Tag Archive: J-Goth

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!

Tokyo Dark Castle #17 once more showed why it is the biggest event in the Japanese Goth scene with more hot bands than you can point a sharp pointy thing at and a large crowd to push things into overdrive. While the sadness of Isola’s passing was not forgotten, the celebration of life was supreme.

Crowd As beautiful as ever. The dress was more style-oriented than fantasy-oriented tonight. There were more people than normal for TDC as it was in part kind of wake for Isola. Cheers to the guys who made it out, said hello, etc. There were quite a few gaijin from various corners of the globe about to boot.

Venue While I like Marz for the funky two-floor layout, it pales compared to Deseo, which had a nice foyer space to talk and more space in general. Marz works very well for smaller events, but once you reach a certain crowd size it just gets uncomfortable – tonight’s TDC was probably a comfortable size for Deseo, but not for Marz space. There was nowhere to escape to and talk (unless you’re “staff”) and if there is a fire, then you’re all going to die! Don’t get me wrong, it is a good mid-size place for events, and would be good for a quiet TDC (Golden Week for example), but regular TDC nights will be a bit of a squeeze. I hope they move the event for Halloween, which shall be most insane!

Up to the usual high standard of TDC, there were no misses. The sounds ranged from the ambient, classical to extra industrial.

Slightly longer set with some Hindi-like riffs being added. The new direction works well for the band, bringing out a new accent for the band along with Selia’s addition in back-up vocals. Would I go to a gig just to see them? Goth/metal rock events – for sure.

Speed ID
Liked them a lot and strong Goth sound. I shall keep looking for their outings in future. Would I go to a gig just to see them? Yes – quite an interesting group I want to learn more.

More ambient sounds with two sweet voices plus violin. The singers are very good (as usual) with an operatic style, but the performance seemed lack-luster due to a heavy reliance on taped sounds. I guess I shouldn’t complaint, but with the interlude live acts at previous TDCs (e.g. Vexation and Selia) had more power with straight live performance. Would I go to an event just to see them? Hard call. The voices are great and work well in Goth or ambient scenes, but I just feel they need one more musician…

Destruct System
Hard-assed all the way. Sounds to riot by – and people did with a bit of light moshing and surfing. Would I go to an event just to see them? Oh yeah, as long as I had some Japanese genki drinks (power drinks like Red Bull… except more potent with liquid nicotine and other stuff you wouldn’t believe).

Calmando Qual
Showing that a band from the visual kei scene can rip out some good dark, rocky, gritty sets. Would I go to a gig just to see them? Hmmmmm. Yes, I think they’ve got a good mix of sound and delivery.

As always the craziest, maddest industrialists around – more mosh-stuff, I just held the stage barrier and tried not to bounce back into the riot behind me! Would I go to an event just to see them? Absolutely! Yes damn it! Yes, yes, yes.

The addition of Jude, Wakana and Taizo to Chihiro and Violet made the DJ sets as zesty as the bands themselves.

Armed with his harp, the supremely beautiful sweet soprano provided a last farewell for the night. Smooth as honey the whole way through. Would I go to an event just to see Selia? Absolutely.

Overall, a very good event. In terms of the bands and DJs it was one of the better TDCs. However, venue size was an issue. While it was a sad closure for many, it also re-affirmed that life goes on and should be celebrated.

Vengeance for Blood @ Ikebukuro CyberWhile the Gothic Lolitas had worked to suppress my urge to bounce and w00t in front of the stage, they could not stop me from having a good time!

Hauling ass to Club Cyber
Located a short walk from Ikebukuro station, Cyber stands out on the side street it is on; being the brightest lit spot there sitting adjacent the local TUC shop. The entrance was quite nice with enough visual kei band posters adorning the walls to make your average European Goth-mag editor salivate.

Inside Cyber, the stage space is well laid out. The center had a raised platform letting the players get right over the audience so you could get a good gander at band members. The crowd space was too small though. The place should rip out the DJ box on the crowd floor and stick it upstairs or somewhere.

Crowd :: Gothic Lolitas everywhere
Upon opening the blast-doors, I was hit by the reality of wall-to-wall Gothic Lolitas. We are not talking about your Tokyo Dark Castle-roaming GLs, but rather the younger, Harajuku-types who always seem distant from the rest of the crowd at events. These are the quiet ones sitting in the corner appraising the crowd, deciding who they are going to kill in some dark alley with those exceptionally long and pointy daggers squirreled away beneath one of those lacey bodices (oh, you didn’t know about that did you?).

Another thing you notice about these Gothic Lolita crowds is that they don’t make a lot of noise. They like hand-waving at the front, but are not likely to applaud unless they really love the band. I was the only member in the audience to let loose with a couple of w00ts for the bands during sets, but I knew it was wrong, wrong, wrong. I should have just quietly sipped my Blood cocktail in the corner (that was yummy).

