The Men of LUNA SEA: A Closer Look

In 1997, the members of LUNA SEA went on hiatus to explore their own music. A decade later, the unstoppable accomplishments of these five men illustrate the full depth of talent in their pioneering band. Jrock Revolution wraps up LUNA SEA ~One Week Dejavu~ by aiming the spotlight on each man’s solo career and activities since LUNA SEA left the stage.

RYUICHI

/ Kawamura Ryuichi

With rival band members J and INORAN of LUNACY and SUGIZO and SHINYA of PINNOCHIO joining forces, all the new group needed to propel them forward into conquering the visual rock scene was the voice of the band, and they found him in RYUICHI. The dynamic vocalist of LUNA SEA is an artist of many stripes, who leapt off the platform of his massive rock success into continued stardom in the realm of mainstream pop.

In terms of sales figures and sheer popularity, RYUICHI‘s solo work has outdone all other members, though he chose to take a strong departure from LUNA SEA‘s music, and head down more of a singer/songwriter path with easygoing melodies frequently featuring piano, acoustic guitar, and even flute. The man who once held tens of thousands of captivated fans in the palm of his hand, owning the stage with the talent of his voice and the command of his presence, saw quite a transformation after LUNA SEA.

As a solo artist, both during LUNA SEA hiatus and following the band’s disbandment, he penned and performed sentimental pop music emphasizing the common themes of love and relationships, abandoning LUNA SEA‘s darker visual edge, both in appearance and in musical style. He is known as a soloist under his full name of Kawamura Ryuichi (Ryuuichi in roomaji, but he spells it with a single "u"). His first four singles all became big hits, especially the second single "GLASS," selling over a million copies. In 1998, as his solo career was taking off and LUNA SEA still had time together ahead of them, he was number one in the annual income ranking list of singers. His second album, LOVE, still holds the record for the best-selling album by a male solo artist ten years after its release. And like other members of LUNA SEA, his contributions to other artists are many, including producing Uehara Takako of SPEED, enka singer Hikawa Kiyoshi, and IZAM of SHAZNA.

His most recent release was "Dare no tame demo naku kimi ni" (For you, who cries for everyone) this year.

RYUICHI has dabbled in acting, with roles in four TV dramas and a movie. Most notably, he tried his hand at playing strongly against his star image as the lead character of the short TV drama, Kowloon de Aimashou (See you in Kowloon), in 2002. Starring opposite Ishida Yuriko, he portrayed a fairly hapless businessman who fumbled often when it came to love. In addition, RYUICHI wrote the opening title for the show, “Sugar Lady,” which was also used frequently as an instrumental background. He is also a popular guest on TV variety shows; one particularly amusing episode of the enduring Domoto Kyodai features RYUICHI improvising singing with the KinKi Kids (who are also the hosts of the show), LUNA SEA‘s SHINYA, and former show-regular Gackt.

Outside of his efforts in the music and entertainment industry, RYUICHI is particularly known as a car fanatic who races frequently. RYUICHI loves drifting, a racing technique popularized in its modern form in Japan, in which the driver tightly controls the vehicle into a sideways glide. He purchased a Nissan Skyline, a drifter favorite because its light weight is very suitable for the sport, before trying it out on his primary car, a Ferrari 288GTO, and has also officially raced in a drift event in an S14 Silvia. He counts professional race car drivers amongst his good friends, and has rented an entire circuit before just for practice. He even directed his own racing team, Team Kawamura, through the Japan Le Mans Challenge in 2006.

When not singing, composing, producing, acting, or touring the country, RYUICHI has also found time for writing. His photo essays include the collection, Kimi no namida wa giniro no kaze (Your tears are the silver wind), and two novels, Deai ~ Kono netsu ga sameteshimau mae ni (Encounter ~ Before this passion cools down) and Garasu no Melody (Melody of Glass).

But perhaps his most appreciated artistic move by LUNA SEA‘s SLAVES was to form the band Tourbillon with INORAN and Hayama Hiroaki (one of Japan’s #1 producers, best well known for his work with w-inds), finally returning to a rock style reminiscent of his past. For more about Tourbillon and its work evocative of days gone by, read on to guitarist INORAN. While touring with Tourbillon, he married Sano Kumi, Miss Japan 2002.

RYUICHI Official: http://www.kawamura-fc.com
Solo songs to start with: "GLASS," "Ne"
If you love cheesy TV dramas: Definitely "Sugar Lady"

SUGIZO

Born to a family of musicians, it was no surprise that SUGIZO was a natural musical virtuoso. His career in music started at the tender age of three when his father placed a violin in his hands—the first of many instruments (including guitar, bass, trumpet, electric sitar, turn tables, and more) that he would master and color his career with. But it wasn’t until seventh grade, when he discovered YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra) and JAPAN, as well as the likes of Motley Crue, that he would find himself attracted to the allure of rock and roll.

