Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… JPU Records

When you’re a fan of Japanese music and you don’t live in Japan, you’re always faced with the same problem: imports. Some Japanese artists make their music available through iTunes, while others can’t for legal reasons due to their record contract. If you do manage to track down the CD you want, you’ll be faced with ludicrous shipping costs, often costing more than the CD itself.

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This is where UK based company “JPU Records” can help. They’re relatively new being established in 2012, and going from strength to strength ever since by helping huge Japanese artists gain popularity in the UK such as SCANDAL and Spyair.

My favourite band SCANDAL, give a message to their UK fans via JPU Records

But that’s not all JPU Records provide fans of Japanese music with. They’re a growing network operating out of London, and touching base with the artists. Their website contains extra content such as reviews, interviews, and dates of underground performances. Their news section is updated regularly by Tom Smith who publishes awesome articles on the latest ins and outs of Japanese pop and rock music. This helps to further raise the profile of bands already gaining more popularity in the UK such as BabyMetal and ONE OK ROCK, who recently sold out London shows.

With conventions like Hyper Japan gaining more popularity each year, this provides an amazing platform for JPU Records to introduce more exciting music to their target audience. Hyper Japan continue to hire exciting new acts every year, and recently hinted at the possibility of having Dempagumi Inc. perform at their next event, so here’s hoping!

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It’s good for the music industry to have a company like JPU based in the UK as they’re not a specific genre label. If it impresses them, it gets their attention, which in turn will grab your attention. This allows the best Japanese music to reach the UK and even parts of Europe, as their distribution network continues to grow.

Taken from the JPU Records website, here’s what they’ve accomplished over the past few years:

Our journey so far has led to our first release, DIVISION by the GazettE, being featured as a Q4 hot release in British industry mag Music Week (found here on page 35), as well as the band being voted Music Act of 2012 by the readers of NEO Magazine. We followed that up in 2013 by getting their next album BEAUTIFUL DEFORMITY into charts across Europe, including #3 in the iTunes UK Metal Chart and #2 and #5 Finland and France’s respective iTunes Rock Charts, as well as in the top ten of Amazon UK’s rock chart.

With exclusive versions of artists albums being offered to JPU Records, I know where I’ll be getting my releases from in future (Sorry PlayAsia). I was too hasty with the latest SCANDAL release and preordered it when it was announced in Japan. Little did I know, that a few weeks later that JPU Records would bag an exclusive edition with two bonus tracks, a signed poster card, an A4 folder, and all the lyrics in the cover booklet would be in Romaji and English. There’s still time for you to grab yours here though!

You can check out JPU Records (and Japan Underground) and their connected networks (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) right here.

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Bradcat’s Personal Focus… Kyoto and Osaka Video

Music: BARBARS – おやすみなさいおつきさま

Following on from my previous video…

Between April 2nd – April 12th I was lucky enough to visit Kyoto and Osaka during the peak of Sakura. With Bob “Colddrago” Jones at my side, we had some great times in just some of the following places:

Gion
Kinkaku-ji
Ginkaku-ji
Arishiyama
Kamogawa River
Kyoto City
Osaka City
Kyobashi
Namba
Tennoji
Umeda
Yao

Artists / Musicians featured in the video:
Osaka Shunkashuto
Milkyhat
Halmi
BARBARS

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus…BABYMETAL

I first heard of BABYMETAL around this time last year when stumbling across their music video for メギツネ (MEGITSUNE) on YouTube. At this point it already had over 2 million views (It’s currently on over 5 Million) and BABYMETAL were already establishing a fan base across the globe virally via the internet.

So who are these three super kawaii maidens with a killer backing band throwing down catchy guitar riffs and thunderous drum beats?

Babymetal

BABYMETAL

In Japan, idol groups are huge. Imagine how most people are in the UK when it comes to football, well idol culture is equally as huge in Japan. So many kinds of people go to idol converts for different reasons; to join in with the dance moves, to sing along, to blow off steam after a long day at the office, to enjoy music with friends, to support their favourite idol, the list is endless. But trust me on this one, I’ve witnessed it first hand in Akihabara, it’s huge.

