Well, that happened
— Homicidol Maniac (@homicidols) December 21, 2017
This is all that I could muster after a night that confirmed everything that I’ve been doing about this whole idol business. In front of gods and man and maniacs, NECRONOMIDOL had not only taken the stage and wreaked absolute havoc, but had cut a very different jib in meeting with me, in person, and providing some great insights.
Oh, and Oshi put on the tiara that I gifted her, and all was well.
The room was poorly lit, a blood-tinted glow all my eyes had to see. Ricky had left me alone to ponder my fate — and what of it? Exsanguination seemed possible; being throttled by demons for sport, also possible.
Then there they were, marching single-file, eyes gleaming with the very fires of hell from whence they had just been summoned. Possibly also the weird glare from outside! It doesn’t matter. I was in the presence of divinity: NECRONOMIDOL had deigned to meet me, your humble neighborhood Maniac, for a personal conversation ahead of their performance in Seattle.
I was prepared with offerings, though not offerings that they were prepared for. Thanks to their having been voted Best Of several times for 2017, I was able, with Kerrie’s help, to grade-school craft some very official-looking diplomas. There was also a special gift for Oshi, our Queen of the Scene.
The Necroma girls are otherwordly overlords of powers far greater than any human can fathom, but they were nonetheless incredibly kind to me, a mere supplicant whose bones would have made fine adornments/playthings. Ricky did translate my brutal, uncouth English and their lilting, supertonal demon language, so rather than quote item by item, I’ll paraphrase.
Maniac: Welcome to America! You’re here as tourists as well as here to work, so what are your impressions?
Himari: (in English) American food is very delicious.
Okaki: We drove from Los Angeles to Seattle, and it seemed like everything changed along the way. It’s amazing that you can see so much in one country.
Maniac: /begs them to come to the East Coast
Himari: I hope.
Maniac: You have toured all over the world this year; are there differences between fans, how you perform and how people interact with you between countries?
Oshi: One thing that’s similar between countries is seeing that the fans always seem to be waiting for Necroma to arrive. You look into the audience and see people with tears in their eyes. It’s really touching to think that fans have been so looking forward to the show. Seeing that is motivation to want to do well and come back.
You may read this comment as ominously as you wish!
Maniac: Himari and Rei, how does it feel to have just recently joined a project that’s so on the ascent?
Rei: Going to different countries has opened her eyes to how popular NECRONOMIDOL is around the world; it motivates her to get out and see more people in more places.
Himari: She was a fan for years before she joined, so it’s still amazing to her to be a part of Necroma. Performing in Thailand was her first time out of the country, and she was homesick; now, having grown from that and being in the United States and feeling more confident, she feels that the five members have the power to go on a worldwide tour together.
Maniac: Kakizaki and Sari, comparing where you were at the very beginning of Necroma, how do you feel that you’ve grown, and how do you feel that has facilitated the success of the group?
Okaki: Her singing and dancing skills have grown, but now she can think more about the fans and how they’re enjoying the show, and what she can do to enhance that. And thinking beyond the technical aspects of the performance to beyond the stage, into the crowd and into the people enjoying it, finding ways to help them have the best experience possible. For her own growth, she’s realized lately that her own condition, how she feels at any given live, can leave a big impression on her personal performance, but also the whole group, so now she’s more mindful of how she feels going in to make sure that the shows come off the best that they can.
Sari: Shironuri was something that she had been doing as a hobby prior to Necroma, and it was something that she did without caring whether other people liked it — she did it for herself. Performing as an idol has made her become more outwardly focused and thinking about how what she does would impact others, including people just getting into the group, and how her appearance and presentation, and her focus as a performer, bring a different spice into NECRONOMIDOL.
Maniac: For anybody, how does it feel to be so admired by so many people all around the world?
Kakizaki: When we started, we did it from the bottom. The early response in Japan was not good, and it took a long time to build fans. But overseas, people were from the very beginning adding kind comments to videos and sending their support, so no matter how bleak the outlook sometimes was, the fans abroad were a big inspiration to keep working hard and keep trying. It told her that things would get better and move in a good direction. Now, the more music they put out, the better response they get from fans overseas, and that motivates her.
