Get ready for gladiator sandals, The Perm, and the Satoshi-boogie…

I hope they leave the gladiator sandals at home.

I admit, I’ve entered a sort of state of denial about the lack of orange-highlighted dates on my sidebar calendar.

I like to flatter myself and primp my shameless vanity by assuming that lulls in the activity of Secret Garden are duly noted out there. Although I’m daily shelving a hankering to be on here spewing my snotty opinions about the noxious new releases of Jrock Today, likely setting out on the road to becoming some kind of embittered critic, while squirreling away my secret adoration of the more Kpoppian ventures of girugamesh, I hope to be able to post more regularly again eventually. In the meantime, I will continue to ask for your patience.

I notice that I’m not the only one who has been lagging in their post count lately, though. In fact, most of the blogs I read regularly (you know who you are) seem to be kind of slow these days. I remember those sweet, sweet, broke days of living on a whim and blogging sun-up to sun-down without a care in the world other than being totally cash-strapped. But remember this, kids, make good use of your blissful free time and become magnanimous forerunners of the future before the shackles of the 9-5 routine enslave you and stunt your entrepreneurial developments. What these other slaves to the system tell us is partly true, you get used to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stop being  frustrating. Ah, who am I kidding. The life of rampant hedonism is obviously the one for me. I’ll start a terrible Visual Kei band and do nothing but wine, women, and sleep, all in varying degrees of debauchery.

Now that we have my future sorted out, shall I spend the next thirty minutes of our time (so precious, according to the previous paragraphs) talking about something else equally inane and patronizing while I try and remember what I started this post to talk about? Nah, just kidding, I’m not that depraved yet.

This news apparently popped up over the weekend (proof that the world continues spinning even when I’m out of the loop. How dare they.), and although I admit it’s taking some time to sink in to the remains of my mushy brain, melted to the consistency of chunky 3-day-old applesauce zombifying slowly on the kitchen counter by too little sleep and too much caffeine too many days in a row, I’m pretty pumped to be able to announce this at last.

girugamesh WORLD TOUR Confirmed!!

2011.3.05 Tochka
Moscow, Russia

2011.3.06 GlavClub
St.Petersburg, Russia

2011.3.08 Nosturi
Helsinki, Finland

2011.3.11 Columbia Club
Berlin, Germany

2011.3.12 Diesel
Budapest, Hungary

2011.3.13 Backstage
Munich, Germany

2011.3.15 La Laiterie
Strassbourg, France

2011.3.16 TBA
Paris, France

2011.3.18 O2 Acedemy Islington
London, UK

2011.3.19 Zeche
Bochum, Germany

The band has apparently taken a leaf out of D’espa‘s book and is reaching out to fans for suggestions regarding their, y’know, tracklist for the tour. Hurry–together we can make a stand against having to ruin our current record by accidentally hearing Color live…

All snark sheathed for the time being, this is actually news that, once it fully establishes itself in my gelatin-filled skull, is worth getting psyched over. They are one of the bands that I would really stretch to see…and although Europe is a bit too much of a stretch (especially at risk of showing up to a disco-ball and Satoshi’s shuffle-boogie), ShuU started rumors on their official Facebook that more information (cough dates and locations cough?) is to follow. Holla, US? I think we’re ready for Color.

Not only that, but they have also announced a brand new album. The question I want you to answer, Visualists, is that of whether the album actually still runs a chance of stirring some response by returning to their raucous roots, or striking a new chord by actually going out on the limb of innovation and, god forbid, inspired creativity. This positive anticipation of giru‘s actions (recently so disturbing) is edged, we all know, by the woolen itch of doubt; the fear that it could really be rock-bottom. The maker or breaker. Takers?

 

At the Heart of Brock’s Jelly Donut

I was just on Purple Sky reading their interview with D’espairsRay, anticipating the release of their latest album MONSTERS, and preceding the onset of their world-tour which kicks off this month with dates across the US. Reading through the questions, I admit, although the band members were quite entertaining (e.g. when asked which Monster he would be, HIZUMI answers “Pokemon”. Vuvuzelamon? Or is that Reggae? Visual kei has too many random cross-references in it now, I don’t even know who I am anymore.), the more I read, the more I found myself getting riled up. Had I not known  that this interview was only sitting in my feed for a week, the questions posed to the Monsters would have led me to believe this was posted sometime in 2004.

I realize this sounds harsh, but taking that risk, I’ll say it. Are all Japanofiles neanderthals?

I’ve been following the Japanfandom thing for 5 years now, and seeing as Alzheimers hasn’t totally set in yet, I recall quite clearly the discussions and FAQs of the era. Unless of course journalists are simply given a sheet of preset questions that are never updated, I want to know why exactly they still insist on asking the droll, pointless, unenlightening questions of our generation’s troubled, AMV-watching youth? I was under the impression that we were advancing in the world. That the Japanese music scene in the West was beginning to liberate itself from the clinging, snotty tentacles of the emerging, adolescent internet and bloom into a better blogsphere. That we have actually been evolving over the past five to ten years. Apparently, as it was made clear to me this evening, this is far from the truth. At least in some respect, all Japanofiles are inherently neolithic, and while a few of us may have advanced to the Bronze Age, more or less we’re still wallowing in a dark, cave-like existence devoid of fire or arrowheads.

