Interview with Ken Lloyd (FAKE? & Oblivion Dust)

So earlier this year at AWA when we interviewed Mayu I struck up a conversation with her label rep about our website and she offered us a chance to do an interview with Ken Lloyd of FAKE? and Oblivion Dust fame.  Naturally we jumped at the chance!  We hope you guys enjoy our e-mail interview. I only wish we could have done this in person!

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BBAMAJAM: I noticed your band FAKE? released one album per year starting in 2002; however, four years passed between your album Marilyn Is A Bubble and your most recent album Switching On X. Is there any particular reason for this?  For example was it due to research, or perhaps were you busy writing during this time?

Ken: Two reasons. One was the fact that my first band Oblivion Dust reformed a little bit after Marilyn was released. The making of the Oblivion Dust album and the live shows that preceded and followed was something that needed to be focused on, so I took some time off FAKE? to do that. The second reason was more on the business side of things. I wasn’t happy with the environment that FAKE? was in, in terms of management and record companies. During my career, I’ve always been so busy with the creative side of things, that I had never really had time to stop and sort things out that I perhaps should have at the time. The reforming of Oblivion Dust gave me a chance to continue being creative in one band, while I stopped and fixed up the other.

BBAMAJAM: I saw that your tour dates with FAKE? are currently only set in Japan.  Now that you have successfully released a worldwide album do you plan on touring any other countries?  The United States possibly?

Ken: We had hoped to do the U.S. this year, but there were certain things that prevented that from taking form. We were very close though and are still looking at when and how are the best ways to do it. We’ll get there. I just can’t give out a firm “yes” at the moment without knowing for absolute sure. Crossing the seas and doing shows is just a whole different ball park when planning things out especially for a band such as FAKE? that has it’s own style and doesn’t really fit a particular genre or scene.

BBAMAJAM: Do you feel there are particular hurdles when trying to release an album worldwide versus releasing an album in Japan? Perhaps issues with the different markets or differences in trying to convey the music to the fans in different countries?

Ken: With the world becoming more borderless and connected, the releasing of an album worldwide is definitely much more easier than say 10 years ago. Having said that, countries still have their own likes and dislikes, markets and scenes that are all different. Whether or not the album you released will be a success is a whole different matter, I think.

BBAMAJAM: I find it interesting that you included a song called “Homesick” on your worldwide release, seeing as how in support of this international release you undoubtedly hope to travel to many places and thus be away from home. I was wondering if you felt perhaps that as a worldwide traveler that perhaps ‘Homesick’ reflects your own comfort with moving around, or at the same time perhaps your detachment from any particular location you’d call home?

Ken: I don’t know why, and I know that there are some people out there that feel the same way, but all throughout my life, I’ve had this strong feeling of not being home. It’s really hard to explain. It’s not about being away from my native country, England, because I’ve felt this all throughout the time for as long as I can remember. And it’s not really about being away from family or friends. It’s a more deeper kind of feeling that’s constantly been in my life wherever I go. The reason I was able to pack a bag and just come to Japan is exactly because of this. It’s also a reason I do not really understand the mentality of being a patriot. I wish I could and I envy it in a certain kind of way. Perhaps this feeling is the reason why I travel around so much – I’m just constantly in search of “home”.

BBAMAJAM: I think for many artists when they start out they set a goal for themselves that in so many years they want to have sold so many albums or to have played for so many people. Did you ever have such a goal with Fake? or Oblivion Dust and if so have you accomplished the goal yet? If you didn’t have such a goal then what has been the single most driving factor for you to start making music, and now years later to continue making music?

Ken: Well, I never had the usual aspirations of having a hit single or selling a million albums etc. Those to me are just bonuses although I actually think that those goals are really important to have when doing music professionally especially in the modern music industry that relies so heavily on marketing and album sales figures. It’s a pretty simple and cut throat formula – if you don’t sell your album, you won’t be able to make your next album. Either that or you will have to really tough it out on your own and find ways to continue making music. Unfortunately for me, setting goals such as “make a hit” or “sell out the show” just doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t motivate me enough to want to continue. I’d rather wash dishes than do music that I don’t truly want to do. I’m a bit jaded with the industry in that sense.
I think the driving force for me has always been to just keep creating, keep growing as an artist whatever the cost and to never lose sight of that. As a result, I’ve had to battle it out through some tough situations numerous times throughout my career to try and continue making the music I want to make, and not what a company wants to sell. On the other hand, I feel that’s one reason why I am still here able to make music. Plus, I can look back on my career without going “Christ, what was I thinking when I did that…”. I don’t have many “sell out” skeletons in my closet.

BBAMAJAM: What inspired you to reform Oblivion Dust after the band’s hiatus?

