Live Play

•February 23, 2011 • 4 Comments

This is more for my own reference, but here’s a list of bands and artists I’ve seen, want to see, and want to see again.  What’s the best show you’ve ever been to?

SEEN:

  • A New Found Glory / Blink 182 – 2001
  • 12 Stones / Jerry Cantrell / Creed – 2003
  • Vanessa Carlson / Third Eye Blind / Goo Goo Dolls – 2003
  • Story of the Year / Hoobastank / P.O.D. / Linkin Park – 2004 (for my 21st birthday, Hell’s Yeah!)
  • Little Richard / Chuck Berry – 2004
  • Dir en grey – 2006 (x2), 2007 (x2), 2008, 2009 (x2), 2010
  • Kagrra, – 2007
  • Duel Jewel – 2007
  • Miyavi – 2007
  • Vidoll – 2007
  • alice nine. – 2007
  • Merry – 2007
  • girugamesh – 2007
  • D’espairsRay – 2007, 2010
  • MUCC – 2007
  • X Japan – 2008 (x3), 2010
  • Versailles – 2008 (R.I.P. Jasmine You)
  • GLAY – 2008, 2009
  • Juno Reactor – 2008
  • Tadahisa Yoshida – 2009 (x2)
  • Cinema Bizarre – 2009
  • The Killing Red Addiction – 2009
  • Moi dix Mois – 2009
  • VAMPS – 2009
  • ALSDEAD / Satsuki – 2009
  • Uchuu Sentai NOIZ (x2) – 2009
  • The Offspring / 311 – 2010
  • Apocalyptica – 2010
  • Luna Sea – 2010

Want to see:

  • Scorpions
  • Disturbed
  • 30 Seconds to Mars
  • Metallica
  • Tokio Hotel
  • B’z
  • Gackt
  • D
  • Sugizo (solo)

Want to see again:

  • X Japan (duh)
  • Dir en grey (duh again)
  • girugamesh
  • D’espairsRay
  • Miyavi
  • Linkin Park
  • Apocalyptica
  • Versailles
  • Cinema Bizarre (if they get back together)
  • ALSDEAD

I’m sure I’m missing some, but that’s my list at the moment.  🙂

Links!

•February 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I keep failing to post my thoughts and things lately.  I have a lot of unfinished posts, but things keep interrupting me, so they remain unfinished at the moment.

HOWEVER

People post cool things on facebook, and I read them and consequently find other interesting things and play some weird form of Six Degrees of Separation.  Today’s trail focuses on music’s effects on the mind.

Music as Medicine for the Brain

The Five Weirdest Ways Music Can Mess With the Human Brain

Seven Insane Ways Music Affects the Body

Are Smart People Drawn to the Arts or Does Arts Training Make People Smarter?

Musicians Use Both Sides of Their Brains

And just for fun…

Six Pieces of Music That Mean the Opposite of What You Think

I’ve been on a bit of a music psychology kick as of late.  I’m sure there will be more where this came from, especially once I get to reading some of the books I got for Christmas.  And perhaps I’ll get around to finishing all those other posts sitting in the queue.

Courtesy of Flip

•August 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

One of my dear Jrock friends posed this question on her facebook:

Just wondering, in 200 years…will our Metallica, Slayer, Madonna and Prince be the equivalent to today’s Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven? How much further can music progress?

I told her I would write an essay on that when I got home from the D’espairsRay concert (which was amazing, by the way!) but I fell asleep right when I got home, so I’m now writing my essay.

Let’s begin with the classical composers.

Bach wrote music because it was his job.  That is why there is so much of it.  He, however, did not believe his music would outlive him, and had it not been for Felix Mendelssohn re-discovering Bach in the early 1800s, Bach’s music would have been lost.  What makes Bach so revered in the music world is the fact that his compositions are the basis for compositional technique.  The rules he followed (and correctly broke) when it comes to chord structure, counterpoint, harmony, and melody are still taught today.  Bach also played a plethora of instruments, which means he understood their individual capabilities, and he must have been quite good at them because some of his solo violin works are challenging.  (Fugues for violin?!  What was he thinking?)  The thing to keep in mind, though, is that Bach came from a musical family, so his training began at a young age and he was always surrounded by music.  With that knowledge, it’s not surprising that he was able to write the music he did and become as famous as he did during his day for his performances, nor is it surprising that he could build upon the things he learned and improve them.  Yes, his death marks the end of the Baroque era, but at the time of his death the Classical era had already started, so it was more like he was the last composing in that style.  That is not to say that his music doesn’t define the Baroque era (at least, the late Baroque era), but I am just pointing out that innovations in composition were already happening before Bach passed.

