Kenzi & Aki
The Dead Pop Stars & Antifeminism
Translation: Ota Yusei
This interview is for research purposes. It is not formatted, or edited in any way. The missing moments were blurry on recording. In that way, it resembles more a conversation (in 2008, in Tokyo). Participants are me (the interviewer), Kenzi, Aki, Yusei (translator) and our friend Hikari (from the band ACMA), who had introduced us.
I found the same band name, The Dead Pop Stars, on MySpace, they play metal and they have a background with a unicorn on it.
K: Where are they from?
They are from America. Please kill them: they play horrible music.
A: Someone told me about them, maybe five or six years ago. I can’t believe they chose that name, Dead Pop Stars. Maybe they know us? Maybe they know us and they did it on purpose. It’s a word we created, an artificial name, so they must know us.
K: Can we put on some video?
K fumbles and puts on the TV a video of the band playing live. Meanwhile, I exchange a few words with Hikari and Yusei in English.
A: Are you talking French or English now?
Y: English. I don’t speak French.
H: She had another translator before, who spoke French.
Y: Yes, Aurélie. She’s back in France now.
A: Ohh… Hikari, how come you speak so much English?
H: I used to live in England when I was a kid.
A: I envy you, I can’t speak English. I tried to study, but it didn’t work out so well.
The video plays.
A: That’s old.
K: (shows me a picture of Kamaitachi) That was when I was 23.
H: (in English) This band was huge.
I love the haircuts of that time. It still surprises me a lot, the way the hair sticks out. It’s anti-gravity haircuts. The hair reaches to the paradise…
A: (Showing the TV) This video is Antifeminism. Today, the both of us are The Dead Pop Stars. Kenzi is the singer of Antifeminism, and he is the drummer of The Dead Pop Stars, where I’m the singer.
Oh, I know, I did my homework.
I worked all night long and I didn’t sleep because of you.
A: (in English) I’m sorry.
Who tells the best stories in the band?
A: No one does! We’re all bad.
That’s a lie. Give it a try!
A: Maybe Kenzi.
So when and how were the Dead Pop Stars created?
K: First I was in this band called Kamaitachi, and it was disbanded. And one year after, September 6th, with Aki and other people, we created the band. It was 16 years ago.
A: In 1992.
And how do you play that long together without killing each other?
A: We do want to kill each other sometimes. But then we make up.
K: The both of us are the original members. With the two guitars and the bass, we had disagreements and we had to change. So the both of us are the only one from the beginning. You know, usually, lots of bands break up when they become major. But we’re not like that, we’re not that kind of band. I like Aki’s voice, the way he sings, and since we’re both sort of opposites, that’s why we keep playing together. That’s my opinion.
A: We somewhat make up for the other’s flaws, we balance each other.
K: So we have support members for the bass and guitar. It’s better that way, because they’re majority, so if they wanted to fight us, we’d lose.
But The Dead Pop Stars were created one year after Antifeminism. So, Kenzi, why the need to create that other band?
K: I play the drums. So after Kaimatachi disbanded, we promised that we’d come back after one year. I wanted to keep playing during that time, until we got back together. So I thought I should do Antifeminism where I sing.
A: (to Hikari) Woah, she actually looked that up!
And is it hard to hold two bands together for such a long time?
K: That’s probably where I’m different from other people. I wouldn’t do it any other way, and I don’t come to defeat. If you like the drums, if you like the vocals, you wouldn’t have it any other way. Some people give up, they can’t keep playing. But I don’t have that kind of problem. If I had it, then I’d probably hit a wall at some point. But this is what I want to do, so…
I understand. And around the time of the creation of both bands, what was Japan’s music scene like?
A: The word Visual didn’t exist. It was called “Iro-mono”.
(Iromono = colored thing)
K: X Called themselves Visual Shock. That’s actually where the word Visual comes from. They used to take two to three hours getting ready before the show. Like Shishima (=Japanese traditional character, NdT), they were really fancy. And after that, all the colorful things became fashion. Luna Sea was one of them.
A: And L’Arc~En~Ciel.
K: And a lot of them toured inside Japan. They were Indies bands, they would train themselves to tour.
What does that mean, to train oneself to tour?
K: Today’s bands don’t tour, because it costs a lot of money. So they won’t go around. The bands then, even though they were in the red, they would be moving around, going to kuwamoto… And that’s how they trained. And I think that’s how they got popular.
If everybody was so Indie, how was that working financially?
A: We actually got people into our gigs. That’s how we got money.
K: The bands today, they don’t want to go on tour. Of course, there are exceptions, but the bands before had a lot of gigs. Right now, the bands will only go and play at the Shinjuku Holiday five times a month, but back in our days, we didn’t do that.
Those bands today, they turn around in the same circle. They are now excluded from the rest of the musical scene. It was different before, then?
K: Back in those days, you could totally tell, there were characters like X, Billy and the Sluts, and others, Malice Mizer and Dir En Grey… But right now, with the make up, they all look the same. As far as I’m concerned, Visual Kei ended at Malice Mizer and Dir En Grey. They were the last real Visual Kei bands.
(they all speak together)
H&K: Since the concept of Visual Kei had already been established, all the kids have to do now, is to imitate it. They don’t mean it. Before, they used to have a feeling to go with it.
But it was a trend too at that time?
K: Of course; it was a trend: that’s what rock’n roll is about. But we arranged it ourselves.
A: And it wasn’t cool then.
K: Yeah, at the time, doing what we were doing was not cool.
So it was the prolongation of punk.
A: Ah. Indeed.
K: The bands of before were probably inspired by the punk movement.
The desire to express yourself differently and show that you won’t adapt to the mainstream way of doing things.
A: Yeah, that’s it.
K: “I’m me, I’m who I am”. That was a really strong feeling back then.
Ah, okay. Now, I have a really dumb question. I mean, I didn’t sleep when I was preparing this interview, so I was asking myself… There is one band called The Dead Pop Stars. And there’s another band called Antifeminism. It’s all very negative. Do you have something against women and pop stars?
A: That is a stupid question.
K: Antifeminism means something really bad in Europe, right? That women don’t come, or something like that.
K: I also had a lot of bashing there because I used the Nazi sign.
Well, the historical implications of it are still very strong.
K: When Balzac used the Zodiac, there was also bashing then.
It’s funny, because the use of symbols like that is really similar to the way of the punks.
K: Right now it’s not so much Punk, though. It’s commercialized.
I completely agree with that. But the context is not the same anymore. And the principle of Punk is that it’s dead, right?
K: The musicians, back then, they didn’t play rock because they wanted to become mainstream. They played rock because they wanted to play music. Right now they play rock in the generalized concept, that’s why they can’t go out of the box. They’re playing a school drama.
And what made you want to become musicians?
K: I don’t think I wanted to become a musician.
Did you just stumble on it?
K: Yeah. I wanted to be a pro-wrestler. Or a monster. It’s all on the same line. I was playing baseball when I was in High School. Because drums cost a lot of money. But if I hit people, the police would catch me, but if I hit the drums, no one will arrest me. And the drummers back then, they didn’t get the spotlight. It was for the vocalists or the guitarists. I always thought it was a good way to stay out of the spotlight if I hit the drums when I was in Kyoto. […] And I liked the Kyutaro [?] character, and Yoshiki also liked Kyutaro, so we connected there.