Author: James Swanson

I'm a 19 year old drummer/percussionist from the Sutherland Shire, studying a Bachelor of Communications and Media and International Studies and Wollongong University.

James Swanson’s Digital Artefact on Prezi

Hey all,

Here’s the link to my Prezi presentation on the rise and exploration of Japanese metal music.

Thanks Chris!

http://prezi.com/uzuewcqwjsyu/heavy-music-in-asian-culture/

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So Far, So Good

This week I decided to begin working on a short video that I would upload to YouTube and then link to my Prezi presentation. With this video, I really wanted to showcase what I believe to be some of the more interesting and exciting parts of the whole J-metal genre, and present to you why they have captured the attention of millions of metal and music enthusiasts across the world.

For my video, I wanted to take some of the elements of my favourite J-Metal songs and present them in a mashup YouTube clip, and so I decided to take sections from the songs – ‘Gimme Chocolate’ by Babymetal, ‘予襲復讐‘ by Maximum the Hormone (which, when put into Google Translate, becomes ‘I Hit Revenge’ in English), ‘え・い・り・あ・ん‘, another track by Maximum the Hormone, and ‘Monolith’ by Crossfaith.

You can view the video here:

So far I’m happy with the research that I’m uncovering and I feel that I’m successfully learning more about metal culture, Japanese culture, and of course, the two combined. As a metal music fan familiar with all the different (and widely argued) styles of metal, I found it really interesting to see how these groups were challenging the conventional metal ideas to create their own blends of metal, or as is in the case of Babymetal, ‘kawaii’ metal.

Conducting this research has also led me outside the genres of heavy music and I’ve been able to discover other bands such as Man With a Mission, mentioned in the post above. This has really helped to expand my own musical knowledge and perspectives, as the the experimental ideas these bands are producing is limitless. I look forward to exploring more of these genres on my own time, and perhaps even finding a new favourite band or two. I can’t deny that Babymetal’s songs will probably be on repeat in my head for a while…

Man With a Mission – The Wolves Taking Over the Rock World

This week I set out to further research the global reactions to bands like Babymetal and Maximum the Hormone, and interestingly enough, I stumbled upon a band called Man With a Mission, aptly named ‘Japan’s Biggest Werewolf Nu-metal Band’ by Buzzfeed.com.

From an autoethnographic point of view, this peaked my attention quite a bit, and it seems that Man With a Mission have gone above and beyond to capitalise on the attention J-Metal has been receiving, with the members of the band all wearing furry wolf-heads on stage, in public and in interviews, claiming that they are wolf-headed humans bioengineered by Jimi Hendrix.

Man With a Mission represents a new age in band performance. With so much emphasis on creating the best live show possible these days, Man With a Mission are making sure the world takes notice of them and their message, which just so happens to be about partying.

While they might not exactly be following the metal trend, they do represent the new wave through their electronic rock and grunge, creating their own style from a combination of others. In their video for ‘Fly Again’ you can see the guys donning their famous wolf-heads as they perform the song.

What I learnt this week from Man With a Mission is that when it comes to the Asian musical culture, no idea is too whacky or too out there not to try out, and with the band receiving world wide attention for their music and performance, it’s clearly a style that is working positively for them. Maybe I’ll try and create my own costume for the next time I’m on stage…

A Research Week – Babymetal

I wanted to incorporate into my Prezi presentation some background research about each of the groups I am focussing on, with a particular focus on Babymetal, as I wanted to really try and understand how a group of three young Japanese girls could come together to build a career around performing full on metal music across the world, and why I, along with the rest of the world, found their style and music to be so interesting and attention capturing.

I am going to be incorporating a lot of my research into my Prezi presentation but I wanted to note down a few of the things I have learned about Babymetal so far;

Babymetal formed in 2010 as a subunit of the Japanese idol craze with the aim that it would try and channel fusion metal and idol-styled music in what would become a “newborn” genre of metal. It features three girls – Su-Metal (16) as the lead vocalist, and Yuimetal (15) and Moametal (15) as the two back up dancers and singers. In their short career, Babymetal have already played a number of huge metal festival, including being the youngest act ever to play at the metal festival Loud Park in Japan alongside Bring Me the Horizon and Trivium among others.

Metal has always been a genre renowned for being hard-hitting, fast, heavy and confronting, and a typically male dominated genre. So what does this say about the future of metal if three young Japanese girls have captured the attention of metal fans across the globe? Is the idea of metal changing and being moulded differently? Are Babymetal challenging the genre or encouraging a greater audience of people who typically would avoid metal? Do we find ‘electro-metal’ to be more exciting or modern in today’s musical society? These are the questions I hope to be able to explore within my Prezi presentation, and present why I have personally been drawn to Babymetal, as well as other Japanese metal groups.

I spoke about transitioning through genres in Japanese metal in my last post, and I wanted to leave you with this Babymetal music video that perfectly encapsulates trying to fit as many styles into a song as you possibly can.

