With more than a passing flair for the dark side of Electronic Pop, Robert Blaque is the man behind the Denki Tiger label, which offers Frivolous Syn, XevenT, the Goth Synth Industrial(TM) compilation series, and Blaque's own band, Secret Secret.
Traveling the globe in search of that "everlasting nightlife," Blaque often touches down for extended periods of time in Tokyo, where he has become enamored with the Japanese Gothic sub-culture.
Now planting himself back home in San Francisco, Blaque tells SickAmongthePure about his recent travels and future plans.
Wow, you seem to have your fingers in several different musical pies!
SickAmongthePure: Please give us a brief overview of your music projects.
Robert Blaque: Currently my main focus is Secret Secret. Everything that I do in some fashion or another relates to the band. At the time Denki Tiger was created to support Secret Secret, though it has taken on a life of its own since then. I've also been involved with creating and supporting events that feature bands.
Please introduce SickAmongthePure to that band, Secret Secret.
SATP: Who does what? I hear you have a new addition to your lineup?
RB: Secret Secret has been evolving as a band ever since its inception - much to my embarrassment. I'm not beyond begging my friends to climb on stage with me! Thankfully, I've had the opportunity to work with some great people. Today we actually have real solid members. On bass we have Winter. He's been with Secret Secret over two years now. His first show was at Yaoicon. He loves J-Rock, more so than any of us in the band. He's very active in that community. That's actually how we were invited to perform at PMX; via Winter's friendships in the J-Rock community here in the States.
What seems like a most recent addition to Secret Secret is our violin player, Dylan. He is the most loved member of the band. The girls just swoon all over him. He's also the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. We went to Japan together last June for some shows and it was truly a pleasure. He's just an innately friendly chap. Weird for a Goth band, I know, but hey, Secret Secret is not a typical band in any sense of the word. I could blather on and on about these two for quite some time so I better couch myself.
I would like to mention our guest members. In Japan we've worked with Masimi quite a bit. He is quite an accomplished synthesizer player. Our friends at Keyboard Magazine introduced us. Yuki, from Spider Lili, has played bass with Secret Secret so many times now he's like a real member of the band. zAkro, a Gothic Lolita fashion model, performed recently with us at KUF and TDC. She was smashing! She plays both synths and the octapad. In the states our good friend Amber joins us from time to time on synthesizers.
When I listen to Secret Secret, I hear a Gary Numan influence...
SATP: Is your main passion Synth-Pop? What other forms of music influence you?
RB: I do listen to many types of music. Numan is a huge influence, of course. He was doing dark Synth-Pop before anyone. The stories told in his lyrics out-Sci-Fi some of the great Sci-Fi authors. I'm pretty sure Numan invented the concept of a rape machine. You can't but be affected by the way he presents it though. That's something that sticks with you. As you know, we do a cover of Numan's "Metal." Out of the many many songs that Gary has penned it is rather strange that we took that one on. It just really spoke to me and I didn't think anyone else would go after it, like they would for one of his hits. Still, some time after we were covering it a big named dark cat - I'm sure you know who I mean! - did the same. So, I feel rather pleased about the choice because now I know that song really does touch other people like it touched me. It genuinely is a fantastically enjoyable song to perform.
Other music I listen to would be way too long to list. I do play a blue grass mandolin, and I use to play soprano sax. I still have it actually and I pull it out from time to time. But my embrasure has totally gone and I can only play about twenty minuets or so. Still, it's a blast. I wrote a song some years back called "Vision of You" and recorded it with a friend on his 8-track. Yeah, on tape. I did some sax work on that track. I am very happy how that came out. Nothing super flashy or sick like that skinny G guy. It just really fit within the song. After that I guess I didn't feel I needed to say more with the sax; strange, now that I think about it.
Synth-Pop, and dark Synth-Pop specifically, just offers Secret Secret a form of expression that hasn't been so fully codified. There are still sounds to be explored. Most other instruments have had hundreds of years of experimentation. The synth is still really young and I find that very exciting.
SATP: What's new with the Denki Tiger label?
