Right smack in the middle of their run with Nikki Sixx on SIXX:AM’s Modern Vintage tour, VAMPS made a quick stop in Florida to perform in Monster Energy’s Loudest Month series, rocking the stage during Ft. Rock in Ft. Meyers and Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville. I caught up with Hyde and KAZ after their smoking set in Jacksonville on April 24 and, with the help of translator, Hiroki, chatted about touring with an American legend, performing in a foreign country and vampire evolution.
You guys have been playing a LOT lately. You’ve been very very busy. Do you do anything special to stay in shape, maintain your voice, anything like that?
H: We have kind of a hard time, of course. With the one man tour we get kind of tired, but everyday something new happens and it’s kind of refreshing.
Speaking of new things, Nikki Sixx recently played VAMPARK in Japan with you guys and now you are opening for him on his SIXX:AM Modern Vintage Tour. How did that come about?
H: Nikki knows that I’m a big fan of Motley Crue and Nikki Sixx. We recently had a big gig in Japan called VAMPARK Festival and we supported SIXX:AM and helped them get into the Japanese market. Now, we are with SIXX:AM because they are trying to give back for what we did for them.
H: Well, KAZ might be doing something.
K: I can’t tell.
Me: Ohhhh. Secret?
Festivals like this are always a very unique experience due to the wide range of fans in the audience. As a musician, how do you approach such a unique situation with so many different types of music fans in one place?
H: Well, in Japan, we are really big. Everyone knows about us and we’re treated really well. Like rockstar life. When we go outside of Japan, we are a totally new band. It feels like starting things from the beginning. This kind of situation reminds us of the beginning of things.
When you first started, did you ever think you would be playing in a place like this with 50,000 people?
K: When I started my music back in the day, everything I saw was on DVD on the screen. I thought, I wonder how it feels to be there. So, I imagined what it was like.
On this trip alone, if I’m not mistaken, you will be playing in every type of venue, from clubs to arenas, to festivals like this one. What’s your favorite type of venue to play in?
H: I like bigger places. Bigger the better.
Hiroki: Like Americans, eh? *laugh*
K: I like to play outside, but I don’t like it too hot.
Me: Florida is very hot.
K: Yes, very hot.
I know from experience how, when traveling or working in another country, you can sometimes feel like you’re on another planet. I know you guys have been here before, but is there anything that still confuses you or surprises you when you come here?
H: I’m surprised that there is a skiing place only two hours away from LA.
K: In the US, there are a lot of rock musicians. That surprises me because, in Japan, there aren’t a lot of rock musicians. It’s only pop. Not a lot of rock. When we come to places like this, it’s all rock.
Your latest album BLOODSUCKERS, has just been released internationally with lyrics recorded in English. You did the same thing with SEX BLOOD ROCK AND ROLL. Do you believe it will help your music reach a broader audience?
H: Singing in English is a better way to tap into the US market. When I sing in English in Japan, most of the fans can’t sing along. But here, I see the audience sing our songs in English. I like that. It feels like we are getting closer to the US audience.
You guys use a lot of vampire imagery in your look and music. What is it that draws you to this imagery?
H: I’ve always liked the whole concept of vampires. One day, I thought if vampires are performing on the stage, that would be great. That’s why we started.
The BLOODSUCKERS album combines this vampire imagery with another of my favorite thematic elements, pirates. These are two things that seem, at least to me, almost contradictory; the vampire representing something damned and the pirate representing freedom. What inspired you to bring the two together?
H: Because we would die! *laugh* We are vampires, obviously. But, we do evolve. We are standing here outside under the sun and we are still alive!
Several of your songs give a sort of vampire’s-eye view of humanity. Vampire Depression from your self-titled album, is a vampire’s frustration over the human condition while Vampire’s Love from BLOODSUCKERS is a vampire looking more longingly into the human world. Does this reflect a progression in your vampire’s world view?
H: From the point of view of a vampire, human beings are so complex. Sometimes there are a lot of paradoxes going on. Sometimes you are killing each other. So, it’s interesting seeing humans from a vampire’s point of view. That’s what the image is about.
Well, now that we’ve got the important ones out of the way, how about a few silly ones? If you weren’t a musician, what would you do?
K: Professional snowboarder.
