In October, music promotion company Chaotic Harmony started a crowdfunding campaign to bring a Jrock omnibus album to international fans. The omnibus album project, titled Chaos Collection brought together 13 bands from Japan, with the goal of introducing a new generation of fans to the Japanese rock scene.
On November 7, the final day of the crowdfunding campaign, we caught up with Chaotic Harmony founders Haley and Melissa at Nekocon in Hampton, VA. They attended the convention to promote their artists D=OUT, 2& (pronounced “Double And”), and THE SOUNDBEE HD. After a busy weekend of Q&A panels livestreamed from Japan, a D=OUT concert screening, as well as vending, they agreed to meet with us to tell us more about Chaos Collection.
Although the crowdfunding campaign is over, you can still pre-order Chaos Collection from the Chaotic Harmony online store, as a bundle with the photobook or the CD album alone.
Hi Haley and Melissa! It’s an honor to speak with someone so involved in bringing Japanese music to the states. Could you tell our readers a bit about Chaotic Harmony and your roles?
Haley: Chaotic Harmony started out as an import store. I did a survey several years ago, and we found that many people felt Japanese merchandise for visual kei bands was lacking. A lot of fans felt like if it was made more available, it would help the music grow. And so, I had been talking with Melissa, and we came up with the idea “Okay, let’s start our own merch store”.
I had already been doing bookings. After about a year, we started merging the bookings that I was already doing with the company.
Melissa: I actually started as an interpreter and liaison at conventions. That’s where my connections were coming from. We saw that people really wanted visual kei merch, so I told Haley, “Well you know people and I know people, and I’m sure if we ask them, we could make that a thing”. So, it started from there. The booking came naturally because we were talking to all these people and they had an interest in coming to America. Haley was already doing that, so we just combined our contacts, and it kept growing from there.
I’d like to talk about your upcoming omnibus album “Chaos Collection”. I understand you wanted to create a sort of primer for the Jrock curious, and people who discover Jrock through your booth at conventions. How did you select the 13 bands that are included in “Chaos Collection”, and why?
Melissa: With COVID, we couldn’t do any regular conventions with Japanese guests so we started just coming as ourselves, and vending the merchandise. We noticed people coming up to the table like, “I really like this stuff but don’t know where to start”. Then Haley had one of her “Haley Ideas” [laughs]. She was like, “We should do an omnibus album”!
So we started talking about it, and obviously, we were looking to get a variety [of music]. Visual kei doesn’t have a specific music genre; it spans so many different genres, so we wanted to make sure there was a variety of different sounds.
Obviously, it made sense to go to our contacts and clients first. Also, we had to make sure there weren’t copyright issues, which was the most complicated part.
Haley: And when we say “copyrights”, we mean if the bands own the rights to their own music. For example, one band had formerly been on another label.
Oh, I see.
Haley: So that complicated using any of that old music. [Chaos Collection] is a CD that we’re looking to sell to new fans, so it’s not a mass distribution type of item. We wanted to avoid anything that would complicate the managerial side of it.
That makes sense. Have you worked with all of these bands before, either as a guest or for merch?
Melissa: I think everyone is someone we’ve done at least something with, whether it’s videos or merch.
Haley: Yes. Not all of them we’ve brought to the US, but like Melissa said, either they’ve taken comments for our YouTube channel or we sell their merch on our website.
“Chaos Collection” has two new tracks, one from the band ANONYMOUS and one from Initial’L. There’s also an exclusive remix of “Ichibetsu” by “heidi.“. Have these tracks even been released in Japan yet?
Melissa: I don’t believe so. ANONYMOUS has announced their next release and I think [Paradise Lost] will be on it. Initial’L is planning to release THE ONE in Japan, but I don’t know when exactly. Then, I don’t think the remix [of Ichibetsu by heidi.] will be anywhere except on our album.
As shown in “Chaos Collection” the world of Jrock is quite diverse. You guys said so yourselves, as we discussed the concept of “Chaos Collection”. So, what makes Jrock so special, in your opinion?
Melissa: To me, visual kei is the epitome of self-expression. You can express yourself visually, musically, etc. One of the cool things is that if a band labels themselves as “visual kei”, then they’re visual kei. There are no restrictions. If you consider yourself visual kei, then you’re visual kei. No one can give you that label or take it away from you.
