Importing the Kawaii Underground

Meet the people bringing Japan’s most compelling music acts to the West

For those Westerners who have fallen down the JPop rabbit hole, there are a few common stages that just about everyone goes through. Somewhere after devouring any English-language sites Google can find and consuming all unblocked videos on YouTube, comes the burning desire to see our newfound musical idols live. North America and Europe have been fortunate the last few years to see almost annual tours by BABYMETAL, Perfume, One OK Rock and Hatsune Miku, but for those whose tastes are a bit less mainstream, the chance to see independent and alternative artists usually involves pricing plane tickets to Japan.

Fortunately for us, a small group of fans-turned-promoters have taken it upon themselves to bring live underground idol and alternative JRock to the West. A few of these intrepid souls were gracious enough to answer our questions about why they decided to jump into the business of international music booking and promotion, the biggest challenges they encounter, and what plans they have for the future.

Derek Vasconi is responsible for bringing NECRONOMIDOL to the States on four separate occasions including their debut U.S. performance at the legendary Whisky-a-Go-Go.  He also organized the East Meets West Music Fest which saw the U.S. debuts of the incomparable Hanako-san and the perfect modern idols, Yanakoto Sotto Mute.  Most recently, he brought Oyasumi Hologram stateside for their first Western tour supported by TORIENA.

Haley Marinovich and Melissa Goldberg from Chaotic Harmony book visual kei and chika idol groups at anime and JPop culture conventions around the United States and run an online boutique of VKei merch and lolita fashion.  In 2018, they were responsible for the U.S. debuts of underground darlings Candye Syrup and soloist/DJ/fashion icon SENANAN.  In summer 2019 they will be bringing SENANAN back for Tokyo in Tulsa as well organizing the highly anticipated American debut of Broken By The Scream .

 

Chris Morris from ORIONlive organizes alternative JRock, metal and chika idols shows in the United Kingdom including 2018s Black Winds Over Albion tour featuring NECRONOMIDOL and the U.K. debut of 2& and the Screaming 60s. They have stepped up their game in 2019 hosting Metal Matsuri, a Japanese heavy metal festival at the 02 Academy in October featuring 10 bands including the Western debut of Unlucky Morpheus and the incomparable Mary’s Blood.  They have also orchestrated the return of 2& alongside the introduction of Garuda and Hanako-san to the U.K. in April.

 

Homicidols: How did you first become interested in Japanese music?

Derek: My obsession with Japanese music began, I guess, when I first heard about this group called PERFUME. An ex-girlfriend of mine, who was Japanese, told me that her dentist used to listen to Perfume constantly in the office where she worked. That turned my ex-girlfriend onto them at the time, and then she burned me a copy of their GAME CD, and….yeah, it was all over at that point for me.

Haley: I first started listening to Japanese music back in junior high. I had a friend that was into Miyavi so we’d listen to visual kei bands and pop artists like Otsuka Ai and Morning Musume together. It was right around 2007 when visual kei was first booming. I remember being able to buy CURE magazine in Hot Topic.

Melissa: I first got into Japanese music from anime.  I started watching anime in junior high school, and I enjoyed the opening and ending theme songs.  I started buying anime soundtracks when I was in high school, and then in college, I started watching YouTube videos and discovered visual kei and other forms of Japanese music.  There was no going back after that.

Chris: Babymetal. It was near the end of 2013 when I first saw the MV for “Gimme Chocolate” and by the time the debut album was released in early 2014, I was on board. Like so many others I started watching recommended YouTube videos and discovered there was a whole world of music that was getting little to no attention in the West.  As a near-lifelong metalhead I became enamored of both the J-metal scene and the alt-idol scene.

 

Homicidols: What drove you to embark on the work of importing live Japanese music acts to the West?


Derek: Well, for me, music isn’t just something I put on when I am driving around in a car, or a way to zap away the monotony of train rides via my iPod. Music is my life. It’s everything to me, and my deepest passion. Particularly, Japanese idols are my biggest reason for breathing air these days, outside of my family of course. I want to share this amazing and unique world that is the Tokyo Underground Idol scene. I want to bring it above ground as much as I possibly can, and to do that, I feel it’s necessary and even vital to bring as many idol groups as I can to the West. I seriously can’t get enough of people’s reactions and their smiles when I’ve shown them these idols … that’s really my biggest driving force in putting up with all the craziness that comes along with this kind of work that I’m doing with idols.

