Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Interview with exist†trace

Visual KEIOS had the opportunity to interview all-girl Visual Kei band exist†trace! In this in-depth article band members talk about their first U.S. Tour, their musical influences, and the struggles they have faced as an all female group in a male dominated musical genre.



[tab:Interview - English]


VKEIOS: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. How does it feel to be on the final leg of your first U.S. Tour?

Jyo: 2 weeks is short, but on the last day the first day in Boston felt like it was a very long time ago.

We were able to have rich time each day. It was a tour where I keenly felt the difficulty of doing a great show by expressing with my entire body and to make it exciting even if our language wasn’t understood.

Omi: Each day was significant. The shows were amazing and really enjoyable.

miko: This being our first American tour and having a local bands as the opening acts I feel like we really were able to do the tour while feeling much of the American culture.

During the show and autograph sessions, I was able to see smiles of so many Americans, it makes me want to fly to more countries and meet more of the “family”. (this is how exist†trace fans are referred to).

Naoto:  Honestly, I am sad. Because it was really so much fun, I want to do a longer tour next time and have more shows in more places.

Mally: There is a sense of completion and a sense of sadness.

The moment it was over I simultaneously made a goal of doing another tour in the US.

I want to have even more people enjoy the shows and to show them a great show!

VKEIOS: Do you find that the process for preparing for a U.S. Tour is different than preparing for a Japanese Tour?

Jyo: I didn’t do anything different from normal. However I feel bad that my English studies are so lacking!

Omi: The energy towards the show is the same. Limitations to the equipment and having luggage was a bit of a pain.

miko: The things were brought were pretty much the same however because I had to check my guitar with the luggage in the airplane I ordered a super strong guitar case.

Naoto: Equipment related issues were tough but once the show started I stopped worried about it and had fun. Because everyone at the show responded to our performance by returning great reactions my feelings underneath were the same as when we do a tour in Japan. I am happy to see that in every country.

Mally: Since I wanted to show everything that exist†trace can do there wasn’t any difference.

I am always filled with the desire to do the best show ever.

VKEIOS: You've previously toured through Europe - did you find a strong Visual Kei following while there?

Jyo: Of course there were many fans that came to our live shows that like Visual Kei. However there were also quite a few fans that didn’t just like Visual Kei but came because they liked exist†trace’s music.

VKEIOS: What's one thing you miss while touring outside of Japan?

Jyo: Even though I really didn’t want to go home quickly, when I looked at my watch I would say “Oh, in Japan it’s morning.” So I probably was missing Japan (laugh) and also a meal. There were a few times that I wanted to eat freshly cooked rice with roasted fish! But right now reversely I think “Oh right now it’s morning in America.” and I want to eat a big sized hamburger, so I also miss America.

VKEIOS: Your Tour has stopping at some major American Cities - were you able to do any sightseeing?

Mally: When we were in New York we were able to do some sightseeing. We were able to go to ground zero and Times Square and rode the subway to a variety of places. Being able to spend some deeply emotional time there it turned out to be a very great experience.

Even the places where we weren’t able to do any sightseeing, we were able to eat famous things from that area! Happy!

VKEIOS: Your American Debut was at Sakura-con last August, are any of you a fan of anime?

Jyo: I like Anime and Manga and since I was a child I have been watching. Right now my favorite is “One Piece”. When I was younger I adored “Sailor Moon”. My heart is swayed by works that make me think “Friendship is good”.

Also, this time in America I watched the American animation “Family Guy” for the first time and laughed so hard. I also like comedic manga. There are also some dark ones also.

Omi: I like many Anime like NARUTO, Evangelion, and TRIGUN etc.

miko: Amongst all the anime I like Gibli. The one I especially like is “Mono noke hime” and “Kaza no tani no naoshika”. As for Naruto and Bleach I don’t watch the Anime, but I read the comics. For us we are really happy that Japanese Animation is so well received overseas.

Naoto: I like NARUTO and recently an Anime called “Another” is interesting.

Mally: I like Anime however more than Anime I often read comics.

I read the “Weekly Shonen Jump” magazine.

VKEIOS: You're well known for your distinctive fashion sense – what kind of process do you undertake when deciding upon your outfits?

Mally: We basically each wear clothing that matches the image we have of ourselves, however we can’t forget that the clothes have to look good on stage also. Because of this perhaps the style naturally emphasizes our individuality.

VKEIOS: Exist Trace formed back in 2003, and was one of the first all-girl Visual Kei bands – what was it like trying to make it in an industry dominated by men?

Jyo: Because we believed strongly that we could do something interesting “Let’s do a Visual Kei band with just girls” was the only thought that we had. Once we started we realized how hard it was, and some of the thoughtless words and the people who said them just made us stronger. And now I think that it was good that we moved forward believing in ourselves.

