Archive for January, 2010

And I manage to mess up JET already…

So, as you know, yesterday I received confirmation that I will be interviewing for the JET program. What that email did NOT specify was whether I would be interviewing for CIR (Coordinator of International Relations) or ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). On my application, I selected CIR with the option to more to ALT if my application was not strong enough. The email was generic, and since it matched with my friends who all applied for ALT, I assumed that I, too, was selected for ALT. I booked a plane ticket with a friend, and booked an interview.

Today, though, I recieved an email that my interview had been cancelled and that I needed to rebook as a CIR. I had sent an email to confirm in the morning, due to feelings of dread last night. To my horror, I had only one day to interview for CIR left avaliable: Tuesday, Feburary 16th. In other words, the day of a midterm with my thesis adviser. NOT GOOD. Now, there is all sorts of drama going on with the plane ticket, mostly because my friend is scheduled for a Friday interview and now I a Tuesday, but we are booked on the same ticket. The airline will not let us split apart, so my friend is trying to either switch her interview time or just cancel the flight as a whole….I feel terrible, as this is my fault.

At any rate, they let me keep the interview despite my messing up the time booking. So, maybe, with any luck, I will be returning to Japan as a CIR instead of an ALT! Wish me luck! With everything….. >.<

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JET Interview is Go!

Go, go, Chocobo!

 Today I received notification from the JET program that I will be interviewing for a position. I applied for both CIR and ALT (specifically, the CIR position with the option to switch to ALT). However, I know that my Japanese ability is not strong enough for the CIR, so I have instead opted to interview as an ALT. Whether this is problematic or not is debatable, and I have sent them an email notifying them of my change. At any rate, this is a huge step forward in my plan to return to Japan and not only master the language but start a band up as well. Stay tuned for more details!

Grimmace and I in New York, NY

Visual Kei Review: 愛狂います。ー サイコXレタア

The first Visual Kei band review I will do involves a very unique group from Nagoya.  

愛狂います。, read as Aicle., are self-described as “those apple-looking people”. Really. They said it at a concert in Takadanobaba Area in summer 2009. This could be because ルビ (Rubi, Guitar) has a fascination with attaching “large apples to his head”. Actually, he constantly has some form of apple paraphernalia on his body at any given point in time. This statement could also be from the fact that えみる (Emiru, Vocals) used to have half-red and half-green hair that was spiked up, thus emulating an apple. The other two members, 玲音 (れおん. Leon, Drums) and さらん (Saran, Bass), have less-apple-themed attire and hairstyles. However, that does not mean that the styling of this band focuses solely on the vocalist! Lately, the entire band has done a shift in styling, moving away from their former, more color-centric attire toward a style that can only be described as being bitch-slapped by a  rainbow. (By “color-centric,” I mean each member has one color that they focus on in their wardrobe) They are truly embracing kote-kei and making it their own. I have also heard them described as “Nagoya-kei”, however I am not entirely sure what this phrasing entails. It was also used to describe Lupo Label (now disbanded), yet the music and fashion styling of the bands do not really compare.

Their latest single, サイコXレタア (Psycho Letter),has えみる appearing to channel some SiSeN with his belly shirt, shorts, and color combinations. At any rate, the title of the song is a very accurate description, as the song is rather random and blends multiple styles together. What makes Aicle. great, though, is their ability to actually pull off these combinations. It has, in a sense, become their signature music style. Other Visual Kei bands often attempt to do this type of music style combination, but more often than not they fall on their face in the attempt. There is no other way to describe Aicle. but “unique,” both in the sense of their style, music, and interesing music style.

Here’s what’s going on musically in this single:

さらん may appear to be playing some boring bass lines, but before the bass solo (which is rather simple), he is often playing slap-style. His alternation with ルビ also makes for some interesting plays off one-another musically. Very interesting bass lines going on with this band, very interesting indeed….

玲音 is a soild drummer. Let’s be honest: a good drummer can hold any band afloat. There is a lot more programming in this song, but he holds a steady beat and throws in a few tricks every now and then.

ルビ has been holding down the fort as the main guitarist since the rhythm guitarist, ケイタ (Keita) left in early 2009 due to family issues. I’d say he’s been doing a brilliant job and he is all over the neck of that guitar. I adore the pedals and such that they use, it rounds their unique style out.

えみる. Either you love his vocals, or you hate them. I, personally, like how he can turn off the vibrato for certain parts and back on again for the chorus. His voice is rather high-pitched by male standards, but it works in his favor, adding another layer of unique musicality to the mix. The vocals are standard Aicle., so you have to listen to more songs to understand exactly what I mean by turning on and off the vibrato.