Haley: In recent years, there had been a decline on promoters bringing over visual kei acts, which is what we were originally promoting. We wanted to do something to help bring those bands and their fans outside of Japan together. Now of course, we’ve branched out to idols too.

Melissa: I started volunteering at cons in 2010, and for whatever reason, I was almost always assigned to bands.  Working with them as an interpreter allowed me to get to know many artists, and that made me want them to come back over the states again to perform.  So I decided to take the initiative to make that happen myself.

Chris: In 2016, the Japanese bands Mutant Monster and Touch My Secret toured the UK for the first time. That was when Dave Batey (my business partner) and I became really close friends. After getting to know the artists and talking with them about their aspirations, we were both struck with a desire to help but had no clue how and no idea what we could offer. I was starting to travel to Japan a lot and had started to develop a network of artists, management, and label reps who were curious about coming to the West so it seemed we should put those connections to good use.  What actually inspired the live event business was the return of Touch My Secret to the UK. A friend of ours had put together the funding for a short tour but had no idea how he was going to organize it. I had maintained a friendship with the group and he asked me for some advice and help so we hatched a plan to pull off the tour. That was when we knew this is how we could help. We ended up not just booking and promoting but also acting as full-on tour managers.


Homicidols: How much interest have you found in Japanese artists wanting to come to the West?

Derek: Every Japanese idol I talk to about coming to America, for example, says they want to come over and play. Every single one… But for me, the big thing is… which groups would actually BENEFIT from coming over?… Some groups don’t have to leave Tokyo ever and still could say they’ve had fulfilling careers when they hang it up, since Tokyo is like a country unto itself, and some of the groups I work with are Goddesses here in Tokyo. They sell out venues in Tokyo or are so popular here that it’s better business to cater to the fans in Tokyo who keep them popular and not risk losing fandom in Tokyo by going overseas and staying overseas constantly. I think some groups might actually be afraid of that happening, so they’ll go overseas once or maybe twice and then never again, just to say they did it.

Haley: We’ve found that a lot of artists want to come! The chance to perform in America is a really big deal for their careers, even in Japan. We’ve also had instances where we bring an artist over and all we hear about afterwards is when can they come back!

Melissa: I agree with Haley.  It is very rare for us to come across an artist who says they have no interest in playing overseas.  They are very passionate about their music, and the idea of their work reaching a global audience is something that really appeals to them.

Chris: The interest is quite strong. Unfortunately, this comes with a certain amount of trepidation. So it is sort of a timid interest. This tends to manifest itself in an intense curiosity, but it can get stuck in that phase. The Japanese music business is very insular which is unlike anything in the West. In the West, the general attitude is always global. No one dreams of being a regional pop or rock star. But in Japan there is a tendency to adopt limiting beliefs about the possibilities of exploring overseas opportunities. So there is a gap between interest and action sometimes.


Homicidols: What was the first act you brought over from Japan?  How did it go and what lessons did you learn from that experience?


Derek: I first approached Ricky, the manager for Necronomidol, last year. I asked him if I could bring his group over for a West Coast Tour. Surprisingly, without really knowing me but knowing about who I used to be in my former band, he said yes. I combined their tour with another tour I wanted to work on, for a group called Zeroshiki… My thinking was that Zeroshiki could learn Necronomidol’s songs and play them as the backing band. And so they did. Booking the tour was extremely difficult, as there wasn’t much time to actually book the tour, or promote it, and it happened rather fast… I had booked two shows in Los Angeles to start the tour, including a spot on a show at the legendary Whisky A Go Go, and a special VIP show for 40 people at a music practice studio in downtown LA. After that, it was on to Portland, then Seattle, and finally San Francisco. Zeroshiki dropped off in Seattle and so Necroma only played San Francisco. That was fine, since the SF show had the amazing prog-crazy metal group, NAME, attached to it, and they brought a nice crowd that night! The other shows were also fairly well attended, except for the Portland show, which had something like 17 people in attendance… To my surprise, the SF show turned out to have over 230 people in attendance that night! So that was amazing and completely unexpected but definitely a great way to end the tour. The tour turned a profit too, which was what I was most afraid of not happening, and I didn’t lose my sanity.

