The coupling tour with Matenrou Opera in Europe, hitting Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, and Spain. Their convention debut at Dallas Jrock standy A-Kon. The Knitting Factory in Los Angeles. Versailles is breaking out abroad in a big way this year. The Los Angeles show on June 3 is ON SALE NOW and is already well on its way to selling out. Get your tickets now!
We set the scene of the whole visual vision and the five talented members of Versailles in our live report.
Here we sit down with Versailles and let them speak for themselves about the origins, composition, and image of the band, and the background of first mini-album, Lyrical Sympathy. This is Part One of a two-part interview.
JRR: Will you please introduce yourselves?
KAMIJO: Hi everybody, I’m Versailles’ vocalist, KAMIJO.
TERU: I’m TERU on guitar in Versailles.
JASMINE YOU: I’m JASMINE YOU, Versailles’ bass.
HIZAKI: I’m HIZAKI on guitar.
YUKI: I’m YUKI on drums.
JRR: Thank you very much. Each of you has performed in other bands or projects before, so how did Versailles get started originally?
KAMIJO: I like roses and I am a little vain thinking that I’m a vocalist well-suited by roses, so HIZAKI, a guitarist who is also suited to roses, and I decided to create a band that would perfectly suit the image of roses. So we started [Versailles] last autumn.
JRR: We believe they do suit you.
KAMIJO: Thank you.
JRR: How did the other members join?
KAMIJO: The other members all have participated in "HIZAKI grace project," HIZAKI’s solo endeavour, but even when we were looking to widen our acitvities, when we were looking for members that would fit the band HIZAKI and I were imagining, we naturally came together last spring. Or maybe I should say that because we came together as we are, with Versailles we could realize that perfect band HIZAKI and I had imagined.
JRR: "HIZAKI grace project": what is the concept behind that and in what direction do you want to take that from now on?
HIZAKI: Originally I wanted to present my own music, the part that I can’t express within a band, so I released the "Curse of Virgo" album on December 27th, 2007. But for 2008 I plan to slow down on my solo activities and concentrate on Versailles.
JRR: Two things that are remarkable about Versailles are that not only are you "visual" to an extreme that’s hardly seen these days, but you’re also all musicians of amazing skill. So what is your concept for both your look and your music?
HIZAKI: We want to be perfect in everything. We express our own style in both our music and our look… We’re playing some heavy, difficult songs as well, but the final result of our development is the music you can hear now. We really hate to do things only halfway.
JRR: Your mini album "Lyrical Sympathy" appears to be telling a continuous story.
KAMIJO: Indeed it does.
JRR: Can you tell us more about that? The meaning of each song, the progress of the story?
KAMIJO: Yes, on "Lyrical Sympathy," each song tells a story. Before that mini album we released our first single "The Revenant Choir," which tells a story from the past. In it, a day called "The Red Carpet Day" is mentioned and "Lyrical Sympathy" tells the story of that day. So, "The Revenant Choir" is the future of "Lyrical Sympathy."
JRR: Why did you create the story of the future first and then go back to the past?
KAMIJO: When we first created Versailles, a term that was there from the start has been "Descendants of Roses," as a way we identify ourselves. In the past, even though rock music naturally was the base everything was built on, the combination of rock and roses was very popular. These days, it seems everything has become only this loud and heavy sound, while roses have become very rare. We don’t want the image of roses to die and disappear, so we are telling the story of the "Descendants of Roses."
So, with "The Revenant Choir" we want to spread roses through the world again, make them bloom again. That is a song we’re performing to express our love for roses. Having started with that, then next we decided that before moving on we first wanted to tell the story of the past and that happened in "Lyrical Sympathy." Admittedly, that’s a little difficult [to understand], maybe.
JRR: So in your next album, are you going to tell the story of the future?
KAMIJO: Yes, it’s about the future.
JRR: You have started to reach out to overseas fans right from the start, with things like your MySpace in English. What are you plannning to do for your overseas fans from now on?
KAMIJO: We will be touring Europe in Spring 2008 and we are going to perform at a convention in Texas [A-Kon] on May 30th. We’ll be going but to be honest, since we haven’t done any lives overseas before, we’re also a little anxious. (To band members.) Well, aren’t you?
JRR: Will you be talking in English on stage?
KAMIJO: In English and French.
JRR: So you’re really going to talk in English?
KAMIJO: In English… really, I don’t know… (Laughter.)
JRR: Overseas, are you thinking only about how you’ll perform, or also about the places you’re going to and the people you are going to meet and what you personally want to do there?
KAMIJO: If you’ll pardon me for getting a little serious, what I’d ideally like to do would be to show a performance just as we usually do in Japan, create an atmosphere like we usually have at our concerts. If we can manage to do that, I think we can really show our best performance. Our fans, I want to do as they like, do whatever they like to enjoy themselves, as long as they aren’t annoying others.
JRR: Your first live, that was males only, wasn’t it?
