Electric Eel Shock at Wacken 2007

Japanese Pop and Rock music - better know as J-Pop and J-Rock - has quickly become an important part of anime fandom.  With many fans eager to snap up the latest anime theme song from the latest Japanese artist, interest in Japanese music has grown and grown.

However, you'd be wrong if you think it's only anime fans listening.  As Western music fans have been looking for new and different styles of music, there has been an increased interest in the East, particularly when it comes to rock.  Whereas once the only Japanese band most Westerners had heard of was Mad Capsule Markets, we now find the likes of Dir en grey gracing the pages of Metal HammerGirügamesh are playing European music festivals, hell, even Trivium - a band who jump on whichever musical bandwagon is currently rolling by - has dumped battle metal in favour of Japanese imagery on their latest album. 

With interest growing a new wave of Japanese bands is testing the British waters, but they're not doing it unaided.  Mayu, manager of Visual Kingdom, DST:UK and European and UK manager of Sutairu, has been working hard to bring the cream of the J-Rock crop to our shores, organising and promoting UK tours and gigs for the likes of Dir en grey and MUCC.  With some impressive achievements under her belt in 2008, we take the opportunity to grab a few words about her role and the growing popularity of J-Rock in the UK!

Animetion:  You currently help out promoting J-Pop and Rock in the UK. How did you become involved and what does your current role entail?

Mayu: "I got involved with it all through creating a 'Dir en grey for the UK' Petition, and I followed through with it.  I looked at every other petition online for it and nobody had taken it

Gothika, a Japanese band who played Amecon 2008

 further, nobody had pushed their results.  So I collected links to all the other petitions and went around to every promoter in London I could to get their attention.  I was also then forming the DST:UK group which took a lot of promoters attention too.

"My current role at the moment is mainly promotion work, and with every promoter I work with its different.  For one of them I design flyers and do online promotion for gigs magazine work and article reviewing, another its receiving flyers getting flyers distributed for bands and shows and promoting that way as well as online, others its deciding venues and

show arrangements etc, and then doing more work at the actual show itself like collecting gifts for the bands and taking them to them and so-on."

A:  How well do you believe J-pop and rock is being received in the UK?

M:  "It is being received quite well, we do actually have a massive fan base for it in the UK it's just unspoilt and untouched, our country also seems to attract a lot of attention from the rest of Europe, when we have shows here we get a lot of foreign participants to our shows, especially if the shows are London ones.  Outside of the fan base, it's not really seen, a few bands have hit other media attention in to the public mainstream eye."

A:  What are your own favourite J-Pop/Rock bands?

M:  "Hmm that's a big list, it constantly changes daily but recently I'd say it's: D, Miyavi, LM.C, Dir en grey, Girügamesh, GHOST, An Cafe, Alice Nine and a handful of others...it's always hard to pick a few!"

A:  What bands do you wish to see play in the UK?

M:  "D most of all out of any, Alice Nine, LM.C (finally announced and confirmed!)."

A:  Will 2009 be a bigger and better year for J-Pop and Rock?

M:  "Yes, bigger names are looking to come to our country in 2009 and it's going to be jam-packed with bands!"

A:  If someone wishes to get into J-pop or Rock, what would you recommend and why?

M:  "Depends what kind of person really and what music taste they already have. when I was introduced to J-rock I was thrown Dir en grey's OBSCURE PV on youtube, whilst I was rummaging around for more stuff by Miyavi and Gackt (I started out with Gackt then DBSK then Miyavi then Diru…what an odd combo).

"If they are in to heavy style music or don't mind it I'd recommend the following:  Dir en grey, D'espairs Ray, Girügamesh, Deathgaze, DIO, Sadie, √eight, Lynch., -OZ-, SCREW, UnsraW,

Viored, SUGAR, Suicide Ali, and depending on if they like the more elegant styles D, Versailles, Metis Gretel,...so many more I could go on and on!

"Quirky fun sorts of bands could be the bands like:  Miyavi, An café, LM.C, SuG, Alice Nine, Lolita23Q, The Pumpkin Head, GHOST, Mixed Speakers ink

"As for more casual pop types I'd say, Gackt and T.M. Revolution.  Some Plastic Tree songs are quite relaxing to listen to as well.  (I don't really listen to the pop casuals..bit hard for me to recommend those hehe.)