Mozart had the “honor” of being the child of one of the first recorded stage parents in history.  His father knew both Mozart and his sister were talented and had them out and performing as children.  Of course, Mozart being a prodigy helped to catapult his career, but he was not the only child prodigy of the classical composers (Mendelssohn and Saint-Saens leap immediately to my mind).  He was the first, though, and being the first gets certain distinction.  Mozart’s music isn’t necessarily innovative, as Haydn did far more with chordal experimentation and tones, and wrote far more music (104 symphonies vs. Mozart’s 41, for example) but Haydn also lived longer and, like Bach, composed for a living.  The thing everyone believes about Mozart’s music, though, is the fact that he seemed to just intuitively know what he wanted and where.  Now, had he lived long enough to see Beethoven in his hayday, it would be curious to have seen what influence Beethoven’s music had on Mozart, but since that didn’t happen, we just get to wonder.

Now, I had it beaten into my head during school that Beethoven is the bridge between the Classical and Romantic eras, which I do believe to be true after playing a number of his early works and listening to many of his later works.  Beethoven experimented with instruments and tonality and expanded the classical world’s ear with his compositions.  He also created whole movements of works based on motives rather than melodies.  Think of the opening to his Fifth:  dun-dun-dun duuuuun.  It’s not a melody, just a rhythm set on different pitches, and it pops up throughout the other movements, too (like the third movement).  He did the same thing with the second movement of his Seventh:  buuuh buh-buh buuuh buuuh, while adding one of the most beautiful melodies over the theme (which, I might add, THE VIOLAS GET TO PLAY FIRST!)  And who else, to this point in time, thought to include a full choir and vocal soloists for his Ninth?

At the same time, Beethoven was a celebrity in his own right, and when he passed, the city mourned him.  It did not matter that he went deaf as he aged, for he still heard the music in his head, and, if anything, the struggle to hear strengthened the emotional impact of his compositions.  There’s something about Beethoven’s works – perhaps it is the fact that he did not compose for a living, but rather, as an art – that makes them more emotionally powerful.  That’s not to say that Bach’s and Mozart’s works do not evoke an emotional response, but there is something in the context of Beethoven’s music that really pulls at the heart.  I, personally, do not know any fellow musicians who frown when Beethoven is part of the concert program (unless it’s the Sixth symphony, but I may be alone in that).

Beethoven’s experimentation opened up the possibilities for the Romantic composers to experiment with instrumentation, chord structures, orchestra size, and so on and so forth, in a way that made it almost out of control by the end of the Romantic Era.  While Mozart and Bach defined their eras’ musics, Beethoven’s music became the launch pad for something new and different.

Fast forward nearly 200 years.

Now we are in a period of time where music is all around us, from the radio, to television, to movies, to our own iPods and phones.  It has become a huge commercial industry, and advances in technology have made it possible for nearly anyone with a computer to create music in some way, shape, or form, even if they cannot read a note.  That is not to say that this is a bad thing, as it opens up a world of creativity and it’s always interesting to see what those not bound by rules and conformity can (and do!) create, but it has also led to an accessibility of new music that happens so quickly it is very easy to become a one hit wonder.  There are exceptions, but let me sound off on Flip’s aforementioned four:  Metallica, Slayer, Madonna, and Prince, before speculating.

The ones with the greatest chance of musical eternity are Metallica.  Metallica’s music can transcend genres, and that gives them a big plus for musical longevity.  We have thundering drums and bass, and shredding guitar solos, but we also have a melody listeners can sing and remember.  Metallica’s music can translate to acoustic covers, or find a place with a symphony orchestra.  They are not afraid to experiment with their sound, and they allow their own personal experiences influence their music.   There’s also the fact that they’ve been recognized multiple times by their peers for their music achievements.  Plus, they inspire creativity and ingenuity with their music.  For example:

Lego Metallica

Apocalyptica

Now, I would not say that Metallica’s music in and of itself is anything groundbreaking, but the fact that they have been around for nearly thirty years, have a dedicated fan base, and are still relevant in the mainstream music scene today means they have something that will outlast them as people.  I think, 200 years from now, musical society will look at Metallica in a similar light to Beethoven, being the famous and accessible bridge between genres and eras.

