A Matter of Life & Death

This post was inspired and instigated entirely by a comment left by J.D. a while ago (my sincere apologies for taking a long time to respond). When I sat down to compose my reply, I realized it was turning into a post unto itself. Since this is a conversation I feel it is important to have, this seemed like a golden opportunity to get it on the table.

J.D. asks:

I just want to know that if its very hard for VK bands (acts) to stand out in Japan’s music industry. The only reason why I am asking this is because many of the VK bands (acts) are starting to tone down their style (or at least those I know of).

Examples:
Girugamesh (toned down toooo much, where’s their old self?)
SID (they look like an idol group now, yet they are still classified as VK?)
the GazettE (SHIVER veered them slightly off-course from their original style)
Angelo (almost same situation as Giru, and the fact that they were a chip of PIERROT makes me more worried)
D’espairsRay (not really much now, considering the fact that Kishi saved them recently)
MUCC (they are going pop, OMG)

Has the “Parental Advisory” label taken its toll on them in any way? Just curious.

gacktpause responds:

It’s certainly true that many of the Visual Kei bands, most noticeably because they are primarily those that have been labeled hardcore or ultimately dark, that we respect and follow have been taking a major turn…not necessarily for the better. It seemed to be starting out as “experimentation” and “new horizons”, and has now plummeted into something of a disaster of identity crisis expressed in sound, and some musical massacre by…by whom, we can’t say. Is it the record label? The composers? The band itself?

I think the short answer to J.D.’s question is yes, it is difficult for Visual Kei bands to stand out. I imagine, especially as the industry has become extremely inundated with bands all struggling to get noticed and gain recognition with few of them actually expressing any particular innovation or individuality, that it’s becoming more and more difficult to get recognized. Veteran bands have to stay afloat, while new bands have to somehow work their way out from under the heavy shadows of Luna Sea, XJapan, D’espairsRay,  and the PSC crew that hit at the right moment and, basically, got lucky by being the right people in the right place at the right time.

Many of the bands have, yes, softened and toned down their sound. My own personal theory, based simply on observances and hypothesis, is that the main way that bands are able to reach a wider audience now is through outlets such as anime and video games (a huge advertising scheme in Japan). However, I think that as they begin working into this mainstream field, they’re taking the tack of conforming and doing what everyone expects in the hopes they can reach out to the people who drop loads of money on ARASHI and other such idol-groups and boy-bands. I believe that, with groups such as SID, Kra, and girugamesh, they’re more or less morphing into staple boy-bands, leaving behind the hardcore (giru, at least) and genuine music they started out with. My guess is it is primarily commercially driven, as many of these artists have proven through trial and error (or lack thereof) that they are sincere, passionate musicians who are channeling their creativity and innovative visions through their work.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard this talk about “Visual Kei is dead”, but I, at least, have been hearing it a lot – too much- this year. First of all, it has a bad feeling to me. Of course you could say it has a bad feeling because Visual Kei is the axis upon which the bulk of my life turns. However, the reason it has such a bad feeling is primarily guided (although I won’t deny the other fact either) by a sense of fans and faith, and something missing in the equation.

The past two years haven’t been the best for Visual Kei, this is true. Exceptional releases have been spotty, “changes in sound” have been, at times, cringeworthy; bands have struggled, split up, flourished and failed. It has been, for lack of better words, a bit of a mess. And then some time back, that interview containing “insider’s insights” on the Visual Kei industry hit the web (of which we will not go into detail here. I have yet to feel the need to even humor that article, and its response, with a comment.) and suddenly this phrase surfaced: “Visual Kei is dead”.

Now, I will say this. I am not asserting my opinion as if it is fact. Truly, your guess is as good as mine. These are my own suppositions, opinions, and beliefs. I do not have any magical insider’s insights into the industry. I only have insights into the industry of fandom– and given that as long as there is fandom, no thing can ever die or disappear, that would seem to be the most relevant in this situation anyway.

Visual Kei will only die when it dies for you. Like believing in the Easter Bunny, or being a huge fan of The Rolling Stones or disco, the genre will only “be dead” when your own lack of faith kills it. Many people laugh at Western followers of certain branches of Japanese fashion, such as Lolita, saying “Nobody wears Lolita in Japan anymore, you stupid whities.” You may not see hoards of Lolita at every Shinujuku street corner anymore, sure, but that does not mean “Lolita is dead”. There are many incredible and passionate followers of Lolita in Japan and elsewhere, and many successful designers that, somehow, flourish making nothing but Lolita clothing.

In the same way, I would say in many respects Visual Kei is no longer “the next big thing”. Visual Kei has found its niche and become, on some level, its own facet of the mainstream rock scene. It is no longer particularly shocking or unbelievable. It, like punk music or legwarmers, is no longer what will make the earth shake and fire rain from the heavens. This does not mean Visual Kei is dead.

