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Tom Heckbert

Interview with Venus Lim


This is Venus Lim signing in. I was born and raised in one of the tropical countries, Malaysia. Currently reside in Singapore as a healthcare provider. A lover of felines, my mother and I keep 15 cats mainly rescued from car accidents, drowning and abuse. Despite popping up regularly at events, I am actually a rather introverted person and a bit shy when it comes to crowds. Being a believer of ‘Knowledge is Power’ and ‘Education Changes Life’, I spent most of my teenage years eating books. I had little social life back then hence the dull personality at times >I’ve been a fan of cosplay since I was in high school. However, I only started cosplaying back in 2009, motivated by a kick in the back from a fellow cosplayer. It started off as a hobby and now, it has became a passion. I hand sewn my first costume and I intend to keep it that way ;) In 3 years time, I’ve done 27 projects excluding five original characters (Lynas, Vengeance Doll, Assassin, Dutchess and Red Lady) and a not-so-successful crossplay (Grell Sutcliff).

I am currently running a book club online: and organizing a year end cosplay event for the third time: Other than that, I am pretty much preoccupied with my work and costume making.

Cosplay aside, I enjoy singing and ballet which I must admit I couldn’t do either. Hence, I spend most of my free time doodling and making handcraft stuff (bookmarks, keychain, tiny pouch, greeting cards, accessories et cetera…) I play the guitar a tad bit but after all these years of leaving my guitar in the store room to be manifested by dust, I wondered how well I will do now.

Some of my cosplay achievement in chronology, given my memory doesn’t fail me:


Enma Ai (Jigoku Shoujo) featured in MyTeruTeruBozu magazine (cover girl). Yuko Ichihara (XXXHolic) champion in Nips Crazy Challenge. Sumire Kanzaki (Sakura Wars) runner up in Anicom. Organized Christmas Cosplay Ball 2010.


Ashura (RG Veda) featured in Faces magazine. Ashura (RG Veda) champion in Hari Belia Cosplay Event. Cosplay judge for GAMP 2011. Milia Rage (Guilty Gear X) runner up in HELP Games. Quistis Trepe (FF8) Champion for Anicom. Isis (Ouke no Monshou) Malaysia rep for AFA. Delphine (DOD) champion for Comic Fiesta 2011. Featured cosplayer in MAGSEVEN media interview. Organized Christmas Cosplay Ball 2011: Four Season.


Princess Kakyuu featured as daily deviation in Cosplay Judge for Perak Youth Jam.

Venus, it is a pleasure to meet you. You call yourself Venus Lim. Are you named after Sailor Venus by any chance? Were you a big fan of anime when you were young?

You being the first few to have inferred it correctly. Sailormoon was my first anime (Doraemon and Shin Chan aside) back in 1998. I was very much absorbed with Minako Aino (Sailor Venus) and later part, adopted the name Venus. I was a fervent follower and adorer of Sailor Venus back then. She inspired me to start drawing manga.

Why were you hesitant to start cosplaying and what did your friend say to you to convince you to try?

I wasn’t hesitant but rather, unsure of how to go about it. I didn’t know where to get the costumes and wigs. Sewing never crossed my mind till later in 2009 when I realize the costumes being sold online are too expensive. Besides, I didn’t have anyone who shared the same interest back then. I wasn’t motivated to do it alone. In 2009, met a few friends in varsity who speak of cosplay. I was then introduced to Comic Fiesta Forum where meet cosplayers and get more info/resources. I will always regard the forum as my…Genesis :)

What is cosplaying like in Malaysia?

Cosplay has been growing fast for the past two to three years. The amount of new cosplayers bloomed is amazing. The number of events involving cosplay has increased vastly as well. Nevertheless, there are individuals or non-cosplay organizers who attempt to exploit this ‘current interest’. The public generally accepts the culture well although there are some extremists who still regard this hobby negatively. The current trend is Vocaloids. Though few, but the prop-makers here are admirable :) generally, we have cosplayers from every states but the central of the activity is mainly distributed to Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.

One of your more impressive cosplays is your Yuuko Ichihara which I understand won you a trip. Can you tell us a little about making the costume and the competition?

The costume I used for preliminary round is the Witch Dimension version. That is my very first costume, completely hand sewn. It was one of my first few competition which I didn’t know what to expect. I composed a simple BGM, sound effect, voice over and went in the assistant of Mokona, a soft toy >

One of your more recent cosplays is Umi Ryuuzaki from Magic Knight Rayearth. What were some of the difficulties in making this costume?

Umi Ryuuzaki’s Celestial Version is a semi armor sort of costume. It was my first attempt on such project as my previous costumes are mainly cloth based. It was difficult for me to draft out the entire costume as that version has little reference pictures. I was in dilemma choosing the materials too since I have no experience in this. Nevertheless, I managed it after several trials and errors. I would say the most tricky part is making the gems from resin. It was painfully tedious and messy for me!

What are some of your favorite cosplays you have done?

Hmm…favourite cosplay has to be Li Mei Ling from Card Captor Sakura and Noelle Borr from Trinity Blood. It was really fun to play those characters :) but my favourite costume has to be Siela’s (Chaos Legion) and Delphine (Dream of Dolls). I love the sets of Isis and Carol from Ouke no Monshou too. I love every piece of the accessories I made although few notice or appreciate small props as such.

You hand make your own costumes. How did you learn your sewing skills?

I would say trial and errors. I had my basic sewing lesson back in high school (making mittens/pillow case). Recalling those teachings and supplemented with sewing books, I managed some. It was only after several lessons with my cousin sister Sera (make-up artist, designer and tailor), I began to pick up the essential parts of patterning, sewing and usage of materials.

Who are some of the cosplayers you admire most?

I generally admire cosplayers who make their own costumes and props :) and those who managed to bring out the character they cosplay so well.

What would you say to people who are just starting out cosplaying?


Can you tell us about some of your future projects?

Currently I’m working on Blue Rose from Tiger and Bunny. I planned to attempt Edea from Final Fantasy VIII and Freya from Chobits. Then again, it is quite impossible judging from my hectic working schedule >

I understand you have done a lot of judging at events. What criteria do you use when rating cosplayers?

Costume (authenticity), props (durability), performance (creativity + entertainment value).

Tell us about the event you are organizing, the Cosplay Ball.

It started in 2010 as a small gathering among cosplay friends to celebrate Christmas. About 40 showed up and words spread the following year. More people asked about it and we decided to make it an open event. Marianne, Yukito and I organized another 2011. This year, we will be hosting one for 120 people in a hotel ballroom. It’s a buffet style dinner with door gifts, flea market, games and activities with prizes. It’s a non profit event without any form of sponsorship at the moment. You can follow us on our official blog: CosplayBall Blog or the Facebook page: CosplayBall 2012

Where can we find out more about you?

A special thanks to those whom I’ve worked with closely throughout my cosplay jouney – cosplayers and photographers alike. Hugs!

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Interview with Federico Chiesa

Federico Chiesa is an accomplished commercial photographer born in Cecina, a small town in Tuscany. After studying in Rome he began his work as a commercial photographer to critical acclaim. He is known for his “Horror Vacui” series which asks the question “What if the most scary horror film icons from the 80′s were alive today?”

Federico, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell us a little about yourself as a child and what it was like growing up in Cecina?

Hi, I’m glad to be featured in your website. I grew up in a small town called Cecina, in Tuscany, in a country house. It was a nice childhood and I feel lucky to have been born in Tuscany.

Of course I was attracted by what I saw in American movies and that’s why I’m relocating to NY.

When you were young did you have an interest in photography?

I can’t say that I did but I’ve always been attracted by images, I loved to draw but never had a chance to take photographs.  My father was an amateur scuba photographer and he was a fine painter but he is also a very serious man (he was an heart doctor) and would always push me to study something useful. He obviously failed!

I was in love with music so I studied as a sound engineer and as a guitar player ( I am actually touring with a band called Mr Bison). I became interested in photography after high school graduation. It was like a revelation: “I could be a photographer!!!” .

When did you first begin working as a commercial photographer? Do you remember some of your earliest jobs?

After graduating  from photography school I worked as a photo  assistant for a while. That is the best type of education that you can do. Then I started to do retouching and I learned how to make my photos suitable for commercial use. My first job was a campaign for McDonalds .

