June 26, 2011

Former Chemical Picture Jimi Talks Visual Kei

In a new part of their Globalizing Visual Kei series, JMusic Europa has published an interview with Jimi Aoma, a Californian teacher and former bassist of Chemical Pictures, who has spent more than four years in the visual kei music scene.

It's an interesting read for fans of the whole business and here are some excerpts:

What were the most enjoyable and most frustrating parts of being in a visual kei band?

What was not enjoyable was the lack of money, seeing bands you think are not that good selling way more tickets than you did (no one is above a little jealousy!), the long, draining drives to Osaka, Nagoya or Sendai, lugging tons of heavy equipment everywhere, long weeks in a basement recording, constantly having to wash off makeup, wash hairspray out of your hair, washing your sweaty costume, lack of sleep or free time...

I was often advised even to dress up nice if I was just going out shopping, just in case someone saw me. I was advised that if I had a girlfriend not to go to any high-volume areas with her, or to hide her existence.

Visual kei bands often complain about the lack of money within the business. On a regular basis, how much time and money do you think is invested into the band in a month? How much money is usually made in that same time frame?

I was not in charge of handling the money side of things, so I don't have exact numbers for how much we made, but you can look at a ticket price for a show, calculate that "50% from the 21st ticket onward" and sort of plug in numbers to see what a "good" or "bad" night might be. Plus merchandise. We never took anything for ourselves and all money from shows went into our little band account that we used for gas or other activity-related expenses, sometimes hotels when on a tour. We personally handled all instrument, rehearsal, food, etc expenses ourselves.

On top of that, we borrowed from our label to make the CDs, and then we'd have to pay all that back from sales, and then they'd have to make their profit, and usually they didn't. [...] If you're doing really well, your management will give you a monthly stipend, but it's usually not exactly enough to quit your day job.

Let’s talk about the visual kei scene more generally. What are major misconceptions you believe fans have about the visual kei scene, including bands and management?

Visual kei may be popular in a corner of the internet but other than a tight-knit community here it's not on the national stage at all. Visual kei dudes work for a living, often full-time, and if they don't they're living off their parents or girlfriends.

Visual kei bands don't really think about "visual kei" too much. It's just sort of a banner under which people who can finance the bands and keep the magazines/stores/etc running came up with to capitalize on the phenomenon. [...] It costs money to do everything, even to get on the cover of a magazine, which is often why you see the same bands month after month.

You can read the whole interview with Jimi's full answers here.

via jrocknyc

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