VKEIOS: How do you think the Japanese music industry has changed over the years – is it easier now for all female groups to be successful in the Visual Kei industry?

miko: Recently Japanese girls are making great strides in the sports world.

It’s the same in the music world, and I think that women are bringing a lot of power to Japan through their music. Compared to a few years ago it’s now a lot easier for girls to enter the visual kei scene. If one of the reasons that this is true is because of us then there is nothing that makes us more happy.

VKEIOS: What drew you to the Visual Kei genre in the first place? Are any of you classically trained musicians?

Jyo: I was really moved when I saw the music video “Gekka no Yasoukyoku” for MALICE MIZER because I hadn’t seen makeup and clothing like that before. Once I realized there was a band with this philosophy I became attracted to the Visual Kei scene.

Omi: I was attracted after hearing music by the likes of X JAPAN and Dir en grey.

I do not have any classical education.

miko: Since I lived in America when I was younger I was very familiar with English lyrics.

However, once I returned to Japan I felt that Japanese lyrics were too direct and I felt embarrassed. When I hear in Japanese “Aishiteiru yo” (I love you) I am embarrassed.

Around that time the Visual Kei music that I encountered had subtle expressions wrapped up in beautiful indirect language, and those words were easy to let in. That is what got me into Visual Kei and I liked the decadent atmosphere and makeup.

As for classic, I learned piano just a bit when I was a child. I still often play piano now.

Naoto: For me it was the contents of the lyrics. They were really sorrowful but they resonated in my heart. I have played wind instruments before, but I haven’t dealt much with classic.

Mally: My introduction to MALICE MIZER had the most impact.

From that point I didn’t have much contact with Visual Kei but when I joined the band Jyo and Naoto made recommendations to me and I came to listen to more.

As for classic training, when I was younger I played the piano but gave up at one point (laugh).

After that I naturally had contact with classical music and even played the trombone at one point. It’s not certain if this had any affect on my drum playing. I am considering doing a drum solo along with classic music eventually.

VKEIOS: Who inspired you to embark on your musical careers? Where there any female musicians you looked up to?

Jyo: I started the band by being influenced by Dir en Grey. I was always thinking, how can I have that same level of impact and have such a cool band. As for female singers I really respect Yoshida Miwa. I am moved by how she can do a show without losing any power from beginning to end and even sometimes gaining power!

Omi: It’s the same as to why I got into Visual Kei, it was sympathizing with the music and an adoration X JAPAN, Dir en grey, and many more…

miko: Just before I joined exist†trace I was in a cover band with my friends. The guitarist in that band was a girl and she said, “I will definitely become a pro. I am still unskilled but the amount that I practice is second to none”. That was so cool and I thought, “I want to follow this person.”

The female musician that I respect is the guitarist “sun-go” of the Japanese band SHOW-YA.

Naoto: The reason I started music was the influence of a person who changed me. The person I respect is a Japanese bassist named TOKIE.

Mally: Naoto has made my life insane… just kidding. But if I hadn’t been invited by Naoto then I would have a life that is considered “normal”. The female musician that I respect the most is “Nao” of “Maximum the Hormone”. She is Japanese.

VKEIOS: What do you see in your future...? Is there anything you'd like to accomplish as a group?

Jyou: If want to add dancers, and I want to perform with an orchestra to make a much more artistic show.

Omi: A bigger venue, shows is many countries. I want to increase the exist family and go meet them.

miko: I want to play at the Tokyo Dome like most Japanese artists have the dream of doing.

It’s one of our goals and also one of the wishes that our fans also have.

Naoto: I want us to be a band that can charm 10s of thousands, 100s of thousands of people. Also it would be good if each of the members could excel in their individual areas.

Mally: I definitely want to do a world tour. I want to be a one and only band that travels the world. I want to create an entirely new genre.

VKEIOS: Jyo, in most of Exist Trace's songs you slip back and forth between singing and growling – do you find that growling effects you're natural singing voice in any way? Do you do anything to prevent it from harming your voice?

Jyo: My shout… in the past there were times when it hurt my throat, but now that I use my abdominal muscles a lot more now to sing I can more easily instantly switch from shout to song. I really want the shout to come from my stomach, but I still don’t have enough practice!

VKEIOS: For the first performance in your US tour, you graciously held a VIP-show in Boston, where all concert goers got to attend a meet & greet with you. How was it meeting with everyone - what did you like best about your fans?

Jyo: Everyone was working really hard to speak Japanese. I was so happy to hear people say “Arigatou” in Japanese.

Omi: Everyone is warm. And their wonderful smiles. So great.

miko: I was so moved by the amount of people that had been studying Japanese just for that day.

I was proud to have Japanese fans and fans abroad cheering us on from the bottom of their hearts in unison.