Visual Kei is still expanding and developing. It has begun busting down borders and taking acts overseas, including and expanding its international audience. Many acts are struggling or producing mediocre music– is this something exclusive to Visual Kei? Many acts are also flourishing and rapidly uplifting their work to higher standards of excellence. Incredible albums and singles have hit shelves, and we are still on the edge of our chairs, waiting for the next releases from artists we continue to respect and recognize for their dedication, talent, and innovation.

girugamesh released some duds, and The GazettE hit us hard with b-average SHIVER. Of course that immediately necessitates the revelation that Visual Kei is dead. Of course it does. I perceive tension in the world of Visual Kei as the bands and artists work hard to figure out how they can fulfill both commercial and creative callings. As Visualists do we throw in our towels, roll up our posters, and sell our CD collections in some fit of indifference? Or do we crank that one exquisite Visual Kei single that came out this past year and head down memory lane, remembering what it felt like to be showered by Zero’s spit, to be embraced by the aura of 雅ーMIYAVI’s sincere words in the painfully hot club? Remembering the choking thrill of hearing about GACKT’s European debut, still clinging to those fragments of inspiration you drew from seeing those lives this summer…holding onto those living, breathing experiences, can you really tell me that Visual Kei is dead?

37 responses to “A Matter of Life & Death

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  2. Wow that was beautifully written. You make a strong case. But also I would like to point out that along with that mix, thousands of VK fans are illegally downloading there fave bands music for free. That doesn’t help the well being of the genre or the bands either.

    But I think with all things comes change, some change is good, some change is bad. But you have to take the good with the bad, nothing can be good all the time.

    But it’s like you said, with everything, it’s not dead unless it is dead to you, as in you’ve lost faith in it. That doesn’t effect every one else, just you, and maybe your friends who go along with what ever you believe because they don’t have a personality of there own and can’t think for them selves. (generally speaking)

    Any who, nice article really enjoyed that.

    • The illegal download thing is really another topic I could rant and rave about endlessly. I think, although I’ve given it some focus lately, I could probably return to it again and again. I do think you have a good point in connecting it to this subject, though. If you follow the cause-and-effect line of thinking (which I do, personally), the entire system can be broken down into one long, vicious cycle. Hypothetically speaking, it’s true that the more you download music illegally, the more the bands are hurting, the more music they have to produce–faster, and yet many of the same fans who necessitated the issue to begin with are the ones complaining about the faltering quality of the music. And the fans who support the bands with dedication and sincerity also hurt for it because we want to pay the bands, but we do want to pay them for rockin’ good music.

      Thanks for reading!

      • I’m curious as to what percentage of the revenue from CDs goes to the artist themselves. From what I’ve heard of the U.S. system (and I am certainly a newbie at most), I am inclined to believe artists don’t make much from the CD sales but tend to make more from concerts and merchandise (which is why I attend as many shows as I can). I have also read (from a supposed “high up” in the Japan scene) that artists don’t even make much from merch (at least at the beginning). So I’m wondering about the validity of your “the more music they have to produce-faster”… I would blame this on the music-making empire and not on the musicians. Ideas?
        (And if you’d like to rant on illegal downloads I’d like to read it) :)

      • Well, that’s really the thing, isn’t it? When a novelist publishes a book, for example, you know that when you buy the book a certain percentage is paid to the author in royalties. It’s pretty straight-forward and for the most part, simple and clean-cut. In the music-industry, however, it’s not simple like that. In fact, I was having pretty much this same discussion with someone yesterday, and they were talking about how, how it used to be anyway, whenever a song got played on the radio, the artist would get paid royalties for that. However, at some point in time, several pop artists found out, by whatever means, that the majority of their royalties were actually being unfairly withheld by the record label, or whoever is the monetary medium that cuts the checks. Hearing stories like this, as well as knowing, for example, what happened to ToshI of XJapan, as well as what goes on in the dark and mysterious back-stage world of those groups managed by agencies such as Johnny’s, or in the Kpop world (of which I know very little), SMEntertainment. Stories of bands not getting their dues and being unable to do much about it abound if you really want to go looking for them.
        If you buy a track on iTunes for 99 cents, how much of a cut does the band get? The record label takes a cut, iTunes takes a cut, and then the yen is kicking our ass right now, so the band gets, what, like 2 cents? This might be naive, or maybe not? I don’t know, but in my eyes, how much of a cut doesn’t matter in some way. I would rather the band get 2cents per song and benefit in the long run, than not get anything and not benefit monetarily at all. That being said, I’m really curious about how the music industries functions in this way.
        Sorry, I agree with, and acknowledge, your point. I expressed that theory working on an assumption that the musicians are commercially driven by their label or management, rather than a personal sense of monetary desire/need. For example, all these eighteen-consecutive-singles runs, are they really initiated by the band’s creative drive? Or is it a grand marketing scheme? Take your pick.

        I ranted briefly on illegal downloads not too long ago.

  3. i never even knew there were people out there saying that Visual Kei is dead and frankly i find it insulting as it is a big influence on my life.

    people are stupid and ignorant.

    VISUAL KEI IS NOT DEAD!!!

