L’Arc-en-Ciel means “The Rainbow” in French. But it’s also the name of one of Japan’s top rock bands, which will play Madison Square Garden for the first time on March 25.
Actually, it’s the first time the band is playing New York, period. In fact, L’Arc-en-Ciel, which formed in Osaka in 1991 and has since sold over 13 million albums and 16 million singles, has only performed in the U.S. once, in Baltimore in 2004 before an audience of 10,000.
Their New York stop, which was rescheduled from the Garden’s smaller Theater at Madison Square Garden venue on March 23 due to overwhelming ticket demand, is part of a world tour also including shows in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai, Taipei, London, and Paris, before concluding back in Japan.
The tour is in support of the group’s 20th anniversary, having returned last May from a three-year hiatus with a pair of sold-out shows at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium benefitting Japanese tsunami relief. L’Arc-en-Ciel has since released the box set Twenity and new album Butterfly.
L’arc-en-Ciel is lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Hyde, who performed in New York in 2009 in the band Vamps; bassist and backing vocalist Tetsuya, guitarist and backing vocalist Ken, and drummer/percussionist Yukihiro. In advance of the Garden concert–the first to be headlined by a Japanese band–Hyde commented on the show, the tour, and the band in an email interview, with assistance in translation from Yuriko Miyasaka.
You’ve played in the United States before, but this is your first visit to New York. Why did it take you so long?
I guess it’s because we are ripe for it now.
Ripe, indeed! You’re playing at Madison Square Garden–the first time a Japanese band has headlined there!
I’m so honored! It’s going to be a big day.
How did you decide on L’Arc-en-Ciel for the band’s name?
It sounded nice, so we just chose the name, and now I think that name describes our character–diversity–very well.
How did the band come together?
We just found great members.
What were your music influences?
British gothic rock.
Does Japanese rock differ from rock in America and other countries? If so, how?
Yes, melodies and chord progressions of Japanese rock are more elaborate. In short, American rock bands often repeat [the] chorus part, but we don’t do that.
Some Japanese culture, like anime, has become popular in the U.S. But Japanese popular music, except for Kyu Sakamoto’s 1963 chart-topping U.S. hit “Sukiyaki,” and a few rock artists like Shonen Knife and Puffi AmiYumi, is mostly unknown here.
I guess that’s because Japanese people are not good at English and they do not try to go outside of Japan.
Any other reasons?
This is my personal thought, but I don’t think anime and other stuff were marketed by Japanese.
But it still became popular here.
Well, for anime, you can just change the voice actors for overseas, but we
cannot change the [band] members, you know.
Not many bands can stay together 20 years. What is your secret?
We could be patient and make efforts because we have a lot of fans.
Has your music changed over the years?
Nothing has changed. I think the quality of our music improved, though.
Is there anything special you’re looking forward to on your world tour?
Watching movies on airplane!
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