Interview: Ringo Deathstarr (English version)

It’s really interesting to hear different opinions about a lot of various aspects of the Japanese music scene.  I have been fortunate enough to interview a lot of Japanese artists and people within the music scene to gain insight into it and hopefully turn that insight into something useful for others with similar interests.  I thought it would be cool to build on it all by adding some foreign perspective to the mix and getting some reflection on what it’s like to come here and play.  So this is the first interview (with hopefully many to follow) with a band I absolutely adore and who are certainly qualified to comment on music in Japan.  They also have one of the best band names ever.
Ringo Deathstarr are no strangers to Japan, having played here a number of times alongside some of Japan’s more prominent shoegaze bands.  This year they also appeared in Crossbeat’s My Bloody Valentine/Shoegazer Guide and just recently wrapped up a Japan tour.   After the tour the band were cool enough to take some time and answer a few questions about playing in Japan and the country in general.  There will be a Japanese language version to follow.  Enjoy!

(For more info on Ringo Deathstarr please “like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.)

Ringo Deathstarr Interview

Muso Japan:  First off thank you for taking the time to do an interview!  How was your trip to Japan?

Ringo Deathstarr:  Hi Matthew!  Thanks for the questions! Our trip to Japan this time was the best one yet…of course it just gets better every time, and we never know what to expect!

MJ: Ringo Deathstarr seems to have developed a loyal following in Japan.  When and how did you first  make contact with Japan?  How do you continue to promote yourselves and keep interest from abroad?

RD: Well…back in the Myspace days, in 2009, we were contacted by Vinyl Junkie Records, and they released our songs and brought us out. We thought we were in a dream…because people knew our music and they made us feel like Elvis!   We try to keep people interested by using twitter and facebook, which are helpful in those matters.

MJ: How have your experiences been playing in Japan?  In what ways has it been perhaps different than playing in the U.S.?

RD: Playing in Japan is like living out a fantasy…like being part of your ultimate dream gig.  The clubs we played are really awesome…the sound men, the PA systems…no similar sized club ive ever been to in the states can compare with the level of professionalism.  Also, nobody is looking at their stupid cell phones while the band’s on stage…nobody trying to talk to each other over the music…you can see people singing along and dancing, and everyone is super excited!

MJ: Do you have any particularly fond experiences either playing in Japan or interacting with Japanese fans?

RD: I always enjoy jumping into the crowd or throwing my guitar in the crowd so they can play the solo…one time we pulled as many people we could on stage and broke one of the club’s microphones….The club owner was pissed!

MJ: The band was featured in this year’s My Bloody Valentine/Shoegazer Guide along with some of the genre’s quintessential artists.  How did it feel to be included in a project showcasing what is continuing to grow into a truly beloved genre?

RD: I think its amazing that we are in ANY book or magazine in Japan!

MJ: What is your impression of the Japanese music scene in general?  Are you interested in Japanese music?  (if so, “Are there any Japanese bands in particular that you are into right now?”

RD: Oh yeah, there are some bands that i will never forget…we have not been able to see a great deal of bands since we are never around for very long…but I love Guitar Wolf, Shonen Knife, Negoto, Civic, Cruyff In The Bedroom, Bertoia, Plastic Zooms, Lemon’s Chair, and Sugizo!

MJ: What are the band’s plans in the near future?

RD: Well, we are gonna play a few more gigs here and there this summer, and begin work on our next recordings (we eed to write the songs)

Night Out in Nagoya: 4/20 – Crocodile Bambie CD Release Party @ Huck Finn

I recently moved to Nagoya (one reason for the lack of updates lately) and one of my goals once settled in was to take advantage of living in a city with a special music scene.  The first venue I had set my sights on was Huck Finn, a small basement live house a few blocks from Imaike Station, which hosts a who’s who of local artists.  Having gotten past the initial money-sink that is moving to a new city, I was ready to get a taste of the local music flavor.  After browsing a list of shows I noticed a band name that was hard to pass up.  Crocodile Bambie (a ‘cute name’ as stated by frontman Yoshihiro Yasui) just sounded awesome, and upon checking out a teaser for their upcoming EP, I decided to book the evening.  This was not an easy decision, as Kinoko Teikoku had a show at Club Rock n Roll the same evening, but I decided to dive into something new and different, and I wouldn’t regret my decision.
Crocodile Bambie, a band set to release their debut EP, may have, in name, been a relative unknown, but the band had already developed three decades worth of following.  Yasui, the singer and bass player of Bambie, was previously the bassist of long-time Nagoya thrash metal outfit Outrage.  It took a bit to get used to the change in atmosphere at the venue.  The snappily dressed and fashionably groomed twenty-somethings I’ve become accustomed to at events were replaced by long hair and leather jackets adorned with studs and Motorhead patches.  It was the sort of thing I had grown up with at concerts and I instantly felt right at home.

