RAMPANT – Interview (2011)

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.


LAZYgunsBRISKY – Navy Star (PV)

HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR – Interview (2010)

Interview by David Cirone
April 19, 2010


HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR’s April 3rd concert shook the walls, pounded the floor, and hammered nearby freight elevators at the Washington State Convention Center. Having performed twice before for American fans in 2006 and 2007, their appearance at Sakura-Con 2010 was the band’s first opportunity to show their re-awakened metal side with vocalist HALCA taking over for graduated original member Mākii.

Supported by opening band Dazzle Vision, HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR’s one-hour set contained a mix of the heaviest songs from their latest album, swamp man, amid anime theme songs (from Bleach, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny) that have made the 6-member rock group famous worldwide.

Previously straddling the fence between their Metallica cover-band roots and a sometimes pop style supervised by major label Sony, HandMC has surmounted the task of replacing an adored original member and launched a new identity with swamp man. With support from their Okinawa-based label Spice Records, songs like “XYZ,” “good bye,” “hate,” and “living” give evidence of a refined hard-rock sound that invites fans to move forward with them into a new chapter that all 6 members are genuinely excited about.

Mostly due to their anime pedigree, but partially due to curiosity about HALCA’s readiness to step into the spotlight, the Sakura-Con audience filled the hall to capacity (4000+) and kept in stride with the amped 12-song set — then demanded an encore.

Returning to the stage, vocalist YUUSUKE admitted to the crowd that they weren’t prepared for another song, but they were going to play anyway. HALCA, who had lost any bit of timidity after months of touring with HandMC in Japan, asked the crowd “How’re you fucking feeling?”

I sat down with the band the next day to return the question.

This is your third performance at an American anime convention. Why do you keep coming back?

MEG: We really like this kind of audience. They’re very high-energy.

mACKAz: There are things happening all around, like non-stop. It’s fun to see all that.

YUUSUKE: It’s different than a normal live show because of all the cosplay. They have an attitude of “let’s have fun!”

MEG: And because of the location, we can pass them in the hallway of the hotel or the convention center. It’s a kind of “at home” feeling.

Many well-known Japanese music artists say “No” to performing at anime events because they don’t want to be perceived as an otaku band. Do you think you’re an otaku band?

MEG: I think we’re exactly as you see us. I think we probably are, but I’m not sure what level.

mACKAz: We all like anime, and we like a lot of the things that are part of this event, like the cosplay, for example. We get excited when we see someone wearing a costume of an anime we like.

MEG: We all love Bleach.

HALCA, did you know they were an otaku band when you joined?

HALCA: I had no clue. They tricked me.

MEG: I told you at the auditions we were an otaku band!

HALCA: Mmm… well, okay, that’s right, you did.

How did you choose the set list for Sakura-Con?

MEG: We knew there would be a lot of anime fans, so we included anime songs like “Pride” and “Ichirin no Hana.”

YUUSUKE: We added new songs to mix the old and new sides of us. We’re proud of the old music, and we’re proud of the fans who love that music the same as we do. So now we want to show them what we’re cooking next.


KiLLKiLLS – Interview (2010)

Interview by David Cirone
March 8th, 2010
(originally published on purpleSKY.com)


L-to-R: ERY (bass), DAI (guitar/vocals), WANI (drums), KAMA (guitar)

As the former leader and guitarist of Japanese band ketchup mania, unapologetic punk-rocker DAI is no stranger to USA fans. In 2008-2009, DAI toured America with ketchup mania to perform at Sakura-Con, A-KON, SXSW, and the nationwide Japan Nite tour.

After the sudden breakup of ketchup mania in 2009, DAI formed his own label in Tokyo, SPLATTER RECORDS, and began the process of forming his first new band under the label — KiLLKiLLS, which features DAI on guitar and vocals and reunites him with ex-ketchup mania drummer WANI. He gave his first English-language interview to purple SKY about the release of their first album Allium.

What’s the meaning of the band name KiLLKiLLS?

DAI: It doesn’t mean anything, but it sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? Plus, I liked the sound of KiLLKiLLS. I’ve never heard such a band name, and I think a guy who names his band like that is probably crazy.

Is there a reason for the lowercase “i” in KiLLKiLLS?

DAI: I like the band The WiLDHEARTS from the UK. If you look closely, only the “i” is lowercase in their name. I respect them highly.

The English letter “K” connects to your music history. KOGA Records was your first label, and ketchup mania was the name of your former band. Is there anything special about the letter K?

DAI: It’s totally a coincidence, this “K” thing, now that I think about it. KiLLKiLLS usually comes up next to ketchup mania in music lists, so it’s easy to find when I listen to my own music, right?

How is KiLLKiLLS different from the hundreds of other Tokyo punk bands?

DAI: Compared to other bands, I think we’re playing punk music that’s a little old-school from the ’90s-2000. Also, I think we save some good melodies just for the good parts.

