Aural Vampire Friday night concert

For a group that has only just gone major, the number of people gathered in the main events hall before the Friday night Aural Vampire concert is impressive, to say the least. The room has an electric air of excitement filling it. There is hardly any wait at all before Raveman appears on stage, wearing a large and creepy orange and yellow mask shaped like a bird’s head over his usual Jason-esque one. He works the turntable, getting the audience pumped up for Exo-chika’s grand entrance.

She is quite resplendent in a corseted gothic dress and black lace gloves, blond pigtail extensions and gothic rose and lace in her hair, and towering platform heels to complete the look, the kind of flawless outfit that would turn the head of any convention goer–and from the screams of the crowd, she’s a big hit!

Considering the nature of Aural Vampire’s music, with heavy emphasis on synthesizers and other modes of sound and voice distortion, the clean and pure quality of Exo-chika’s live vocals are almost like a whole new and entirely welcome twist on the group’s music. Her stage performance is very energetic–though her vampiric fangs are quite visible, her demeanor is anything but intimidating. She plays on her “cute” factor quite willingly, dancing around the stage, pulling her skirt aside and kicking her leg up high to one side in one particularly risqué move, to the rather appreciative cheers of the audience. In spite of her antics, there is always a note of that sensual gothic elegance Aural Vampire is known for.

So, for those who have yet to experience it, what is Aural Vampire’s music like anyway? It has the dark undertones and synth of the industrial/gothic genre, but Exo-chika’s vocals are so cute and perky it makes for the kind of “genki goth” music even the most determined stoic would want to bop to. In short- it’s eminently danceable.

Raveman strikes a mysterious figure in his red leather jacket and floppy black leather hat hanging over his mask-covered face, points of red light visible where his eyes should be. At times he makes use of what seems to be a completely homemade and original synthesizer box, distorting the music while Exo-chika engages the audience with her vocals.

They make interesting and original use of visuals as well, employing a projection screen throughout the show, showing PV clips or strange original videos, for instance, of manga speech bubbles ostensibly showing the lyrics of the song being performed or of a kind of gothic aerobics program. The set lit for the first half of the show is as follows:

1. 湘南族 -cannibal coast-
2. Balloons
3. Hot Blood Workout
4. Economical Animal Superstar
5. Innsmouth

After Innsmouth, Exo-chika leaves the stage briefly (to the disappointment of the fans) while Raveman takes the downtime to perform a DJ solo, keeping the crowd revved and dancing. He demonstrates firsthand just how open the group is as far as cameras are concerned by taking a break from DJing to take a few photos of the audience, much to their delight.

Exo-chika returns to even more uproarious cheering: she’s taken off her gothic dress and is now wearing a rather revealing see-through sleeveless top, shorts, and lace and vinyl bell-bottom thigh-high tights. Raveman motions to her and she poses in front of the front rows of the crowd, flashing the peace sign for her partner’s camera and thanking the crowd with a wave and a toothy grin. The set list for the second half of the show is as follows:

6. Darkwave Surfer
7. バンボロ工房
8. Transcrypt
9. Freeeeze!!
10. ムリアリズム
11. 蜘蛛の糸

During バンボロ工房, Exo-chika picks up a red plastic children’s hammer and waves it around as her partner waves a pair of sticks that also look to be some kind of children’s toy. The audience seems slightly confused, but definitely entertained.

During a break between songs, Exo-chika talks to the crowd: “Do you like Japanese anime? I like Naruto and Bleach.” Of course, those are the two magic words when performing at an anime convention and the crowd breaks into cheers of approval. She declares her love for Katsucon and laughs.

Raveman spends most of the show attached to his turntables, but at times he ventures out from his corner to wander around the stage, sometimes with props–like a mini-floodlight he trains on Exo-chika’s face during one song to give the impression that she’s telling a ghost story. At one point he lives up to his Thriller-esque jacket by kneeling down at the back of the stage and doing some robotic dance moves.