In response to this mind-blowing interview, I would like to pull those questions that particularly offended the intelligent Japanofile in me, and address them, hopefully, for the benefit of Ogg and Zug, my brethren:

1. Illegal downloads: The illegal download phenomenon exploded on the Internet many, many years ago. I remember Limewire from way back when Yoshiki was still a Japanese man (okay, well, that’s kind of a hard line to draw, but hey), and billions of websites and programs have since enabled such notorious activities. People download illegally off the internet– all it takes is one Google search and you have new albums for free. Entire websites and blogs have emerged devoted specifically to “promoting” their favorite bands by having one person acquire the album, and then upload it for the masses to leech off of.  This is not breaking news. We are no longer excited about this topic.

Musicians create music because it is their calling, passion, talent, or simply what they want to do as their job. Be that as it may, they do actually do this for their job– a job being, that is, a means of acquiring the papery stuffs we use in daily business in order to survive: in layman’s terms, money. When a band releases an album, DVD, or otherwise product, they do put it on the market for sale. That is to say, to be purchased using money. Obviously if they wanted people to download it for free, they would upload it onto the internet as free downloads. Asking bands what “they think about illegal downloads” is absolutely pointless. Unless one is fishing for that one band to say “Oh yeah, we just love it when everyone refuses to support our livelihood and just downloads for free everything we release.”, there is no longer any answer that can result from this question that can possibly shine a light. You have limited time to ask the band questions: for all our sakes, use it well.

2. People download illegally because Japanese CDs are “expensive”:

The Japanese music industry works slightly differently than the Western one. For example, in the West it’s not that common to release singles every other day. Most artists release albums frequently instead. In Japan, however, bands release full-length albums much less often, but tend to release singles several times throughout the year. A Japanese single typically costs around $10.00 – $12.00, and you get anywhere from 1 to 4 songs. Full-length albums typically cost around $30 – $35, with some as low as $25 and others as high as $40. Assuming it’s being shipped, that adds anywhere from $5 onwards in shipping fees, depending on who you buy from, method of shipment, and how much you order.

The misconception is that because it’s going to cost $45 to order an album from Japan, it’s okay to steal it by downloading online. Because a pair of denim from a chain store costs roughly $60, does that mean everybody shoplifts? No, I don’t think so. And yet does everyone wear denim?

“Expensive” is basically not an excuse. CDs, like everything, cost money, even if they come from Japan. If you have no money, get a job.

3. Japanese CDs are unavailable for Westerners to buy:

If you live in a rural part of the United States, let’s say like Wisconsin, where there are no strip-malls, no FYEs, no chain stores, no Hot Topic, and you have no access to the internet or a computer of any kind, then yes, Japanese CDs are totally unavailable for you to buy. Also, if you live in one of these places, you probably are out digging potatoes and not listening to Japanese rock music and Visual Kei on your 16G iPod with Skullcandy headphones.

Many popular Jrock bands are available on the most simplistic platforms such as iTunes and other online MP3 stores. Anything you can’t find there is readily available through a multitude of respectable English or multilingual websites dedicated to making Japanese music accessible and available to non-Japanese.

Get out from under your rock.

4.Westerners have no means of sampling/hearing the music:

MySpace, Facebook, iTunes, Amazon MP3, official websites, this amazing invention we all should have heard of by now: YouTube.

Get out from under your rock.

5.”Its either people don’t hear your music, or they download it illegally.”

I suggest moving from Wisconsin. That is all you can do.

In the beginning of time, these were once relevant, interesting topics, the answers to which many young Padawans were eagerly seeking. They were, yes, interesting topics back in a time when we all thought onigiri were donuts because Brock and Misty thought we couldn’t handle the truth. Now, however, we know what lies at the heart of the rice-ball, just as we now know that there are a lot of people out there who download music illegally. However, unlike being asked and consulted about the existence of illegal downloads, we are no longer constantly told “those are not jelly donuts. They are sweet rice packed around a shriveled plum with a little seaweed slapped on them.” And over and over again we do not go “oooh…is that what that is.”

The reason for this, is that a cultural awareness has developed in the West for things Japanese. We have learned about the existence of rice on earth, and even that it is shaped into triangular luncheon friends. As a media-driven, entertainment-industry society, we have evolved since the days when we were watching Pokemon on VHS. Although I never had problems inputting search queries into Google and clicking through results, I do recall that time when it seemed as though everything was truly on the other side of the world.

As of the year 2010, though, I really believed that our cultural consciousness around Japanese rock and Visual Kei had, like our awareness of onigiri, evolved and developed. CDs, merchandise, product, and even live shows are at least moderately available.

In response to the above mentioned questions, all I can say is, are all Japanofiles still completely paleolithic? Am I the only fan of Japanese rock music who has whole CD racks full of Japanese CDs that were neither unavailable, extortionately priced, or downloaded illegally? No. I am not. So why are we still asking these questions.

No disrespect to the folks at Purple Sky.