BABYMETAL – ド・キ・ド・キ☆モーニング (Doki Doki Morning)

With such a huge culture of idol groups forming on a daily basis, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. The general formula of an idol group consists of a small group of girls, dancing and singing, it’s that simple. We see it all the time in the West with huge shows like “America/Britain’s got talent” and “X-Factor” churning out pop groups year in, year out. But in Japan it’s a little different, there’s an independent scene of thousands of these groups trying to break it into the big time to join the ranks of groups such as Purfume or AKB48.

Sakura Gakuin さくら学院 – Song for Smiling

This is where the origins of BABYMETAL start. Sakura Gakuin (さくら学院) (Cherry Blossom Academy) is a Japanese idol girl group formed in 2010 by the Amuse talent agency. It is essentially a fake high school which runs along side the girl’s real studies. When a girl graduates from high school, they also graduate from Sakura Gakujin, and new members are inducted. It’s a great formula to keep the group fresh, and able to continually generate money. While at the school, all of the girls belong to “sub-groups” or “clubs” and these are as follows; Baton Club, Heavy Music Club, Cooking Club. Go Home Club, Newspaper Club, Tennis Club, Science Club. All of which have their sub groups, to which BABYMETAL belong to the Heavy Music Club.

BABYMETAL are; SU-METAL (16) (Suzuka Nakamoto), YUIMETAL (14) (Yui Mizuno), MOAMETAL (14) (Moa Kikuchi) with support from their “Kami Band” who are Takayoshi Ohmura (guitar), Leda (guitar), BOH (bass) and Aoyama Hideki (drums). If you’re under any doubt about their musicianship, please search YouTube for their names, watching BOH play the 6-string bass is a sight to behold.

BohBass player – BOH

So why have BABYMETAL become such a huge hit in such a short space of time since their formation, while other more established bands remain unknown outside of Japan? It’s basically because someone decided to fuse the huge idol culture with heavy metal. It’s that simple. It hadn’t been thought of, and someone put it together.

From there, two huge crowds of people are instantly merged into one, coming together for the appreciation for a J-Idol group, a heavy metal band, and of course the “quirky” Japanese novelty. You hear it all the time attached to sensationalist articles on the latest craze in Japan; “Oh Japan!” or “Only in Japan!” but not this time, as BABYMETAL are breaking out and have already announced a world tour…

When I saw that BABYMETAL were playing UK rock festival Sonisphere, I was a little concerned, as every year at UK festivals, there’s one “stand-out” artist which people love to berate and throw bottles at. We all remember Daphne and Celeste at Reading 2000 (Search YouTube if you don’t remember) and I was worried about any small minded idiots doing the same. So imagine my sheer amazement when I discovered BABYMETAL were actually playing Sonisphere by request, and then to top that, people weren’t happy with them being pushed onto the side-stage and campaigned to have them perform on the main stage!

I think it’s safe to say that there’s something in BABYMETAL for everyone. If you listen to their album you will find something from all genres. Besides the obvious J-Pop and Metal, there are lashings of Rap, Rap Metal, Hip-Hop, Dubstep, Trance, Dance and Reggae (Yes, you read the last one correctly)

You’ll often see the girls putting up an unusual hand sign, very similar to the “metal horns” you see at most rock concerts. But don’t be quick to mock the girls for not doing the sign correctly, this is their own sign. The sign of the fox god whom prophesied the birth of BABYMETAL… Yeah.

Their lyrical content ranges from serious to comical, with such tracks as ギミチョコ!! “Gimmi Choco!!” in which the girls have a desire to eat chocolate and worry about becoming fat (I’ve seen equally bizarre lyrics in System of a Down tracks) however there are tracks such as イジメ、ダメ、ゼッタイ ” IJIME, DAME, ZETTAI” which tell people to stop bullying.

How long this will last is really up in the air. People have a habit of latching on to the latest craze and then dropping it a few months later after becoming tired of the same material. You only have to look at Korean pop star PSY who had already established a fan base in Korea, and went on to worldwide success for a short while. However people soon grew tired of hearing the same track, and even the follow up track “Gentleman”. So will BABYMETAL suffer the same fate? It’s hard to say, but I think with them being such a young age and the group being new and exciting, they will only grow even more (Literally)… BABYMETAL! がんばって!

BABYMETAL Official Website

BABYMETAL on iTunes