Haley: More or less, I agree with what Melissa said. I like that there is so much variety. There is something out there for everyone, regardless of your own musical preferences. Not only that, but the community that comes along with it is special. It’s a small, niche scene so we also have a small, niche community. The bond that you make with the other people in that community is really amazing to me. Our Discord server for example, I love getting to know all the people that are in there.
Melissa: Yeah. Also, visual kei seems to be a genre that attracts people who don’t fit in, which makes sense because it was originally such a countercultural movement. So, I think that people are really drawn to it when they feel like they don’t belong, or they don’t know who they are, or they don’t fit into our society perfectly. That makes the community come together, and I think that’s why the bond is so strong. It’s like, “I found my people”!
You have an impressive variety of upgrades or “perks” on your Indiegogo page, such as meet and greets with the bands involved. How are the bands preparing to meet fans? Are they excited?
Melissa: Unfortunately, we haven’t sold any of the one-on-one meet and greets. But, we did sell a bunch of personalized comment videos!
Haley: Daizystripper’s actually sold out! We sold all five.
Melissa: But yeah, the bands are always super happy to talk to the fans. They love seeing that people appreciate them overseas. Especially the smaller bands, they are sometimes shocked by that. They’re always happy to connect because sometimes the language barrier becomes a problem for a lot of them. Having someone to help close that gap is really special.
By the way, will the personalized comment videos be subbed? Or are the bands learning some English for the personalized comment videos?
Melissa: They’ll probably be subtitled.
Tell us about the 28-page photobook. What are some of the included bonus contents?
Haley: We are pretty excited about that! We wanted to do a photobook, not only as a “perk” but to commemorate the album as well; as far as I know, we are the only US company to release an omnibus album like this. So, we wanted to do a photobook that included artist photos from the bands at the time it was made.
Of course, it includes group photos, and then individual artist photos. Also, all of the bands sent us comments from each band member, which we translated. Then, each member has a digital signature included. We wanted to give it a personal touch and make it something really special.
If you could recommend one track from “Chaos Collection”, which would you choose and why?
Melissa: We’re so happy with all of them, it’s so hard to pick one.
Haley: It really depends on what you’re looking for too. We included such a big variety of bands that if you’re looking for something heavy and hard, then The THIRTEEN is right up your alley. If you want something upbeat and catchy, then Sick² or ZON is perfect. It’s so hard to say, and I think everyone gave us high-quality tracks.
Tell me about the artwork for the “Chaos Collection” album or the concept behind it. It’s so colorful and interesting!
Melissa: The artist we commissioned [Grady Williams] also designed our most recent logo. [Grady] also designed the T-shirt for ice, [former vocalist of Black Gene for the Next Scene] at Tokyo in Tulsa , the one with the ice cream monster. So, that sort of cartoony monster thing is very much his wheelhouse.
Melissa: For the album artwork, [Grady] took inspiration from Japanese folklore and Japanese imagery to create these little monsters. The stripes you see in the background were actually his idea; it’s a kabuki curtain, but with our signature colors.
Haley: I would like to point out the little kappa [green and blue character on the bottom left corner].
Melissa: Yes, the kappa! We asked, “Why is he crying”? Grady said, “He wants cucumbers” [laughs]. We hope he can get a cucumber someday.
Haley: I’m now the kappa’s number-one fan. He’s way too cute for me.
Melissa: I was joking and said, if we ever add some of the little monsters into the photo book, the last page should have that kappa sitting there, eating his little cucumber and being happy! Happy ending!
Please leave a message for our readers.
Haley: Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and getting to know a little bit more about our omnibus album Chaos Collection. We hope that for people who are either new to the music scene or maybe were a part of it and fell out and are getting back into it, you will find some new bands that you love! And of course, thank you to JROCK NEWS for taking the time to help get our messages out to everybody. We appreciate each and every one of you.
Melissa: I’d like to echo that and say thank you to everyone for reading the article, thank you to JROCK NEWS for taking the time to talk to us about it. Hopefully, with the omnibus and the other work we do, we hope we’re bridging the gap for people between America and Japan.
Thank you to all the fans too, because they really make our jobs worth it. We see people post the stuff they receive in the mail and how happy they are, and every time we’re like “This is why we do this”! It makes us really happy, so thank you to everyone out there for your support.
JROCK NEWS would like to thank Chaotic Harmony for sitting down with us after Nekocon wrapped up. We recently interviewed visual kei band ANONYMOUS, whose song Paradise Lost will be featured on Chaos Collection.