RB: Nothing. Sadly I've been ignoring it. Labels need a lot of money to produce and market product. I've been putting that money into other projects like going to Japan. I do want to do a Japanese version of Goth Synth Industrial. There are some great bands that people should know about. Really some amazing stuff over there. But I don't currently have the resources to do it at this time.
I have also been very excited by some of the new bands in San Francisco. My friend Cory has this great new band called Flatline Transmissions. Finally, Cory has taken on the task of lead vocals and I think it is fantastic. Another friend of mine, James, who has toured with Secret Secret, has a new project called Left at Calliope. It's the best thing he's done yet. He's such an accomplished musician, too. This has got me thinking that it's time to think about volume two of SFGSI.
We are working on a Secret Secret CD entitled Into the Darkness but have been devastated by setback after setback. Eventually these obstacles will be overcome. So, for now, we are focusing on our live events. Actually that is where we shine right now - our live shows. Strange for a synth band, I know!
RB: There are two ways to answer this: what TDC actually is, and what is the story about it and how am I connected. TDC is the best Gothic event in Tokyo. People travel from around the world to go to it. They plan their honeymoons to be able to attend it. Tokyo Dark Castle is amazing. All the Japanese Goth bands want to perform at it. So much so it has become a rite of passage. It was the first, well where it comes from actually, but that is what the second answer is all about. It was the first event in Tokyo to really promote Goth bands in a format where they were the stars. This is primarily due to the work of two incredibly awesome and talented people that I consider my dear friends, Genet and Taroo.
The second answer is an article in itself. I will say that I had a hand in starting it and that is how I am connected to it. I also am the one that created its sister event Kobe Underground Festival with the help of Genet and some Kansi friends that supported me with the organizing of the event, and I am the one that brought it to the States.
SATP: What are the details behind bringing Dark Castle to the States?
RB: Because I ignited TDC (which at the time used the moniker Tokyo Goth & Darkwave), having performed at many of them, and because I created Kobe Underground Festival, I was in a unique position to bring the Dark Castle concept to America. Since I live in San Francisco, naturally that is where I chose to do it. On the bus ride back from KUF I was talking with Genet. I said, "We really need to take this to the States." He was very supportive. He said that Auto-Mod wouldn't be able to make it, but he really liked the idea that Tokyo Dark Castle could go to America. For me, it was a way to create more awareness of the Dark Castle concept. It's something that I could do to introduce people to what was going on in Tokyo, building consciousness of this fantastic brisance. That's how Tokyo Dark Castle San Francisco got started.
I knew that I would need a partner to achieve the goals I had in mind, so I went to many of my friends in the SF Goth scene. None of them seemed to get the idea. They didn't like the concept of reintroducing fashion back into SF. As of late, fashion isn't something that seems to be all that important to some of the SF Goth. But I remember the days of House of Usher where the people dressed divine with corsets and velvet while we danced to magical music. Truly, Usher was the event that crystallized San Francisco as Gothic capital of the States, which at the time it was, but it seems to have lost that status. Florida has a better Goth scene than San Francisco. And while I cheer Florida on, I can't help but think, what the hell happened to us?
Currently, well in SF, we still are lucky enough to have a Gothic event on just about every night of the week. We have Death Guild, a Gothic event that has been on for over eleven years! The Death Guild crew does a lot to support the scene in SF.
The venue DNA Lounge has been doing a lot to support Goth in SF. Dark Sparkle is doing the best of any club in the area of supporting a Gothic fashion statement, but the other events either swing towards hardcore SM or Rivethead fashion. Where are the corsets, the velvet? Really, where did they go in San Francisco? I really miss that element, and I wanted to do something about it. So I looked up DJ Bat, one of the three people that were House of Usher.
I sent Bat a post basically outlining what my plan was. I really didn't even expect a reply since no one else in SF seemed to understand what I was talking about. But I got a response. Bat so totally understood what I was talking about. It was like I had discovered my Gothic brother. He even knew about the references that I made. I didn't have to explain any of it to him because he already got it.
