Area51 - Interview

1 – Area51 is a young band and still unknown in the worldwide Metal scene. Can you describe the band’s path from its foundation to these days?
Okay! AREA51 started out when I started making demos with our former singer. That’s about 4-5 years ago. Everything but the vocals and guitars were programmed, the demos were put on the internet, and CD-Rs were given out to many people. Our former drummer and keyboard player were very interested in the demos, and we evolved into a real band.
After that, to further stretch our envelope, we decided to find a new singer. Following nearly a hundred auditions, we finally came across Kate, who joined the band. In 2005 we released our first album, which is the official start of our band’s history.
2 – I noticed that you’re getting some exposure outside of Japan and you are even releasing a 5-track CD in Brazil. Apart from a few exceptions, Japan is known for “keeping” their music inside its boundaries. Your musical market is big enough for any band to achieve success. Do you intend to take the band outside of Japan or is your country enough for you?
Like you mentioned, the musical market in Japan is definitely big. However, it’s rather unlikely that our kind of music will gain mainstream recognition today. Many listeners are not in need of songs with very long technical guitar solos, or very complex passages.
However, when looking out to the rest of the world, there are tons of listeners who go wild, who are crazy about our kind of music! Our goal is to reach those people, who appreciate what we do and who we are. That’s why we released a CD in Brazil, and why we are available around the world through iTunes. Of course we’re also working on domestic support as well, but that’s not our limit.
3 – I noticed that the majority of Japanese musicians tend to sing in Japanese, but in Area51 the lyrics were written in English. Do you think Heavy Metal must be sung in English or is it a way to allow your band to achieve some reception in Western countries? Why did you choose to sing in English rather than in Japanese?
There may be a misunderstanding here. Our song titles are in English, but our lyrics are in Japanese. It might be the way Kate sings, but people sometimes think she’s singing in English. I can’t tell you why that happens, but she certainly has a very unique and original way of singing Japanese lyrics.
I’m happy with the way our songs with Japanese lyrics are accepted. We might incorporate English lyrics in the future, but we also think our approach to the world in our own language, Japanese, is very important, too. So, the Japanese language factor is quite important.
4 – Are you satisfied with this new album “Daemonicus”, the songs, the recording process, production, and final product?
Of course we’re satisfied! But, after some time, we really feel that the next album will be even better, that there is room for improvement. Especially regarding the production. We’ll see how the next album goes, but for now we are very satisfied with Daemonicus.
5 – Heavy, Power and Neoclassical Metal are known for their fantasy inspired lyrics. What kind of subjects influenced you to write the lyrics for this record?
Daemonicus isn’t necessarily a concept album, but all songs are connected to complete a story. You can see representations of the story on the CD cover, booklet, and artwork inside the CD case. Individual songs do have themes inspired by love, relationships, warning the world about certain issues, and fantasy.
6 – What bands do you listen to and influence you to write music for Area51? How about books and movies?
For songwriting and performance, Yngwie Malmsteen, Impellitteri, Stratovarius, Symphony X, Rhapsody, Kamelot, Vitalij Kuprij had great influences. Also, X Japan from Japan definitely had a strong influence.
In terms of movies, I would say the ambience and atmosphere of “Lord of the Rings”, “Harry Potter”, and “The Mummy” influenced our imagination quite a bit. The song “Lord Knows”, from our latest album, was actually inspired by the Walt Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast”.
7 – Rob Rock from Impelliteri is a guest in the track “Lord Knows”. How did you manage to have this Hard ‘N’ Heavy legend in your new record?
This was such an exciting event for me! I’ve been an Impellitteri fan ever since I started playing the guitar. Especially albums like “Answer to the Master”, “Victim of the System”, “Screaming Symphony” are like text books to me.
Ever since I started thinking about a 16 minute long song, I always wanted to have a male guest singer. With no expectations of his agreeing, I approached Rob, who appreciated our music, and agreed to sing for us.
He was extremely professional, with tons of great ideas regarding the lyrics and melodies. He understood how to bring the overall song as close to perfection as possible, without us having to explain things in detail. We recorded Kate’s vocals afterwards, but since Rob’s recording perfectly captured our intentions, the rest of the recording went smoothly like magic. Among all the musicians who must want Rob to sing for them, I am so grateful and happy that we actually made it happen. I cannot thank him enough for what he’s done for us, and I am extremely proud of the outcome.
8 – Do you have a tour prepared to promote the new record?
This related to a subsequent question, too, but honestly speaking, the music scene here in Japan is not set up for such promotional tours. We did have a few shows after the latest album was released, but that’s all we’ve done, no touring.
We’ve already started preparing for the next album. In parallel, we’re working on having our songs used as theme songs for television shows, or major radio shows. In Japan, it’s very important to have such tie-ups to make satisfactory touring happen.
9 – I read in some article, on the internet, that you had some major exposure in Burrn magazine with your first record “Ankh”, back in 2005. It was highlighted as the 6th best Neoclassical Metal record ever released in Japan. Was that important for the band?
Hmm… I think this requires proper explanation. In fact, before “Ankh” was selected in their ranking, their first review of our album was extremely negative, not representative of what the album was at all. They seem to have such negative approaches from time to time. For example, Stratovarius’ “Vision”, Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Rising Force” both received very bad initial reviews. It goes without saying, that they were completely mistaken.
Many furious fans criticized their bad review of “Ankh”. They were the only ones with negative feedback, where many other bloggers and reviewers were offering positive comments.
Perhaps ten years ago “Ankh” would have just been criticized and forgotten, but with the internet today, I don’t feel it had a strong impact. People could listen to our music on our website, and make their own judgment. As a result, many listeners expressed their disagreement with Burrn!’s review. Then, after a few months, they suddenly chose the album as the 6th best Neoclassical Metal Album, as if nothing had happened beforehand.
I was honestly surprised, must more by their change in attitude, compared to the album ranking itself. In retrospect, I do appreciate the exposure, though (lol).
10 – How’s the Japanese Heavy Metal scene nowadays (Bands, labels, magazines, venues, etc)? What about Punk, Gothic, and Alternative Rock scenes? Which bands would you highlight?
The Japanese metal scene is quite unique. I think it’s a great place for foreign metal bands. Good CD sales, tour after tour. However, for domestic metal bands, it’s very tough. Only a handful of famous bands with long careers, like Anthem and Loudness, are still successful today, but for the rest, it’s not easy. Bands like Onmyo-za and Galneryus are well known within the metal scene, but since the metal scene itself is so small, not everyone knows about them. There aren’t many metal listeners here who are interested in domestic metal bands.
On the other hand, punk-ish bands seem to be doing well on the charts. We heard lots of programmed or dance music a while ago on TV, but it seems “band sounds” are coming back, with increasing popularity. I hope this trend ends up helping the metal scene as well.
11 – You have now some space for a final message.
Thanks so much for reading this to the end! I hope you enjoyed the interview. If you are interested in us at all, please check out the album! I really look forward to the day we can play in front of you! Until then, keep you ears wide open, and Stay Metal!
Questions: RDS
Answers: Yoichiro Ishino (Guitars)
Area51: /
Area51 - Close To... (You And Me) (Fanmade Video)