EDITION 1 - October 2016
AN OVERVIEW RECENT AND CURRENT JAPANESE GIRL GUITAR BANDS & J-POP/ROCK/METAL ARTISTS
Young Japanese all girl bands are taking the world by storm, and yet here many know very little about their culture, their ascendency and what drives their popularity. These pages hopefully provide some insights.My first visit to Japan was in 2000, when I visited the Harajuku area, which was a mind blowing experience, as far as fashion style and retro record stores go. Although I visited no music venues, I did go to a park, where on Sundays, not only do you find all the cos players in their anime clothes, but also an area where all the young bands play, on the ground, all with their own little PA systems going. So I thought, wow, this is a cool place.
My next visit was in 2010, and by then I was into Perfume and Scandal. They had no shows on, but I saw Winnie in a venue in the trendy Shimokitazawa area They were astoundingly good, and suprisingly, sang only in English. They were so good it was a bit disheartening, because I quickly realised if this band was on the "bottom" of the bill, and the next night they were supporting Foo Fighters at Tokyo Dome (55,000 seated), it wasn't going to be easy getting gigs in Tokyo for my band.
How did I get into Japanese girl rock? Well friend Mika fromTokyo (and also vocalist in the Southern Belles who have sung on 3 of Stormcellar's albums), sent me a clip or two by Perfume, knowing I would be interested in their producer/songwriter's work by Nakata. He has written hits for Perfume, Capsule, Kyary Pamu, Scandal and many other Japanese groups that are now touring the world.
Why do I like this stuff ? Okay you might think it’s because they‘re cute (kawaii). True, they are. But that won't sustain interest for long. For me they have to have spirit, ability to play well live, and endure the industry long enough to become an undeniably good act.
What do I see in the music? Firstly, I had to disengage from the idea that they should be expected to sing and play like western acts. The Japanese people have been exposed to western music styles like blues, pop and jazz since 1947. That's about 15 years before Australia was ! In the last 65 years or so, they have gone from apeing our stuff to brewing their own special called J-Pop. For the girlbands (playing their own instruments) it started surfacing in the 60's and 70's playing their own style of everything from surf music to bosa nova. But in the last decade it has really morphed into its own thing, with no boundaries, no rules and surprising hybrids like Thunder-pop and Cute-metal. Yes, there are western roots in their hybrids, but no one does it like the Japanese.
But why is Japan alone good at turning out these fantastic girl bands ? It's their work ethic, honesty in their art, along with the female ability to multi-task, their attention to detail, and most of all, the "never give up" and "always strive to do better" attitude that’s ingrained in the Japanese psyche. When Japanese girls are auditioned or recruited for bands they are offered management by a production or talent company, they will often be subjected to certain conditions i.e No visible boyfriends (or none at all). Always be cute and polite, and don't gain weight. The bulk of money earned will be paid at the end of the contract (5 to10 years), the rest of the time they’ll be on a wage. Also until such time as the band can write their own material of good standard, they will be supplied songs to record They will work with professional choreographers, fashion co-ordinators for stage and their clothes worn off stage as well. Holidays one week per year in which you may still have to do photo shoots and interviews. Can you imagine western girls signing up for that ? Not so much! You may have seen some girl bands before, but probably not ones who play live like these ?
Primarily an electronic dance music act (EDM). These three girls got together when they were only 11 years old, firstly playing to a handful of curious people in the local music park month after month, and handing out their homemade flyers. Dissapointing hard days, but back every week to try harder. After releasing their own records independantly for a few years. Eventually they were spotted by songwriter/producer Nakata, who now writes all their music. They now have many hit singles, anime songs, ads, and even a track in Disney movie Cars 2 and tour internationally. In Japan, Perfume have sold out The Tokyo Dome (55,000). Their shows use cutting edge sounds, lighting and are massive hi-tech complex multi-media affairs, that are amazing to watch. Still currently touring.