I can’t say the same for Slayer.  As influential as they have been and continue to be, they are very much a metal band and will always be a metal band, and that does not offer them universal appeal.  Slayer will probably be remembered for their lyrical content and the controversies surrounding their releases, and not their music.  However, in the world of metal, Slayer will be up there with the greats for all eternity.  I guess that means Slayer will be the Shostakovich of the future – great, heavy music that many get into, but sometimes the music gets overshadowed by the themes it expresses.

Madonna and Prince…if the world never passed the 1980s in terms of fashion, sex, and things that are socially acceptable, Madonna would be queen forever and always, and Prince would be the king.  But again, it’s not so much their music as it was their images and lyrical content that got them noticed.  Neither of them found a sound that was particularly new or groundbreaking, but I will say they each created a sound that is individually theirs among a sea of other, similar, pop music.

The true innovation here is that both of them are very charismatic performers who made their live shows into spectacles, although I admit that I find Madonna to be a great deal more entertaining to watch and listen to than Prince.  Madonna also seems to have an easier time finding universal appeal as an all-around entertainer.  As far as their music surviving into the next 200 years, I think it will be lumped together in a chronological history of pop music throughout the 1980s and 90s.  Madonna probably has slightly more of a chance of her music outliving her than Prince, but both of them will be overshadowed by Michael Jackson in the long run.  I am not sure who to compare Madonna and Prince to in the classical world.  Maybe Paganini?  Although he was a virtuoso violinist, and neither Prince nor Madonna could be considered a virtuoso, but all are known more for their performances than their music.

I do have to say, though, that none of them – Metallica, Slayer, Madonna, or Prince – will ever fall into obscurity, because they have created their careers doing what they wanted and creating the music they wanted to.  They all have the status and credibility as artists, which they all rightfully earned over the years, to follow their creative energies and visions.  They are true to themselves and do not follow what others tell them to do, which makes them loyal to their craft and brings them loyal and devoted fans.

So now we beg the question:  How much further can music progress?

Well, first we need to agree on how to define “music,” as different people find different genres appealing.  It’s probably easiest to go with the idea that music is organized sound, therefore we can incorporate sounds of all kinds, whether they come from instruments, computers, or nature.  Therefore, we accept that the clicks of typing on a computer can be a musical rhythm.  Leaves rustling in the wind provide music.  Cars passing by, planes flying overhead, the whir of the computer fan…all can be considered elements of music if organized properly.  This is the idea behind John Cage’s music and the concept behind the movie August Rush.  Music is everywhere if you’re just willing to listen.

Such a blissful, Utopian view…

Now for the harsh reality:  We have the music industry.

The music industry needs to stop looking for a quick fix to all its money problems and instead look for artists it can nurture and cultivate into stars and stop going for the new hot thing every five minutes.  Yes, it’s a business, and the point of any business is to make money so you can survive into next year.  I think they sum it up the funniest in the movie Josie and the Pussycats.

That was just for fun, and not to start the whole “subliminal messages” debate, so please don’t start it.  The point is, the more money and backing anything has, the more it’s advertised, the more it gets seen, and more of a buzz gets created around it.  My cousin and I have a theory that, the more advertisements you see for a movie, the worse it is.  Anything worth seeing or worth listening to will create its own buzz, but if it has to be shoved in people’s faces for them to pay attention to it (and becomes popular as a result) it probably was not worth the attention its getting in the first place.  Unfortunately, money rules the world, so if something annoying and obnoxious has more money than something of quality, everyone will know the annoying thing and it will get more attention and become more annoying, and in turn potentially discourage the thing of quality from trying to make it.  If someone decided that sounds from animal mating rituals were the next big hit, suddenly there would be tons of advertisements for albums with those sounds recorded in high quality audio, ready to take to the airwaves and consequently be sampled and remixed until there’s a venerable menagerie on every single radio and music television station around.  It would give “Welcome to the Jungle” a whole new spin, perhaps even sparking a resurgence in popularity for Guns ‘n’ Roses… No, probably not.  I think GnR did enough of their own self-destruction to ensure they would never hit that mark again.