From there it was just a lot of hard work. That, and selecting some key people to work with, and we did too. For our Halloween premier event our staff, talent, venders and audience understood the concept of a Dark Castle event. It really was gratifying. Now we are on to the next one that holds some great surprises that I can't comment on yet. I can say this: You will WANT to be there.
SATP: Please describe your fascination with Japan and the Japanese Gothic culture.
RB: It's hard to say, really. Japan is just an interesting place. The way that they interpret the world has this new angle on things. They really don't see things the way we do. For instance, if a kid in the States showed up at school with a Nazi armband on people would freak. The kid would get suspended; have to suffer through years of psychiatric torture. It would just be way too much overreaction. In Japan no one would even blink. Sure they know where it comes from, but no one for a minute would think that the kid was doing anything other than enjoying the aesthetic of the best dressed military there ever was.
Now that is kind of an extreme example, but it illustrates something very special. I can get all dolled up with my cape on and walk around Tokyo and no one hassles me. Maybe it's because I'm six and a half feet tall in my platforms, but I don't think so! Here in the States I get dolled up and people ask me if I'm a faggot and try to beat me up. Ah, I run pretty fast. You can see the attraction. In Japan I am free to be the person I want to be. Here in the so-called land of the free I can't even hope that my vote will be counted accurately let alone feel like I can express myself without some serious potential harm affecting my person. The only time I ever felt comfortable wandering around dolled up, outside of being on stage, was at GothCon in New Orleans. You were there, and that's kind of a taste of what it's like to be in Japan.
SATP: How fluent are you in the Japanese language?
RB: Not at all. I know enough to wander around by myself with no fear. I can do what one needs to survive, even to the point of finding a place on the street to sleep. But I can't really hold an in-depth conversation, or more importantly negotiate a contract. I learned that the hard way.
SATP: How much of your music is created with Japanese lyrics?
RB: These days, almost none. When Secret Secret had Taiko in the band I did a lot of work with Japanese. I didn't know any of it then. I just went by the sound of it. It was a lot of fun. I've since made a Japanese version of Car 17 that I've sung to the Japanese audiences, but the stuff I am working on these days really focuses on English. I've kind of learned that I am much better at expressing what I want to say in English. Still, I have some ideas that I'd like to explore and given the chance I probably will. But you should know I don't exclusively do language play only with Japanese. "People Go Out" makes use of French, and oh what a beautiful way to make a woman swear. It still sounds like she is asking if you want to make love.
Of a curious note, years after doing "Nichiyoubi," I started to learn what it was saying. I mean, knowing the language is different than knowing what you asked someone to translate. And at that point the song took on a whole new meaning for me. I understood it on a level that only a bilingual person could.
SATP: What and where are some of the anime conventions you have performed at lately?
RB: The first involvement we had at an anime convention was at Fanime. Rob Miles, a good friend and avid Secret Secret supporter, introduced me to guest relations to help out as a translator. I was also given a table where I could sell SFGSI CDs. It went incredibly well. Many CDs were sold, and a lot of people got to know us. It was from that exposure that we were, again via Rob Miles, introduced to Yaoicon. Yaoicon, oh my!
I tell you there is not a better convention than Yaoicon. Some people will tell you Yaoi is gay Manga, but that is oh so wrong. Yaoi is a romance Manga started about thirty years ago in Japan. Yes, it is guy on guy action, but it's not gay. Hard to understand, and I really don't have the time to give you the full run down. Besides, Susan does a better job of it on the Yaoicon website. The convention itself is amazing. Imagine a thousand women all stirred up, and that's the audience for whom you are performing. It is the best! The only way I can think to describe it is how it must feel to be Tom Jones on stage.
After Yaoicon, we were invited to perform at Fanime the next year. That was a very eclectic line up and their first year holding a musical event. As such there were some difficulties. Fanime the convention has been running for many years and is considered the SF Bay area's best anime convention, but for music they are still getting their feet. Still, it was great fun. We made a lot of new friends, like the Osaka visual kei band Blood, and we would be excited to work with Fanime again. They put on a first-class convention and I have no doubts at all that they will figure out how to put on a first class concert.