    • Well… in all fairness, I would say rather that it’s not that people are ‘stupid’ or ‘ignorant’, but that, the majority of the time, people are often lacking in a sense of trust in what they feel. Even if, within a sincere experience, they know that Visual Kei is not dead, and really can never ‘die’ as long as they are appreciating and living it, if someone (especially should they exhibit or attempt to exhibit a sense of authority) comes out and says “Visual Kei is dead.” many people will disregard their own feeling and put their faith in what the “authority” is telling them. This is how movements of whatever creative or social medium “die”.

      Seeing all of your responses, though, is really empowering. Visual Kei’s fandom, or at least a core part of it, is as strong as ever, their sense of belief as steadfast as it ever was. I feel honored and truly fortunate to be able to mingle with all of you right here on Secret Garden.

  4. I loved the point you made that “visual kei will only die when it dies for you.” It’s a wonderful point to make, and I feel the same way. Regardless of what VK artists these days are doing, I’m not going to let my view of them become destroyed. I could have hopped off the Girugamesh bandwagon as soon as COLOR dropped but I didn’t. I didn’t because I couldn’t. I could not ignore the wonderful history I’ve had with giru and their older releases. Just because their music grows continually watered down doesn’t mean I’ll neglect the beauty I’ve shared with them in the past, nor will I refuse to believe that they may revive their older sound for future releases.

    Gacktpause, it was a wise choice on your part to devote an entire post to answering this question rather than just commenting back. What you have said here needed to be said. Desperately, I might add. Great work.

    • The important thing, I think, is to remain capable of distinguishing truly good work from flops. It’s no good to become a deluded fangirl/fanboy just for the sake of adamantly supporting a band and saying they’re still great even if they’ve fallen to the lowest of lows. However, that being said, it’s also important to keep the faith and also, even should they never release another good thing, to continue appreciating the excellent music a band has done in the past. So I agree with you, totally.

      Thank you. It’s been great seeing everyone’s responses and support for Visual Kei as a whole. I wish some of those groups could see this.

  5. Sublime point of view.

    The moment I read J.D.’s post, I anticipated your reply. Too bad work got in the way (same for me!) But it was all worth it.

    I’m not about to throw in the towel just yet as well. There’s always the indies to scour.

    • Thank you! Sorry to have made you wait…pleased to hear it was worth it in the end.

      Glad to hear there are some other true Visualists out there ready to stick around and keep the faith. There are the indies, yes, and I have to say, I really have discovered more interesting bands during this “down-time” than I ever would have had things just continued as they were. There are pros and cons to every situation, and the trick is, I think, to be able to pay attention to the positive aspects and trust they will carry us through to the other side.

  6. I actually agreed with gacktpause said about VK is still expanding & developing. But, one thing about this expanding & developing is most of the bands seem to entering the “grey zone”, where their music styles begin to mixed up with pop elements. The concerns are with me!!! Yes, the VK might not/will not dying as long as there are still peoples doing makeup, elaborate hairstyles, & wearing flashy costumes;in-term of music-wise I would say most of them are at the verge of losing their origins.

    • Hm…while I agree about the gray-zone thing for the most part, my opinion does differ in regards to the bands musically being “at the verge of losing their origins.” This may be so for some bands, but a lot of bands and acts are making come-backs, or are still as tapped into their musical roots as much as ever. For example, MIYAVI is still going as strong as he always has– different, maturing, yes, but still just as strong. D’espairsRay may have faltered, but with MONSTERS they brought things around again, pulling a heavier, just-as-VK a sound as their earlier work.
      Besides, I do think that it is important, no matter who you are and what you are doing, to update and refine or change your sound and [musical] style. For example, in conversations with Reitsu recently, she point out that she has found it difficult to get into XJapan despite their recent come-back, due to the fact that they have never updated their sound. Although many people have complained or found reason for concern in, say, the updating (and, yes, slight pop-ification) of the sound of BUCK-TICK, I find a lot more to appreciate than find fault with. The trick, and hopefully what the good bands will be able to do, is keep the integrity of their origins intact, while updating as needed to continue developing themselves as people, bands, and upholders of Visual Kei as a genre.
      Honestly, one of the things I appreciate about Visual Kei is that the music doesn’t have to be hardcore or metal all the time. Elements of pop, blues, jazz, rap, etc, can be used in the production of the music and still be congruous. This is part of what makes Visual Kei a really cool and admirable genre; its stylistic scope doesn’t confine or restrict bands’ creativity. It is absolutely vital that this be upheld and respected. On that note, though, I think that seeing really excellent hardcore, dark, and heavy groups go pop is a travesty. Balance + wisdom is key.

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  8. First of all, I’d like to say that I blame Yoshiki for all this (like I do with anything I find going “wrong” with VK).

    Secondly, for me, *grunge* (look it up all you young’ins!) is still alive… It’s just in hibernation. ;) So there is NO way VK can ever die. :D

    Also, I think a lot of places say it and a lot of fans don’t get it (and I hope I’ll explain this well). Visual Kei is not really a music style. (I know, I know, to me it IS kind of a musical style, but really it’s not…) VK can apply to anyone from Giru to Deg to X Japan to Luna Sea to Ayabie to SuG… and those are quite different styles musically. But often they have a visual element, and I don’t think THAT is going anywhere anytime soon, so VK is not dead.