I found myself tripping over daypacks dumped all over the place. I guess the girls must have got dressed up in a public toilet and brought their day-clothes along to the event. OH, COME ON! Japan is the “safety country.” You could walk about in GL style anywhere. Hell, I could walk about dressed as GL anywhere!

This is why I was here and I was glad I came! The bands were an interesting mix of styles from dark synth-pop to glam to rock. Sure, they have heavy links with the [shudder] visual kei scene (this explains the Goth-Loli chans), but these bands play pretty damned well. Two of them have done Tokyo Dark Castle. Another has been globe-trotting quite successfully. There’s grittiness here!

Brand 0
Sexy hot-rocking stuff.

Storming though the entrance and trying to avoid tripping over Gothic Lolitas and their associated baggage, I already knew Brand 0 band were good. Even the phalanx of black froo could not stop my inexorable progression to the front of the stage. I was drawn like a fly the flame. Four axes, real drummer and vocals were onstage grinding out this hot mix of glam and hard rock  Esix freaking people! The music was not revolutionary, but it was done damned well and with a hell of a lot of energy. The costumes were great, but Brand 0 doesn’t need these props to pump the crowd  Ejust loud and powerful music with good stage presence from all. Band members had a symmetry about their moves in parts of the set working together to rip some emotion out of you. I w00ted a few times even though I knew the GLs wouldn’t approve of such ruffianism. Would I go to a gig just to see them again? Yes, definitely. Oh, yeah, I scored the guitar pick from the re-haired guy – 2cool.

Candy Spooky Theater
Dark synth-pop.

Candy Spooky Theater has been around for a long time and I think the band did a couple of sets at the early editions of Tokyo Dark Castle. A three-person dark synth-pop unit whose style might be described as a combination of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands. The first half of the set was heavily synthed with lots of DAT sequences and was largely an indulgence. The singer even had a little doll and told a story using a synth-warped mic. The second half of the set was livelier, with a bit of anarchy on stage. Would I go to an event just to see them? Possibly not, but I would not avoid an event where they played.

Dark, complex, emotional sounds with great visuals

Ah, this is why I came here. An interesting band as they seem to have quite a range of styles in their repetoire: classic Goth rock, moody melancholy, some Cure-esque layers and a bit epic J-rock akin to Gackt and the like. A difficult band to classify, because of this mix of sounds, but they have very listenable, creative music. Crisp and complex, their style will grow on you. Their costumes and magnificent and probably cost more than the average English teaching drone’s salary. Right from the start of the set you know these guys (yes, they are guys) have invested heavily on creating the look and feel of their music. The ax-work is precise with both lead and bass laying down the sounds with perfection. Fu~ki, the lead singer knows how to work the audience into the music. It was not the kind of act that you would jump to or mosh with, it was the act you’d just move closer to the stage to enjoy the songs and performance. I have to toast them for doing what they intend doing, which is creating a unique, quality band. It may not be the kind of thing you would see at Tokyo Dark Castle (because of their Japan epic rock influence) but they have kudos. Would I go to a gig just to see them again? Yes, definitely.

Calmando Qual
Hard rocking stuff.

A one-song set (!) alas as the lead singer was sick on the night  Eprobably a result of a long tour since last year. Fu~ki of Blood did a fill-in for the vocals and blasted a terrific rendition of the fuck you song! Un-fucking-believable  Eloved it.

All-in-all a pretty good event. The crowd was a little tame, but the bands were generally might fine. Blood put together a well-matched group of bands together and delivered a great night. Brand 0 and Blood will be doing a special two-man show at Ikebukuro Cyber again on March 18. Details for that shall be up soonish!

The night closed with DJ Violet speeding away on a scooter in full Victorian dress. With blue ringlets spilling from under his helmet and a smile of pure delight, Violet shot down the deserted street into the heart of Shibuya. Just eight hours ago the Goths of Tokyo, and beyond, had poured into Deseo for an underground event like none other. Welcome to Tokyo Dark Castle.

Tokyo Dark Castle 101
Tokyo Dark Castle, for those who just dropped in, is Japan’s leading Gothic event. The creme de la creme of Japan’s darker side come here to perform everything from the hardest industrial overdrive to the sweetest neo-opera sounds. For six hours guests are treated to the total Goth package. The night is filled with the best-dressed Goths, Gothic-Lolitas, metallers, glam-lovers and more. Imagine a night where Marilyn Manson would sweep through unnoticed in the crowd.

TDC’s Halloween
The October 29 event was doubly special as it celebrated Halloween and the 25th Anniversary of Auto-Mod, who have been at the helm of Japan’s dark underground scene for a generation and whose lead singer, Genet, is responsible for bringing Tokyo Dark Castle to the people. The pure creativity of Auto-Mod cannot be underestimated in Japan’s narrow mass market. In an environment where institutions like Johnnies and the Morning Musume industrial complex have produced bands and music that hold to a very thin template of J-Pop, Auto-Mod is one of the standouts who have led Goth and underground rock sounds since the 1980s.

