[English Interview] VAMPS : sex, blood and rock the world !

This September 30th 2013, Journal du Japon is smiling. We had the opportunity to meet VAMPS.


VAMPS is the « rock n’ roll » side project of Hyde (L’Arc~en~Ciel) and K.A.Z (Oblivion Dust). Since 2008 and the release of their flagship title Love Addict, the band has kept on pushing the boundaries of Japanese rock, blowing up the straitjacket which many bands struggle to overcome.

If France knows these two artists, it is because it already had the honor to welcome them in 2010 for their first world tour. Continuing their conquest of the world, they decided to visit Paris again on October 1st, and not just anywhere : at the Olympia.
To accompany this new European tour, the band has concocted a best-of album, gathering their best songs, all re-recorded in English for the delight of their worldwide fans. Available from September 25th, this album is appropriately called « SEX BLOOD ROCK N’ ROLL« , branding their anthem.
After attending the recording of the brilliant TV Show « Une Dose 2 Métal » (on the French channel l’Enôrme TV), where Hyde and K.A.Z were able to introduce themselves in detail and explain their origins, Journal du Japon’s team had the chance of interviewing these two mates for an enriching talk.

vamps - Photo Lōlu

In a hotel room somewhere in the Opera Garnier area, we chatted with two relaxed men, smiling and obviously delighted to talk about rock, the experience accumulated over their 20 years of career and the vision of VAMPS, from past, present and the future. All of that with a healthy dose of humor, of course!


Preamble : waiting for K.A.Z

So here we were settled, waiting for the stars of the day. Journalist, photographer and interpreter talk about the TV program mentioned above and the state of mind of the band before the Parisian show. Hyde appears, brushing past our photographer whose heart visibly misses a beat …

Hyde, in French : Bonjour!
The man, classy with his sunglasses and his casual suit, settled down with us. Waiting for his partner, we continue our chat with him about the TV show …
Journal du Japon: How did you feel about the TV show?
Hyde: it was very « home-made » and had a comfortable feel. The atmosphere was rather welcoming, it was nice!
K.A.Z then joins us …
K.A.Z: hello, I’m K.A.Z, excuse me ! (laughs)
Hello K.A.Z, and welcome … I was going to ask Hyde : after four shows in Paris, when do you plan to buy an apartment here? (laughs)
Hyde: whenever I come to Paris, it makes me want to live here … it always makes me dream!
The atmosphere is pretty relaxed, the interview can begin …


While the world becomes bigger

What is « rock » for you today? What does this word mean to you?

Hyde: what is rock … hum (Hyde turns to K.A.Z, who seems to think about the question deeply) … what is it ? For me « rock » is something that makes you want to move without even being conscious of it. It’s something that drives you from within. For example in Spain, we discovered flamenco which is a dance full of passion. It was rock. Japan isn’t often seen as being related to « rock », but there are things that I think are in fact quite rock – for example the Japanese drum, the taiko, conveys a lot of emotion and passion. They give off something rock too.


Your third album « SEX BLOOD ROCK N’ ROLL », is actually a best of your first two albums. Why did you make this choice for your career abroad?

Hyde: In Japan we’re calling it our best of album, but internationally it’s our first release. We wanted to appeal to our first time listeners with the best of what we have previously done. This is why we’ve chosen a best-of rather than new songs.

And how was the new album created?

Hyde: We started by selecting songs, and decided which ones we wanted to re-arrange. Some were in Japanese, so I re-recorded them in English, but I also sang again those already in English to change the quality of pronunciation, and refine the songs.

Going back over those songs was a challenge, or something rather easy?

Hyde: I wish I could say it was easy ! (laughs) It was very difficult. We had set a goal and I had to go to the limits of what I can do.

In a more general way, is there one track which was more difficult to work on more than the others?

Hyde: ah … it is difficult to answer this question …
K.A.Z: There wasn’t really ONE song which caused us trouble, but for each track we had to express and bring out the best of their melody and sound.

vamps - Photo Lōlu

 Since we are talking about introducing you to the world, which song in this album represents the 2013 VAMPS the most?

Hyde: Oh this is a tricky one !
Hyde thinks and takes a look at the SEX, BLOOD ROCK N’ ROLL’s tracklist …
I would say REVOLUTION, because we remixed it, and it corresponds to the current VAMPS.

You’ve done many covers in your career, but what is the most unlikely song you would like to do in the future?

Hyde: I don’t have any ideas about future covers, but among those we’ve already made, there is Trouble from Shampoo. I’m not at all influenced by the original band, but we tried the song like that, for fun. But eventually, it became a very important song in our lives, so that could happen again in the future!


Memories …

If we now expand our interview to your career … artists are often looking for THE ultimate song, one that can change everything in an artist’s life, one that can define a before and an after … do you think you’ve already written it, or are you still looking for it?

Hyde and K.A.Z let out a pensive sigh facing this difficult question …
Hyde: Indeed you always feel like you’ve made the perfect song. But when you start to work on a new composition, you always want to go further and do better. It’s very difficult to know when one has reached the limit. I always want to write better and better songs. So maybe there is a sort of ultimate song, but I think the best song … is always the next one.
Good answer! (laughs)

Still on the same topic … it is often said that the third or fourth album of a band is the one of « maturity ». After five years of existence, do you think the sound of VAMPS has reached its maturity, or that it’s still « work in progress »?

