Yoshiki began by plugging his upcoming Madison Square Garden concert. A video recap of his past exploits played, exploring the dichotomy of his soul – a drum smashing rock iconoclast; a classically trained pianist who composed and played for the Emperor of Japan’s ascension anniversary. Who was the real Yoshiki? Neither? Both? Some impossible in-between? The video was frenzied, even messianic in its undertones, as he was quite literally borne aloft by his fans at prior concerts.
After a brief chat about Hige’s death and the breakup of X-Japan, it was on to the songs. Yoshiki was very much turned out in classical style for this – a Shigeru Kanai piano, a flaring wool long coat, sunglasses, and his trademark leather pants combined with royal blue lighting to give him the look of a maestro.
The three violinists and cellist who accompanied him (the “Yoshiki Sextet”) were good but not mirror-perfect; a minor mismatch in note timing at a transition in ‘Anniversary’ was noticeable but not fatal to the performance. Perhaps no one noticed more than Yoshiki himself, as the camera caught him grimacing and he apologized for nervousness immediately after the song concluded.
As expected, soaring piano riffs dominated the packed hall. Yoshiki was very much a performer, content to play his role. He announced his protégé, Katie Fitzgerald, a former Otakon attendee. Together they debuted ‘HERO,’ the new Saint Seiya soundtrack song. For darkness and light, for its rich depths and the majesty of its soaring heights, nothing could match the piano work in ‘HERO.’ However, Katie’s performance, while technically proficient, failed to engage with its harrowing tale of cutting and suicide attempts. There was no daring in her vocal range, in her slow and steady progression through classic themes of unrequited love and abandonment. All of Yoshiki’s cunning and craft, though they were in full force, could not make up for the lack of authenticity with which she sang loss.
The English version of ‘Tears’ was more emotional, but baffling in its differences with the well-known Japanese. Long-time fans will recall that Yoshiki suffered a difference of opinion with other members of X-Japan in that he wished to Anglicize the lyrics of X-Japan songs to appeal to the international audience. By the time he closed on ‘Endless Rain,’ however, nostalgia was in full force, with a good chunk of the audience softly echoing the chorus.
The remaining members of X-Japan appeared on stage briefly during ‘Kurenai,’ but seemed to be there only to tease the audience, promising a full appearance during the upcoming Madison Square concert. As such, this was both more and less than an X-Japan reunion concert: Yoshiki was its clear focus.
The genius of Yoshiki really lies in his exacting precision combined with a menace that speaks of hidden depths. The way he can over- or understrike notes, remaining within the acceptable range for the piano while hinting at more, is surely not something to be replicated by lesser performers. It may be that they lack the essential tension of conflicting forces that seems to always accompany him.
Yoshiki, joined by fellow X Japan band members Pata (guitar) and Heath (bass), gave a press conference at Otakon 2014. This is the transcription of that event, edited for clarity. (Yoshiki spoke in English throughout so it is not filtered by translation.) Our photographer Shizuka was on hand to take pictures and to ask a question as well.
Will another world tour be able to follow [the MSG show] within the next year or sometime in the foreseeable future?
Yoshiki: Yes, we are actually going to be announcing some future shows at MSG, but right this moment, we just concentrating on MSG. MSG, MSG, MSG. (laughter)
Are these shows to promote your album, or are these just great opportunities for X Japan?
Yoshiki: Well, we haven’t released an album in a long time, though we released a compilation CD just a few months ago. About 22 years ago, we had a press conference in New York at Rockefeller Center when we signed with Atlantic Records. That was supposed to be a big deal, we were then supposed to release an album, but a lot of things happened. So, 22 years later, we come back to New York and are playing a show. I can’t really tell you why we’re doing this MSG show, but you are going to know soon. There is something going on. Yes.
Yoshiki, you’ve been involved with charity projects, such as the Red Cross for tsunami relief. Can you tell us a little about what you’ve taken away from those experiences and whether you have any projects like that planned for the future?
