Neko Planet: Sydney, 2014 (GPK & DJ Sisen)
Pulling up in a taxi amidst the rain outside the grey stone of the Imperial Hotel, a line of people clad in fluffy thigh-warmers with yellow and green tails thrashing furiously in the wind gave the passersby a glimpse of what Sydney was in for. This was, of course, the Neko Nation Tour comprised of GPK (Gothique Prince Ken), DJ Sisen, and cute J-pop icon LeLe.
Entering the warm interior of the hotel’s lobby, Sisen copycats dominated with their multi-colored items of clothing—bright and kitschy to the untamed eye, ten-inch high platforms, and everything from dazzling, fleuro fur to dark, netted corsetry. One fellow walked past with blue Christmas lights flashing on his pants. Others lined up like multi-colored ants, clad in clothes respective to their favorite celeb.
Into the games room, the place was alight with flashing neon; a line of cat-people played Mario while seated on mushroom stools; others danced on the DJ Dance Revolution machines while catgirls made rounds holding delicious-looking plates of sushi. Some chill attendees staked out a spot, sipped rum candidly from the bar, and chilled while soaking in the atmosphere, bobbing heads to the music drifting up from the DJ hall below. The night would begin with a support act, setting the mood while everybody mingled until it was time for the first big act.
Gothique Prince Ken entered the stage clad in a swarthy black outfit; a loose, oversized top over black pants and boots, with his hair gypsy-free. His skin shone pale against his ebony outfit as he took the stage. The audience quietened down as he bowed and greeted them, flashing a toothy grin. “Hello, everyone! Are you ready??” The audience shouted their approval. “OH YEAH! I can’t hear you! Are you ready???”
After building anticipation to the bursting point in the audience, GPK swept behind the DJ set… and turned the music off by accident; a minor technical error fixed in no time. He began for real with a slow, peaceful piece, swaying with his arms outstretched. He beckoned to the audience, almost as if summoning them to join him in his solitary masquerade. His vocals were powerful, reverberating off the walls to fall upon the unsuspecting, dreamy audience. His high tones echoed and vibrated in the air; the audience swaying along with him, completely losing all sense of reality as if caught in a waking dream. Raising his arms in the air at a choice moment to blend with pink, glittery lights, he yelled, “I love you all!”
While the audience practically fell over their feet to acquiesce, he began his next song at a much faster tempo with much hand-waving and rather powerful lyrics. The following number was steamy and romantic and some members of the audience even began stripping off their clothes to gyrate to it. They moshed together, clapped, yelled, and screamed at GPK as if he were their savior, some even reaching out as if for absolution. Prince Ken began cruising along the stage, reaching out to touch his adoring fans—at one stage even getting pulled in by their embrace.
“This will be a thing. The 4th time I’m in Sydney. And I love you guys! Thank you very much, everyday! …You are enjoying this show? Me, too!” Prince Ken’s enthusiasm was unmistakable and contagious. His next few songs progressed to upbeat and disco airs while he assumed the leader pose; one leg up on the stool, arms stretched up to the sky with one hand clasping his microphone like a weapon and a nostalgic expression on his face. Then, once again, “I love you!” he cried.
“Jump!” He began urging the already bouncing audience to jump even more before instructing them to yell. By that point, the audience was a mosh pit of colorful people, screaming, jumping, and yelling their love to the air. On perfect cue, bubbles burst from the stage to blend with the neon lights of the dance floor, washing the room with shiny, transparent baubles befitting a fantasy. While audiences leapt to burst them, Prince Ken’s next tune changed into something more hypnotic. “Are you ready for something harder? We live, we die, we fall, we rise!” The screaming of the crowd was now relentless. Prince Ken even handed his mic to an avid member of the audience who finished the song for him. His next piece fitted in beautifully with his gothic image, and was laced off by a round of applause. He then announced that the next song would be his last.
Ahat a final song it was—the loudest, most upbeat piece yet, although it couldn’t be heard too well over the roar of the audience. To make up for the auditory vacuum in performance, the singer put on a show, flinging his arms out as if to catch the world in his embrace. It was ethereal and mystical, like being pulled into a new dimension. He rounded off the finale with a loud, “I love y’all! Let’s make some noise!” With that, he bounded off the stage—but it was not empty for long as LeLe soon bounded on, singing cheerfully and clad in the cutest of outfits, ready to take the audience for a spin on the pop-side of life.
