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, Yaz Noya.

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 album."

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. audience.

"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," Tatsurou explained.

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.

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