While that idea itself is ridiculous (the animal sounds, not Guns ‘n’ Roses), that’s basically what happens.  In an effort to make money and see profit, something new comes along, auto-tuned to perfection, and within months we see it everywhere, we can’t escape it, and there are at least five clones and the fan base starts warring over who is better.  It builds its own competition until the NEXT thing comes along and the cycle starts again.

It’s not always negative, though.  One thing that got shoved in everyone’s face just last year was Owl City.  Personally, I thought the song “Fireflies” was annoying as hell, but a lot of people liked it for its different sound and positive spin on the world.  What annoyed me about it was that anyone with enough time on their hands and the right computer programs could create something like that.  Give me a Mac, LogicPro, and a day and I could do the same exact thing.  But there is a certain beauty in the thought that anyone could create that.  Unlike the days of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, one no longer needs formal training in order to create music.  All one has to do is sit down at a computer, or record sounds, or pretend to sing, and they can create a song and upload it to the internet and share it with their friends.  Maybe it becomes viral, and the creator wins their fifteen minutes of fame.  That’s not to say that people who do this are hacks, because that is not always the case.  All it means is music is more accessible for anyone to create, so how far it can progress is only limited by one’s creative capacity and their imagination.  Whether or not we as a people get to hear it is another story, as that depends on the popularity and quality.  American Idol has shown us there are plenty of people who have become famous because of how bad they are, but it’s also given some genuinely talented people the chance to see their dreams come to fruition.

What is certain, though, is the fact that however music evolves next is going to be completely dependent upon computer technology.  Check out the music in this blog post.  I actually relaxed to the ethereal sounds of slowed down, indecipherable, technology manipulated Justin Bieber earlier this afternoon, and it was nice.  It was like music from another plane of existence and not the pre-packaged pop the collective ear has become used to.

No matter how far music progresses (or regresses, as the case may be) the fact remains that there will always be something or someone pushing the envelope or trying to change the perception of music in the world.  Whether they succeed or not, and whether the music lasts the test of time, is up to the individual creators themselves and how much work they put into it.  Just remember the quote from The Sandlot. “Heroes are remembered, but legends never die.  Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong.”

Article

•July 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I am one of the least political people you will ever meet.  Politics do not interest me in any way, shape, or form, and discussing them just makes people angry.  Hence why I banned political discussion from the circuit while I’m at work.  But I digress.

I found this article on my facebook news feed today, and felt it was only right to post about it here after my rant last week.  Even our President acknowledges that “[Broadway is] one of the few genres of music that can inspire the same passion in an eight-year-old that it can in an 80-year-old — and make them both want to get up and dance.  It transcends musical tastes from opera and classical to rock and hip-hop.”

I hope those blasted producers who think cutting parts of the orchestra to save on costs is a good idea saw or see this article.  Whether or not you like him as a President is irrelevant in this matter.  President Obama knows what Broadway means for our culture as a country.  Why can’t the powers behind the live theaters see it, too?

A Rant

•July 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

Please read this article before reading my post:

Source of Rage #1

Okay.  You’ve probably figured out the simple reason why I am annoyed.  Replacing live musicians with technology is frustrating and quite stupid the majority of the time, especially in as well-known and well-respected a place of performance as Broadway theaters.  What scares me in this, what really “grinds my gears” (cheers, Family Guy!) is that it’s the PRODUCERS who think this is okay.  That cutting out live players, who have worked hard to master the score of West Side Story, is a viable way to cut their costs.  That the audience won’t notice.

Growing up on Long Island, I was fortunate to both attend a school in close enough proximity to New York City to be able to see Broadway shows with classmates and have a family interested in theater who would occasionally go to shows.  I have not seen many, because it is expensive, but I have played a fair number of shows.  Even now, one of my favorite gigs to be called for is pit orchestra.  Truth be told, there are amazing musical scores out there.  Take The Scarlet Pimpernel for one.  The score is so lush and full, completely fitting for the setting of the musical itself.

