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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Special Feature: UNDER CODE PRODUCTION~ A Legacy

Throughout the course of Visual Kei history, there have been a number of independent labels that set the stage for some of the biggest names in this genre. Often used as a stepping-stone to ignite careers, these labels become landmarks and first homes to bands that have set the genre on fire. For that particular reason, their impact sends a ripple effect throughout the scene as a whole. One of these labels, without a single doubt, is UNDER CODE PRODUCTION.

For the past ten years, it’s been nearly impossible to avoid the impact of one of the biggest indie visual kei labels in the scene, UNDER CODE PRODUCTION. Shortly after the dissolution of his first label Matina, Kisaki founded UNDER CODE PRODUCTION in March 2003. The label has been the home to a number of significant bands since its birth. Kisaki is best known as the former bassist and bandleader of popular visual kei band Phantasmagoria (2004–2007, 2008, 2010), KISAKI PROJECT and Lin (2010-2013).

By establishing UNDER CODE PRODUCTION, Kisaki created a legacy that deserves to be recognized in the Visual Kei history books. This article will look at six bands, those from its past and present, that helped mold the impact and legacy of this unforgettable label:



1. Phantasmagoria

phantasmagoria pic1

After pausing activities with KISAKI PROJECT, Phantasmagoria was formed by Kisaki back in November 2004. With gender-bending costumes that entice images made from dreams and fantasies, Phantasmagoria brought to life these fantastical images that fueled their music. Bringing to life these images, the band embodied “old school” kote kei by fusing their striking visual looks with a dark and heavy sound.

From the beginning, Phantasmagoria's first line-up consisted of l members from other recently disbanded bands, all linked to UNDER CODE PRODUCTION: Riku (formerly Kenji of HISKAREA), Jun and Iori (both ex-Mar'derayla) on guitar, and Shion (ex-Mist of Rouge) on drums. The fantasy of Phantasmagoria began to take off after the release of their first single “Material Pain” on December 21, 2004 which was released exclusively through SHOXX magazine. Within one month of this explosive release, the band’s magic sent a ripple effect throughout the scene like a strike of lightning.  They made their presence known by making the cover of well-known visual kei magazine, Cure, just one month after their first release in January 2005. With this achievement, Phantasmagoria solidified their spot as one of the fastest rising indie bands at the time.

Even after a line-up change, Phantasmagoria’s career continued to soar. Then in August 2006, Kisaki made a surprising announcement that Phantasmagoria would graduate from UNDER CODE PRODUCTION on Valentine’s Day 2007. He also made an announcement at the same time that labelmates 12012 and Vidoll (see below) would also be graduating as well. Although Kisaki assured fans that the band was staying together, he made another startling announcement was made in December 2006: the band would pause activities after their departure.

Shortly afterwards, troubles began to arise as Kisaki was accused of tax evasion. Throughout this troubling time the band reassured fans that they would continue on until their final single release, "ends of rest period", before their activity pause. Though it was only months later, in April, Kisaki surprised everyone with a devastating announcement: he would be retiring from the stage and Phantasmagoria would be “sealing.”

After the story of Phantasmagoria began to fade, the members went their separate ways, forming new bands and projects. One of these new projects included Riku’s band, chariots, which is currently signed to UNDER CODE PRODUCTION. Yet despite going their own ways, the separation of the members did not last long, as Kisaki answered Yoshiki’s call in April 2008 to officially un-pause activities and participate in the hide Summit Memorial. After their performance at the summit on May 3, 2008, Phantasmagoria continued official band activities but it was short lived.

On August 30th, 2008, Phantasmagoria gave their fans one last present: their final single, “Vanish...”. The following day, August 31st, the band returned to the stage for their last live as they answered the calls of their loyal fanbase. That night the band officially disbanded.

2. 12012

12012 pic1

 

Naming themselves after a California penal code, which means possession of a deadly weapon, 12012 made their presence known. The band officially began activities in 2003 and immediately signed with UNDER CODE PRODUCTION. Creating songs filled dark, raw emotion and aggression, 12012 released their first maxi-single, “depression sign” in the summer of their first year.

The original lineup consisted of vocalist Miyawaki Wataru (ex. Kyoya), guitarists Sakai Hiroaki and Suga Yuusuke, bassist Enya Tomoyuki (ex. Tomo), and drummer Kawauchi Tohru. While participating in many events and contributing to numerous omnibuses, 12012’s popularity skyrocketed only months after their entrance into the scene in 2003 and then they never looked back. Their energy only seemed to grow as they made their first international appearance in 2006 at Anime Expo in California. Part of this was due to Miyawaki Wataru and Sakai Hiroaki stopping to sign autographs for fans. In fall of the same year, they performed for the first in France and Germany. Shortly before returning to the U.S., this time with entire band, for an unforgettable performance at Oni-con in Texas.

In 2007, change was in the air for the band. It was announced that on Valentine’s Day, they would graduate from UNDER CODE PRODUCTION and would sign to a new label, Black Coat. The band began to gain even more momentum after switching labels. However in 2010, they experienced yet another change. While in the midst of touring, 12012 announced that on 12/12 that Suga Yuusuke would be leaving the band.

 

3. Vidoll ヴィドール

vidoll012


Based on the musical concept of an “Occult Romance,” Vidoll possessed a sound that made them a genre all their own. With music ranging from heavy, soul-wrenching songs to sweet ballads to smooth jazzy beats, they were a sight to behold musically and visually. Founded in 2002 by bassist Rame (ex. Radifia), the Vidoll story began as he teamed up with vocalist Jui  (ex. Lunespear), guitarists Yukine and Ayano, alongside drummer Tero.


