you’ll still need a documented job to get a visa, I imagine. I have a non-English teaching job, and while it does require lots of translation and interpreting, it isn’t freelance.

Toaster: What do you think of the idea of a Korean teaching English to Japanese kids and being in Japan in general? It may seem trivial, but since I'm Korean, you may know about how Korea and Japan had really tense relationships after Japan took over our country and killed a bunch of people, burned down our historical treasures, and raped our women. Do you think there will still be tense relationships/racism involved? I know there are still some Koreans out there who still feel pissed off about the invasion and would love to get their hands on a Japanese person's neck.

Jimi: There were lots of Asians in the program. I think the only tense relationships would be among a tiny handful of middle- or old-aged jerkbutt loserfaces. The younger generation is, thankfully, largely ignorant of history and really chill with each other. I know a few Japanese people who speak Korean because they wanted to learn it, or are dating Koreans, or are Zainichi Koreans. It’s all pretty chill, honestly.

Toaster: In Japan, do you survive on combini food everyday or go out often to eat? Or do you go out to the supermarket and find fresh produce?

Jimi: Given my current schedule, I don’t have a lot of time to do any cooking, nor do I really have the energy. I eat lunch with my babies and in the evening I usually grab something with co-workers. When I did cook though I relied on simple Japanese dishes, as the ingredients were far cheaper and at the time I lived alone so I didn’t mind experimenting with ingredients I was unfamiliar with and following recipes to the letter of the law.

Every time I think maybe I’m hittin’ the combinis a little hard, I remember that I know Japanese people who rely on them far more than I. :-P

Toaster: Was teaching kids English really hard/stressful? I enjoy kids 90% of the time, and I'm sure you do too, but they must've given you some hard times, right?

Jimi: Every situation is going to be completely different, depending on the school, the board of education, the main teachers, the students, and even you. My kids were always awesome. The kids that gave me a hard time were the kids that gave everyone a hard time, and in a few instances once I got to know them it was easier to influence their behavior. Really, teaching kids at the age that I do now just means that I get to play with them all morning AND be the boss. :D

Toaster: What exactly do you do for work now? Is it a part-time job? I know that you've said some odd jobs, but may I ask exactly what? And how did you find such a flexible job that allows you to play in a band and what jobs would you recommend for a person who wants to be in a band and work at the same time?

Jimi: Band dudes don’t usually reveal what kind of work they’re in, but I will say that I work two part-time jobs. In the morning I play with babies, and in the afternoon and evening I am a manager at a modeling/talent agency for foreigners. Occasionally, as you’ve probably read on the blog, I actually get to do some modeling/talent jobs myself. I am not very useful apparently, though, as I am not really the “type” of foreigner that gets cast in many things.

As for a job I'd recommend, some places will give you flexible hours, so if you're really serious about doing some other activity too then make that a priority. Just be prepared to not be a salaried worker, probably.

Toaster: How much kanji do you know? How many would you recommend to know for surviving in Japan and any tips on kanji in general?

Jimi: I know, um… there comes a point when you stop being able to quantify it. I think maybe I know 1500 comfortably, if not more, and that’s not counting a bunch of obscure junk I learned through my studies of classical Japanese, incidentally through Chinese, or from music. (In particularly VK, where ridiculous kanji is par for the course.)

Toaster: Ok, now let's go into the VK scene. Are there lots of bands looking for members or is it an incredibly hard feat to find an open band?

Jimi: I just plugged search terms into google. There are plenty of bands looking for members at any given time. I had this devious idea that I’d ride the coattails of some established band, but in the end I’m glad I started out at the bottom all over again. Besides, the established bands looking for members are typically going to look from among their peers at a relatively similar level.

My worry was that it would be hard to find someone willing to take a non-Japanese, but actually very few people seemed to care or even notice.

Toaster: Do bands really have high expectations for new members? Do they want another Sugizo or are ok with the average player? I'm guessing it depends but any info would help!

Jimi: I feel like this question is leaving out the middle; there are plenty of talented musicians around me, and while they’re not Sugizo or anything, I’m more than proud to play alongside them. In a genre like this I think bands are generally looking for a little oomph to make up for it if you’re maybe not a great musician. Charisma, looks, character, stage presence… Being a nice guy counts a lot; the Tora Sky Walkers crew told me some stories and gave me some great advice on the level of tolerance you should have for a good musician who isn’t a very nice dude, and that is very little.

Toaster: About how much money is needed to invest into a VK band? It'll be more expensive with all the hair and make-up and costumes but if I ever wanted to try out for the scene it's better to know how much money I'll need to scrape up!