This is a Japanese Takarazuka Revue adaptation, so the lyrics don’t quite flow as in the original song, but it is the best mixed video I can find so you can hear the nuances of the live orchestra strings with the live chorus:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGajy2kwVmQ&feature=related

Now, the same song, done with either no strings or an inaudible string section, in an amateur production (I give props to the soprano at the end!):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbCgiooixkI&feature=related

Do you notice that, without the strings, the song loses its edge and its intensity?  The melody and harmony haven’t changed, the song itself hasn’t changed, but it feels different.  This isn’t even that well-known a musical!  If there were half the strings during a song like “All I Ask of You” from The Phantom of the Opera, or “Maria” from West Side Story, or ANY ballad from ANY show, the audience would notice a difference, no matter how “educated” they are in the realm of music and musicals.

Not to mention, the audience is now getting less for what they’ve paid a pretty penny, and that’s just WRONG.

It’s not just the musical end of this that’s frustrating, though.  It’s a whole lack of culture.  We’re in a recession, people are losing jobs and homes, schools are losing funding, and we’re losing live music left and right.  Orchestras are dying (my friend got into the pit of Opera Pacific and the organization folded before he played a single show), and with them, we lose more and more of our culture.  Why do they cut music and the arts from schools when those are things proven to raise students grades in favor of keeping sports teams alive?  Didn’t anyone look at the ancient Greek’s structure of education?  Music and art were right up there with science, philosophy, and mathematics!  Remind me…how long did their civilization survive?

Why is it the creative mind that seems to always get shafted in the end?

Take a look at this, also:

Source of Rage #2

So society takes away the people with real talent who are doing something that could culturally enhance our lives, or makes it really difficult for them to share their gifts, in favor of a bunch of people who already HAVE money who just hash out the same thing over and over and over again because it’s popular and selling.

Moreover, if you’re one of those who decided you would stick it to the music industry and not buy albums but illegally download them, do you now see just how much you’re hurting the artist?

For so many people, in many different ways, music is an escape from the harsh realities of life.  Slowly, accessibility to that escape is deteriorating, and it will be a sad, sad existence when it’s gone.  How many people listen to music when they’re happy?  Sad?  Upset?  In love?  Heartbroken? Just because?  Angry?  Why does music accompany life events like graduations, weddings, sweet sixteens…hell, why do we SING “Happy Birthday”?  Music has the power to heal, the power to communicate, and the power to transcend borders.  Everyone understands music.  So why is it slowly evaporating and nobody seems to care?

I ask this not as a musician, but as a fan of music:  DON’T allow our society to throw away something as beautiful and timeless as music.  You WILL miss it.

Nerves or Adrenaline?

•July 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been legitimately nervous before a performance.  Usually, I’m ridiculously excited – I ran around the green room before my first college recital, in my dress and heels, to get out the excess energy so I didn’t play too fast – and take that adrenaline rush into the performance and don’t think anything of it.  I don’t think about the upcoming performance as something I have to play perfectly.  Like I tell my students, I can only recall one time when I had what I’d consider a perfect performance, and it still didn’t get me into grad school!  You just have to live in the moment and know that no matter how well or badly you think it’s going, you’re putting on a show and you just have to immerse yourself in that moment.

There’s a quote I live by that I discovered in high school, from the Dragonlance series.

“I will do this.  Nothing in my life matters except this.  No moment in my life exists except this moment.  I am born in this moment and, if I fail, I will die in this moment.”  ~Raistlin Majere, The Soulforge

Now, in Raistlin’s case, dying in the moment was an actual possibility, as he thought this quote before taking his Test to be a wizard and the penalty for failure was death.  At least auditions don’t work that way!  But mentally, this kind of mindset works.  Set yourself in the moment, have your goal(s) in sight, and trust that all your preparation will help you succeed.  When you think like that, you realize that you are ready to do what you’re about to do, and there’s no need to be nervous!

