December is the time for lists. Shopping lists, Christmas card lists, New Year’s resolution lists, and the lists of Best and Worst of 2007. Websites post lists of their favorite photographs, videos, and events. Time Magazine published a separate publication to sum up the best and worst of the planet Earth. Even trash celebrity magazines get in on the “best beach bodies of the year!” and “the worst meltdowns!”
Jrock Revolution was a bit confused by all these lists, as the year wasn’t even over yet. All these lists talk about is the last eleven and a half months of 2007. No one cares about the last few weeks of December! Well, JRR does. We waited until the last hours of the year to bring you the most notable news, the largest band movements, and the biggest lives of 2007, and a heads-up on the events you won’t want to miss in 2008. JRR executed this article using the English alphabet, one letter for each highlight.
A – ANIME. Anime has always been paired with music; it makes for an excellent symbiotic relationship as shows and songs rise along with each other’s popularity. Jrock had a great year in this arena. abingdon boys school gained massive attention with their amazing single “Howling”, the opening to Darker than BLACK – Kuro no Keiyakusha, then passed on the baton to An Café for the 2nd opening “Kakusei Heroism ~The Hero Without A Name~.” MAXIMUM THE HORMONE’s popularity exploded after nailing both the 2nd opening (“What’s up People?!”) and 2nd ending (“Zetsubou Billy”) to the anime version of Death Note, following their visual predecessors, Nightmare, who first opened and closed the series with their smash hits “the WORLD” and “Aluminia.” 12012 sang “Cyclone” for Gonzo’s animated series, Romeo x Juliet. Let’s not forget MUCC, the band who composed "Chain Ring" for the ending of Zombie-Loan. On the side, Gackt released a tribute album for the birthday of Gundam creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino, titled 0079-0088, featuring both his original music used in the Gundam series and covers of three classic Gundam movie songs.
B – BUCK-TICK. The oddly named five-piece band BUCK-TICK (which is pronounced “bakuchiku”, meaning “firecracker”) turned 20 this year. BUCK-TICK is the only father of visual kei that has not disbanded. Carrying a slightly more pop version of their dark, romantic image from their 13kai no Gekkou era, they released a well-received album, Tenshi no Revolver this year, and two singles in relation to it. According to band member Hisashi Imai, the chance of BT dissolving is slim: “We don’t see how we could break up, it would be like a part of us was missing.” Their secret? “Patience and habit.”
C – CHARLOTTE. South America had been neglected while Jrock bands danced above the equator. A thousand hearts were crushed when Jrock Rio, featuring Charlotte and Hime Ichigo, was canceled. Yamato Corporation and NERVE joined forces with JaMA Brazil to bring Charlotte down for two lives, marking the arrival of the first oshare kei band to travel to Brazil. Local bands started the live with covers of their favorite Jrock songs. The organizers even got the South American fans holding up X arms, a trademark of the legendary band X JAPAN!
D – DIR EN GREY. Dir en grey gets a nod this year due to the road they’ve paved in encouraging Jrock to perform and demand attention from the overseas music industry. Having experienced an impressive reaction in Europe and the United States since 2005 (including overseas releases), 2007 set the bar even higher. They started off the year with seventeen stops in the United States tour for their sixth album, Marrow of the Bone. They returned in the summer to open for the Deftones, stopped by Europe, then found time to breath in Japan before finishing off the year with a Japanese tour for the single Dozing Green that ended in second trip to Europe. Marrow of the Bone was also given an international release. When does Dir en grey sleep?
E – EUROPE. Europe has always been slightly ahead of the United States in the number of Jrock bands that have performed there, mostly smaller visual kei artists and indies bands. This year, Europe was a hot spot for established Jrock artists. Jrock fans on that side of the globe were treated to exclusive tours by Dir en grey, Kana, Calmando Qual, GOTHIKA, Marble Sheep, D’espairsRay, Moi dix Mois, the GazettE, Boris, MUCC, Guitar Wolf, Plastic Tree, TOKYO SKA PARADISE ORCHESTRA, 54 Nude Honeys (before they disbanded)… and that’s not even a full list! On the 29th of December, J-Rock Invasion also brought alice nine., Kagrra,, Kra, Screw, and SuG to European soil.