How is the KiLLKiLLS style different from ketchup mania’s style?

DAI: The same basically. It has a heavy sound with lots of guitar riffs and it’s very catchy. The biggest difference is the vocals — in the past it was a cute girl’s voice, but now it’s a guy like me whose brain is blown out by too much alcohol.

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Dazzle Vision – METSU (Live)

Dazzle Vision – METSU (Live)

This is the video that made me LOVE Dazzle Vision.

Seriously INTENSE. This band takes no prisoners.

CANTOY – Super Drive (Live) / LOUD UP!! (PV)

CANTOY – Super Drive (Live) / LOUD UP!! (PV)

Double-dose of up-and-coming Tokyo punk band CANTOY.

Produced by ex-ketchup mania guitarist & leader Dai’s new label Splatter Records, they’re the heir apprent for Tokyo’s indie punk scene, taking over for legends like ketchup mania, Skull Candy, Uplift Spice, and Berry Roll.

You’ll catch a few glimpses of Dai in the live video below, most fittingly at @1:40 next to the Jack Daniels.

The Asahi beer-chugging isn’t an act for the camera. CANTOY knows how to throw down with the best of them.

detroit7 bassist Nobuaki Kotajima to leave the band in February 2012


On January 8, the following message was posted on detroit7’s official Facebook:

Dearest fans of detroit7,

We have an important announcement.
Our bassist, Nobuaki Kotajima has made his decision to leave detroit7 at the end of February, 2012.
Please find his message below how he has reached his decision. We are very sorry to announce this sad news, but we hope you understand his decision
and we appreciate your continued support.

Warmest regards,

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Dazzle Vision – Live at Sakura-Con 2010

She’s a killer on that stage.

Dazzle Vision – Live at Sakura-Con 2010

Limited Express (has gone?) – We love this country like banana (PV)

Limited Express (has gone?) – We love this country like banana (PV)

Long time, no see LE!

Anger and resilience re: 2011’s Tohaku earthquake disaster:

It’s funny, it’s pissed off, and the last shot of Yukari and her child makes it poignant.

exist†trace – Interview (2011) Pt. 3

Interview by David Cirone
August 3, 2011


exist†trace members Jyou, miko, Omi, Naoto, and Mally gave this interview on April 25, 2011, just 2 days after their debut American live show at Sakura-Con 2011.

In contrast to your normal heavy-rock style, your album “TWIN GATE” revealed a different side of exist†trace with the song “Cradle.” How did that song come about?

miko: I really challenged myself on this song. Recently, within myself, I decided I wanted to widen my desires, to try new things that I hadn’t considered before. In “Ambivalent Symphony,” there’s the song “Owari no nai Sekai.” That song was also a challenge. It’s a bright song, so writing it lifted off one of my chains. At that moment, I was able to think exist†trace can do anything. Up to that point I thought that we would only make dark songs, so I challenged myself even more with “Cradle.” I said to myself, “Make this!” The members were all supportive, but we all had questions, too. “How can we make this ‘exist†trace’?” And within the arrangement of the song, one by one we found our own ways to make it an exist†trace song.

Mally: Every time we play this song live, I feel that we’re growing.

miko: After the earthquake, we put comments on our website, and the music playing behind them was “Cradle”. Fans said they cried reading our messages with that music, that it gave them a lot of power. At that moment I was really happy that we made this song.

Jyou: Normally there are people that live their lives with a lot of worry. They’re sad and they can’t get back up. So there will always be morning. The imagery of “Cradle” is a mother bringing her baby to sleep with that reassurance. Honestly, if we went back in time to talk to ourselves at the time when we first formed the band and played “Cradle” for them, I think our old selves would be completely shocked!

How do you feel you fit into the visual kei genre? Do you think being defined as a visual kei band affects the perception of your music?

Jyou: In Japan, the popular music genres are really separated. There are people who won’t ever listen to visual kei just because it’s visual kei.

Mally: For us, for our band, we’re definitely identified with the visual kei genre. But we have a lot of regular rock fans, too. Sometimes we’ll go to do a live at a place where no visual kei bands normally play, and we go in just as we are and people are accepting of us as-is. No one’s looking at us weird because of how we’re dressed. They can honestly say our music is cool regardless of how we look.

miko: However, it isn’t a bad thing to be called a visual kei band. We like the power of this genre, and we like being able to surprise people with a song like “Cradle.” There are people that say they don’t believe a visual kei band made that song.

Jyou: Not everyone is like that. We’re still reaching new people, and we want to make fans from people who listen to all kinds of genres, but we want to do it without changing our style.

Do you feel you get more respect in the music scene because of your longevity?

Jyou: I wonder…? We’re just doing it the way we want to do it. There are people who accept us because of that, because we’re doing things our own way. But it’s really just up to us to do our best.

Naoto: I want to say “Yes” to that question. Because we’ve done so many live shows, people accept us. That’s a fact.