Ken: It just felt right. I met KAZ and Riki a few years back for the first time in a while and we kind of just sat down and talked. I think all of us grew up emotionally during our time apart and realized that what we did in Oblivion Dust was something special, even though perhaps we took certain things and each other for granted and didn’t really feel that way at the time. After catching up and getting to re-know each other again, the subject just kind of popped up. I remember having this really strong feeling that I wanted to make music with these guys again throughout that night, even if it was just for fun.

BBAMAJAM: Can you tell us how you came up with the names of both of your bands FAKE? and Oblivion Dust?

Ken: Oblivion Dust was a name that our producer at the time (who was doing Hide’s Zilch) brought up. I think he had heard it from some singer’s lyric and mentioned it and it just had a vibe and ring to it that I dug. It was stuck in my head for a long time and eventually we felt it was perfect for the type of band that we were.  There are so many reasons in the naming of FAKE? that it would take me hours to explain. Haha! I’ll keep it simple. I’ve always had this fascination about what is truly real and fake in the world. Are the things we see with our eyes really there, or is it all just an illusion. And then there is the double meaning of are we for real or just sell outs. I think whatever we want to perceive as real or fake is based solely on the individual. Hence the band name is more of a question directed towards you. Are we fake or are we real? Is everything an illusion or is it all just the way we see things with our eyes? Do we suck or are we good? The answer to such questions are really a reflection of you and it’s your call.

BBAMAJAM: During the early days of Oblivion Dust, the band as your MySpace bio states, “captured the eye of Hide”, and eventually K.A.Z. helped in his solo effort, and Oblivion Dust performed a song for the tribute album “hide Tribute Spirits”. First of all how influential was Hide specifically in those early days, and secondly do you feel when creating music for Fake? you to this day find sources of influence from Hide and his work?

Ken: Hide was just ahead of his time in every aspect, from his solo works, to his attention to new technology, his fashion sense etc. He was at the first show we did as Oblivion Dust and I think that he realized that we weren’t your average band and that there was something special to us. From then on he was always around giving us advice and helping us get out there. Even when we were doing club shows in LA, he was usually there in the audience. I never really knew him before I met him, so I can’t say that I was influenced by X Japan, but I remember getting a copy of Psyence, his solo album and it blowing me away. It’s such an experimental album for Japanese standards and it still sounds new today. I try to keep that sense of experiment and try new things in my music. That is perhaps what I drew most from him.

BBAMAJAM: Both Oblivion Dust and Fake? have gone through band member changes. How did this affect your writing and creative processes?

Ken: It changes things a little bit, but probably not as much as one would expect. With Oblivion Dust, we never lost a “main” songwriter, so things just went on as usual. With FAKE?, I wrote about 70% of the songs and so while I lost that “dimension of Inoran” with him departing, I feel I’ve been able to add newer dimensions of myself into FAKE? with each album.

BBAMAJAM: What process do you go through to choose band members?  I am just curious as to what you looked for in a fellow band mate.

Ken: Probably the most important is the character of the person. Since I’m going to be spending so much time with him/her, I have to be comfortable that we are going to be able to get along. I do like strong personalities though, so I’m not looking for someone who just fits in and does everything I/we ask. There has to be some ego to the new member and that’s the hard part. Having confidence in yourself and being selfish are two totally different things.

BBAMAJAM: In your opinion what is the hardest part of collaborating with another musician as you did on the song “Butterfly” with Anna Tsuchiya?

Ken: Nothing hard really. Just write a song that fits the musician you’re collaborating with. Don’t just collaborate with an artist for the sake of pushing album sales up.

BBAMAJAM: Would you ever consider being a producer for other artists/bands? If so do you think you’d want to work with an up and coming band or an established artist?

Ken: Sure. I’d probably want to do an up and coming band. Established artists usually have their own style by that time. Unless they were looking to change direction and do a 180, I don’t know if I would want to produce something that’s already pretty much been produced. It’s like trying to cook something using an omelette. It’s done.

BBAMAJAM: Fans of Fake? seem to really appreciate your ease of access especially through Twitter, DeviantArt, and specifically in the last year through your Facebook Q&A Vlogs. What have been some of the plus sides and down sides, if any, of getting so personal and in touch with your fans? Do you see this as something other artists should do, or need to do, too?

Ken: No downsides. I enjoy it and it also helps me keep my feet on the ground. I find it more odd that some people think that well known people, especially famous celebrities eat, sleep, breathe think and feel any different than someone, say, who lays bricks for a living. I also find it odd that some celebrities think they are more “higher up” than others. I don’t really have an opinion about whether other artists should do it though. It’s their life, so if they want to, they should and if they don’t, then they shouldn’t. I enjoy it, so I do it. There’s no big mystery to it all.

