We set out on a journey with the help of our friends at V STAR PROMOTION to speak with the man who coined the term “Visual kei”. That man is no other than Seiichi Hoshiko (星子誠一), who is also broadly known as Visual Kei Oyaji for his contribution to the world of visual kei.
Our somewhat casual interview with Hoshiko-san somehow turned into a two-hour long passionate conversation! We truly misjudged Hoshiko-san’s genuine dedication to visual kei! And due to this, the interview has been split into two parts! But let’s not keep you guys waiting, let’s dive in and see what Hoshiko-san has to say!
We’re very honored to have you here today, please introduce yourself to all the readers of JROCK NEWS.
My name is Seiichi Hoshiko. I am currently the representative of JVK Inc. JVK is short for “Japan Visual Kei”. It is a bit exaggerated, right? It’s been about 4–5 years since we started using this name, before that we were named “Starchild Inc”.
When we hear your name “Hoshi-ko”, we think of “Star-child”.
Well, “Starchild” was the company name when I first started it after just leaving my former workplace. As you know the name “Starchild” is the direct translation of my name, “Hoshiko” (Hoshi = star, ko = child). I thought that if I was going to start a company, I might as well make it familiar to others, so there isn’t really much of a deep meaning to it. I also thought that since my last name is not as popular in the country, it would be much easier to be remembered by everyone.
Ever since I founded the company, right after I launched it, I started to use mobile and internet streaming faster than any type of media outlet out there. Leading to the smartphone sites like “club Zy. Channel” and “club Zy.” of today. Also at JVK Inc. we edit and issue free papers called “Gab.“, and “MAG“, and organize live performance events called “Stylish Wave“.
Before I started a company by myself, I used to work for a company. During my days at that company, I started the visual kei magazine “SHOXX”. This magazine was started and ran by only two people at the time, me and a part-time employee.
Since the magazine SHOXX has become such a successful and popular magazine, we’d imagined there would be more people working on it.
Well, the reason as to why I wanted to start making a magazine filled with only artists with makeup was due to X Japan. When I watched X Japan at the Budokan stage in fall of 1990, I felt something that I have never felt or seen before and was surprised that there was a rock industry like this in Japan. So the next day, I started searching for a magazine that gathers these types of artists—there wasn’t much. So I thought, “Well if there isn’t one, why don’t I just create one?”.
Because I used to take a part in the editing of a rock magazine called “Viva Rock”, and my specialty was overseas rock and roll, I had no actual connection with the Japanese rock industry whatsoever. There were many Japanese music magazines, so even if I wanted to take a step in the Japanese rock industry, for someone who mainly worked with the overseas rock industry, I just couldn’t feel that there was any space left. At times, I felt that I couldn’t compete with the others, but I said to myself “Since no one is in my genre of music, I’ll just make the connections myself”. And so, I started the magazine “SHOXX” with a clean slate.
It was a really huge risk that I was willing to take, but I had the spirit to fulfill it! I had always thought that if I tried hard enough, I would succeed. However, that didn’t mean I wasn’t scared. My former company even told me “A normal entertainment magazine like that will never succeed. If you want to launch it so bad then do it on your own”. When people told me how this was impossible, it got me motivated to do my best and overcome the impossible. However, even with my enthusiasm and grand ambitions, I couldn’t do all the work by myself, that’s why I hired a part-timer to help me out.
You conducted an amazing special collaboration talk session with Mötley Crüe and X Japan during your years as the former editor-in-chief at “Viva Rock”. How was that experience?
Wow, I’m surprised you know about a story from such a long time ago! Before my magazine SHOXX, I used to work in the overseas rock industry as mentioned earlier, meaning I already knew Mötley Crüe well and in the past had the great opportunity to interview them. When they came to Japan, I wanted them to have a talk session with a Japanese artist, which in the end, as you already know, ended up being X Japan.
However, I was so very busy with even getting the first issue of SHOXX out. At that time, since I no longer had the title of editor-in-chief at Viva Rock, I really had to make a name for myself and make progress somehow in the Japanese rock industry. It was an especially difficult time to succeed.
During that time, X Japan was already a huge success in Japan, I thought it would be interesting if I was able to arrange a talk session between these two bands. This became one of my last works for Viva Rock, approximately six months before I left the company.
It’s amazing how you overcame those hurdles and brought X Japan and Mötley Crüe together for an interview. What was the talk session like between those two icons?
hide and Taiji from X Japan was more nervous than anybody, so they didn’t speak at all! This required me to act as a go-between and get the conversation started. I don’t blame them for being nervous since they were HUGE fans of Mötley Crüe, this was also their first time meeting them.