When I was 10 years old, I lost my father to suicide. So I had a pretty depressed childhood. So I kind of understand the pain children have, so several years ago I decided to create my own charitable foundation. I try to support children who have that kind of pain….Unfortunately right after I established my foundation, there was the big earthquake that happened in Japan. At that moment I concentrated and focused on that, to support victims of the earthquake and tsunami. When you save people, I also feel saved for some reason. It’s like I want to keep doing this for the rest of my life, just at my own pace.
Yoshiki, you’ve been touring Yoshiki Classical…I was wondering how preparing for that differs from preparing for X Japan.
Pata: Maybe the same thing. I just play guitar. (laughter)
Yoshiki: X Japan is pretty much my life. Everything else is like a side project. Even on my classical tour, when I went to many countries and places, I said, “X Japan is my life.” It’s not like we’ve been doing different projects and coming back to this…it’s not like we just got back together and played….[X Japan] just runs in my blood. X Japan is more than a project. It’s our lives.
How did you first find out about Otakon, and what made you come back again? Also, what are your thoughts about Baltimore as a city?
Yoshiki: because you guys are so cool! (Laughter) Yes, I cam here for the first time in, what, 2008? 2007? 2006. Wow, that’s like 8 years ago! So that means Otakon was my first convention experience. At that time, I wasn’t even doing X Japan and I wasn’t even talking to Toshi. Since then a lot of things have happened. We didn’t know we had that many fans in America, or even outside of Japan, so we started finding out that whoa, people throughout the world have started listening to our music. It was so cool surrounded by these people.
This is our third time in America though, in 2010 we played at Lollapalooza. So 2006, 2010, 2014…I’m going to be here in 2018 then. (Laughter) Every four years, like the Olympics.
All your friends call you a “vampire” and that you should play Lestat in a movie. When are you going to do a vampire-themed rock opera?
Huh, good idea. I think I have a split personality about some things. Sometimes I’m called a vampire, sometimes I’m Yoshiki, sometimes I’m a character called Blood Red Dragon, created by Stan Lee…. Wherever I am, struggling during the Yoshiki Classical World Tour over 10 countries, I always stayed up nights. It’s something vampirish…I’m only half joking, half serious. Sometimes I say I’m half Japanese, half vampire, something like that. I just love the image of the vampire, you know. So yeah…it’s a good idea to create a vampire rock opera. That’d be cool.
(Our question.) You’re not just a musical icon but also a fashion leader. How do music and fashion relate for you?
Before my father died, he used to own a kimono shop, a Japanese traditional clothing shop. I grew up in that kind of environment, so I was always surrounded by kimonos. When we started X Japan, we put on a lot of interesting clothes and makeup, and dyed our hair red and purple. So fashion and music are inseparable, at least to us. Fashion is music, music is fashion, so it’s very natural to have both. Everything came very naturally.
You’ve been involved in a lot of different collaborations–credit cards, wines, just to name a few. What other products would like you to release in the future?
I would like to do something more musical as well. Actually there are a few more projects coming that are very musical. My main focus is music. Everything else is like a hobby. I’m planning several more press conferences, so I can’t talk about it yet…
(To Heath) We saw a video once in the past. It was Phantom of the Opera styled, you were in a cage coming down, you had people doing robot dances around you, and there was an incredible bass solo…will you ever do something similar to that again, especially in a venue like MSG?
Heath: I think that rock needs something very shocking, both visually and musically…that is rock, that is X Japan. MSG has shock to it that is not like something before, so I’d like to do a new kind of shock there. In the near future, please look forward to it.
Have any of you have had memorable experiences interacting with your fans?
Yoshiki: We’ve been around for a long time, and we’ve seen a lot of bands come and go. When you are on top of the world, sometimes you don’t realize–some bands think they are the best, but, we exist because of fans. There are no bad fans or good fans, we really care about all of them…because there were fans, X Japan reunited. Without fans, we couldn’t have reunited after all those tragedies happened to our band. We actually thank every single fan. Of course, sometimes we bump into some crazy fans too, but yes…
Some of the songs on Yoshiki Classical were previously released and performed with vocals. (For example, “Amethyst” was originally written for Violet UK.) How are you able to convey the messages of the original vocal version of the songs in the instrumental version?