You are also an accomplished fashion photographer. Can you share with us any stories from your favorite shoots?

Actually I don’t see myself as a good fashion photographer. Once in a while I have chance to do some nice stuff. The latest project is called “Darker than black” and is a reinterpretation of black metal covers.

You can see here gallery/Darker-Than-Black- 2012-Calendar/3349949

How did you come up with the concept for your “Horror Vacui” series?

I was asked to produce a series of photos for an exhibition about crisis so I ended shooting the worst kind of crisis I could imagine: identity crisis. I’ve always wanted to do some shoots with movie villains so this was an opportunity to do it!

It was a very low budget project and when finished I only made about $1000 . I could do better now and I guess I will have another opportunity to do a  new villain shoot someday.

 Click on Image to See Full Size

Were you surprised at the popularity the series received?

Yes. everything started by a tweet from someone with a tons of followers and within a few days my photos were everywhere . I guess that working with well loved characters helps to spread your work.

You worked with Carolina Trotta who is a makeup artist and fx makeup artist in Italy. Do you collaborate with her often?

Actually Carolina is my girlfriend and we always work together.  For “horror vacui” she was very, very important. She did make up but also prepared costumes and props.

What inspires you when you work?

Movies, music, paintings. I try not to be inspired by others photographers because I hate to copy others but, you know, sometimes I need to give up and try to learn how other photographers do their stuff.

Are there any photographers work you admire?

Many. To name a few: Erwin Olaf, Gregory Crewdson, and Eugenio Recuenco

Many of your photos look “painterly”. Do you effect them in some way and do you do your own retouching?

I always do my own retouching.  I like to give that painterly look to my photos. I start with the right lightning during the shoot and then I refine everything in photoshop.

What plans do you have for the future?

Hard to know. Right now I want to relocate in NY.  

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

You can check my website

Or my Facebook page

you can also check Carolina’s work here

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The Pursuit of the Raven – An Interview by Rosey Scarlette

“Be inspired by others, choose your mentors. Your mind can give you anyone in the world. Read and breathe wisdom, take notes and apply something you’ve learned into your daily life.”

“Position yourself to where the business is”.

 “Allow everyone to dream abundantly, and to inspirea mental default of a King”.

After spending a whole day with Lucas Raven I finally understood the value of these words. In every sense, whatever you think, think big.

The pursuit of The Raven

Once upon a time I met boy, He was 15 years old and he had the brightest most contagious smile you can ever see. I asked that boy what he wanted to become in the near future and he said “ I wanna build dreams, fly up in the sky and be around amazing people.”

Fast forward 8 years later I bumped into Lucas Raven at the airport. There I was still looking for that little boy in him. I asked him if he remembers me and he said “How can I forget?” I asked him if I can shadow him for one day and perhaps I can have a glimpse of what his life is now in the business world. I asked him if he misses being on camera and he said “Sometimes I do but I just imagine that wherever I go people have cameras and I try my best to still find time for the scene.

We took AMAN’s private jet to 3 different cities that day for his goodwill ambassador work funded by AMAN AIR. We first visited this public hospital in Ozamiz City and handed out envelopes with cash in them and free medicine vouchers. Lucas went from ward to ward, patient to patient handing out a bit of help. Children to mothers, and fathers to grandparents. It was a wake up call he said, seeing people who didn’t have much and was in pain and to be able to ease a little bit of that makes you appreciate the world even more. We can’t live that large unless we know how to share what we have. It’s all about giving back, paying it forward and knowing that we are all connected in every way.

That night I saw him turn his back from a huge party, walked slowly into his hotel room to rest.

If you were to describe your life in one sentence what would it be?

“Oh wow, I would say – The fascinating transformation of ideas in the world of Lucas.”

 When are you settling down?

“That’s a rather sad question but I always believe that everyone has their time to be seen and noticed in this huge window of opportunity and fame, and whatever we do with it is entirely up to us. I’d like believe that my window just opened and so I want to maximize every second of it before I even think about “settling down.”

How do you do what you do?

We are all born with supreme imagination. I just choose to use it EVERYDAY. If I want to do something, I just do it.

Photo by Allyssa Heuze

In addition, Crimson, A brand of genuine clothing recently came up with a collection inspired by the Lifestyle of Aviators, and who else better is better to be the face of this brand but The Golden boy of Aviation – Lucas Raven himself.

“After proving my worth in the flying Industry, its time to show them some style.”

Photos: Savannah Russell unless otherwise noted.

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Interview with Alice Johnson

Alice Johnson is a russian artist living in the Ukraine. She speaks several languages including Russian, Ukranian, English, and Swedish. She is presently attending college and enrolled in Architecture classes.

She did attend art school but dropped out and is basically self taught.

With pink hair and a liking for heavy metal, she was once known on the web as mirukawa a name she invented herself. One time a total stranger walked up to her saying, “It’s you, mirukawa, I saw your art on the web!” which suprised her.

Although fans love her work she is very hard on herself and can very crtitical of her work. Her fans, however, are very supportive and have drawn fan art of her and used her drawings as the basis of tattoos.

Alice, it is a pleasure to meet you. I am a big fan of yours and of your art too! Can you tell us a little about your childhood and where you grew up?

Thank you very much, it’s an honor for me too ^ ^

I grew up in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and I still and living there, for now, with my mother. I had weak health and was in a hospitals a lot and that’s where my graphic style appeared. Almost all of my old works are black and white.

Were you interested in art as a child? Are there other artists in your family?

Yes, I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember myself :3

Mom told me that when I went to kindergarten, classmates would gather around me and I would tell them stories while I illustrated them like comics at the same time. I’m the only one who draws in my family.

Your contains elements of anime and movies. What kinds of things inspire your work?

I’m inspired by music, beautiful things, modern Japanese fashion, game graphics and art by my favorite artists and photographers. Anime and movies also have a great impact :3

Tell us about your interest in runes and seals that are incorporated in some of your works. For those who may not know what are the three Futharks?

I learned then because I was interested in Scandinavian mythology. Runes were the priestly language and alphabet of the ancient Scandinavians. Groups of runes united in the Futharks: the younger Futhark, senior Futhark and Slavic.

used for religious and commemorative records as well as avatars.

One of your most well known images is b&w of a girl with antlers on her head, on eye open, one eye shut. Can you tell us about this and the meaning behind it?

This drawing doesn’t make any sense, except for the runes on the bottom which mean achievement, the goal and ensuring the victory. I don’t know why I decided to write exactly this combination = =

I understand it was turned into a tattoo. How does it make you feel to see your artwork on someone’s body?

I’m just delighted, it’s a great honor for me! Generally I love tattoos, maybe I’ll be a tattooist when grow up.  Who knows :3

It is hard for me to choose one favorite in your portfolio, Your black and white work is superb. Exquisitely detailed. The cover you did for an album cover for brazilian rock band Adeus Lenin is exceptional. How did they get hold of you and what did they ask you for?

Thank you so much!! Derek, the guitarist of the group, just wrote me a letter on deviantart.

I didn’t ask for anything in return but he gave me a premium membership on deviantart. Thanks to him for it ^ ^

I love “Paranoia Mode On”, another of your black and white drawings. How did you come up with the concept behind it?

I just took all I had in my head at that moment and put it into one picture. Also I was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s ’Spirited Away’ anime, which I can advise you to see. I painted it for the October Fest contest and it won a first place prize! ^______^

Your painting, “Time Waits for no one” comes from a story called, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”. What is it that you loved about the story and how does it relate to the image you painted?

I love this anime, just yesterday I watched it with my bf  ^ ^ I love everything about this story. I was very inspired by the backgrounds, especially clouds, so just wanted to draw a fanart :3 though the characters in my picture turned out somewhere between this anime and manga.

Talk to us about “Waiting” and “525439″.

ohh this I will have a lot to talk about >_______ Each picture has its own complicated story. These works reflects my mind at the moment of their painting, all of my thoughts, I’m tried to transfer my feelings as signs on drawings, something like that :3 and yet, something very strange happens: when I have a good mood, characters in the drawings come out sad, but when I’m crying or angry (drawing helps me to calm down) faces in the drawings come out smiling .