Hyde: I think there are two types of bands. On one hand, those that reach a certain level of artisticity or popularity and then try to maintain that level throughout. On the other hand, there are those who keep developing all the time, who grow constantly. VAMPS is rather this second type. For us, it’s always the next step that matters. Our sound will keep on evolving.

We would now like to come back to your beginning … what bands influenced you the most, or have changed your life and made an artist of you?

K.A.Z: Actually, I think the music that has impressed me the most was a video from King Crimson. It was the ultimate shock to me. I had never seen that kind of music video, never heard that kind of music. I can’t remember the title of the song, but the bassist was playing on a stick (K.A.Z is talking about the bassist Tony Levin, who helped to popularize this instrument, also known as « Chapman Stick »), it was pretty amazing. So outside the world of rock or not, this is really what impressed me the most.
Hyde: It was a Japanese hard rock band called « GASTUNK ». When I saw them live I thought « but they can’t be human … they must be vampires! » . Seeing them is what inspired me to start singing, and I think it connects me with what I’m doing today.

From when are these memories?

Hyde, more serious than ever: Hmmm … it was around 2000 years ago I think, we are vampires! (laughs)
K.A.Z: Between elementary school and secondary school, I’m not quite sure!
If 20 years ago, somebody had told you that you would become an international star, what would have you thought about it?
K.A.Z: I think it would have delighted me! (Laughs)
Hyde, phlegmatic : I think I would have said « hmm, yeah, certainly! »

vamps - Photo Lōlu

More seriously, what have you learned during all these years, whether in VAMPS, L’Arc~en~Ciel or Oblivion Dust? Whether professionally or spiritually?

Hyde: Throughout our long careers, we’ve been through a lot. And through various problems we’ve learnt how hard it is to keep a band going. We’ve had dreams that we were too young to make possible, and goals that we couldn’t achieve because our band wasn’t big enough at the time. What we’re doing with VAMPS now is going back to our origin and realizing those dreams we once had. First albums tend to be premature, but because of our experience we’ve managed to make an album which is carefully thought out and planned. We’re doing what we couldn’t do as young musicians.

With all this experience, if you had the opportunity to travel back in time to find your 20-years-old self, what would you say?

K.A.Z: I think I would take all the CDs that I’ve made until today and let myself hear them, saying « sooo this is all you’ve done so far, so enjoy yourself, it will be helpful for you future compositions! » (laughs)
Hyde: 20 years ago was the very beginning of my career, and I didn’t know much, I didn’t know myself very well and in the end, I didn’t really understand what I really liked. Now I understand those things… and I can do what I like. This isn’t really the answer to your question, but it is now that I’m aware of all of that, that I know what I like and what I can do. Besides, I still remember the very first artwork that L’Arc~en~Ciel’s designer brought to us …
Hyde pouts before adding: at the time I didn’t understand! (laughs) And, besides, I still don’t! (General laughter)
We neither! (laughs)


Time goes by

 Can you tell us what you appreciate the most in each other?

Hyde: hum, what I like about him … the greatest quality is his ability as a composer. He is able to compose things which are very different from what is done in Japan, and for me it’s a real talent.
K.A.Z thinks about his answer … and seeing his wavering partner, Hyde adds: it’s true that it’s difficult to choose mine, there are so many! (laughs)

vamps - Photo Lōlu

 K.A.Z: About him, it’s rather his imagination and his creativity for staging. It’s him who decides the most in this area because he happens to see things which we can’t see. But when we watch a DVD of one of our lives, I understand why he wanted to do this or that; he is able to have an overview of these things. He has great skills as director, down to the smallest details, he always knows what to do, and it’s really impressive.

About the way you dress … Hyde, you have the complete outfit of Jack Sparrow in the Angel Trip music video, you find yourself on a boat, which leads me to that question: if you weren’t vampires, could you be pirates? (laughs)

Hyde, after a daydreaming sigh: Actually what I like are ghost ships, I love this idea! But in reality I’ve only discovered the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy fairly recently … and to be honest, I think it’s my stylist who is a big fan of Jack Sparrow! (laughs)

Finally, let’s talk about your fans … what do you think of the activities of your foreign fans through fan-club, street teams, websites, to highlight you and spread your music around the world?

Hyde: It’s thanks to them that we exist. They encourage us, understand us and give us confidence, because going abroad is frightening … but the fact that they believe in us reassures us, it makes us want to come to see them face to face and touch their hearts!
Thank you Hyde and K.A.Z!
Thank you !
You can find all the latest news from VAMPS on their « website »:http://www.vampsxxx.com/main.html, their « Facebook page »:https://www.facebook.com/VAMPS.UniversalInternational.DeliciousDeliRecords?fref=ts , but also by following the « Official French Street Team »:https://www.facebook.com/VAMPSOfficialFR or the « UK Street Team »:https://www.facebook.com/VampsUkStreetTeam?ref=ts&fref=ts .

« Take a look at our live reports from Barcelona and Paris shows, but also our pictures from the parisian show (all in French) »:http://www.journaldujapon.com/2013/10/live-report-vamps-chroniques-vampiriques.html

Thanks to Olivier Garnier from Replica Promotion, and Risa Seymour Mori.

Risa Seymour Mori for the English and Japanese corrections

Propos recueillis par Paul Ozouf and Laure Ghilarducci et photo Laure Ghilarducci & Lōlu ©journaldujapon.com – Tous droits réservés

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