When recently pressed for a more detailed bio, J-nerdcore artist Rai quoted from an essay she wrote in third grade, reading:
"It is sunny today. Granma makes yummy food. I do not have many friends, but Grandma says that people can change if they want to. I want to be Mecha Godzilla when I grow up."
The thing that preyed on my mind as I set forth in interviewing Rai was the nagging feeling that nothing I wrote could possibly be more entertaining than that particular missive. I simply couldn’t fathom that I, with my limited writing acumen, would ever be able to explain to you the thoughts and motivations of this artist in any more charming or accurate terms.
What I failed to include in this equation, however, was the unique brand of energy that Rai herself would bring to the proceedings.
The following may well provide you with the answers you seek concerning the mysterious artist, but it’s much more likely that those that are rectified will be summarily replaced by more questions. Rai Kamishiro is an enigma wrapped in a riddle tied up in a kimono and encased in that inexplicable alloy “Space Titanium.”
She is Mecha-Godzilla. Hear her roar.
As a life-long monster movie fan, I feel obligated to ask: Are you really Mecha-Godzilla? ;)
Of course I am. GYAOOOOO! You doubt the reptilian roaring of the almighty Mecha-Godzilla? Can you not hear the mecha-feet kicking down your door?
You originally hail from Kyushu,
My parents moving over pretty much dictated my moving over to
What drew you to nerdcore and how long have you been interested in the genre?
One of my roommates back in boarding school used to wake me up with either Bad Religion/Alkaline Trio or mc chris. I didn't know much about nerdcore then, but I still remember that “Ratz” was ingrained in my brain for a good six months. I was more rock/punk/gothloli centered until Ultraklystron suggested I do nerdcore.
You took part in the “Night of Nerdcore” gig that took place after this year’s Penny Arcade Expo at The Shark Club. Was this your first performance as a nerdcore artist?
It wasn't my first performance as a vocalist, but it was the first as in nerdcore. It was odd not having a band behind me, but I suppose I'll get used to it. I heard “Kill Dash Nine” live, and it had a lot more impact live. Seeing Karl meltdown on stage before me was a little nerve-racking, but luckily by the time I had to worry about performing “
So you’ve preformed as a vocalist before? What kind of music did you write and/or perform before turning to nerdcore?
Mostly in a cover band. Was fun, like Giant Karaoke. I wrote more rock-esque songs, although I did record a game theme song with my cousin for a tiny game her friend's brother was making. I didn't hear much of it, but 2 to 1 (with my luck, at least) is was a H-game.
You work closely with Karl “Ultraklystron” Olson. Are there any other nerdcore artists with whom you’d like to collaborate?
Heee. Lots. I heart Baddd Spellah, and I've always wished for a set of male vocal cords thanks to MC Frontalot. Nursehella's songs make me giggle in happiness, and I think the most irritating thing about having to go home early/not being allowed in the Nerdcore Night club for long was not getting to hear the Futuristic Sex Robotz live. I have a few people I'm talking to about specific collaborations, but I'm always open to the opportunity to make music with other nerd shaped peoples.
You’ve faced criticism because of the eastern (J-rap) style of your Rhyme Torrents contributions as well as the foreign language element. Were you surprised by the reaction of those who thought Rai’s music was not “nerdcore enough”?
Not really. I've dealt with cosplayers, doll owners, anime elitists, racial purebloods, gothic lolitas, and your standard all around racists. Fuck 'em. I've noticed that some nerds are the hardcore elitists they rap about being shunned by, and it's fucking ridiculous.
It's too easy for people to shrug off my music for not being nerdstuff because it's in Japanese. But that's not for them to decide, is it?
I think that a lot of nerdlings need to realize that there's more to being a nerd than computers, MMORPGs, and coding. I fail to see the logic in someone bashing me for their own failings in reading the translation, micromanaging what makes a nerd nerdy, or trying too hard to look up my frilly skirt to keep up with the words. A lot of nerd culture is about one-upping someone while putting others down, and I refuse to play with others since I'm a hikikomori.
To the average Japanese snack human, cute Jpop and Idol Seiyuu style music has to be the most socially unacceptable aspects of Japanese nerd culture, and I find nerdcore artists trying to be the equivalent of gangsta genius fucking stupid. I love hiphop, but I have to laugh at nerdlings rapping about beating down and popping caps. And leave my wigs alone too. I need them for cosplay.
What is it about Rai and her music that makes her so nerdcore?
My motherfucking figure collection. Seriously. I could sit here and list all the nerdy activities I participate in, but the debate will go on, but all arguments in nerdcore either explode or implode, and the only destruction I get paid for is stepping on Tokyo. The fact that I've made two songs and counting on my next album devoted to respectively the candy rolling level on Katamari Damacy 2 and ABJDs, made more references to Oh! Great! and Ichi the Killer than anyone cares to count shouldn't mean anything to people who don't think of me as nerdcore. If they've made up their minds in saying I'm not nerdcore because I'm Japanese, all the power to them; I've got doll clothes to sew.
Ok, I have to ask: just how big is your figure collection?