You have also posted a number of tutorials describing the way you work. Can you walk us through your process here?

okay ^ ^

All is very simple, I’m painting in the SAI, usually on one layer by one tool, you can see brush settings in the ’lips tutorial’

and at the end of work processing it in Photoshop, adding brightness and contrast, sometimes use the saturation tool.

Hope it will help someone ;ω;

You have said you do not like your artwork. What don’t you like about it?

ugh I don’t like everything.

I hope someday that I’ll be drawing such that even I will like it :3

You are studying architecture. What do you hope to do after graduation?

I don’t know, I’m attracted on many things! >w I’m studying as an architect-designer, so can go to work and so and so, also dreaming to become a tattoo artist as written above, I want to decorate books or video games, wait and see ^_______^

What other artists do you admire?

ohh it must be very, very long list >_____ easier to see here  http://mirukawa. offset=0

and here bookmark.php?type=user&id= 2799447

All of these artists and photographers are just wonderful and inspiring, I must to thank them very much! ^ ^

Besides the modern authors I really like paintings of 18-19 century, I can look at their work for hours and hours.

Where can we find out more about you?

deviantart:   http://mirukawa.deviantart. com/


art tumblr:

vk puplic:

vk page:

pixiv: php?id=2799447

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Interview with Photographer HAL

Name: Photographer HAL

Occupation: Photographer

Location: Japan 

Bathtubs, couples, love and challenge are strong themes throughout this artist’s work with other key elements including individuality, style, communication and intimacy.

Photographer Hal brings complete strangers to his confined, crucible like spaces only to convey his continuing theme of ‘love of the couple’. The initial title Pinky & Killer used a small space or room to capture the willing couples, soon followed by the title Couple Jam which brought the focus even closer to the subjects who were placed in a bathtub together. “I am currently seeking new dimensions in portrait photography by challenging the majestic theme of mankind, defined through love.” Photographer Hal’s latest project is called Fresh Love, which captures the many varied and fresh couples in vacuum sealed package.


Born, educated and currently residing in Tokyo.

“Living through my university days I was starving for encounters with different people from other cultures around the world. As soon as I had the opportunity I left Japan and began my travels with a special focus on the Middle East and India. It was here that I first became aware of my passion for photography. The camera became the key to overcoming shyness and limited local language abilities and I could in some way communicate with the people I met.

After graduating from university I joined an advertising production company in Tokyo and this enabled me to acquire a much wider set of photographic skills. The assignments were varied and unique including celebrities and established fashion icons. It was the crucible of my technical ability and the focus in my work soon became the people.


“I want to capture love as it really is and the bathtub is an ideal vehicle to encapsulate the vivid reality in my images. A grand theme in mankind is Love, and I, Photographer Hal, am challenging the majestic theme!”

“Those in power are continually guilty of segregation and discrimination, can we realize peace under such conditions? You who are standing on the earth, no matter where you are, love the person in front of you. From two people to a group, a town to a community, a city to a country, from border to border, the ring of love shall prevail. I have started to create my ring of love in the city of Tokyo, believing that some day a world peace without segregation and discrimination will come true.”


Through the medium of photography, the couple has become Photographer Hal’s chosen vehicle to express the principle theme of world love, this will of course require a search to find subjects who are willing to participate. “I go to Kabukicho in Shinjuku, underground bars in Shibuya and many other places which are full of activity like luscious night time bee-hives.

When I see a couple of interest I will begin to negotiate. I’m sure that many people initially think of my proposal as unusual or even look through me like I am completely invisible, but I always push forward with my challenge to them. The models appear from all walks of life and individually have included musicians, dancers, strippers, laborers, restaurant and bar managers, photographers, businessmen and women, unsettled and unemployed, et al. As a couple, I have photographed a wide variety of variables which include being young and old, from the same or opposite sex, of different race, having different styles, girls from the north and men from the south and many others who have been willing to participate. There have been occasions when the situation has become complicated, for example if a couple have disagreements, begin to argue or even fight! There are also the inevitable no-shows and the couples who split up before I can complete the images. On one assignment I had to visit a prison later to obtain permission for the final print. Happily though, for the most part I’ve had many joyful moments with many interesting scenes to capture. There was even a couple who married soon after one event, and it all began in a bathtub!”

Photographic Style

“In my early explorations I used to capture the models in a small room or enclosed space, these images can be seen in the photo books called Pinky & Killer, and Pinky & Killer DX.

During the photo session I often prompt the couple to pose as if they’re in a sticker photo booth, an extension of the regular passport type which cause friends to pose in many alternative and fun ways. The focal point of the concept was then extended for the publication Couple Jam to include the use of the models bathtub, usually in their own home. I think of the bathroom as being one of the most private and intimate place in anyone’s home, this provoked a shyness in the models, and created a unique excitement and inspiration in the scene. In my most recent project I have applied the use of the vacuum sealed package, used to store futon covers in everyday life, I found that the couple can be sealed in, with the appearance of being freshly wrapped I have called this event Fresh Love.”

It is a pleasure to meet you. Your photos are speaking out against segregation and discrimination and promoting peace and understanding for everyone. Why is this message important to you?

Flesh Love expresses how two persons’ bodies connect together to form one body, so I thought of it as an important theme against segregation and discrimination and to help promote peace.

You spent a little time working in the advertising industry. How was your experience there?

I learned photographic technique from advertising work and by collaborating with many kinds of professional people who inspired me.

The places you go to find your subjects, in Shinjuku and the underground bars in Shibuya, have many more people who may be more open minded to your art. Do you find this is true?


In Pinky & Killer and Pinky and Killer DX you used small spaces to force your subjects together. How did you approach them? What did you say to them?

The photographic subject was asked if they could have their photos taken and then pushed in narrow place. The photographic subject was pressed whatever space was around so we might be take the photo.

Were all the subjects couples already or were some strangers? 

At first everyone were strangers. Some couples stood up and had their photos taken and then later did not want me to use their photos.

Taking it to the next level of intimacy you photographed couples in their bathtubs. Some are dressed for the photos in different ways. How does this differ than your previous work?

It differs in the form and softness of the body, respectively. It is a collaborative work which transforms them becoming one like a puzzle.

In “Flesh Love” can you tell us the process you go through when sealing your subjects inside? How do they breathe and how long do they have to hold their poses?

They can’t breath at all inside for 10 seconds so I have to photograph them very quickly, usually the shutter time is 2 or 3.  As long as they are vacuum-packed they can not move. They are frozen completely.

Flesh Love

When you embrace your lover, sometimes you wish to melt right into them. To realize this wish, I’ve been photographing couples in small, or even cramped spaces like motels and bathtubs. As my work has become more and more intense, I’ve noticed that communication is indispensable. This time, I reached the point of photographing couples in vacuum-sealed packs, in a set that I’ve constructed in my own kitchen. The lights are in the ceiling, so I just flip one switch and have everything ready. I have a few different colored paper backgrounds, which I can leave rolled up in the corner. After the couple get in the vacuum pack, I suck the air out with a vacuum cleaner until there’s none left. This gives me 10 seconds to take the shot. In this extremely limited time I can’t release the shutter more than twice. I’ve been in there myself, and the fear I felt was overwhelming. As the shooting continues over multiple takes, the pressure of the vacuum seal grows stronger. At the same time, the two bodies start to communicate, and whether through unevenness of limbs or the curve of joints they begin to draw a shape of what they want to express. The two lovers draw closer until they finally transform into a single being. Looking at these vacuum-sealed packs of love, we can imagine a more peaceful world. For me, the vacuum pack is only a means: the important thing is connecting to someone.

In your bio you say that you first became interested in photography as a way of overcoming shyness and language. When you approach people to be in your photos, though, you are not shy. Have you overcome your shyness or does the goal of getting subjects for your photos become more important?

No, probably I have not overcome. It seems that I will change if I have a camera although I am usually quiet.

You have two solo upcoming exhibitions for your work in October, 2012. One at the Gallery Tanto Tempo in Kobe, Japan and another at the Blue Sky Gallery in Port land USA. Is this your first solo exhibit in the US of your work?

Yes, as a solo show. I am very excited!

In 2011, you won first place at the “Art of Photography Show” in San Diego, CA. What work was the prize for and what response did you get of your work?

After San Diego, I would often get contacted by journalists, galleries, and collectors from all over the world who had seen the “Art of Photography Show”.