Me: You skateboard, right?
Hiroki: He’s really good at it!
H: I would work in a host club.
Hiroki: He would make a lot of money, right?
Me: Musician, host, same thing, right? *laugh*
Name three things you can’t survive without.
H: Sex, blood, rock and roll. *laugh*
If you could make music with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
H: Jesus Christ.
K: Jimmie Hendrix.
Naka-kon marks the beginning of my con season and I have to say, it is starting out great! Thanks to a friend I had the chance to get out and enjoy this amazing convention, plus I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with HIZUMI, of D’ESPAIRSRAY fame, to talk about his career in design and his company UMBRELLA.
Q. Thank you for speaking with us today. How did you enjoy Naka-kon? Did you have a chance to look around?
A. This is the first time I’ve really gotten to walk around and look through a venue where it is very concentrated on anime. It left quite an impact.
Q. You run your own company, UMBRELLA. Are the style of design you use and the name connected?
A. There is no real connection between the name and designs. The name for the brand comes from the fact that people call me the “Rain Man.” The name doesn’t have anything to do with my creative works.
Q. Can you tell us about overall influences? Such as other artists or things in everyday life that influence you to create your designs?
A. It mostly comes from talking with people. Like going out and talking with drinking buddies.
A. Just to clarify, I didn’t make the goods or anything. I just made the decisions on what goods looked like. But through seeing this, I came to realize I like designing and making things.
Q. Besides graphic design, you also do photography. Can you tell us how your interest started in that?
A. I needed raw materials, My designs are based on photography. You can get images online, but those are images everyone can use. I figured that would limit my originality. So, the best way is to go out and take pictures as the base for my work. There is a lot of cost and time behind doing it this way, but I ultimately feel that it is worth it. Other people looking at my work may not think all these things, but for me I have to do it this way.
Q. You said you work your photography into your designs, can you tell us about the conceptual process behind that?
A. The process is backwards.I don’t start with a concept, such as “I want to go out and take a picture of this.” I go out and take photos and pick what I like. Then I go from there. I don’t hunt certain things, I just go with the flow.
Q. You’ve done lot of world traveling, has the culture of the places you’ve visited had any influence on you?
A. This is my first time really going overseas as UMBRELLA, so it hasn’t affected my work that much. I travel around Japan, too, but there isn’t a big cultural difference. Coming to Kansas, I did feel I learned things from this trip. Things I could maybe use. Please look forward to future works that might include this.
Q. Do you have a message you would like to leave for your fans about the future plans for UMBRELLA?
A. For this year, I want to open up internationally and promote outside of Japan. It isn’t just important to do this online, but also to be there and see the reaction of fans and allowing them to see my work.
A self-proclaimed “no-genre band,” Mahoshojo ni naritai is dripping with nerd-core goodness. With a sound straight out of an old-school video game, the synth backdrop and effected vocals make you feel like you’re adventuring with Zelda or defeating evil mages in Final Fantasty I. Even navigating their OHP feels like a video game. Check them out after the break.
Band Name: Mahoshojo-ni-naritai
KAJI BASIL (vocal)
Ui Viton (guitar)
ADULT YUkun (bass)
2. Favorites: What is the one thing you can’t live without?
What do you have to have with you when you travel?
A flu mask
Would you turn around and go back if you realized you forgot it?
3. Influences: What are your major musical influences?
What is the first CD/tape/record you ever bought?
Is there any one song or one record that made you look at your life differently?
Is there anything you are excited to eat or try during your trip to the US?
5.Past: How did your band get together and what were you like when you first started?
When we formed this band, it’s like we could be broken up with everybody’s widely varying opinions on every matter because of the difference of our ages.
7. Present: How has your band changed or evolved from the beginning?
9. Survivor: If you were going to be dropped on a desert island and could only bring one book, one movie and one music album with you, what would you bring?
I would bring a book, since no electricity there.
10. Last words: Why should we come see your band? What message would you like to give to your current and potential fans?’
We would like to tell the world Mahoshosho-ni-naritai is going to be a Japan’s new culture and we are looking forward to meeting new fans in the USA.
Special thanks to Adult Yu Kun of Mahoshojo-ni-naritai and Audrey Kimura of Benten.