An article written by NSK member t3hDave inspired the long blocks of text you are about to read. He discussed his interest in Japanese culture and how he eventually got into the crazy world that is idols.
I figured I would do the same and give you a little bit of background about how I got into this whole crazy mess and how this site came to be. I’ve discussed this on the podcast but lord knows if any of you actually listen to that cluster fuck on a regular basis. =P
Whether other staff members follow up with their own stories is up to them. But this is how the entire ball started rolling for me.
The method behind the madness
Many of you know me as the driving force behind this site since I’m the creator, administrator, editor and lead writer. The consensus opinion among those who do read this site is that I’m an unforgiving, self-entitled asshole who has no heart because of my differing opinions with the general J-Pop and K-Pop fandom on just about everything.
Those who have met me in person know that isn’t the case and the persona created in my own writings does not necessarily reflect that of the actual person in real life. I think by writing this article a greater understanding of why I think the way I do about music will be achieved. Or at least I would hope so. There are still a few of you who are hard headed out there after all.
My background is in 90’s Urban music. I grew up during what those who are of a certain age considered the golden age of Hip-Hop & R&B. Much of my physical CD collection consists of music from those years. I even have cassette singles stored away in a box. I’m sure you younger readers have no clue what those are but back in the day those were the shit before the digital age of CD’s and MP3’s took over.
At the age of 13 I developed an interest in the craft of the DJ. I didn’t take the conventional route that most take and started with CD players before I went to vinyl. I was fairly shitty for a couple of years, but through hard work and practice I developed the ear and timing required to be a competent DJ. It wasn’t until I started mixing electronic music that I got really serious about the whole thing. Before that I was just screwing around with R&B and Hip-Hop. I tried just about every electronic music genre until settling on House Music.
My specialty is Soulful House but I also venture into the Deep, Tech, Funky and Disco sub-genres as well. That’s been my bread and butter since early 2000 and it’s actually what I was known for online before I started this site.
The transition to J-Pop
While I was doing all that stuff I also had a keen interest in anime. I have no idea where I picked it up from but I always found the art style to be interesting and the series that came out of the genre seemed to be more interesting than typical animation that I was accustomed to. Some of my favorite anime are Macross Plus, Ghost In The Shell, Bubblegum Crisis, Oh! My Goddess and InuYasha just to name a few. With those series came the soundtracks that accompanied them. They were full of these strange and unique sounds that were so different from what I normally listened to at the time.
InuYasha in particular introduced me to many of the artists that I follow regularly such as BoA, Ayumi Hamasaki, Namie Amuro and Do As Infinity. I think of that series as my gateway to just about everything else I listen to now since my interest just skyrocketed from there.
The love bite of Morning Musume
Thanks to InuYasha I got a taste of J-Pop and I wanted more. I ended up joining JPopSuki and stumbled upon Morning Musume during one of my downloading sessions. I had downloaded an ISO of their video for Aruiteru. The song was catchy and had many cute girls. The ones I noticed right away were Kusumi Koharu, Michishige Sayumi and Yoshizawa Hitomi. My interest was piqued and eventually I started to collect the group’s discography.
I joined forums such as Hello! Online to find out more about Morning Musume and discovered the endless world of Hello! Project as a result. Back then I lapped up everything I could get (Kind of like how I am with AKB48 today.) and slowly increased my knowledge in all things H!P. I dedicated myself to the organization and a lot of my time was spent learning about them along with several other J-Pop artists during this infancy of my fandom. That was around late 2004 and throughout 2005. It wasn’t until 2006 that shit hit the fan.
Selective Hearing goes live / International Wota
I had a personal blog before this site (That has since died an unmerciful death.) and that’s actually where Selective Hearing started. It was originally a sub section where I shot my mouth off about the stuff I was listening to. With that came my introduction to International Wota. I went from being a lone wolf to an active member of the overseas J-Pop fan community, frequenting their chat room on many a day & night. I ended up being a fixture in #wotachat up until the room went silent a few months ago.
It was because of IW that you see the site you are on right now. After seeing all the other sites on their blogroll I discovered that the presentation of the sub section that was Selective Hearing was for the lack of a better term, “ghetto”. At the time I was using Squarespace as my site host and while they were nice and affordable the lure of a self-hosted WordPress site and all the customizations that go along with it were too much to pass up.
And things look a lot prettier now don’t they?
During my time with International Wota I had many great discussions and made a lot of friends, some who I have had the pleasure of meeting in person and have kept in contact with for the 6 years that Selective Hearing has been in existence. Of course there were also the douche bags and jackasses I have encountered as well, so it’s not like my head first dive into J-Pop and idol fandom was all sunshine and rainbows. I learned early on not everyone is willing to listen and can be complete dicks about opposing views. This is especially true among those who live by the so-called “wota code”.
I want to learn Japanese
During this initial blogging phase I ended up signing up for Japanese lessons at YesJapan where I completed 4 of the 5 lesson plans before unemployment forced me to cancel my membership. I still plan to reactivate my membership and complete the last course by the way. Thankfully I have a ton of Japanese language and Kanji practice books to keep me busy until that point. I also have a couple of very handy apps on my phone and iPad. While I may be an intermediate in skill level I still have a hard time speaking the language.
Perhaps it’s a confidence issue or maybe it’s just because I don’t really have anyone to practice with on a consistent basis. There aren’t many Japanese where I live. If there are any, they tend to hide themselves pretty well. Anyway, I tend to be able to read and write Japanese better than I can speak it.