After the exhilarating performance Prince Ken himself made a beeline for the bar to play some Mario Kart to relax, have a drink, and enjoy the rest of the night. ROKKYUU managed to snag him coming back downstairs for a quick interview;
69: We’ll start with an easy one. Please describe your music!
GPK: My music is kind of like a reflection of myself. I wanted to convey the identity that I have acquired throughout my life… and music is the most direct way to convey that kind of idea. I studied fine arts (drawing) before, and I’ve been taught that art is mostly about self-reflection. Now I’m doing music, but I feel that the method is the same; it’s about trying to convey a certain identity, an idea, and project that unto the world.
69: You said that you draw?
GPK: Yes I do, I actually design most of my own album covers, so…
69: Wow, so multi-talented. What would you say your hobbies are?
GPK: Well, I love to learn. My hobbies are listening to lectures—like one of those online free lectures that you download from MIT or Cambridge or Oxford. They offer free lectures that I go and download, and then I listen to them when I’m touring—or when I’m on the plane, or the bus, or something like that.
69: Is there a particular topic that you like to listen to?
GPK: Well… philosophy, mostly. I love philosophy because you have to be able to understand yourself. To understand the world, I think the most important thing is to understand yourself first—to know thyself, I mean; the essence of becoming yourself…
69: That’s really cool. So what would you like to do next? What’s your next stage or goal in life?
GPK: Um… Well, I wouldn’t want to set a certain goal, because if I don’t reach that goal then I would be disappointed, so I set no expectation or goal for myself. I go with the flow of life. I go with the doubt, and I believe that life is a journey and that basically, I have already reached my goal; that I am able to experience the world itself. I’m very happy with that. I think, what I want to do is to sort of expand what I have right now and make it tenfold or whatever. I just want to do my best and see what I can gain from it. Life is true, reality is true, but without the brain and that kinda experience, nothing would be fulfilled. You gotta understand the world, like I said. That’s why I said philosophy. I think it’s important that you merge yourself with the world.
69: Well then, do you have any messages for fans that were not able to come today, to finish up?
GPK: Well, you guys missed out, because this was a very awesome show! You guys missed out, I’m sorry, but I really hope that in the future we’ll be like much bigger, and it will be much more awesome—and there will be more international acts. I would say that I am very thankful and glad that I’m back in Australia, and I’d like to thank Neko Nation for producing this event for us. I’m also very glad that next time I’ll see you guys again, and yeah—stay awesome! (Laughs) Just be yourselves, I guess!
69: That’s right, just be yourselves! Thank you very much for that!
When DJ Sisen announced his flamboyant presence onstage, the copycats in the audience went wild. Bounding flamboyantly onto the stage, he was a diminutive figure in stripy shorts, a long white shirt with a smiley face on it, multi-colored and textured socks with platform boots, a giant spotted blue ribbon on his head, and, of course, octopus-like hair. He began arranging his colorful array of plushies and soft toys on the table, setting up his own Sisen-habitat while setting the scene.
He started the night with a rather cute beat, gyrating to it enthusiastically while brandishing a toy horsehead. Prince Ken’s deep and romantic atmosphere had been replaced by Sisen’s crazy one, and the audience reflected it in their multi-colored impersonations. It was like being in a room full of miniature Sisens running around, waving and bouncing to their two-stepping idol on the stage; a tiny figure engulfed by his own colorful accessories. To add to the festivities, two mini-kimono-clad girls with heels and fishnet stockings began dancing in the front, swaying and gyrating rhythmically and starting the audience off on their own frenzy. It was incredibly catchy music; everyone who wasn’t wild enough to be throwing their bodies around were bobbing their heads and tapping their feet.