Computer City > https://youtu.be/XL5ln9sfsJw
Laser Beam > https://youtu.be/t3_bJICRd5Y
Spring of Life > https://youtu.be/cj7unL_tDU8
Tokyo Dome > https://youtu.be/s7jj4F0QlJE
2016 summer >https://youtu.be/pZhV-PUpsas
Three girls from Osaka, Haruna, Mami and Tomomi. They are from a dance/singing school, and were asked by their teachers if they would like to pick up instruments, and form a band in 2006. They soon recruited Rina (a piano player), to join as drummer. Mami, Tomo and Rina the youngest at 16 yo, were all still at high school, Haruna 18yo was the main singer and leader though, now they all sing and write.
Starting from scratch on their instruments, and rehearsing 3 nights aweek midnight to 6am , and then going to school in the morning, for six months and playing in the park every Sunday, no matter the weather conditions. They attracted a manager/roadie, who is to this day is still their personal manager.
The first I saw of them was in a Perfume TV interview. They were all still in school uniforms and I thought they were a Perfume fan club. Then I found their youtube clip, Scandal One Man Live Tour 2009. The intro song blew my mind and I became an instant life long fan. The complex parts these girls now play, while singing lead and harmony vocals astounds me.
After only 1 year of learning to play their respective instruments they were getting encores in Seattle USA on an Anime festival tour. Scandal have now made 10 albums, numerous Live Show DVD's, a movie, and are now on their 4th world tour. When they finish that, they have a 47 prefectures tour, which will be gruelling, and one should worry the band will survive it, but their work ethic is extremely strong. They have sold out 2 consecutive nights at the famous Budokan Stadium. A record for an all girl band in Japan.
I can say without a doubt, they are the best all girl pop/rock band of all time on this planet. And yes, the are all incredibly cute too, which doesn't hurt of course.
This link has 3 pages of songs. Checkout, 1 Spaceranger 2 Sakura Goodbye, and 3 Kagerou for a start >
Harukaze live in TV studio > https://youtu.be/YOGaNg9Q0vA
Can Beer > https://youtu.be/igOrmLfbU8w
Onegai Navigation > https://youtu.be/igOrmLfbU8w
Rina the drummer, plays gtr and sings her newest song. http://www.dailymotion.com/
Burn, big ballad live > https://youtu.be/MLKLClkjQSk
Concert part 2of 2 > https://youtu.be/rOl4Hzq045A
XMAS Special - highly recommend Part1 & 2 > https://youtu.be/8CcqSE4ziL0
To top it off, this first 3 songs at Osaka- Jo Hall (20,000) which sold out in 12 minutes. The band is flying on this event. If you are wondering why the bassplayer Tomo is in tears for the first song, it's because this venue is near the very park where they used to play mini shows, when they first started the band. They used to eat their lunch between sets, looking over at the giant venue, dreaming that they too, could one day play there, as a headliner. And they did, but not after 7 years of touring small venues.
If after watching this clip, you don't see that Scandal is the best pop-rock girl band, this planet has ever produced. Sorry, I can't help you : )
Osaka-jo Hall homecoming show > https://youtu.be/aagH25s0jHU
Also some links to good stuff on FINAL page.
These girls are not a put-together cutesy band, but it's still pretty much Kitty chan hard rock mayhem, with them on stage. These girls are premium level musicians. Just check out Hanna the drummer and Koga bassist, they put most guys to shame. Their style is quoted as "thunder-pop". Complex, hi-powered arrangements that seem impossible to keep tight, but they do.
They have lately morphed into a 6 piece show type band, but as a four piece band in the early days, they were the ultimate powerhouse trio with a blonde bubbly husky-voiced Japanese cutie out front singing and playing occaisonal mobile keyboard. Astounding abilities all round.
I have had great joy showing the song Broken Lover live to many of my musician friends, who invariably stand there with their jaws on the ground mumbling, "What the Fuck!" The Spin tour Europe, Asia and US for the last 8 years now. Undeniable talent and show. Be prepared to be amazed!
Eita former member of GS, so the next girl to join (Tomozo) had to top this > https://youtu.be/SM9wMvQsj1k
An insight into this bands talent well worth watching in full > https://youtu.be/DW5OE_TFWYc
Koga bass solo with drummer > https://youtu.be/RFT4eKeZUeE
Live lunchtime plaza show sound bad but energy is there > https://youtu.be/Hqd2QgoJFDI
The live version of this best perfornce I have ever seen, but only this studioclip now available
Sadly the original singer, Arrmy, died a year ago of heridtory nerve/heart problems, and Ataxia.
