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Japanese Visual-kei Artist KAMIJO Reimagines French History with a Vampiric Twist in New Single: Interview

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J-pop visual-kei veteran KAMIJO released a new single called "TEMPLE -Blood sucking for praying-" on Wednesday (Nov. 27) as the first of his epic three-part PERSONA series that depicts a saga inspired by French history.

The former frontman of visual-kei bands LAREINE and Versailles has established himself as a unique solo artist who combines music and creative storytelling to produce his distinctively decadent aesthetic. Back in March, he made a longtime dream come true by collaborating with an orchestra onstage.

The cover artwork for the single features a breathtaking portrait of the protagonist by Ayami Kojima, who designed the characters and package art for KONAMI's action RPG Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

KAMIJO spoke to interviewer Yuki Sugie and shared his intent behind the imaginative series and its theme, as well as what he has in store for the future.

You've always created story-oriented works, and this new single features Louis XVII of France and the Count of St. Germain, who have played major roles in your past releases. Could you elaborate on why you chose to fashion a new story around these two figures?

The names of my former bands were LAREINE ("la reine"), meaning "the queen" in French, and Versailles. When I started my solo career in 2013, I considered what I should sing about as a solo artist and came to the conclusion that I wanted to continue featuring subjects related to French history as my theme. And the person in French history that I currently wanted to sing about and express was Louis XVII.

Historically, Louis XVII was the second son of Louis XVI, who was executed in the French Revolution. He's said to have died when he was only 10 years old.

The story at the base of my solo releases is built around the concept: "What if Louis XVII were still alive?" The Louis XVII that I depict isn't human anymore; he lived until modern times as an undead being. I posited the premise that he became a vampire to survive. So, how would this Louis XVII feel under those circumstances? I imagine he'd be lonely. Even if he loves someone, if that someone were human, they'd grow old and die eventually. How would a human being react if they found out they could live forever? What ugly sides would they reveal? There are some concepts I focused on for this work.

The Count of St. Germain -- who also appears in my story as someone who has lived 4,000 years and knows the past and future -- is considered to be one of the most enigmatic figures in European history.

The sheer scale of the sound you come up with just by condensing your signature aesthetic and musical sense in a natural way is impressive.

I started off the production process by writing the original story first, like I always do. And that was Persona Grata, the booklet included in the limited first edition. Music-wise, the title song "Eye of Providence" from the single I released in July can be said to have directly influenced "TEMPLE -Blood sucking for praying-." The former expresses the entire PERSONA series, while the latter sings about Louis XVII as a character in that story. I think this is easiest to see from the artwork.

The beautifully illustrated cover art by Ayami Kojima, you mean.

I've always loved her works. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with her this time around and asked her to illustrate a portrait of Louis XVII as imagined in my story.

The lyrics in "TEMPLE -Blood sucking for praying-" are mostly in English except for the one sentence: "Utsukushii naraba sorede iijanai!" ("If it's beautiful, what more do you want?"). Could you share why you chose to do this?

What I wanted to say the most in the song is condensed in that sentence. The number was originally all in Japanese, and I performed it in Japanese during my summer tour as well. But I decided that the melody and rhythm of the track would be best expressed if the lyrics were sung in English.

Is there anything you took care to do in terms of vocalization?

Not just for this song, but I try to imagine what vampires would sound like when they sing and aim to capture that image. Vampires must have gorgeous, stunning voices, after all.

It sounds like you went all-out in that respect in the coupled track, "Conspiracy." Could you tell us about this song?

"Conspiracy" is set in modern-day U.S.A., and the anecdote that the Count of St. Germain was involved in the founding of the country is linked to it. In this story, St. Germain and Louis XVII are trying to spread a new type of energy system called the "Émigré System" that uses human blood to generate electricity. They face various organizations and conspiracies during that process and a scene from that is expressed in "Conspiracy."

I used elements of EDM and synthesizer music in this song, since the setting is in modern times. I did a lot of research to write this story and lyrics, so a good part of both is based on facts, and it'd be great if people could enjoy that sense of, "Which parts are real and which are fiction?" from them.

I mentioned earlier that one of my concepts was, "What ugly sides would people reveal if they found out they could live forever?" Another theme I dealt with is that now is a time when individuals can make their voices heard. My next round of works will further develop this story, and Napoleon will become involved. I hope people look forward to not just my music but to the next chapter of my scenario.

That sounds intriguing! You're a musician, a writer and storyteller, you oversee all your artwork and also produce the overall project. What do you consider yourself as?

A jack of all trades. I'm an artist, after all. I don't think there's a limit to expressing something. If I'm going to make something, I want to complete it myself, and completing something is so much fun. And when people enjoy what I create, that makes me happier than anything. So I'd like to continue presenting to my audience the things that I personally want to have.





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Billboard Japan, Khareem Sudlow