Asian Kung-Fu Generation

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Asian Kung-Fu Generation
Asian Kung-Fu Generation-live-countdownjapan2011.jpg
Performing live, 2011.
Background information
Also known as Ajikan, AKG, AKFG
Origin Yokohama, Japan
Genres Alternative rock, Indie rock, Pop punk (early)
Years active 1996–present
Labels Ki/oon, Tofu, Okami
Website www.asiankung-fu.com
Members Masafumi Gotoh
Kensuke Kita
Takahiro Yamada
Kiyoshi Ijichi

Asian Kung-Fu Generation (アジアン・カンフー・ジェネレーション Ajian Kanfū Jenerēshon?), typeset as ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, is a Japanese alternative rock band formed in Yokohama, Japan, in 1996. For nearly its entire career, the band has consisted of vocalist Masafumi Gotō, guitarist Kensuke Kita, bassist Takahiro Yamada, and drummer Kiyoshi Ijichi.[1] The band's musical style is influenced by seminal Western punk and alternative rock acts in conjunction with their own local Japanese indie rock background. As a result, their songs maintain a balance of various aspects of the genres, most typically expressing fast-paced tempos and prominent, hard-edged guitar riffs as well as rhythmic flow and emotional lyrics. Despite the indie nature of their music, the band has enjoyed worldwide commercial success in addition to critical acclaim.[2]

History[edit]

Formation and indie releases (1996–2002)[edit]

Asian Kung–Fu Generation was first formed in 1996 when Masafumi Gotō, Kensuke Kita, and Takahiro Yamada met in while attending a music club at Kanto Gakuin University, a private university in Yokohama, Japan. After realizing that they all shared similar musical tastes, the three decided to start their very own band. Masafumi Gotō became the lead vocalist and played rhythm guitar, Kensuke Kita played lead guitar and sang backup and Takahiro Yamada played bass. Drummer Kiyoshi Ijichi joined them later on after parting with another college band he was in. The four then began providing performances at their university as well as throughout the local Yokohama area. After graduating from college, following years of playing in several small venues and having collaborated with fellow Japanese rock musician Caramelman, AKG released their first indie EP in 2000. The six-track EP contained original lyrics written and sung almost entirely in English. The four spent the remainder of the year playing in clubs and hosting independent events.

The year after, the band made an attempt to attain airplay on indie radio stations for their first Japanese single, "Konayuki" (粉雪?). The song was eventually picked up by a popular radio DJ and put into heavy rotation on the station FM Yokohama upon the demand of listeners. AKG then released another indie EP, I'm Standing Here. This time, however, the band wrote songs in Japanese. At this time, the band had begun drawing an increasingly large number of audiences to their shows held in clubs in the districts of Shibuya, Shimokitazawa, Kichijōji, and Tokyo.[1]

Hōkai Amplifier and Kimi Tsunagi Five M (2002–2004)[edit]

On November 25, 2002, after contributing to the Under Flowers Records compilation, Whatch You Gonna Do?, Asian Kung–Fu Generation officially released their first major-label mini-album, Hōkai Amplifier (崩壊アンプリファー?).[3] The group enlisted internet radio host and graphic artist Yusuke Nakamura to design and compose their single and album covers.[4] The critically acclaimed EP topped the High Line Records' weekly chart for two consecutive weeks and peaked at number thirty-five on the Oricon indies sales chart.[5]

As a result of its success, Hōkai Amplifier was re-released on April 23, 2003, by the band's new record label, Ki/oon Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music Japan. A month later, AKG held their first headline show at Shimokitazawa Club Shelter. That same summer, the band performed at the annual rock festivals of Fuji Rock Festival 03's "ROOKIE A GO GO" and Summer Sonic '03 in Tokyo and Osaka. On August 6, the band released their major-label debut single, "Mirai no Kakera" (未来の破片?), with their second single, "Kimi to Iu Hana" (君という花?), following shortly after. Days later, AKG held the first of what would come to be many annual concert festivals, ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION presents NANO-MUGEN FES. The festival took place on August 11 at the Shinjuku LOFT.[6] The band followed it up by releasing their first full-length studio album, Kimi Tsunagi Five M (君繋ファイブエム?) on November 19.[1] The LP sold over 250,000 copies and landed in the number five spot on the Oricon charts in its first week. As their fame and following grew, fans began calling the band simply Ajikan (アジカン?), which is an abridgment of their full name.