This is new version with temp guest singer from Lightbringer > https://youtu.be/5u5BZnTe6zQ
A ferocious four piece band, who write their own material, good friends with Scandal, they do shows together, so I suspect from the same production house or record company. A bit too edgey for the straight pop scene though they have made several singles to break into that mainstream market, but live they are a hard rockin' unit with retro and modern guitar sounds. The singer/gtr players voice and the drummer are powerhouse rockin' chicks. Think Foo fighters meet Baby Animal, via a bit of Black Sabbath riffing at times. Sensational live, very tight and vicious attack onstage, but of course cute and polite off stage. Live, Flip can rock you to the ground, then turn around and sing a ballad (with some English lyrics) and rip your heart out. Get a hanky before listening to " Butterfly". Lyrics/ storyline of "Hey Hey Hey" go something along the lines of ... " I am the black cat you don't want to meet in the alley and I might send you home with scratches on your back, and what you gonna tell your mother did that, baby boy". Yeah, these girls are for real.
Khazana live > https://youtu.be/u52sgEMbTX0
Butterfly live > https://youtu.be/__0kW3ycXwY
Hey Hey Hey live > https://youtu.be/p6tzeHNp3ig
Tarantula live > https://youtu.be/yow3ek_Eq5k
Love the Toxic City live https://youtu.be/yow3ek_Eq5k
I had the honour of seeing this band. They just don't write bad songs, ever. The focal point is the female guitarist with her polka dot flying g V Gibson guitar, but the guys in her band especially the leadplayer/ vox , who is the writer. Powerhouse pop rock, vicious drummer and bassist added to the mix , plus 3 part harmies to die for. The melodies are things of beauty, nd all their songs sung in English. Led Zepplin meets the Posies , with Manhattan Transfer/The Byrds/ Teenage Fan Cub vocals, doing hit single standard material to the nth degree of energy and precision. That's Winnie !
Despite being an incredidale live band , most of their songs on you tube are film clip, but a few live things available.
These girls have disbanded, but I think the drummer has gone on to be touring drummer for Bouno, an off shoot of another 8 piece sing unit called Berrys. Buono toured in France as well as Japan with great success, and the entire backing band was made up female musician who were top class players used on their recording.
A three piece girl singing unit, but l list them here because they had an all female backing band who were all experianced studio and live touring gun players. This concept was sort of a forunner to Babymetal, except it was J- Idol pop/ rock mix with the oddity of the all girl backing band. The 3 girls were an offshoot of an 8pc singing units called Berrys and another unit, Cute, though all Buono girls were from Chiba. They came into being in 2007 at national magazine conference in Ikebukoro, at Sunshine City which was coincidentally, was where I stayed on my first trip to Japan. Buono became very popular in Europe around 2007, especially in France where fans lined up around the block, young fan girls crying to meet them and get their merch items signed by the girls from Buono.
When a vacant last minute spot became available in a band comp, Negoto filled in, and walked away with the SONY Most Prosing Act Award. So they thought perhaps they should write some original compositions and the keyboard player seemed to be able to write this unique sort of garage/ jazz-pop fusion. The writing and arranging abilities of this girl band is amazing. A powerhouse yet slick bass and drum section with tumultous waves of strange chords, mixed with beautifully crafted melodies that are fragile and heart-felt. These girls dont require gimmicks or hype in their shows, and they are adored for their music by their fans, which has seen them perform festivals and sellout a Budokan event, plus numerous TV specials. Even the interviewers feel the need to ask them about the strange chords and arrangements. Negoto means sleepwalking, and the band says thats the way they want their songs to run, like a dream occuring while they write and arrange them. Astounding talent!