I would say the lessons I learned were too many to even go into here, but basically, I needed to have more promotional lead time as well as do more in the way of promotion… Also, doing a better job of making sure all the little details of shows are taken care of well in advance of ever setting foot inside of a venue. For example, Necroma needed to do a soundcheck at the Whisky, and they usually prefer to do it in a private setting. Thanks to another group who I won’t mention here that was sound checking before them taking waaaay too long, Necroma didn’t have time to do that, so they had to sound check in front of people that were already being let into the venue. That is not something I would ever want to repeat again.

Haley: I’d actually been working as a promoter since before Melissa and I formed Chaotic Harmony.  The first artist I bought was Hollow Mellow to Tokyo in Tulsa in 2015. It was a collaboration between their US based management, so I was about to learn a lot from the experience that I still carry with me to this day.

Melissa: I would say that the first artist we brought over as a company was Avanchick to Tokyo in Tulsa 2017.  Haley originally began the booking solo, but it was around that time that we decided to embark on booking with Chaotic Harmony, so I flew out to TnT to help with Avanchick, and it turned into a company booking from there, at least in spirit for sure.  It went very well, and they are one of those bands whose members are always asking us to bring them back. It was a good learning experience to see how Haley and I would work as a team, and it went so smoothly and effortlessly that I think it made us both realize we were on the right track.

Chris: I guess Touch my Secret would be the first. It went really well overall and we learned quite a lot. The visa process was interesting, so we learned a bit about the legal realities of international touring. We also learned that there are so many little things that really matter. Gear, insurance, even the food budget was a shock.


Homicidols: When choosing acts to bring abroad, what is your thought process?  Do you prefer to go along your personal taste or to go for acts you feel are accessible to Western sensibilities?

Derek: Since I work for Necroma as my main group, my first thought is always, how can it help Necroma? So they are always included with everything I want to do, in terms of bringing idols overseas. I am deviating from this a little though, as I’ve been contacted by other groups to help them with making overseas plans… However, if I do work with other groups, I 100% have to like the groups to some degree. I don’t want to do all kinds of work for a group I don’t even like listening to in my personal time, so yeah, it’s all personal taste for me. That, and kind of thinking about what I mentioned earlier with regards to if the group I like would actually benefit at all from playing in front of a Western audience.

Haley: I think it’s always a challenge for promoters to not only go along with our personal tastes. Of course, when we think something is great we expect everyone else to as well! We tend to look at trends on social media and see who’s hyping at the time. We try to bring over indie acts that are still really popular that few people are bringing because we know the demand is there. Since we primarily deal with anime conventions, we have to go off of a certain budget, which certainly can narrow down who we can even pitch.

Melissa: Of course, we are not immune to personal biases.  I’m sure Haley can name several of mine (lol), but I do try to be cognizant of which acts will be a good fit where.  And, as Haley said, we do pay attention to what the fans are asking for and what’s hyping. We also look closely at performance style when we go to shows, and if a band has an energy that feels Western to us, we often take note of that.  So I would say it’s a mix of personal taste and taking the event and audience into consideration.

Chris: I trust my taste to be in line with that of the UK market when it comes to Japanese music. That’s one of the benefits of being a fan first. I’d never work with an act just because they felt accessible. I think that is one of the keys to doing this. If the artists were accessible to Western sensibilities, then what niche are we serving? It’s the fact that they are part of Japan’s cultural output and therefore captures the imagination of an open minded audience seeking something different that makes it work. For example, I don’t like Japanese acts that sing a lot in English. A little English is normal. Even one song or two is fine. Linguistic appropriation as “style” or “fashion” is part of the Japanese popular music landscape, but if they avoid who they are as Japanese artists and go straight for an attempt to appeal to the West, I’m a bit offended by that. The English is rarely good so it comes off as desperate and inauthentic from an artistic standpoint. Don’t try too hard to appeal to me (the West)! By and large, people who love music respond to notions of authenticity more than they respond to some sense of familiarity.  And if they do use well-constructed English then there is something simply less culturally appealing. Some artists don’t care and are globally accessible from the beginning (One OK Rock, CrossFaith for example) rather than being a part of Japan’s cultural output. That’s fair if that is one’s goal, but it’s not of interest to me. The same applies in Western music. If an American black metal band wants to sound Norwegian because it’s trendy or whatever, it will likely suck. Look at the most successful metal act from Brazil: Sepultura. Early on they tried to sound like they fit in with the scene already going in the US, but when they embraced who they were the authenticity shone through and the world embraced them back.

I’ll also say that it is very unlikely I’d ever work with an act I didn’t like at least a little. I can’t promote something or support something I don’t believe in.  


