Mark Koh explores why one of the hottest new bands in Singapore is turning Japanese…
Having secured several higher profile performances at Japanese Rock shows on the island, Rei are fast becoming one of the most recognised bands in their genre with their tight musicianship, harlequin stage show and shocking Visual Kei appearance- combining western Goth and Japanese kitsch rock. Starting from their debut ‘Rei and Friends’ show at the Gashaus, They have been making waves locally with songs upcoming debut album ‘Midnight Symphony’- I managed to catch them between rehearsals and gigs for an interrogation at an unsuspecting McDonald’s outlet…
GASHAUS: How was the Band formed?
Koyuki: Basically the band was formed because Gesshoku had Kaimatsu, Kasumi and myself as band members and we split up to form Rei.
Kaimatsu: Not really split up… evolved…
Koyuki: Evolved yeah!
Kaimatsu: The bassist and the vocalist had… problems. In the end we revived the whole band lineup. Then, Rei was formed. (raises both hands).
Koyuki: Rei happened on the ‘problem’… around January (this year).
GASHAUS: Is there any change in direction?
Koyuki: Music wise it’s the same.
GASHAUS:?Japanese Rock… but I heard some English ones?
Koyuki: We are more influenced by Despairs Ray and Dir en Grey. Both of them have lyrics in total English or Japanese. So its not surprising for a J-rock band to perform in English, but the way they pronounce it makes it sound like Japanese. For example, Dir En Grey’s ‘Clever Sleazoid’, some of their tracks sound Japanese, but if you look at the lyrics, it’s actually in English!
Koyuki: no Japlish!!!
GASHAUS: Why the name ‘Rei’ for the band?
Koyuki: Its original meaning stems from the Japanese word for ‘Zero’
Kaimatsu: ‘Zero’ or ‘Nothing’- we name ourselves that because when compared to big acts such as X-Japan, we are pretty much nothing. It also helps to remind ourselves that… ah… when we do get somewhere, we will remember our supporters and not be so pompous and not do anything for them.
Koyuki: And also, we started from scratch! We started from nothing! (laughs) No money, no equipment.
Kaimatsu: No Lyrics, no originals, nothing! (laughs).
GASHAUS: How about now?
Koyuki: Now… we have something. Yes, actually quite a lot of things…
Kaimatsu: We got eight original songs, friends from all over the world: Canada, Japan… equipment all upgraded.
Koyuki: We got more members!
Kaimatsu: Initially we only had a rhythm guitarist and a lead guitarist. Now we have a drummer, a bassist, a vocalist, a translator.
GASHAUS: A Translator?!
Koyuki: Yes! We also have a makeup artist, plus a closet and Wardrobe crew.
GASHAUS: Does your translator live locally?
Koyuki: He is living in Japan near Haneda Airport. He can translate both ways and is a long time friend of three years.
GASHAUS: How do you compose your songs?
Kaimatsu: (points to Koyuki) usually the rest of us will be sleeping and he’ll be awake late at night writing down lyrics in English. Sometimes a line a night, sometimes a whole bunch a night. From there he lets us listen to the lyrics and we construct the tune and their meaning. Then I’ll throw in the drumbeats. We build on the bassline and the vocals… the vocal tune. While this is progressing, his friend will be translating it to Japanese.
Koyuki: I can suddenly wake up at 4am, turn on my computer and start typing lyrics. I’m am the so-called ‘vampire’ in this group. (laughs)
GASHAUS: So you’re up playing with your beast? (Makes jerk-off hand motion)
Koyuki: Yeah I’m playing with my Beast! (plays air guitar on his imaginary B.C. Rich ‘Beast’ series)… and my Mockingbird!
[Some buffoonery later…]
Koyuki: Let’s say I knock out after a night of PC gaming and dream about execution on an electric chair. I’d go ‘why not write a song about execution’ – I’ll type out the song in point form; about what I want it to be like. The next day I’ll look up my Japanese friend on the net, that’s how we communicate.
GASHAUS: Are your songs very violent?
Koyuki: We have ballads. We have a large range – we have songs that range from describing imaginary dolls to songs that consist of death. ‘Gesshoku’ is fusion at a lunar eclipse.
Kaimatsu: We are not too openly violent. Because that’s not our purpose.
GASHAUS: What do your names mean?
Kunio: My name is basically a translation of my Chinese name. Kaze’s name means ‘Crazy’…
Kaze: …Actually my name reflects my mood… comes and goes with the wind. I try to play as fast as possible. But that’s not happening now (everyone laughs).
Kasumi: Among the other names that sound chaotic…
Kaze: Hey I’m not chaotic!
Kasumi: … mine sounds more feminine. It means ‘mist’
Kaimatsu: My in-band Japanese name means annihilation which is a spinoff of my original nickname ‘Destructos’.
Koyuki: Koyuki has been my nickname for sometime- it means “light snow” and it was adapted from Beck Mongolian Chop squad, an anime. That particular anime title spurred the formation of Rei.
GASHAUS: What inspired your outfits?
Kasumi: we came up with an original concept. When we get up on stage, we want people to ‘visually’ see us first. So it gets their attention. Inspiration comes from Japanese visual kei bands – Despairs Ray, X-Japan, Dir En Grey and Micheal Jackson!
Kaimatsu: we have even more poppy influences like L’arc En Ciel
Kaze: Deep purple!
Kaimatsu: Guns and Roses!
GASHAUS: What do you think of the local J-rock Scene?
Kaimatsu: Since I joined the band, I didn’t know much, but we hope that we can lend our support to the growing J-rock scene Singapore.
Kunio: The scene is much better than a few years ago.
GASHAUS: Why Japanese and not Korean or Chinese?
Kaimatsu: The Japanese acts have their own feel to the music and the melody. Besides, Korean… despite Korean drama, there’s nothing to go on… in the local scene, Chinese acts are saturated. Don’t mind me saying but not many people know about Korean Rock… hell, I don’t know any, but Korean sounds inherently offensive.
GASHAUS: What about Hokkien? Wouldn’t that sound even MORE offensive?
All: Hokkien sounds funny!!!
Koyuki: We watch lots of Japanese variety shows like “Hard Gay” (laugh).