Girugamesh at Wacken 2008

"Reasons why is, they are all good bands, and if you don't like one try another or scout for other songs like I did :) it broadens your taste for different genre and you soon find your own taste."

A:  How did you get into J-Rock/Pop in the first place?

M:  "I got in to it through finding Gackt actually found a teaser video on YouTube for 'Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus', liked the sound of 'Redemption' and got curiously searching for the video, thus falling in love with Gackt as a result!  Haha.  This was waaaaay before the game was released, I then found a video where a person had mixed DBSK, Miyavi and Gackt in to DBSK's 'TRI-ANGLE' video.  Which got me in to Korean music and then I found Miyavi and went through a year-long Miyavi phase!  After that I was thrown Dir en grey and D'espairs Ray and then I began to hunt for all the bands I now adore.  Last.fm was a godsend with its bands like this band link system" :)

A:  How is watching J-bands different to UK bands?

M:  "J-bands seem to have a very close connection to their audience, they like to tease us, and they adore to watch us make a mess of each other, UK/western bands do to but…well it's hard to explain, J-bands give a crowd of their fans such a rush and hype it creates a rather unique form of atmosphere for everybody in the room to feed off of.  They do a lot more on stage then most western bands to and interact more."

A:  What is your favourite type of visual kei?

M:  "Hmm, I like many, I'd say the disturbing sort of freaky types the most, like the old style of D'espairs Ray, they inspire me a great deal with their old styles, same for some old Dir en grey, during their 'Vulgar' album era they had an amazing look.  GHOST had my attention a lot, it was a shame they disbanded I was going to fly to see their last live show but it was too short notice" >_<;

A:  Do you believe that the look of a band adds to the music? And, in some cases, is more important than the music?

M:  "I think in some cases it can yes, I certainly don't think looks ever overweigh importance of the music though, a talented band that looks good is a bonus a talented band that looks bad is no big deal, a bad band that looks good has no interest my end.  At the end of the day, it's what it sounds like and the presence of a band that really matters, sometimes looks help their stage and overall presence I guess but it isn't my deciding factor of liking a band or not."

Mad Capsule Markets in the Kerrang! signing tent at Download Festival 2005

  A:  Have the bands enjoyed playing in England?

M:  "So far yes they have.  We give bands a whole new form of audience here, as we are/where pretty much starved for their presence and music here, they love our raw energy and the fact we either go on until we pass out or go on until we cry and break down.  I'd say they love us as much as we love them."

A:  How do British crowds differ from Japanese ones?

M:  "We are a lot more enthusiastic and a lot more lively and are certainly not scared to head-bang, thrash around and jump until we can't feel our limbs anymore!  The bands at first when they came here where shocked at how much we really do love them; the fact we know the lyrics to their songs when most of us don't study or know Japanese at all makes them respect us back.  We respect them for simply flying to play a single show for us, and they respect us for giving our time and devotion to enjoying their music and learning a new language just to be able to sing along with them.  A sort of, unspoken bond between the fan base and the bands in a way."

A:  In what areas of the UK is J-Rock & J-Pop most popular?

M:  "Scarily enough the majority of the J-music fans are located in the north Regions of the UK and the midlands, there are very little in the south, a handful from various locations.  I know many in Scotland and North UK near myself in Preston.  I know a good few in Ireland and Wales also and many through the main mid section of the UK.  There is a large amount in London (obviously as it is the capital of the country) but most fans you see have travelled from the other end of the country" :)

A:  In comparison, how popular is British pop and rock in Japan?

M:  "Our music is quite popular over there, they have a keen interest in our big named stars and America's big names also.  As for UK, well we influenced some of the J-music fashions with our punk and our historic clothing styles have also taken part in their many eras of styles in music.  Most of the Japanese people I talk with over the internet like our old school rock and roll bands, boy-bands, heart-throbs and sexy ladies are their favourites as they have the most media coverage worldwide, some even like old punk and rave music too!  I'd say we obsess over Japanese music a lot more than they do with our music though…in a good way!"

Thanks very much to Mayu for taking the time to talk to us, for more information on upcoming J-Rock gigs in the UK check out the websites linked at the top of this article.  Alternatively check out our UK Events Diary!