    Now as for the “quality” of music declining, wow.. there are a few things I’d like to say on that:
    1. In the U.S., we have a little band known as Disturbed (maybe you’ve heard of them). I think over their 10 years as a band, their sound hasn’t really changed. The lyrics have matured (for the most part), but (to me) their music sounds a LOT alike… Now, I still love them, but in a way, they are one of the most *boring* bands I listen to… because everything sounds the same. Look at The GazettE… I’m not sure they have one style on most albums, let alone their entire career… which makes for some songs, I can skip over, but other songs that I can listen endlessly to over and over.

    2. Bands “mature.” Band members “mature.” Green Day did it and I think they have become MUCH better because of it. They don’t have as many silly songs, but that’s ok because all their earlier albums (Dookie and before) have those songs. Now they’re writing some socially relevant stuff instead of “you’re cute but you won’t date me” songs (don’t get me wrong I like both).

    3. I think a lot of the reason “fans” are inclined to think a band’s music is “declining” is the availability of stuff on the web for download. I think if you listen to stuff as the band progresses you have a chance to grow with them. For instance, Green Day and me (yeah, I’m old… shuddup! ;) … however, I have not followed Malice Mizer since before they broke up; I had access to all their songs at once, so Tetsu had NO chance of being my favorite vocalist because I had already heard the Gackt songs…

    No offense meant… just my thoughts! :)

    • I think you’re making a good point (and you articulated it quite clearly) about the musical aspect of Visual Kei. This is when Visual Kei starts getting confusing and hard to explain…and where bands start entering this sort of wishy-washy gray zone where some people call them Visual Kei and some people don’t. It’s especially confusing because, from the perspective of a whitie who has never seen a rock-band wear anything other than a V-neck t-shirt and black jeans, Japanese guys with blond perms shredding in velvet suits can be brain-damaging. For someone who has been in the VK scene for a while, that stuff just doesn’t really “count” anymore, if you follow me.
      For example, girugamesh is widely considered Visual Kei, and although for ease of understanding I also widely clump them up with the Visual rockers, I actually don’t really consider them Visual Kei, because they’re not really Visual Kei, they just look cool. And “just looking cool” doesn’t count. But a lot of people argue “But it’s Visual Kei MUSIC” and honestly, I just don’t even know how to respond to that. Yeah, sure, it is.
      I think this puts me in a similar boat, because, for me, Visual Kei IS a musical genre. But if I had to answer this question in one line, I would say you’re exactly right– the music of Visual Kei is simply defined and categorized based on the external or energetic expression of the music, as opposed to a distinctive musical style in itself.
      If we really want to debate that point (which, regardless of whether we do or not, we will), you could say that a lot of bands (D’espa, giru, MUCC, even) are toning down their style to look more like incredibly stylish rockers. This, to move right into the next topic of necessary maturation, is absolutely important. The members of the older generation of Visual Kei (say, those bands that go back 15 years or more) are all dudes in their 40s and 50s, and honestly, somehow I feel it’s utterly appropriate that in some ways they “act their age”. Granted Japanese people hold up damn well over time, when I see these decrepit Western rock bands making come-backs, trying to do exactly what they did 35 years ago, it feels as preposterous and nauseating as seeing a salaryman cosplaying a school-girl.

      Thanks for adding your input. I think some valuable conversations are arising here, and I am enjoying hearing everyone’s thoughts.

      • “I think this puts me in a similar boat, because, for me, Visual Kei IS a musical genre. But if I had to answer this question in one line, I would say you’re exactly right– the music of Visual Kei is simply defined and categorized based on the external or energetic expression of the music, as opposed to a distinctive musical style in itself.”

        YES!! I forgot (I think) to mention this… in a way, VK is a “rebellion” both in dress and in music… [oh god, I think in a way Oshare Kei (which I clump the light and fluffy VK bands i.e., An Cafe, Charlotte, SuG, etc. (all of which I enjoy mind you!)) could be a rebellion in Japan!]

      • I believe a while back I had a discussion with someone about where VK stands as an active “rebellion”. Since it’s coming up now, if you haven’t seen the thread, you might be interested in taking a look.

        We have yet to truly interpret what exactly Oshare Kei is. It could be a rebellion, yes, but my current theory is that it is an alien invasion, and should be handled with caution lest we should contract some horrible, mutant disease from it.

    • Keep looking in astronomy books, but haven’t found them mentioned yet. Possibly some ancient Japanese history book mentions the rocket ship somewhere?

  9. Gacktpause, will you have my babies? =D

    I kid~ (Not really!)

    Anyways, excellent post, and you have knocked me out of my own orbit!

    listening to your opinion in regards to illegal downloading has truly resonated in me. I’ve stopped downloading free music due to your concrete and down to earth ravings.
    I hope anyone and everyone who has illegally downloaded music from their favorite artists find this post and read it, and really reflect on their actions!