What inspires you to create? How do you think of the concepts for your photos?

I am inspired by everything in my life.

Are there any other photographers or artists whose work you admire?

Stanley Kubrick, Irving Penn, Daido Moriyama, Walt Disney, Gaspar Noé, Ravi Shankar, Andy Warhol, etc.

How is the art scene in Tokyo?

There was a serious disaster in Japan last year. (ed. Earthquake) It was a very shocking occurrence for the Japanese who were used to peace. I think that this thing has also influenced Japanese artist’s expression. Those who get married increased in number after the earthquake disaster.

The existence of man is uneasy and mankind feels they are a very small thing in the world after a natural disaster. Therefore, those who love each other like and understand my work — it proposes making strong connections with each other.

Where can we go to find out more about you and your work?

Solo show “Flesh Love”will be held at Gallery Tanto Tempo in Kobe Japan on October.

Gallery Tanto Tempo:

Solo show “Flesh Love”will be held at Blue Sky Gallery in Port land USA on October.

Blue Sky Gallery:

ipad application Flesh Love


Photo Book Flesh Love

My web site:

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Interview with Pop Shuvit

Asia’s leading Hip Hop rock band, Pop Shuvit’s unique blend of funky eclectic beats and hard hitting riffs have seen the band take itself from playing underground gigs and high school proms to centrestage on some of Asia’s leading music festivals.

This included being personally invited by multi-platinum selling rockers My Chemical Romance (MCR) as Official Support Act for their Asian Tour in 2007/2008 and headlining the MTV Asia World Stage together with 30 Seconds To Mars in July 2011.

With a career spanning over a decade , Pop Shuvit have had six releases under its belt including top 20 albums in Japan and Malaysia. Pop Shuvit’s overwhelming support from Japanese audiences have led to three successful headlining tours and Top 20 album sales charting at Tower Records (even beating Linkin Park and Jay Z) without any radio promotion.

A truly multi-lingual and multi cultural band, Pop Shuvit have released tracks in numerous languages including English, Japanese, Malay, Tagalog, Thai and even Spanish. Besides MCR, the band have also shared the stage with All American Rejects, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, FloRida, Tokio Hotel and collaborated with the likes of Inspectah Deck from the Legendary Wu Tang Clan and DJ Cheapshot from Linkin Park side project, FORT MINOR.

Pop Shuvit have earned themselves numerous accolades including 10 Malaysian No.1 radio hits, an MTV Asia Award nomination,several AVIMA awards and a special achievement award from the Malaysian Music Industry Academy (AIM Kembara) in 2008.

An interview with Pop Shuvit (Frontman Moots shares on behalf of the band):

How would you best describe your music?

At first it was rap rock then it evolved into hip hop rock but I guess what best describes it now is fun music from a bunch of friends.

Tell us a dirty secret about the band

We are all aliens from the planet nebula 11 and survive on jelly beans and teh tarik…we are peaceful creatures but can get aggressive if pushed to the limit…

If you had a chance to perform anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

CBGB in New Jersey or Whisky go go in LA just because all the greats have played there and it would be nice to know that we once rocked the place.

If you were a superhero, what sort of super powers would you have and what would you champion or fight for?

I’d love to be telekinetic and read peoples minds like professor X…it would be great to know if people are telling the truth.

If you had a chance to collaborate with any musician on the planet, who would it be and why?

I think this has never changed throughout our careers it would definitely be ZDLR from Rage against the Machine because his lyrics are so poignant and poetic. He would rip it on a Shuvit track.

What would you like to be remembered for?

We would like to be remembered….not forgotten…and mostly for our music

You win a chance to open for your favourite act – what song would you perform and what would you do on stage?

I never like to use the word “open”….we have been lucky enough to share the stage with many of our favourite acts like MCR, All American rejects and 30 secs to mars so i guess what we would do is give a kick ass Shuvit show like we do at every show

Have you championed any good cause? What are your plans to do more?

I’m a big fan of the “pay it forward” concept…if everyone did one good deed a day…that deed will come full circle. So the next time you’re buying lunch or paying for the toll.,.why not pay for the person next to you,.or do a good deed for your neighbour. A little goes a long way..

Which local musicians in your country do you most admire and why?

All of them! every independent musician who writes their own music, gigs and releases something are admirable….for striving and keeping our local scene alive

You’ve been asked to pose nude for a magazine and this is your best chance to gain publicity..would you do it?

Go for it! If people are actually interested in seeing us in all our glory…and get paid for it..LOL…why not!

You look into the crystal ball and see your future? What does it say?

10 more albums and celebrating our 50th year together as a band!

Share with us two of your favourite quotes

“Is that edible?” and “who is buying the next round?”

Money or fame? Why?

Both! preferably at the same time

What is your all time favourite song and movie? Why?

Lady Marmalade – has picking up someone ever sounded sexier? Movie has to be Pulp Fiction. I love Tarantino and this was his best work,although some may argue its Reservoir Dogs.I still think Pulp Fiction rocks and someday I shall go to Paris and order a Royale with cheese at Burger King.

What are your songs about?

Life….and everything about it that inspires us. We grew up as a band from failed relationships…to fights…to money woes…to marriages and kids…and long tours…so all these things have inspired us throughout the years…

What is your biggest achievement to date?

I guess winning the Anugerah Kembara at AIM and being nominated for an MTV Asia Award.

What is your advice to up and coming musicians ?

Keep at it….find new ways of getting your music heard. Don’t copy…be a pioneer.

What would you do to gain fame? Have you done anything crazy to gain publicity?

I tried picking a few fights once and starting some beef…but it didn’t stick. I gotta learn more from Kim Kardashian…or just stick to being the nice guys.

If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?

Let music be free and all musicians get paid a decent amount of money to play…the more songs you write…the more shows you get!

What was the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you while performing?

Many things….most common is falling onstage, backstage and off stage…all in that order.

What are your thoughts on music piracy? Would you give your music away for FREE?

Yes! and we have…many times….music is to be shared…rather than gigs…i would rather give away a CD for free but have every gig ticketed!

‘Cherry Blossom Love Affair’ – The new studio album.

Slated as a double album in both English and Malay, the songs in this “concept” album are thematically-inspired not just by the tracks itself but also by the inclusion of visual illustrations,music videos; all presented within a mini coffee table book-styled album packaging. Helming producer/engineer roles once again will be guitarist JD, this time with greater involvement from bassist AJ (part of production duo THE UNKNOWN with DJ UNO).

With many production and mixing credits for local and regional bands (Bunkface, Estranged,Slapshock, Project E.A.R etc) and a Best Engineered Album Award (AIM 2008), his approach of combining classic recording techniques with forward-thinking ideas means that the new album will bring fresh new sounds to fans whilst maintaining the rap-rock vibe that the band is known for.

The first Malay single ‘nebula 11′ has already hit the airwaves together with the fully animated music video which premiered on MTV Asia in June 2011. The first English single ‘Getting away with murder’ is a fresh and energetic number which stays true to pop shuvit’s hip hop groove yet remains cutting edge and invigorating!

Cherry Blossom is not short of its star appeal with Malaysian legend Man Bai lending his vocal prowess to the acoustic ode to wasted youth in ‘Seperti syurgamu’ . Fellow Project E.A.R members Dandee, Slapshock, Ahli Fiqir and Thaitanium also joined in the fun on the album; as well as world renowned Japanese street magician ‘Cyril Takayama’ who joins the boys on his specially penned theme song ‘Magic Man’.

Project EAR music video that won the Asian indie music award (AVIMA) – more than 800K views.

Interview courtesy of:

Bite My Music, the organizer of the Bite My Music Global awards, the world’s biggest independent music awards and, a news web site providing independent and original perspectives of Malaysian current affairs.

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Interview with Yoko Hamasaki of Urbangarde

Urbangarde is best described as a “Trauma techno pop” band based in Tokyo.

Descrīption from their profile:

Urbangarde is “Trauma techno pop” band that acts in Tokyo of the 21st century.

A jazzy piano, a heavy metal style guitar, and a man and woman twin vocal are pop and a popping unique sound is diseased pop in the electronic sound of which it goes mad.

It is a girlie by the pain.

Yoko, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you grew up?  Were you always interested in music and singing when you were a child?