BBAMAJAM: On your Facebook Vlog you mention that you’re a gamer. If you were offered the chance to have any of your songs on Guitar Hero or Rock Band would you take that opportunity, and then if possible would you like to try and play your own songs on the game(s)?

Ken: Sure, although I’ve never played that game, so I don’t really know what it’s all about, to be honest. I probably wouldn’t play it though as I do it for a living. That’s like a fireman playing a game that puts out fires, isn’t it?  I do play games from time to time, but probably not at all like the average “gamer”. It’s just a once in a while thing. And once in a while I’ll get a message from a 10 year old calling me a “bitch”. Cute.

BBAMAJAM: What do you do for your downtime while recording or writing for an album?

Ken: Make fun of everyone there in the studio. It’s my English side – I can’t help it.

BBAMAJAM: Switching on X includes an ‘intro’ and an ‘outro’ track, which suggests to me that the album was intended to be a package and thus should be listened to in full for the best experience. For you how does that concept fit into today’s market where, especially with iTunes, one can so easily just grab one or two songs from an album?

Ken: Yeah, it’s hard and it sort of ties into the above question of having a goal, in a certain way. I’m from the old school where an album has to be great from start to finish. It’s what I strive to make and I always make sure the album has a flow going through it from start to finish. Like the album is one art piece and not 10~12 little seperate little sketches wrapped up together. Put it this way, I’d rather do 80 days around the world in one go  than 12 day trips to nearby cities. Did that example make sense? No, I didn’t think so either…

BBAMAJAM: If you were to introduce someone to Fake? what album would you suggest they first listen to and why?

Ken: Switching On X. I just think it’s a really really strong album.  The Art Of Losing Touch would also be up there a close second. If I really wanted to confuse someone, I’d give them Songs From Beelzebub. I am very proud of that album as well, although it would probably make them wonder about my personality.

BBAMAJAM: What has been your most memorable moment involving a fan?

Ken: This has happened a bunch of times, but I always love it when I meet a fan I’ve met before and I tell them what their name is. That freaks people out and I enjoy the look they give. Yes, my memory still works from time to time…I haven’t fried it up just yet.

BBAMAJAM: What advice would you offer for fans looking to follow in your footsteps and one day hopefully start their own music career?

Ken: Don’t do it!

BBAMAJAM: What are your plans for the future now that you have released Switching On X?

Ken: This year has been such a weird year for me, working mostly behind the scenes as preparation for next year. You can expect Oblivion Dust to do something, you can expect FAKE? to be doing something and… you can also expect something completely new. That’s all I’m going to say for now.

**Special thanks to Lauren (the label rep from Music Taste) and Ken Lloyd for this interview!**

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Why Sam & Dean Winchester should be your best friends: Supernatural Review

As many of you have noticed, it is almost Halloween (Shocking, I know — moving on.)  I thought that it would be fun to introduce you all to one of my current fangirl obsessions: Supernatural.  For those of you that may not know, Supernatural is a show about two brothers (Dean and Sam Winchester) who hunt evil and learn about their family history along the way too.  They drive a black ’67 Impala which has been affectionately dubbed “Metallicar” due to the oldest brother’s taste in music.  I really don’t want to give away spoilers so I will do the best I can to squee and fangirl without giving away too much!

So back when I was unemployed and had no other extracurricular activities, I used to live on Twitter.  I happened to be talking with a cast member of another show I am currently into, Degrassi.  She recommended that I watch Supernatural because it was her current favorite.  Now at this point, I had never heard of the show and was curious to see what made her love it so much.  What I didn’t know at the time was how much this show would consume my free time, my money, and eventually my life.  Anyway, back to the story!

I decided to check out the first pilot episode to gauge my interest in the show first.  Before the opening credits rolled I was already hooked.  Scary stories, sometimes known urban legends, mixed with hot guys in a hot car?  Yes please!  I enjoyed every minute of it and decided I had to get caught up to the current episodes as soon as possible, because I had heard there was a new season coming up.  I then proceeded to force my boyfriend to watch the first four seasons in the course of a couple of weeks.  Once we were caught up, there was no stopping the fangirl obsession! 

Let’s start with just things I like about the show.  I love the main actors (for obvious reasons) and I also love the storylines.  They deal with everything from ghosts, to demons, to Wendigoes and even vampires.  I also love how they incorporate so much of the lore from each of these creatures in every episode.  I love hearing the stories and legends and typically will go read up on them afterwards.  I’m just a sucker for a good ghost story I guess.  Oh, and I forgot to mention one tiny little detail.  These brothers are hunters who also just happen to be trying to stop the Apocalypse from actually occurring.  No biggie.

If you have a soft spot for stories about demons, angels, vampires, the Apocalypse or just wanna see two good looking guys for one hour every week this show is for you.  For me it just keeps getting better, and I can’t wait to see what happens next week!