    Finally, when you mentioned Lolita, I gasped and almost fell out of my chair!

    Thank you for enlightening the entire blogosphere, Gacktpause!

    bubblegumspunk

    • Should I take that as an added sixth-star-rating? “Suckage, Meh, B-Average, Cool ’nuff, Epic, Gacktpause- will you have my babies?”
      And on that note…were you or were you not kidding? ;)

      I feel like, although completely different things, that there are some similarities between the genre of Visual Kei and the fashion of Lolita, in regards to their perception (particularly by Westerners outside of Japan). I hope that I didn’t say anything not on-par with Lolita and its current scene. Please correct me if I totally got it wrong.

      Thank you for reading!

      +gp

  10. I said it once (I hope) and I’ll say it again, you gacktpause have a way with words. Honestly, this period in VK has been unsettling because while in August alone I have heard bands disband and idol group rise in number (but still ripping off of one group whose name I will not speak), many people I read across the net are bashing the music of VK. I pretty open to anything and usually I don’t see any huge problem with recent releases but others want the same ol’ same ol’. How can any music artist/bands call themselves an artist if they never venture out of their comfort zone? If a VK band tries a more mainstream sound, I’m all for it. And it’s through media like games and anime that I’m introduced to these artists/bands. VK bands are just expanding their horizons with time and that’s all.

    • “How can any music artist/bands call themselves an artist if they never venture out of their comfort zone?” — Exactly. A very good point. The same can be said for fans as well. How can fans call themselves fans if they refuse to accept anything except one style from a band? As long as the band retains its integrity, quality, and their own unique sense of self, it can take whatever form they feel creatively inclined toward.

    • You just said everything I think whenever this discussions come up over new songs/pv’s/styles and stuff <3

      Back in my day (10 years ago) I didn't think anyone would insult me as a 'newbie', just because I found interest in a band/anime/something. Nowadays, thats the first thing 'fans' rant over D|

  11. First off, Visual Kei is NOT dead. It is my belief that it has always been in a state of undeath, and therefor cannot die. (Just look at Buck-Tick…) Furthermore, I would not necessarily say that it is taking a turn for the worst. Many bands have changed their styles drastically, it’s true, but if they did not, what fun would they be to listen to? As it’s been said before, when a band keeps the same musical style, and does not experiment (for better or worse) they quickly become boring. I personally have enjoyed many of the new releases that have been bashed in recent times, for example, I loved D’espa’s Love Is Dead, I liked Giru’s COLOR and I really don’t see why so many people say Buck-Tick (my all-time favourite band) is trending towards pop… I think perhaps some of the problem is that, while many of these bands are willing to branch out into new genres, at the same time, many fans are not. They (the fans) want to see their favourite bands as one genre or another (and I’m not talking about the ‘master’ genre, VK, I mean style of music within that.) and they can’t bring themselves to listen to something that’s too ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ for them. Which is sad, really, as it keeps many from discovering and appreciating new music. In my view, the best part of VK is that there are really no limits. As long as a band has a very visual style, they could be seen as VK. This gives bands the freedom to experiment in ways that they could not in any other genre. For me, Visual Kei is not dead. It never will be in my mind. I just hope enough fans feel the same way to keep it going forevermore. -Skydancer

  12. Omg! I’m super late! Anyway, thanks for sharing your perception with me (and everyone else). Anyway, I believe that there’ll be a renaissance in VK someday (wiki says that it’ll take 10 years for the phenom to spread), just like magic these few years.

    (Really, thank you soooooo much for actually dedicating a post to my humble question. I did not really see this coming.)

    • No worries. I hope I was able to answer your question somewhat.
      Hah! So the great Wikipedia has spoken, has yet? But I’m curious as to which date they are calculating based on. Visual Kei has already been around in Japan for over 25 years. Although it’s more or less still getting started overseas, many of these bands (for example D’espairsRay or ナイトメア are passing their decade mark in the industry. So, what exactly are we counting from?
      I’m not sure about renaissances…but I do think that many Visual Kei bands are beginning to move away from the guidelines and aesthetics that were popularized by, say, Malice Mizer in the ’90s. That era of Visual Kei already peaked, and we’re moving on into new territory…thus the panic and indifference seen in various degrees, from “girugameshis terrible now,” to “Visual Kei is dead.” It’s not really a path with a destination, at least how I look at it, so basically what I perceive as this “down-point” or dip in the fruition of Visual Kei, seems to me to just be a bit of teen angst, as it were. The kids have flown the nest, and are now trying to figure out what the hell to do with their lives.

      You’re very welcome. Thank you for asking the question that inspired a great discussion. Take it easy-

      • No problem. But if everyone else says VK is dead, I say that we living, living as undeads (and we will strike back one day).

        But, I think the biggest culprit for this change is the accursed K-Pop. With is popularity around the world, one would find it hard not to be affected by it. But, I think their fame would subside soon as K-Pop artist keeps coming up with the same mundane tune (yes, I’m talking about that 9-person girl group who recently invaded the Japanese market).