When LUNA SEA went on hiatus during 1997, allowing their members to explore solo work opportunity, SUGIZO released his first solo album, TRUTH? on his own label, CROSS. A convergence of experimental work and brilliant collaboration with artists worldwide, the album explored an aspect of SUGIZO never before imagined by the public. Vastly different from his work with LUNA SEA, TRUTH? carved SUGIZO out to be far more than just another guitarist in a famous rock band—revealing him to be a brilliant composer whose talent far exceeded the role he filled in LUNA SEA. This was not an angry, violent rock star who only cared about the size of his own ego and dabbled in the infamous decree of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (as was his popular image in LUNA SEA). This was, instead, a spiritually-charged, positive musician who had finally begun to embrace life, leaving his anger behind in the past to focus on music, and on giving back to the world in a passionately altruistic way. The band regrouped in 1998, pausing SUGIZO‘s explorations with his solo work—but not his side collaborative and production projects with other artists. With LUNA SEA disbanding in 2000, an era had ended.

Since then, SUGIZO has been wildly productive. He’s produced a number of well-known artists such as Vivian Hsu, Nicholas Tse, and Miu Sakamoto, starred in a movie whose soundtrack he also produced (aptly titled Soundtrack), and had a various number of projects, which included SUGIZO AND THE SPANK YOUR JUICE, a collaboration between many different artists and SUGIZO (whose music he alone is credited for writing and producing).

In August 2004, The FLARE, which featured a young artist, YUNA, (originally from boy band, Lazy Knack and RED), was announced. By the time of the announcement, SUGIZO had developed into a very spiritual and passionate individual who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind on controversial issues such as global warming, the environment, the War in Iraq, the need for peace, and many other issues that he considered important. With The FLARE, SUGIZO wanted to transmit his messages through his music, and bring a little flare of light into the hearts of those who heard his message. Though The FLARE succeeded in topping the Indies Charts on the Oricon with every release, their first album, The FLARE, was also their last. The FLARE played their final show on March 24, 2006, bidding goodbye to a surprised fanbase that had expected more from the band.

On December 27, 2006, the world was taken for a spin when it was announced that SUGIZO would be the third member of a project YOSHIKI (X JAPAN) was putting together with Gackt. News of the “superband” quickly made headlines, exciting fans worldwide when it was announced that the band had the intent of “making it big worldwide” with “high-impact, explosive rock music.” On May 26, 2007, at the Jrock Revolution Festival held at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, CA, the band was finally inaugurated as S.K.I.N., with Miyavi’s official debut as the second guitarist of the superband. The group made their global debut at Anime Expo in Long Beach, CA on June 29, 2007.

Besides these projects, SUGIZO also takes part in two jam bands – SHAG and S.T.K. (Sensual Technology Kooks), and is also an active environmentalist and peace activist, participating in many environmental and peace campaigns (such as ZERO Landmine and STOP ROKKASHO) he often contributes music to. An interview from 2006 reveals that SUGIZO feels he “must leave behind something for the next generation.” His awe-inspiring music, and its influence, is precisely that “something” which he leaves behind.

SUGIZO Official: http://www.sugizo.com, http://www.myspace.com/sugizo
Solo songs to start with: “RISE,” “The CAGE,” “Think of Cosmos”
The FLARE songs you might enjoy: “STAR LIGHT,” “Positivity,” “INNER CHILD”

INORAN

INORAN was always the type to feel more comfortable being behind the scenes instead of in the limelight. But during LUNA SEA‘s 1997 hiatus, the rhythm guitarist took a huge step in the direction of exploring his own sound, starting off as a vocalist in his own band. The personal, spiritual, and political words of his first single and album, Sou, would thread their way into the ears of LUNA SEA listeners eager to feel and understand his own thoughts and emotions. INORAN followed up his individual debut with FAKE?, seeing much success in uniting with the Japanese-British vocalist of Oblivion Dust, Ken Lloyd. However, INORAN surprised FAKE? fans by departing to pursue his own style of music further at what seemed to be the height of FAKE?’s success, only to reunite with his former bandmate RYUICHI to launch the band, Tourbillon.