Let’s have a party
Deseo’s not a small place and previous forays have left me with enough space to scope things or bounce with abandon, but tonight the dark lords and ladies arrived en masse filling the entire space with glorious visions of phantsy wherever you looked. There were also many new faces in the crowd so it was full of surprises. Igor felt pretty normal in his loafers, but thankfully people overlook the underdressings of foreigners here and we could all have a good time. The shops had all kinds of displays, but it was hard to concentrate on the pretty things on the tables, when you’re surrounded by it! I did manage to pick up a new Auto-Mod CD though – thanks to my audacious dancing skills (or lack thereof) the Auto-Mod crew member remembered me and gave me a nice discount (you see, it pays to lose yourself from time to time). Everyone was so friendly (as always) and once you find one new person to speak to, you’ll discover three more and so on. This is one aspect of all the Goth events that I have found – people really are open. It’s something that I have never found at any regular night spot in Tokyo – the bridge is so much easier to cross.

But let’s get onto the sounds.

DJ’s Voilet & Chihiro & VJ Kihito
The DJ’s were cooking some great stuff tonight. Often overlooked when they do there job right (and Chihiro and Voilet are good) I would just like to give a quick w00t! to them for keeping the night on pace! As always, Kihitio kept the visuals rolling smoothly with all kinds of great footage mixed in.

Calmando Qual
Because the line outside Deseo was long (and I grabbed another chu-hi beforehand) I missed the first act, Calmando Qual. Technically, I think they are in the visual kei crowd, but as I have come to learn not all visual kei is popsy-cute Shazna wannabes – actually there are a couple of pretty hard mutherfuckers around in the visual scene. One thing about Calmando Qual is that they know how to get it on! Definitely a band worth catching and seem to be doing a lot of places that would not usually get Goth bands (like Fukuoka). So keep tabs on them.

Genet and his boys went fell knell for over an hour! Slamming out some great classics that us recent visitors may have missed this year and drilling them into our skulls. It was the full deal tonight with theatrics reminiscent from earlier years’ events intersticing the songs and guest appearances abounding. Tonight was one special show and if you missed it – shame on you! With dark dance and performances in the mosh area, and Selia’s haunting support vocals and the vampire visuals from Genet and co. it was a very special performance.

Oh, god. These guys were hot when I first saw them and they just get better with each performance. Solid new generation industrial-rock, this stuff is heart-beltingly good. Between Mikito’s all-too-cool demeanor grinding his axe and managing the mix, U-Tarou’s total vocal attack and Chihiro’s manic drumming, these guys are one tight unit. If you like rock, industrial, or just plain dark stuff, these guys should not be missed! Capping off tonight’s performance was an invasion by Destruct System’s Kohki who just took things up one more peg. Ripping stuff.

You want audio assault? These guys are it! Industrial sounds mainline straight to your brain with the vocals driving their voices into the mix. Every time they are on it’s a crazy, mad, sexed-up sound that takes your breath away. All three players have their stage craft working full tilt for an exhausting set of hot industrial sounds.

I’m spent baby!
After that madness it was time to relax. I should feel bad for not checking out the performance sets of the night, but the triple hit with the bands just took me out of action. Auto-mod got me going hard, Baal took me to overdrive, Despair hit me like a train on Chou line!

So, for a couple of hours we could enjoy the slow approach of dawn, catching up with friends and discovering what was going on from people coming out. It was chill time at the end of a great night. And as I wound down with friends – punters like me, musicians, DJs and more – I realized just how many friends I have found here at TDC and beyond. In all my 8+ years in Tokyo this was the first time I felt “at home.” Thank you.

It was a night of magic in many ways, but there’s still one more to go!!

Tokyo Dark Castle Xmas!
The final Tokyo Dark Castle for the year (and the last one at Deseo) is set to be explosive. With 12 bands prepping take you to nirvana and back on Xmas eve. And what great freaking bands!! Auto-Mod (the lords of underground), Destruct System (hell yeah!), Jubilee (legendary Osakans), Agent Murder (psychotically great), Phantasmagoria (darkly sweet sounds), BAAL (industro-complex attack), Vexation (Sisters Grimm), Seirenes (siren Selia & Violet), Gadget (great retro harsh rock), Euthanasie (hard elektro), Aural Vampire (sexy & dark elektro) and Cut the Crap (hard rocking mofos with “the bassist”)! Man, book with one of them bands and support the cause (and save one drink on the entrance fee!). December 24 :: 23:30~ @ Shibuya Deseo (3,000/3,500 yen).