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Friday night, L.A. fans of Japanese gothic music headed out to Echo Park's Bootleg Theater for the J-Classical Industrial Nation Tour. Presented by J-Rock Internet radio station Tainted Reality, this nationwide tour features live performances from cult bands GPKism and Seileen, as well as a set from Seileen member and popular Tokyo club DJ SiSeN. Though this wasn't the first time most of the artists involved had played in the U.S., this is the tour that could help raise the profile of Japan's goth scene in the States.
Last November, we chatted with author and CNNGo reporter La Carmina about the cultural differences between Japanese goth and Western goth. After checking out Friday night's concert, we've noticed that J-goth has developed its own devoted following in the U.S., one that's separate from the domestic goth scene, but isn't necessarily that different.
For the musicians, the influences are similar. Kiwamu, a former member of popular visual kei group Blood who makes up one-half of GPKism, told us that his introduction to gothic music came through Bauhaus, The Cure and Dead Can Dance's self-titled debut. His more recent favorites include L.A. bands London After Midnight and Faith and the Muse.
"I wanted to play that kind of music," said Kiwamu, who also runs the record label Darkest Labyrinth, "so I brought that into my songs."
Meanwhile, Seileen cites its influences as Die Form, Qntal and Attrition, neo-classical groups that are familiar to goths in the U.S. and Europe.
Although the bands are coming from a fairly standard background for the genre, many of their fans aren't.
"Everything started years with ago with animes," said Jocelyn Alcazar, noting the popular Japanese music that is often used as opening themes for shows. "Bands connected to other bands and different genres."
Anime seemed to be a common connection between fans of J-goth, though others found their way to the music after scouring MySpace and still more noted that they were Blood fans who then discovered GPKism, Seileen and other similar groups.
"I really enjoy the culture that surrounds it, the expression of emotion and the outfits," said DJ SiSeN fan Alexis Williams. "It seems that it's more creative now."
Those who were already entrenched in the Western goth community before finding J-goth were also drawn to the overtly dramatic performance style and fashion of the new-to-the-U.S. bands.
"I think they try harder," said Mademoiselle Camille. "I don't think the American bands really dress up anymore."
Those who have been to an American goth club in recent years can tell you that as the scene matured, it grew considerably more casual. Jeans and t-shirts aren't as much of a faux pas as they once were. J-goth, on the other hand, is as much about the fashion as it is about the music. The style is a mix of extravagant black, over-the-top bridal garb and rave-friendly neon. Hair is frequently teased and make-up is applied with a heavy, yet artful hand.
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As with its Western counterpart, J-goth is not set on one sound, however, Friday's artists were more synth-oriented. In his DJ set, SiSeN focused on hard techno, and while that influence seeped into his work with Seileen, the effect was tempered by vocalist Selia, who might just be the reincarnation of Klaus Nomi. With a stunning countertenor voice, Selia added a bit of the ethereal to a maniacally dance floor-friendly sound. GPKism, on the other hand, peppered a synth backdrop with Kiwamu's dirgey guitars and Gothique Prince Ken's (GPK) strong and dramatic vocals for something that's part Front 242, part Sisters of Mercy, but still sounds like its made for 2010. It's this strange amalgamation of now-vintage musical elements with a contemporary flair that makes J-goth so appealing to a younger generation of fans.
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