KYARY PAMU PAMU
A cute, but ingenius creator of kooky Harajuku fashion, who has inspired Katie Perry, Gwen Stefani, Ariana Grand Fergie, and other US stars with her crazy singles, fashion and film clips. Spotted by Nakata (Perfume, Capsule composer/producer) Kyary has had a number of world wide hits, including Pon Pon Pon (over 100 million views on youtube) She's had 3 charting albums in Japan, toured South East Asia, US, UK, Europe and Australia twice. To add to that, she has been made official ambassador for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
Infectious happy pop, but with an underlay of some serious jazz/fusion chord changes, that give her songs an edge over the usual Idol pop music fare in Japan. Adorable vibe, and interesting stuff. In Sydney and Melbourne she draws over 3,000 to her gigs, mostly non-Asian audience, people from metalheads to art students, fashion designers, kids, parents, music critics. Most of who seem to know enough lyrics in Japanese to sing along. Again, WTF? Kinky Disneyland meets electro-pop?
I and a friend, who is a film maker/editor consider her work is indeed, "High Art."
Kyary got great reviews for her live shows in Sydney (Luna Park Big Top), one being in The Music/ Drum,
where a hardened female music critic admitted to having tears in her eyes, as Kyary waved goodbye to the audience.
I must admit seeing the level of adoration for KPP, by a mainly western audience was quite moving, and slightly unerving. One little girl, controlled the whole room for 90 mins, mesmerising fans with the sheer joy of her music and performance. Her stuff is addictive. Be warned!
2012 saw the formation of this band under guidance of Koba Metal, their mentor and the project"s manager, is a blend of J-pop/idol and modern metal. Their backing group has of some of the best players in Japan, plus numerous songwriters and gun choreographer Mikiko-metal, make this an interesting unit for sure.
They have their own brand of music Kawaii Metal (Cute Metal to us westerners), selling out Wembley Stadium in London , breaking the Beatle's merch record at the venue, selling out 2 nights in a row at Tokyo Dome (110,000), racking up 60 million youtube hits on Give Me Chocalate alone, and busy world tours are just some of their achievments. Their 2nd album entered US Billboard mainstrean chart, debuting at #37, above Beyonce and Rihanna, despite being in Japanese. So naturally it was #1 on th Billboard World Music Chart. Also amazing is that Babymetal are outselling the metal bands in UK and Europe by 10 to 1. Again WTF ?
Plenty of info on their Facebook page BABYMETAL WORLDWIDE. They are an insane mix of gothic lolita, dance, and metal. Fans range between nerd culture, metal heads and everything in between, 6yrs to 60yrs demographic.
Live at Metrrock Festival Japan
Warning! A 38min clip that doesnt like fast fwd, best to watch in one hit.. Loud ! Metrock Festival Tokyo
Give Me Chocolate > https://youtu.be/WIKqgE4BwAY
Karate > https://youtu.be/GvD3CHA48pA
Road of Resistance > https://youtu.be/zTEYUFgLveY
Gimmee Chocolate on Steve Colbert Late Show, New york live > https://youtu.be/uA2Bun4Z8Cs
A couple of girls working in a Maid Cafe ( a cafe where you are served by girls in maid uniforms, mostly for guys but girls go too, part of Kawaii culture) thought it would be fun to get a rock band together, and do some gigs in maid uniforms. Formed about 8 years ago, they now have a number of charting songs in Japan and are also touring USA, Sth America, Mexico, UK and Europe, and exciting hourdes of young guys and girls with their hard rocking shows. These girls can really play, make no mistake about it.
Thrill > https://youtu.be/Uds7g3M-4lQ
Thrill live in Paris > https://youtu.be/7ZSdAal610o
Yolo > https://youtu.be/wKZbzcUdY1g
Freedom live in Paris > https://youtu.be/36_KRDPcKLo
Real Existance > https://youtu.be/9TkHpvaO09c
A five-piece melodic speed metal band who have total command of their instruments, and can shred and can do speed twin guitar themes, heavy riffs and solos with the best of them in this genre, male or female. Powerful, sutlry anime doll looking vocalist,. add to this, a lightening fast bassist and a drummer skilled in double kick drum work. Big hair, big sound, and big following.