The show kicked off at about 6:30 with Osaka’s The Probes.  The best way I could describe this band was a fun and energetic reminder of why we all start bands at some point in our lives.  It was nothing complex, but simple, straightforward, aggressive rock music.  Lots of fun and a good start to the evening.

Next up was The Nibs.  Another band I knew nothing about coming in.  I didn’t love it at the start, with the opening song feeling like a medley full of tempo changes.  As the set went on, the songs turned into more down-tempo muddy tunes that had really nice grooves to them.  They finished strong and made me eager to hear some of their recorded songs.

Stone Edge was the third band of the evening and by the time their set came up Huck Finn was packed tight.  This show was a special event for them, being their first performance in 13 years.  I had heard them described as an all-girl rock band, which wasn’t entirely true as their guitarist was a guy, but the one thing I had heard that I can verify as true is that this band is excellent.  Their in-your-face and fun punk rock sound was a throwback to 90s Fat Wreck Chords-esque bands.  Despite it being extremely hot and crowded, the atmosphere was great throughout their set.

After Stone Edge wrapped up a decent amount of the audience seemed to have headed out. Up next was a band whose recordings I had become fond of whom I was eager to see live.  Eternal Elysium is another band receiving a good amount of local acclaim.  While their live performance was a lot of fun, it didn’t do their recordings justice in my opinion.  What I liked most is that the band had a great relationship with the audience.  It was a really intimate set and at one point the singer even addressed the (rather large) non-Japanese section of the audience in fluent English.  The crowd pleaded for an extended set, but Eternal Elysium reminded everyone at Huck Finn that this was Crocodile Bambie’s night.

Finally the moment we had all been waiting for.  After a fairly lengthy set-up, Crocodile Bambie took the stage.  They kicked off the show with “Freedom”, the track with which they promoted their debut EP.  While Yoshihiro Yasui had made his name with Outrage’s thrash style, his new band is more of a stoner rock outfit with grooving bass lines and droning heavily-delayed guitars.  The set was heavy, and despite a small tuning problem at the start, it was every bit as great as I had hoped for.  They weaved jam sessions and drum solos in and between songs, but not obnoxiously.  There was energy and aggression but it was controlled.  I am a big fan of Yasui’s new style and I hope that the 4 tracks on the EP will hold me over until the next batch of sounds is released.

Some blurry iPhone pictures to come!

Fuji Rock 2013 Lineup Announcement: NIN, Bjork and more.

Fuji Rock has finally announced the first wave of artists to appear at the summer festival.  The list is headlined by Bjork and the recently reunited Nine Inch Nails.  Other notables are the xx, Coheed and Cambria, Flying Lotus, Killswitch Engage, and Tame Impala.
For the full list of announced artists check out the Fuji Rock Festival website here:  http://www.fujirockfestival.com/artist/

2/26 Festival Roundup: Tokyo Rocks 2013 Lineup, Taste of Sonar in Osaka

Tokyo Rocks 2013 Lineup

The bands have been announced for a bit now, but the lineup has been revealed for this year’s resurrection of the Tokyo Rocks Festival.  The event will take place May 11-12 at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium.  The days have been arranged as follows:

Saturday
Blur (headliner)
illion
Primal Scream
Carl Barat (Libertines)
Man With a Mission
Back Number

Sunday
My Bloody Valentine (headliner)
Champagne
andymori
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Droog

DJ Lineup
Tom Meighan (Kasabian), Alan McGee, Simon Taylor (TOMATO), This Feeling, Mark Beaumont

With the event a little less than 3 months away this lineup is subject to some change, but it looks pretty good so far!