Sol-fa (2004–2005)[edit]

As they entered 2004, AKG received the award for Best New Artist while their video for "Kimi to Iu Hana" won the award for Best Music Video at the SPACE SHOWER Music Video Awards.[7] From January 19 to February 25, AKG held their first headlining tour: Five Nano Seconds. The tour consisted of thirteen shows. On July 1, the band held their third ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION presents Nano-Mugen Festival at the Tokyo arena Nippon Budokan.[6] Over the course of the following summer, the band played in more than ten summer rock festivals, including Meet The World Beat, Rock In Japan Fes 04, and Fuji Rock Festival 04.

Over the course of the year, the band released four more singles: "Siren" (サイレン?), "Loop & Loop" (ループ&ループ?), "Rewrite" (リライト?) and "Kimi no Machi Made" (君の街まで?), before finally releasing their second full-length album, Sol-fa (ソルファ?) on October 20.[1] The album debuted at number-one on the Oricon charts where it stayed for two consecutive weeks and eventually went on to sell more than 600,000 copies. The album received critical praised for its honed sound and high production quality, which thoroughly nullified the language barrier that frequently impeded non–Japanese-speaking audiences.[8] This notion became evident following the domestic release of Sol-fa, when AKG fans from around the world organized themselves and petitioned for copies of the second album to be distributed outside of Japan. The support for Ajikan eventually resulted in Tofu Records striking a contract to release Sol-fa in the United States on October 18, 2005.[8] Additionally, the song "Rewrite" found immense fame both domestically as well as on an international level when it was chosen as the fourth opening theme for the anime series Fullmetal Alchemist.[9] Around the same time, their song "Haruka Kanata" enjoyed similar recognition after being used for the second opening of the anime series Naruto.[10] Asian Kung–Fu Generation spent the next two months on a national tour consisting of twelve shows called "Tour SUI CUP 2004 -No! Member, November." The tour included a prestigious headliner at Nippon Budokan arena. The four then released a year-end video DVD, Eizō Sakuhinshū Vol. 1 on November 26. The DVD is compilation of the music videos for all singles from "Haruka Kanata" to "Kimi no Machi Made," including a never before seen clip of "Siren." The video contains audio commentary for each song, a making-of featurette, and live footage derived from their concerts.[1]

Fanclub (2005–2006)[edit]

Due in part to their growing recognition, Asian Kung–Fu Generation would dedicate a significant amount of time the next couple of years going on extensive national tours. Between March 14 and June 26 of 2005, AKG went on an extensive sold-out Re:Re Tour, performing at forty-eight concerts in thirty-eight cities throughout Japan. At the same time, the band released their second DVD, Eizō Sakuhinshū Vol. 2: Live at Budokan +. The two-disc video was the band's very first live DVD, as the first disc contains live footage of the entirety of the final show of their "Tour Suihai 2004 - No!Member, November-," at Budokan, where they performed before an audience of over 10,000 people on December 5, 2004. Meanwhile, second disc contains clips from their first concert at the Shimokitazawa Shelter Club on November 2, 2004. It also includes behind-the-scenes documentary directed by Toshiaki Toyoda and filmed at Kanto Gakuin University, as well as outtakes from the music video for "Kimi to Iu Hana." Upon its release, the video managed to top the Oricon DVD charts for an entire month. On July 9, AKG held their fifth Nano-Mugen Festival at Yokohama Arena, where they performed with seven other Japanese and UK bands.[6] To advertise the event, they released a preceding compilation album that retained one song from each band attending the festival. Over the next summer, AKG attended a host of festivals, including Summer Sonic 05, Rising Sun Rock Fes. 2005, and Rock in Japan Fes. 05.[11][12][13] They also appeared as guests on GOGOICHI –SPACE SHOWER CHART SHOW– on November 27 on SPACE SHOWER TV. The band closed the year by releasing the single, "Blue Train" (ブルートレイン?), followed up by a brief tour entitled, "Tour SUI CUP 2005 - Winter Dragon" in December.

