It may seem really strange to people who aren't a part of the scene or haven't grown up with it, but since visual kei and Japanese rock culture is something that's strongly influenced the construction of my identity since junior high school, the idea of pulling back from it is actually really anxiety-inducing.
One of my main goals for this year -- to be fiscally responsible and be able to sustain myself properly and stay out of the red -- has many parts to it, one of which is limiting the amount of visual rock lives I attend, at least until I have a proper way to afford them that doesn't involve potentially destructive habits like the accumulation of debt. I'm not stupid and I'm not willing to endanger my education in order to foolishly follow bands around, as much fun as it is. That said, I have following BIOSPHIA in my calendar until the 2nd of April, when they officially break up and all of Naru's social media outlets go offline (he's decided and publicized this).
I'd like to take a moment to talk about Naru on here, because he's what we in the scene here call my "本麺". This is pronounced 'honmen', and the kanji it's made up of is quite hilarious. The word 'honmei' (本命) which is a noun meaning favourite, a sure thing, or a certainty, is what we call our favourite band. In this case, my honmei is BIOSPHIA, which is Naru's band. A person's honmei and honmen do not actually have to be from the same band, but they usually are. (Unless said person's honmen retires or dies, this does happen, and it usually doesn't change the fact that they're basically your forever honmen, in most cases.) Anyway, the word honmen is made of the first part of honmei, which has several meanings but in this case let's go with present (time) or real/true. The second character means noodle, actually, which is a funny portmanteau of the English word "men" (man) and the Japanese character for noodle. Sometimes, when I say, "that's a sexy noodle', I am using the opposite. :P Basically, it means your favourite bandman. Ever.
I feel an important thing to note here is I don't think you really choose your honmen, they kinda choose you. At least this is extremely true in my case. I spent pretty much the last six years denying I was brutally infatuated with this man and doing pretty much everything I could to somehow move closer to him without acknowledging that this was my reason for doing anything. It's sounds moronic because it kind of is, but listen. I had to hide, I even had to con myself. Because everybody wants you to do something worthwhile, something amazing, something great, something to better society. Especially when you're smart as a kid, and not only smart but also ugly, they expect you to do great things because nobody thinks you're going to make your mark any other way in the world. And they do expect you to make a mark. But the truth is, being smart never really got me anywhere except in a boatload of pain and isolation, and since preteen years all I wanted to do was dive headlong into bands and forget about how much everything fucking sucked for me, because I did not have a fun childhood or teen years. I wanted to rock out and be angry because as the great Bob Marley put it: "One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." I got into things like Eminem and Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson as young as 11 (and got in quite some trouble for it too back then) because as cliche as it sounds, they fucking got it.
Nobody expects a 12 year old kid, especially not back then, to have legitimate feelings of suicide. Of self-loathing and worthlessness so bad, of feeling like nobody gets it (let me reiterate, especially when you're seen as 'smart' and 'ugly' and therefore an incredibly easy target for childhood bullies -- especially as a girl, for which being smart and ugly are both kind of social sins in this fucked up social strata of ours), of constantly being told you're not good enough not pretty enough not every fucking thing under the sun enough except for yourself, and you learn pretty quick that clearly yourself is a big pile of garbage. Especially when you're the subject of bullying as intense as I went through, that I have legitimate physical scars from that 13 years later have finally faded to white wisps of the memory of a hell on earth. I don't really know why it happened, why the kids picked me. I was bigger-boned, and then generally bigger, and I had no self esteem whatsoever. This is something I'm still learning to get now, but it is coming slowly. But because nobody expects a 12 year old kid to seriously want to die, to seriously know what that kind of pain is like, because nobody expects or even believes that a 12 year old kid is hurting that much when everything seems fine -- because letting it not seem fine just meant more bullying -- things got really bad, and really dark. And when I was 13, I went to a psychologist for the first time. Who told me what I already knew -- that I wasn't the problem, not really. I was a lot more mature than the other kids, especially for my age. I had to be, to deal with it all. They just didn't get me. Obviously.
Now, I've loved visual kei since I was 12 years old. And it fucking saved my life. People don't get this, but it did. It was this whole other world where things seemed backwards to what they were in the social space I lived in, and I absolutely fell head over heels for these gorgeous men who, to the untrained North American eye, looked like girls. I loved it because I always felt like a boy, like a big ugly bulldog, like I wasn't allowed to be a girl because of my structure and size and my voice and the like. But here were these guys that were saying hey fuck that, and they were hot. Some of them even wear dresses, and they wore more makeup than anyone I'd ever seen. I absolutely loved it. The visuals got me first, the style of rock music was amazing (at that time it was Pierrot and Dir and etc. and then shortly D'espairsray was on the scene), and I felt like I could carve out a space where I could maybe exist without apologizing for not fitting into the norm. I am not kidding, visual kei saved my life.
I found the scene by myself, so I cried in the hallway at school in seventh grade when I found out hide was dead. The internet was a new beast back then, Google wasn't invented yet. Anyone remember Ask Jeeves and Mama? lol These were the days of Napster and dial-up fax lines and the screech that killed your ears and not being able to use the phone while someone was on the internet. My brother and I had so many fights over the computer.
Fast-forward several years. This whole time I'd been striving, working, trying to find a way to get to Japan and experience this first-hand. I was thirstier than you've ever seen; a fucking starved tigress hunting based just on the scent, the promise of the herd that was on the whole other side of the water hole. But I wasn't gonna lay down and die.