Formed in 2008, formed their own record label in 2010 and have had 5 Oricon Charting albums. A recent line-up change iin 2015, has seen Marina Bozzio take the drumming seat, her father being Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, Band & The Tubes & Missing Persons) who married Japanese lady, Mayumi.
TV themes, anime theme songs, and great live shows have kept this Aldious's career firing. Most recent album was recorded in 2015 and a double A side single used to promote it. The joy for me in this band, is the twin guitar harmony attack and the power of the bass and drums. if you like your metal melodic, loud and fast they are well worth following. First song in the list says it all. Hi-octane metal from Japanese Glamour-goth dolls.
Dominator live in Shibuya East > https://youtu.be/gQkhio7glys
Track No.5 live in Shibuya > https://youtu.be/TNBkbIRoRo0
Luft live Shibuya > https://youtu.be/Em-jSQAxncU
ALDIOUS studio doco > https://youtu.be/BuDJ9TDzmpk
ALDIOUS tour doc > https://youtu.be/s0pdyXJY5p4
And here's a trivia clip to add. Lazy Guns Brisky, are sort of Tokyo/New York undergound shock glam-punk outfit.
The bassist in this clip, which although rough sounding, has tight playing with an interesting chromatic descending guitar hook (It's Japan, you only get it twice, haha), played with Aldious for a few months 'til the original girl returned. And you don't get to play with Adious, if you don't have "the skills".
Yui guitarist formed the band with the drummer. First single 2012, and they were also the backing band for massive Korean pop girl singing unit Kara, to perform their Tokyo Dome concert (55,000).
Cyntia are high power melodic metal rock with symphonic leanings. Complex song arrangements played
Immaculately well. One of the highlights for me is the aggressive melodic bass playing that knits the whole thing together.
Blaze venue live Pt 1 > https://youtu.be/FnhObh5i_3U
Blaze live Pt 2 > https://youtu.be/nCmkm1fGmxQ
Honey Metal live > https://youtu.be/Qc0ObSkFjPo
Summer casual dress park gig > https://youtu.be/hn4SodeO--E
DOCO's and EXTRA CONCERT FOOTAGE
Tokyo to Wembley (BBC)
A 30min interesting look at J-pop/rock/metal foray into the UK . Mainly Kyary Pamu and Babymetal feature along with a look at the Harajuku fashion scene's influence on music scene in UK and abroad.
Meet Mikiko - Short Doco
An in depth look at the genius of Mikiko, the choreographer who has help launch the careers of, not only Babymetal,but Perfume and Kyary Pamu Pamu and Shiina Ringo. Trained in New York and Japan, she is the go-to-girl for this stuff for the music production companies.
Extra Scandal gems for the Scandal addicts >
Scandal doco of Temptation Box tour.1st of 4 parts all on you tube > https://youtu.be/Un6EBWDT1hY
Scandal 2011 Zepp venues tour Part 1 of 2 > https://youtu.be/lt872JHo9uU
Scandal live at rapongi theatre Part 1 of 2 > https://youtu.be/DPKZ0x7K0Jk
How people have reacted to seeing Babymetal for the first time ?
"My first reaction to this video" collection of you tube.
Asian teen girl in UK > https://youtu.be/_7SVn3g--_Q
Post teens girl USA > https://youtu.be/mVfftbkx8Y4
Young guy in USA > https://youtu.be/TZrVrhZp29c
African American R&B guy > https://youtu.be/0pVbtUU8G3w
College girl in USA > https://youtu.be/tav6urtCUhc
College girl > https://youtu.be/xJfQ_-fbXZw
BANDS & ARTISTS to be fully featured in EDITION 2
Random bands for research for the next intalment which will feature female solo artists and musicians >
Lisa singer /composer and dynamite performer live
Stereo Pony 3 pc Garage pop plays Budokan
Adachi kumi - Hendrix , Santana exponent of guitar
Shina Ringo - amazing compser / vox / guitarist
Koda Kumi - female vocalist in top 20 selling artist of all time
Mia - electric guitar/vocalist
Geskiwa (shortened nickname) - are new fave funky Steely Dan type band with 2 female musicians, making waves in Japan now, racking up to 26 million hits on their you tube clip.
end of edition 1