And yet…

Little things creep up, stuff that you don’t normally have to deal with.  I feel a changing energy in the air, swirling around tomorrow night’s Avery Watts performance at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles.  Maybe because it’s our L.A. debut, and we’re all centered here, and we’ll actually KNOW a vast majority of the audience.  Maybe it’s because of some of the people coming to watch us to “discover” us.  I am actually a bit nervous about the show tomorrow night, not because I feel unprepared, but because I want so badly to do well and impress certain people.  When I think about it from a completely objective point of view, there is nothing to fear.  We are going to rock that stage so hard people will talk about the show for the rest of the year.  It’s that emotional quotient, the war going on inside my own head, that puts in that element of trepidation, that sets in motion the fluttery stomach, quivering hands, and need for chamomile tea.

The last show I saw at the El Rey was Juno Reactor back in September 2008.  I was front row, right at the stage, in direct line with Sugizo.  (By the way, happy birthday, Sugizo!)  It was the first time I got to see Sugizo play violin, and no less than six feet away from me.  That power, that energy, rests on my mind as I contemplate tomorrow’s show.  I’m taking to the same stage as one of my idols.  Am I worthy to follow this path?  How will this moment define my life and alter the course?  What in the universe will change because of tomorrow night?

It’s these thoughts that make it difficult to concentrate right now.  I should go and do the things I need to do today, like look for a part time job or two.  I may get to be a rockstar tomorrow, but today I’m still a hungry musician.

Why I Love… Dir en grey

•July 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

I have very eclectic tastes in music.  For example, currently in my stereo (yes, I still use CDs!) are Lovedrive by Scorpions, Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor with Elgar’s Cello Concerto, and the soundtrack to Princess Mononoke, and I have two slots left to fill.  We’ll see what ends up in there after Princess Mononoke finishes.  I’m thinking some Juno Reactor at the moment, or perhaps Enigma…the new age, group, not to be confused with Elgar’s Enigma Variations.  😉

With all the music I listen to and play, I am often asked by both musicians and non-musicians alike, why I like or love certain bands.  There really is no simple answer to this question, but it sure makes for one heck of a blog topic!  So, without further ado, I present to you the first in a series:  Why I Love…

And first up are none other than the Japanese metal band, Dir en grey.

Now, I know those of you that read this who also happen to be Diru fans will stop me right there and say, “Dir en grey are metal NOW, but not ten years ago!”  and you are correct.  However, when I first got into them was right after they released Withering to Death. which means they were metal when I first heard them, so my association with Diru is always metal.

Dir en grey started in the late 1990s when members of the band La:Sadie’s (Kyo, Kaoru, Die, and Shinya) parted ways with their bassist Kisaki (don’t feel badly for him; Kisaki went on to become bassist for Phantasmagoria and head of Under Code Productions) and hired bassist Toshiya.  This lineup has not changed since, and that’s one of the main reasons I love them.  Just watching them play live, you can tell that the five of them have been playing together FOREVER and know how to communicate and play off of each other with just a glance.  Within two years of starting as Dir en grey the band went major, and arrived in style with three debut singles all produced by Yoshiki of X Japan.

Dir en grey began as a visual kei band, like most of the bands I listen to, but they never fell into the “sound” that a lot of vis-kei bands adopt.  Diru change their sound with every album.  Missa, their first release, is definitely 90s visual kei.  Gauze, their major debut, has a bit of a harder edge to it except for the songs Yoshiki produced, but remains more pop-like than the rest.  Macabre (my personal favorite) is stylistically all over the place.  Kisou is very experimental and has a lot of electronic elements.  Six Ugly, a mini-album, turns more towards hard rock.  Vulgar, considered their final “visual kei” album, is unquestionably hard rock.  Withering to Death. is metal with melodic choruses.  The Marrow of a Bone is their harshest album to date, undeniably influenced by their time on the Family Values Tour in 2006 with Korn and the Deftones, among others, and just screams metal, with the exception of one GORGEOUS ballad.  UROBOROS, their most recent album, is like an amalgamation of all those before it.  Their most recent single, “hageshisa to, kono mune no naka de karamituita shakunetsu no yami” is death metal, but only Diru know what their next full album will include.