“Amethyst” was classical from the get go, so I didn’t write lyrics first…I wrote the lyrics later. What happened was, we had an incident at a Tokyo amusement park–an X Japan event. At that particular attraction, my classical music was playing. One of the old members, Hide, said, “What is this song? This is one of my old compositions. We should use this at the Tokyo Dome for X Japan’s opening.” Like, really? I didn’t even think about that. Then, that was the the beginning of using “Amethyst” at the Tokyo Dome X Japan show.
As long as there is a great melody, we can put some nice lyrics on top of it. X Japan songs can be instrumentals, with or without lyrics. I think about melody first.
Six hours ago, ALTIMA made a daring promise. The Japanese pop trio, responding to a question of whether they would ever cover a Run DMC song, boldly urged members of the press and public to attend their evening Otakon concert.
One hour ago, they delivered.
Full of power, grace, and confidence, ALTIMA put on a dynamic performance – flitting about the stage, posing with each other, and swapping keyboards for guitars. They stopped at nothing to please the audience – dancing, strutting, jumping, and thrilling Baltimore with rousing renditions of Run DMC’s ‘Walk This Way’ and Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock n Roll.’ The audience responded with adulation – jumping out of their seats, waving colored glow sticks, and even running in place as Motsu trotted out Japanese dances for them to attempt.
Everything was on the mark: the sound technicians, the lighting, the beat, and the cavorting performers. There was one time when a sound tech did not make an instantaneous adjustment, but it meant nothing next to the sheer energy and raw enthusiasm displayed by Motsu and Maon, set against the backdrop of digital pop provided by Sat.
There are times in live performances where the human element falters, rendering the result less than a recording, and there are times when humanity rises to all challenges and creates a work of true beauty and matchless wonder. At the end of the concert, Maon cried out that she would remember it for the rest of her life. This was no exaggeration.
Motsu, you put the band together. Could you tell us why you felt compelled to work with these artists?
Motsu – At first . . . ? I love J-pop – and my old band, m.o.v.e., starting doing less digital J-pop. I found on YouTube that I could do digital J-pop with Sat, and we just needed a vocalist who was into it. We found her, and we were set!
Any funny or inspiring stories from the road?
Maon – In Thailand and in HK, the crowd had memorized the songs and sang with us! I felt that music connects us, even across distance, borders, and cultures.
Motsu – I love how loud the fans get in the US! It’s the best feeling, being cheered on like that.
Sat – We visited many places for the music videos and had a lot of experiences. It’s a real honor to be in the US.
You are each from different musical traditions. What is the concept of ALTIMA?
Sat – What we aim at is digital J-pop. I don’t know if you’d say digital pop exists elsewhere in the world, but digital J-pop is exactly what we want to do.
What artists inspired you?
Sat – Motsu~! (Grins across.)
Motsu – (Laughs.) (Pauses.) For me, as a rapper . . . Beastie Boys, 2Unlimited, house music . . .
Sat – Run DMC, Walk this Way!
Maon – For me, actually, a lot of anime artists! Minami Kuribayashi, Mizuki Nana, JAM Project – I found this style of music most interesting and I want to tell the world how wonderful it is!
Sat – I also manage FripSide . . . we were successful and I had the chance to work with Omura Tetsuya. I said, “I did it!” It really felt like a milestone in my life.
Maon – I also really respect Hamasaki Ayumi.
Sat – Hey Motsu – you’re in the same company as her, aren’t you? (laughter)
How do you deal with creative differences?
Motsu – Janken! (laughter)
Maon – Jan! Ken! Pon! (makes hand motions)
[Editor’s note: This is Rock, Paper, Scissors, which is ubiquitous in Japan.]