This leads to our biggest anime performance to date, PMX. There was a major headliner from Japan at PMX: TM Revolution featuring Takanori Nishikawa. He's just an amazing performer at the top of the charts in Japan and I consider it a great honor to share a bill with him, and I'm grateful to the people at PMX for giving us that opportunity. I did get a chance to meet Takanori in the corridor when his handlers weren't around. He is so cool. I expected that maybe he might have an attitude, and really he could because he has achieved so much, but he's the nicest guy; super friendly and funny like you wouldn't believe. I have to say hanging out with him in the hallways was one of the best memories I have of PMX.
Right now we are working on our next involvement with an anime convention and that one is Anime Overdose, San Francisco's new young Turk of anime conventions. They are very progressive and because they are young they seem to have a better connection to what the fans want.
SATP: Please describe for our readers this clandestine Secret Secret event happening in San Francisco during the first week of March 2005.
RB: I probably shouldn't tell you about this, but your press time should come after we make the announcement so I will anyway. DJ Bat and I have wanted to incorporate Dark Castle into anime events. We believe that this is really the way to showcase the Gothic and Gothic Lolita culture in America. There are many reasons for this that go beyond the scope of this interview, so I won't go into detail. The opportunity holds much for everyone involved. Our first fitting of this concept will be the first week of March when we combine our resources with Anime Overdose.
By incorporating Dark Castle into an anime convention, like Anime Overdose, we get access to a larger budget, which in turn allows us to attract people from Japan because we can cover more of the expenses that are involved in performing in another country. I know as well as most people what it is like to travel to another country to perform. For the most part the band has to take on all of the financial responsibility. It is very difficult. For the twenty some odd performances in Japan, Secret Secret have received less then $500. Yeah you heard that right: FIVE HUNDRED.
I frequently get asked by other bands how to play in Japan and I tell them it's easy! Take about two semesters of Japanese and study real hard. No other classes, just Japanese. Get a good foundation of the language. Then, just go over there and make friends. From there you can book a show. But you wont get paid much. But that's actually very special because in Japan most of the time if a band wants to do a show they have to pay to play, just like if you are a Heavy Metal band in LA. It sucks. So they are making a very special arrangement for you by paying you a little something, even if it is sen enn.
It's a similar issue for us here in the States. It is very unlikely that Dark Castle on its own can draw enough people to support a band coming over here from Japan. But at an anime convention with so many more people, there is a little bit bigger budget that will allow us to bring over some Japanese talent, and that excites us! It is actually one of the things that I've been working towards for many years and now in 2005 it is actually going to happen.
SATP: Please give us some insight as to what this song "Nichiyoubi" is about.
RB: It is of course a silly song. The premise is that of a girl that stays home on Sunday night to play the game Pong. She goes on and on about how the game is so much fun that it is actually all she wants to do; it is her life. This is countered by the male voice commenting on her behavior and how he is bewitched by her charm. From there we just had a lot of fun with it. The line "It's her paddle that beats me" is frequently misinterpreted as meaning something completely different, which is of course the intent of the lyric - to give the listener his or her own perspective, but we can straight up say that it's about Pong. Still, with all of that, "Nichiyoubi" is a serious song too, because what is really more serious than adoring or being adored by another?
SATP: What new and exciting things will fans now experience at your live shows?
RB: Our live shows have evolved. We have always put a lot of effort into the presentation. We keep getting better at it, though it takes considerable effort. Some CMJs ago I was hanging out with Rogue. We were chatting about performing and he asked if I go out into the audience. At the time I would, but only after our set. You probably know he not only goes out but he climbs just about everything. Like a monkey! Really, Rogue is quite entertaining to see perform, and he's a good friend. He convinced me that I had to go out into the audience - which sound guys hate by the way! Another thing I've become fond of doing is bringing people up onstage and waltzing them about. That, and the roses.
SATP: Will you be touring Japan again soon?