How do you do? It is my pleasure that you are interested in URBANGARDE music. Both of my parents love music and I’ve been listening to many kinds of music since I was a kid. French pop, jazz, rock, progressive, funk. There were many kinds of music in my house, regardless of its genre. When I was in kindergarten, I loved the Beatles, because of my dad. I see old pictures of mine, singing something, but actually, a singer was the last thing I wanted be after my ego developed a little more than that time.

I was so shy to sing in front of other people. And I started learning ballet, so I wanted be a ballerina for a while. I felt comfortable, believing, If you lead a normal life you will never be a singer, but funny how it turns out sometimes. Music are playing all the time in my head. I would write it down. In retrospect, I was doing a sort of composing and I played the piano often.

Even in school, I got a very good grade, only for, on music and arts and many praised the way I sing. However, I didn’t like my voice, so I didn’t take it seriously. Because of an injury and several other reasons I gave up the career for ballet. At that time, I felt empty. Then all of sudden I wanted be a singer. Maybe it was a spark of God. We had a family meeting because I started saying that suddenly and I met my song master, a chanson singer.

Were you in any bands before URBANGARDE?

When I was in high school, I was in a light music club and played among them but I never organized or joined a real band. I preferred to do recording in my house. URBANGARDE is the first band I belonged to.

H ow did you get to know URBANGARDE?

I love techno-pop music and I checked Japanese indie techno-pop artists so I naturally knew their name beforehand. Probably seven or eight years ago. We had many mutual friends and I thought we would meet someday but I never tired to contact them myself.

Tell us how you started singing with URBANGARDE.

The ex-URBANGARDE-singer left the band and they were looking for a new singer. Tenma Matsunaga sent me a mail though social network. He said that he knew and thought about me for a while but had given up because I was living very far away from him at that time. But he gave it a chance anyway in the spirit of “nothing to lose”.

He wanted me to be the URBANGARDE singer for a long time. Though I was happy with recording in my house I also wanted to do something with someone else to sometime. He took me very seriously, so I decided to join the band.

How would you best describe URBANGARDE music?

I tried to sing like words in a book. Everybody has different feeling. I tried to be a singer who gives some space for one’s imagination and show the world of URBANGARDE.

Depends on the song, I have my personal feelings, but it would be nice to let listeners have their own imaginations and have their own opinions.

Who are the members of the band?

They are bastards in short. (S) Including me, we are the ones who cannot communicate with people or society well. So twisted. (S)

Like in shool, those ones who eat lunch alone. Or when the teacher says “make a pair with your classmate”, the one ended up to be with the teacher, the one who never was chosen.

Tell us a little about the making of your first album “Girl You Only Live Twice”. What was the creative process you went through?

I was composing and arranging “Potential enemy” and “Strawberry Murder” together. Especially for “Waterdrop Syndromes”, I said no for hundred times, and they still have a grudge about it. (S)

Mental Hell” went up to #15 in the Oricon Daily Chart and rose to #41 o the weekly chart. How did you feel about the great response you got?

Simply happy.

We tried to make songs for more people than we do now, every time we release an album, we receive more response. I feel like I am being accepted. At the same time, though, Japan itself maybe changing since this kind of music is becoming more accepted.

How do you think your music has changed from your first album to your newest one?

Music-wise, the biggest difference came when Kyoichi Kagiyama, who plays drums, joined the band after our major debut. During indie days we released three albums but all the drums are by sequencer, never had a drummer in the live shows either.

Since we had a drummer, Urbangarde music became more physical in a way.

Your video, “Idle Sick” is very interesting. How did you come up with the lyrics and storyline and what was it like to make the video ?

All the URBANGARDE words are written by the leader Tenma Matsunaga.

We talk about the theme, and sometimes he writes things from our daily conversations.

With the Japanese music scene, they say it’s warlike age of idols. We have many idols leading the scene. The song is about those idols and wanna-be-idols and others who just struggle with their own lives. “Idle Sick” spotted the dark side of the idols.

Our leader Matsunaga used to be the director and editor of the music video. But for the first time, we had a director from the outside. We had meetings and told him about the way URBANGARDE sees the world, “Idle Sick”, and the scenes we wanted to have. He did a great job. Now we know URBANGARDE world could expanded further when we have someone from the outside.

What is one of your personal favorite songs ?

Hard to pick up one. But I really respect Serge Gainsbourg, and “Lemon incest”, singing with his daughter Charlotte, is my favorite.

I love the Japanese singer Seiko Matsuda too. I like to watch her video before our live, and it lifts my spirits.

Tell us a little about some of your live events. I know you played at Shibuya-Ax. How was it and what were the fans like?

Unlike ordinary rock bands, URBANGARDE live is like a theatrical performance. We have a scrīpt which has lines, and the set list goes along with it.

In Shibuya-AX, we had some happenings, and I personally have something to regret, but it became one of the shows you never forget for your entire life.

Fans were waving the merchandising polka-dots flags, and it looked like a sea of red and looked beautiful from the stage.

People see our show for first time might feel weird. We have ones dance like crazy, some are waving the flags, some are totally self-absorbed but I feel they are all united.

Who is the large baby that we see at some of your events and in your videos?

His name is “Toshio (in Japanese “toshi” means “city”, “o” means “boy”)”. That’s a post-modern like expression of an unborn baby.

You are also involved with other forms of art and you design your own graphics and write as well. Can you tell us a little about the members in URBANGARDE’s interests besides music?

We have a relationship with a writer Mizuki Tsujimura, and in his book “Order-made Satsujin Jiken (Made-to-order murder)”, there is a character listens to URBANGARDE music.

Also our friend sci-fi writer Chohei Kanbayashi, in his latest book “Bokura-wa Toshi-wo Aishiteita (We loved the city)”, he said he was inspired by Urbangarde song ” Earthquake will happen tomorrow?”.

As the only female member of the group what is it like working with men?

Basically they think I am a man. So no bother. (S)

Apart form sex, I am communicating with them as one performer to another, there is no problem music-wise. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with it physically-wise though.

What is the music industry like in Japan today?

Not only in Japan but CD’s do not sell good world wide.

Some say there is no music that anyone wants to buy, and some say CD’s are just out of date and there are many other ways people can listen to the music. Younger people are used to downloading songs they like.

URBANGARDE, also many other bands and artists, care about tiny details of CD jacket and booklet designs. So it would be nice if they take it in their hands directly.

Also I wanted them to know we care about the order of the songs and even the blank time between the songs on CD. Some songs are only available form the album. Pity if you are losing its opportunities. I know there are many forms of entertainment nowadays and people have budgets. That is the way of our time but I consider this is a chance to produce the music in any way, even if it is out of the ordinary.

Adverse circumstances could be your chance. I think this is an interesting era that you can try your own ideas freely.

How important is fashion and style to URBANGARDE and what would you say your personal style is?

Fashion is the fastest way to express yourself.

I think fashion is very important since we are suppose to give people a dream. The classic ballet influenced me too, in that sense, to show the way we see the world.

I am the icon and vocal of URBANGARDE. I want to express our music by fashion also.

Are there any musicians that inspire you? If you could collaborate with someone in the future, who would it be?

Like I said, Serge Gainsbourg inspires me all the time. Music collaboration would be nice, but I also want to work with someone from art. It’s a big dream. I would be very happy if we can work with Yayoi Kusama, Pipilotti Rist, or Pierre et Gilles. Collaborating with music and art.

What are your dreams for yourself and for URBANGARDE for the future?

As an URBANGARDE member, I want to have more people listen to our music.

I want to work in overseas too. I would like to produce something out of music genre. I want to keep doing it. Whatever the forms are. My personal dream is releasing a solo. Nothing more.

Where can we go to find out more about you and URBANGARDE?

Please take a look at;

Official web site:

Our label, Universal Music’s:

Twitter (connected with the web site too)

Yoko Hamasaki’s:

Tenma Matsunaga’s (and official Urbangarde news):

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Interview with Rie Miyazaki

Rie Miyazaki is an accomplished bassist who has played with bands such as Marble Sheep, Heavy Metal Glue, Mammal Machine and The Barretts.

Tell me about your musical upbringing. Were you exposed to lots of different styles of music from an early age?