Sat – Seriously, though, we’re all in different age groups – 20s, 30s, 40s. We don’t really argue and we have no problem talking things over.
What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your music careers?
Motsu – Starting up this group, actually. Three years ago, not everyone was sold on this idea. We faced a lot of opposition. It was worth it though – we’re here now!
Sat – I likewise feel the greatest challenge was putting this group together. But I was a huge fan of Motsu already, so I knew I wanted to work with him!
Motsu – (Embarrassed) Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Maon – My own greatest challenge? Actually, it was stepping up and singing! I am really the introverted type; I love being inside playing dating simulation games, but when I discovered the world of anime music, I became passionate about sharing it with everyone. So stepping into the light was my biggest challenge.
You mentioned that Run DMC influenced you. Is there any chance we’ll see a Run DMC cover some time?
Motsu – Yes. Come to our concert tonight!
What’s your favorite swear word?
Maon – English or Japanese?
Motsu – Jikusho!
Bonus question: Where’d you get your shades? They’re very distinctive.
Motsu – It’s my own brand! Ghetto Blaster. So we could say I made them myself.
You move so fluidly! Did you have dance training, Motsu?
Motsu – I started out as a dancer.
Do you have a message for your US fans?
Motsu – You guys give us huge greetings when we come to the US. It’s great to have you cheering us on!
Sat – As the producer, let me say – we try for an unconventional style. I really want to see how fans react to it!
Maon – Even in Japan, it’s a rare opportunity to do everything raw. Here in the US, it’s an especially rare opportunity to bring you our raw sound, our raw voices . . . I’m looking forward to it!
Sat – I really hope we can spread exposure across the country to those who are looking for our sound. So I hope you guys can write good articles and convey our spirit to the world!
Lolita Dark gave a tight performance to an unimpressed audience Saturday night at Katsucon.
Guitar work was solid and unremarkable. Vocals were indistinct, taking on an almost shoegazer-like quality. The bass and drums worked together well on some of their older songs, interweaving their notes to create a driving beat. The meter of songs was instantly recognizable, even classic, though the chord progressions were anything but. In many ways, that exemplified Lolita Dark – a technologically and culturally hip reworking of a rock formula as old as the Rolling Stones.
Media-savvy and brisk-paced, the band paused for the briefest of explanations of their songs and reminders to like their Facebook page or visit their website before launching into more. Lead singer Ray’s harmonies were operatic, even shrill at times. Where her gestures were sharp, imperative, forceful, keyboardist May’s movements were bubbly and effusive. Bassist Rain played his part to the hilt, contributing no vocals but strutting along the stage. Drummer Joey and rhythm guitarist Patrick, while technically flawless, were also flavorless.
In many bands, the effect would seem overly prissy, even sophomoric, but Lolita Dark delivered the occasional apology without giving away their hard-edged passion. Alas, the audience’s lack of familiarity worked against the band. Though visually flawless, bearing costumes inspired by cyberpunk and – what else – gothic Lolita, Lolita Dark struggled to engage the con-weary audience. Cosplayers leaned on props, texting, and only seemed to muster up the energy to engage in fist-pumping or baton-waving when prodded by the band, or for the final song, a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name.’ When the set was over, over 80% of the fans filed out, not even waiting for an encore.
Lolita Dark has the potential, and they are developing the connections. They lack only the audience. Time will tell if there is truly support for US-based J-rock.
Was “Database” written especially for Log Horizon? The lyrics fit so well. We did think about the message and the concept of the animation but it wasn’t really totally made just for the story. But we’re really glad that it fits and matches.
Do you play MMORPGs like Log Horizon depicts? Which ones are your faves? I don’t know much about MMORPGs but if you’re talking about what’s my favorite RPGs the Final Fantasy series rule.
If you were stuck in the world of Log Horizon, would you still want to be wolves? Would you start a wolf guild? We’re ready to get stuck in that world anytime. Wolf it should be.
