Interview by David Cirone
April 12, 2011
Osaka-based hard-rock band RAMPANT made their American debut at Tekkoshocon IX in Pittsburgh, PA. Playing for an audience of over 900 (the highest in the event’s history), the band delivered a 11-song set from their two latest releases, Choice of Life and BLOSSOM.
A regular performance partner of exist†trace and Dazzle Vision in Japan, RAMPANT’s vocalist Hiroko uses her equally-effective scream in just a handful of tracks, holding it back for just the right moment like a knock-out punch. Hiroko is both feminine and tough, a necessary combination to fit in with a band of male musicians who, though outwardly playful, are very serious about kicking everyone’s ass and making their own sound.
During performance, it’s Atsushi (lead guitar) and Tomoya (rhythm guitar) who make a point of regularly stepping over the stage monitors to connect with the audience. Kei (bass) is the most relaxed presence on stage, sticking close to drummer KA+U (a stylized version of “Katsu”), whose regular hobby of weight-training helps him punish the drum kit mercilessly during the hour-long show.
For this interview, we gathered in the Wyndham Grand Hotel early in the following morning. Though physically tired from the show and the solid hour of autograph signings, there’s still a glow on each member’s face. It’s a mixture of relief and amazement, and everyone’s ready to talk about music.
Looking at the titles of your three CD releases — Chain, Choice of Life, and BLOSSOM — it seems that the English words form a theme of forward progression: captivity transitioning into freedom. Is that correct?
Atsushi: (immediately) No connection.
Hiroko: (laughs) That was so fast!
KA+U: There’s a specific meaning for each title, a specific way it connects to the songs on the album. But we didn’t try to link them.
Tomoya: The first mini-album Chain — “chain” means like a bond, not like a prisoner.
So I got that totally wrong.
Atsushi: You could see it that way… it’s sort of creative, that viewpoint, but that’s not what we meant. Initially, we didn’t think these were going to be the final members of the band, We had planned to do auditions, but things just came together naturally without all that. So before we realized it, we had the mini-album.
Tomoya: “Chain” means all of us, together.
Atsushi: I came up with the Choice of Life title. I really believe life is choice. We decided to be here. At any moment, at any place, wherever we are is connected to our decisions.
Hiroko: But I like your interpretation. It’s fun. You can see it different that we intended and it’s still cool.
What’s your favorite track on your latest album BLOSSOM?
Hiroko: Each song has its own personality. I really like all of the songs.
KA+U: Right now it’s “Naked,” but when we were still working on the album, “Still Growing Flower” was the song I liked best. It really became a part of me during performance.
Kei: “My Winding Road to Unknown” — we didn’t play it this time at Tekkoshocon, but the audience reaction in Japan has made it one of my favorites. I like the rhythm changes, and the chorus has a Japanese style. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks that.
Atsushi: I agree with Kei… we both like to find sounds that are specific to Japanese rock. “If I Ain’t Got You” is heavy, like American rock, but we tried to mix in some sounds that you wouldn’t normally find in an American rock song. And Choice of Life was so heavy, we wanted find some lighter elements this time.
Tomoya: My favorite from the beginning was “Naked.” I’m different from them, I don’t have the specific idea that I want to do something Japanese. When we were in the studio, the members were pushing toward Japanese sound, but I was rebelling — I didn’t want to throw away the work we did before. That’s how we came up with “Naked.” That’s the song that shows what RAMPANT is — that mix of styles.