On July 18, visual metalcore quartet ACME played their first-ever concert in New York.
ACME commanded a packed dancefloor, assaulting them with crisp, high-treble drums, chugging basslines, and melodic guitars. Vocalist CHISA demonstrated clean fry screams before seamlessly transitioning into heavenly vocals. To the listener, it was the perfect synergy of decades of visual kei meeting an endless array of genres.
After an invigorating show, JROCK NEWS caught up with ACME backstage. Join us as we discuss how touring abroad has completely changed their worldview, and what it takes to get ACME to your town.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. The concert was so much fun!
CHISA: We had fun too, I’m glad to hear it!
Would everyone please introduce themselves to our readers?
HAL: I’m HAL. I play drums.
RIKITO: I’m RIKITO. I play bass.
SHOGO: I’m the guitarist SHOGO. Nice to meet you!
CHISA: I’m CHISA, the singer.
Congratulations on your 14th single, Kagaribi. Can you please tell us the concept or inspiration behind it?
CHISA: Especially in Japan, a lot of fans aren’t able to come to our shows due to Covid. So, we can’t meet our fans as much as we used to. In general, people in Japan stopped attending shows for the most part. With all these things together we really felt like, “Can we keep going on?”. And so, the concept of Kagaribi is “flame”—igniting a flame within our hearts, and the hope that people and fans will return to see us.
CHISA, speaking of Kagaribi, you wore red high heels in the music video as well as on stage tonight. How was it to perform in high heels? Was it difficult?
CHISA: Yeah. For live performances on this tour, I actually wore shorter heels. I wore higher heels in the music video. I can walk in them, but it does affect my performance just a little bit.
To me, ACME’s composition can be very surprising. Sometimes it can be very melodic, or sometimes there are even reggae elements—then it suddenly transitions into metalcore. What is your inspiration for writing and composing music?
CHISA: Well, all of us are able to compose. When we are working on a new song, we actually each make our own demos, collect them together, and choose which song we’re going to move forward with based on those. We don’t conform to one specific genre—since it’s visual kei, we can do anything. And, we’re skilled enough that we can play any genre.
RIKITO: Right, we’re able to make anything we want.
HAL: Yes, we’re able to perform any genre. The reason is that we’re a fucking good band!
CHISA: That in itself is ACME’s concept.
You guys have released several singles since your previous album in 2020, WE ARE VISUAL KEI. Is there a new album in the works?
CHISA: It’s not an album, but we put out a USB with all our recent singles as a compilation set just for the US tour. It’s available to purchase at the merch booth. But as for an album, not yet.
The conditions for touring in America are pretty good now, but in Japan, it’s still really strict. Usually, when you release an album you go on tour to promote it, but looking at conditions right now, it doesn’t seem possible for us to do that. Because of that, we’re still unsure if the timing and conditions are good to release a new album right now.
The other thing we’ve observed is how fans’ listening habits have changed. Fans used to be able to go to a CD shop, buy an album, and attend the in-store release events. But now that streaming has gained popularity in Japan, there’s been a big change in the customer’s listening habits.
Because of this, we are still thinking about the best way to produce a new album.
On this “WILDFIRE” tour, you’ve gotten to play with lots of different artists, like TeddyLoid and Red Handed Denial. Which was your favorite to watch?
CHISA: All of them.
RIKITO: I liked all the artists we saw, they were all great. But if I had to name one, it would be DEMONDICE. But I loved everyone!
SHOGO: I’m not sure.
RIKITO: He hated everyone.
SHOGO: ACME! ACME was the best. It’s too hard to choose!
RIKITO: SHOGO is too shy to give an answer, so he’s going to say that he likes everyone equally.
SHOGO: Seriously, I liked them all. But ACME’s the coolest, so I don’t know.
CHISA: As for me, I really liked Red Handed Denial (RHD). I did an InstaLive with [vocalist] Lauren. She’s such a powerful and confident performer, but she was saying “This is our band’s first show in two years”. She was really nervous. So I told her “Ganbare!”, and cheered her on.
