Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Musician Introduction: DRAGON ASH

Welcome to another edition of Musician Introduction. Here is one very popular band in Japan, that definitely does not get enough attention in the West. The reason for this, in my opinion is that they haven't done any anime ending/openings (like a lot of other good artists), and well basically they are past their peak in popularity.

Nevertheless, these guys are still an awesome group, and it seems to be that now, they are just enjoying making whatever kind of music they want now. And it's fully deserved, as they have played a very important part in the history of modern Japanese music. They were the group to popularise hip hop/rap, and also introduced Japan to a new sound with their mixture of many different genres including metal, hip hop and latin music. 

Originally formed in 1996 by vocalist Furuya Kenji (aka Kj) and drummer Makoto Sakurai, who were still in their late teens, and the then 30 year old bassist, Ikuzone. In their early days they played punk rock, and gained some attention as an up and coming group. According to Kj, however, his true passion was Hip Hop, and was only playing punk music get a record deal and gain attention, as that was the type of music popular at the time. To introduce a more hip hop sound, a new member, DJ BOTS was brought into the group. With DJ BOTS, they were now able to have scratch noises iconic to hip hop in their songs. 

In 1999 they released 'Viva La Revolution', and true to it's name they started to take over Japanese music. What was so significant about this feat however, was that the majority of the album was hip hop, a genre previously seen as minor, and incompatible with the Japanese language. They blasted this notion away though,  and the first single from this album 'Let Yourself Go, Let Myself Go' achieved 4th place, while their second single "Grateful Days (feat Zeebra and Sugar Soul)" marked their first number one spot in the charts. A stand alone single "I Love Hip Hop" also made 4th to sign off a very successful year.

You can see funny 90's Japanese fashion in these videos.

Grateful Days

From then on they were one of the most popular artists in Japan, with their songs consistently reaching the top 5 for about 6 more years. In their next two albums 'Lily of Da Valley' and 'Harvest', they started to mix hip hop with harder styles of rock such as Metal, and produced some more of their most iconic songs, such as 'Deep Impact' featuring Rappagariya (kind of like a Japanese Wu-tang?). 
Deep Impact


After this they switched styles again, this time to a Latin music influenced style with their following three albums having a lot of Spanish acoustic guitar, yet still with a slight electronic and rock feel. To me it feels as though this era of music shows how they've matured as people and have calmed down a bit, and just want to make music that they can relax to and just chill with. Unlike their previous stuff which get's you charged up and getting ready fight...whoever and whatever, these albums have quite a happy and 'summer' feel to it.



Their most recent album 'Mixture' which was released last year, is really just as it's album suggests. It's kind of a mixture of what they've done over the past years, and although I only got it yesterday (so I can't really talk about it much), it does sound like a quite a nice album. Actually, I'm listening to it as I write this....

I don't know when but at some point a couple of dancers joined the group to....well just dance in their performances.....kind of like Exile, but not as overcrowded.

FURUYA KENJI 降谷建志 (aka Kj)
Vocalist and guitar (Joined 1996)

He is the son of Japanese actor, Furuya Ikko. He changed the letters to his surname so that he could prove himself without the aid or influence of his famous father. 

To be honest I think that he is one of the most good looking people in Japanese show business (although I'm a guy....and no I'm not gay (-_-)...). But that's my honest belief. He kicks the shit out of 99% of Johnny's kids and "pretty(?)" visual kei people (anyone can look like that with that much powder and light shining on their face). 

This guy is all natural and ......I'm not afraid to say it....
a sexy beast....lol. Once Western girls find out about him popularity is going to rocket up.

IKUZONE (Real name: Baba Ikuzo 馬場育三)
Bassist  (Joined 1996)

He was 30 when Kj and Sakurai were still teenagers. He had been a musician for 10 years and was going to quit if he didn't make it with Dragon Ash. 

Because of the big age difference, he acted as the other members' mentor and 'go to guy'.

He is one funky bass player with a very funky look.
I really like how he's dressed in the Deep Impact video.

                         MAKOTO SAKURAI                                                     BOTS 
                        Drummer  (Joined 1996)                                     DJ  (Joined 1999)
                                                         Guitarist (Joined 2003)
                                    DR-IV                                                        HIROKI
                      Dancer (Joined 2003)                               Dancer (Joined 2003)

Punk era:
Mustang! (1997)
Buzz Song (1998)

Hip Hop era:
Viva La Revolution (1999)
Lily of Da Valley (2001)
Harvest (2003)

Latin era
Rio De Emocion  (2005)
Freedom (2009)
Mixture (2010)

-Viva La Revolution
-Lily Of Da Valley

Well it's become a pretty long post. Click on the album name if you want it.


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