Yes, even nerdy types like me get interviews. This was an unexpected benefit of doing some legwork in the initial Japanese Goth invasion of Astan magazine! Aside from knowing I doing good work, there will always be this interview on page 15 of the magazine. As it is now over a year since I did the interview and as the magazine is in German, I’m guessing it is cool to put this online now. I would guess staff from Astan pop in from time to time – so if there is a problem guys just tell me. Want to see what Igor was thinking over a year ago?
* Actually this is a draft, I cannot find the final original now… Well read on…
Astan: Please describe for our readers: what is JP Goth?
Igor: In a nutshell, it is a launch portal for Japanese Goth.
JGoth.com is essentially an attempt to develop a guide and community to Japan’s underground scene. It aims to highlight bands and events in English, which may be hard to find otherwise.
The site began as a mixture of diary and blog in 2004. But when I started mentioning major Gothic events in Japan, I started receiving emails from really interesting people who were looking for more information on the Goth scene so by early-2005 the site switched to a Japan Goth news and event information center.
The goals for the 2006 version of the site is to move towards a bilingual interface (haha that died!) to encourage people from both sides of the language fence to venture into the scene and hopefully bring people together globally.
Astan: What is your personal role in JGoth and tell us something about your person?
Igor: The site is still a one-person show, so I guess JPGoth.com (old site) and JGoth.com play a role in my life rather than the other way around. Around 90% of the news and event information is coming from me, but a couple of members are taking a more active role with reports and information and keeping the board ticking over. The launch of the bilingual JGoth.com will take this cooperative effort further with a better interface for people to get more actively involved to create more of a community site (Well it was nice on paper!).
About me? Well, I hail from Australia and have been in Japan for around eight years. People have spotted the obvious lack of “Gothishness” in me at events, but I like to think of myself as someone who enjoys alternative scenes rather than belonging to a particular group. My music of choice at home is pretty mellow – 70′/80′s punk/alternative/instrumental, but that is quickly changing to local Goth bands who have a real edge and witchy sound.
Astan: What is typical Japanese Goth Bands?
Igor: The great thing about Goth in Japan is that it is not bound by sound or image limitations. The unifying concept seems to be that they have stepped away from the mainstream to create something that touches the spirit.
The common visuals with elaborate kabuki-style face make up (whether the look is china doll, horror or industrial accident), mixing leather, lace and Victorian dress, seems to be the trade mark of the Goth underground, but the variance is incredible.
Likewise the sounds span a broad spectrum of genres from opera, to Grimm-style story-telling, to harsh rock, retro, elektronicka and beyond. The Goths are united by their diversity, their desire to step beyond the system. This is very different from the Visual Kei, which tends to be more uniform in look and many bands having a distinctive synth-pop sound – of course there is some diversity there as well.
These people are here to release themselves from a society that does not satisfy the needs of their hearts and souls. This would be the base core where the scene launches off. Emotionally powerful.
Astan: Please describe in short words what the J-Goth Scene is and who are the important bands?
Igor: I’ll tell you who buzzes me in the underground scene. I won’t mention the big names (like Mana) nor Visual Kei as 1) You probably know more than me and 2) I’m into the underground scene.
Auto-Mod EThe Goth father with 25 years of solid Goth/hard rock (Tokyo Dark Castle)
Jubilee – Goth-glam legends from Osaka (Glamtronik).
Agent Murder EPsycho hard elektronika and more (Adultery),
Despair – Lynch-pin in extreme industrial scene (Junk Children)
Selia/Seirenes – The sweetest voice, classical performances.
Destruct System – lethal rock sounds and incredible stage presence
Zeus Machina – creators of legendary Club Walpurgis in the 80s (relaunched as event in 2005).
Bands that I like are BAAL (industrial rock), Satanyanko (romantic punk sounds), Euthanasie (Gothika sexy elektro industrial), 2Bullet (tactical elektro industrial created by DeeLee from Agent Murder), Gadget (retro hard rock), Aural Vampire and Phantasmagoria.
