If I was going to give myself a stage name, it would probably by after a Greek goddess, but Myproof’s vocalist Thor has gone the Nordic route. The moniker is rather fitting to a band who deliver a pleasing blast of deathy growls, duelling guitars and thunderous drumming. The melodic death metal band were playing with Gyze at Head Power when I decided it was about time I asked to shoot them. They played the following week in the packed out Antiknock in Shinjuku on May 1st, with Vorchoas and a host of other metal bands. It was a a great show, and I particularly enjoy Thor’s maniacal expression.
Check out the photos in the gallery below.
Myproof are currently touring about Japan and will be heading over to South Korea in June for a couple of dates in Seoul. Go check ‘em out!
Peruse the Myproof website here: http://www.myproof-jp.com
I came across Gyze late last year. They were handing out flyers outside a Crossfaith/lynch./Merry gig I had been to in Shibuya, and I somehow managed to get fliers from all three of them as I walked down the street. Taking this as a sign, I stopped drummer Shuji and asked him exactly what sort of band Gyze were. ”Heavy metal,” he replied. ”Awesome,” I thought, and made a note to get round to seeing them. It took nearly 5 months, but finally I managed to shoot the melodic death metallers last weekend when they were playing an event with a few other bands, including Myproof (more to come with them soon), in Okubo.
Gyze were unusual to shoot for me in that there are only three of them. With Shogo and Ryoji on vocal duties as well as wielding guitars, they are pretty static for half the set. When they do get the chance to rock out though, they do make for some good photos:
Gyze will be releasing an album later in the year, which is being produced by Ettore Rigotti of Italian melodic death metal band, Disharmonia Mundi. (Incidentally, you really should check out Disharmonia Mundi’s cover of the “My Neighbour Totoro” theme tune).
I will definitely be going to check Gyze out more often in the future, and I’m looking forward to their album adding to an already exciting year ahead for metal in Tokyo.
Gyze will be playing their next show at Kichijoji Crescendo on June 1st.
In the meantime, check out the Gyze website at: http://www.gyze.jp and go “like” them on Facebook too.
On March 10th I was given the opportunity to shoot Ninjaman Japan at their latest one-man show in Ikebukuro. I was quite excited about this as I knew they’d make for some great photos. The show got stuck in my head so I wrote a mini live-report about it.
It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge spoke about the “willing suspension of disbelief” required in narrative, in which the writer constructed their art in such a way that the reader became truly invested in an otherwise implausible story. Though the comparison seems to be an odd one, I think of Coleridge when I watch Ninjaman Japan. With their peculiar blend of Power Ranger-style action sequences, comedy and hair metal, all liberally doused in VK glitz and glamour, your suspension of disbelief as an on-looker is a pre-requisite. That the band pull off a show encompassing all these elements shows that they invest heavily in the idea themselves.
Beginning the show with an extended theatrical number, Ninjaman Japan’s arch-nemeses The Black Satan Devils were up to their usual nefarious deeds – attempting to weaken and sabotage the band of rockers any which way they could. High-kicking shenanigans ensued, and finally the band succeeded in defeating their foes. The troupe of glam-rockers really nailed the comedy in this show, and the humour continued throughout the night as vocalist Sarino threw out some cracking one-liners at drummer Pinky’s adoring male fans.
The show maintained the energy of its high-spirited opening. The crowd got their hit of heavy metal littered with hints of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and battle-oriented melodic metal, with popular numbers like “Roman Storm” and the anthemic “Fly Away” pleasing the interestingly diverse crowd.
Most notable were the new tracks. “Raijin” (thunder god) is as its name suggests, opening heavy and demonstrating Ninjaman Japan’s love of classic riffage and song progression. ”Hanamuke” (parting gift), opens with a prolonged guitar duel which is a bit like natto – you’ll love it or find it a little less than tasty. Fortunately, I like natto, so indulgent guitar and a thumping heavy beat, all mixed up with some oriental-themed backing tracks made for a refreshing addition to the Ninjaman Japan catalogue.
Having taken guitarist Daishi on as a full-time member has added a little more frisson to the band since their last show, along with an evident sense of camaraderie. With Sarino, Lida and Daishi drawing much of the audience’s attention, it was interesting to watch the towering presence of bassist Metal, who seemed to keep the whole show grounded with his steady bass, when he wasn’t hurling people around the stage. Meanwhile, the comparatively diminutive figure of Pinky not only effortlessly powered along each song with his unfeasibly heavy drumming, but also managed to light up the gloomy depths of the drum riser with his huge smile.
