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Vamps: “In the States, People Don’t Give a Shit. They Just Go With What They Feel.”

May 15, 2015
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VampsWhen Vamps came through Philly last week as part of Sixx:A.M.’s Modern Vintage Tour, JUMP got to sit down with the two leaders of the group, vocalist Hyde and guitarist K.A.Z.

They are best-sellers in Japan and have decades of stardom under their belts with other projects. Outside of Vamps, Hyde has fronted L’arc~en~Ciel since 1991. That band is currently on a streak with more than 35 consecutive singles charting in the top 10. In 2012, they became the first Japanese artists to headline Madison Square Garden.

K.A.Z. was a member of Hideto Matsumoto’s backing band, Spread Beaver, at the time of Matsumoto’s untimely death. The one album he contributed to sold more than a million copies in Japan alone.

Vamps is trying to earn the American market by playing side stages at festivals and opening for Apocalyptica and Sixx:A.M. Our Lee Miller spoke with Hyde and K.A.Z. about their influences, goals and previous overseas trips.

How did you come together?

Hyde: As you may know, K.A.Z. was producing one of my solo projects back in the day. I really liked his music a lot. After the project, I thought, “Why don’t we get together and become a band and do everything together?”

Was Vamps always intended to be a long-term, full-time band?

Hyde: I didn’t really plan on how long Vamps was going to last, long-term or just a one-time thing. I didn’t really think how long we’d be together. But here we are still.

What does Vamps allow you to do that you can’t do with your other bands?

Hyde: L’arc~en~Ciel isn’t really easy going. So many things are going on around the band. Compared to them, Vamps is more active. We just did two festivals in Florida, Welcome to Rockville and Fort Rock, last weekend.

I mean L’arc~en~Ciel could be on the stage at a U.S. rock festival but it might not be the perfect market for the band. Vamps? Our music matches to the market. Vamps is more rock and roll type of music, heavier you know.

Why has there been a decline of Japanese bands touring in the United States after a small boom in the late 2000s?

K.A.Z.: Back in the day, when MUCC and other Japanese rock bands were touring the United States, the biggest difference between now and then is the CD sales. People don’t buy CDs anymore, right?

Right now there are a lot hurdles you have to clear before you come to the States. You have to be big in the first place. You have to be big in Japan first. I think its not easy to break into the English market for Japanese artists.

What were your early influences?

K.A.Z: I have a lot of influence from 80s rock music. Recently, I’ve been listening to Nine Inch Nails.

Hyde: Some American artists, some Japanese artists were both a big influence on me to start music. D’erlanger. They were my senpai [elder/mentor]. They came before us and I listened to them all the time. We’re touring with Sixx:A.M. right now. I like Nikki Sixx and Motley Crue from back in the day.

K.A.Z. : I grew up with American rock music and British rock music. I don’t really know the Japanese artists [from then].

Hyde: Buck Tick.

K.A.Z.: Oh, they are cool.

Hyde: I like Dead End and Gastunk.

What’s the difference between American and Japanese fans?

Hyde: The biggest difference between Japanese and American audiences is that American fans, they are more free. That’s how they feel from the stage. In Japan, if I say, “Jump!” everyone jumps.

People kinda care about other people. They aren’t independent enough. They care about what other people are doing. They don’t want to be the only one that is doing something different. If someone jumps, everyone jumps.

In the States, people don’t give a shit. They just go with what they feel. That’s the biggest difference.

As an opening band in America, do you change your approach to the concert?

Hyde: Vamps just got started in the States, basically. Performing in front of any kind of people, like, if we perform at a festival, most of people at the festival are new people. So performing in front of those people is kind of refreshing, kind of a new thing. Definitely tapping into a new market and expanding our fan base here.

The situation we are in right now as the opener or support band, that’s the best thing we could be doing right now to break through to the U.S. market – just to get the exposure. We have a fan base in the States, you know J-rock fans, but that’s just that. What we’re trying to do is bigger.

K.A.Z.: A festival is kinda like a tournament – like a rock music tournament. You start from the beginning but you gain more fans and battle with other bands. Then you go up to the next stage and one day you become the headliner.

Are Vamp’s overseas goals different from L’arc~en~ciel’s (who rarely play overseas but when they do, go big time such as playing Madison Square Garden in 2012)?

Hyde: Doing something big once, it’s not that hard. Maybe some other Japanese bands can do it. But that doesn’t really engage any [new] fans or fan base in the States. I have to come back and keep doing it. Every time we come back, we need to get new fans so that we can break into the U.S. market seriously.

(This interview was conducted through a translator and some responses have been edited for clarity.)

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