Why did I bother to explain all that?  It’s another reason I love them.  Over the course of their 11 year history as a band, Dir en grey continuously evolve and rarely do the same thing twice.  There are fans out there who believe Diru should go back to their vis-kei days, but I disagree.  I think that they recognized they were trying to fit into a genre where they did not belong.  Diru have consistently said that they just do what they want to do as a band, and that works for them.  They are fortunate to be able to express themselves and have a supportive fanbase while backed by a major label.  (Free-Will itself is independent, but deals with Dir en grey through Sony according to this.)

Another thing I love about this band is their songwriting capabilities.  They stopped individually crediting the songs after Six Ugly so I only have a guess here and there as to who the main creative force is behind each song, but that does not matter for anything other than my sheer curiosity.  I cannot describe the breadth of sounds and details they manage to include, nor the stylistic differences contained in just one album.  Here’s a list, go check out the following songs online:

Cage

[KR] Cube

Hotarubi

kigan

24 ko cylinder

embryo

Mr. Newsman

The IIID Empire

Red[em]

kasumi

fukai

Jesus Christ R’N’R

The Final

Machiavellism

Lie Buried With a Vengeance

Grief

namamekashiki ansoku, tamerai ni hohoemi

Vinushka

toguro

hageshisa to, kono mune no naka de karamituita shakunetsu no yami

While all of them contribute to the music, Kyo is the sole lyricist of the band, and his poetry makes me want to be fluent in Japanese so I can understand all the double meanings.  Many of his lyrics deal with dark and disturbing subjects in order to shed some light on them, not as shock value.

The last reason I will list is a bit of a personal story.  I saw Dir en grey live for the first time when they came to NYC on their showcase tour in March 2006, and when I found out they were on Family Values Tour that summer I just had to go.  It just so happened that the weekend of FVT a hurricane passed by and rouged up the ocean, which caused the venue, Jones Beach Amphitheater to flood.  The concert was subsequently canceled as we were all there, only one act before Diru were to take the stage.  Despite the wind, rain, cold, and flooding, Die and Toshiya still did the meet and greet they were scheduled to do for fans who bought stuff at the merch booth.  That in and of itself made the entire day worth it.  They are a band who reach out to their fans and fellow musicians (they’ve donated a large sum of money to One Love For Chi for the Deftone’s bassist, as one example) and never let others’ expectations dictate what they do.

Keep rockin’, Dir en grey, and I’ll keep listenin’.

Theme Songs

•June 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Despite the fact that I have a blog and like to write (stories and poetry, when I have time, heh heh) sometimes I feel like I cannot express myself through words.  That is when I let the music of others express my thoughts and feelings.  Some of these songs are just a momentary “here’s how I feel” while others have become my own personal theme songs.  As I am currently in a mindset where I want to share some personal things but, at the same time, want to keep them personal, I will share with you some of the songs that I feel either define me or define things I want to say but, for some reason, cannot.  They may or may not contain descriptions, but I’ll try to include a “year of discovery” for a bit of reference.

“Go the Distance” from Disney’s Hercules – 1997

“Bitch” by Meredith Brooks – 1998-ish (was Jr. High/early High School)

“Simon” by Lifehouse – 2001  “Don’t believe the lies they have told to you/Not one word is true/You’re alright, you’re alright, you’re alright”

“Voiceless Screaming” by X Japan – 2003  Side note:  This is one of my favorite X Japan performances PERIOD.

“fukai” by Dir en grey – 2005 (There used to be a subtitled version of this, and I wish there still was!)  Side note: I decided this is my favorite Dir en grey song after about five years of a three- or four-way tie.  The song itself is a B-side and the recorded version’s lyrics are completely different from the lyrics here.  One of my favorite Dir en grey performances.

“Perfume” by Sugizo – 2006 (You can pick up the idea of the song from the English chorus.)

“When You Came Into My Life” by Scorpions – 2010  Side Note:  I LOVE power ballads, so the fact that I only recently discovered the Scorpions astonishes me.  I’ve fallen in love with this song, but what I’ve connected to is a different version that I don’t have but I NEED to have.  Wow, it’s amazingly beautiful.

So, there’s a little peek inside my mind.  Hope you enjoyed.

Tribute

•May 5, 2010 • 4 Comments

Been a while since I posted anything, but a few days ago was an important day in my personal musical history, so I feel I have to post an explanation.  I apologize, for anyone reading this will have to realize I’m very open to coincidences and spirits and the like, so if you’re not one to believe in that kind of thing, I would appreciate if you don’t rain on my parade.