[Guitarist] Chris and the other members were saying how nervous they were to perform, too. I didn’t have that image of them before, so being able to perform with them was a really nice thing.
Actually, the last time RHD performed was with us, on our last tour in 2020—so it felt like destiny that we could be there for their first comeback show as a band.
HAL: In LA, a singer named Shihori sang [Demon Slayer‘s anime theme song] Gurenge with us. It was different from the way we normally play because she sings in a higher key than CHISA. But it was great to perform with her.
CHISA: Shihori lives in America. After the LA show, there was a big barbecue at her apartment building for Independence Day. She does different music than we do, but since she’s another Japanese artist she feels like a big sister to us. She taught us a lot about how to make it here as an artist in the US.
HAL: Yes, she taught us a lot. She was saying we should move to America. She also introduced us to a lot of people. We’re really indebted to her.
This is the third time you guys have played a North America tour. What is it about North America that keeps you guys coming back?
HAL: Since coming to America we have changed the kind of music we want to make. The scenery we saw, and the experiences we had here really impacted the direction our music took for sure. Plus, we really loved American bands, to begin with.
Can you give us an example?
RIKITO: Linkin Park! [Flashes Linkin Park T-shirt]
SHOGO: Wage War.
CHISA: Motionless in White, and Falling in Reverse.
HAL: Slipknot. Also Pantera, they’re having a comeback recently.
CHISA: The first time we came to the US, we were unsure if we would get a good turnout. But even so, we decided to give it a shot. Then, we ended up doing our first one-man show last year in Chicago, Costa Mesa… Now this time Dallas, which sold out. So our vision has definitely changed, that we can have our own one-man performances in America.
Also, I’m studying English right now. I’m not really at the level where I can speak freely on my own yet, but there is so much I want to say. However, I can express myself in music. I’m able to connect with our fans through live performances and everything, and that gives me the confidence that if we play, people will come. It makes me feel that we can play anywhere in the world, not only in America.
Because music has no language.
CHISA, SHOGO, RIKITO, HAL: [Unanimously] Yeah!
Speaking of fan interactions, on this tour you’ve gotten to meet a lot of fans! You’ve done VIP Meet and Greets, FAKE STAR USA’s exclusive sightseeing tours as well as the fan-led event ACMATE Summer Camp. Do you guys have a favorite memory or an interesting story?
RIKITO: Disneyland! I really enjoyed the time spent with everyone. In the end, there were fireworks. It also started snowing! I remember that very vividly. Spending that moment with the fans was really precious.
CHISA: All of the time we’ve spent with our fans has been really precious, especially ACMATE Summer Camp in Texas. It was a collaboration between a fan and FAKE STAR USA. The fact that a fan came up with this idea, proposed it to us, and gave us this opportunity made me really happy. It makes us really happy that a fan wanted to do this for us as a band. Also, it wasn’t a transactional relationship, like with normal customers… a fan really wanted to show their love for us to other fans. Creating that opportunity was really precious.
HAL: I’m also studying English, but I can only understand about half of what I hear. I was worried that because of this, people weren’t going to have fun. But at the end of the events, none of the fans wanted to go home! They looked like they were going to cry. It made me really happy to see them enjoying themselves. I hope on the next tour, we can do these events again, and that I can speak more English by then. That will make it even more fun. That’s my motivation for studying English.
Also, on social media, the members seem to be having fun in their downtime. Like HAL, you climbed Mount Baldy in California. So, what is your favorite thing you’ve done on this tour so far?
HAL: Mount Baldy. That has nothing to do with the tour, though [laughs].
SHOGO: That’s hard. I ate some really good food. New York pizza is so good! I realized I really love the pizza here.
RIKITO: I liked the bat-watching cruise. That was the first time I’d seen so many bats! I was really moved. But it was also really gross.
