Interview: Yama-B’s expressions of his own worlds

When exploring Japanese music, I encountered a lot of bands that I liked musically, but seemed to lack something in the vocal department. One of the first singers who really blew me away was former Galneryus and current Gunbridge singer Yama-B. A true powerhouse with an incredible range. These days, he supports guitar heroes Kelly Simonz and Iron-Chino, whilst still leading Gunbridge and his solo project Rekion. For a project I’m working on, Yama-B and I had an extremely pleasant conversation about his musical background, but also his plans for the future.

Our drummer Hideki left Gunbridge, but we have a new drummer called Tommy. In a few weeks, our bassist Naoya, who joined us after Toshiyuki left, will leave as well. I really want to get a good bassist, but if we can’t find one, I will play bass and sing. Also, I joined a charity project called Ana – Metal For Charity, lead by Marius Danielsen, the vocalist for Darkest Sins from Norway. I already finished recording my parts, so the newest song should be released in the near future.

You sing in surprisingly good English, but your work with Rekion is all in Japanese. What makes you decide in what language a song should be?

First, let me explain the difference between Gunbridge and Rekion. Gunbridge exists so I can express my Heavy Metal music, as European and American bands have inspired me to do. I wanted to have this big band sound, like the music I heard when I was a young boy. That’s why I sing in English in Gunbridge.
Rekion, on the other hand, is a very personal project. Rekion is not meant to be played by a band. The sound and lyrics come from the bottom of my heart and express my inner space. It’s much more introspective and therefore, I need to write the lyrics in Japanese. I prioritize musical themes in Gunbridge and personal insistence in Rekion.

So when you started to get serious with music, you were listening to western bands?

There is no doubt that I was influenced by European and American bands. My parents liked classical music and western popular music, so we usually checked the American hit charts. Many Heavy Metal bands were in the charts at that time. It was a great age, I think (laughs). I was fifteen years old at the time and truly inspired by Heavy Metal music.

Did your parents’ love for classical music influence your somewhat operatic singing style?

My mother was an operatic soprano who practiced her skills through personal lessons. I was very curious, so I always asked her: hey mom, how was today’s lesson? (laughs) That’s how I learned my vocal techniques from when I was fifteen to when I was about twenty years old.

Your music has brought you to Europe. How different are European shows from Japanese shows?

There really isn’t that much of a difference between Europe and Japan. My memories of Europe are very positive. Everything was handled very professionally and very politely. That was very comfortable for us. I like the European audiences, because they always make a lot of noise during the shows. That’s very powerful for me! Their screaming makes me excited. Japanese people are very quiet, you know? (laughs)

Japan is well known for its Visual Kei scene. Is there still so much animosity between that scene and the Heavy Metal scene?

Both scenes are still very separate. Visual Kei audiences don’t see Heavy Metal musicians, because Metal musicians aren’t cool to them. And Heavy Metal fans don’t like Visual Kei, because they think Visual Kei musicians get a huge fan base without any musical effort. In my opinion, they are both wrong. There are many cool musicians in Heavy Metal bands and there are many great players in the Visual scene. For example, mr. Syu, the guitarist, played in a Visual Kei band before we formed Galneryus. Also, Issy and Hayato, both guitarists in Gunbridge, played in Visual Kei bands before Gunbridge. There’s a part in both scenes where there is no border. Dir En Grey is very heavy and I feel there is a deep musical effort there. Do you know Versailles? Very progressive! Their music is very cool, I think.”

How important is the visual aspect for a “non-visual” musician like yourself?

I don’t need strange make-up, but I do think we have to dress up and decorate the stage to express our own world, our inner space, when we play on stage. With Gunbridge, we decorate the stage with some flags and a large backdrop. We like to make that effort.

You are known to be a big anime fan and can even be heard on a few soundtracks. What is it that makes anime and Heavy Metal work so well together?

Both express a world of their own with extreme deformation.

What artists inspire you these days?

These days, I don’t listen to cd’s much anymore. My friends, musicians I work with on stage or in the studio inspire me. I get a lot of encouragement from them. Kelly Simonz from Blind Faith or Iron-Chino from Iron Attack! and Lightning, for instance. They are great as composers, players and band leaders. Also, my best friend and great senior Eizo Sakamoto, from Aisenshi, Eizo Japan and previously in Animetal and Anthem.

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