Friday, May 25, 2012

Interview with Kiwamu - Starwave Records label owner

Visual KEIOS recently had the pleasure to interview Starwave Record label owner and BLOOD guitarist, Kiwamu! In this interview, focused on Starwave Records, Kiwamu discusses his work as a label owner, the highs and lows of this career and the future of the Visual Kei scene. 


1. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. To begin would you introduce yourself to our readers?

Kiwamu: I am the leader of the band BLOOD. In the band, I am the guitarist. And I have 2 labels. Darkest Labyrinth is for industrial music. Starwave Records is for Visual kei music. 

2. Your first music label, Darkest Labyrinth, was established in the April 2000, what brought on the decision to create your own music label?

Kiwamu: First it had no name for the label. Because I just released my works from myself. It was before BLOOD. I released some titles by myself. I named my label as Darkest Labyrinth 2007. Because from this year, I started to release some titles from another artists. First release was the compilation cd "Darkest Labyrinth". I asked many gothic style bands in Japan and in another countries. So I released that compilation cd. It was the real start of my label.

3. And what about the decision to create your second label, Starwave Records?

Kiwamu: Until 2009, I got many artists in Japanese industrial scene. I released Seileen, Vanished Empire, BLAMHONEY etc. I wanted to release these titles. I was satisfied with these results. And in the same time, I got the offers of some visual kei artists. They wanted to release their titles from visual kei label. If they released their titles from the industrial label, fans will be confused. And I already helped SUICIDE ALI from 2007, so it was good timing for me too.

4. What kind of advantages come into play when a label is owned by an actual musician?

Kiwamu: In some years, the scene will change quickly. If I play the guitar in the scene, I can see the real of the scene. This is the good point. But there is band point too. If I have many live shows as BLOOD, it will be hard schedule. It is not good for my label artists. I need the good balance between the label and my band.

5. Surely a lot of hard work is involved - what have been the biggest challenges that you’ve faced?

Kiwamu: 2 years ago, I made the event in Tokyo. That event was from 15 artists of my label. Darkest Labyrinth artists and Starwave Records artists were together. It was a biggest event. After this, I started to make the event by myself. It was the big challenges for my career. If I didn't make this, my label may be different style. This event made me notice some points. Some artists will help me very much. And foreign artists are very difficult to book. To book foreign artists, I need to make their airplane fee. But they can't bring their audience. Almost audiences were for Japanese bands.

6. And what have been some of the highlighting moments in your years as a label owner?

Kiwamu: In February, Starwave Records have own anniversary tour in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. This year, we got more fans than last year. In Tokyo, I can made 2 days events. It was very nice situation for me. I worked for my label in these years. It is not quick, but step by step the label is getting bigger. 

7. Starwave Records is your Visual Kei label – what can music lovers find in Starwave Records that they won’t find from other Visual Kei-based labels?

Kiwamu: In another labels, sometimes they try to get their success in short time as possible as they can. But band activities need more time. So I choice the long activity bands every time. Calmando Qual had 11 anniversary. THE SOUND BEE HD too. If the band disband in one year, they will not learn anything from their activities. 

8. How does the interest and perception of Visual Kei in Japan differ from overseas?

Kiwamu: Until some years ago, Visual kei was own music in Japan. But recently some foreigner got inspiration from Visual kei and they started their own band in their style. It is very interesting. Japanese bands always get the inspiration from foreigner and now we give the inspiration to foreign countries. 

9. Starwave Records currently has 9 artists - Could you briefly tell us about them?

Kiwamu: BLOOD is my own band. I am working for this from 10 years ago. I work with SUICIDE ALI from 5 years ago. Without them, maybe I didn't make the label. Misaruka joined in my label last year. Last year, they worked hard. So I pushed them on this year. They have classical visual kei band. Tokami joined in my label last year too. They joined in BLOOD event in Tokyo. During we talk with them, they decided to join. They have traditional visual kei music in my label. Calmando Qual used to join in BLOOD event in Tokyo. They always helped events. 3 years ago, I met Tak again. They wanted to release their single but they didn't know how to work. So I decided to work with them. Tak helped THE SOUND BEE HD too. Vocalist DAISUKE is famous person in Visual kei scene. They looked for their label for 5 years. I liked their music and I decided to invite them to my label. lix is ex-SUICIDE ALI guitarist Yuu band. Yuu worked hard in SUICIDE ALI. So I decided to help lix too. Yuu looked like my brother. umbrella joined in my label last year. The venue booking manager introduced me about them. He wanted to put them in my label. He  always helps me, so I decided to work with umbrella. Kuu is the new band. After they joined in my label event in Tokyo, I talked with them. And they like my working way. So they decided to join in my label. 