The band began 2006 with the release of their upcoming albums' second single, "World Apart." The single was unique in that it featured a song in which Kensuke Kita stood as lead singer. It was also AKG's first song to achieve number-one single status. It was also the year that the band was finally able to acquire their very own studio. They then took part in live performances in LIVE SUPERNOVA DX on February 16, 2006.[14] On March 15, AKG released their third full-length album, Fanclub (ファンクラブ?). The album peaked at number three and stayed in the Oricon top five for nearly two months. The following month, the band went on a national tour entitled, Count 4 My 8 Beat. Tickets for all thirty-eight shows quickly sold out. AKG's sixth annual Nano-Mugen Fes. was held at Yokohama Arena.[6] For two days, Asian Kung–Fu Generation and eleven other bands, including six Japanese bands, three American bands and two English bands, performed. Like the previous year, a compilation album was released in July to advertise the Nano-Mugen Festival. After three years of attending the Fuji Rock Fes, AKG had the opportunity to perform on its coveted primary Green Stage for the first time at Fuji Rock Festival 06.[1][15][16]

Feedback File (2006–2007)[edit]

To commemorate their ten-year anniversary, Asian Kung–Fu Generation released their first compilation album, Feedback File on October 25. Rather than featuring hit singles, the nostalgic album was primarily compiled of B-sides, live performances, and old demos from their early indie days. Even though it retained little new material, the compilation was met by commercial success and managed to debut at number two on the Oricon charts. AKG then went on a two-month arena tour entitled, Tour Sui Cup 2006-2007: The Start of a New Season. Well over 100,000 fans attended this tour, which traveled through eight cities and featured guest performances by bands from Japan and the United States.[1] In the midst of the tour, AKG was commissioned by the director of the then-upcoming anime film, Tekkon Kinkreet, to compose a theme song for the movie. The band created a song called, "Aru Machi no Gunjō" (或る街の群青?) and released it as a year-end single prior to the film's debut.[17] As a sign of their increasing cultural prominence, the band came to be parodied in a volume of the popular Hellsing manga by members of the Vatican named, "The Vactikung."

Withdrawal and World World World (2007–2008)[edit]

On March 21, the band released another live DVD, entitle, Eizō Sakuhinshū Vol. 3: Tour Sui Cup 2006-2007 The Start of a New Season that contained footage of their previous tour. Although they took part in various domestic summer festivals, AKG gradually became more and more withdrawn over the course of 2007 before ending appearances almost entirely. It was also the year that the band withheld their annual Nano-Mugen Festival.[1] However, they closed the year with the November release of their next albums' second single, "After Dark." The song debuted in the top ten on the Oricon charts and was used as the seventh opening for the anime series Bleach.[18] Additionally, on December 22, AKG held a live concert in Seoul entitled, ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION Tour SUI-CUP 2007 ~Project Beef~ Live In Korea. It was the band's first concert in Korea since their performance five months earlier at Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, which had received enthusiastic applause from the foreign audience and led to the band being invited to play again.[19]

While they performed at the Japanese New Year countdown, AKG continued to remain withdrawn and spent the next few months working on their fourth album.[20] On February 2008, AKG released the album's final single, Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu (転がる岩、君に朝が降る?), before quickly following it up with the album, World World World. Despite the lack of media appearances and the significant time-span between their releases, the album topped the debuted Oricon charts on its first week before eventually relapsing the weeks after.[21] Just a few months after the album release, Asian Kung–Fu Generation released their second major-label EP, Mada Minu Ashita ni, on June 11, 2008. The mini-album features songs conceived around the time of the recording of their preceding full-length album.[22] Although the EP didn't give way to any singles, the song "Mustang" managed to peak at number fifteen on the Japan Hot 100.[23] The song was the band's very first entry on the newly established chart.