Like many children, I just listened to the music from TV during my childhood. Most of them were animation songs or Japanese hit songs, so they didn’t have many different styles. The only thing I listened to could be considered special were the columbia records from Panama my mother used to listen to.

When I was 2-3 years old, our family lived in Panama city, so I heard Panamanian songs or Spanish sounds naturally. Anyway they didn’t influence my music style so much, but my character, I think…

I preferred singing than playing instruments, so I joined a local junior choir. There I sang Japanese and western choruses, Gregorian chants, Bulgarian folk songs etc. But as a member of the choir, I was always a dunce…

It’s a common beautiful story that a young stupid girl gets into the rock scene arising from a feeling of inferiority. It was only natural that I quit the choir and started to listened to rock music under the influence of my eldest brother. He was pleased to lend me his guitar and taught me how to practice it and also about the hard rock music he loved. He is ten years older than me, so I was so lucky to hear music from the 70′s till the early 80′s that my classmates didn’t know at that time.

It’s not an uncommon tale among bass players that they were asked to pick up the bass simply because nobody else was around to fill that role. Is that true in your case?

Yes, it’s true. In any other bands before Marble Sheep I was always a guitar player. Also in Marble Sheep I played the guitar at first.

What were your aspirations when you were first starting out?

I just wanted to play in a rock band, and did not think much about it.

Off course I had a vague dream, like meeting a whole variety of people through the music or travelling to play in many lands. And there is absolutely no change in my thinking in this regard still now on.

Who was the bass player influenced you most?

I was influenced most by Shige, the female bassist of Segawa Hiroshi’s band called Travellin’ Ocean Bluebirds. Hiroshi Segawa was the vocalist of a famous 60′s group sounds band The Dynamites and Shige is his wife. She was also a member of Bananarians, a Japanese new wave band, they were among the first to bring reggae rhythm into their music. So she can play every rock music in a reggae groove.

I was totally knocked down by her own groove, that comes from simple riffs. Then I started to think I’d like to pursue my own groove but with simple phrases .

What is the record that got your career kick started?

It was an oldies compilation album “More! American Graffiti”. This LP was also the first western music record I bought by myself, and actually I bought it by mistake. I was looking for the sound track album “American Graffiti”.

Since that time I was captivated by rock’n roll from hearing Little Richard’s tracks “Tutti Frutti” and “Ready Teddy” in it. I think I was lucky, because the album “American Graffiti” has no Little Richard’s track, so it’s a beautiful mistaken arrest.

There are many male bass player but not as many female. What’s it like being a female in an environment that’s traditionally been dominated by men?

It’s true that there are not so many female bass player working solo in their own name but bass players playing in their own band, that’s not necessarily so, I think. After all, are bass players in a band needed to have more or less something feminine inside? I know many nice female and male bass player who play a role as a mother of their band. They control their band leader, keep track of finances, take their time to promote the band as the manager, etc…

In my case, now I play in some bands or sessions, so, unfortunately, I’m not needed to be a faithful mother so much like them, But I always try to be a good promoter, because it will be meaningless if there are no listeners, even when we can play good music…

Your resume covers such a broad array of styles from psychedelic to jazz to heavy metal and more. What styles do you prefer to play?

I don’t care about my music style so much but I think it’s important for me either to play music loud with smile or to express big amplitude of mind while playing. If I can make many good friends through the working like this, I couldn’t be happier.

Tell me about playing with Marble Sheep.? How did that opportunity come about?

The first contact with Marble Sheep was in summer of 1988 when I was a high school student. I came to a Marble Sheep gig in Osaka by chance during my summer traveling with my girl high school friends. The chaotic sound of early Marble Sheep had a catastrophic impact over me and I felt that I learned in an instant what psychedelic is.

10 years later, one day in 1998, the second contact came about when I was freed from the catastrophic impact. The leader of Marble Sheep, Ken Matsutani visited to the music studio I worked for. At that time his band was in a rest condition since 1992, but he often came to our studio to mix for bands belonging to his label, Captain Trip Records. Through talks like my first contact with Marble Sheep, we became friends in a short amount of time.

In the following year Marble Sheep was back in action, and in the end of 1999, they made their reunion gig come true. And luckily, I could be on the stage of this historic gig as *Marby.

( = the mascot character of Marble Sheep, a big sheep.)

After that, because of some member changes, I converted from Marby to a guitarist, then after from a guitarist to a bassist. In so doing, I started to play the bass in 2002.

Traveling around the world with Marble Sheep must have been a lot of fun. What was that experience like?

I toured in Europe from 2002 till 2007 as a member of Marble Sheep, and every tour was based in Germany.

The beginning was the Finkenbach Festival in 2002. The festival is hosted by Mani Neumeier, the leader from Guru, every year and he invited us to his festival. At that time, we played only one show at this festival but we were featured on the front cover of a German underground psychedelic magazine MOONHEAD, surprisingly!


After that, Marble Sheep toured in Europe three times from 2006 till 2007. Only on the first tour in 2006, we had a real sponsor, and the next two were perfect DIY-style tours. One of our best friends lives in Berlin and he booked the gigs, organized the tour, and traveled with us. The tours, with a van full of instruments including two drum sets, huge merchandise, band members and a big sheep Marby, was like a touring circus.

On these tours, I could play two faces on every stage. One face is as a bass player, and the other is as Marby. I was lucky enough that I could be on stage as a player, so I was more than happy that I could travel from country to country as Marby’s unique position.

That was an amazing experience only Marble Sheep can give me now and forever.


[Marble Sheep/ Holiday - Crocodile] 7 inch, Recorded in Berlin, 2006

You are now playing for three bands, Heavy Metal Glue, Mammal Machine and The Barretts. Can you tell us a little about each one and what types of music they play?

Heavy Metal Glue:60′s Hardrock Garage Monaural Sound

This band is actually not a heavy metal band, but a garage hard rock’n roll band. What we are particular about most are sound pressure & groove, and we packed them in this cassette with gimmick glove cover.

The idea of this handmade cover was from HMG guitarist Ken (Marble Sheep, Captain Trip Records). It take a bit long time to make it, but we are happy, if we can show our spirit of anti-downloads like this way.

Mammal Machine:Improvised Progressive Psychedelic Sound

Mammal Machine started when Yumi Hara Cawkwell (Vo. & Key.) an improvisator based in London asked me to play something with her. At first, this band was only for one night session, but when we played a gig, we could get better reactions from audience and better feelings ourselves than we imagined. Then we decided to try studio recording.

The recordings were played totally improvised, and I cut edited and made them up as tracks. The working was so exciting, and I realized that I do love working like this. Yumi and I gave words and titles to the tracks, and made up them a conceptual album “Mitsugi – Esoteric Rituals”. This album has many kinds of sound like ritualistic dark sounds, progressive suite, free jazz, hammer beat R like German NW, etc.

As a live band, in reversal Mammal Machine plays improvised psychedelic rock on very loud. Watanabe beats out big waves of rhythm from his fine technic, and Tabata’s cosmic guitar takes audience on a trip to kaleidoscopic world.

The Barretts:Psychedelic Pop-Rock Sound

 I don’t play as bassist of The Barretts anymore, because the band is now formed by infinite members. For about two years I played in The Barretts, and it was a fun and fascinating time. The Barrets has a long history from early 80′s, and I’m proud of that I wrote a page in their history.

What lies ahead for you and your career? What else would you like to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?

Actually I’ve played overseas only as a member of Marble Sheep, so if I have chance, I would love to tour overseas with any other music project like Mammal Machine.

You also work for Captain Trip Records. Can you tell us a little about the company and your role in it?

What I do in Captain Trip is just what Ken is not good at, so it’s not so creative. However, I feel so lively, when we organize overseas musicians’ concerts. In thickets of long weird time we spent, we lost some of our mutual friends, but now I’m happy that we can try again to make our new friends together.

What do you like to do that’s not necessarily musically oriented?

First, I would like to study German again…, then drink some beers like always.

What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?

It would be so nice if I could be a translator… because my grand father was a translator of French literature and so eccentric, so he slept whole the day and woke up whole the night through his life. It seemed me so cool, I don’t know why…

Where can we go to find out more about you and your work?

These CDs might be less well-known works than others…

[V.A./Tokyo Flashback 8] PSFD-200

A compilation album of Tokyo PSF Records, an underground label from Tokyo. inc. Heavy Metal Glue’s track.

