J-Rock takes on Philly

Gothic, industrial and electronic bands GPKISM and Seileen, both part of the Japanese underground scene, will make their debut in Philadelphia with two shows, starting tomorrow.

Gothic, industrial and electronic bands GPKISM and Seileen, both part of the Japanese underground scene, will make their debut in Philadelphia with two shows, starting tomorrow.

Japanese underground icons gothic Prince Ken, DJ SiSen and Selia are embarking on a U.S. tour with their new bands, GPKISM and Seileen. They will play for the first time in Philadelphia Wednesday.

Courtesy Tainted Reality GPKISM and Seileen, like many Japanese musicians, are mononymous and keep their true identities secret.

Like many Japanese musicians, the two groups perform in elaborate costumes and makeup. For some groups like these, androgyny and cross-dressing are common.

“For the stage show, expect lavish gothic costumes, neck-breaking energy, danceable numbers, homosexual overtones and Selia [vocalist of Seileen] to blow you away with his vocal prowess,” said Roger Shackelford, who operates Tainted Reality, the Philadelphia-based company responsible for this tour.

“He really is one of the best vocalists in J-Rock [Japanese Rock] today.”

Many fans dress along with the bands in a similar fashion. Most costumes in the stateside audiences may not be as elaborate as they would be in Tokyo, but attendees are still likely to see a number of memorable and creative costumes.

“Costuming-wise, everything ranges from hardcore goth to Lolita to cyber and everything in between,” said Michelle Branch, a sophomore communications major at Temple University Japan, who is active in the Tokyo gothic community. “There’s really no limits.”

The nine-act performance tour might not seem impressive compared to other U.S. artists’ tours, but it is two more dates than Japan’s all-time best selling band, B’z, has played on either of their headlining North American tours.

Despite issues of piracy, the Internet’s ability to act as the ultimate word-of-mouth machine has propelled small Japanese bands to a place larger Japanese bands can only dream about: the U.S. market.

Being a smaller band and, often, not having access to vast reserves of cash can have its own benefits when it comes to touring abroad.

“Smaller groups are more flexible and cheaper,” Shackelford said.

“[They are] flexible in that they are more open to American business practices, catering to the fans and just being all out, more open. [They are] cheaper, as in their asking prices aren’t that high, and usually there are less members, management or entourage to bring over from Japan,” he added.

While B’z has a tightly honed mainstream sound comparable to Aerosmith, with 75 million albums sold in Japan alone, GPKISM and Seileen perform in the niche realm of gothic industrial electronic music and are comparable to obscure European acts such as Razed In Black, E Nomine and VNV Nation.

“The sound is more of a European industrial/goth ordeal,” Shackelford said. “The goth fans will feel more at home, but some of the writing structure maintains that Japanese flavor to give them a bit of a refreshing experience.”

Without the Internet to get their music to goth and electronica fans around the world, these bands would likely be limited to the Tokyo club scene. A vast network of Internet forums and blogs has created a rather large worldwide community that has dismissed barriers of language and nationality in support of the music.

GPKISM formed in 2007, and Seileen formed in 2005. These groups have appeared on four continents: Seileen in Europe and Asia and GPKISM in North America, Australia, Europe and Asia. DJ SiSen of Seileen has made multiple appearances overseas under his own name. Kiwamu of GPKISM toured Europe, Australia, Mexico and America with the band BLOOD.

“This is the kind of tour [that] bands like these should be making,” Shackelford said. “[They are] hitting as many cities as they can, getting as much exposure as possible, getting new fans and building a community.”

GPKISM and Seileen will make their first appearance in Philadelphia tomorrow, where they will play a special acoustic set and hold an autograph session at Digital Ferret. On Feb. 5, they will play a full concert at Club Polaris.

Lee Miller can be reached at lee.miller0001@temple.edu.


  1. Hi,
    This kind of bands is not really representative for japanese music. This “visual rock” has more to do with superficial desguise than with music. Take them their gothic clothes and colored hairs off, and what will stay? Almost nothing. And KISS has invented this genre a while ago before them…

    It’s true that these little bands, often unknown in Japan, are cheaper than big bands like B’z, so they can be invited and come easier than big bands. But bands like B’z stay the true musical bands in Japan that people interested in japanese music should look for and discover.

    American musician know B’z for a long time: Steve Vai has invited the band on his album “The Ultra Zone” in 1999. B’z is the first and only asian band you can find in Los Angeles on the Boulevard RockWalk since 2007. And recently Slash and the singer of B’z, Koshi Inaba, did a song together, SAHARA, for the Slash solo project “Slash & Friends”.

    Even if Aerosmith is an influence and if the two bands have played together in 2002 in Japan, B’z wouldn’t just be a “japanese Aerosmith”. They’re more than that. I can just encourage to discover this amazing rock band from Japan where people are not always being disguised or dressed up when they want to sing or play music!

  2. @ Joe: Do you really want to make the argument that KISS is in the same genre as an electronica duo?

    Some of the most talented musicians in Japan have done VK, just as some of the most boring a derivative bands in Japan don’t. You’re obviously a B’z fan, but you’re generalizing far too much, I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.