龍 (RYU) // Samurai rock in a modern era

If you’re familiar with the ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) scene here in Europe, 龍 (RYU) isn’t a new face for you. While known by merely his first name in Japan, here in Europe he’s always performing under the name 大蛇 (OROCHI).

But what is 大蛇 (OROCHI) exactly? Since 龍 (RYU) has a very unique stage performance that is very theatrical, but yet he performs it pretty much all by himself.
The project was originally based on the story of ヤマタノオロチ (Yamata no Orochi), but it has evolved quite a bit since the very first performance in Europe in 2011. But what story does 龍 (RYU) want to tell with his music today?

Let’s find out, shall we?

 

Let’s start!

It has been a while since we last spoke, but this is actually our very first formal interview. And because we’re meeting at a convention today, could you please introduce yourself and tell the readers your thoughts about the convention we’re at?
龍 (RYU): My name is 龍 (RYU). I’m a solo artist and singer, but I also play various traditional Japanese instruments like the koto, shinobue and nohkan, in order to combine traditional Japanese music with rock. In the studio I also play the electric guitar, bass and keyboards.
I like it here at the convention, because there are a lot of people here and they make my performance more challenging than when it would be a single show with just me. At a solo show the people visiting come for me specifically, but at a convention I have to convince them with my music. It’s a very nice challenge.

龍 (RYU) during the performance at OshareCon in Nieuwegein (The Netherlands).

Next to being the singer on the stage, you also have a very impressive visual performance in which you use a samurai sword during some of your songs. But what is the story behind this? Did you always have an interest in traditional Japanese culture, or did you start to research it to add it to your stage performance?
龍 (RYU): When I was a child I already had an interest towards the sword, because my father told me I would find this in my hometown. I have searched and searched for years, but I have never found it. Regardless, when I became a student I did learn how to wield this sword properly.

The very first time you performed in The Netherlands was in 2011, when 大蛇 (OROCHI) was still a full band rather than your solo project. Back then your performance very much revolved around the story of ヤマタノオロチ (Yamata no Orochi), but how much of that influence is left in your current works?
龍 (RYU): ヤマタノオロチ (Yamata no Orochi) is an evil dragon from a myth. As you know, my name is 龍 (RYU), which means “dragon”. In Japan my artist name has already changed from “大蛇 (OROCHI)” to “龍 (RYU)” because of the fact I am the only full member of the project. But here in Europe people actually recognize and remember me as 大蛇 (OROCHI), so that’s why I use that name for my work here instead. But regardless of it being 大蛇 (OROCHI) or 龍 (RYU), the meaning of these names is almost the same anyway.
In the myth the evil dragon (Yamato no Orochi) takes virgin girls from a nearby village as a sacrifice, which makes him a very, very bad dragon. But I’m not evil, or bad. The concept of 龍 (RYU) as an artist is that I want to be the exact opposite, I want to be a nice dragon.

 

It takes only one person to start building a bridge

Like you just said, you’re a solo artist now, but originally 大蛇 (OROCHI) was a full band. Do you want to continue your career as a solo artist, or would you rather recruit new members to become a full band again?
龍 (RYU): Recruiting members is really difficult at this point, because I’ve already created so many songs over the years. I’m very happy as a solo singer, but even I am not sure if I can add a new musician to the project easily. Being a solo musician is difficult and challenging, but I want to try the impossible. So I will continue as a solo artist for now.

Support guitarist haru during the performance at OshareCon in Nieuwegein (The Netherlands).

Despite being a solo artist, you’re currently not all by yourself on tour. You have a support guitarist with you this time: HARU. What is the story behind HARU touring with you now?
龍 (RYU): I’ve met HARU last year. We did a show together, but this wasn’t as 大蛇 (OROCHI). I’ve seen his stage performance and I also consider him to be a very decent and reliable person. In Japan I perform with different support musicians, but they also have jobs next to their careers in music, so matching schedules isn’t exactly easy. HARU’s schedule matched with mine, which allowed him to come to Europe with me as a support guitarist now.
Plus, performing with a support musician means that instrument doesn’t have to be programmed into the backing track, which will give a better experience for the audience as well.

Your latest release has been in 2015, so just about a year ago. Are you currently planning a new release already, or not yet?
龍 (RYU): I would like to release more CDs, but I also think that I have grown as an artist throughout the years. At first the music was quite simplistic and with less instruments, but I learn new things with every release, and I also want to try different things too. So in the more recent releases I have added keyboards and piano to the mix for example.

It’s of course always a good thing that you’re trying new things, but the “traditional” music in the ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) genre is getting more and more popular lately. What do you do to keep your music unique?
龍 (RYU): I know many, many bands similar to mine. Because a lot of Japanese musicians also play traditional Japanese instruments. It’s very normal, but I’ve often heard “you shouldn’t do that for your music, it’s not original”. As you can tell I haven’t listened to them.
There is one main difference though: as you know I speak and understand English fairly well, and with this skill I want to be a bridge between our cultures. That’s my vision for 大蛇 (OROCHI) now, to be that bridge between cultures. But I also want to keep that traditional Japanese sound.

Unfortunately we’ve reached the end of the interview for today, but there’s time for one more question: Do you have a message for everyone who has been reading today’s interview?
龍 (RYU): My main focus is music, so please listen to my music. There are a lot of sources online that allow you to stream my music, and I upload quite a bit of it myself as well. So please, if you can, listen to it. It would make me really happy if you did!

 

Extra information

I have a funny story for you this time: 龍 (RYU) and me actually have been trying to set this interview up since 2011, since the very first performance of 大蛇 (OROCHI) in The Netherlands.

Due to circumstances beyond our control this interview had to be canceled in the end, and it took until 2014 before 龍 (RYU) and myself crossed paths again. Completely unexpected. So at that time I couldn’t ask him for an interview to make up for the canceled one in 2011. But I did promise him that the next time he’d come to The Netherlands, there would be an interview for him.

Finally, it took no less than five years and three live shows to set up this interview. Speaking about preparation, right?

We also took photos of his performance at OshareCon (Nieuwegein, The Netherlands). You can find these photos on our photography portfolio, Arlequin Photography, by clicking the image below!

 

Follow 龍 (RYU) on social media


(RYU)

雪 (Yuki) is the owner and driving force behind both Arlequin Magazine and Arlequin Photography.  
She started in 2009 as a photographer with Arlequin Photography, but due to a growing interest in journalism, translation and behind-the-scenes work in general the project burst out of it's seams in 2021 and expanded through the addition of Arlequin Magazine.

雪 (Yuki) is a native Dutch speaker and maintains both the English and Dutch sections of both Magazine and Photography with original content, translations and photography as well as all the behind-the-scenes work for both websites.
She speaks Dutch, English, Japanese and German.

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