F – FREE WILL. Back in 2002, advertising giant Asatsu-DK Inc. discovered money intended for Dir en grey music videos has been mishandled in a fake transaction thought up by their employee Kaku Koichi and Tomioka Yuu (president of Free-Will music production). Over the course of five years, the lawsuit unfolded. Asatsu-DK Inc. took Free-Will to court, where Tomioka was ordered to repay the funds. On Sept. 14th, 2007, Kaku Koichi, Tomioka Yuu, and Mursaki Ittoku (also of Free-Will) were arrested for fraud of approximately 324,000,000 yen. Free-Will controls labels SunKrad (Dir en grey), S’CUBE (juliadoll), Free-Will (Rentrer en soi, 12012), ism (kannivalism), and mother earth.
G – GACKT. Many artists took all kinds of steps to reach out overseas, but to Gackt, moving further outside of Asian boundaries was nothing short of a global expansion campaign. Marked by the releases of a North American expansive PV collection subtitled in English, a European edition of his last album Diabolos, and his entire 201-song solo discography on iTunes (a first amongst Japanese artists), Gackt‘s campaign for world domination expanded his reach into over thirty-six countries and regions altogether, and is sure to continue in 2008. He could also be seen in 100 countries on the NHK Taiga drama Furin Kaazan, and made his first U.S. appearance as S.K.I.N.’s vocalist.
H – HOLLYWOOD ROCK WALK. The Hollywood Rock Walk is a hall of fame dedicated to only those in the rock music industry. On November 19th, they honored their first Asian inductee: B’z. The word B’z is a synonym for success, as this band has 16 albums and 40 singles that consecutively placed #1 on the Oricon charts. However, the Rock Walk honors artists not for sales figures, but for their powerful and dramatic influence on the music scene. Congratulations to them!
I – iTUNES. Lucky for iTunes supporters, the “Jpop” genre got fatter this year! Gackt released his entire discography onto iTunes, and L’Arc~en~ciel uploaded their December album, KISS, after it went on sale. Miyavi added his albums, but only the ones released under his major status. These artists join the ranks of other artists that, for a few cents, you can download without guilt, for example, BLOOD, Tourbillion, girugamesh, Angelo, Dir en grey, MUCC and Janne da Arc.
J – JROCK REVOLUTION FESTIVAL. Ex-X JAPAN drummer, pianist producer, and composer YOSHIKI hosted the two day Jrock Revolution Festival in Los Angeles, California, May 25th – 26th. Nine artists (Duel Jewel, Vidoll, Miyavi, alice nine., Kagrra,, D’espairsRay, Merry, MUCC, and girugamesh) drew such attention that fans starting camping out Monday night for a Friday and Saturday night concert. On the first night of the Festival, ex-LUNA SEA guitarist SUGIZO made a surprise guest appearance during Miyavi’s performance; SUGIZO also helped usher in the announcement of the superband S.K.I.N..
K & P – KISAKI and PHANTASMAGORIA. On August 31st, Kisaki, bassist, leader, and composer for Phantasmagoria, retired from the stage at Phantasmagoria’s last live, but he’s still active as a producer and manager with Under Code Productions. Kisaki, who started off in La:Sadies and is previously of Syndrome and KISAKI PROJECT, made news last year when he was penalized in Wakayama for tax evasion, but nevertheless, Under Code productions persisted and now manages about nine bands.
L – LUNA SEA. On August 27th, seminal Jrock band LUNA SEA announced a special one concert named LUNA SEA God Bless You ~One Night Dejavu~ to mark seven years to the date since the band members went their separate ways. Tickets for the December 24th live sold out within five minutes. To build up excitement, LUNA SEA re-released seven albums; three solo albums from three members, the vocalist RYUICHI under his solo name of Kawamura Ryuichi, guitarist SUGIZO, and bassist J, came out over a course of three weeks before the concert; and a LUNA SEA tribute album hit music stores with covers by a wide variety of Japanese artists. LUNA SEA stated that they will not permanently reunite, they just wanted to return to the stage for one special Christmas Eve. Slaves are crossing their fingers that LS changes their minds in 2008.
M – MYSPACE. Love it or hate it, MySpace was THE accessory for the overseas-conscious Jrock band this year, offering fans legitimate ways to sample music, English-language content, and a space to visibly show support. Some artists offered the bare minimum; others went as far as lengthy blog posts and personalized message replies. The accessibility of MySpace was a bit of a double-edged sword, with fake artist accounts popping up here and there. But overall, the social networking site originally founded to spread music served its purpose well in 2007 for the Jrock scene.
