Oricon has published a new interview with KOBAMETAL and Rockmaykan’s owner, where they talk about the music industry’s current situation due to the pandemic. Koba mentions his feelings, as well as the BABYMETAL members for the venue, and mentions a plan to help them which he calls “Rockmaykan 10 days”, which would be related to this years 10th Anniversary of BABYMETAL. You can read the full interview translated (with machine translators) below.
For a bit of context, Meguro Rockmaykan is a small venue in Tokyo with a lot of history regarding metal in Japan. For BABYMETAL specifically, it’s the venue where they held their first solo show back in 2012, called “LEGEND〜 Corset Festival”, where all audience members had to wear neck corsets. There is a short pro-shot which includes 2 songs on the IDZ single (Limited Z edition) DVD. You may know the Uki Uki Midnight video. In a 2016 NHK Special, the girls go back years later to reminisce, as well.
The venue has a capacity of 250, plus any restrictions that are ordered… if these end up being 10 shows around October, it’s safe to say it would need to be streamed, as even if live attendance is allowed, it would be very very limited.
There is also a video interview:
Full article with machine translation
I went through it to fix some errors, as well.
BABYMETAL’s 10th anniversary “10 days” to be held at the sacred Meguro Rokumeikan, “STAY METAL” to repay the debt of gratitude for the corona disaster
Live entertainment has been hit hard by the new coronavirus. In particular, the survival of live music venues is in jeopardy, and there have been numerous reports of people giving up on their operations. Meguro Rokumeikan, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, is no exception, with no live performances after April. The club has been paying rent, labor costs, and other monthly fixed costs of about 3.5 million yen, and with no prospects for sales.
Meguro Rokumeikan was the driving force behind “Japaneta” boom in the 80’s, and for being X JAPAN’s base of operations. In response to this predicament, the band that has been based at this live music venue has been able to sell original merchandise. Support for the project is expanding through donations.
BABYMETAL, which is now popular all over the world, has close ties with Rokumeikan. Babymetal, who held their first solo show at Rokumeikan, the “holy land of metal” in 2012, and plans to provide support under the theme of “STAY METAL”. This time we have planned a dialogue between the owner of Rokumeikan, Mr. Takaaki Yamaguchi, and BABYMETAL’s producer, KOBAMETAL. Based on the current situation of live music venues after the Corona disaster, we asked him to talk about measures to continue activities in the future.
■ BABYMETAL’s “Rokumeikan“, one of the toughest gigs to perform in the top 3
–BABYMETAL is holding their first solo show at Meguro SRokumeikan for the first time. It’s an important live music venue for them, isn’t it?
[KOBAMETAL] In a word, it’s a sacred place. The members also say that they still have a strong memory of that time, and it’s one of the top three live music venues in the world. There was a part that I was not used to because of the enthusiasm peculiar to the live house and the tension of the first one-man live, but I did it energetically. That story still comes up a lot, doesn’t it?
[Yamaguchi] I was prejudiced against idols at the time (laughs). Since I’ve consistently booked mainly heavy metal and visual bands, when I heard from BABYMETAL, I honestly wondered why they wanted to be in Rokumeikan. The impression changed completely on the day of the concert. I thought, “It’s metal!”
[KOBAMETAL] When I started BABYMETAL, I was thinking, “It’s going to be a hardcore heavy metal band” I had seen many bands live at the Rokumeikan, and I thought “The only place to start is the Rokumeikan!” Legendary bands including X JAPAN spread from this stage to Japan and the world. I was really happy to have started at such a wonderful place.
――BABYMETAL has now grown into a global artist.
[KOBAMETAL] I didn’t expect this to happen (laughs). New forms of the heavy metal genre have been born at different times. Starting with Black Sabbath in the 70’s, different types of bands such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slipknot, KoRn, Limp Bizkit, and so on, kept coming up. Every time a new style comes out, it gets hammered, and then it becomes mainstream. BABYMETAL isn’t exactly straightforward metal either, but we had a goal to present a new culture of metal.
――Meguro Rokumeikan is 40 years old this year. Mr. Yamaguchi himself has been involved in the operation for 33 years, but do you feel the weight and responsibility of the metal as a sacred place?
[Yamaguchi] I usually don’t think about it, but when I look at past materials from the 20th and 30th anniversaries, that’s the kind of recognition I get. I feel that I have been given a lot of experience in this field. Of course I feel a sense of responsibility, or rather, the need to protect it. After the “Japameta” boom, when X JAPAN’s follower base increased, we had a lot of support from orthodox metal fans. There were times when people thought that “all the bands in Rokumeikan were flashy”. But there were bands that were rocking hard, and bands that were just cool that quickly disappeared. I’ve talked to the band, and sometimes I’ve given them a run for their money. Maybe that’s how I’ve kept the tradition of Rokumeikan alive.
As I said before, BABYMETAL was completely metal. We’ve seen more and more idol gigs in the last few years, and it’s a trend that BABYMETAL set in motion. There are a lot of idols who say, “I want to stand on the same stage as BABYMETAL”. That’s the same band that says, “I want to be on the same stage as X JAPAN,” and as an owner, we have to protect this place together with you.