Homicidols: How do you establish contact with the groups you would like to bring over?  Do you approach them directly or through intermediaries? Do they approach you?

Derek: With Necroma, I was actually scared to talk to Ricky for about a year. I don’t know why I was, but he’s kind of this metal looking dude and I thought he would flat out reject me-some dumb, silly idol fan who he probably thought was crazy. But as it turned out, Ricky was the nicest and most professional person I maybe have ever worked with in my entire life… It gave me the courage to go up to Yanakoto Sotto Mute’s staff and ask them to play a show overseas I was creating… Before I approached them, I had seen Yanamyu probably thirty or forty times, so they knew who I was, and I was on good terms with Taniyama, their manager, since he spoke decent English. Turns out they were more than happy to say yes to my request! So now, if I want to work with a group, I just will approach them, usually by myself or with Ricky’s help. However, Oyasumi Hologram approached me to do their American tour recently, and I couldn’t say no, since Oyasumi Hologram is one of my all time favorite groups ever.

Haley: It’s a little bit of both! I’ve reached out to artists through their website in the past, but we’ve also had past clients introduce us to their friends. A word of recommendation can be a lot stronger so we really love when that happens.

Melissa: Some of our clients are people I met through working conventions as an interpreter.  I continued a personal relationship with them after the events, and when we were creating Chaotic Harmony, I reached out to them about working together either for merch, bookings, or both.  Since then, I have stopped volunteering at cons to avoid conflicts of interest and only attend as part of Chaotic Harmony. So now, I would say most of our clients come via introductions from other artists as well as the occasional cold call.

Chris: It depends on the artists. For example, yesterday I met with an up-and-coming artist I really believe in and we talked business directly. She has become a friend and she has no staff. It’s all being done on a personal level. When we invited Screaming Sixties, I went through Ricky Wilson from Necronomidol even though I had a pre-existing friendship with Kai-chan and knew their producer Hamada-san. Because it was Necroma’s tour and Ricky was able to be the business linchpin, he was used as an intermediary.  Some artists do come to us. Earlier this year we were approached by Yamaha Entertainment to assist an artist and we hope this will result in a tour next year. Contact really could be by any of those means.


Homicidols: How do you convince them you are legit and that they can rely on you to put them on stage overseas and deliver an audience?

Derek: Basically, it’s now word of mouth for me with some groups. With others, it’s getting an introduction through Ricky, who might know an idol group’s producer or manager personally and can vouch for me. Or I might already know the group through being a former fan who has turned into staff and they know that and understand I’m approaching them in a professional manner and not in a fan context. That’s super important in the idol world and, I think as a whole, in Japan: What is your role? When that gets defined in Japan, it gets set in stone in many cases I feel.

Haley: Like I said earlier, recommendations are really great because the artist is hearing from another artist that they had a really good experience. We also tend to try to send over pictures of past performances. I brought MeteoroiD to Tokyo in Tulsa in 2016, and they made a documentary movie that’s on YouTube, so I like to send that to potential clients as well.

Melissa: I agree with Haley.  Recommendations are golden.  It also helps us because we trust our clients and acquaintances to introduce us to good people.  In addition to that, we also have a company proposal in Japanese that seems to show them that we are serious and have really thought things through.

Chris: That is something that I think will still be in flux for a long time. Salesmanship, networking, communicating in ways which indicate we are not talking to them as fans all play a role, but reputation is key. When artists come back to Japan and say “ORIONlive was great,” then others have some evidence that we are legitimate. We were lucky in that we had pre-established friendships (Touch my Secret, Ricky from Necroma) which inspired trust and got that reputation off to an easy start. However, that’s not always the case. It’s difficult to go from the gaijin who always shows up at gigs to a trusted business relationship. It’s one thing to show support by buying merch and getting chekis but when you are dealing with artist’s career and money, that’s a whole new world. All we can do is continue to build the reputation we have and lengthen the resume.



Homicidols: What are the biggest hurdles to overcome when bringing Japanese artists to the West?  What was the biggest challenge you have personally faced?