After previously being signed to Matina, Kisaki’s first label, the band, along with fellow labelmates 12012, followed Kisaki to his new label. After its establishment, they immediately signed to UNDER CODE PRODUCTION. Later that same year, Vidoll solidified their place in the visual kei scene by performing alongside the GazettE on a 10-date tour in October. With this successful tour, their popularity began to skyrocket. Both bands shared the cover of Cure magazine that following November, further cementing their place in the scene.

Considered one of the most successful bands that entered the doors of UNDER CODE PRODUCTION, Vidoll graduated on February 14, 2007 to a brighter and even more successful career. Following their “graduation”, the band participated in their first international event in Los Angeles, California at the J-Rock Revolution Festival in May alongside Alice Nine, MIYAVI, Merry and others. Despite two lineup changes in the past due to medical problems and musical differences, Vidoll managed to push forward throughout the years. However, as the band progressed with release after release, they began to face even more musical differences. Citing this as the main reason, Vidoll announced in January 2011 that they would disband. On May 7, 2011 the band performed their final concert, THE LAST LIVE, at Shinkiba STUDIO COAST.

4.  [ 凛 Lin -the end of corruption world-]

Lin


In 2010, Kisaki announced that he was stepping out of retirement and entered the scene once more with his newest band, [ 凛 #Lin -the end of corruption world-]. Initially the membership, other than Kisaki, was kept secret in order to build up the hype. It was not until the last revival performance of Phantasmagoria on April 5, 2010, Kisaki announced that Riku would be joining him as vocalist of Lin. Shortly thereafter they were joined by guitarist Kanata and drummer Reiya, who had previously worked together in Pashya, and alongside Riku in chariots. For fans of UNDER CODE PRODUCTION bands, all three of these members were already a part of the label’s family. And for their final member, they were joined by guitarist Mizuki (ミサルカ) and at that point, he officially joined the UNDER CODE PRODUCTIONS’ family.


However, after a small period of early success, Kisaki made an announcement on October 30, 2012 that the band would go on an indefinite hiatus. This hiatus will coincide with the upcoming closing of UNDER CODE PRODUCTION. They are scheduled to release their “best of” album on March 20, 2013.

5. NEGA


NEGA


Considered one of the most experimental visual bands of their time, NEGA was founded by bassist Ray (ex. Aliene Ma'riage and Vinett) and vocalist Jin. Joining the UNDER CODE PRODUCTION family in 2006, they created a sound distinctly their own. With music ranging from their dark and sinister hardcore tracks to their atmospheric instrumentals, this band unmistakably stood out.


Shortly after joining forces and releasing their demo Yoru ni Aru Kibou, Asa ni Kuru Zetsubou, they were joined by drummer Yuu. Originally relying solely on support members, the band did not acquire an official guitarist until Hiroki joined them in March of 2006. Later that same year, SAN joined as a second guitarist to finally complete the lineup. The momentum of the band increased as they were noticed and signed as a new addition to UNDER CODE PRODUCTION in December 2006.

In 2007, NEGA suffered a loss as Hiroki left the band. Afterwards, the band continued to progress as a four-member band.  By 2008, the band had become well known in the indie scene by performing at a number of lives and with their March release of ЯeBirtH Under the Chaos. They started gaining even more momentum as the band released their first full album GRAVE OF THE SACRIFICE, by the end of 2009.

With their rising success and growing fanbase, the members of NEGA made a surprising announcement and decided to go on an indefinite hiatus in 2010. Yet despite this announcement, they continued to make appearances as a band by participating at small events. One of these events included the Under Code Production Countdown Event in Osaka that following December 31st.

After performing at small events while on hiatus, NEGA made a full return to the scene in 2011 just in time to celebrate their 6th anniversary with fans. However, this revival was regrettably short lived. Not long after the announcement of the dissolving of UNDER CODE PRODUCTION in September 2012, NEGA also announced that they were disbanding.

6. chariots

chariotsphoto


Embodying the concept of “aggressive art,” chariots conveys the elements of elegance and beauty while being consumed with a violent, sinister, and heavy sound. Primarily known as the solo project band of Riku, former vocalist of Phantasmagoria, chariots’ success has continued to soar since its formation in 2007. Upon the release of their first maxi single, it immediately reached number 7 on the Oricon charts within its first week. This maxi single only gave a glimpse into their world of darkness and aggression as expressed through powerful diversity in Riku’s voice. As the years progressed since chariots’ first release, their success continue to make them regulars on the Oricon top 10 charts on many occasions.


These bands show that although the label will be closing their doors in March of this year, the UNDER CODE’S impact will forever remain in visual kei history. For the past ten years, it has been a journey to listen to these bands and to follow their careers. They all had one thing in common: a home in UNDER CODE PRODUCTION. Though I only chose six bands to cover in this article, there are a total of thirty-two significant bands that stirred the waters of UNDER CODE PRODUCTION. The hardest part was limiting myself, which by itself shows the impact of this amazing label. It will surely be missed.

To learn more about UNDER CODE PRODUCTION:


LABEL OFFICIAL SITE


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This Special Feature of UNDER CODE PRODUCTION was written by Rita Nokkaew (Ayva Trance)

Edited by Kaitlin Maginnis (Rain)

Follow me on twitter at @AyvaTrance

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