Before there is any potential misunderstanding, let it be known that Screamer Magazine isn’t presenting an article on a British pop orientated boy-band called “The Vamps,” but a Japanese duo who hold the energetic power and the attitude of wild rock n’ roll in their hearts! If you’re rather partial to the sleazy romanticized notions of vampires, blood, sex and a whirlwind of rock music that is dangerous and unkempt, welcome to your new fascination. VAMPS are all about the swagger and imagery of all of the above which is the result mostly of two minds; vocalist and rhythm guitar player Hyde and K.A.Z. who attacks the lead guitar and provides backing vocals.
Hyde is articulate and keen to reveal how these two creative entities came together. “I think it was maybe 2000 years ago? K.A.Z was helping me with my solo project, which I guess was the beginning of VAMPS. As we started working together, we established what either of us could do or couldn’t do, and naturally started to make up for and support each other. We have a very good balance.” That isn’t an error, he really did say 2000 years. The reason for this is perhaps not as cryptic as it may seem, especially when asked why they settled on the band name VAMPS. “We’re vampires, and we wanted to announce that! It’s also because we like our ladies to be a bit like vampires!”
In 2005, the two vampire rockers decided to hook up for this band after putting aside their invested energies in their former respective Japanese rock bands Oblivion Dust and L’Arc-en-ciel. An alliance was then forged with the additions of Ju-Ken with his talents on bass and adding backing vocals; Arimatsu plying his trade as the drummer and Jin supporting with a subtle touch on keys. Noting how K.A.Z. and Hyde had both come from other Japanese rock bands, what would Hyde have to say about the rock scene in his native country? “I don’t listen to music a lot so it’s hard to say, but I think there are plenty of good bands out there. But it’s a whole different matter when it comes to these bands making it to the top of the charts. In that sense I think it’s difficult for good Japanese music to be heard in other countries like the U.S. In Japan there’s a trend for dance acts, or “idol” type acts to be more noticed.”
With the release of Sex Blood Rock n’Roll, it was time to address the new album and discuss what it was all about. Hyde is an open book regarding their latest album and is enthusiastic as he shares the background. “This is our first global release, so we chose our 13 best tracks and compiled a “best of” collection from our previous work. If you don’t like this album, then that’s it, there’s nothing we can do! – That’s how much confidence we have in this album. We re-recorded the vocals for all the tracks, translated the lyrics into English, and also redid some of the arranging. It’s our optimum album, there’s nothing more that we could have done. During the process I was so exhausted because I wanted the whole album to be brilliant, even to the tiniest detail. I wouldn’t want to repeat this process again!” Almost anticipating the next question, he puts a lid on any thoughts about whether they would repeat the process for their next album.
What Hyde is referring to when he mentions that these are re-recorded songs, is how their first two albums have provided the skeletal framework and principle apart from the addition of a cover version, which wasn’t readily available on those first two albums. Their self-titled debut album was unleashed in 2009 with their sophomore release being unveiled in 2010 and going by the name of Beast. Tracks included on Sex Blood Rock n’Roll like Hunting II and Redrum has their original incarnations on the debut, whilst Angel Trip and My First Last originated from the Beast album.
What was the process like making that self-titled debut album in 2009? “We chose the songs that we both liked which fitted with the image of the album. We don’t usually turn down songs as such, as we tend to take each song and arrange and re-arrange them until we’re satisfied. For example I would arrange K.A.Z’s tracks, and he would approach my songs in different ways too. In that sense, both of us will keep fussing around until we end up with a great song.” With this in mind, were they tempted to repeat the approach to their Beast album? “Our second album was much freer – both musically, and also in the sense that we both simply made music the way we wanted to.”
Both of these albums did good business in their native country on release, where the company for providing statistics and chart positions called Oricon confirmed that these albums both peaked at number three in the album charts. Music videos for songs like Love Addict, I Gotta Kick Start Now and Revolution assisted with the presence of their musical output.
Observing the striking title, it’s sure to catch many people’s eyes. Was that a significant part of the reason why they selected that album title? “It’s a quote from a vampire movie. That’s where it comes from. I think the words match us brilliantly” states Hyde.
There are 13 tracks included on this latest studio offering consisting of highlights like the furious anthem Devil Side, a rampant title track and a cover version of the David Bowie classic Life on Mars?
Like a heart that has been injected with adrenaline, these guys turn a live show into an audible riot cranking up the intensity one moment and chilling out the next. It’s a veritable ride of sexually driven energy and tension. “I think this edgy rock sound is the result of when the two of us get together and make music the way we want. I don’t think we designed the style as such, but K.A.Z’s guitar sound is very tight, which adds to this edgy feel. We always write songs that we think the live audience will respond to the best, so by seeing us live you can sense how our sound has evolved as a band.”
VAMPS have been touring in support of this third album, Sex Blood Rock n’Roll, and are currently tearing up various locations in the States as part of this tour as this article is being assembled. “This tour concludes with these U.S. shows. After that, our next mode of attack on the global market is to write some new material keeping our overseas audience in mind.” It’s really apparent how much being out on the road means to this band, so would it be fair to say that touring is more of an important aspect than the creative and recording element? “Yes, I think so. The purpose we create music is so that we can go on tour, so I guess it’s the most important. We enjoy travelling, and it feels amazing when we put on a good performance. We can’t live without sucking our fans’ blood, so I love going on tour.” When quizzed on why VAMPS didn’t tour so much during 2011 in comparison to other years of activity, Hyde replied “It was a busier year for my other project, so we didn’t tour much as VAMPS.“
Hyde then gets a little more serious if that was at all possible, and reveals what he feels is behind the quiet gothic yearning at the core of VAMPS. “Our live shows are always at the center of our activities, so we hope that one of VAMPS’ attractions is that our performances are not only entertaining, but also stimulating and exciting. It’s therefore important for us to play songs that will excite the audience. K.A.Z writes some great songs, in the sense that they don’t sound very Japan-esque. We both grew up listening to UK and U.S music, which really shows in K.A.Z’s songs. That’s also one of our strengths.”
With thoughts of embracing vampires and all the ideas that are associated with the fanged marvels, and merging it with the sort of hard rock they create, Hyde had this to say about the concept. “I think that a couple of decades ago, rock music had the image of being rebellious, or more devilish. Nowadays it has a more sensible image, which I think takes away the enchantment of music. We wanted to keep this devilish charm in our music, so that’s what draws us to these images.”
If you have fond memories of bands like Vow Wow or E-Z-O, you might well be about to choke on your doughnut when you hear this Japanese export! Don’t delay, go for a rummage amongst the collections on sale at your favorite music retailer for the new album by VAMPS, and prepare to crank it up and to taste the blood, sex and tears that went in to making it.
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