Derek: So many. So, so, so many. First and foremost is the money involved…Finding a way to fund everything is the biggest and constant hurdle I have to face, and the one that drives me insane trying to figure out… I tend to set up VIP tickets that are high priced but in exchange, the people get super limited VIP merchandise, and though that merchandise doesn’t begin to justify the high pricing, the idea behind this is that the VIP tickets are really more just sponsorship with the added bonus of getting an admission ticket and some perks for doing the sponsoring. That seems to be the magic formula for me lately, but I do hope to transition away from this, as soon as I can figure out how to overcome the second biggest hurdle I face with bringing Japanese idols to the West, and that is promotion.

My goal is to have every venue that the idols play packed to the ceiling and out the door. I want there to be crazy enthusiasm and energy going into the shows I set up, and that’s been a see-saw kind of affair. For example, I did the East Meets West Music Fest in Anaheim, California, and going into it, I felt like there would be a chance to sell out the venue… The actual show was still sooooo much fun and really a great time. The idols all had a blast and none of them complained. I still turned a profit (although it was a very small one), and all the idols made their guarantees… All the fans who were there seemed to have permanent smiles etched onto their faces both days of the festival, and I had no complaints from anyone… I am not a promotional marketing machine, but I think that selling Japanese idols to any foreign market is always going to be an uphill battle, even if I put it all out there for months and months and try to make any overseas shows with idols as huge as possible. I felt like I had let down the idols at East Meets West Music Fest, as I really thought I would clear 250 people both days of the event. Turns out, I had about 176 people total the second day, and a little less than this the first day. That was… a surprise.

Haley: I think having them understand what exactly an anime convention is can be kind of a challenge. The idea of having a booth open all day for three or four days usually surprises them. They also tend to think they’ll have more free time than they actually do.

Melissa: I would agree with Haley.  Trying to explain the concept of an anime convention is always a challenge.  In addition, trying to keep the flow of information organized is always a challenge because no matter how proficient we are in Japanese, it’s still our second language and miscommunication and confusion is bound to happen.  And we are also trying to relay information between multiple parties to each other, so I would say acting as the perpetual middleman is challenging.

Chris: The biggest hurdle keeps changing. At the moment, I think it is communication. I don’t mean language either. The Japanese disposition is to be indirect, wishy-washy, and intentionally uncertain. There is a skill one has to develop to read between the lines and get to the heart of the matter. Even for those who may be able to adopt a more direct conversational style, the Japanese can often take a long time to make decisions. Urgency, or even efficiency (surprisingly) is not part of the equation. Part of this is the Japanese psychological aversion to risk. Another part is the cultural fear of disappointing someone (which is ironic when what is disappointing is the communication tone, not the answer to an inquiry). Yet another part is the artist living in that insular Japanese bubble where they just think that they can run their machine at their own pace and in their own way and it’s no big deal. We accommodate some Japanese cultural idiosyncrasies because it’s both important to respect and necessary to get business done, but some give-and-take is vital. They are not going to be touring in a Japanese market and need to approach dealings with that reality.  

Also, I would say that a challenge is sometimes that artists rely too much on management/labels. The relationship is so professional, and roles are so clearly defined, that artists can sometimes lack any sense of a DIY ethic. This results in, shall we say, a sort of naiveté. If an artist puts ALL trust in management and doesn’t think creatively from a business standpoint,  their knowledge of the music business as it exists outside of the bubble and the ability to see issues on the horizon even within their domestic careers is compromised. This issue is not always the case, but I am seeing it crop up more the more artists we talk to.

The biggest challenge we have ever faced with all of this was the passport issue which plagued Screaming Sixties on the Black Winds Over Albion tour. No one ever told us that Montero had a passport from the Philippines, which is a big issue regarding UK immigration. It never occurred to us that she wouldn’t have a Japanese passport. I knew that she was ethnically Filipino, but ethnicity has no bearing on legal status or citizenship. That might be a very Western way of thinking about it, and I take ownership of that, but it turned out to be a clusterfuck. All parties checked in with Sixties along the way to make sure everything was cool, but at the end of the day they didn’t even think to check or notify us. Montero also never told Hamada-san this could be an issue as it didn’t occur to her (reliance on management). They were so used to not having to care about such things like passports and immigration (the Japanese bubble) and then they never told us details which might have been important (communication). Montero was then not allowed to fly and she ended up missing the tour. Those are the consequences of such issues. Of course, now Dave and I will ask EVERYTIME “does everyone have a JAPANESE passport?” That being said, we love the Sixties, Kai was amazing with her solo sets, and we all learned something important on that tour.  



Homicidols: What kind of outreach strategies do you use to attract possible new fans who aren’t familiar with the musical acts you are bringing over?