RB: I don't think so. In the last few years I've enjoyed a lot of time in Japan, but I've had to pay for it dearly. I've been essentially homeless for coming up on two years now. It's by choice of course. I've put all my things in storage and make the best of it, but I don't think people really appreciate the effort and dedication involved. It's a very difficult pace to keep up, and really I long for a place that I can call home, and a bed that I can just drop into and forget about the world if only for a few hours.
The Goth scene in Japan, while extremely vital and wonderfully creative in its interpretation, it is also incredibly small. It can't actually support bands. You have to be very dedicated to be a Goth band in Japan, and I tip my hat to those that go for it. A big night in Tokyo at a Goth event draws slightly over 100 people. Sure, at Kobe we saw nearly 300 people show up, making it the most outstanding Gothic event Kobe has ever seen, but due to some dishonest people that took control of the event, the bands didn't get paid. Not even the headliners Auto-Mod or Secret Secret were paid for their performance. It cost me personally thousands of dollars to create that event and then travel back to perform at it, and we didn't get paid. I saw no money from that show. The event took in a lot of money, but the bands never saw any of it.
At first I was stunned. How could this happen in Japan? But then I came to the brutal realization that there are good and bad people everywhere, and I had just been incredibly fortunate up to that point in time. So before Secret Secret goes back to Japan one or two things need to happen. I need to rebuild my ability to go without income for months on end, or we need to be offered shows that actually pay us enough money to travel there - neither of which are going to happen anytime soon.
SATP: Where might fans in the United States catch a Secret Secret live performance?
RB: San Francisco of course! Our next show will be at TDCSF in March. We have applied to C11 in San Diego, we are considering applying to the Dark Arts Festival in Utah, and there are other events in the works. The best thing to do is watch our website for announcements. There may be a mini-tour in the spring depending on what happens with some of the bands coming out for the SF Dark Castle event. We are open to other events. We would dearly enjoy playing in Europe. That's a rite of passage that I think we are now ready for.
SATP: What is the Book of Secret Secret?
RB: The Book of Secret Secret is a new website that we put together for our fans. It is a place to put things about Secret Secret that just didn't seem to fit on the band's website. Eventually more of the content from the Secret Secret site will be moved over, as I get time to do so, but the intent is to add fun memorabilia that we collect. Photos, fan art - yes, do send some in! - fans showing off their SS dedication. Things of that nature. It was also my first real exploration into CSS.
Rob, you have a fascinating life, traveling and performing!
SATP: Do you have a "normal" day job, too?
RB: My current situation is anything but normal. It's been extremely difficult to do the things I've been doing. I've had to go hungry for days on end; sleep on the streets or in my car when I'm here in the States. I mean, it's no glamour run. But I've been just incredibly fortunate at times, too. I have been helped by some wonderful friends that have supported me through this. What it comes down to are priorities and what you are really willing to do for your art. I can't say it was ever an all-out conscious decision on my part. I had some great hardships in my life that opened my eyes to the realization that I don't need all this stuff. I gave away so many things, or lost them to evil roommates that stole from me, and I lost a very dear creature in my life, Sonett my cat. I was unbelievably close to Sonett. He would actually start waiting at the top of the steps a day or two before I'd come home from a trip, even Japan. He knew. When I'd come home from school he'd be watching me walk up the hill and when I got to the door he'd fly down the steps to meet me. We spent a lot of time together and I really think he saved me from going into a seriously deep depression. But after loosing him I really lost it. At times I still find it incredibly difficult to start my day.
All of this misfortune put me in a position where I really felt that I had nothing else to lose. That wasn't the case of course, but that is how I felt, and it completely steered my direction.
SATP: What is a typical day like for you?
RB: I spend an inordinate amount of time in front of my computer. It is how I eek out a starving.
SATP: What is the "SFGSI" compilation?
Tell us about the process and various experiences you had during the three+ years you took trying to get the "San Francisco Goth Synth Industrial" compilation together on your own terms. Please include examples and perhaps bits of conversation relevant to the details.
How did you determine when (and if) songs submitted were ready, or would be ready, for inclusion on the compilation?
