Japan may be best known for its flashy pop music scene but it's got plenty of flashy rock bands as well. Vamps is the collaborative project of Hideto "Hyde" Takarai (L'Arc-en-Ciel) and Kazuhito "K.A.Z." Iwaike (Oblivion Dust), band that hasn't gotten nearly as much attention in the United States but headlined its own music festival—the VampPark Fest—during February at the famed Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo. Now the group is taking a slightly more toned down role as it travels the United States with Sixx A.M. and supports its newest album Bloodsuckers, before taking a spot at the Rock on The Range Festival in Columbus, OH during May.
Music Times got online to chat with Vamps ahead of its next trip to the States, discussing the best pop culture vampires, shopping for the band's "look" and theoretically touring with Yellow Magic Orchestra members.
MUSIC TIMES: Is it anticlimactic to play at American rock festivals after hosting your own music festival at the Nippon Budokan?
HYDE: I think we'd be more nervous about playing the American festivals if we hadn't done the Budokan event. Everyone was really friendly at the event so we've had time to prepare ourselves. In a way we were more nervous about the Budokan gig itself (laughs). Either way, it's our first time to play in such circumstances, so I have no idea how it's going to be once we're there.
K.A.Z: Everyone was indeed very friendly at the Budokan event. We learned a lot and were inspired by each other's performances. I'm looking forward to the tour.
Every Western rock band wants to make a "Live at Budokan" album. What's the best American venue in a Japanese rock band's opinion?
H: Er...Madison Square Garden?
K: I have no idea (laughs).
Vampires have become very popular in the last decade. How does Vamps avoid falling into cliché with the theme?
H: Well actually, we feel that our time has finally come (laughs).
K: Exactly (laughs).
Is there a particular representation of vampires that you enjoy? The original Dracula? Newer media?
H: I think Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire was really cool! I wasn't expecting him to be so great. I think at the time people were saying that he was the wrong choice for the role, but it turned out great.
K: I like the Queen of the Damned.
Josh Wilbur was involved in some excellent projects during 2014 (Killer Be Killed...Symmetry in Black by Crowbar). How was it working with him on Bloodsuckers?
H: We've worked with him for a long time, so he's like a friend or comrade now. It's a great environment to work in.
K: Yes it is. We can work in a relaxed atmosphere it feels neutral, which makes the process very smooth.
Most of Bloodsuckers is English-language. A necessary evil? Would you prefer the next album to be Japanese?
H: I guess if the album wasn't meant for overseas release we may have written more Japanese songs? I don't know. I personally like English songs, so maybe that's why.
K: I think the songs fit very well with the English language, so in the end how the song sounds is what determines [the language].
I understand that at least Hyde is a pretty big Motley Crüe fan. What's it's like to tour in support of Sixx:A.M. (the band of Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx) now?
H: It's a huge honor as well as a massive opportunity for us. We're going to make sure that we play a brilliant show.
K: It's the first time we're touring the U.S. on such a large scale, and it's such a great opportunity to learn from the legends that are Sixx: A.M.
It seems most media focuses on Vamps' use of electronics in its music...but I'm all about the piano. What can you do to recreate the baby grand sound of "Reincarnation" on the road? Can you get a legitimate concert piano for your bigger Japanese shows?
H: In Japan, Ryuichi Sakamoto (composer known for his work with the Yellow Magic Orchestra) plays for us (laughs). I'm joking obviously!
K: (laughing) We don't even play that song live in Japan...we sort of use it like a sound effect.
I'd be lying if I said Americans weren't obsessed with the fashion of Japanese music, whether it be J-Pop or X Japan. Do we give it too much attention?
H: I think it's because there are so many Japanese designers who design fantastic rock-style fashion. Nikki Sixx also said that he buys Japanese designed clothes in L.A.
K: Yeah, like clothes from Shimamura (a Japanese retailer, comparable to Old Navy).
Now that I've admitted we're obsessed with the appearance of Japanese rock stars...who in Vamps has the best hair, in your opinion?
H: What!? I don't understand the question (laughs)! I guess K.A.Z...since he meticulously sculpts his hair at the back too?