Ninjaman Japan reprised “Hanamuke” for their encore,and as they came to the front of the stage to bid goodbye the enjoyment in the room, and on the faces of crowd and band alike, demonstrated how much of a great gig it had been.
In case you missed it, here’s the report I wrote for Ninjaman’s last one-man show in October 2012: http://www.rokkyuu.com/live-report/ninjaman-japan-october-2012-at-club-phase/.
Catch up with Ninjaman Japan on Facebook.
Check out more pictures in the gallery below:
We don’t normally cover group shows for the magazine, preferring to focus on the one-man gigs where you get to see much more of the band for your buck. However, I rather like the idea of group shows as I’m always on the hunt for new and interesting bands, and am willing to see the whole gig from start to finish. When I found that Duel Jewel, Gakido, Fest Vainqueur and [MU:], among others, were all going to be playing a show a mere 15 minutes from my house, I leapt at the chance to cover them.
I came away with a huge number of photos, but I think my favourites of the night were of Gakido, whose abstract black and white print made for an eye-catching appearance, only outdone by their on-stage exuberance. My particular favourite photo is of singer Kahiro, with his loungey off-the shoulder top paired with an amazing steampunk-style oversized monocle, which I have been coveting ever since.
However, the photo needed a lot of work and I spent ages messing around with it in Photoshop. Now that I shoot in manual mode most of the time, I tend to over-expose images to compensate for the low light levels. This does mean that sometimes the images are blown and unusable, and it was the latter thought that ran through my head when I imported this image, especially as I was shooting in JPG rather than RAW format (I don’t make that mistake anymore). As soon as I saw it I knew that I would have to save it somehow.
I layered up duplicates of the image using the multiply and overlay options in order to tone down the whites and saturate the image a bit more, and then made lots of other minor adjustments including cropping out the audience and bringing the focus to the centre using a vignette. It ended up coming out with a slightly dreamy quality to it which I rather like.
I covered Gakido last week for their 4th Anniversary show at Shibuya WWW, and the band were as infectiously upbeat and energetic as ever. Stay tuned for that report. In the meantime you can check out more photos below and the live report over at Rokkyuu.
Izumi has been a drinking buddy of mine for a while, and while I knew she was a singer, I had never had the chance to see her live. Izumi is most well-known from her 90s Shibuya-kei band Qypthone. Shibuya-kei, for the unfamiliar, is a style of pop music that is very groovy and bossa-nova inspired – one of the most famous bands in this kei being Pizzicato Five - and Izumi’s set was very much in this vein.
Izumi had played a very small pre-gig gig the week before, so I went along to shoot and she asked me to come along to the real show on February 26th and take some photos. So, here you are. It was a very fun show, and I hope we get to see Izumi live bit more often in the future!
It’s a universally acknowledged truth that red light sucks. Almost every photographer I’ve spoken to loathes that song or section in a set where someone decides that the band need to be lit in atmospheric tones of scarlet, crimson, or carmine. As a fan of heavy metal, I would urge otherwise – bathe your lyrics in blood, not the stage. Not only do you wear out the eyes of the audience, you drive the photographer to drink.
Back on September 30th last year I headed to a gig in Shibuya. Kiss the World were playing at the Ruby Room that and I knew that members of the rather awesome defspiral would be making guest appearances alongside DIE and MAD. However, a typhoon was sweeping the length of Japan, heading straight for Tokyo that very night. The train lines were threatening to close and most people were remaining safe in doors. After much indecision, I chose to brave the wind and the chance of not getting home to get to the show. Of course, the other thing that was bothering me was that the Ruby Room is as it’s name suggests – a venue lit heavily on the side of sanguine.
I was wracking my brains for how to deal with the lighting. Underexposing wasn’t an option as the venue is extremely underlit and my camera would not cope. I had no filters, and adjusting the white balance seemed to have little effect. Flash was out, and there was no lighting guy to bribe with booze. So, rather than lose everything in a data-fog of overblown maroons and rusts, I switched to black and white mode. Whilst the results were far from the best photos I’ve ever taken, I still like some of the images. I’ve included some of the better “rubescent” photos so you can see what I was up against, alongside the monochrome.
The man I want to be when I grow up – Todd Owyoung – has a brief tutorial on red lights which you can read here. As suggested in the comments, shooting in RAW can help but trying to get it fixed at the point of shooting saves a lots of tears in Lightroom later.
You can read the live report and see more photos here.