        The only reason why VK, or Japanese music attracts me (away from K-Pop) is its flaws. People say that J-Music has wierd dance moves. But the thing is, the wierd dance moves are the ones that get remembered easily (Yes, I still cannot get T.M.R.’s Hot Limit off my mind), not the commercial, standard, boring moves that only rely on good looks to pull it off.

        Next, people say that VK/Japanese music people cannot sing; they only play instruments. But the truth is, those instrument players have their solo career too. Also, it would be a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth” when so many people sing at one time (I’m looking at you, 13 people Korean boyband) as you cannot possibly find who the heck to place your focus on.

        Lastly, they say that Japanese people are ugly compared to Korean stars. It is true, for now, but we’ll see about that 10 years down the road (provided 2012 doesn’t come true). But it isn’t that true, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Anyway, we are talking about the MUSIC, not the looks…

        We all have to learn to forgive them for becoming mainstream, at least for this period of time. To fend off the salvo of K-Pop, we have to use OUR advantage. And that advantage is the anime scene, only unique and exclusive to Japan only. Korea and China tried to copy the animes by Japan, but (even as a Chinese myself), I would say that they have failed terribly. Thus, animes are K-Wave resistant, and so they have to launch a counterattack behind the shadows of the anime industry.

        To be honest, I did not like VK at first. The crazy looks really repels me (to this very day). Venturing in, I realised that VK is not all about crazy looks, its about something else… the soul behind it. And so I have shed my armour bit by bit and learnt to accept it.

        (P.S.: Versailles has found a new bassist, and has averted the disaster of being reduced to “Philharmonic Quartet”)

  13. “But, I think the biggest culprit for this change is the accursed K-Pop. With is popularity around the world, one would find it hard not to be affected by it. But, I think their fame would subside soon as K-Pop artist keeps coming up with the same mundane tune…”
    I know *nothing* about K-pop… however, I have heard rumors that some K-pop groups have “ripped off” or “sampled” J-pop songs that have been hits… (Not to mention the “Hana Yori Dango” remake. Grrr… In all honesty, I’ve never seen it and never will because I don’t like the sound of Korean if I can have the sound of Japanese.) So enlighten me if you wish… :)

    “The only reason why VK, or Japanese music attracts me (away from K-Pop) is its flaws.”
    What groups do you listen to in VK that you can compare to K-pop? To me, they seem very much like two different beasts.

    “Next, people say that VK/Japanese music people cannot sing; they only play instruments.”
    Remind me never to speak to the people you’re listening to…. of course, according to my “friends” here, I like “vocalists” and not “singers” (including most of my non-Japanese faves… what can I say? I’ll take Trent Reznor over Justin Beiber ANY day), so it’s likely I “can’t judge.”

    “Also, it would be a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth” when so many people sing at one time (I’m looking at you, 13 people Korean boyband) as you cannot possibly find who the heck to place your focus on.”
    I *completely* agree with this… I have a hard time watching 5-member Deg (and I neglect Shinya something awful for the most part). I guess I just don’t get the need for so many vocalists… I guess from a management standpoint you have at least 1 person for everyone? Why do you watch a band for the looks or sound of 1 person then have to enudre all the rest? I don’t get it… :/

    “Lastly, they say that Japanese people are ugly compared to Korean stars. It is true, for now…”
    I can’t even say how *not* true I feel that is…

    “To be honest, I did not like VK at first. The crazy looks really repels me (to this very day). Venturing in, I realised that VK is not all about crazy looks, its about something else… the soul behind it. And so I have shed my armour bit by bit and learnt to accept it.”
    Really? I have to say that I *heard* the music first; the first video I saw was Gackt’s “Vanilla (Live)” then a dozen songs later, I saw the costumes… and I was already completely in love, but I think the costumes make them more of a “rock star.” :)
    Anyway, this “they” you refer to sounds, to me, like surfers. They see a new cool wave and jump on it until the next wave comes. I know some people who are a lot like that and they have to poo-poo the old wave even though they enjoyed the ride. Honestly, I find it sad. :( I hope these aren’t the “fans” that VK “needs.”

    As a side note: I think I stood next to two fans like that outside the Nokia Theatre waiting for Deg to get in their bus. We must have been there at least 45 mins… and Deg waved to ys and walked straight to the bus without stopping. The two next to me started whining, “*I* stood here for
    ALL this time for NOTHING!!” I looked at them and said, “Really?!? You must have been looking at the wrong thing… [that’s Kaxx-speak for… “maybe if your head wasn’t so far up your a$$…] Kyo looked this way and *SMILED* at us.” The look of surprise on their faces and the disbelief that they missed something so precious (and believe you me, THEY knew the rarity and the elusiveness of the Kyo smile) is something I will relish forever (of course, the same applies to Kyo’s smile). :)

    So when the surfers miss that crucial thing that reminds people (AKA the world) that VK is indeed NOT dead, you’ll hear them whining like spoiled brats. (Heck, I’m not what I’d consider a surfer and I *often* whine like a spoiled brat… ;) But you all likely knew that).