Derek: A lot of facebook promotion and twitter. That’s for starters. There are music groups on Facebook that kind of talk about idols but maybe the people in them have a limited knowledge or idea about idols, or all they really know about “idols” are groups like Babymetal, or Band-Maid… So reaching out to Babymetal fans has proven successful for me to some degree.

I also have tried to reach out to groups that like Anime, Cosplay, or are fans of Japanese culture overall… Also, with Necroma, they cross over into the metal world to some degree, and since that is the world I am most familiar with musically, and the place where I am coming from in terms of my booking experiences, I get a LOT of fans from that world for Necroma. That’s been, by far, the most supportive area of new fans for me to tap into.

Haley: Last year, we started trying to really amp up our YouTube channel and we started the “Get to Know” series. Fans send in questions that we translate, and then the band answers them on video. We sub the video and put it on our channel for everyone to enjoy. We did our first idol “Get to Know” with Candye Syrup, and we’ve had fans ask us to do them with fashion designers even.

Melissa: Our “Get to Know” videos have been very helpful, as Haley said.  We have had so many fans thank us for doing them because it helps them get to know the artists on a more personal level.  I think that’s the biggest challenge is bridging the language gap and the distance and allowing the fans to feel closer to the artist.  So that’s why we do videos and also our pre-order events for merch that often come with signed or personalized items.

Chris: This is tricky. On the one hand you want to expose an act to a new audience, on the other you don’t want to turn anyone off or risk making the core audience of international J-music fans unhappy. I believe the best thing to do is take advantage of the outlets that are already in place to pull an appreciative and ever-expanding crowd. For example, JPU Records usually knows what we are up to and Tom Smith from JPU has connections to NEO Magazine. By utilizing that network and generating buzz you can attract from a pool of broader J-culture aficionados. Then by using social media and the mechanisms in place by venues and their own networks you can certainly take advantage of the curious concertgoers who get word of an event and sense something cool is happening and want to see what the fuss is all about. When we booked the Black Winds Over Albion tour at The Underworld in London, the venue highlighted the event as “what’s hot” in their newsletter and they displayed the posters quite prominently. This helped us draw really well.


Homicidols: It all seems like a ton of work. Is it worth it? What is the biggest satisfaction you get from your efforts?

Derek: Totally and completely. I don’t regret anything and I definitely feel a strong sense of satisfaction of doing what I’m doing, despite how much work it is. The biggest reward I get is seeing a new fan experience Necroma, or another idol group I’m working with, for the very first time, and watching the joy appear on their faces when they are watching a group perform for the first time, or doing a cheki with their favorite member for the very first time. Or funny little moments that happen, like Sari from Necroma, during her introduction, telling audiences to sit their asses down on the floor and respect her, and 300 pound metal dudes are the first to have their butts hitting the ground. Also, I remember, in particular, a few people crying when they saw Yanamyu at East Meets West Music Fest. The first time I saw Yanamyu, I left the venue I was at and went outside and bawled. It was SO emotional to see them and hear their music for the first time. So… I think in that sense, I am reliving that same moment I had through these new fans. I do it all for them, and also for the veteran fans who have weathered the many storms that pass through the idol universe, and who stick by the idols no matter what… Of course, I also do it for the idols. They always let me know I’m appreciated and valued and thank me constantly and are always super sweet and nice to me… For example, Hanako-San sang me happy birthday with everybody during East Meets West Music Fest, and Yanamyu did as well. Just imagine that for a moment… my favorite idol group singing to me happy birthday. I mean… I’m living a dream that doesn’t seem real.

Haley: I think it’s definitely worth it! We prefer working with indie artists and I like to think of it as us being able to provide a unique opportunity to artists that might not otherwise have it.

Melissa: It is definitely a lot of work, but it’s totally, completely worth it!  For me, the fans reactions is a huge motivation for me. Seeing how happy they are to meet the artists we bring over and giving them an unforgettable experience pushes me to keep going no matter how tired or frustrated I get.  I’ve had days where I’m feeling over it but then a fan tweets a picture of their merch and thanks us, and immediately I’m reminded why we do all this in the first place. And, of course, seeing the artists enjoy themselves so much and go home with so many memories is also extremely encouraging.