Many of your songs, like “Database” and “Emotions,” are sung predominantly in English. Did you plan on having an international/English-speaking audience right away? We’ve always wanted to spread our music throughout the world and English is the most common language. Singing in English was a natural thing for us to do. But we both like Japanese and English. I guess it only depends on what kind of message we want the song to have.
Finally–you mention in your story* that the Principality of Zeon was behind some of the evil int he world. Does that mean one day you are going to fight against them? In a Gundam? Woah. Do I have a chance to become a pilot? I’ll definitely do that. But I think we’re done with fighting. We’ll stick around and play music to see how much people can assemble and share the feelings we have in music.
*Their official bio notes the following:
In the year 19XX the earth was engulfed in war. Nation pitted against nation, human against human. Every living thing on the planet was locked in a chaotic battle to acquire each other’s wealth and power. In the meantime, in the farthest away land of “Ladyland” there lived a genius biologist named Dr. Jimi (hobby: guitar) who was about to conclude a mad science experiment for a pack of superior creatures that would be called MAN WITH A MISSION (MWAM).
Are they human? Are they wolves?
Their looks may be deceiving and even comical at first glance, but they have incredible brain power and a superhuman physique. Such superb abilities enabled them to carry out the planet’s most challenging top secret missions, and made them untouchable by the world’s fearsome and powerful leaders including Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and Ivan the Terrible. The Principality of Zeon had them work in the dark shadows of history in various locations around the world.
Dr. Jimi was plagued by guilt and regret that his creations had contributed to some of the most evil deeds in history and decided to put an end to it. He wanted to ensure that they wouldn’t fall under the spell of evil again and so he froze them into eternal sleep in a far edge of the world. Determined not to let his creativity potentially bring more evil into the world the Doctor burned his guitar. He managed to escape the hands of evil and cheat death three times, but he couldn’t avoid his destiny. Retribution for his death was to keep MWAM frozen under the glaciers in the South Pole. Jimi’s last words were, “I’ll try getting a straight perm in my next life.”
Time passed by and it was now the year of 2010. The planet had gone through worldwide economic crisis, numerous political and social tensions across borders, and was slowly being destroyed by pollution induced global warming. The warming and deterioration of the planet then melted the icy caskets that Dr. Jimi had jeopardized his life for. MWAM awoke from eternal sleep!
Are they working for justice for this world, or are they nothing else but evil?
Either way “MAN WITH A MISSION” is now back on the mission around the world!
In the rather plastic world of Japanese pop music, the relatively new band Man With A Mission stands out. Rather than opting for boy band flash and glitter, or the elaborate costuming of the visual kei set, the members of Man With A Mission don just one thing: wolf heads. They are more than just masks: they are a commitment, covering the whole head and leaving only holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth. Their mouths do not move visibly, even as they sing. (Though the bass player’s eyes did glow red at one point.) They are transformed when they take the stage. They become their act.
The fanciful backstory that they conceived for themselves–that they are the botched products of human experimentation by a super-powered Jimi Hendrix–shows that their sense of humor is matched with an appreciation for the rock masters. Amid their original numbers, which included the anime opening song for Log Horizon “database” as well as anthemic numbers like “Emotions,” was a surprisingly faithful, spirited cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” They did it their own way: with their blend of rap and the original’s hard riffs, though the chorus returned to the original version. The whole crowd headbanged along. It wasn’t exactly like being back in 1992 Seattle, but I don’t think Kurt Cobain is rolling in his grave either.
Much of Man With a Mission’s music is actually reminiscent of a slightly later period of music, the electronica/DJ tinged rap rock of the late 90s and early 2000s, which is most evident in “Database” and “Get Off of My Way,” and perhaps most obviously and notably, “distance”–in which DJ Starscream (SID) from Slipknot showed up to guest DJ. (The Slipknot influence runs deep: the band’s use of costumes, the stage diving, and their sound….) But unlike Slipknot and other acts in that genre, there’s a positivity to MWaM’s music, which is infectious and helped the crowd–a diverse mix of Japanese fans, regular clubgoers, and a few otakus like myself–get into the right mood, even if the songs were not necessarily familiar to everyone. Evidently realizing that the anime crowd is perhaps giving them the most exposure now, they saved “database” for last, and this got the crowd going harder than anything else. The song is a good representation of their sound, and it also fits lyrically with the themes of the show very well. Anyone who was a fan of the show left satisfied that evening, ears ringing with the powerful vocals and guitars that ring through all of their songs.