    (P.S.: Versailles has found a new bassist, and has averted the disaster of being reduced to “Philharmonic Quartet”)
    Again, from the “they” I listen to…. the new bassist is NO Jasmine and so, for a few at least, it’s still in a way a Quartet. I hope I hear some of their new stuff soon, so I can decide myself.

    GP: please feel free to allow as much or as little of this as you feel appropriate. I’m not trying to flame anyone, but I’m not sure how my tone comes across… :/ Thanks!

    • I will use this opportunity to respond to both Kaxxina’s, and J.D.’s comments at the same time.

      First of all, I agree with Kaxxina in that Visual Kei and Kpop are entirely different entities, aimed at entirely different audiences, wherein the groups are completely different forces working for completely different evil masterminds to serve an entirely unrelated purpose on earth. I have no ill-will toward Kpop or its fanbase, and although I obviously have no intention of ever listening to TVXQ or whoever they are, I hope to never be found pulling the Kpop-Card on here. I don’t sense Kpop as an encroaching source of displacement within Visual Kei, and I would hope that the genre itself can remain, ultimately, a separate discussion for a separate time/place, and not end up a scapegoat for VK’s problems–blaming anyone is really unnecessary. If you really need to blame someone, blame AVEX and PSC, as they actually have some relevance to the issue.

      In regards to the remarks concerning vocalists and 13-member boy-bands, there’s, again, really no comparison here. Visual Kei is rock music, thus you have a band which includes a vocalist. Visual Kei often has a lineup including a rhythm-guitarist (or a secondary-lead, as they are sometimes referred to), which is kind of an “upgrade” on the basic lineup of Vocals, Guitar, Drums, and Bass. I’m not sure if whoever is saying they don’t/can’t sing means that they don’t have enough vocalists, or if their vocalists actually have no talent. Either way, it’s a ridiculous point to try and make. I have, it’s true, heard as a response to expressing my passion for Japanese music, of people actually thinking that the Japanese/Asians “can’t sing”. I think this is simply a cultural ignorance, and a view which I hasten to correct.
      These 13-vocalist-groups of which you speak are technically not bands at all, they are “idol groups”, a unique alien life-form unto themselves. Although this isn’t my area of expertise, I can see some reasons for having such a wide selection of members, from a production point of view. If you listen to any of these songs, basically you have a really straight-forward electro-synth beat which often remains pretty much the same through the entire song. If you have one basic instrumental line, primarily consisting of synth and bass elements, in order to actually bring dimension and a sense of “music” into the whole thing, they bring 13 members in so that each one can, ideally, lend their unique voice to the practically lame canvas they are given to work with. Having a diverse range of vocals, then, is what allows them to customize and create something over the uninteresting instrumental backing they are given. The multitudes of vocals, then, become instruments in their own right. It’s essentially the same idea as a choir, right? Just pop-ified. That’s my take on it, anyway.

      As for the remainder of the discussion, those are your own personal opinions and beliefs regarding Visual Kei, and it is not my intention, nor my desire, to contradict or attempt to change them. Everyone has their own approach to Visual Kei and their own unique perception of it as a genre, style, and spiritual path.

      Kaxxina, although I appreciate your license to censor should I feel you’re trolling too hard here (just kidding, just kidding), I hope that everyone can continue to express their opinions and thoughts on SG unabashedly. I don’t feel like anyone is “flaming” anywhere – I think it’s really quite cool that these discussions arise, and I hope they continue to do so. It’s important to understand that everyone has different views and opinions concerning everything– from Visual Kei, to Kpop, and how they might or might not correlate–, and I believe it is vital that each person have the right to freely state them…with wisdom, intelligence, and respect. I am glad to say that all of my readers and fellow Visualists here have always done so, and may we all keep doing so.

    • The only reason why I have a bone to pick with K-Pop is cause they butt in to the Japanese music industry and vies with our favourite VK groups in attaining popularity. I mean, come on, they are (one of the major reasons) making VK groups adapt to lighter tones. GP, though they are targeted at different audience groups, they compete at the same market. Other than that, I live and let live, so they are not the biggest scapegoat yet.

      Speaking of scapegoats, everything works in tandem to pull VK off its popularity: K-Pop + AVEX + PSC + illegal downloads + every other factor unholier than VK = Decline
      Thinking back, we can look at our fellow fans who illegally download our favourite songs and causing our decline. In a way, we are pulling the trigger at ourselves. Thats internal conflict for you. (Worse still for K-Pop groups, the recording industry takes a cut, iTunes takes a cut, your manager and whatnots take a cut, and you split the miserable morsels of money amongst 13 people, I repeat, 13 people. Bear in mind, $0.99 per song, yet fans still illegally download things.) The only excuse I can accept for illegally downloading songs is that you broke your disc, or that you use that to sample.