RB: The concept came out of participation on the SF Goth bands and DJs email list that I moderate. People wanted to do a compilation CD. It was a great idea, but no one was doing what was necessary to make it happen. At some point I became active in putting something together.
Then it became this whole project. As I would come up with each idea the project would take on a new phase. This seemed like a never-ending process. There was just too much. Collecting the tracks was actually the easiest part of the task. Figuring out how to make the packaging was very difficult. People told me that it couldn't be done. But I knew what I wanted and I just had to keep at it. Eventually I came up with solution after solution to construct it.
It was the same for the CD-ROM section of the CD. I knew I wanted to have an artist portfolio for each band. I also wanted to have this disc reach out to the community so I started approaching magazines, fashion designers, and such to be included in the ROM section. Eventually the number climbed to 30. I didn't charge them to be on the CD. It was a free service, as the point of the CD was to promote the Gothic community. Same for the bands, there was no charge for anyone as I took on the whole financial responsibility, save recording the tracks.
Then I had this crazy idea to make it bilingual. That simple idea took a whole year to implement. Band bios are extremely hard to translate because no one writes straightforwardly about their bands. Why? Because it would be so boring! I had to chop the bios down to about two paragraphs. You can tell what bands were on the comp first because they have long bios!
As for selecting the music it was pretty simple. It was all based on what I liked. If I didn't like it, then it didn't make it to the disc. There was one track that I thought was fantastic but I just couldn't put in on the CD. The band got really mad at me when I told them, and even still they won't talk to me. The reason? Remember that Cher song "Life After Love?" The one with the mechanical vocal effect. It was so over-used at the time. Well, this band had done it on their song. They did a fantastic job of it, they really did, but I couldn't put it on SFGSI because it would just date the album. This was something that I took very seriously. And, to the CD's credit, it is selling better now two years after its release than it did at first. So, I think we ended up with a timeless album and that was one of the many goals.
SATP: Which bands appearing on the compilation did you enjoy working with most and why?
RB: I had a great time with Eric's band, See Colin Slash. They wanted very much to be a part of the CD, but they didn't have a place to record. So I invited them to my place and recorded them. When they first came over they had the essence of what could be a great song. But it really seemed like they were new to songwriting because they didn't have a very good idea of how to put the elements together. So I spent most of the time just talking about things and sending them home with a list of things to do. This went on for a few weeks. They were very good at addressing the things we talked about. I could see that the song had great potential and was worth my time. Then we finally got to the vocals. Eric is very good at taking direction, to the point of being one of the best I've ever worked with. Then I mixed it and they seemed to be genuinely happy with it.
Working with Kurt (Information Society) on Secret Secret's track was the biggest musical learning experience for me during SFGSI. I asked if he would be interested in singing. I was so stressed out that I had lost my voice. It was terrible as it became such that my track was the last thing that needed to be finished. Kurt said sure. I sent him the track and the lyrics. He came over and spent some time in the studio going over it while I made some veggie burgers. We then did the recording of his vocals. It was amazing. He knew exactly what to do, fixed issues with the vocal line, and most of all he added what I call the signature InSoc chorus. I was completely overwhelmed by his kindness. He brought the song to a whole new level. I think that Kurt is really someone in SF that is totally undervalued. We are so lucky to have him as a member of our community.
Shawn from Battery and Bloodwire was a great help with the compilation. I don't think I could have finished the CD in a "timely" fashion without his help; meaning it would have taken a lot longer without his dedication. He not only did the Battery track, he did the Bloodwire track, produced the Hungry Lucy track, and helped me with my track. That's four of the 15 tracks that his creativity went into on this disc. You get to hear a lot of Shawn on this album!
The silent hero of SFGSI is my friend, Robert "Guri Boy." Not only did he make the printing possible by helping me with the final stages of the art production, but he also helped me with the final mix of my track and he mastered the CD. He used to do remixes for Razormaid. He is a great friend and really helped me a lot. It took hours to render the art to the film printer.
My previous roommate Michi became my de-facto Japanese editor. She did many of the translations and fixed nearly all of the other ones. She really is fantastic and I think the world of her.