Maniac: Homicidols.com is a project that’s meant to help connect idol music with people in the West. The question that always comes up is, Can idol work outside of Japan? As seasoned performers, do you think that this is a model that can be exported and live on in other countries?
Himari: (very excited) Yes, and (in English) Japanese animation (/English) is an example of how. It is a special culture and art form that comes from Japan, but now it’s very popular overseas; in the same way, chika idol can catch on in the same way via the music; if it can get more attached to anime festivals and other cultural events, it will be even easier for fans to become a part of international wotadom.
Maniac: (including Ricky) If there were events that you could play here in the United States, where do you think would have a good audience for you?
Ricky: Personally, I’d like to get a little bit more out of the idol stuff. South By Southwest or something like that would be great, a real music showcase that has different genres from all over the world, a different fanbase that isn’t as used to Japanese music and idol culture. NECRONOMIDOL is firing on a lot of different cylinders musically, and visually operating on a couple of different levels in terms of inspiration and influences, so I would love to play a horror festival, like Fangoria Weekend of Horrors would be amazing, a metal festival. Different events like that, that would broaden the scope of the fans, so it’s not just one core group but a 360-degree approach.
Maniac: So, the ultimate goal for Necroma. To what heights do you aspire?
Kakizaki: Himari’s suggestion of a world tour sounded like a really great goal. They were in three different countries in Europe, and they all had different reactions to the group; some were more focused on watching the stage, while others were more like in Japan, getting involved in calls and chants, and the U.S. seems like a combination of the two. She’d love to get to more countries to see their responses.
Somewhere in the distance, both immediate but also impossibly far away, between the spheres of reality itself, a bell gonged out an ominous tone, and the interview was over. I presented the Necroma members with their awards; such humble certificates were mere tokens of respect and appreciation, and I reciprocally appreciate not being turned into parchment for other, more appropriate certificates. Such grace!
・Performance of the year
・Album of the year(DEATHLESS)
・Idol of the year
・debut of the year(月城ひまり)
(Queen of the scene(瑳里))
— NECRONOMIDOL (@NECRONOMIDOL) December 21, 2017
Of course, the coup de grace was going to be presenting Oshi with her token for having won Queen of the Scene and thereby being the Official Oshimen of Homicidols.com. I could not have been more honored that she crowned herself right in front of me; I could not have been more floored to see this hours later:
Queen of the scene👑🌹
— 瑳里 (@sari_mdr) December 21, 2017
Darkness bless us, every one.
While chatting with John and Derek and occasionally a very busy Ricky for the next few hours was fun and insightful, I could not have hated that time more. I was there to see dang Necroma, so make with the dang idoling!
Waiting did have its benefits. Like soundcheck, which was my first time seeing Necroma do anything live and therefore creating an impression in my head of how they were going to perform. Which is stupid, because everybody who’s ever done anything on a stage knows that you’re usually doing about 75 percent speed for your pre-show, but there it was. This will come back and be important!
Finally, doors. Then, local opening band, who were fine and also fairly young (like 20s). Except for the drummer. While it is possible that a band of rambunctious youths would have a senior on drums, I am going to accept the far more likely scenario that he stumbled upon Necroma’s dressing room and narrowly avoided being old-aged to death. Silly people.
After opening band, it was ZEROSHIKI’s turn. I didn’t know what to expect from them other than what John had said about their style before, so I was pleased with what I heard. They win for the following elements:
- Overall sound sort of like Trivium, but with that Japanese kick in the arrangements; lots of awesome beats
- All clean vocals by a singer who was actually danged singing
- Highly proficient technical lead guitar by a dude who was clearly having a blast showing off
- Various athletic antics (including a weird guitar-head stand) by the bassist
Are you here to read about ZEROSHIKI, though? Maybe! Also maybe you should look them up and buy something of theirs, because it was good and worth it.
But no, the headliner and whole reason for the whole trip was NECRONOMIDOL. And when they took the stage, I felt like I fell apart inside. Some poorly constructed impressions:
- Zaki really has come a long way as a performer since Necroma’s start. She has great presence and incredible poise, and her ability to work through some tough singing parts is right on point.