Naoto: Everyone was amazing. For me the most amazing thing was being able to see everyone’s face directly and being able to talk to them and hear how they were feeling.

Mally: Amazing!! They did things like learn Japanese, draw pictures for us, write letters, I really felt their love for exist†trace.

VKEIOS: If there was one message you could convey through your music what would it be?

Jyo: When I sing, I sing hoping that people will get a bit more cheerful and have a more courage to live tomorrow.

Omi: During your life there will be many emotions such as, happiness, sorrow, and pain… you have to accept them all and live in your own way.

miko: As it says in the name of our band, we record the traces of our existence in the music, and in the lyrics of the songs I write there are many that deal with “life and death”. However in everything I write there is always one light. I want that light to be a hand extended to you when your heart feels as if it’s going to break.

I want to sing a song that helps you share your happiness once it returns.

I want real strength of women… of humans to be felt.

Naoto: The music should be something that changes the heart of the person listening to it. If they are undecided it should help them find an answer, if they are sad or in pain it should help them move forward.

Mally: I think it should be the “power to live”.

Everyone has his or her own way of living. Whether or not this way of living is enjoyable or not is different depending on how you think about it. I personally can shine on stage as a part of exist†trace and I think I have found a reason to exist. Also because everyone can be made to smile I think I can deliver the music. I don’t think I want to push my own style of thinking. But it would be nice if I can provide an outlet for someone else to think of something.


[tab:Interview - 日本語]


VKEIOS: お忙しいスケジュールの中お時間頂き有難うございます。 今回初のUSツアーの最終地点に立った時の感想を聞かせていただけますか?



















VKEIOS: アメリカツアーに向けての準備は日本ツアーの準備と比べて違う所はありましたか?













VKEIOS: 以前ヨーロッパツアーをされたことがありますが-そちらに行った時はやっぱりヴィジュアル系へのファン増は強かったでしょうか?



VKEIOS: 日本外でのツアーで一番恋しいなと思うこと何でしょうか?




VKEIOS: 皆さんのツアーは何ヶ所かアメリカの大きな都市を通っていますが、観光はされましたか?





VKEIOS: アメリカデビューは去年のSakura-conでしたが、皆さんの中にアニメが好きだと言う方はいらっしゃいますか?



あと、今回のアメリカツアーでアメリカのアニメ『Family Guy』を初めて観て大笑いしました。コメディー漫画も好きです。ちょっとブラックな部分もあったけど。














VKEIOS: 皆さんは独特なファッションセンスで知られておりますが-衣装を決める時はどのようにに決められるのでしょうか?




VKEIOS: Exist Traceは2003年に結成され、最初の女性だけのヴィジュアル系バンドですが-男性が主に仕切っている業界に入っていくことに関しての思いを少し教えていただけますか?



VKEIOS: この数年でどう日本の音楽シーンはどのように変わったと思いますか-今は女性グループもヴィジュアル系の業界で成功するのはもっと簡単になったと思いますか?







VKEIOS: ヴィジュアル系に惹かれたきっかけは何だったのでしょうか? 皆さんの中にクラッシックの教育を受けた方はいらっしゃいますか?




X JAPANやDir en grey等の音楽に触れて、惹かれて。















MALICE MIZERに出会った事が一番の衝撃でした。





VKEIOS: 誰の影響を受けて音楽と言う職業に就こうと思ったのでしょうか? 女性のミュージシャンで尊敬している方は誰かいらっしゃいますか?




きっかけと同じくX JAPAN、Dir en grey、他にもたくさん…楽曲に共感や憧れを覚えて。











尊敬する女性ミュージシャンは、“マキシマム ザ ホルモン”というバンドのナヲさんです。日本人です。

VKEIOS: これからの未来、何が見えますか・・・? グループとして達成したい目標などはありますか?












VKEIOS: ジョウさん、Exist Traceのほとんどの曲の中で歌からシャウトに行く曲が多いと思うのですが-シャウトが自分の自然な歌声に影響を及ぼしたりはしないのでしょうか? 何か自分の声に影響を出さないように特別していることは何かありますか?



VKEIOS: このUSツアーの初ライブボストンでVIPショーを行われ、そこではライブにいらっしゃったファンの方々みんなとミート&グリート(顔合わせ)をされましたね。 皆さんと会ってみてどうでしたか-自分達のファンの何処が一番よかったでしょうか?














VKEIOS: 自分達の音楽を通して伝えられるメッセージがあるとしたらそれはどんなメッセージですか?





















The staff at Visual KEIOS would like to thank the members of exist†trace and JapanFiles for making this interview possible!

exist†trace Official Website

Follow exist†trace on Twitter:  @existxtrace_19

JapanFiles Website

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This Interview was written by Ashlee (Utahimesama)

Follow Ashlee on Twitter: @utahimesama

or on her blog:

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