Going from playing music to composing it
In 2006 I became interested remixing, 2 years after retiring from active DJ duty. When you think about it it’s the next logical step. Why play someone else’s music when you can make your own right? And while some people may think that remixing isn’t exactly composing anything original I beg to differ. In the proper hands any song can have a new life in a completely different genre and can even surpass the original song in terms of popularity. The best example I can think of is Tori Amos’ Professional Widow. The Armand Van Helden remix is so much better than the original and it only uses tiny vocal snippets.
My first real remix was of Bran Van 3000’s Astounded offered on ACIDPlanet. After that there were many attempts at transforming tracks from different artists. I lost some of my works in a hard drive crash later that year. To be honest, it’s better that way, some of my early remixes really sucked & are better off being lost in the void. But I did learn that it isn’t easy making a remix. Actually it’s quite difficult to take something that already has an established sound and completely flipping it, yet keeping the same appeal that made it popular in the first place. That fine line is a hard one to walk.
Enter the JPH!P
Fast track to 3 years later and Selective Hearing was established with all musical content from my personal blog ported over and integrated and the announcement of my first idol related concert, Hangry & Angry at Sakura-con in Seattle. 2009 introduced me to the JPH!P community thanks to a chance meeting in the autograph line. Other than the former IW I have been the most active with them. I have even gone so far as to have a weekly program on their radio station and I participate in their meet ups at various concerts and events whenever I can.
They are unlike other forums that I am a part of. Their open minded and candid nature is what appealed to me the most. I am also a regular fixture in their chat room lurking most of the time. I only speak up when the conversations strike my fancy or when I feel the need to throw a counterpoint to get people all riled up. Much like IW, I have made many friends through the JPH!P forum who I visit on almost a yearly basis since many of them are located on the west coast. I am still fairly new to the community (3 years strong.) but it kind of feels like I’ve been there forever already.
After joining JPH!P I was quickly introduced to the world of K-Pop thanks to the program that is on before mine. I was indoctrinated into a world that I have yet to fully understand. K-Pop fandom is (in my opinion) scary stuff. I thought wota were bad but K-Pop fan girls certainly make them all look like rookies. Exposure to this fan culture showed me what it really means to be a hater. Up until that point I was watching the Hello! Project / AKB48 fan wars heating up to stupid levels of immaturity. In a similar way K-Pop anti-fans pulled the same kind of immature garbage but on a more extreme level. When K-Pop antis hate, they really go all out as if they’re campaigning for an election or are out for blood.
In 2011 I went to my first K-Pop concert when SMTOWN rolled into the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I got to hear the ear piercing screams of fan girls in person and also discovered how annoying they are. The one girl I was sitting next to kept hitting me in the head with her damn light up sign, thankfully she moved down to the bottom row when she saw an open seat.
I would suggest that those of you who hate on the whole Hallyu wave at least try to invest some time in the fan culture. Yes, there’s a lot of self-congratulatory patting on the back, and some over optimistic world domination claims; but you may find something you like while you ignore the rest of the bullshit.
Lost faith in H!P a renewal of idol music through AKB48
Now we end up in modern times. As my musical palette expanded I noticed that the Hello! Project music I once adored started to lose its polish as the Elder Club was graduate en masse and the younger generation struggled to gain their footing. The Morning Musume I knew and loved was slowly dismantled and rebuilt with the younger 9th and 10th generation members. At least the leader of the group is Sayu. She is the right person for the job given the average age of Momusu now.
The glimmering hope that was S/Mileage was completely fubar’d with the unnecessary addition of a 2nd generation and the departure of 1st generation members Maeda Yuuka and Ogawa Saki. Only the “kids” groups were able to maintain and persevere through the storm of transition, only faltering slightly with some less than stellar videos/singles. I have invested some time in other Japanese idol groups such as 9nine, Tokyo Girls Style, Momoiro Clover and the like but none really struck a chord with me like AKB48 did. I’ll admit that I didn’t like AKB48 at first.
It wasn’t because of their music, but because of their dumbass fans. I’m sure my recent run-in with a few of these jerks would have been enough to turn some people away. I mean what kinds of fans openly deter people from wanting to like what they like or berate new fans who don’t know what the hell they’re taking about? Luckily there are some sensible people within the AKB fan community that I can count on to be helpful such as my boys at NSK, fellow staff member Hiro and CK.
Pushing that negativity aside, it wasn’t until Heavy Rotation that I jumped on their already crowded bandwagon. Did the video have a large part in that? Of course! You look at Oshima Yuko and tell me that isn’t a fine ass woman. I do think that the song has the structure of a nursery rhyme but you know what? It’s catchy and to be honest it was a lot better than what Hello! Project was shilling at the time. That was the turning point in my idol music world. While my patience with H!P was ever thinning, here came their rivals who were not coasting on merit alone. (Long time AKB fans might disagree with that statement.)
If you’re wondering why my posts are so AKB48 heavy lately, that’s why. I’m sure that will taper off as the whole “new car smell” aura goes away.
I’m not sure if this whole history of how things came to be here will be of any use to you in the long run, but there it is in as short form as I could possibly narrow it down to. Trust me, this could have been a lot longer. As it now, this whole thing you’re reading is equal to a 6-page Word document with single spacing. Yes, that’s a lot.
If you have managed to survive reading this entire thing, I congratulate you.