Planning “KanumeiKan 10 Days” to “repay the kindness” and provide sustainable support for “STAY METAL”.
――The spread of the new coronavirus has caused extensive damage to live music venues. Can you tell us about the current situation at the Rokumeikan?
[Yamaguchi] From April to May and June, we haven’t had a single live performance.I’m sure the business format differs from venue to venue, but in our case, the venue fee and the drink fee of the customer make up most of the income. Of course, things such as rent and labor costs still have to be paid. Initially I didn’t think it would drag on this long, I just thought we’d get through until May and we’d make it work. But it’s really hard to get a month of growth. There are benefits and grants, but I have no choice but to make my own debt. It’s not pretty, the point is that if you have the money, you can continue to do it. You don’t think of it negatively, but rather as a way of saying, “I can get into debt to protect myself.
――You’ve also begun to receive support from artists with ties to the Rokumeikan.
[Yamaguchi] That’s right. When they saw the news reports that “Rokumeikan looks like it’s in trouble”, one of the bands said, “We’re going to produce original products at Rokumeikan.” They offered to sell it to me. A customer also asked for a product with the Rokumeikan logo on it, so I made a T-shirt. We have received support from many people. I never had that idea in mind, and I never thought the band would offer me support at all. I wasn’t imagining it. I’m very grateful for that.
――I heard that BABYMETAL is also starting a project with Rokumeikan.
[KOBAMETAL] We are talking about what we can do under the theme of “STAY METAL”. “STAY METAL” is the word originally written by Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. Fortunately for BABYMETAL, we had the opportunity to perform with them, and their stage presence was just amazing. I felt that it’s the power to keep going that makes it possible to pull off a show like this, and the twists and turns and there were hardships and difficulties, but I was reminded of the importance of “continuing on”.
――I think it’s important to continue, not just provide temporary support.
[KOBAMETAL] Yes, that’s true. Since this year is the 10th anniversary of BABYMETAL’s formation, I am thinking of a project called “Rokumeikan 10days”. It’s hard to go back to the pre-corona situation, and the spread of infection must be reliably prevented for sure. So it’s hard to say whether it’s better to have no audience or what the best form of distribution is. This is an opportunity to change the way we think and challenge what we can do in the midst of it and what we couldn’t do before.
In any case, I think it’s important not only for artists, management, and live houses, but also for fans to work together.
[Yamaguchi] Not everything is working according to the plan of the live music club or band, but rather the things the customers are making. The way of going along and making noise is something that the performers and the audience create together, and that’s what we do at a live concert. You have to be a person with a certain level of experience to understand it. That doesn’t happen with live streaming, and I’d like to be very particular about that. There are always things you can only get at a live concert, and we just want to move them anyway.
[KOBAMETAL] The connection between artists and fans is important, isn’t it? Speaking specifically of the metal genre, the power of the community is huge. When you see tens of thousands of people gathering at metal festivals overseas, you realize that “there are people on Earth who love metal”. It makes you realize that there are so many of them in the world. When I think about it that way, as long as we keep making sounds, we can continue to do it no matter what the situation is.
[Yamaguchi] It’s not just one of us, but it’s important to create together. But if it’s been like this for three months and you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, I think that some people may say, “I’m done with live music clubs”. if I don’t know what to do in the future for three months. When I think about it the other way around, I wonder if the core customers will remain.
[Yamaguchi] Looking back on it, Rokumeikan had a lot of core customers. There were all kinds of movements, and the management wasn’t always smooth, but there were a lot of bookings. There was a time when we couldn’t fill it. Still, I liked Rokumeikan, and connected with the bands and management people who wanted to play live at our place. But we’ve come this far, haven’t we? After all, I’m a person-to-person person, and I believe that it won’t be long before things are back to normal. Of course, you have to do what you need to do, and you have to work hard.
[KOBAMETAL] I think we’re going to see a lot of different forms of support in the future. The fact that we can’t perform live in the form we did before makes it difficult for us to keep up with the economy. I think there are some things, for example, if you can only fit in half of what you had before, even if the ticket price is doubled, will there still be some customers who want to see it? In order to do so, I think it is necessary to understand each other. It’s not a sacrifice for any one of us, but for the fans who support us, and of course to think of how can we all work together to create new forms and new values, including the artists? I think that’s the key.
–I think that’s a very positive vision. Anyway, I think that Yamaguchi’s feeling of “never stopping Rokumeikan” and KOBAMETAL’s concept of “STAY METAL” are wonderful.
[Yamaguchi] It’s not just the live music clubs that have a hard time, but the bands and the offices as well. Unfortunately, some bands have decided to disband. I’m a live house person, so I just keep trying to make people think “I’m glad that Rokumeikan is still here”. I don’t see any weakness there.
[KOBAMETAL] As I said before, the metal community is very strong and is connected across countries, genders, and ages. Of course, BABYMETAL is willing to help in any way we can, but we are also looking forward to working with people all over the country and in various I hope to continue “STAY METAL” by doing what artists can do.
Writer, Tomoyuki Mori