Friday, 1 May 2015

INTERVIEW: VAMPS Live at Welcome to Rockville

Right smack in the middle of their run with Nikki Sixx on SIXX:AM's Modern Vintage tour, VAMPS made a quick stop in Florida to perform in Monster Energy's Loudest Month series, rocking the stage during Ft. Rock in Ft. Meyers and Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville.  I caught up with Hyde and KAZ after their smoking set in Jacksonville on April 24 and, with the help of translator, Hiroki, chatted about touring with an American legend, performing in a foreign country and vampire evolution.

You guys have been playing a LOT lately. You’ve been very very busy. Do you do anything special to stay in shape, maintain your voice, anything like that?

H: We have kind of a hard time, of course. With the one man tour we get kind of tired, but everyday something new happens and it’s kind of refreshing.

Speaking of new things, Nikki Sixx recently played VAMPARK in Japan with you guys and now you are opening for him on his SIXX:AM Modern Vintage Tour. How did that come about?

H: Nikki knows that I’m a big fan of Motley Crue and Nikki Sixx. We recently had a big gig in Japan called VAMPARK Festival and we supported SIXX:AM and helped them get into the Japanese market. Now, we are with SIXX:AM because they are trying to give back for what we did for them.

Can we expect any kind of collaboration between you two in the future?

H: Well, KAZ might be doing something.

K: I can’t tell.

Me: Ohhhh. Secret?

K: Secret.

Festivals like this are always a very unique experience due to the wide range of fans in the audience. As a musician, how do you approach such a unique situation with so many different types of music fans in one place?

H: Well, in Japan, we are really big. Everyone knows about us and we’re treated really well. Like rockstar life. When we go outside of Japan, we are a totally new band. It feels like starting things from the beginning. This kind of situation reminds us of the beginning of things.

When you first started, did you ever think you would be playing in a place like this with 50,000 people?

H: Noooo.

K: When I started my music back in the day, everything I saw was on DVD on the screen. I thought, I wonder how it feels to be there. So, I imagined what it was like.

On this trip alone, if I’m not mistaken, you will be playing in every type of venue, from clubs to arenas, to festivals like this one. What’s your favorite type of venue to play in?

H: I like bigger places. Bigger the better.

Hiroki: Like Americans, eh? *laugh*

K: I like to play outside, but I don’t like it too hot.

Me: Florida is very hot.

K: Yes, very hot.

I know from experience how, when traveling or working in another country, you can sometimes feel like you’re on another planet. I know you guys have been here before, but is there anything that still confuses you or surprises you when you come here?

H: I’m surprised that there is a skiing place only two hours away from LA.

K: In the US, there are a lot of rock musicians. That surprises me because, in Japan, there aren’t a lot of rock musicians. It’s only pop. Not a lot of rock. When we come to places like this, it’s all rock.

Your latest album BLOODSUCKERS, has just been released internationally with lyrics recorded in English. You did the same thing with SEX BLOOD ROCK AND ROLL. Do you believe it will help your music reach a broader audience?

H: Singing in English is a better way to tap into the US market. When I sing in English in Japan, most of the fans can’t sing along. But here, I see the audience sing our songs in English. I like that. It feels like we are getting closer to the US audience.

You guys use a lot of vampire imagery in your look and music. What is it that draws you to this imagery?

H: I’ve always liked the whole concept of vampires. One day, I thought if vampires are performing on the stage, that would be great. That’s why we started.

The BLOODSUCKERS album combines this vampire imagery with another of my favorite thematic elements, pirates. These are two things that seem, at least to me, almost contradictory; the vampire representing something damned and the pirate representing freedom. What inspired you to bring the two together?

H: Because we would die! *laugh* We are vampires, obviously. But, we do evolve. We are standing here outside under the sun and we are still alive!

Several of your songs give a sort of vampire’s-eye view of humanity. Vampire Depression from your self-titled album, is a vampire’s frustration over the human condition while Vampire’s Love from BLOODSUCKERS is a vampire looking more longingly into the human world. Does this reflect a progression in your vampire’s world view?

H: From the point of view of a vampire, human beings are so complex. Sometimes there are a lot of paradoxes going on. Sometimes you are killing each other. So, it’s interesting seeing humans from a vampire’s point of view. That’s what the image is about.

Well, now that we've got the important ones out of the way, how about a few silly ones? If you weren't a musician, what would you do?

K: Professional snowboarder.

Me: You skateboard, right?

K: Yes.

Hiroki: He’s really good at it!

H: I would work in a host club.

Hiroki: He would make a lot of money, right?

Me: Musician, host, same thing, right? *laugh*

Name three things you can’t survive without.

H: Sex, blood, rock and roll.  *laugh*

If you could make music with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?

H: Jesus Christ.

Everyone: Ohhhhhhh!

K: Jimmie Hendrix.

Special thanks to Elias Chios of International Solutions, Amy Sciarretto of Atom Splitter, translator Hiroki and, of course, Hyde and KAZ of VAMPS.