Surf Bungaku Kamakura (2008–2009)[edit]

The band appeared as a supporting act for a show held at Yokohama Bay Hall by American alternative rock band Third Eye Blind on July 18.[24] Incidentally, Third Eye Blind later appeared for the fourth and final lineup of AKG's seventh annual Nano-Mugen Festival held at the Yokohama Arena through July 20-21st.[25] The group was but one of a total of sixteen musical acts, originating from Japan, America, and the UK, who performed at the festival alongside Asian Kung–Fu Generation, who later released their third Nano-Mugen disc, Nano-Mugen Compilation 2008.[26] Peaking at number eighteen on the Oricon charts and retaining one song from each of the sixteen groups, the compilation expressed the largest track number within the Nano-Mugen series yet. Additionally, the song "Natsusemi" (夏蝉 Summer Cicada?), composed by AKG just for the compilation, managed to peak at number thirty-six on the Japan Hot 100 despite not being released as a single.[27]

In September, Asian Kung–Fu Generation had the opportunity to play side-by-side with Weezer, a California-based alternative rock band that had played a major influence on their music. The WEEZER FESTIVAL was Weezer's first tour to Japan in three years and in promotion of their The Red Album, they performed on September 13 at Intex Osaka and on the 15 at The National Yoyogi First Gymnasium in Tokyo. Asian Kung–Fu Generation, along with fellow Japanese rock band Going Under Ground, performed on both the Osaka and Tokyo stage.[28]

They later released their twelfth single Fujisawa Loser in October followed by their fifth studio album Surf Bungaku Kamakura.

Magic Disk and Best Hit AKG (2009–2012)[edit]

After a busy 2008, the band spent time touring and writing new material. In March 2009, they released their fifth DVD, Eizō Sakuhinshū Vol. 5, featuring a collection of live videos from various live events in 2008. In July 2009, Asian Kung–Fu Generation held their annual Nano-Mugen festival. This was accompanied by Nano-Mugen Compilation 2009, which featured a new track, "Yoru no Call" (夜のコール Call of the Night?), and tracks from each of the other 16 bands that partook in the festival. At the conclusion of the festival, Gotō announced the group had started writing and producing a new album. Immediately following Nano-Mugen, the group kicked off their 2009 festival summer season with performances at Korea's "Jisan Valley Rock Festival", "Rock in Japan Festival 2009", and "Sweet Love Shower Festival 2009". In October, their sixth DVD, Eizō Sakuhinshū Vol. 6, was released and was also the band's first release on Blu-ray. It featured a concert from their March 2009 hall tour "World World World", which featured a more experimental set design and set list, as well as the use of instruments such as tenori-on and a strings section. The second half of the set included the whole of their 2008 album Surf Bungaku Kamakura from start to finish.

The band released their 13th single, "Shinseiki no Love Song" (新世紀のラブソング Love Song of the New Century?), on December 2, 2009, which featured a DVD of songs from the group's appearance at Jisan Valley Rock Festival earlier in the year. At the same time, the band announced that at the end of March 2010, they would be releasing a new single titled "Solanin", which was to be used as the theme song to the film of the same name. The single featured a remix of "Mustang" from Mada Minu Ashita ni, which was a studio mix of the version played on Eizō Sakuhinshū Vol. 6. The track was also used as the ending theme to the movie.

In January 2010, Gotō posted an entry into his diary stating that they had recorded a Japanese version of The Rentals song "A Rose Is a Rose".[29] In February 2010, the band spent 2 weeks in New York, in which they recorded 2 songs.[30] In the same month it was announced that the band would provide the opening theme for the anime The Tatami Galaxy, which features character design from Yusuke Nakamura, the same artist who illustrates the Ajikan CD covers.[31] The song was titled "Maigoinu to Ame no Beat" (迷子犬と雨のビート A Stray Puppy and the Beat of the Rain?).[32] A single release is to follow.

In April 2010, Gotō posted an entry into his diary stating that the band's 6th full length album would be released in June 2010 with the title "Magic Disk" (マジックディスク Majikkudisuku?).