Jimi: Actually, hair and makeup costs were the least of my worries. Costumes will run you pretty high. I paid about $100 for the basic materials for our costumes, had an acquaintance make them for us for free, and to be frank I wasn’t 100% pleased. But getting them made with a degree of competence and flair of design would have been exorbitant. The photo set was up there too. There’s practice studio fees, equipment maintenance (like, I have to buy a lot of 9-volt batteries, for instance, and then 5-string packs are significantly more expensive than a pack of 4-strings), and finally there’s the pesky matter of being able to get enough people to come see you so that you’re not operating at too much of a loss. Which I did, up until Yue’s last show when we finally made money. Same with the session night.

Bands with a little bit more momentum save up to buy an equipment van, and then of course if you want to make an actual studio recording, just sell an organ.

Just as long as you have a relatively steady income you should be fine. :) Or an inheritance!

Toaster: Do you think that the 99% male VK bands would accept a female member? There's of course cool all-girl bands like Exist Trace and Danger Gang and that female guitarist Koro, but the what do you think are the chances of a foreigner Korean girl with not 200% knowledge of Japanese getting into a band? I know you did it, but I don't know about me!

Jimi: I still don’t know how I did it, but then again, I haven’t “made” it like the bands you’ve mentioned have. There are far more women in the scene than most Japanese coverage of VK would lead you to believe. (At Juka’s live, one of the bands had a really talented female drummer and she was so ridiculously darling and pretty and I fell in love for a little bit.)

I know Miyavi’s part Korean and Intetsu (Ayabie)’s family is Taiwanese, but both of them had the advantage of being born and raised in Japan. Still, surely I cannot be the only one who’s tried this, right??

That said, just focus on your ability to communicate and don’t for a minute let your ethnicity or citizenship be anything but an interesting bit of trivia.

Toaster: What bass do you play? I know you have a 5-string Ibanez but which model? And Ibanez rocks, by the way.

Jimi: I play a 5-string Ibanez Soundgear 305. I can mess around a lot with the tone, and I’m in love with Narciss’s Ampeg cabinet so I get a pretty good sound. Ryota complimented me on my sound when I played with TSW. :D

Toaster: If a person knows how to play their instrument decently but has never performed live, do you think that this will greatly lower their chances of getting into a band? It probably will, but who knows?

Jimi: I don’t think it really will; if I were putting together a band I’d take the guy who could play over the guy who sucks no matter what their stage presence. With someone who can play, that can be developed/encouraged later. The other guy will rarely be motivated to improve.

Toaster: If you don't know how to use Pro Tools or recording inside out, do you think this will affect you greatly too? I'm just a newbie, so hopefully in the future I'll be 100 times better than right now!

Jimi: I have a secret; I know absolutely nothing about MTRs, DTMs, Garage Band, Pro Tools, Fruity Loops, anything. Even though I used to be a keyboardist I have a very weak understanding of how MIDI works or patches or really anything that has to do with a high degree of specialty in modern technology. I want to learn at least how to operate a mixer as soon as possible. I might have to intern mahself with the PA guy to do so.

Toaster: Do you actually know your band members' real names? Do you know Ryota's real name or Yue's? Or you just call 'em Ryota-kun and Yue-san?

Jimi: Of course! It’s on our membership cards at the studio, and on the morning of a live we have to file paperwork with both our real and stage names on them. We call each other [stagename]-kun all the time though. (Although I get “Jimi-kun”, “Jimimi”, and in Masaki’s case “Jimiiiiiii jitsu wa James”. He says this every time we meet up.)

If you think about it, most dudes’ stage names are just some alteration of their real first or last name though. Ryota’s real first name is Ryota, obviously, but in a case like Yue’s, his stage name comes from his hometown and has nothing to do with his name. In my case, I just slapped some kanji on a variation of my first name that I hadn’t gone by until I got to Japan.

Toaster: How many rehearsals does LAVERITE usually do in a month, or week, or etc.?

Jimi: Laverite as a whole tries to get into the studio once a week. This gives us a couple of rehearsals per show, and we go in for about 2, usually 3 hours at a time. For us it was almost more time than we needed, but better safe than sorry.

It’s standard practice for session bands to only go in once or twice before their show. This is because 1) the session is usually decided fairly last-minute, and 2) the set is most usually all cover songs that everyone knows or can easily be given a CD-R, or sent through email.

Thanks for the interesting questions! If any of you have any others, send 'em my way!