“A Taste of Sonar” comes to Osaka

The Japan edition of Sonar Sound will be taking place in Tokyo, but this year, folks further west will be given a treat as an abridged version of the concert will be flanking the Tokyo weekend festivities.  The main event will be taking place on the weekend of April 6-7, with the first night of “A Taste of Sonar” set to take place at Universe on the 5th.  The second leg will be at Umeda Club Quattro on Monday the 8th.  The “Taste of Sonar” event had only previously occurred in London, so it’s a pretty nice treat for electronic music fans in Japan.  The ticket price for the first night has yet to be determined, but for the second night the advanced ticket price has been set at 5,800 yen.  Here are the preliminary lineups for each night:

4/5 Fri @Universe (open: 18:00)
Nicolar Jaar
Sherwood & Pinch
Actress
…and more

4/8 Mon @Umeda Club Quattro (open: 18:00)
Karl Hyde
Darkstar
Altz
…and more

Lemon’s Chair

Lemon’s Chair

Lemon's Chair - コピー

Homepage: http://white.ap.teacup.com/lemonschair/

Twitter: @HIGH_FADER

Genre: Shoegaze, Post Rock

For fans of: Noise, Mono, Mogwai, Cocteau Twins

Lineup:

Masashi Imanishi (Guitar)
Kondo (Drums)
Yuko (Guitar)

Bio:

Lemon’s Chair was formed in 2002 as an instrumental “acid rock” three-piece featuring Masashi Imanishi and Yuko on guitars and Ryo on drums.  As time passed the band’s sound transformed into the minimalist shoegaze/post-rock blend that has since been a staple of the Japanese shoegaze music scene.

The band began to publish music actively beginning in 2009, having appeared on a compilation album for American label Series Two Records.  Later that year, on Masashi Imanishi’s own High Fader Records, the band released a split album with monocism title “high shoegazer”.  The following year the band released it’s first full album “I hate?  I hope?” while also appearing on a Rocket Girl Records compilation alongside Ulrich Schnauss and A Place to Bury Strangers.  In 2011, Lemon’s Chair took part in the “The Light Shines into your Dreams” compilation in aide of the earthquake relief efforts.  The shoegaze/dreampop charity album also featured My Bloody Valentine.

In 2013, Lemon’s Chair played a major role in the release of “Yellow Loveless”, a tribute to the quintessential My Bloody Valentine record.  The band submitted two tracks for the album: “To Here Knows When” and “What you Want”.  Released alongside the tribute album was “Japan Shoegazer as Only One”, a split single with fellow genre-mates Tokyo Shoegazer.  These releases coincided with not only the 2013 My Bloody Valentine tour of Japan, but High Fader Records’ Japan Shoegazer Festival.

While Lemon’s Chair are always accompanied by a “who’s who” of Japanese shoegazer outfits, the band have an impressive international resume.  Among the overseas acts they have performed live with in Japan are Ringo Deathstarr, Ulrich Schnauss, Sad Day for Puppets, Chapterhouse, and Spectrum.

Masashi Imanishi and Lemon’s Chair’s role in the Japanese shoegaze community has been very highly-regarded.  In addition to their contributions as a band, they are very active in organizing events such as the annual “Japan Shoegazer Festival” and the indie-music showcase “High Fader Night”, as well as offering services to shoegaze bands.

The band have slated the release of their second full album for the summer of 2013.

Muso Japan’s Thoughts: Lemon’s Chair are deservedly given a lot of credit for their contributions to shoegaze music in Japan.  Their recordings are most definitely worth checking out, but their live show is a must-see.  If you like extremely loud, beautiful music then do yourself a favor and make it out to one of their events.  Masashi Imanishi and Yuko work brilliantly together on guitars, while Kondo is a very very impressive drummer. Their tracks tend to be quite long, which works out brilliantly as each song builds up in it’s own way.

Sample:

2/18 Shoegazer Roundup: Shoegazer Fest pt. 2, New Shelling Album, Tokai Shoegaze

Need More Japan Shoegazer Festival

The 2013 Japan Shoegazer Festival went brilliantly and rode the wave of shoegaze madness brought about by My Bloody Valentine’s tour of Japan.  It was really nice to have a local supplement to the monumental event and it seems that we’re going to be treated again.  My Bloody Valentine will return to Japan in May for the Tokyo Rocks event, and it appears now that so too will the Shoegazer Festival.  Masashi Imanishi revealed the “Japan Shoegazer Festival Extra” that will take place on Saturday, May 4th (at Koenji HIGH in Tokyo) and Saturday, May 18th (at club vijon in Osaka).  This makes perfect sense as Tokyo Rocks is set for May 11th.  There aren’t any details as far as what this “extra” event will be exactly.  All we know is that Masashi is planning something to further appease the shoegaze community.