10. Each of the bands on Starwave Records has their own refreshing individuality in terms of style and sound, how hard was it to find artists like them among the many bands in Japan?

Kiwamu: In Japan, there are many many visual kei bands. But almost bands always give up their band activities after they face the problem. I always choice the long activities band. If their music is very thin, they can't have long activities. So if I choice the bands of long career from the scene, they always have their own good music.

11.  Starwave Records is currently holding auditions - what are the most important things that you look for when gauging the potential of a band?

Kiwamu: I open the door for the new artist. If they have good music and good mind, it is good for my label. Sometimes the foreign bands ask me about the release from my label. But Starwave Records will release Japanese bands only. So I didn't translate the audition text to English. 

12.  You’ve previously stated that you won’t consider signing foreign bands to Starwave – does this statement still hold true in the current auditions?

Kiwamu: I worked with some foreign bands from 2007. And I distributed many titles from foreign industrial music. But the selling is very bad. Sometimes foreign artists misunderstand Japanese scene. "Everyone can be super star in Japan. we are very famous in Japan" But it is not true. Many foreign artists try to release their CD in Japan. It was very difficult. So recently I don't release foreign artist titles from my label because of these situation.

13.  You go above and beyond when it comes to promoting your artists, you’ve made nearly 2000 posts to ameblo alone this year – How important do you think it is for the label owner to be so hands on in the promotion process?

Kiwamu: 10 years ago, there was not blog system. So we used the advertisement on the magazines. But recently fans always get the info from blog. Artists can put the info on the blog directly. That is quick than magazines or flyers. So I always use blog, mixi, twitter and facebook. And their good point is "free". I can write English post on my facebook. I can promote my label artists to foreign scene without any magazines. 

14.  The bands on your labels seem to be very well-traveled - Could you tell us about the process you undertake when planning an overseas performance?

Kiwamu: On the BLOOD activities, I made many connections with foreign promoters. It was the advantage to artists. So I tried to book shows for my label artists. From foreign scene, they can get many inspirations. 

15.  The 2nd Starwave Records compilation will be sold at Starwave Fest vol.5, July 21st and 22nd - could you tell us a bit about this release?

Kiwamu: 2 years ago, I released the compilation CD. It was very good for new fans. But some bands disbanded, some bands changed their members, some bands joined in my label. So it was good timing for new release. It will be 9 artists. But I am talking with new artist. They may join in this compilation too.

16.  The Darkest Labyrinth & Starwave Records official online store contains many great items – if you could recommend your Top 5 “Must Have” items, what would they be?

Kiwamu: The end of the year, I always check the top selling on my label online shop. I post that top raking on my blog. So I show that to fans. Maybe easy to understand which is best selling.

17. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the music industry in your 12 years as a label owner?

Kiwamu: 10 years ago, CD selling was 10 times than now. And live shows in foreign countries were dream. The live shows in foreign countries become easy but CD selling become bad. They are most biggest difference. 

18. Do you have any predictions for what might await in the future of “Visual Kei”?

Kiwamu: Foreign scene for visual kei will be dead soon. And after that, visual kei scene in foreign countries will be small but long. For the big band, it will be difficult to go to there. 

19. Where do you envision yourself in another 12 years? Is there a third label in your future?

Kiwamu: Now, I don't have any intention to make 3rd label. I will work for 2 labels for a while. In first 8 years of 12 years, it was for me. But in these years, I am working for many people. I enjoy this situation. 

20.  Thank you again for you time Kiwamu, do you have any closing statements you would like to add?

Kiwamu: In my labels, there are many good artists. Please check my 2 labels. You will find your favorite artists!!


Many thanks to Kiwamu, and Gloria from Starwave Records worldwide fans who made this interview possible.

To keep up with Kiwamu and the activities on his artists, check out the following links;

Kiwamu on Facebook //  Starwave Records OHP // Darkest Labyrinth OHP

Starwave Records on Facebook // Youtube // Online Shop


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This interview with Kiwamu was conducted by Alicia R. Thomas (ARThomas)


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