[Instant Drone Factory/Ho Avuto Paura del Mare] Fuenfundvierzig

Studio recording of Instant Drone Factory, a multinational musical unit. Recorded at Electric Avenue Studio in Hamburg, 2006. Released in 2011. Also Sawada (ex.Marble Sheep) played as a drummer in it.

[Mick Farren/ To The Masterlock: Live In Japan 2004]CTCD-513

Live recording from Mick Farren (The Deviants) Japan tour 2004. Ken(Marble Sheep), Watanabe (Mammal Machine), Nabeji (Slunky Side),and I played as his back-up band, Japanese Deviants. :) About other works, please check my discography from here: Anyway, come by my gigs, enjoy together and drink much beer!

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Interview with Jiang Wen

Jiang Wen is a Chinese actress living in Japan. She is a graduate of the Beijing Film Academy. Remarkably, her first role came in the 2006 movie “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” directed by the great film director Zhang Yimou. It was a big chance for her and one that does not come around often. She would be acting alongside Japanese star Takakura Ken. She went to audition and was chosen out of over 20,000 applicants. She became the focus of the Chinese Media at the time and was only a second year college student.

It was an amazing start for an talented young artist but being thrust into the limelight had its disadvantages. When started dealing more with the entertainment industry she found she had a lot to learn and became nervous and introverted.

She moved to Japan and has lived there for 5 years. Sometimes people will ask her why she left China where she might have had more opportunities in her chosen field but she does not know how to answer. She just felt the need to go somewhere far away. She enjoys the feeling of living as a foreigner in Japan. No one knows her there.

She has joined a theatrical company and performs in plays and accepts an occasional film role. The roles are small parts but she enjoys them. Sometimes she confuses Japanese rules and manners but it does not seem to be a big problem.

When she is not acting she works as a model and enjoys painting.

She wants to continue acting but sometimes questions her decision and thinks that she may concentrate on her art.

“This is my story, a little negative perhaps,but I think that we should stand beautiful even if there is no high light.This is what I learned from life.”

Jiang, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell us a little about yourself and where you grew up?  When you were young did you always dream of becoming an actress?

I had a very strict education by my family and school when I was a child.  After school, I had to learn classic ballet, drawing, foreign language… and be used to be compared with the other children, like “Look at **, she is a good example for you”, or” You should do it like *”, or” Very good, but can you do it better like ** did?”  And so on.

As a result, I never felt I was good enough at any of my studies or talents but I became really good at being someone else. Actually, I didn’t like myself when I was a child. I thought when I become someone else, people will like me more.  Become another person and acting as one who is expectedーI really loved it and I did it so good that I had forgotten my origin.

Acting was not a dream but a necessary skill in my life, because if I wasn’t someone else, I would be nothing.

You attended the Beijing Film Academy. What types of classes were you taking?

It was a full experience in Beijing Film Academy. For someone who loves film it’s just like heaven. I learned film history,  film theory, scenario writing, acting…all the things I wanted to know about film. In school, I acted in several student movies, wrote 3 scenarios, directed one of them to a completed movie, and saw more than 2,000 films.

Tell us about the casting call you answered that ended up getting you the role in “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”.

That was my second year in Beijing Film Academy. A classmate who worked as the directors assistant for “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” asked me, “There is guide role in the film, they need to speak Japanese, would you be interested? ” I said “Yes”.

Then I went audition, for four times. Camera test, acting test, Japanese test, and at last I was brought to Zhang Yimou’s office. Before that, I didn’t know who the director is. It was like a mystery movie, I really enjoyed the audition.   When Zhang Yimou told me that I was be chosen and asked me how I feel now, I told him my true thoughts. The great director smiled and said, “Good, just enjoy it.”

How did you feel when you had learned you had gotten the role?

In fact, there are two stages in how I learned about it. When I learned I had gotten the role, I just felt excited. Then, when I learned it is a Zhang Yimou film, I felt there would be a big change in my life. I worried about that change because I had known I was not mature enough to face the entertainment world.

The character you play is an interpreter. Did you already have strong Japanese language skills then?

Yes, I learned Japanese as a teenager.

What was the shooting like and what was it like to work with Zhang Yimou?

He is a super man in work, I never saw a man that could work so hard!

In fact, during the two months of shooting “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”, after one day’s shooting, he always continued on editing the film all the night. I don’t know when he slept.

He is very strict when working, but usually he is unassuming. He liked to tell us some real stories which happened in his life. I think those stories are the inspiration for his films and I liked them very much.

I understand the press and media pressured you. It must have been very difficult for you to get so much attention so quickly.  What prompted your move to Japan?

After I getting the role of “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”, I became the focus of the Chinese media. I had to face the real entertainment world and the media world. There are so many hard facts and rules that I had never known. At that time I began to realize that I will never be a good actress if I only know how to act. To be an actress, I needed to be a mature person first. Not to act like someone else, I needed to be myself first. So I went to Japan, left my country and my family, and now live in a place where no one knows me, so I can concentrate  and face myself once again.

Since you have moved to Japan you have appeared in many roles in film, television and on stage. Some of the films you have appeared in are, “Kidnap Anderson” – Directed by Wang Qi, “The Aroma Of Happiness” – Directed by Mituhiro Mihara and  ”Henro” – Directed by Gao Xiongjie. Can you tell us a little about the roles you played in these films?

Yes, here is some of the still of the movies and stages I acted.

In “Kidnap Anderson”, I acted in the role of a young wife who planned a kidnap affair to

kidnap herself to win back her husband’s heart because he was leaving her.

In “The Aroma of Happiness”, I acted as a secretary who worked in a Shaoxing wine factory. My role was a small part

but was a key role because I was the one to convey the hero’s message to the heroine.

“Henro” is a road movie. It was shot by documentary style and told the story of a Chinese woman who experienced the Japanese culture  ”Henro” . She traveled around the 88 temples in Japanese Shikoku land, met a lot of people, faces nature and the soul, and mentally develops. It is very close to my own experience in Japan.

“Paranoia” is a short movie which was made by myself. I acted as a paranoid woman who believes she can fly. It is a psycho suspense movie.

Stage play – “Say good-bye to Huckleberry”, I acted as a publisher who falls in  love with a writer of a fairy tale.


  Stage play – “Night on the Moon”, I acted the part of a young Japanese lady who was very rich and very arrogant.

You have also been seem in a number of television shows and on stage. As an actress which do you like more. Film, television or stage?

I like both film and stage. They are both amazing to me. Film uses a camera which can be moved and used close up, so actors can express very delicate emotions. Stage is acted in front of spectator, can’t progressing backward or NG,  limited times of showing and every time there is a new experience, just like a real life.

A part of television show is too fast for me. I don’t like immediate communication very much something like TV talk show. I think as a means of communication, it is a too fast for thinking, expressing and understanding, it is apt to be perfunctory.

“Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” was made in 2005 but you met up again with Zhang Yimou in 2008 when you appeared in the NHK’s  ”Zhang Yimou – Talk About Beijing Olympic” Talk Show. What was it like seeing him again?

At the time the Beijing Olympics had just finished. I went to Beijing with the Japanese television station NHK to have an interview with Zhang Yimou.

Even though he had just finished the Olympic opening, he had began to prepare to shoot a new film with his creative team. He looked tired but as always, was full of energy, unassuming and humerous. He looked happy to meet me again, and after asking me some questions about my life and work in Japan. He said, “You look more beautiful and mature, I’ m so glad to see you have grown up to a real actress. But if you looked like now, I wouldn’t have chosen you to act in  ’Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles’, ha-ha.”

I’m so thankful for he gave me a chance not only to become a real actress, but also to become a mature person.

Now that you are in Japan how it has been to adjust culturally? What differences have you had to overcome?

I love Japan, I think Japan has a lot of great culture. The Japanese are very polite and modest. Living here, I think it is very easy for me because there are many different culture from China. But for work, even now, some of the culture confuses me. The problem I met is hierarchy. In Japanese society, there is a hierarchy culture what is based on age, school class, the time you join a company for example .The older ones, the one who enter a group earlier, have the superior positions and have authority. There are so many manners and rules in this system and I think it is easil to restrict creativity, heart and imagination, the most important things for an artist. But I also think I should “When in Rome do as the Romans do”, so now I know how to take the balance the problem I’m facing.