The masks never came off, so we never got to see the “real” faces of the band. They decided, instead, to allow their music to be their identity, and it’s a fresh, interesting one.
Prominent J-Rock band Porno Graffitti performed their many anime songs and others live at Anime Expo 2013 this year. Both Monsieur LaMoe and Shizuka were on hand to cover it, with Shizuka taking photos along the way. These are their joint impressions of the show.
LaMoe: So when the concert started–yes, that’s right, I’ve heard this song before, their debut piece, “Apollo.” That completely blew me away. I heard this song more than a decade ago, but it still sounds so vivid and fresh! It made me nostalgic, that speedy and powerful that I still remember so well. It’s amazing how Akihito projects his voice! I’d never heard him sing live until now, and it was incredible. He’s close to 40 years old, but still jumping and running around during the entire show. Such admirable stamina! Listening to the live performance is so much better than listening via iTunes with earbuds on.
Later they played “Saudade,” which is a song that has a Latin feel to it. The word “saudade” is the fundamental feeling behind bossa nova music, the music pioneered by Antonio Carlos Jobim. But “Saudade” did not sound like bossa nova at all, but more like Santana-like Latin music with a very J-pop sound. They told us during their press conference that the word fit their song, so the mood was still recognizable.
And then there were the recognizable anime songs, especially from Great Teacher Onizuka and Bleach, that made the crowd go wild. Yes, when I first heard “Hitori no Yoru” (the GTO opening song), instead of “Lonely, lonely,” I heard, “loli, loli.” So, I thought it was about a lolicon song, just like The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” Yup, Mr. Onizuka is a lolicon! “Loli loli, I want to see you~♪” Darn! But turned out that was only my soramimi (“mishearing” literally “empty ears (空耳)”). But seeing the crowd dancing to a lolicon song would’ve been so hilarious.
And that Fullmetal Alchemist opening, “Melissa,” oh, such nostalgia. Yup, this anime was from a decade ago! Reminds me… Ah, so good. Yeah, listening to the anime songs live felt so great after all.
Shizuka: Porno Graffitti delivered an incredible performance for their fans, keeping the energy high within the crowd, as they got the audience to sing along in “Century Lovers” and swing towels (which had been thrown into to the crowd) like cowboys swinging lassos during “Mugen.” But I wasn’t just impressed by Porno Graffitti’s ability to keep the crowd excited – I was equally impressed by their dedication to the music, as the lead singer of Porno Graffitti took out and played a real harmonica during “Winding Road!”
And then, “Melissa” played. My (and probably most fans’) most anticipated song, it was so much better performed live that all I could do was bask in the music. The audience’s response to this song after it was over was so strong that Porno Graffitti played this as their last song in an unexpected triple encore!
It was a give and take relationship between Porno Graffitti and the audience. With Porno Graffitti giving such an energizing performance, the audience gave an incredible show of support through their towel-swinging, “porno-porno” cheering, and frenzied hand-waving back to Porno Graffitti. I’m sure they weren’t ready for rabid American fans, as Porno Graffitti had to tell the audience to quiet down so their voices could be heard at the end of the concert… so they could announce that they would be back!
LaMoe: Between the encores everyone was screaming, “Porno, porno, porno!” That sounded really weird, but refreshing. It’s something just lost in translation in Japanese. The word porneia (πορνεία) originally meant “fornication” or “sexual immorality” in Greek. Yes, as a rock band, that’s the name it should be. The term”rock’n roll” also meant “fornication.” So, it’s a music for fornication. They provide the kind of music that gets everyone horny. Yes, sexual burst, an outlet for the daily repression of capitalism!