Let's just say I found a way to Japan and I took it, consequences be damned. I was 19. I'd been waiting 7 years and I jumped. I found myself in Tokyo, then in Kyoto. A friend of mine and I had reserved tickets with Suicide Ali and WHITEBLACK happened to be playing with them. Taken by Tatsuya's (now CROW MUSIC's manager) stage presence and seeing that we would be in Kyoto at the same time as them, we reserved again, and arrived at ARC DEUX about a week later. This was the first time I saw Naru.
I was 19 and he was 27, actually, but he super didn't look it. At the time, he was in a band called Lycee. I can remember in exact detail what he was wearing, because I couldn't take my eyes off this incredible charisma bomb of a man. He didn't have tattoos then, but more piercings. I remember him standing in a full-PVC bodysuit decked out with studs and grommets in silver and gold and all sorts of weird strappy things with half-black, half-blonde hair (if you know him now you're going wow, his style has changed so much!! /sarcasm), one hand on the bar above his head and both feet on the rail screaming like a banshee at his tiny audience. I was absolutely captivated. He was weirdly gorgeous in a strangely masculine, insane, and I'm-not-that-hot-but-I-totally-am kind of way. He was a commanding presence, absolutely. And he still is; even offstage. He's loud as hell and extremely forward about what he's feeling, which is pretty uncommon for a Japanese man. He's an A type and he's a fire sign and he is a fucking firecracker. Color me smitten, for the next 7 years.
I followed him. Enough that when Lycee ended and then he had a short jaunt with VULGAR but then officially announced and started activities with another band, VELGREED, (which he started with Shion, which he is still in now with BIOSPHIA) I actually dropped everything and came to Japan. It was insane and I was insane and a bunch of terrible shit happened like I lost my job and this was in 2008 when the crash happened and the Canadian dollar was suddenly worth 73 yen as opposed to the 117 it had been worth for the previous year and a half... I still went. And I wouldn't trade it for anything, because I got to be on saizen (front row) since there were only 5 people in the front. And this was at what is now Ash OSAKA, at the time it was HOLIDAY OSAKA. What's funny is I have now seen BIOSPHIA there on several occasions, including last month, with a HELL of a lot more of a crowd and it's actually my favourite local livehouse. Anyway. The point is, I followed him.
And while I was following him, I pretended to like EVERYONE else. Even when I came to Japan in '08, I pretended to fall for Shion, or rather I tried to convince myself I liked him more. Or Airu more. Or, when they went through a lineup change, I did the insane thing and sent an entire box of shit to Haruka (who is now in カルディア(Cardia)) for his birthday. Which was the most useless thing ever, honestly. Haruka's a jerk. But I pointedly ignored Naru. I didn't want to accept that I was as ridiculously crazy about a stupid bandman as I was, because that's just dumb. That's just unacceptable. Isn't that a thing that silly, useless girls do? I didn't want to be a silly, useless girl. I had been that for enough of my life already.
But my love for visual kei in general, and my adoration for this 5'10" gorilla-beast we call Naru, didn't wane. It was kind of my stronghold, actually. It was the one thing that could really cheer me up. I loved the insanity of it, the music and the costuming and the craziness, the intricacy of the scene and how everyone, for better or for worse was/is so woven together. I am serious -- in indies vkei, everyone knows everyone.
So in 2013, with the right situation and the backing from my parents who I also think finally realized this wasn't going to disappear, I finally applied to do a full University degree in Japan. And guess what? I made it.
In March of 2014, I arrived in Japan. I landed.
At the end of April, I went to my first BIOSPHIA live. It was at Osaka MUSE.
Now, at the beginning of April, 2015, at Osaka MUSE, BIOSPHIA is ending.
It has been an insane and amazing year with this band that I'm incredibly grateful I got to spend their last one - at the very least as this unit - with them.
But it's hard. Now 33 years old, and still an indies career bandman having worked for CROW MUSIC which puts their artists through insane schedules (you should have seen their summer tour oh god), Naru isn't sure if he's going to come back. He's telling people to stop asking if he's going to do sessions even or whatever, because he doesn't know. And I understand this just as well, because after the year I've had with them too, I am also ready for a break from this kind of life. A break. But he doesn't know yet if he's going to come back. He wants to 'try something else'. God, I'd be the first one to understand that feeling. But selfishly, I don't want him to leave it. So I hope he comes back, because I'm just learning to accept some things now. That after all this time, maybe I don't have to be the person who changes the world. And maybe, when I stop feeling like I have to, I actually will. And maybe I'm not as ugly as everyone's always told me I was, or that I believed I was, since I was that twelve year old kid. And maybe, just maybe, it's okay for me to be happy doing this... because not everyone is happy hiking mountains, or building puzzles, or sewing clothes or baking or sitting at the beach or whatever people like doing. Maybe it's not wrong. Maybe it's just me.
And maybe, in my own way, the way that someone does to someone they've admired from afar for so long, it's okay for me to love Naru. Because everything started getting so much easier, and so much better, once I finally just let myself say, yep, that's my bandman. I'm a part of this subculture, and nobody can take me out of it. And I don't even want to fight it. I adore him to pieces, and that's okay. I didn't waste any more time (or money) trying to not anymore, and it was great. Things got a lot more comfortable, and I even had a way better relationship with the band -- and the band's main fans (jouren) -- once I 'came out' as Narugya. That sounds really weird, probably, but it's the truth.
The imminent end of BIOSPHIA is anxiety-creating for me, for a lot of reasons. But, on a positive note, I'm curious to see what it will bring for the future for me and everyone who has been involved with them, too.