In March 2011, the 2011 Japan natural disaster caused the band to cancel the rest of their "2010-2011 Vibration of Music Tour", due to some touring equipment being damaged. Within the next week after the disaster, Masafumi Gotō published lyrics on his diary, inspired by the disaster, called "Suna no Ue" (砂の上 On the Sand?).[33] The song was later recorded, and was played on live radio airplay around Japan. In the next month, Gotō later announced in his diary that they are in the studio, recording new songs.[34] Two new AKG songs were released on the Nano-Mugen Compilation 2011, titled "Hikari" and "All right Part 2".[35]

In July 2011, Asian Kung-Fu Generation played live at "Jisan Valley Rock Festival" an annual 3 day music festival held every July at Jisan Valley Ski Resort, in Icheon, South Korea.[36]

In November 2011, the band announced that they would release a new single and a best of album. The single, titled "Marching Band", was released on November 30 and the best of album, Best Hit AKG, was released on January 2012[37] Gotō announced via Twitter that the best of album does not represent the end of the band, and that they still plan on releasing an original album in summer, 2012.

Landmark (2012–present)[edit]

On April 11, 2012, AKG released the single, titled "Kakato de Ai o Uchinarase" (踵で愛を打ち鳴らせ Ring Out Love with Your Heel?). It was composed by the band's lead guitarist, Kita.

On June 2012, a promotional video was released for a song titled "Yoru o Koete" (夜を越えて Beyond the Night?), in promotion of the Nano-Mugen Festival 2012. It is featured on the Nano-Mugen Compilation 2012, released on June 27, 2012.[38]

A few days before the 2012 Nano-Mugen Festival, it was announced that a new single, titled "Sore dewa, Mata Ashita" (それでは、また明日 Well Then, See You Again Tomorrow?), will be released on July 25, 2012.[39] It is also the theme song for Naruto the Movie: Road to Ninja, which was released on July 28.

After the 2012 Nano-Mugen Festival, it was also announced on the band's website that a new album would be released on September 12, 2012, titled Landmark, and that a tour would follow in the following month of October in support of the album.[40]

A new single, titled "Ima o Ikite" (今を生きて Live Now?), was released on February 20, 2013, and it was featured in a movie, titled Yokomichi Yonosuke (横道世之介?).[41]

In 2013, Asian Kung-Fu Generation undertook their first European tour, with 3 dates in 3 countries consisting of London (31 May), Paris (2 June) and Cologne (3 June).

In September, the band celebrated their 10th anniversary of signing onto a major label by holding a special concert over two days at Yokohama Stadium. This concert included guest performers from the HIATUS, The Rentals, Straightener, and Fujifabric.[42]

In December, to celebrate their 10th anniversary they will embark on their first Asia Circuit tour, performing in Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan together with Straightener (also celebrating their 10th anniversary) and a local band of each respective country.[43]

Band members[edit]

Discography[edit]

Awards[edit]

Year Ceremony Nominated work Award Result
2004 SPACE SHOWER Music Video Awards 04 "Kimi to Iu Hana" Best New Artist[7] Won
2005 SPACE SHOWER Music Video Awards 05 "Kimi no Machi Made" Best Concept Video[44] Won
MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2005 Best Rock Video Nominated
Best Group Video Nominated
2006 MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2006 "World Apart" Best Rock Video[45] Nominated
SPACE SHOWER Music Video Awards 06 "Blue Train" Best Group Video[46] Won
2007 MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2007 "Aru Machi no Gunjō" Best Rock Video[47] Nominated
American Anime Awards "Rewrite" Best Anime Theme Song[48] Won
2008 SPACE SHOWER Music Video Awards 08 "After Dark" Best Rock Video[49] Won
2009 SPACE SHOWER Music Video Awards 09 "Fujisawa Loser" Conceptual Video[50] Nominated
2010 SPACE SHOWER Music Video Awards 10 "Shinseiki no Love Song" Best Rock Video[51] Nominated
2011 MTV Video Music Aid Japan 2011 "Solanin" Best Video from a Film Nominated

References[edit]

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External links[edit]