A Track by Track Analysis of J-Metal

This week, for my digital artefact, I began to set out my ideas for my Prezi presentation and how I could generate my best artefact through this. I began to breakdown the best ways that I could lay out my presentation and what I wanted to convey through this and I decided that the best way to examine ‘J-metal’ and ‘J-pop’ and how the genre is unique and recognised within the metal genre was to take three of the most prominent Japanese bands and examine their successes and what they are individually doing to push the boundaries.

I decided to take three of my favourite Japanese metal tracks – ‘Megitsune’ by Babymetal, ‘え・い・り・あ・ん‘ by Maximum the Hormone, and ‘Monolith’ by Crossfaith – and decided to start by breaking them down and autoethnographically examining them to see what they were doing that was causing worldwide attention.

What I have found with these particular bands and their music, and what caught my attention in the first place, was how they weren’t targeting a particular audience or demographic with their music. Sure, it’s predominantly heavy metal based music, but it features pop choruses, sing alongs, crazy groove transitions and big synth melodies.

Upon researching further into Babymetal, I found that their radical sound changes and transitions within their songs have become the topic of much interest and discussion, as seen in the YouTube clip ‘YouTubers React to Babymetal.’ It seems that Babymetal is generating a lot of hype in the Western world for their music, style and performance, as most of the comments are along the lines of, “I want to go to this concert! Do they tour here?” It was ideas like these that first peaked my interest in groups like Babymetal, and the stir they are causing all the way across the world.

Check out the video here:

Maximum the Hormone… And metal singalongs?

For my digital artefact I really wanted to explore the world of Japanese metal, focusing on bands like Crossfaith, Maximum the Hormone and Babymetal and how these bands have helped shape and expand a market flooded with J-Pop. I am very interested in the ways bands like these have blended Eastern cultural aspects with more Westernised metal elements to really push their music and the boundaries of where it can be taken.

I am going to put my artefact together in the form of a Prezi slideshow because I feel that this can effectively show the transitions of Japanese metal, and can help me to successfully compare Japanese and Eastern metal with the growing Westernised metal trends, where Japanese metal fits into all of this and how Japanese metal bands like the aforementioned have managed to develop their own style and hold their own amongst the biggest metal bands of today.

I wanted to start by exploring this video by Japanese band Maximum the Hormone:

From an autoethnographic point of view, this music video both intrigued me and made me question what it was I really knew about Japanese popular music, and Japanese metal. It starts off as a very extreme and hard-hitting performance and gradually transitions into a very poppy, sing-along and culturally influenced song which is where I began to question what I knew about this genre.

The ending of this song really made me rethink the ways in which I perceived Japanese and Asian heavy music, and what I thought I knew about popular Asian music. It seems that even the fans of hard-hitting metal are bopping along to Maximum the Hormone’s outro-styled chorus sing-alongs, and are obviously much more open to the possibility of strange and exciting twists in the music they’re listening to.

It’s More Like J-Metal…

For this week’s blogging task, I chose to focus on the Japanese electronic-infused metal band Crossfaith, a band on the peripheral of the vast Japanese music world. Crossfaith have taken the metal music world by storm, and for good reason. They’ve jumped out of Japan to take on the world, and have been able to do so through taking advantage of digital media giants like YouTube to release music video after music video which has helped them gain attention worldwide.

They have continued to appeal to fans and viewers because of their high-energy live performances, and their fast-tempo, electronically influenced brand of metal, which they’ve particularly showcased in music videos like ‘We Are the Future’ (2013), in which they appear to be playing on a deserted planet in a futuristic time.

Their highest viewed videos like ‘Omen’ and ‘Monolith’ both have over 1.5 million views respectively, so they’ve been successful in capturing a particular part of the market of the heavy world. Coming from a place like Japan, where the J-pop scene is much more prominent than the heavy scene, Crossfaith have had to work hard on social media like Facebook and Twitter to really push their name and music to the forefront, but they haven’t lost sight of their cultural heritage either. They blend the traditionally heard Western metalcore sound with synthesised and electronic Asian style melodies creating a mixture of cultures that works to set them apart from other big metalcore names.

Coming from a heavy music background myself, I took a quick liking to Crossfaith and the way they showcase themselves through YouTube, both in live performance videos and music videos. It’s easy to see why they’ve managed to capture the attention of a new generation of metal enthusiasts with their blend of Eastern and Western styles. Listening to the songs, the lyrics are a little harder for me to relate to, but I very much enjoyed the instrumental aspects to their tracks.

References:

1. Crossfaith Official Website. 2014. Crossfaith Official Website. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.crossfaith.jp/en/. [Accessed 26 August 2014].

2. Crossfaith (JAP) – discography, line-up, biography, interviews, photos. 2014. Crossfaith (JAP) – discography, line-up, biography, interviews, photos. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.spirit-of-metal.com/groupe-groupe-Crossfaith_%28JAP%29-l-en.html. [Accessed 26 August 2014].

3. CrossfaithOfficial – YouTube. 2014. CrossfaithOfficial – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/CrossfaithOfficial/videos. [Accessed 26 August 2014].