Versailles: Yes. (Laughter)
JRR: You said you did that to increase the number of your male fans. Has it increased?
Versailles: It’s increased too much. (Laughter.)
JRR: Do concerts for males or females only feel different from your usual concerts?
HIZAKI: In the beginning it was different, but by now the female fans have come close to male fans [in behavior].
JRR: How so?
Jasmine You: The women are doing headbanging now too, and show more of their feelings. It’s become more generally emotional.
HIZAKI: You could even say things have turned upside down, with the women now more intense and the men quieter.
JRR: When you had that performance, did you do anything special, anything different from your usual performances, because it was for males only?
HIZAKI: Up to the start of our rehearsal, we hadn’t planned anything in particular. But then there were those shouts…
HIZAKI: The guys were already very excited and shouting "Go! Go!"
HIZAKI: So, we had to go all out too.
JRR: KAMIJO normally does all the talking, like he was the MC [at Meguro Rokumeikan], too. Don’t you talk at all, HIZAKI?
HIZAKI: Sometimes I do talk, but, well, I’m from Kansai (Western Japan)…
JRR: We were always under the impression that people from Kansai talk a lot.
HIZAKI: Well, my image on stage is very female, but my voice is male naturally, which creates a gap in the image. And there are both people who like that and those who don’t…
JRR: So, Jasmine You, are going to talk, on stage?
Jasmine You: I don’t speak Japanese very well.
Jasmine You: But yes, I talk a bit, but badly.
JRR: Can we ask what is your nationality?
Jasmine You: I have no idea myself, about my nationality. Or even my gender. Forget nationality or gender, I’m not even human.
JRR: Are you an alien?
Jasmine You: Yes, that’s what I am.
JRR: Where did you come from?
Jasmine You: From outer space.
JRR: We heard you do magic tricks. Is that true?
Jasmine You: Yes, that’s true.
JRR: How did you start that?
Jasmine You: I started magic when I was in my previous band. It’s a hobby. So I decided I wanted to do what I like on stage [and did magic tricks there]. In this band, everybody does what he likes.
JRR: So, will you do any tonight?
Jasmine You: Yes, I brought a whip for that today.
JRR: What is your favorite trick?
Jasmine You: I like teleportation. I like to surprise people and that always does. I won’t do that today, though. I’d like to do it overseas. I think there aren’t many people who are like me who perform magic tricks. Aside from Princess Tenko.
JRR: We’d like to go back to the band, and ask HIZAKI and TERU what they think about each other’s guitar styles.
TERU: I think HIZAKI’s playing is amazing. As guitarists with a similar style, I think we match well. Though how we want to play, actually do play, how we carry our phrases—that’s different in practice, in a way that combines well.
HIZAKI: When we started composing, we both thought we really resemble each other, that basically our two guitars would sound the same, but while actually working on compositions it turned out we had very different ideas, so that turned out differently from the way we originally started. The most recent development is that we now have twin guitars instead. Also, even if he plays the same phrase, we do it differently now.
JRR: When you released "The Revenant Choir" there also were several tracks where one instrument is missing in each. Did you do that to make it easier for people to learn how to play?
KAMIJO: Those were for our own practice.
JRR: That’s an answer we didn’t expect.
JRR: Back to image, Versailles has an incredible visual style. So we’re wondering, what do you think about the visual scene now? How has it changed from the past? What do you like, and what would you like to see changed?
KAMIJO: I think that lately, there are unfortunately many bands who care only about the look. But there’s also still many bands who care about both the music and the look. I think the latter is how it ideally should be. Versailles is a band like that. But I’d like every band in the visual scene to give their best. We’re really not in a position to give advice to others (lit: to look down on others). I want everybody in Japan’s visual scene to work together, so we won’t be made fun of.
JRR: Are there any bands in the current Japanese visual scene where both looks and music match impressively?
KAMIJO: I think that applies to Dir en grey.
JRR: But Dir en grey is not so visual anymore these days.
KAMIJO: I think their look fits with their heavy, aggressive musical style.
JRR: What inspired you to use the image of the French court for the band? KAMIJO in particular seems to be very interested in France and all things French.
KAMIJO: That happened naturally. We just did what we liked and it turned out to be the French style. Everybody in the band designed their own costumes, but when we brought everything together, it all balanced exceptionally well. I think that right from the start, when all the members came together, everybody already knew it would turn out like this.
JRR: Everybody fit easily into your concept?
KAMIJO: With us, I’d rather not call it a concept, because "concept" normally implies strategic planning, then people doing things because of that plan, while we are just expressing our feelings.
JRR: So it’s something that came naturally?
KAMIJO: We share the same idea of how we’d like to appear. So, it’s much more intense than just a concept—there’s much more of our hearts in it.
(To Be Continued in Part 2)
With additional contributions by Kuri and Krystal
Interpreted by Rika
Versailles appears courtesy of Sherow Artist Society