Most of all I need to mention Xander on the computer; it was his Illustrator skills that enabled me to actually come up with the solution to making the case design. It may seem like a small thing now, but it really was the breakthrough that I needed to be able to finish the compilation.
The one thing that SFGSI really shows is how a community can get together to create something that goes beyond special. I really believe this disc has obtained that level of success.
SATP: What sorts of challenges have you experienced with post-production and marketing of the SFGSI compilation?
RB: I guess you could say this is the most disappointing aspect of the project. The sales numbers have been rather low. I mean I've sold them well enough at shows, and CD Baby has done quite well with the CD, but really this disc should have sold much better. But I didn't have the resources to market it well at all. I had sold my Ducati to be able to produce the CD, pay for the printing and what not. That left me without the resources to do a decent marketing campaign. So, the sales suffered.
I notice a lot of fashion links on your website.
SATP: What are some of your thoughts about fashion?
RB: I adore fashion. That is without a doubt what attracted me to Goth. Sure I enjoy a lot of the music, but it was the fashion that pulled me in. I use to have a subscription to Elle. I liked it a bit better then Cosmo and Vogue, though they are both a lot of fun at times. I've met many friends in Japan that create beautiful garments. It's fun to talk shop. My very sweet friend Akemi was at a bookstore one day, and she came across this truly unique mook (in Japan they have this cross between a magazine and a book and they call it a "mook"). So she bought it and sent it to me with a note that said, "I think you'll like this." Oh and did I! It was the first issue of Gothic & Lolita Bible.
SATP: What recent "connection" do you have to the Gothic Lolita Bible?
RB: I've been in it a few times, and I've met some of the people that put it together. They are very sweet and I really like their photographer. I think he's great. Oddly enough, none of them like to have their photo taken!
SATP: Tell us about your newest hobby, corset making!
Rois, a dear friend of mine in the SF Goth sewing circle, suggested that I make a waste cincher. She knows a lot about corsets. Rois helped me with the design and got me started. I had made one corset and was working on my second. I went up to Canada on a three-day trip to work as a photographer. I knew I'd have some time to myself, so I brought my sewing machine. I got about 1/2 done on my second corset but made no progress on the hat that I wanted to go with it. Having found that I could travel with a sewing machine, I took mine with me to Japan and I am so lucky that I did.
I had planed to be in Japan for 90 days. That is the longest I could stay without a special visa. I had planned to do some web work for my friends' company while I was there, but they didn't get their funding. So here I was in Japan for basically three months with no way to support myself. So I started sourcing materials to make corsets. I refashioned the pattern I had and started making corsets. It was through this that I was able to survive winter in Japan. Still, it was difficult at first until my friend Euro Chika started helping me get commissions. She totally helped me sell a bunch of corsets. Since I've returned to the States, I've made a few custom orders. I almost always charge my monthly storage bill rate!
SATP: Do you design and/or make all of your stage costumes?
RB: Costume creation is something that's new to me. I do put a lot of effort into it and I've learned how to sew so that we can have better and more unique costumes. I was really inspired by my friends, eX-Girl. They make their own costumes. They have something new every time they go on tour. They look fantastic, too. I wanted to take us up to the next level and I really didn't see what I wanted in stores. Nor could we afford to pay someone to make our costumes. So I decided to learn how to sew.
SATP: What is "Visual Kei," and how does it relate to Secret Secret (if at all)?
RB: Visual Kei, or VK, is a style that many bands in Japan participate in. Basically start with KISS and mutate. The music tends to be of a metal nature. The costumes range from boring to the hottest thing you've ever seen bands wear. Secret Secret doesn't really fit into VK because we are Synth-Pop. I have a bunch of friends that do VK. Yuki who plays bass for us is a VK artist. I've helped a few VK bands that have played in the States, and I've gone to VK concerts in Japan. It's a lot of fun. The audience goes crazy.
Wow, you certainly are a busy guy! Thank you for answering this interview with such honesty and depth. We look forward to more music from Secret Secret, Denki Tiger, and the SFGSI Compilation in the future!
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