On May 2, 1998, hide (pronounced HEE-day and always written in all lowercase letters), guitarist of X Japan, passed away unexpectedly.  At the time this signaled the end of X Japan.  Even though they had broken up months before, there was a hope that they would reconnect in 2000, but with hide’s death that hope faded.  The remaining members of X Japan played their ballad “Forever Love,” the last song they ever played together as a band at the New Year’s Eve kouhaku in 1997 and the song that brought them together during their Last Live concert earlier that New Year’s Eve, at hide’s funeral.

At the same time as hide’s death, the curtain rose on my very first pit orchestra experience, my high school’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.  I knew nothing of hide and X Japan at the time.  Honestly, I was still in my pop/alternative phase and had not listened to anything metal related.  When I found out the coincidence that at the time of one of my influence’s passing I was sitting in what has become one of my favorite performance opportunities, I found it a little strange.

When X Japan reunited in 2008 and I got to attend all three shows, to say the experience was overwhelming is an understatement.  X did everything they could to have hide “there”, from video feed from previous concerts and his guitar tracks played on most songs, to an on-stage hologram during my favorite song, “Art of Life.”  Some complained that it was too much and the band needed to let go of hide, but I think it was a fitting bridge between the X Japan of yesterday and the X Japan of now.

A few days after the concerts, my friends and I visited hide’s grave to pay our respects.  It was so peaceful and beautiful, covered in bouquets of flowers and numerous gifts from visitors.  Many probably had the same idea as my friends and I, to visit around the time of the reunion.  I remember that I burst into tears.  I had not expected to do that, but it happened.  To this day, I don’t know why I did.

On the plane ride home, I knew I was going back to some very demanding and not very nice stuff, but I felt like something was guiding me, reassuring me that all would work out well.  After that I caught a glimpse of hide in some of my dreams, and even though I was going through a rough time, I knew I would be okay.  Somehow, I believe, there is some sort of metaphysical connection to hide because his music has inspired me.  My friends feel it, too.  Being in Japan for the X reunion was like a religious experience to me, so it only makes sense that there is some sort of faith or connection behind it.  It’s weird to think, but even weirder that this connection was probably forged a long time before I would even recognize it or see any part of it.

I have X Japan to thank for keeping me in music when things turned sour the first time, and the above experiences only renewed what I initially found when I needed a second dose.  I like to think that hide spends the majority of his time guiding his bandmates, but sometimes he turns and helps a fan in need.

The pink cloud X’s in the sky when X Japan recorded their music videos in Hollywood back in January only solidify that belief in my mind.

R.I.P. hide…may your music continue to inspire all who listen to it.

Band Family

•December 21, 2009 • 1 Comment

How can I put the events of the past few days into words?  I’ve always wanted to be part of something amazing, something inspiring and wonderful.  I’ve always wanted to feel like I did years ago in BYO, playing with amazing people who were also cool to hang out with afterwards.  I wanted a musical family.  I’ve been granted a Christmas wish.

The past four to five (depending on how you count it) days were absolutely incredible.  It came and went so quickly.  I wish we were still doing it.  After a total of nearly 40 hours riding in a van together and spending nearly every waking moment with each other, it feels weird not having the band members around.  Even when we all got back to Eric’s and were ready to go to our respective homes, there was a delay in leaving, like we collectively did not want it to end.

We really stood in a small section of the Rose Garden during Trail Blazers’ halftime and played for 20,559 people, not including the staff and ushers.  We overcame a bunch of difficulties at the Roseland and pulled off a kick-ass show.  We danced the night away at a club called Barracuda’s for the after party, then stopped by the open taco truck for food and hung out in the hotel lobby together until after 6am.  I haven’t felt so special and included in such a long time.

Avery, Phil, Damon, Eric, Napoleon, Richie, Chris, Rick, Yvette, Jenn, Aisha, Michelle, Cairy, Lisa…  I LOVE YOU ALL!  ❤  Thank you all for making this one of the best weekends of my life.  I don’t know what I did to be involved with such incredible and talented people, but I’m forever grateful it happened.  Hopefully it won’t be long before we rock together again!