When choosing a role what do you do to decide what is right for you and how do you prepare?

First of all, I’m not a star so there’s not so many roles waiting for me to choose. If I can choose, I would choose a fresh scenario and a role in which rich space can be created.

For me, creating a role means making myself believe the character I play is real. I will imagine when and where she was born, her family, her friends, what does she like and dislike, her identity, faith, political view, philosophy about life, her work, what is she interested in, what kind of fashion does she like…everything I can imagine, then get myself into it, so I can think or take actions as the role requires. It’s just like a self-hypnotism. If there’s something about the role I don’t know well, I will research or have a real experience.  For the role of “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”, I went to Yunnan and worked with the local guide for one month.

Personally, what kinds of films do you like to watch? Have you seen anything you have enjoyed lately?

I watch many kinds of film, I think no matter what genre or country or times the film is made in, if it is made with sincerity, it will have the power to move people’s heart.

Lately I had a chance to watch a film which is called “3 women”, directed by Robert Altman in 1977. The film is so impactfull, controllable, imaginative and realisitic. Like in the dream world or in a perfect cosmos,   I only can say that it is an exquisite masterpiece, a genius work. I love genius!

What do you like to do when you are not working?

When I have free time, I like to work as a model and enjoy painting. The former help me finding the relation between the world and me. And the latter is a way that leads to my soul.

A work for the picture album “To the bright future”

One of my paintings “World end girlfriend”.

What are your hopes for the future?

I believed I must be an actress but now I’m not so sure. I used to feel empty except when I’m acting, but recently I begin to like my real life. In the future, besides acting, I think I can do some art work for a more global audience, like drawing, or like life itself.

Where can we go to find out more about you and your work?

Please check my homepage.

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Interview with Azumi Kuwadate of Bespa Kumamero

BESPA KUMAMERO was formed in 2001 with Azumi Kuwadate on vocals and Monkichi Irikura on keyboard and programming.

The group held many concerts in Japan and, in 2006, became popular outside the country. Information about BESPA KUMAMERO began appearing in different magazines and mass-media in Germany, England, France, Russia, the USA and Hungary. In 2007 the band toured the UK with six dates, marking the start of their activity in Europe.

The first full-length album, Romantic waves, was released on January 20, 2008. In March 2008 the band performed at Anime Matsuri 2008 in Houston, Texas and, in July, at Animex 2008 in Monterrey, Mexico. They were also nominated by American magazine Shojo Beat as the best new band.

BESPA KUMAMERO continued to appear regularly at shows during 2008, including jetting to Moscow, Russia, to appear at Tokyo Cyber Eve vol 2. BESPA KUMAMERO returned to Japan to play several more shows right into the new year.

On May 22,2009 BESPA KUMAMERO released their second full album, PLASTIC CONFUSION. About 2000 people attended a performance in the United States (Boston) in May, 2009. Label was moved to Rufus Tune of Darkest Labyrinth, and 3rd full album “spiral connector” was released in December, 2010. In March 2011 performed at Anime Matsuri 2011 in Houston, Texas and, in July and August, at Canada (Toronto and Edmonton).

Azumi, it is a pleasure to meet you. I understand you grew up outside of Tokyo. Can you tell us a little about your childhood and where you grew up?

Hi!! Thank you for the interview. I am so glad that you get interested in me.

I was born and I grew up in Yamanashi. Yamanashi is a prefecture of the contiguity of Tokyo. Yamanashi is surrounded by the mountain and is a place of rich nature. I camped with my family frequently in the mountain as a child.

When you were young were you always into music? Did you sing in front of your family and friends?

When I was a child, my parents frequently listened to classical music but I don’t really remember it.

I have brothers and sisters and I listened to many Japanese musician’s music because of them. When I became a junior high school student, my favorite music was chosen by me.

I liked singing when I was a schoolchild. I often went to karaoke with my family and friends and when I was a high school student I wanted to make a band, I wanted to make and sing original music and I composed a lot of  poetry.

I graduated from the high school and went on to the vocational school to study jewelry design. At that time, a band was created and the LIVE was held only twice. However, it was a cover band.

I understand you are very into fashion and studied it in school. Does it still interest you and is it something you would like to work with in the future?

Although I studied the jewelry design I really wanted to learn costume design. However, time was lost while worrying about various things so I ended up studying jewelry design. However since the act of designing is similar I do not regret my time at school. I did not devote myself to it and I think of it as a hobby rather than as a career.

How did you first meet Monkichi and come to form the band?

We did not know each other but I was looking at the informational magazine in the bookstore and read something he had written. I sympathized with his sense and it  turned out that he is writing music. Then, I thought I wanted to work with him to make music, and I contacted him. We exchanged emails and spoke on the phone a number of times. He was very nice and we decided to form a band.

Is the music you play now the same or very different than when you first began?

It has not really changed as much as it has become more refined and gotten better.

How would you best describe your sound?

This is difficult…

The impression you get changes with the music. There is intense dance music whose beat is powerful, and there is also melodious music. Also, not only hearing but the visual element of our live performance is important for our music. We call ourselves a “performance techno unit” because of this.

How does your creative process work. Does Monlichi write the music and you then write the lyrics or is it the other way around?

Sometimes Monkichi makes music and I attach the melody of words and a song to it. However, the reverse process also exists. (Pattern in which I make the melody and words of a song first, and Monkichi makes music to it.)

Rarely, I may make music or Monkichi may make words.

What inspires you when you write your lyrics?

It has two patterns generally. One is entirely delusionional. The other is lyrics based on facts.

When the words are based on facts, recollections, sentiments and emotions are the most common elements.

How did the recording go with your last album, “Spiral Connector”? What are your favorite tracks from this album?

Since there are many different types of music the recording process was pleasant. Two music tracks in which Monkichi sang was also recorded.

Because the type of music was various, mix work was serious, but it became a good work by the engineer’s technique.

Especially favorite music is “きみがいない朝 (kimiga inai asa) “, and “Losing time” in this album.

How do the two of you get along? Do you ever disagree when working on your projects?

Since thinking is almost the same as for two of us, we have rarely repelled each other about BESPA KUMAMERO.

If a mutual idea does not suit, we will separate and work.

Your live performances are much more than music. It is like a play. Very visual. It makes it more exciting! What reaction have you had from fans?

Thank you. That’s right. As I stated previously, we think our live performance is very important. If the live is carried out, it will be important to delight an audience visually and to give a stimulus. The fans enjoy the lives very much and after the live finishes, they seem very happy.

You have traveled a lot. What have been some of your favorite places you have performed and what were the fans like?

We likes every place. It is also interesting that a reaction changes little by little with different countries. The fans of every country just enjoy the live together with us. That is common in all countries.

I have to ask you about a video on YouTube called “Azumi Wants a Drink”. What was the problem, what did you mean by good smell and did you ever get your drink?

A HA HA!! I only merely wanted the drink. However, I did not have coin then. I thought that he could buy it with a credit card. It is because a credit card can be used overseas in almost all the cases of shopping. (With a drink vending machine, a credit card cannot be used even in Japan. )

“good smells” is ad lib!!!XD

Of course, I buy a drink with a Japanese vending machine. However, that was the first in foreign countries.

What do you like to do when you are not working?

I like interacting with friends by Twitter, Facebook, etc., taking photographs, or looking for a strange and cool things on the street.

I also noticed you enjoy art and photography. Who are some of your favorite artists and photographers?

Yes! I love taking photographs. However, I do not know much about other artists or the photographers.

I liked Salvador Dali a long time ago but there is no specific person now.

You are quite a good photographer yourself. Can you share with us some of your favorite photos?

Thank you so much!!!

Of course.

Click on the thumbnail to see examples of Azumi’s photography work!

What are your hopes for yourself and Bespa Kumamero in the future?

I wishe to continue to live happy for both BESPA KUMAMERO and myself. Enjoying oneself  is most important.

Where can we go to find out more about you and the band?

Please see my blog, Facebook, and an individual web page etc… about me.


Facebook: kuwadate

Twitter: kuwadate/

Web site: kuwadate/

tumblr:  http://azumi-kuwadate.tumblr. com/


official web site:

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