And I promised a surprise so here it is,

the surprise is a penguin i made in ms paint

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Last studio 2008


Yesterday Ryota and I (and maybe a third person who may or may not have been there just sayin') went into the studio.
It was a lot of fun and I'm really excited.
Now to find a drummer.

I am not, however, excited about the next costume, photography, etc. process. >_<

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Live Report, Urawa Narciss: Tora Sky Walkers


Last night was a great, great show!

First, we met up at 11am at Narciss and rehearsed for a couple of hours. It was the first time I'd met our lead guitarist, Kuma, from AibeLL. Kuma is a fantastic guitarist who got his own ESP model made for a hefty price. It's vaguely strat-like but quite an amazing guitar. He has extensive experience in BeaU as well as some non-visual bands.


The rehearsal went well, and it finally got me comfortable with the songs to the point that I was no longer worried about screwing up too badly or forgetting where the songs went. The songs were standard old punk fare, but sometimes the songs did some interesting things that were a bit uncharacteristic.

Kayuki, vocalist of Homura, was borrowing their guitarist Mitsuru's red Gibson SG and effects pedals. Kayuki is more of an acoustic guitarist so he was quite nervous, but I think he did a good job. Mitsuru also manned our merch table for us. He's a very small shy dude so even I took part in playfully teasing him. :3


It was also the first time in a long while that I've played with a live drummer, and I can think of few other drummers I'd rather play with than Yuichi. He keeps time very well and doesn't rush, and I like the way he mixes things up. He makes playing bass very fun and easy to play around with. Yuichi is G.O.Z VII's drummer, and he also does support for all the other Narciss-label bands with drummer problems.


After the rehearsal, Hidetora still had to work in the office that evening, so he turned us loose and just said to be back in the dressing room by 5 for hair and makeup, as well as photos. I was thinking of going home and taking a rest, but the other four of us ended up going out to lunch and then shopping at the Parco that was recently built on the other side of the station. Kuma in particular is very keen on clothes shopping, and Kayuki, Yuichi and I were glad to come along. Kayuki is a huge Gundam and Kamen Rider nut and excitedly questioned if I liked any of that. I had to admit that I wasn't terribly familiar with Gundam, which he seemed saddened by, but I said I do remember Kamen Rider being broadcast a bit when I was little. He seemed glad about that. It was pretty adorable. Hidetora and I talked about Voltron and Transformers a bit too, because that's more his generation.

At the music store in Parco, I sat down at a piano and played a little bit, and they other guys whipped out their phones and snapped pictures. Kuma put a pic of me playing up on his blog.

We did hair and makeup with the staff (well, Kuma and Hidetora did; Kayuki, Yuichi, and I all did our own) and then took polaroids. We signed them and then shuffled them all together.


At the merch table, which our hair/makeup staff and Mitsuru were in charge of, there were mirrors, towels, and a small handful of t-shirts with the T(S)W logo on them, as well as current CDs from AibeLL, Homura, and a few leftovers from G.O.Z VII. Finally, for 500yen, you could pick one of the polaroids, but which one was decided vaguely lotto-like.

And then it was time for the live. And then the nerves struck. But all that quickly melted away as we took the stage. Now, Hidetora, Kuma, Kayuki, and Yuichi are all signed to Narciss's label and work for their offices, so they're fairly well-known. I was the nobody. So people were surprised when I came out. I stepped up onto the block, threw my arm up and struck a rockin' pose, and the crowd response was really loud. I heard a loud chorus of shocked "Kakkoii!" and wondered if they weren't talking about someone else, but Yuichi was already at the kit and Kayuki hadn't come out yet.


Hidetora's on-stage banter is top-shelf stuff. All his jokes revolved around the idea that were were coming to the tail end of a ridiculous world tour; when Kuma was out of tune at the beginning of the song and asked to start over while he fixed it, Hidetora said, "I expected it from Kayuki, but not from you! Last night in Moscow it was Kayuki out of tune all night!", "Tomorrow night is the last show of our career, at Tokyo Dome", and "We picked up Jimi a few days ago at CBGB in New York". He was able to create this crazy Tora Sky Walkers mythos in the 30 seconds between each song.