RIKITO: There was a lot of stuff falling as they flew over.
CHISA: The bats all love that bridge, it’s crazy.
That was in Austin, right? I’ve done that before, so I know what you mean!
RIKITO: There were so many black bass in that river, too. I really wanted to go fishing. I wasn’t allowed to, or I totally would have!
CHISA: This tour was also my first time going to Canada, so that was really fun.
HAL: That was really delicious…
HAL: Yes! That was super good.
JROCK NEWS interviewed you guys in 2018, around the time ACME was first getting started. How has the band changed since then?
CHISA: That was before we went to America, but probably after I went to Anime Expo. At that time, I really wanted to attend Anime Expo as a band, but since it was a rare opportunity I went alone. But that was the time I decided the next time I come to America, I want it to be with the band.
At the time, America seemed like such a faraway place. The only image I had of it was from movies. Now, it feels really close by. A 12-hour flight to America is not much different from a 12-hour drive to Fukuoka. The world feels a lot smaller now, compared to then.
I’ve also experienced a lot of great food since then. I loved In-N-Out Burger, and What-a-Burger, especially the chicken at What-a-Burger. The chicken was really fucking good.
RIKITO: And most recently, New York pizza [laughs].
CHISA: And American Taco Bell… Japanese Taco Bell’s a fucking fake. American Taco Bell is way better.
What, to you guys, is the future of ACME?
CHISA: There are still a lot of places I want to perform—not just in America, but around the world.
RIKITO: Yeah, there are still so many places that we haven’t been able to go yet. Also, because of Covid, there are probably people who can’t travel to see us. I hope day, we have the chance to meet those people as well.
SHOGO: I’d have to say if it’s something for the near future, when people around the world think of visual kei I want them to think of ACME.
HAL: I want to play the Superbowl Halftime Show in America.
You know you don’t get paid for that, right?
HAL: It’s fine. As long as they have cheap beer.
Perhaps a halftime show with Lady Gaga?
CHISA: Actually, I want to sing Gurenge with Ariana Grande, there [laughs].
HAL: We have so many things we want to do, still. ACME’s future is very bright.
Thank you so much for your time today. To close up, would you please leave a message for our readers?
SHOGO: I’m sure there are a lot of readers around the world who have heard of ACME but haven’t taken the chance to listen to our music. So, we would really love it if you would please listen to our music and check us out. If you like what you hear, we hope you will support us! Thank you.
CHISA: Of course for us, performing live is the most important thing. I really feel that there are certain things you can only experience in a live performance. We hope everyone will have the chance to see one of our shows and get that full experience. If you haven’t had the chance to see us yet, please let us know that you want us to come to your area! We’d love to perform there.
HAL: As we said in the first question, we make a lot of different types of music spanning genres. So we’re sure there’s something in our discography you’ll vibe with. However, our live performance is definitely different from when you just listen on earphones, so we hope you get a chance to see us. If you want ACME to come to your town, just put out some cheap beer and invite us!
RIKITO: It’s thanks to our fans in Japan, our fans overseas, and our amazing staff that we’ve been able to make it this far. It’s due to a lot of people’s support, that we can come out here. Of course, I hope we continue to make our songs back in Japan and bring them abroad. We’re really grateful and want to return that strength and support you’ve given us. We hope you’ll continue to support us moving forward.
Also, not just cheap beer, I’d also appreciate it if you left out some Diet Coke and Strawberry Lemonade for us [laughs].
Thank you for your hard work at the live show. And congrats on playing your first show in New York!
Everyone: Thank you!
ACME “WILDFIRE” North America Tour- Mercury Lounge, NYC- July 18, 2022
- ROTTEN ORANGE
- RISING SUN
- Heaven’s door
- Mononoke Requiem
- ADVENTURE TIME
- Zesshou ouka
- Tebanashi Rider
JROCK NEWS gives a huge thanks to ACME, FAKE STAR USA, and staff for making this interview possible.