For the last song Exo-chika pulls out a tambourine (an unexpected choice of instrument for a goth techno group!) and the audience begins to clap along with the beat, determined to urge the energy level up even higher for their final song. Exo-chika and Raveman seemingly feed off the crowds’ energy, pulling off the silliest antics yet, as Exo-chika pretends to pop the balloons her partner runs around the stage with using a finger gun loaded with invisible bullets. She misses the final balloon, and it expires slowly to the stage as the song reaches its end. Strobes flash as Exo-chika thanks the audience and saunters and sways off stage, Raveman creep-walking quickly behind her.

Not at all unexpectedly, calls for an encore are immediate and massive. The two come back onstage to the crowd’s delight, only to offer an apology instead of a few more songs: they simply can’t do an encore, but lucky for the crowd they’re playing a whole second show on Sunday! For her final act for the night, she asks through her interpreter whether it’s ok to take a few more pictures for their MySpace blog, and the audience answers that of course it’s ok. Many photos are taken, many peace signs are thrown up, and the audience leaves decidedly happy and no doubt more than ready for that second performance.


JRR: I wonder first of all if you could introduce yourselves to our readers at

exo-chika: We are Aural Vampire from Tokyo, Japan, and we produce gothic/industrial pop music.

JRR: How would you describe Aural Vampire as a group?

exo-chika: It’s impossible to describe our music in words, so we want people to listen to our music, come to our live events and watch our videos in order to understand us.

JRR: Do you enjoy more playing a club atmosphere or in a concert/live house atmosphere?

exo-chika: The experience is different depending on the venue, and there’s no like or dislike for either one because there are some things that you can only do in that intimate club setting and there are other things that you can only do in a bigger venue at a distance.

JRR: I know you’ve been to conventions before and I wonder if there’s much of a difference between performing at a convention and performing at a regular live house in regards to the audience.

Raveman: The major difference is that when you go to a convention everyone is really focused on having fun for these three days, so there’s this immense amount of energy there that you don’t really always see at live performances. That level of energy is really something special to us.

JRR: So it’s more like the energy is already there so they’re already ready to be excited!

Raveman: Exactly! They’re already ready to have fun, and that is a big difference.

(exo-chika starts coughing and takes a break to have a drink of water)

JRR: Are you ok?

exo-chika: Yes, I’m ok!

JRR: Do you have any goals for the next year that you’d like to see yourselves accomplish, especially now that you’ve gone major?

Raveman: This year is really pivotal to us, very important, because we just got signed to AVEX, so this year our goal is to put our new CD out and really just prepare for that. I think this CD will be on a much higher level than just producing it independently because of the resources we now have. And not just domestically, but we would like to play concerts and tour throughout Europe, America, and other places as well, and really get our music out there.

JRR: Obviously we would love to have that, to see a full tour! On that note, my next question is if you could tour with another band, who would you want to tour with?

exo-chika: Hmm, who would we want to tour with…our dream collaboration tour…I want to tour with the German band Rammstein, they have great pyrotechnics, their performances are really incredible! I would love to travel with them.

JRR: That would be amazing! My next question is, I wonder if you remember the very first show you put on–what you remember from that experience and how you felt about it.

exo-chika: I remember everything, all of it. Raveman didn’t wear a mask the very first time we performed. I videotaped the concert, and afterwards I watched it and that’s when I decided that Raveman has to wear a mask! And he’s been wearing a mask ever since. His face was just not up to standards.


JRR: Is it possible there are pictures out there somewhere from that show?

exo-chika: No, no pictures, no footage.

JRR: So it was just those few lucky fans…


JRR: This next question is about fashion: do you think that an important part of a band is their visual aspect, their look and clothing? Should it complement the music they’re playing or does it not make much of a difference?

exo-chika: Of course, this is why we dress like this! I think visuals are very important. Especially during live performances, I feel as though I’m not only a musician but an artist as well, and people want to use all five senses, not just to hear but to smell, to feel, all those other things, and I think it’s my responsibility as an artist to kind of stimulate all of those different things in an audience.

JRR: What was your reaction to being invited to this particular convention and have you been enjoying yourselves so far?

exo-chika: We’re very, very happy that we were invited to Katsucon, and I’m amazed at the amount of space, the amount of people, the whole caliber of the convention because there’s nothing like this in Japan.

JRR: You should come to Otakon then!

exo-chika: What’s Otakon?

JRR: I think the attendance cap last year was about 20,000…(laughter)

exo-chika: Wow…please invite us!

