Leadership in Japanese Music
#1
This is an interesting subject. Leadership in Japanese music tends to be vastly different than that of the Western kind, for many obvious reasons. Japanese people are by tradition humble and respecting of personal spaces, even with certain degrees of hostility experienced. Western musicians usually keep their bitterness to themselves, but you'll find that there are more self-centered and/or rightfully pissed off types that will go to a war of words with those who they have had bad experiences with. Probably due to typical American culture of being blunt and unrepentant.

Anyway, this thread isn't really about asshole band leaders or former members. This is about Japanese musicians who are able to lead their bands dutifully, even amid the many negative setbacks that definitely had an impact on progress.

Perhaps the most immediate BAD example of a band leader in Japan is Yoshiki of X Japan fame. He likes to make it all about himself, and the inputs of other members are often overshadowed by his own modifications to fit his agenda. This is all based on the things he'd said and done over the years, as I can't attest to personally knowing the guy. All I know is that based on many different experiences described upon having known him, he is most certainly only looking out for himself, and the current incarnation of X Japan is completely secondary.

Now, there are cases of GOOD band leaders who are blunt about things. They can let fellow band members have their say, contribute their parts, and so on, but the band leader ultimately has the final word. Depending on how he goes about it, he can either make or break the current band. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be absolutely professional in the studio. You're not in the studio to fuck around during the making of a premium-quality product. Some band members may be more relaxed and allow a bit of "lulz", but depending on how they view success, they'd rather the goofiness and other unimportant matters to be saved for some other time.

Live performances are usually excusable environments to fuck around on, but you must be able to carry through your part of the performance. That's what spices things up. If you're a drunk and/or getting into legal trouble, no matter how good you are, the band leader is always in the right in sacking you. That's just to maintain a professional image, because it's simply unacceptable. If people think otherwise, then they've never lasted long in a real band. If you want to wank around a jam session or two, then that's your right to do whatever you'd like, but ultimately speaking, there must be some sort of democracy. I like it when band leaders can be critical, yet completely willing to allow outside input. It's always great when they don't touch a single note or verse in a song that they didn't write.
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#2
We have a thread for band leaders here. Or should that one get closed?

I've always wondered what band leaders over there actually do. That term is thrown around over there a lot more than over here.
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#3
Best to just leave it in the past. Bumping year-old threads isn't always the best idea. It stagnates the flow of discussion.
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#4
Personally, I have always assumed it is more a prestige thing than anything else. Of course there is the type of band leader that really take the band by the hand in terms of compositions, organization or both - Naoto Shibata is the first one I think of here - but there are bands that have less obvious choices. Kai is considered the leader of The Gazette, but he is the only guy in the band who is not an original member and he hardly ever composes anything. Alice Nine had their band leader duties shifted from Nao to Show a couple of years ago. I personally haven't noticed much of a difference since then.
If you can't get enough of me giving my opinions without having asked for it, you can read more of it on my Kevy Metal weblog.
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#5
I also think it's mostly, as Agonymph suggested, a prestige thing. You can generally tell a band's real leader (if they actually have one) when you've followed a band long enough. Otherwise they just might not have one, or just one in title alone to answer questions on behalf of the band for example.
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#6
I initially figured Hana was the leader of Gacharic Spin but then it turned out to be Koga. The more I learn about them, I don't think it's in name only, either. She seems to be a more forceful personality than I initially assumed.
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#7
I'm finding leaderless bands over there to be rare, but they do exist (eg, Tricot, TsuShiMaMiRe).
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#8
Only very few bands can get anywhere without a leader anyway. But I feel like western bands generally don't quite communicate who it is, even though it's obvious enough with bigger bands.
If you can't get enough of me giving my opinions without having asked for it, you can read more of it on my Kevy Metal weblog.
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#9
You'd have to have a pretty good democracy in the band to work leaderless. Unless the band is completely controlled by management. I've always kinda considered the leader to be the field general over there (whereas management is the commander).
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#10
Even the bands that function pretty much democratically have one or two people who by most definitions of the term could be considered leading the band. I do wonder what Kai's function is as the leader of The Gazette, but I guess it's comparable to what I recently discussed with Rafael Bittencourt: streamlining the process, booking rehearsals and studio time, hiring additional musicians, taking care of stuff on-site... Things like that.

I've seen the de facto leader leave one of the bands I worked with. The atmosphere within the band would improve immensely, but they didn't really get anywhere after that.
If you can't get enough of me giving my opinions without having asked for it, you can read more of it on my Kevy Metal weblog.
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