N – NORTH AMERICA. North American Jrock fans got a bit spoiled this year. 2007 started off with POLYSICS, Dir en grey came back for seconds and thirds, Miyavi snuck in for a small overseas live in Los Vegas, and ELLEGARDEN returned for a double-encore performance in Hollywood. BLOOD also appeared in Mexico; BALZAC perfomed in Canada with The Misfits. It was a year that saw visits by Melt-Banana, Oreskaband, Mono, Bambi, The Candy Spooky Theater, GO!GO!7188, Hagakure, and ANTI FEMINISM. The United States received the first S.K.I.N. concert, the JRR Festival in Los Angeles, and had another round of the Japan Nite Tour. LiN CLOVER, though sadly announcing near the end of the year that they would disband, came over to the U.S. west coast for a tour and two conventions. Anime conventions also opened their doors to artists like 12012, Aural Vampire, RENTER EN SOI, Anna Tsuchiya, Head Phones President, and An Café (appearing as a non performing artist). As plans are already being set for anime conventions and lives for 2008, North American fans are hoping that the upcoming year out rocks the last!
O – OVERSEAS MAGAZINES. Jrock is a popular topic for overseas fans. Early anime magazines had been running columns on Japanese rock music before there was even a market for English-language coverage of Jrock in Europe or North America. Free newspaper POPJNEO reinvented themselves as a free wide spread magazine for Japanese food, music, language, and culture in 2007. purple SKY, a Japanese music publication, hit shelves of local bookstores also in 2007. However, they have sadly announced termination after their final issue at the end of this winter season. Around the same time as the purple SKY era began to come to an end, the third international Jrock magazine Five For arrived on the scene with ex-Gackt Job and Marmarsa-Mu member Masa on the cover.
P – see K.
Q – QUALITY PLUS QUANTITY. Let’s face it: Q is always a stumper when it comes to alphabetic reports. So Q’s space goes to those bands whose enduring quality, plus the sheer quantity of time together, saw them through major anniversaries this year. Formally celebrating in 2007 were MUCC, with the Best of MUCC / Worst of MUCC double release, Dir en grey, with their Decade releases covering 1998-2002 and 2003-2007, and Plastic Tree, wrapping up the year with the release of Zero, a DVD featuring their anniversary performance at famous live house Nippon Budoukan. And of course, happy 20th to BUCK-TICK, as mentioned above. It should be noted that L’Arc~en~ciel has not missed a beat since their 15th anniversary last year, nearly living at #1 on the Oricon charts with their releases, and they surely are well on their way to their own 20th.
R – REUNIONS. 2007 was a year in which several bands went, “I missed you, man!” and got back together, much to their fans’ elation. The big bangs were announcements of X JAPAN’s reunification and LUNA SEA’s one night live. After the dissolution of FAKE?, Ken Lloyd got Oblivion Dust back together, D’ERLANDER performed their reunion live on April 22nd, ex-EXTASY band Der Zibet returned to the stage, and Amaterase (also written as Amaterasu) was reincarnated by the guitarist, Daishi. Also, Siam Shade boldly returned to perform on Novemeber 18th in memory of the passing of their manager. Afterwards, the band resumed retirement.
S – S.K.I.N. At Otakon in 2006, YOSHIKI announced he was making a band with solo artist Gackt in an uncompleted band. The fans on the internet dubbed it “the superband.” SUGIZO’s participation was later announced, and during the Jrock Revolution Festival, Miyavi was introduced as the fourth member. They held a rather spontaneous live at Anime Expo down in Long Beach, California a month later. Having four musicians with such a wide spectrum of talent and experience resulted in a momentous live that brought most of the concert-goers to tears. Since the concert, S.K.I.N. has been quiet, but the band members insist that it is not dead. A permanent bassist has not been announced, either.
T – 2008. It isn’t even January, and yet, the spring is already booked. The Rockstar Taste of Chaos tour will bring MUCC, D’espairsRay, and THE UNDERNEATH to the United States and Canada for a whopping 40+ cities tour. Miyavi will be doing a world tour next year, and Dio, Antic Café, and POLYSICS will display their talents in Europe. X JAPAN has promised a spring concert in Japan. Lucky fans in Australia will be treated to a performance by BLOOD. Bands are already releasing future single, album, and DVD information. Fingers are being crossed for a Jrock Revolution 2. Fans, save your pennies!