INORAN got his stage name from his childhood days as a little league baseball player. Up to bat in one fateful game, he hit the ball and shot off for first base. Out of encouragement, and tossing in some English, one of his friends began to call out to his friend Inoue, "INO, RUN! INO, RUN!" Thus INORAN was born, and thankfully for rock fans everywhere, his passion for music soon exceeded his passion for sports. He was a serious and rigorous student at school, and absorbed all aspects of the music he listened to with the same dedication. The first album INORAN ever bought was actually a Cyndi Lauper record, which would soon share the shelf with Culture Club, Van Halen, and Duran Duran.

In junior high school, he met J, and formed an inseparable friendship over their mutual musical interests, which would lead to the formation of LUNACY, soon to be LUNA SEA. While the band’s popularity grew, money had to come from somewhere, and some of the odd jobs he worked alongside SUGIZO included water measuring and crabbing.

INORAN‘s major concern as a perfectionist musician has been to fine-tune the messages he spreads to his listeners, making sure the lyrics synch with the sound of the music. Time was not particularly of the essence to him in appearing live on his own, waiting until 2001 to stage his first solo concert and put out his second album, almost five years after releasing his popular first album. In 2002, he placed his solo activities on pause and began FAKE?, creating four years of a skillful combination between a mellow-smooth and in-your-face approach to music. With Ken Lloyd, he created great songs as “DRIP” and “TASTE MAXIMUM,” hitting up live houses while balancing his own solo career.

The year 2005 offered a pleasant surprise for LUNA SEA fans, getting to see INORAN and RYUICHI team up with pianist Hayama Hiroaki to form Tourbillon. The band began when RYUICHI met Hayama at a golf competition he held, with INORAN the third to join. The name, meaning "whirlwind/tornado" in French, was actually inspired by an extremely high-end wristwatch of the same moniker. This oddly charged trio came out strong, releasing numerous singles and two albums written by all three of the members over a course of two years. They began on July 2, 2005 at a sold-out Nippon Budoukan, but after their release of "Ageha/Selfish" on August 2, 2006, visible band activities ceased. Whether or not Tourbillon will return remains to be seen, but of all the work produced by LUNA SEA‘s members in their own careers, it is perhaps the most reminiscent of their previous work together.

INORAN didn’t pause his own solo work during Tourbillon, releasing his third album Photograph during their solid year together. Determined to make a powerful step back into his solo career with Tourbillon‘s fate undecided, the youngest ex-member of LUNA SEA released his most recent album, Niraikanai, this year, demonstrating the guitarist’s unwavering focus on self-improvement and his determination to continue to prove himself again and again as a multi-faceted artist.

INORAN Official: http://www.inoran.org
Solo songs to start with: "Faith," "Resolution," "Have you Heard"
More excellent FAKE? songs: "HERE WE GO," "PRISTINE," "PULSE"

 

J

When LUNA SEA took a hiatus for the individual members to work on other projects, their energetic bassist launched a solo career that has spanned a decade. With nine successful albums as vocalist, bassist, and composer, and regular touring to sold-out live houses behind him, J has distinguished himself as a star of solid, pulse-pounding, crowd-thrilling rock.

His numerous Western musical influences, as well as the presence of American and British musicians in his band, lend a Westernized rock and grunge edge to his Japanese rock style. Whether reaching out into the crowd-surfing masses, or surprising fans with a live orchestra revealed on stage, J never fails to transform any venue into one gigantic party.

J initially chose to play bass purely to strike out on a different path from that of the ever-popular guitar, without even knowing what set apart the two instruments musically. With attention in rock music seemingly always sticking to the vocalist, the guitarist—even the drummer, J decided it was time to bring bassists out of the shadows. Founding LUNACY, with junior high buddy INORAN, kicked off the beginning of a phenomenal career in music.

Through his time with LUNA SEA and the ten years of rocking Japan with support band members Fujita Takashi (guitar), Scott Garrett (ex-The Cult, drums), and Frantz Stoll (ex-Foo Fighters, guitar, who has recently moved on), J has more than exceeded his goals. He commands the respect of bassists throughout the music industry, such as Toshiya of Dir en grey. His countless collaborations and contributions to the music scene outside of his solo work include tracks on the BUCK-TICK tribute album, PARADE~RESPECTIVE TRACKS OF BUCK TICK in 2005, a particularly meaningful accomplishment for the Imai Hisashi fan whose stage name is derived from both his birth name and the BUCK-TICK song "J." He also performed in the special band Takagichou Missiles with Imai, BUCK-TICK‘s great founder and lead guitarist. Artists he has worked with include former Guns N’ Roses and Sex Pistols members, Korean artists SEOTAIJI and Youjeen (Cherry Filter), and members of the POLYSICS and SIAM SHADE. J briefly contributed to a little band called M.A.S.S. with hide and INORAN in 1993 and collaborated with Zilch after hide‘s death.