JRR: Do you think that there’s any song that comes from a particularly personal place, or that appeals to you most? What do you consider to be the most important song you’ve written?

exo-chika: To me, the most important song we’ve made is “Freeeze!!!” because this song is wildly popular on YouTube, and it’s the song that most people first listen to when they get hooked on Aural Vampire.

Raveman: That initial connection we make to our audiences through that song is why that song is most important to us.

JRR: That brings me to my final question: those kinds of comments lead one to believe that you don’t look down on Youtube or the like, and instead you really use digital media to the best of its ability instead of trying to avoid it. I wonder what you think of this brave new world of the Internet, Itunes, etc.?

exo-chika: Without the Internet, it would have been impossible to expand our fan base to anything wider than Japan.

Raveman: From the beginning we’ve really actively used the Internet, because it’s the easiest and fastest way to get in touch with people, to reach out to people, so that’s why we’ve had a Myspace page.

exo-chika: And the fact that people can listen to our tracks right away by downloading them from Itunes or something like that is really important to us because things are fresh and new, not old or stale, that’s why the Internet is very, very important to us.

JRR: Maybe it helped to bring you guys here…

exo-chika: Yes, I think so.

JRR: I wonder whether you could give a final message to your overseas fans who could be reading this on

exo-chika: Thank you very much for listening to Jrock and being passionate about our music, we are very honored to have been interviewed by you! We’ll continue to work hard and produce good music and reach out to as many people as possible and grow our fan base, so thank you so much for having us.

JRR: Thank you!

Interview by Alissa


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YMCK Bio and Live Report from Katsucon

YMCK is a pioneer in a rather unusual musical genre: chiptune, or 8-bit pop, where all the sounds created for the songs are purposely synthesized to sound like old 8-bit video game music. This gives the music both a retro and futuristic feel at once–it’s entirely digital. One gets a powerful sense of nostalgia when listening to their music, an aural timewarp back to one’s childhood. YMCK, in that sense, are more than merely making music, as they skillfully interweave music, performance, visuals, and technology to create a show that’s probably unlike any other you’ve ever seen.

The three members that make up the group YMCK are Midori (vocalist), Yokemura  (musical arrangements and lyrics), and Nakamura (who creates the music videos). Yokemura and Nakamura looked sharp in a pair of snappy suits, while Midori wore a retro-fururistic vinyl dress with matching hat, and all three were clad in bright primary colors. They performed a wide range of their music, each song featuring an original 8-bit style animated music video to go along with it, which played on a large screen behind the group while they performed. The visuals were quite stunning, and with the music echoing all around the dark room one got the sense that we had all literally been transported inside a video game. And the group certainly couldn’t have picked a better venue to perform video game-influenced music than an anime convention; the crowd was simply and obviously blown away. In a nod to their audience and their origins, YMCK finished their set by playing a medley of classic video game theme songs (including Super Mario, Castlevania, Zelda, and Dragonball) along with actual game footage, much to the obvious delight of the already enthralled audience.

The Concert setlist:

Intro {movie: history of Nintendo family computer}
1. Magical 8-Bit Tour
2. Tetrominon
3. Panic Racer
4. Kasaganai
5. Rock ‘N Roll Rendezvous
6.Medley ~ DRAGON BALL Z (8-Bit Version)
7. Chef
8. Curry
9. Go YMCK! Go!
10. Starlight

In their spare time when not performing, YMCK confess to playing Super Mario Brothers, Jet Set Radio, and other popular DS games. Not content simply to play games, however, YMCK also created the music for Nintindo DSi Art Style: PicoPict, which will be available in the US this summer. In addition, Nakamura also created a cooking-themed 8-bit video game specifically to go along with YMCK’s most recent album, “Family Cooking,” which they previewed during the Katsucon concert and even allowed one lucky audience member to come onstage and play for herself! They are also involved in a wide range of other projects, including creating music for video game sound tracks, DJ performances, development of 8bit sound plug-in software, and remixing the musical works’ of other artists–including such well-known names as Ayumi Hamasaki.

YMCK’s 3rd album, “FAMILY GENESIS,” is available in the U.S. iTunes Store now.


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Photographs by JaNaye; photos courtesy of Avex Entertainment, Inc