Apollo (Debut song)
Koyoi, Tsuki ga Miezutomo (Bleach 3rd movie ending song)
Matataku Hoshi no Shita de (Magi 2nd opening song)
Hitori no Yoru (Great Teacher Onizuka 2nd opening song)
Anime Diet was privileged to attend and take photos of J-rock band Porno Graffitti at this year’s Anime Expo! Pornograffitti is best known for anime OPs and EDs for Great Teacher Onizuka, Fullmetal Alchemist, Bleach, and most recently Magi. They named themselves after the album by Extreme (see their remarks in our liveblog of their press conference about that and more), and currently consists of Akihito Okano on vocals and guitar, and Haruichi Shindo on background vocal and guitar.
Here we present to you our best photos of the concert, taken by Shizuka. Our full review of the concert, as well as a full translated transcript of the press conference, is coming very soon as well! Stay tuned.
This is a full, translated transcript of the band Porno Graffitti’s press conference at Anime Expo 2013. Porno Graffitti, best known for doing songs for Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, and recently Magi, consists of two members: Akihito Okano (lead vocals), and Haruichi Shindo (guitar). They both answered questions.
Are your anime songs written before being associated with that show, or are they written specifically to complement the anime?
Akihito: Yes, usually, we get the offer to do an anime theme song first…so we often write songs with the feel and taste of that anime in mind. For example, when we were making a theme song for Bleach, which has a lot of very samurai-like characters in it, those characters make us think of the Japanese concept of wa (harmony). So we wrote a melody that sounded Japanese. And when writing lyrics, that’s a different process, so Haruichi [can explain]…
Haruichi: To pick a recent example, Magi, I come in with a general understanding of the show’s basic worldview and then write the lyrics. Then once we receive the opening sequence of the anime, I watch it and make adjustments to the lyrics to make it even closer to the anime’s worldview. It’s like a back and forth process, and that is what’s special about collaborating with the production team to work on an anime together.
(Us): You did a song called “Saudade,” a concept borrowed from Brazil and associated with bossa nova music. Are you influenced at all by bossa nova or Brazilian music?
Haruichi: I also like bossa nova, so I listen to it a lot and then I caught the word “saudade” in the lyrics without understanding its meaning. So I got interested and looked it up in the dictionary, and then thought, “Oh, that’s what it means,” and I thought this concept would fit that song, so I used it.
What does your popularity overseas say not just about your music but the spread of anime/manga/Japanese pop culture overall?
Akihito: Well, we’re proud of the fact that our music is breaking through to so many cultures overseas, to America, because Japan is hugely influenced by America and we all admire America. That’s what’s our background is, so I’m happy that our culture is in a way going back to America. Well, I could go on, but if the historical ties between Japan and the US could become deep, where Japanese and Americans get along, or people around the world can get along…if we can play a part in that, I think that will make us happy.
What do you want to do next?
Haruichi: Since we debuted as major artists 15 years ago, even in Japan we are starting to be seen as more like an adult/mature group. How we can play rock music as a more “grown-up” band will be the next big challenge for us. So, if we can do more “mature music,” that will be great.
Any influence from foreign artists or Japanese artists?
Akihito: Well, yes, if you going back to our roots, rather than being influenced by one artist or another, we are influenced by all kinds and types…after all, North America has a myriad of different styles of musicians. Different aspects of different artists have influenced us, so we can choose from a lot of sounds. For next time, we want to continue to explore many more types of sounds.
Was there a particular anime that you enjoyed working on the most?
Akihito: As I mentioned before, when we wrote a song for the theatrical version of Bleach, Tite Kubo really liked our song, and he even wrote a comment that praises our song. So we have a lot of good memories working with that anime, and it leaves a good impression when you get positive feedback, and when the collaboration between author and musicians really works.
What kind of anime did you watch growing up?