Imagery of fire is ever-present in his own work, such as his official fanclub, PYRO, in songs like “Feel your blaze,” and tours like “DRIVE ON FLAMES.” A long time has passed since his visual days of lipstick and massive blond hair in LUNA SEA, and as solo artist, J has gone on to a casual fashion route. When J takes the stage, no matter where he plays, he always seeks to burn up the venue by uniting the audience into one single entity, creating an atmosphere thick with heat and sweat seemingly intolerable in anything more than a pair of loose jeans. However, this doesn’t suggest that J is primarily bombarded by screaming female fans—in fact, with his straightforward rock style and his older-brotherly attitude, he has drawn a huge male fanbase to his work, and the typical J audience is a rare 50-50 mix. Dedicated attendees at one live filled in for him when he lost his voice halfway through the show, and they all sang on together. J seems to be almost constantly on tour, and will play concerts for five days straight.

J has recently released the album URGE, and his upcoming series of lives in October to celebrate his tenth anniversary includes Merry as the opening band on October 4th. His charged-up blog is amongst the few with official translation into English, and he is known to be interested in navigating the difficulties of expanding fan outreach beyond Japan’s borders. J‘s official site, www.wumf.com, is an acronym for his long-term slogan, usually seen branded on his bass: "Wake Up! Mother…" We’ll let Jrock Revolution readers fill in the rest

J Official: http://www.wumf.com
Solo songs to start with: "Perfect World," "PYROMANIA," "Twister"
You can’t go wrong with: Blast List – The Best of J

SHINYA

Too many bands allow their drummers to play against the backdrop, their phenomenal contributions to the music outdone by the presence of a big-personality vocalist or a wild lead guitarist. In LUNA SEA, every member has a personality far larger than any stage beneath them, and SHINYA is no exception. Since commencing solo activities, SHINYA has become just as much of a renaissance man as the rest of the lineup, feeding his artistic drive by funneling his talents into many different projects and mediums. Professor, motorcycle enthusiast, radio M.C., father, and support drummer for seemingly just about everyone, SHINYA has been an extremely busy man since LUNA SEA‘s disbandment.

SHINYA grew up in a big family with two older brothers and an older sister, as well as a younger brother from his father’s second marriage. Though he practiced the traditional deko drum from a young age, his original passion was in Noh performance. He began the non-traditional drums at 16 through self-taught study. He was considered to be nothing short of a genius, and soon his interests turned away from Noh and into music. At 15, he had felt that he needed a friend and made one out of the boy who would beat him up every day, SUGIZO. The friendship would lead them to PINNOCHIO and further down the road of destiny together.

As a self-taught drummer, all SHINYA had to do was hear a melody and he could create beats for it; he began performing on stage long before he learned how to read music. When LUNA SEA was at its most visual, SHINYA frequently appeared looking lightweight and feminine, but his diet was affecting his arm strength, and his asthma medication was causing weight gain, so he abandoned any focus on appearance to keep his attention on what really mattered: his drumming.

He offered fans a single and the album No Sticks during the hiatus, but his post-LUNA SEA career took him in many different directions. His famous drumming talent has led him to play support for numerous artists, including LM.C, Creature Creature (also supported by Tetsu of L’arc~en~ciel), Aikawa Nanase, and Miyavi. LUNA SEA fans were pleased to see him do some support for FAKE?‘s “DISCO,” and various works of SUGIZO‘s, which included The FLARE. He put in time as a regular on the KinKi Kids‘s music talk show, Domoto Kyoudai, along with such other big personalities as Gackt and NOISY of SEX MACHINEGUNS. SHINYA has also taught at the Osaka School of Music, an academy which hones its students into true professionals and boasts an impressive roster of similarly big talents as guest professors. When touring, he usually will have a few of his students along as assistants. He has also put out an instructional DVD on how to play the drums professionally.

Currently, SHINYA produces the band POTBELLY, plays in a group called NVA (seen on TV earlier this year in KISS-style makeup), serves as a spokesman for Pearl Drums, and showcases his talkative nature as the M.C. of a weekly radio show called J-Hits Countdown. He plays the traditional taiko drums on his latest release, and he’ll be performing in numerous upcoming festivals. SHINYA is also busy raising a family of three children with his wife Ishiguro Aya, formerly of Morning Musume.

SHINYA official: http://www.shinyashinya.com
LUNA SEA highlight: Any LUNA SEA live with a drum solo!
A moving quote: "I want to sing songs with my drums."

 
Written by Misha and Kuri
Additional Research by JaNei, Chandell, Christina and SUGIZOLOVE.com

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