What’s My Focus Now? 10/24 – 10/30

October is definitely my favorite month of the year.  The summer heat is cooling off, the leaves are changing colors, and Halloween is everywhere you look.  For someone who loves the horror genre like me, it’s the perfect time to explore what’s out there.  Cheesy movies on TV, latest installments of horror franchises in the theaters, the newest survival horror game, there’s always something going on.  I’ve been trying to take it all in this month, and here’s your chance to see what’s my focus now.

1.  Higurashi (When They Cry) manga v.1

As a huge fan of the When They Cry anime, it was a given I would eventually be reading the manga adaptation.  Having finally done so, I’m ready to obsess over it, too.  With some manga adaptations, the story or characters can be drastically different, but that’s not the case here.  To me, the manga serves as a companion piece to the anime, filling in some blank spaces, providing a few extra details.  It’s exactly what you would want for a series centered around such an intriguing mystery.

Higurashi (When They Cry) is the story of Hinamizawa, a small town with a dark secret.  For Keiichi Maebara, life seems perfect, until the yearly festival sets him down a dark path.  Horror and thriller fans will love this series, especially if they’ve got a soft spot for cute girls.  The story, by original story supervisor Ryukishi 07, is full of scenes to warm your heart, with plenty of moments to chill you to your bones.  Artist Karin Suzuragi is a perfect match for this, deftly depicting characters as cute, sexy, or terrifying while keeping true to the original designs.  The English release, put out by Yen Press, seems spot on, with a few color pages sprinkled in as an added bonus.  One double page spread in particular really stands out, full of vibrant colors and rage.  This series is required reading for fans of the anime, and is strongly suggested for anyone looking for a chill.

Score: 5 out of 5

2.  Costume Quest (PSN/XBL)

Tim Schafer always knows what I want to play.  Psychonauts and Brutal Legend are both unique games, definitely not the kind to appeal to everyone, but they’re just right for me.  The same is true for Costume Quest, a downloadable game on PSN and XBL.  Essentially it’s a short action RPG, around 5-8 hours, but it’s so full of charm that you feel completely satisfied at the end.

You play through the game as one of two twins, tracking down your kidnapped sibling, and managing to save Halloween along the way.  In true RPG fashion, you level up, gain new party members, and perform quests for the random people you encounter.  The battle system itself is simple, each side taking turns to attack, with a few random button presses to boost your attack and defense.  The real fun comes from the costumes you can wear.  Starting out, you have a clunky little robot costume, complete with roller skates.  Entering battle transforms you into a giant mech, complete with rocket punch and missiles.  Multiple costumes to collect provide different abilities and strategies in battle, as well as exploration abilities.  Add in battle stamps that boost stats or provide special attacks, and you’ve got something to fit almost every battle style.

I absolutely adored this game.  The story, the battles, the art style…it’s just so cute and fun.  After watching so many dark horror movies recently, it was a perfect way to lift my mood while staying with the spirit of the holiday.  There are a couple of potential negatives, though.  There are a few quest types that are repeated throughout the game.  It’s something that stood out to me, and I could see it getting annoying for some gamers.  The other negative is the $15 price tag.  For many, this is a high price for a downloadable game lasting under 10 hours.  Think of it this way, though.  How long was the last movie you saw in theaters?  How much did you pay for that trip?  This game is a much better deal, and much more enjoyable than most movies out there.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

3.  Paranormal Activity 2

Horror movies and I have a special relationship.  As a child, I couldn’t handle them, ran screaming from the room on more than one occasion.  Over the years I’ve forced myself to watch them, raising my tolerance level so I can try and make it through almost any movie.  That’s not to say I don’t get scared during the movie, or freak myself out for hours afterward, I just deal with it.  Paranormal Activity was a movie that kept me up for hours the night I saw it, so I knew I had to go see the sequel.

Paranormal Activity 2 centers around a family, complete with newborn baby, who begin to experience strange things happening in their home.  After what appears to be a home invasion, they install security cameras throughout the house, which provide our glimpses into their lives for most of the movie.  If you’ve seen the first movie, you have an idea of how this all plays out.  The intensity and tension build day by day, some believe, some don’t believe, crazy things happen, and then the movie ends.

That leads to the real issue of Paranormal Activity 2.  If you enjoyed the first movie, you’ll enjoy this one.  If you didn’t, you won’t.  It’s the same type of story, told in the same way, and if it didn’t appeal to you the first time, nothing that has changed will drag you in.  But for those like me, who discussed the movie for ages after, there’s plenty to love:  some great scares, a few interesting twists, and plenty of questions left open for debate.  It’s not for everyone, but ends up being a solid movie for its target audience.

Score: 4 out of 5