Haruichi: I could probably bring up an endless number of titles, and I could go on and on… Yes, we are probably the first “Gundam generation,” and Weekly Shonen Jump was very big, so we were all reading that, and we saw the anime that was made from those manga, like Kinniku-man, Dragonball, Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star). I could go on and maybe many people at AX could say they’ve seen similar titles. And there were also the programs that aired during weekday nights, like Tom and Jerry, Road Runner; we were watching both Japanese anime and American cartoons.
Akihito: Probably, all kids all over the world are like that. And probably, you watch an anime and try to remember its song and sing it with full energy…that might have been the starting point for me to become a singer. Like when I was a child, I tried hard to remember the theme songs of Gundam, Saint Seiya. Actually if you make me sing the Seiya theme song, I can still sing it really well. Pegasus Fantasy!
What do you say to your fans in Latin America? Will you consider touring there one day?
Akihito: Yes, as we mentioned before, we’ve been influenced by Latin music so we use its sounds sometimes. It is true that Japan and Latin America are far apart geographically, but from now on, we will be more aware of fans in Latin America as we make our music. Having met you here in LA, I’d be happy to reach out to you where you are, and if we ever have another chance, we want to visit Latin America too. So please invite us.
Did y0u ever watch an anime where you felt, “we have to do the song for that!”?
Haruichi: Before we became a professional band, we never had the idea of specifically writing anime songs, in coordination with the anime’s production team. But after our professional debut, then we had an opportunity to do just that, and that gave us the ability to expand our audience beyond our usual rock one. It’s even helped us break some generational barriers. And now, if we can work on a good anime, we will when the time is right.
Are there any specific songs or artists that have inspired you as musicians?
Akihito: One of our first influences was Guns and Roses, who are right here from LA, and after seeing them on TV, we wanted to be a cool band like them. That’s how we started, and there’s been others who’ve influenced us. Haruichi for instance is a guitarist, so he was influenced by Eric Clapton in particular.
What ties do you have to Los Angeles? Why did you choose here as your overseas debut?
Haruichi: Well, when we were in middle school or high school, there was the “L.A. metal boom.” That was our first exposure to Western music, and so our image of Western music was a long blond haired guy rocking wildly with tight pants playing metal music. Our image of Los Angeles/the West Coast is like that.
Akihito: We’ve been more influenced by Los Angeles than we ever were consciously aware of. Like with the movie Terminator 2, when we landed at LAX, the scenery from that movie was implanted in my memory already and so I said, “oh, this is the place they used in that scene!” Then I realized that so many aspects of how we felt about America–of course, there’s also New York, other big metropolitan cities too–were mostly or entirely influenced by Los Angeles.
This is July 4th weekend for Americans. What do you think of all the festivities?
Haruichi: Well, coming back from a video/photo shoot in Santa Monica, we got stuck in a traffic jam. That was a pretty good sign of the festivities going on!
(Us) Can you confirm that you named yourself after the album by Extreme? Also, tell us a bit about your beginnings as a band, and whether you expected to get as far as you did.
Haruichi: Just like you said, we borrowed our name “Porno Graffitti” from Extreme’s second album. When we were an amateur band, we wanted a very memorable name and one that would leave a strong impression, so we borrowed it from that album, which we’d been listening to in high school. We didn’t take it seriously back then, but then we got a major label debut under that name. And that was when we found out that adults, unexpectedly, didn’t really like the word “porno.” And by the time that the Japanese got used to the name “Porno Graffitti,” we end up coming to Los Angeles and found out that English speaking people are even more surprised and offended by the word “porno.” So we do feel a little bit of regret…if we had known we’d play overseas one day, or be on national TV in Japan, we would have chosen a different name.
We were one of the lucky few pre-approved press outlets to be able to attend the Porno Graffitti[sic] press conference at Anime Expo 2013! Here is a live tweet record of it. There are gaps and other issues due to an unreliable Internet connection, but a complete, translated transcript is forthcoming—so here’s a small taste. Enjoy!