Er, lots of Bleach, lots of Tsubasa, surprising amount of Naruto, Mecha Girls, Rozen Maiden, some Berserk, and hidden Kabuki froggies, with Kaneda attempting to lord over it all. If you include the dolls, I guess I have about 1400~1600 USD worth of plastics?
Damn. That’s a lotta toys!
You have a new album in the works. Have you settled on a title?
...No... Rocket Punch maybe. I liked Air Gear enough to nab Sleeping Forest for a song title, maybe for the album? I suspect I'll think about it when it's wrapped up and I can listen to the thing all the way through.
When do you expect the album to be finished?
Hopefully sometime in October. It mostly depends on when Karl has time free, so it's hard for me to say.
Do “Sunny Sunny Sunday” and “Big Lie” (your Rhyme Torrents tracks) give a fair indication of the style of your newer work, or will we be surprised by different tones and sounds?
....I'm hoping it'll sound a lot different. “Sleeping
What are your musical influences?
They vary from what I happen to be into; right now I heart m-flo like no other, but when I started nerdcore I leaned more towards HALCALI and Rhymster. The first rap music I actually loved was by an artist/group that made music for Konami called Des-Row. They were the awesome, and I demand you go play DDR Extreme 2 now just so you can hear DAIKENKAI (Y'know, that one song in kanji that no one can read.)
Ah! That song! ;)
Your lyrics are full of references to otaku culture. How long have you been interested in anime?
Lessee, coming home from middle school everyday, I watched this kids show centered around a samurai robot, then Ranma afterwards, so yeah, Rai was brainwashed at a young age. Not to mention watching Akira late at night when I was too young to think anything but "Hey, that guy explodeded!"
Rai is an obsessive Otaku in some of the weirdest ways; don't even get me started on my Gundam-kit style BJD dolls. Anything that you can pop the head cap off and change the eyes of has got to be cool.
I kinda get a lot of people telling me I'm not an "Otaku" because I'm female and don't look like Densha or the Akihabara denizens, but I blame it on the school girl DNA and try and bat off the Cuthuluites. (Hey, how was I supposed to know that both Taimashi AND Eko Eko Azarak were based off of Lovecraft?)
I think it all comes down to the simple fact that Cosplay owns my soul.
Do you think that your love of anime and your interest in nerdcore work well together?
I think it does. I've gotten a lot of comments that anime isn't quite nerdcore, but the fact that the sci-fi conventions are dead and rotting compared to the ani-cons we've got out here says something. Anime is a great love of mine, so at this point there's going to be more anime references than anything, but I'm edging towards rapping about my love of BJDs, cosplay culture and Bellevue (Living in downtown Bellevue has enough WTF moments to fill two CDS XD.), and stuff that I think is nerdy, but not quite anime or, depending on who you ask, isn't nerdcore.
You’ve stated before that you get paid money to play Xbox 360 games. How did you end up with such a fantastic job?
I heart my job.
Do you expect the 360 to reign victorious at the conclusion of the next-gen console wars?
Yes. With all the titles coming out in for the holidays and planned for the next year, the Playstation will be fucking eaten by the 360. The XBOX has always had better graphics and game play than PS2, it's just been the lack of games that held it back. With titles like Dead Rising, Ninety-Nine Nights, Tenchu Senran, Phantasy Star Universe, not to mention Blue Dragon (Or the stuff I can't talk about). XBOX shall rise supreme against the false king of Sony and their UFO controllers!
Seriously guys, it's fucking awesome.
The 360 has reportedly floundered in the Japanese marketplace. To what do you ascribe this lack of interest on the part of the Japanese gamers?
Timing and a vast misconception of what Japanese gamers will buy. With time it'll get there. With the mass of games coming out with the release of the PS3, I believe that a lot of them are what it'll take to persuade someone to go out and buy a 360 rather than a PS3.
What kind of nerd is Rai?
In closing, could you briefly summarize what fans of nerdcore need to know about Rai?
Mecha Godzilla for the win!
Eat your cookies children!
Music = LoveXPeace
We nerds are a beautifully diverse tribe. Such is our greatest strength. At the same time, it often proves to be our undoing. The important thing to remember, however, is that way you geek out – whether it be with comics, video games, anime, stamp collecting, model cars, baseball, motor scooters, modernist literature, or bottle caps – is secondary to the simple fact that you geek out. Sometimes, one among our number may get her geek on in a new and exciting manner, in a way different from both those who came before and most who will follow. I feel Rai is an excellent example of this.
Rai is certainly the least “established” of the nerd musicians I’ve had the pleasure to talk to. And yet, by the same token, she espouses the same spirit, the same level of self-awareness and self-acceptance, the same blissful eccentricity. Okay, probably more eccentricity, but you get the idea.
J-nerdcore isn’t even a genre as such; it is more a mechanism to describe the manner in which a particular artist combines her enjoyment of music with her love of a culture. But the name is unimportant. The label insignificant. The style secondary. It’s the heart of the geek experience, that boundless energy and ceaseless devotion to whatever it is that really drives you, that makes the nerd. And Rai has nerd energy to spare.