The trance continued. A sexy beat wafted about and the audience turned into a hazy shimmer of sweaty bodies writhing, entranced, and hypnotised. Sisen, meanwhile, began to dance onstage with a little parasol, having abandoned the horse-head. He soon gave that up and came to dance with the kimono girls, shimmying to the floor in sensual moves copied instantly by his audience. He soon went back to reclaim his horsehead and after a few energetic bounces he took out a packet of balloons. While bounding around on one foot, he began to blow them up, tie them, and then smack them at the audience. This launched a balloon war between the audience and himself as the crowd rocketed them back and forth and he leapt to retaliate, narrowly missing the dancing kimono girls. After a while, he reached out to the audience, inviting excited and flushed fans to dance with him on the stage. Sisen then changed the beat to a salsa-style; almost in unison, everybody followed suit and changed their dance moves. He resumed his game of balloon-catch with the audience before something caught his eye and he moved toward the edge of the stage. Reaching out, he took a lollipop offered by an adoring female fan, licked it obligingly, and then candidly handed it back to her.
Gothique Prince Ken decided to join Sisen on the stage, the pair dancing together while taking turns to DJ; each adding their own flavor to the resulting beat. Prince Ken took his phone out at one stage, taking selfies with Sisen, glamour shots of the audience, and general shots of the surrounding atmosphere. LeLe took to the stage soon after, and the three took turns throwing toys around, taking selfies, and dancing with the umbrella. After some scuffling, Prince Ken seized control and turned the music to his own style again. Sisen’s hour ended in a happy, cheerful mood onstage with all three musicians receiving cheers and praise.
The unique combination of sushi served by catgirls and alcohol in tall cups kept everybody raving as the celebrations carried on way into the morning. Meanwhile, ROKKYUU had a moment alone with Sisen to get inside the DJ’s head.
69: So! How would you describe your style?
DJ Sisen: Well, its gothic, cyber, decora, and Candy Label, and dragqueen [Laughs], among others.
69: How long have you been working with this particular eclectic style?
DJ Sisen: Let’s see… Well, since I was a kid. My style is really mixed.
69: Do you have a message for fans who could not be here?
DJ Sisen: I’m happy to be here again; last time it was five years ago. I mean, it depends, but the time zone is kinda the same as Japan, isn’t it? There are a lot of differences in culture, though; also the season and the environment. I think a few points are similar, though… There are a lot of Asian people. Australia is a really good mix of people—more than the US or Europe.
69: Yes, Sydney is very multi-cultural. Do you like that?
DJ Sisen: Yes, it’s a perfect for a future city for me! I could move here! After the tour, I will be able to stay for one week but it’s a short time. I would like to see how people live, here. I would like to see Ayer’s Rock. It’s a tourist place, isn’t it? Also, I love Australian seafood. I don’t eat meat or chicken or anything, but I do like fish.
69: Really? Have you been to the famous Sydney Fish Markets here?
DJ Sisen: No, I haven’t! Seafood makes me happy.
69: Well, if you do come back, it’s very close to the city so you have to go!
DJ Sisen: Well, I’ll have to go then!… So I will come back.
69: So, what would you like to do next with your future?
DJ Sisen: Well, I’m still learning… I need more experience. I have been living for about three years in Germany but, some day, I want to go back to Japan with my experience and do more. Also, I want to mix Japanese culture with that from overseas… Now, in Japan, there’s still a bit of a radioactive problem with Fukushima and I can do nothing to help that but I want to do more to help the people. Because people don’t know… Even Japanese people sometimes forget about it, too.
69: That’s very true. What kind of experience did you have in Germany that think you could take back to Japan?
DJ Sisen: Well, in Germany, the gothic scene is huge—especially in Berlin. You have more of a dark, good, experimental music style, sort of party-ish. I want to bring that style back to Japan.
69: That sounds really cool.
DJ Sisen: Yeah, it’s dark but it’s not gothic. It’s just creative and artistic—and so strange. Also, in Berlin, there are lots of Japanese artists and it’s so easy to get an artist’s VISA there.
Both DJ Sisen and Gothique Prince Ken share a unique view of Japanese pop culture and subculture through the eyes of the well-traveled and thanks to Neko Nation, those travels brought them to Sydney for the fantastic event, Neko Planet. Along with Lele, these two made the night extremely memorable—although Mario Kart, DDR, and catgirl servers certainly made their marks as well. Here’s hoping that Neko Planet has only just begun to make waves, bringing a brighter future of Japanese music and culture to the shores of Australia.
There are 22 photos in this visual kei exclusive.