Shelling’s New Album and Video

Shelling’s new self-titled album will be released this Wednesday, February 20th, under White Paddy Mountain.  The band have recently released a music video of one of the tracks on the new album titled “Floating Area.”  If this song is any indication, this album is going to be something special.

Tokai’s Got Talent

As a resident of the central part of Japan and an avid music lover, it is sometimes frustrating to constantly see wonderful events in Osaka and Tokyo, while Nagoya often gets left behind.  One would think that the location, somewhere right between the two largest cities in Japan, would be a great spot to draw an audience.  Boasting a number of venues and it’s own seemingly diverse music scene, Nagoya needs more love.  One of Muso Japan’s goals for the year is to pull together some of Nagoya’s fine indie and shoegaze artists.  Wouldn’t a Nagoya Shoegaze Festival be a great thing?  We want to try to help make it happen.

Shelling

Shelling

Shelling_pic

Homepagehttp://shelling-info.com

Twitter: @shelling_info

Genre: Dreampop, Shoegaze, Sherbet Pop.

For fans of: Daydreaming, being wisped away to fantasy worlds, Thrushes

Lineup:

Aya (Vocals, Guitar, DTM, Music & Lyrics)
Shota (Guitar, Synth, Mastering)

Bio:

Shelling are a Tokyo-based self-proclaimed “Sherbet Pop” duo consisting of Aya and Shota. Aya, a veteran of the shoegaze scene having worked with various artists, is the primary songwriter as well as the vocalist. Shota provides the live instrumentation in addition to running the synths and mastering the tracks. The band’s sherbet pop sounds incorporates the floating sensation from ambient genres, the coldness of electronica, and the dreaminess of shoegaze. The product is a whimsical soundscape over which Aya’s soothing vocals are draped.

The band released four songs on a split single alongside IROTTO+ titled “Before Time Melts”. The 2010 High Fader records split featured songs previously released on their self-titled E.P. The band released their first full album – also self-titled – in February of 2013. They have been a mainstay in the shoegaze scene in Japan, featuring at events like the Japan Shoegazer Festival.

Muso Japan’s Thoughts: Shelling are one of the more truly inspiring bands in the Japanese shoegaze and dreampop world. Their sound is deep and dreamy and easy to be carried away in.

Sample:

Interview: High Fader Records and Lemon’s Chair’s Masashi Imanishi (English ver.)

Lemon's Chair - コピー
2013 has begun in a wonderful way for shoegaze fans in Japan.  We all owe this to the efforts of a large group of people who have helped to put together some spectacular events.  One of the people largely responsible is Masashi Imanishi, the man in charge of High Fader Records and one-third of Japan shoegaze mainstays Lemon’s Chair.  Despite his hectic schedule organizing and performing at the 2013 edition of Japan Shoegazer Festival, as well as keeping up with all the My Bloody Valentine festivities, Mr. Imanishi was kind enough to take some time and give us an interview.

While Masashi Imanishi is extremely humble and thankful to everyone who supports shoegaze music in Japan, he refuses to take any credit for the events that he contributes so greatly to.  One thing is very clear after speaking with him:  he does everything purely out of his own passion for shoegaze music and his desire to bring joy to shoegazers throughout Japan.  A very special thanks to Mr. Imanishi, whose work I personally adore, and whose time (and patience) has been much appreciated.

MusoJapan: First of all, what is attractive about shoegaze music? Why do you want to be involved in this particular genre?

Masashi Imanishi: As far as the aesthetic image or view of shoegaze, I believe it is something beautiful through which you can feel hope. I personally feel that the sound summarizes Japanese emotional and virtous things.

MJ: When did High Fader records begin? What were your goals at the beginning?

MI: High Fader was started in May of 2009. The goal was to make people aware of the music that I was personally into.

MJ: How many bands are currently on the label?

MI: Currently the label consists of sugardrop, boyfriend’s dead, and Lemon’s Chair.

MJ: What services does High Fader offer to bands?

MI: We help with live booking and CD releases, while also putting an emphasis on communication and conducting business with a sense of moral values.

MJ: The Shoegazer Festival is a great way to showcase the shoegaze scene in Japan. How
many years has the show been running and how has it developed over the years?

