Have you ever imagined what Sailor Moon would sound like if she was the singer of a heavy metal band? Japanese experimental rock/metal band Head Phone President suggests an answer.
Seven years ago, brothers Hiro and Mar came together with ANZA to form the band Head Phones President (HPP). Before she made her debut with Head Phones President, ANZA (Anza Ooyama) was famously known to the world as the original Sailor Moon in the SeraMyu musicals before she became a member of the Jpop idol group Sakurakko Club and sang in the duo Momo. Bassist Narumi joined the band later –- their original bassist Kawady had dropped out in 2002.
The unique sound and visual spectacle that Head Phone President provides onstage is a culmulation of the individual members' particular contributions. You can see each musician getting into their own zones. ANZA provides all the vocals in English. In a vividly theatrical performance, she gets into character, a character with a lot of pain, and she channels her emotions through her words and gestures. Narumi, Mar and Hiro provide their own energy from the sounds of their instruments: Mar and Hiro furiously jam on their guitars on opposite ends of the stage, while Narumi paces quickly back and forth on the bass. By the end of their show, all the members have collapsed to the floor, physically and mentally exhausted from their performances.
Offstage, the members of Head Phones President seem like friendly, ordinary people –- not the intense performers you might expect having just seen them onstage. Despite calling their music "negative," due to their emotional lyrics that stem from traumatic experiences, they still believe their music expresses their struggles in a hopeful manner.
When asked, the HPP members each trace their calling to heavy metal music back to their high school days. The band has a flurry of heavy rock influences, ranging from 90s American rock band Nirvana to the legendary Japanese rock band BOØWY (which features famous guitarist Hotei Tomoyasu). They also cite non-musical influences such as Japanese actress Minako Honda, mafia films and director Martin Scorese.
For long-term fans of ANZA, HPP is a quite a dramatic change from her pop star days, but nevertheless fans have accepted her as a heavy metal vocalist. ANZA says she wanted to be a female version of Hide from famous Jrock band X Japan. This influence inspired her desire to express herself in a way that she could not do through pop music.
A lot of the band's lyrics stems from ANZA's own experiences. In high school, she began to write in a diary to channel the hard times she was going through. "Alienblood" represents ANZA's own troubles growing up in Japan.
"I do not look like a typical Japanese girl – many people asked me if I could speak English," she explains. She is one-half South African and came over to Japan when she was three years old. "I had problems with other students. People would try to burn my house."
Although this is the first time HPP has performed in Los Angeles, this is not the first time they've been to America. Years back, they toured New York City and played a couple of shows there. When asked to compare their New York reception to their Japanese audience, the band said that they really enjoyed the energy in New York City. In New York, the audience jumped around to their music (one memorable concertgoer took off her bra and threw it onstage), while the Japanese audience tended to stand still and stare on. It was also exciting for them to perform in Los Angeles because they associated the city as a place where "famous music was born."
HPP just released their second album in Japan in mid-December, titled Folie a Deux. In the future, they hope to continue touring, as well as come back to America again. Recently some people have been labeling the band as Japan's answer to Evanescence, but HPP will continue to make a unique name for themselves, certainly emerging as one of Japan's leading heavy metal bands.
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2007 PMX: An Intro