JRock Lands in America
By Dave Schwartz
Interpreter: Yaz Noya
Those of us with their musical ear to the ground may have noticed a distant
rumbling from the Far East. That noise you hear is not the sound of a
million samurai dancing, but rather of rock bands lashing crates of their
CDs together and floating toward America. My friends, we are being invaded
and quite honestly, itís about time.
Japanese Rock or JRock is alive and well in America and is being
presented to you by our good friends on the Rockstar Taste of Chaos Tour.
Three bands, D'espairsRay, The Underneath and MUCC (pronounced "mukku") are
on the tour this year. I was given an opportunity to speak with Tatsurou,
vocalist from the band MUCC. Since Tatsurou has a limited vocabulary in
English, the interview was completed with the assistance of a translator,
I started by asking Tatsurou about their new album, "Shion."
"This is a very experimental album for us" Tatsurou stated. "This is a
new frontier in MUCCís creativity. There are dance songs and computerized
songs and exotic sounds. There are all kind of music elements on this
After a brief conversation with the translator, Tatsurou continued on
about MUCCís experimental side.
"The four of us love many different styles of music. When we try
different styles of music, we always ask ourselves how we can do this as
MUCC, so every step is an experiment. Thatís why every album and every song
seems a little experimental."
The first single, "Libra," is a danceable mix of mainstream rock. Itís
easy to listen to and certainly could find an
audience on these shores. The
mystery rests with American radio and whether it will choose to support
Japanese language music. One of the challenges resides in the fact that MUCC
performs their music primarily in Japanese. Although not obvious to American
listeners, lyrically the members of MUCCís like to play with contrasting
textures - Lightness / Darkness, Happy / Sad, Hard / Soft - Tatsurou
revealed his fascination with opposing forces.
MUCC was formed in 1997 Tatsurou, Miya (guitars), Satochi (drums) and
Hiro (bass). Hiro left the band in 1999 and was replaced by Yukke. They
enjoy a strong following in Japan and only recently have strayed outside of
their homeland. In 2005, the band ventured into Europe for the first time.
Since then they have become welcome guests at many of the larger festivals.
Now, some 10 years and 600 live shows later, MUCC has landed in America.
I asked Tatsurou why the waited so long to come to the United States.
"This is the right time for us," Tatsurou replied. "There is a big JRock
movement in the United States. We already have a base of activities in Japan
and we need to come out so this is the time."
Perhaps the best example of the JRock movement was the May, 2007 JROCK
Revolution Festival in Los Angeles featuring Yoshiki. Hugely successful, it
was perhaps the first glimpse of a swelling underground movement. One
doesnít have to look much further to find Dir En Grey ripping their way from
coast to coast.
The Rockstar Taste of Chaos tour started in early March and, with a
couple weeks of shows under their belts, I wanted to ask about MUCCís first
meaningful experiences with touring in American and dealing with a U.S.
"American audiences are very tough, we understand, but if we play good,
we know they will like us. American audiences are very straight and direct,"
It has been my experience that Asian audiences are more polite and
restrained, a sharp contrast to most American shows. Asian bands are often
surprised with the over-the-top reaction to their music here. As for touring
in America, there lies another sharp contrast. A major portion of an Asian
tour is done by plane. With so many island nations, bands find themselves
playing one or two shows before flying on to the next country. Obviously
America is much larger and Asian bands find themselves getting a good taste
of life on the road.
Tatsurou comments, "America is so huge and every moment that we drive we
donít see enough. We have been here a couple weeks already, but still we
wonít see enough. We are looking forward to coming back again and seeing
what we donít see this time."
The Rockstar Taste of Chaos tour is winding its way across America. The
tour stretches into late April, so if you havenít already missed them, I
suggest you get your tickets today. I want to thank Tatsurou and our
translator Yaz Noya for a great interview.
Donít forget to check out MUCC and the other JRock bands.