Superheroes of the K-Pop World

As part of my group project for this subject, we chose to explore the impact that Eastern boy-bands have on their culture and how they generate fandom. I wanted to delve into this for this week’s blog post, hoping to uncover how they use social media to build hype and generate excitement, whilst creating a whole culture and atmosphere surrounding their bands.

What is it about these K and J-pop sensations that causes such a frenzy among fans all across social media? Upon searching ‘Super Junior’ social media on Google, the first link that popped up was an article about the fact that inactive member of the band ‘Super Junior’ Kim Ki Bum has just turned 27 and Twitter was set ablaze with fans of the group tweeting #happykibumday so much that it began trending worldwide.

What is it that causes so much celebration for these celebrities?

Is it the way that they’ve shaped a generation and culture, purely around their performances? The production aspect to bands like ‘Super Junior’ and ‘Big Bang’ (who we’ll also be exploring), is one of the central aspects that holds them in such high regard by their fans. I find it fascinating the amount of work these bands go to for their live performances, spending hours upon hours creating the perfect dance routines for each song, and making sure they have the most eccentric outfits and hair planned.

I found myself quite excited to explore the world of K-pop after I learnt how dedicated these artists are to their craft. Maybe that’s why they’re so celebrated by their fans? It’s completely understandable when you’ve spent such an immense amount of time crafting an image of yourself that could almost be labeled as a superhero of the K-pop, music world.

Super Junior

Super Junior

Big Bang

Big Bang

References:

1. Big Bang – boyband – kpop. 2014. Big Bang – boyband – kpop. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.jpopasia.com/group/bigbang/. [Accessed 18 August 2014].

2. 5 Ways That ‘Mamacita’ Teasers Highlight Super Junior’s Style : News : KpopStarz. 2014. 5 Ways That ‘Mamacita’ Teasers Highlight Super Junior’s Style : News : KpopStarz. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/106619/20140828/5-ways-that-mamacita-teasers-highlight-super-junior-s-style.htm. [Accessed 18 August 2014].

Bringing the heavy to a slightly different audience

I am a big metal music fan and as a result, the concept of a Japanese band known as ‘Babymetal’, fronted by three teenage Japanese girls from a pop/”idol” background performing heavy metal and metalcore type music really intrigued me. I decided to explore their music through their music videos they have released on YouTube.

My first experiences with the band were quite mixed. Their songs are predominantly sung in Japanese, with a very small amount of English being used. While I don’t understand the Japanese language, and I was drawn in by the high-energy of the girls and how well they have adjusted to performing music with heavy guitars, drums and big synth sounds. I found that the music also blends tradition Asian instruments well with Western styles of guitar playing and drumming which appealed to me from a cultural position as I feel it’s something that isn’t really done in today’s heavy music.

The Babymetal video clips really encouraged me to think about issues of gender within both Japanese and metal culture. These three girls manage to retain the intensity of the heavy music genre, while opening it up to broader audiences with their J-pop influences, completely disregarding the typically male metal presence, which has even led to them being dubbed as “kawaii metal.”

It was easy for me to find information about Babymetal because of how popular they’ve grown over the last year, with their Youtube videos gaining millions of views worldwide. They have an official website, YouTube channel with over 230,000 subscribers, and a Facebook page with nearly half a million likes which all pop up on the first page of my search on Google.

Overall, their music really intrigued me to continue exploring heavy music in an Asian (particularly Japanese) cultural setting. I thought the choruses were big, catchy and exciting, and the blend of traditional Asian instruments and big guitars and drums only served to peak my curiosity. I will continue to delve deeper into this cultural phenomenon.

References:

1. BABYMETAL OFFICIAL WEB SITE. 2014. BABYMETAL OFFICIAL WEB SITE. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.babymetal.jp/home/. [Accessed 12 August 2014].

2. Japanese teen pop meets death metal in an explosion of awesome. 2014. Japanese teen pop meets death metal in an explosion of awesome. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dailydot.com/lol/babymetal-metal-japanese-pop/. [Accessed 12 August 2014].

3. BABYMETALofficial – YouTube. 2014. BABYMETALofficial – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/BABYMETALofficial/videos. [Accessed 12 August 2014].

Hey there

I’m James and I’m working through a degree in Communications and Media, which is the reason I initially chose this subject. It’s was a core subject of mine and therefore I didn’t think too much of it when enrolling, but the more I delve into the world of Asian media and cultures and ethnography, the more I’m becoming genuinely interested in what it has to offer for me.

I am a huge music lover and musician, so I’m really looking forward to applying this toward Asian media cultures, potentially even breaking into the heavy music scene that is prominently growing in places like Japan with bands like Babymetal, Crossfaith and Maximum the Hormone. While I have limited knowledge of things like Asian cinema and Anime, I’m excited to broaden my understanding and maybe even develop a new interest in it. I guess only time will tell.

Here’s to a new subject, and whatever it may bring!