Aicle. is, to me, a true Visual Kei band. They experiment musically and also in the realm of fashion, and pull it off. They are experiencing a huge jump in popularity, selling out shows not only in their native Nagoya but in Tokyo and Osaka as well. If possible, I highly recommend seeing them live, as the fans are just as unique as the band. (They have a certain name, these fans, but I have forgotten it….It was a play on 狂い) There is also a lottery that the goods stand has, called a クラクジ (kurakuji). for about 200 yen, you pull out a lollipop that has a number on it. This number indicates you prize, which ranges from a button to an autographed poster to (this only happened once as far as I know) a meeting with the band for pictures. I won the autographed poster, an autographed photograph of 玲音 before he dyed his hair from blonde to the pink-red-orange, a few candid live photographs, and a hand towel (it’s a Japanese thing…). I also met them after a concert once, sans makeup. That was a bit horrifying, but it was cool just the same.

For those new to Aicle and wanting to hear more, I recommend the following songs, as they give a good overview of what this band can do (and they can all be found on youtube!):

心臓 (Shinzou)

トウメイニンゲン (Toumei Ningen)

ハマー*ヘッド (Hammerhead)

ゴメンナサイ (Gomen Nasai)

Choco Sand Biscuit Cream

That’s all for this review (wow, that was lengthy…) but I hope it was enjoyable! If you have any bands or singles that you want me to review, just post them in the comment section or shoot me an email!

Aicle. circa Hammerhead

Where I am, What I’ve Done, and Where I am Going

HERO and I, 2009

The Visual Kei Band HERO and Myself

This is meant to summarize what I have done thus far to achieve my dream, what my status is as of right now, and how I plan to go about accomplishing it.

Right now, I am in my final semester of university. I am writing a thesis on lesbians and transgenders in Japanese society, specifically on media exposure and linguistic complications they encounter. Because of this rather time-consuming process, I do not have as much time to practice my piano and bass as I would like. Currently, I have one piano teacher and two bass teachers. Because I have to pay each of them monthly, I work three jobs. It pays the bills, at least the vast majority. As a direct result, not only is practice time reduced but so is my social life…At any rate, that is where I am right now: attempting to graduate with an ounce of sanity.

What I have done to reach my goal thus far…Well, I have gone to Japan multiple times, and my Japanese has improved dramatically from when I first started to use it three years ago. During my time in Japan, I went to innumerable concerts and met a variety of Japanese people that helped guide me towards this music-related decision. I met bands (HERO, Nega, A&D, The Kiddie, Vivid, etc), spoke to the fans, and gained a wider understanding of Japanese music as a whole. To be a musician in Japan is to work yourself to the brink. I began to question my dedication to the dream, but I realized that once I graduate, I will have time to practice and improve. Thus, I stuck by my guns. I found teachers to help me once I returned to America, and set things into motion.

Where I am going is a mystery. I am trying to get back to Japan, find a job of some kind that will help me to pay the bills. I realize that a proper, full-time job will impose on the band dream, but the way I figure, without money there will be no dream. Visual Kei is by no means a cheap genre to enter. There will be weekends available for practice, and until the band gets a solid start, it will be plenty to establish a fanbase and create a few singles. What people don’t realize about Visual Kei musicians is that a great many of them are forced to keep their part-time jobs as they tour. Another idea  have been playing around with includes going to Japan for a year or two and then attempting to enter a Japanese music academy. That way my Japanese will improve in addition to my music ability. Plus, I will be surrounded by people with a similar mindset, enabling me to negotiate my way through the difficult Japanese music underground.

The real question is: What do I need? I need confidence. I know I am not an awesome bass player, but I also know that if someone were to give me a chance, I will work with everything I am to make it work. I also need support, something that has been lacking somewhat. Time is also required, but I feel that will come once I graduate. I don’t have a job lined up for post-graduation yet, so I daresay there will be plenty of time soon enough…

And that is where I am, what I have done, where I am going and what I need. It’s a lengthy process, yes? I’ll post an update to my pursuits every month, just to keep people informed…

Chocobo sitting on a Cactuar's head...Such a balancing act!

 

And so it all begins…

Kobe Illuminarie, 2008

Illuminarie, Motomachi, Kobe, 2008

Kobe. I spent a year in this port city. In Uozaki, near Rokko Island.

My year abroad was nothing but an eye-opening experience. I went to concerts at least three times a week, at least one usually being free. I met Japanese people of every variety, from the hard-core sweet lolita to the ditzy law student to the aspiring musician with a lolita-complex. I slept in a Buddhist temple on Koyasan and piggy-backed through Hiroshima. I lived with four host-dogs that were both the most adorable and most annoying things I have ever encountered. I grew up during that year abroad.

Because of my time in Japan, I slowly woke up to the realization that I love music. Music, to me, is vital for living. I want to pursue it in some way, shape, or form. I play piano, and re-started my bass lessons. Though the going is slow, I have confidence that, when given the opportunity and a little instruction, I will be more than able to make the cut.

This blog will be about my pursuit of my dreams, sprinkled with stories I have written. Read, Enjoy, Comment. Be aware, though, that flamers will be deleted.

Sea Turtle

Kaiyukan, Sea Turle