After that successful talk session, I started going around live houses more than ever in search of new and young interesting bands. That was around the time when I met LUNA SEA. At the time they were still doing live performances at live houses. Not a lot of bands and artists had makeup on during that time so it was pretty hard searching for one.
I felt that the encounter with them was a really huge turning point for me since it had been only six months since the start of SHOXX. Before when I was working for the rock magazine about overseas bands, I only interviewed famous artists. That satisfied me when I started being an editor-in-chief and when I was young. It was entertaining at first since I was able to meet famous musicians that the majority of the people could not. It was fun, the magazine went viral too.
But as my career went on, I felt emptier inside. I thought, even though I am able to have connections with big names, what will be left for me? People tell me it’s wonderful and amazing having been able to interview, edit, and sell huge artists and bands, but it just didn’t feel right to me.
Did producing wildly successful content for prolific artists ever lose its luster, making work feel mundane?
Yes. I knew by instinct that if I stayed on that career path, I would soon reach my deathbed. I was around my mid-30’s and during that time you really ponder whether it is alright to keep working at the same place and job your entire life. I wanted to start at point zero with the musicians and make something original from there with them. It would test my skills too. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel confident in my work and abilities, but it didn’t stop me from challenging myself. After all, you only live once! I didn’t want to work for someone to fulfill their dreams, I wanted to fulfill mine!
I know there are many perspectives, but I thought, to find a band, growing with the band and making success together was much more entertaining than my former job. For example, I wasn’t the person in charge of X Japan’s fame. They were already a huge success at the time I went to see them in 1990. Because of this, there were some magazine editors already getting interviews with them. I didn’t want to be just “one of them” since that would be, in a sense, “boring”.
X Japan had the talent, but just chasing them isn’t what I wanted to do. X Japan was the main reason that I launched SHOXX, but with this new magazine, I wanted to build up a new scene in the Japanese rock industry.
As of today, “SHOXX” is spelled out S-H-O-X-X, right? Well, in the beginning, it was spelled out as S-H-O-C-K-S! That sounded way too plain and normal for me. Because I wanted this magazine to have a unique name, I thought of S-H-O-X, but it was still too weak of a punch for me. That’s when I remembered how overseas artists sign their name with “XX” at the end.
Oh! Like “XX” and “XOXO” right?
Yeah, I got inspired by that. I don’t know if the artists still do this kind of autograph, but when I was in my former editor position, it was a thing! I thought if I make the title “SHOXX” with a double X, it would have more of an impact. As for the tagline, I put in “VISUAL & HARD SHOCK MAGAZINE”. I extracted that from hide’s idea, but that man is way too bright and he told me that I stole his words!
In the X Japan album BLUE BLOOD, the catchphrase says “PSYCHEDELIC VIOLENCE CRIME OF VISUAL SHOCK”. Thus I took the “VISUAL SHOCK” part and used it in my magazine. But it felt wrong, so I revised it to “VISUAL & HARD SHOCK MAGAZINE” later on.
Is that also the reason as to why you needed something new to describe “Visual kei”?
Correct. At the time, they were called “Okeshou kei” (makeup style). But it simply felt… too cheap… Even though X Japan was a big band and people used the term “Okeshou kei” to describe them, the term was still lacking substance, I didn’t like the term at all! Because of this, I tried to remind all the writers to not use this term as “They are not okeshou kei, they are visual-shock kei”. From there, it went from “Visual-shock kei” to “Visual-kei” to “V-kei”. After we spread the word, fans naturally abbreviated it to “V-kei”. The Japanese love to abbreviate everything as a matter of fact.
So after all this, “Visual-kei”, was technically coined by hide (X Japan) [or at least inspired by].
What do you think is the definition of “Visual kei”?
Well, first of all, I feel that it is an original Japanese music genre. The Japanese people are good at emphasizing and remaking many technologies from overseas. Although the original Japanese genre is made up of many things from all over the world, I felt that it would be nice to have that type of culture out in the world. Before, everyone used to make jokes and laugh at artists who put makeup on, but even at that time, I didn’t think that at all.
I really think that music is made by all the live performances throughout their career. I thought when they perform, the looks on them are as important as their performances, so why can’t they wear makeup? For me, it wouldn’t make sense if men couldn’t wear makeup. It would be as senseless to say that women should not be allowed to wear it. Shouldn’t men be able to wear makeup without being verbally attacked?
I know there are many meanings and points to all this, but I define “Visual-kei” as the music itself along with all the visual aspects of it.
Follow us into the final part of the interview, where Hoshiko-san tells us why he and hide (X Japan) went to a bar three days straight!