- Himari’s hair really is a sentient, weaponized entity. She commands a lot of attention when she comes front and center, but you keep following that black shadow enshrouding her head as she dances and skips across the stage. She has incredible low tone, too.
- Rei has room to grow, because of course, but it’s notable because she’s the least dark Darkness Girl of all time IMO, and still approaches her work without fear or hesitation.
- Sari truly is a goddess; she had us eating out of the palm of her hand, and her singing has gotten quite good along the way as well. Next time, I must worship her more completely to gain her gift.
- What is there to say about the overall performance? That less-than-full speed that I mentioned before was gone: The members were whipping themselves around, contorting their bodies with 100 percent effort, telling stories with their movements while effortlessly cracking out as good a vocal performance as I’ve ever heard from Necroma. They absolutely shone doing a show that would put most of all of idol completely to shame. I was spellbound.
- Their playing “Skulls in the Stars” with ZEROSHIKI backing pretty much put a bow on my long-time infatuation with that song.
- For a guy who’s always said that he’d pass on wotagei and definitely wasn’t ever going to MIX because MIX is dumb, I sure did do a lot of wotagei and MIX.
Big ups to my dude Dan-chii for making a game effort of communicating wotagei to a group of people who had not a ton of interest in wotagei; we made it work!
Buppan was all well and good. Seeing the gifts that other people brought, I felt a little badly that I hadn’t followed through on bringing some of my very excellent Christmas cookies on account of my not wanting them to get ruined on the way, but the Darkness Girls nonetheless spared me … I thought, but more on that in a minute. They were very kind in signing my poster (to Maniac!), and also signing my DEATHLESS vinyl. They even seemed kind when I approached for my cheki; too late did I realize that it was a trap.
My soul is now officially yours, Necroma.
*William, bro, I feel like I owe you bigly
I’m left overwhelmed with the feeling that this can work. I’d seen idols on small U.S. stages before (well, Avandoned), and on big stages (Babymetal). This fell somewhere in between, a good-sized club with a nicely sized stage, hosting an idol four-piece and a backing band (plus full bands). The crowd didn’t fill the room, but it didn’t matter — the performance was off the chain, which is exactly what doing idol outside of Japan, away from idol culture, requires.
Derek and I spent some time before the show talking about the Idol Invasion. It’s been slower than I anticipated, but I appreciate the hellish logistics of bringing performers to the United States much more now than I did when I thought it was as simple as flying-hoteling-transporting, and the fact that groups that regularly play 100-capacity clubs on their home turf are willing to come here and take a wild flyer on building their fan base thousands of miles from the comforts of Shibuya is impressive. Their managers clearly feel the same pull that many of us do.
My focus is different now, though, and Necroma helped to drive it home. Yes, let’s do what we can to get idols into our countries, even for one-off performances and short tours — not everybody can Babymetal it across an entire continent for months at a time — but let’s also think about what we can do to build up this style of performance, song and dance for rock and what have you, building on the mechanisms that make idol work in the first place.
I don’t know what that looks like. I have my ideas about it, how I’d try to pull it off, and I can see that it would require a lot of experimentation and getting it wrong for it ever to be right, but the picture is fuzzy. It’s also clearer now because of Necroma, and my only regret from the experience is that more people — new people who know nothing of idol but like their music loud, dark and heavy-hitting — weren’t there to see it.
We’ll get there, I think. Derek and John and I talked about some other groups that might be interested in making the jump to American shores, plus our own fantasy bookings, and that we were both on the same page and in nice divergence on other points tells me that the idea itself is growing. Maybe this time next year will include celebrations of those who came and even new projects that fans in places like LA and Seattle and New York put together, wing and a prayer, to keep building this idol thing into an entity that can really reach world domination.
Also, Ricky Wilson is the most gracious person I’ve ever met.
Also also, when the members entered the space we were using for the interview, we had a brief moment of stand-around because I had no idea how to interact with these goddesses before me. Himari broke the mood when she excitedly pointed at my shirt and marked out. “Code Orange!” Clearly, the most egregiously loud band alive has fans all over. I should have given her the shirt.