Chris: It is more work than we ever thought it would be, but 100% worth it. Nothing beats those moments when an idol comes off of a stage in a city halfway around the world and says “wow, they liked me!” Or an artist thought they’d never get a shot to play overseas and you can give them that experience. And then there are the fans. To hear that we did a good job and put together a good show is also a great feeling. But more than, I am reminded of an expression: I can have what I want, as long as I help someone else get what they want. I like what I do to have consequence for others and it took me ages to understand how important that is. Success and fulfillment come so much easier. I think that’s why the most successful artists are the ones who love to connect with other people rather than just dream of their own success for its own sake. One follows the other. Seeing artists succeed and having a hand in that success is the greatest feeling.


Homicidols: What are your hopes for the future of you endeavors?

Derek: I am looking into a summer tour for Necroma, but where I can’t say yet. Also, some major festivals I want to apply for on Necroma’s behalf… there is that kind of on the horizon. If we get the festivals I’m hoping for, it will be really huge for Necroma. Also, for the summer tour, it’s possible that Necroma might team up with one of the largest idol groups currently in existence in Tokyo today, so if that works out… well, yeah, I’ll have my hands full. Along with this, I am thinking about doing an East Meets West Music Festival part two, but just not sure when that would be or where or who would be involved. I would want it to be bigger this time, and also have more idol groups and perhaps more well known bands?… I am open to ideas though, and I never know what may come along that could change the course of what I’m doing now and give me another direction to follow. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Haley: I’d like to see us doing one convention every month! We raise our goal every year and so far we’ve met it each time. We’re also starting to bring over fashion brands like MR, Ozz On Japan, and QissQill. I’d like to do more with them as well.

Melissa: More cons! (lol)  I’m pretty happy with the momentum our company has experienced so far, and I’m hoping to continue that.  I just want to create as many chances for fans and artists to come together as possible. It grows the scene and makes everyone happy.  I would also like to grow our store more and add more artists to it, including more idols.

Chris: To paint with broad strokes, we want to continue to build our reputation as promoters who can get the job done and serve the artists and fans in ways that make everyone happy. We want to have a role to play in the continued expansion of Japanese music overseas as we are not bookers, promoters, or tour managers as fulfillment of some specific music business goal. Our roles can morph if need be. We love these artists and believe in them. We’ll book the show, reserve the hotel, drive the van, fix a guitar, run for coffee and Red Bull, whatever. We just want to help. That’s ORIONlive. We have no limitations, and neither do these awesome artists.

5 thoughts on “Importing the Kawaii Underground

  1. Always interesting, this post was one of the best. Very up hill struggle to turn people on to all the amazing new music coming out of Japan. I had a radio show for three years called Tune In Tokyo-Taos Calling covering the variety of music from Japan, and South Korea in Taos New Mexico. So much of American music culture is in the past, something I think indicates a culture in decline. I hope new creative styles from Japan eventually infuses new energy in American music like England did in the late 70’s. I go to Los Angeles to see the bands I love though I did get to see ONE OK ROCK in Albuquerque and Babymetal who opened for Korn and some other band I can’t stand and didn’t stay for. It was so worth it to see Babymetal with Yuimetal just before she dropped out. Just went to see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu for the second time and going to see the GazettE again this year. My favorite unknown group that comes to the US regularly is Roli Angels who usually perform in small gaming venues and small anison events. Whatever they lack they make up with incredible enthusiasm. I’ve been involved in following and promoting new music for over 50 years and I’m so grateful that there is still exciting new music being created and groups like the bloggers and enthusiasts like all the people involved with Homicidols and those scattered around the world. I’d rather be totally alone about the music I really love than be stuck with American music. Thanks for doing first class articles written so well with humor and wit.

  2. this was a long but great read.

    i am sure Derek is talking bout MDF in the last bit too. so for non selfish insterests i’d like to give him a friendly remender that NDF also exists 🙂

  3. Hope someone comes to Texas. Seriously though: Houston, Dallas, Austin, New Orleans and even Atlanta all within a days driving distance. Much less that trek that Necroma did from LA to Portland on their first tour.

    Not to mention huge college towns like the aforementioned Austin, College Station, and Baton Rouge.

    • Dallas and Houston are also hubs that just about everyone in the country can reach on a non-stop flight and both have fairly affordable lodging, so they are good potential event sites when you are looking to draw from a dispersed fan base like alt-idol has. There is also a strong JPop fan base in the Southwestern US and Mexico to draw from. There’s a reason BM, Morning Musume, Band-Maid, Perfume and others all play Mexico City.

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