MI: 2013 is the third year of Japan Shoegazer Festival. Since the beginning, the amount of young people coming to the event has been increasing.

MJ: Are there any plans for future Shoegazer Fests? Do you plan on having events outside
of Tokyo and Osaka?

MI: The Shoegazer Festival involves much more than just my effort. The support of the people who come to the event as well as the labels, record companies, and artists involved is huge. As long as they continue to be involved I want to keep it going.

Since spreading shoegaze to more and more listeners is the key to the revitalization and growth of the genre, I have been considering holding the event in other cities outside of Tokyo and Osaka.

MJ: Do you have any plans to work with foreign artists or involve them in future events?

MI: As long as the timing was good, yes

MJ: In addition to organizing events and running a label, you are also involved you’re your band Lemon’s Chair. When did the band form and what is the current lineup? How would you describe your sound to people who may not be familiar with your work?

MI: Lemon’s Chair was formed in 2002. We are a three-piece consisting of me on guitar, Yuko on guitar, and Kondo on drums. Lemon’s Chair is instrumental guitar music in which the sound builds up and is brought together using minimalist sounds and tools.

MJ: Lemon’s Chair and Tokyo Shoegazer recently worked together on the split single “Japan. Shoegazer as Only One”. Looking at the title, do you see this as an essential album for fans who want a quick taste of the Japanese shoegaze scene?

MI: It’s just something that we personally thought was pretty cool, but the truth is it isn’t something we consider to be “essential”.

MJ: The tribute album and this year’s Shoegazer Festival coincide with the highly
anticipated My Bloody Valentine Japan tour. As evidenced by the expansion of the tour
from three to five shows there is clearly a substantial amount of interest in the shoegaze
genre. As someone who works within the genre, what is your opinion of the shoegaze
scene in Japan?

MI: I feel like the interest in shoegaze music in Japan is on the rise, but it’s something I attribute to a lot of different people: record companies, event planners, media members, record stores, music writers. It is the result of a combined effort, and so I can’t really give one representative opinion on the entire shoegaze scene

MJ: 2013 has started off in an exciting way for shoegaze fans in Japan. With the MBV tour, two Shoegazer Festivals, “Japan Shoegazer as Only One” and the tribute album starting off the new year, fans have had a lot to look forward to. What is your message to fans this year?

MI: First of all, I really want to thank all of the people who purchased “Japan Shoegazer as Only One” and “Yellow Loveless”, as well as those who have read this interview. While some things may not always work out well, I am always thinking about the enjoyment of others, which is something I hope everyone will keep in mind.

I believe that many of the people who are into shoegaze are sensitive people with good hearts. However, in life, this can also be a disadvantage. I want shoegaze fans to be proud of themselves and not get too down. “When you look down you see your feet. But be assured, those feet are standing firmly on the ground. Keep your head up!”

Kinoko Teikoku

きのこ帝国 (kinoko teikoku)

kinoko

Homepage: http://www.kinokoteikoku.com/
Twitter: @kinokoteikoku

Genre: Post-Rock, Alternative, Shoegaze.

For fans of:  Three Out Change-era Supercar, catchy hooks, good female vocals

Lineup:

Sato – Guitar, Vocals
Aa-chan – Guitar
Taniguchi Shigeaki – Bass
Nishimura “Kon” – Drums

Bio:

Kinoko Teikoku formed in 2007 and began performing live in 2008. Drawing inspiration from the post-rock and shoegaze genres the band is based in the Tokyo-area, where a large number of their shows are held. The band released their first full album under Daizawa Records/UK Project in May of 2012, after independently releasing a demo (titled “First Demo”) and the mini-album 夜が明けたら (“Yoru ga Aketara”). This debut album, titled 渦になる (“Uzu ni naru”) was well-received leading to testimonials from such Japanese indie-music icons as Kinoshita Riki (Art-School, Killing Boy) and Nakamura Koji (Supercar, Lama). The band finished off 2012 appearing at the year-end Rock in Japan Festival.

In February 2013, Kinoko Teikoku released their follow-up album “Eureka” as well as a video for the title track.

Muso Japan’s thoughts:  Kinoko Teikoku is a must-see show.  They bring a ton of energy to a venue and Sato is an extremely gifted singer.  Their recordings are wonderful, but the live show is beyond brilliant.  One of the best up and coming bands in Japan.

Sample: