Nihongaku at a New URL

•2011/02/15 • 1 Comment

The better part of a year ago, I started stumbling through an experiment to chronicle my frequent, curious brushes with Japanese music. The result is the blog you see here. I haven’t updated as much as I originally planned. Frankly, I haven’t done much of what I originally planned.

That’s all going to change. We all have to grow up sometime and Nihongaku is no exception. From now on, you’re getting a full-on 1,000 percent of your daily allotment of Japanese music. More MP3s than your mortal ears can handle; more pics of Gackt than your inner fan girl can squeal over; more X Japan than even I can stomach; all this and more awaits you. You’re just going to have to hit up a slightly different URL. The quest continues at http://rockoutjapan.com.

Sour Releases “Mirror,” an Interactive Music Video on Par With The Arcade Fire’s “We Used to Wait”

•2011/01/22 • Leave a Comment
A still from Sour's "Mirror"

Sour made up of the various icons and profile pics that make up my digital life.

You should really see Sour’s new music video “Mirror.” You’re in it. Or at least you will be when you give their site access to your Twitter account, Facebook profile and your web cam (or as few as one of the three). The result is a collage of your digital foot print and Sour’s three members intriguingly-animated in pop-up windows. Trust me, you’ll be glad you checked it out.

“Mirror” follows a few months behind The Arcade Fire’s brush with HTML 5 interactivity and Google Chrome in an interactive film called The Wilderness Downtown which makes use of “We Used to Wait” from the band’s The Suburbs album. Where “Mirror” cuts and pastes your various sites and followers, Wilderness asks you to type in your childhood address to “geopersonalize” the video; a fancy way of saying your old house will appear prominently in the video. Also a sight to be seen.

So who is Sour anyway? I hadn’t heard about them until “Mirror” started getting passed around the net. I guess that makes me proof positive that their interactive marketing campaign/experimental video project worked.

It turns out Sour is a trio of Japanese dudes with international upbringings. Hoshijima (vocals and guitar) was born in France and grew up in Britain. Sohey (various forms of bass) grew up in Germany but came into being in Spain. Takahasiken (on drums and “toys”) grew up in Tokyo’s Ginza district. The band describes their sound as “organic, urban, tight, mellow, sharpend, and totally comfortable sound.”

According to a post from Creativity, directorial credit for “Mirror” goes to Masashi Kawamura (a creative director at advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy New York), Qanta Shimizu, and Saqoosha.

Kotaku Discovers Gackt

•2011/01/20 • 1 Comment
Gackt

Gackt

Earlier today, video game-centric blog Kotaku published a post by Senior Contributing Editor (Japan) Brian Ashcraft all about Japanese rock star/multi-instrumentalist/actor/vampire Gackt. Apparently Ashcraft has discovered Gackt and, after doing so, felt an intense need to shower him with adoration. Not that the guy doesn’t deserve it, you understand. Gackt is an extremely interesting rock star/multi-instrumentalist/actor/vampire.

It just goes to show that Japanese music has a strange way of penetrating the West. When and where it will rear its glittery, glammed-out face is anybody’s guess. This time it was because of Gackt’s involvement in various video game projects. Still, it feels strange to think that there are now thousands of dedicated Kotaku readers who know about Gackt because he lent his likeness to Bujingai and not because of his solo albums or his work with Malice Mizer.

Ashcraft points out that despite his many other talents, Gackt’s comedic delivery may be his most refined. I had not seen Gackt’s Metal Gear Solid 2 commercial before. It turns out vampires are hilarious.

X Japan in Phoenix New Times

•2010/09/09 • 4 Comments
X Japan in Phoenix New Times

X Japan in Phoenix New Times.

There’s something that will never get old about seeing your work in print. I know, I know. We’re all Web 2.0 and slaves to shiny black boxes from Apple these days, but seeing a story in print has this tangible quality to it that beats digital hands down. Of course, when the story happens to be about one of your favorite bands, it’s even better.

If you’re in the Phoenix area, go pick up a copy of New Times in which you’ll find my music feature on X Japan; the significance of their Lollapalooza gig and what it might mean for their future. If you’re too smart to live in the great, American desert, you can also read it online.

There was a lot I didn’t get to in this article simply because I had to keep it to 1500 words. It was 1499, I believe. I’m still working on the X Japan retrospective series here on Nihongaku, so expect to hear more about the Lollapalooza performance soon.

Good Charamel Releases I Love J-Rock Compilation

•2010/08/30 • 4 Comments
Shonen Knife

Shonen Knife's current line up.

Four thousand people in the audience, and I get stuck sitting in front of the woman packing heat. No, not the kind you load with bullets. Much worse. Balled up into some sort of cotton torpedo and wedged into the pocket of her designer jeans was a pair of granny panties on which various love notes to John Rzeznik were scrawled in T-shirt paint. Halfway through the Goo Goo Dolls set, Granny Panties awkwardly snuck toward the stage and let ’em fly…right into the back of some dude’s head. I wonder if he figured out what hit him.

What was I doing at a Goo Goo Dolls show and why am I bringing this up on a blog supposedly about Japanese music? Would you believe it if I told you Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac started a record label that releases Japanese albums called Good Charamel Records? I didn’t believe it either until he responded to my e-mail asking if he’d like to spend a few minutes talking about it while he was in town.

One full set and an encore later, a buddy and I waited at the front of the stage for Mr. Takac to come out and chat. He showed up bearing gifts; namely Shonen Knife’s new English album Free Time and Good Charamel Records’ latest J-Rock compilation I Love J-Rock.
Continue reading ‘Good Charamel Releases I Love J-Rock Compilation’

X Japan: How I met Yoshiki

•2010/08/15 • 3 Comments
X Japan at Lollapalooza (Fire)

The final shot of X Japan's Lollapalooza performance.

It’s confession time. Some of you may have already read the about page and, as a result, know that in addition to updating Nihongaku, I work as a (sometimes) journalist for Phoenix New Times in Phoenix, AZ. Why bring this up? First to substantiate my initial claim on the about page that I’m “a bit of a journalist.” Also, It’s imperative to understanding how I went about meeting X Japan pianist/drummer/song writer Yoshiki.

Initially, Phoenix New Times’ music editor received an e-mail from X Japan’s publicist regarding another band she also represents. As luck would have it, her e-mail ended with “also contact me about the following bands:” followed by a list of acts including Slayer, Anthrax, Rick Rubin, and you guessed it, X Japan. Despite his best efforts to get me to listen to Kanye West and The Arcade Fire, the music editor decided to indulge my love of Japanese music by forwarding me the contact information and suggesting I get in touch.

Two minutes later I fired off an e-mail to the publicist. We talked about a phone interview leading up to the band’s performance at Lollapalooza. I was absolutely stoked and, for a while, I was considering going to the show as well. I understood that this was to be the biggest show a Japanese band has played. How could I miss it?
Continue reading ‘X Japan: How I met Yoshiki’

X Japan’s Yoshiki as Interviewed by Lollapalooza Producer Perry Ferrell

•2010/08/03 • 2 Comments

Perry Ferrell may not be the world’s best interviewer, but we can let him pass for continuing to produce Lollapalooza and, you know, that whole Jane’s Addiction thing.

In the above video, Ferrell walks the American audience through questions like “What was Japanese music like when X started” and “How will the Lollapalooza show differ from the recorded shows we’ve seen from Japan?” Yoshiki’s responses aren’t much, but there are a few insights to be had and a lot of awesome concert footage eye candy. Keep an eye out for Sugizo playing violin on what sounds like “Amethyst” toward the end of the clip.