II. The J-Rock Phase: Miyavi, Gackt & more L’Arc En Ciel
J-Rock stands for Japanese Rock.
By Spring Break of 2005, during my senior year of high school, I learned that I was accepted into a film school in Tampa, Florida. Knowing my future was secure was a relief. There wasn’t a lot of angst or trepidation in my heart at the time. Just full of hope and an eagerness to leave the nest. Every day since, I woke up, fully aware that it was another day to say goodbye to Georgia and the friends I had come to depend on.
*disclaimer: If you hadn’t read the intro, the following is a personal memoir about my 13 year journey of exploring Korean and Japanese music.
Having already been introduced to L’Arc en Ciel’s “Ready Steady Go” video…I was curious. What else they got? I learned that their genre was called “j-rock” so I searched for that on Limewire.
Apparently in 2004, early 2005, the biggest names in J-Rock were indeed L’Arc-en-Ciel…as well as a Japanese rock vocalist named Gackt. And man…hahahaha! Not gonna lie, I’m about to reveal some embarrassing stuff in talking about these guys.
So, mind you, from 5th grade to 12th, I was raised in Augusta, Georgia…which is considered a more country, gritty version of Atlanta. Meaning, everything you’ve heard regarding the stereotypes of blacks and whites had some truth to them in this city. That’s not to slight Augusta…because the thing is, the people know how they are and they don’t see it as a bad thing. Yes, there’s racism and a somewhat semblance of unspoken segregation, but people seemed cool with that. Most teens tended to stick to their own…
Had I been born and spent my whole life in Augusta, I probably would’ve fallen into a stereotype as well. But my parents were military. I moved around and attended multiple elementary schools ranging from south Florida to a place deep in the heart of Texas called Fort Hood. When you’ve moved around as much as I have, you know the world is much bigger. That America is made up of so many cultures.
And when you’re attending school on a military base, you’re afforded the luxury of just being yourself and making friends, because all the other kids are just like you. They’ve all moved around through their parent’s military transfer. So they understand and are more likely to accept you the way you are. But once you leave the base and start going to school with the civilian folk…yeah. You’ll find how different you are. And I think on a subconscious level, the natives don’t take too kindly to some new kid coming in and messing up the status quo.
My point in mentioning this, is that for years of being more or less stuck in Augusta, Georgia…I wasn’t exposed to a lot of diversity when it comes to the cultures. So when I discovered Gackt and L’Arc-en-Ciel…it was somewhat of a shock that had me questioning my own sexuality.
Remember, this was early 2005, a very conservative Christian time in the country. Lady Gaga wouldn’t blow up till late 2008-ish. And you see, in Japan they embrace this thing called “Visual Key”. Plainly put, it’s straight up androgyny, a style where men make themselves appear like women. They wear feminine makeup, eye-lashes and longer hair where it becomes difficult to discern whether they are male or female.
L’Arc-en-Ciel’s lead singer was notorious for this. Even without the make up, Hide looks like a girl. And just to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, I’d eventually ask my first roommates in Tampa to rate his appearance in “Blurry Eyes” on a one-to-ten scale. And my roommate without hesitation said… “I’d hit that.” As you can imagine, I laughed for some time. Not just at the humor in it, but the realization that it wasn’t just me. I’m not gay and I don’t think I should feel bad if I’m fooled by a person’s appearance.