I met Jewlien one hot night in September last year, in the park outside Koenji station. He was instantly noticeable, not for his facial tattoos, or the abundant hair, but for the fact that he was sitting amongst a bunch of inebriated friends, obliviously nose-deep in a book. I was on my way to shoot a punk gig that night, and when I left the show later on I found he and his buddies outside under the train tracks, wrecked on whiskey and whatever else they’d managed to imbibe.
Things kind of followed that pattern for a while. The next time I saw him was at an art show party where everyone thought he was some kind of Slash impersonator as he silently strolled about the night-time streets of Asagaya in his sunglasses. By the time Halloween rolled round, and everyone thought he was in costume (he wasn’t), I’d got to know him a bit better.
Jewlien has a particular taste for floral patterned shirts only a Japanese guy, or a guy with that many tattoos, could pull off. He certainly received a lot of attention while he was in Japan. Tattoos are still relatively taboo in a society which still associates them with gang-culture, so having facial tattoos really made him stand out. I quite enjoyed watching people react to him – most were taken aback at first, and then either became unsettled by his initial shyness, defensive ( I once heard someone call him a “hippy” in a fit of anger, and…well, where to start with that one), or doggedly persistent in winning him over.
Back last year I had this brilliant idea to start shooting portraits and interviewing all my tattooed friends who happen to be normal people, as opposed to raging criminals. Jewlien has a huge collection of tattoos, a lot of which he has inked on to himself, and I wanted him to be part of it. Just before he left to return home, I caught him in a bar one night and asked to shoot his tattoos. He graciously obliged.
December 24th is probably the loneliest day of the year. At least, it is if you’re living in Japan and you’re single. Christmas Eve in Japan is unlike the rest of the world in that it has somehow become the equivalent of Christmas Day and Valentine’s Day rolled into one. Kids get presents, couples stroll about hand-in-hand looking doe-eyed and love-dumb, and everyone eats cake and KFC. If you’re not one of these couples, December 24th can put you in the mood for wishing everyone would choke to death on their cream-filled patisserie – that, or each other’s tongues.
But I’m not bitter,no. Instead, I went to Yokohama with a group of 16 photographers and spent the day shooting. My friends Jess and Hai over at Notes of Nomads organised a trip to Minato Mirai in Yokohama for photographers of all levels and experience. Not only does it give everyone the chance to practise their photography skills, you have the chance to meet new people, swap tips, and help raise money for It’s Not Just Mud, a disaster-relief volunteer-group based in Tohoku.
We met in the afternoon and wandered around by the harbour for a while before heading over to the fairground across the way from Cosmo World. The timing was perfect. The sun had just set, but there was still enough light to make for some great background colour in the sky as we photographed the fairground rides. I had lugged my unwieldy tripod around with me all day just for this, as I wanted to play around with long-exposure shots, something for which a tripod is absolutely necessary.
Later, we thawed ourselves out in a coffee shop and made bokeh covers for our lenses. I had neglected to bring my zoom lens, so was unable to get any really good shots, but it was a good chance for me to help pass on my own experience of experimenting with this last winter.
For each photo-event, Jess and Hai organise a competition for the participants. As a belated Christmas present, I found out this morning that my image (the one at the top of this post) had won the competition! So, I shall shortly be in receipt of a DIY pinhole camera and a gift voucher to go crazy with on Amazon. I suspect I shall invest in a good pair of earplugs for doing all the live shows.
Thanks to Notes of Nomads, to everyone who voted and to all the photographers who braved the freezing temperatures to make a lonely day much more fun!!
As the final day of 2012 draws to a close with a good dose of growling, screaming and corpse paint in a basement venue in Shinjuku, I thought I’d post one of my favourite pictures from this year.
I’ve taken thousands of photos this year, but this is a rare one as it features neither Japan nor musicians. The photo was taken on Ko Samui island in Thailand this summer. I had to get up at 5am for three days in a row to get this picture and though the photo is a reward in itself, the early morning serenity on the beach was another.
This is actually an HDR photo composed of three frames bracketed at different levels and layered over each other using Photomatix, so what you see is pretty much what my eyes saw.
I’m going incommunicado for the next week as I disappear off to yet another tropical island for some much needed rest after the musical frenzy of December. Before I go though, I need to give a very heartfelt thanks to all at Rokkyuu and Jame for asking me to shoot and write for them, and to all the bands who have posed and interviewed for me. It has been an awesome year and I look forward to doing even more of it in 2013.
Catch you all next year!!