He also took the time to let the audience know what bands each member came from and what was coming up for them; he told them that Laverite was on hiatus for now but that in the mean time they could catch me in various music videos. Which also got a huge response. And then he said Tommy February instead of Heavenly. :3

Before our set people had bought the towels and were waving them around for most of our performance; it felt like a Japanese reggae show. Another thing that I noticed was that with 5 people on a stage, things get cramped! Ryota was awesome and came to see us and came back to the dressing room afterward and said, "you didn't move around as much as usual." WHAT D:
If I moved to the right, I'd hit Kayuki; if I moved to my left, Hidetora was guaranteed to come body-check me out of sheer exuberance; if I stepped backward, I'd be accompanying Yuichi on drums with a Cobain-like crash. My options were limited, although I did have a couple of well-timed jumps with Kuma.

After our last song, the call for an encore came IMMEDIATELY; unfortunately we'd exhausted our repertoire. In a last-minute decision, we played the first song again, this time with "Urawa Narciss" in place of "Hibari Hills" in the chorus. (They rhyme in Japanese. I promise.)

The energy was just right, the members felt good, and the crowd was just so wonderful, with quite a lot of them calling my name by the end. :D It's a very strange feeling since I'm so used to, and comfortable with, sort of hanging out on the fringe or background.

At the merch table, they were selling the pictures we'd taken, and Mitsuru told me that many were aiming to draw mine. Several girls who got mine approached and asked if I would sign them. Despite my pointing out that they were already signed, they wanted me to sign the back as well. O_o Lovely girls, every one. Just such positive energy.

The other 4 guys are part of the Narciss label so they were guaranteed a tiny percentage, but that night they treated me as if I was as well and let me in on the cut. We easily oversold the base amount of tickets, and that, combined with the merchandise sales, gave me quite a bit of take-home money. So basically I decided I should keep doing high-profile sessions!

I was lightly mobbed as I tried to leave that night; I had made many new fans and they were all interested in trying to talk to me. A small handful attempted some English, which was sweet. I left like an hour and a half later than I had intended, though!


Basically these dudes are the best and I'm so glad I got to pump out some jams with them. They all were eager to tell me that if they ever need a bassist for anything, they'll give me a shout. This is what playing in a band should feel like, and now I think I have a better bead on what I'm looking for.

Tommy Heavenly6: Unlimited Sky CM


You're all already familiar with the Papermoon video, but also check out the guitarist in the Unlimited Sky promo. :3

When the full video comes out I'll tell you something pretty awesome about it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Egypt is awesome




I suspect that some of you are similar, but ever since I was a kid, I was HUGE into Egyptology. I loved how completely foreign everything about ancient Egypt was, considering my being raised in a distinctly Western manner, surrounded by Judeo-Christian this and Greco-Roman that. Archaeology sounded awesome no matter where it would have led.

In the past few years I've been rediscovering awesomeness about any and all ancient culture, largely thanks to my best friend's endless joy when he talks about great Romans or later Western philosophers. I never tire of it. And hermitic commenter J-Aesthete, to whom I credit nearly all of my nearly two-year journey with Aestheticism, has had me occasionally reading some snippets about India.

Most recently I did some light reading about the scientific climate during the period of medieval Islam, with particular interest in the art of automata. Interestingly Japan also has a tradition of automata called karakuri, which were, like most of Japan's early culture, heavily inspired by Chinese imports.

I read a lot, and while I used to read mostly fiction I've recently become much more interested in the popular science side of things, on a large range of subjects. I have bought and read quite a few books of that nature since I've been here, most recently "This Is Your Brain On Music", which, while it was a fun enough read, I found too simple in many parts and too difficult in some others. I'm interested in this sort of thing because I think it's just so dang cool but that didn't translate into fantastic grades in science and math classes.

If anyone has any recommendations for good, interesting non-fiction on any subject like this (politics is also one I consume a lot of), I welcome any and all guidance in the right direction. I feel bad because I feel sheepish having not yet read what are probably the three most popular popular science books (Freakonomics, The World is Flat, Guns Germs & Steel), so if any of those are must-reads then let me know.

mmmmmmmmmm books

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hidetora session details


Last night was our ONE time in the studio before we actually play live. And one of the guitarists wasn't even there, so I haven't met him!


December 8th (Mon) Urawa Narciss

Vo.秀虎 (Hidetora, G.O.Z VII)
Gu.クマ (Kuma, AibeLL)
Gu.華雪 (Kayuki, 焔 {Homura})
Ba.慈弥(Jimi, LAVERITE)
Dr.ゆーいち (Yu-ichi, G.O.Z VII)

The rehearsal was seriously fun as all get out, though, so I'm excited for the real thing. :)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Happy Birthday Masaki


We had a nabe party for Masaki Saturday night and it made Sunday very difficult. I guess that means it was a success. :)