      At least for the time being, Girugamesh looks promising, Miyavi looks promising, D’Ray is back on track, so should everything else. 2010 redeemed most of the VK bands from a horrible 2008-2009.

      Once again, I really, really want to thank GP for actually making the effort in turning your reply to my comment into a post. Hopefully, this would unite VK fans against whatever that might be holding us down. Honestly, having a post dedicated to me in one of the greatest J-Rock/VK blogs, I really can’t thank GP enough. Thank you, Gacktpause.

      (P.S.: Don’t ever listen to K-Pop (just leave it alone), the lyrics have very little meaning, unless you can tell me what the heck is “Cooky” supposed to mean…)

      • I’m super late, but I think the change in Visual Kei as well as the recent K-pop invasion has been a fairly organic reaction to a number of local and world events. I don’t think it’s just a K-pop invasion, there’s personal and global factors as well. For one thing, I think a lot of j-rock fans first started getting into j-rock in the early 2000’s, and everything sounded really new and cool because we hadn’t heard anything like it before. Fast forward a few years, j-rock and vk fans have become more knowledgeable about j-rock and thus more selective about how their music choices. There’s also the emotional connection to when we first listened to vk bands and how excited and fresh everything seemed to be, and we want to revisit that; but because we’ve heard so much already, it might feel like “been there done that” to some and so even new tracks might not be at all interesting.

        Additionally, I also think there’s a fairly business and economy-related issue. Artists of all kinds – painters, designers, and of course musicians – don’t live in a bubble world of whatever field they’re working in: They’re constantly reacting and responding to the zeitgeist – usually they end up being the first to do so. I think all this started really reaching a peak in the last two years; meanwhile there’s been a huge global recession that has really effected every single industry and people have had to come up with new ways to increase their market share and to even just maintain their profit margins. This includes musicians, who have to make money in order to maintain their equipment, pay their handlers, etcs. And of course, there’s also the rising prevalence of illegal downloads that you mentioned, which is a response to a recession and having less money to spend.

        Just as K-pop started moving to Japan in order to take advantage of the bigger music market there, I think Visual Kei has made a move to a more mainstream sound in order to increase their influence in the music market and ultimately try to sustain themselves. We might not always realize it because we’re so involved and invested in our favorite Visual Kei bands, but VK is a very niche genre in relation to the world music market and it’s very specific to a certain group of people, who might be considered to be on the fringes of society – from this fairly narrow standpoint, it’s a bit harder to increase your market share. I remember having a conversation with a relative living and raised in Tokyo and her friends and they all said of another relative of mine who also was raised and lives in Tokyo and a huge VK fan, “She has such weird taste in music!” VK is much more experimental and avant-garde than your average pop-star, and it’s harder for the general public to understand and grasp perhaps because they are so in touch with what is going on the the world and they’re so able to relate to the fans they already have.

        The best parallel I can think of are of the competition of a lot high-fashion houses and mass-market companies. A lot of really critically acclaimed fashion designers are incredibly talented and really in tune with the times and what their customers want, but their profit margins are often really tiny because, unless you’re actively interested in fashion / have the funds, a lot of people can’t understand, let alone purchase and see for themselves just how special, the new trends. On the other hand, mass-market companies like H&M and Forever21 have enormous profit margins, not only because they can produce and sell huge quantities, but because they’re able to dumb down the very conceptual designs and ideas of the cutting-edge designers and reduce it into something that the majority can easily grasp.

        Similarly, for Visual Kei, changing, softening, or watering down a sound is kind of a necessary evil in order to expand beyond pre-existing fanbases; being able to do that (and do it right) is a necessary strategy at times for anything that really relies on people to fuel its continuity. The majority of people need more time to fully process something more experimental, or they need to it to be reduced in a way that they can quickly understand and relate to. Music is very much creative as much as it is rational and economic; I don’t think Visual Kei died or is dying, but rather, it’s in a process of adapting and changing through a lot of trial and error to an environment that’s far more cautious and knowledgeable than it was five years ago. Once this change is started, then it’s a really volatile matter of whether or not a band is able to tap into something that really works.

        P.S. I’m a bit tired, so this might not make complete sense, but I’d be more than happy to further elaborate if necessary.

  14. So… I’m looking thru some random flyers that were scanned and posted on an lj community of new visual kei bands…. The whole Korean idol thing would help explain the *ridiculous* looks of some of these bands. Gods, am I depressed… :(

    • Hmm, I will say that I believe undue amounts of attention (perception-wise, or simply on an energetic level) is relatively unnecessary on this whole Invasion of the Korean Pop Hoard. The more attention we afford to this crisis, the more it will simply escalate and infect the scene. I think that the best thing we can do for Visual Kei is continue to focus our attention and positive appreciation on the bands who are doing it right (or, rather, the way we as fans believe they should be doing it, as technically, there is no such thing as “right” and “wrong”.

  15. I seriously like the way you like. Of course to each fan, a song is different, and to me the last year was ok-wise to the music I liked and WOW at the end xDDD

    What truly got to me was the end though. I hope I can see Miyavi this year again >///<

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