The scene is full of gems hiding in different nooks, so don’t be afraid to explore and send me info!
Astan: In Germany we know a few things about the so called Visual Kei Scene. We think that VK and Goth have a lot of things in common. Are the J-Goth Scene and the VK Scene departed?
Igor: Their origins are very different with the Goth scene developing in a wholly underground environment and Visual Kei evolving more as an alternate pop for a young market. The looks can be similar with the make-up and costumes, but the origins, substance and direction are widely divergent. From afar they look similar, as the bands that make it outside Japan from the Visual Kei scene usually have more bite than the rank and file. If you spend time in the Visual Kei scene locally you soon see a lot of synth-pop bands and start understanding that they are quite different from the Gothic underground. Bands like Calmando Qual and Blood are great examples of bands who have styles that span both scenes (Calmando Qual even got a set at Tokyo Dark Castle which shows that the band is an exceptional sound).
The Goth scene has a much darker bent than the much of the Visual Kei scene and the imagery would be more consistently in line with Goth scenes overseas. They are generally underground bands so the commercial aspect is played down for the artistic expression.
Astan: The look of Gothic Bands makes a lot of them very special. Which of the J-Goth Bands look the best?
Igor: This depends what you are looking for. Japanese Goths invest heavily in their outfits and accessories. Agent Murder is probably the most glorious with black leather and make-up, looking like something out of the Matrix. Selia, for pure Victorian beauty. Despair for the rioting slave look – Ana is ultra cool in her corsetry and dreads. Baal for it’s look of the haunted industrial ghost style. Minimal make-up but great dress sense goes to Euthanasie. Mushi for looking like a soviet Marylin Manson and one member who looks like he just walked off Clockwork Orange. Pineal for being forest Satyr or devil spirit.
Astan: I know that not to many Japanese people speak English. In which language do the Bands sing and what do they sing about?
Igor: Most Japanese can speak some English, although not so many would be considered fully functional in day-to-day situations. Tokyo and Osaka have many people who can speak English well and a foreigner can usually scoot by without any Japanese in those cities. The language mix in the songs depends on the band – many have some English and some are very eloquent. For some bands almost all the lyrics are Japanese, but quite a few will have considerable amounts of English in songs. Some, like Agent Murder and Gadget will be almost exclusively in English (AM’s 2nd album was actually more Japanese, but all is cool).
The content of the material would not be terribly different from what you get in European Goth bands. Some will be painting a post-apocalyptic landscape (working as a cadaver thief for example), trials within the soul, a vampire preparing to die, sadomasochism, class and society, cultural colonialism, personal loss, discovering hope, Grimm Gothy fairy tales etc., etc.. The mix can take you anywhere depending on the band, the show or the CD.
Astan: How big is the Asian Goth and industrial scene and who or what influences the bands?
Igor: I’m too busy trying to keep up with the Japanese scene! I have seen mentions of Asian Goth or dark-metal bands ex-Japan, but have not had time to investigate them or the scenes. I suspect they would be smaller or with less variety than the Japanese scene. I’d be really interested in seeing what is happening in Korea as it seems to produce some really good stuff in the pop, punk and metal arena. Some places are getting into the cosplay and J-Pop so you would likely see some derivatives of light Visual Kei before you see the darker, more socially challenging artforms of darker Kei and Goth.
Astan: In the European goth scene things like cults, vampires and religion or old Gothic fairy tales and stories influence many of the bands. How is this in Japan?
Igor: European iconography does feature in bands who delve into the vampire/horror/fairy tale genres. You will also find that a lot of local legends/religious figures that are not too unfamiliar to European legends like kitsune (a fox spirit with Loki-like, trickster qualities), vampires or beings with vampiric traits, ghosts, demons, etc. The kabuki-styled face make-up is prevalent, but I do not know how deeply the bands delve into European or Japanese legends.
Some bands are overtly Japanese Gothic Theater (Strawberry Song Orchestra for example), but generally the iconography appears to be layered into the overall picture. Obviously I am still a novice Eask me again next year!