U – UMEMURA SOUICHIRO. Diagnosed with cancer sometime in autumn, Umemura Souichiro died unexpectedly on December 11th, 2007, at age 41 from heart failure. Called "Ume" by fans and fellow musicians alike, he was best known as the vocalist of EXTASY RECORDS‘s indies band Tokyo Yankees. In his less flamboyant capacities, he was, together with Ladies Room‘s George, one of the directors of said label found by X JAPAN‘s YOSHIKI. Having served as YOSHIKI‘s bodyguard during X [JAPAN] lives and his personal manager, foreign Jrock fans might know him best for the "The New Beginning" interview he conducted a few years back with YOSHIKI for yoshiki.net. Ume, who was fondly called "everybody’s elder brother" in the environment of everything EXTASY, was also a well-respected musician in the live house scene in Japan.
V – VISUAL KEI. Bands with visual style continued to be trendsetters in 2007. Just to touch on this extremely large scene a little, mainstays like An Cafe, alice nine., and the GazettE graced the covers of seemingly every visual magazine in Japan, Mix Speaker’s Inc. shook it up with bizarre costumes, and Miyavi made his "Neo Visualizm" concept the theme of his work. Kagrra, made a deep impression on attendees at the JRR Festival for appearing in traditional Japanese clothing in a throwback to their more visual days. And popular artists KAMIJO and HIZAKI founded new band Versailles with a powerful and elaborate visual style very rare on the scene today.
W – WORLDWIDE EXPANSION OF JAPANESE FASHION. Lovers of Japanese fashion received a pleasant surprise when Los Angeles’s Japan Expo announced representatives of Marui One as special guests. Marui One is the largest shopping center in Japan for any genre of fashion, including gothic lolita, visual kei, or punk. Marui One opened a website in English and French to internationally sell their clothes. Hardly a month before in November, sweet lolita label Angelic Pretty held a tea party at Pacific Media Expo (PMX) also in LA. The staff of the Gothic & Lolita Bible announced plans to release an English language version of their long running magazine through TokyoPop, cherished for Lolita themed patterns, recipes, and fashion photo shoots that often include reader’s favorite Japanese musicians. For the fans of darker fashion, h.Naoto made public that there are plans for an international website so that overseas fans can enjoy his clothes and jewelry.
X – X JAPAN. After their disbandment, X JAPAN was considered “definitely over” by most fans and music industry people alike. X JAPAN surprised all with their regrouping (already rumored from about a year) before the event reunion on October 22nd, 2007 in Odaiba, Tokyo, for the PV shooting for their new, world wide debut single "I.V." Written by YOSHIKI within one week to meet the production deadline, the song originally intended only for the Japan/Asia market became the worldwide the ending theme song for U.S. mega franchise movie SAW IV. With a concert announced for spring 2008 in Tokyo, fans worldwide are excited beyond words about the possibilities that arise from the reemergence of Jrock’s "band of legend."
Y – YOSHIKI. 2007 has been an amazingly exciting year for YOSHIKI‘s fans, not only for his emergence into the public eye again, and not only for interviews and appearances at conventions. He held three different roles; first as organizer of the Jrock Revolution Festival, then as the drummer returning to stage with S.K.I.N. and X JAPAN, and finally as a movie contributor, with an executive producer credit on the soundtrack for Catacombs and his debut of the first X JAPAN song since their disbandment with the credits of SAW IV. The movies gave his fans "Blue Butterfly" (under Violet U.K) as theme song for the former and "I.V." as ending theme for the latter. Fans look forward to more from YOSHIKI in 2008.
Z – ZILCH LOSES ANOTHER MEMBER. The guro rock band Zilch was born with high inspirations. HIDE, ex-X JAPAN guitarist, formed it with American and Japanese members as a branch of his solo projects, intending to use Zilch to break into the European and American market. Unfortunately, only one CD was released in Japan before HIDE’s untimely passing in 1998. After rotating band members several times, zilch disbanded. In October, HIDE’s close friend and Zilch’s bassist, Paul Raven, joined HIDE in the afterlife. He passed away in his sleep in Switzerland, a victim of a heart attack. Currently of Prong, Ministry, and Mob Research, the ex-Killing Joke bassist’s death made news on the BBC.
Above all, 2007 was the year for OVERSEAS JROCK FANS. Overseas fans were targeted by Jrock artists across the board in a bigger way than ever before this year. With lives, releases, and coverage abroad like no other year prior, never before have opportunities been so great for fans outside of Japan to get access to Jrock music and artists. 2007 was definitely your year. But there is still so much more that can be achieved, and as fantastic as 2007 has been, 2008 could stand to be the biggest year yet.
Liked it? Hated it? Head over to our forum to give us your feedback, as well as your own personal alphabet of 2007, and your hopes for 2008!
Written by Hikari, Rika, Krystal, & Misha
Edited by Misha
BUCK-TICK Translation by Lola