Tokyo's Dir En Grey has been through a number of musical incarnations over its decadelong history, but none of them resemble the kind of Japanese music that typically catches on in the States — the power-J-pop of Puffy AmiYumi, the doom-rock of Boris, or the experimental noise-rock of the Boredoms. The quintet seems to have settled on a mix of slick nü-metal, screamo and old-school, Maiden-esque prog-metal tendencies, at least judging by new single "Dozing Green" (found on the new disc Uroboros) and the vibe it unleashed opening for the Deftones last year. Prior to that, the group crafted "scary" goth-thrash that sounded like a cross between Marilyn Manson and Korn; earlier still, it seemed most interested in creating a sort of funk-metal hybrid in the vein of Faith No More.
The band has also long been associated with Japan's visual kei fashion movement, which prizes a flamboyant, glammy, gothy look somewhere between club kids and Edward Scissorhands. The quintet's been trying to doff that look recently and come off more tough, but where's the fun in that? And you certainly don't have to! Thinking of doing yourself up visual kei style for the Dir En Grey show? Here's a few tips:
• You can never wear enough eyeliner, dark eye shadow and mascara — load that shit up on your peepers until they're blacker than your tormented soul. Remember: You don't need to see as much as be seen!
• Please don't even think about leaving the house unless you've: cut your hair into long, choppy bangs; dyed it black; highlighted different sections of it in pink, green, blue and purple; and then molded it with two bottles of glue into an impenetrable sculpture a roadside bomb couldn't ruffle.
• You must decide early on if you are going to pursue the "Elegant Gothic Aristocrat" or "Goth-loli" look, because it may take some time to obtain the necessary petticoats, parasols, top hats and cravats. In a pinch, you could probably wear a black leather mini-dress, striped knee socks, big boots, steampunk goggles, a tiara and a couple feather boas (whether you're male or female) and get away with it. Or, as style bible Mookychick puts it, "think dystopian superhero!"
• Above all, don't try to imitate your favorite Dir En Grey member bang-for-bang and costume for costume. Be yourself! Don't be afraid to unleash your inner Byronic weirdo-hero, or rock out with your frock out!
— Michael Alan Goldberg
7 p.m. Sunday, November 23. Pop's, 1403 Mississippi Avenue, Sauget, Illinois. $25. 618-274-6720.
Among countless aspiring hip-hop producers in the area, Ben Bounce (born Benjamin Hawks) is earning a reputation as one of the most competitive. During a beat battle earlier this fall, Ben won the contest over local favorites such as Stoney Rock and Kenautis Smith, which allowed him to represent St. Louis at the annual Scribble Jam festival in Cincinnati. He also held a brief winning streak at Integrity, last year's short-lived hip-hop night at Blueberry Hill.
The Clayton High alumnus recently finished pressing up his first full-length CD, a collaborative effort with rapper Konflik out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The duo goes by the name i-D (short for i-Disciple), and its album The Compass is marked by Konflik's substantive lyrics, which are layered over Ben's creative sampling. B-Sides met up with Ben at his home studio in Maplewood to talk about his music.
B-Sides: Who is your music influenced by?
Ben Bounce: I'm a big fan of early-'90s hip-hop. That's when I started to listen to hip-hop, so that's where a lot of my sound comes from. My buddies would go lift CDs from Blockbuster Music, and they used to bring back Black Moon, KRS and Nas, things like that. Of course, around '93 and '94 when [Dr.] Dre blew up, everybody started incorporating that big 808 sound. That hit me, too, but I think my vibe is definitely more east coast. More like DJ Premiere and Pete Rock. I like that raw, grimy sound.
Who are you currently listening to?
Right now, DJ Shadow is ridiculous, and Ant from Atmosphere, I really love what he does.
How did you and Konflik hook up?
When I was going to school in Arizona, I met this kid named Paul. He was in a crew with Kon back when they were in high school in Colorado. Me and Paul ended up opening a small studio there called Fortified Sounds, which was cool, but it wound up being more of a "grab a six-pack and let's go spin some records" kind of place. Anyway Kon started coming down more and more, and when the whole [studio] thing fell apart he was the only guy I really kept in touch with. Finally one day I realized I had like 100 beats sitting on my computer, and we were like, "Screw it, let's make an album!"
What was your process for making an album with someone 800 miles away?
Well, Kon became a truck driver; he wrote a lot of his lyrics out on the road. While he was driving around the country, I would e-mail him beats and he'd listen to them whenever he got a chance. Every now and then he'd take a break and hop a Greyhound to St. Louis. We'd record for a week, then he'd go back, and I'd do the mix.
The Compass features Nato Caliph, Nite Owl and Spark1duh? What local artists would you like to work with but haven't yet?
I'm talking to DJ Mahf about doing something with the Earthworms — that'd be cool. I'd also like to work with the Treez, and I'm getting ready to do a five-song EP with Steddy P. from Columbia. I'm really willing to work with anybody who's got talent, and I'm always looking for somebody new.
— Calvin Cox
The Compass is available now at Vintage Vinyl. See www.myspace.com/idisciple for more information.