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Thursday, Oct. 28, 2011
Fictional faces of Fact
Special to The Japan Times
Chiba posthardcore band Fact are currently holed up in an Orlando, Florida, studio recording their fourth full-length with producer Michael "Elvis" Baskette.
The as-yet untitled effort is scheduled to come out sometime in January. With little time to spare, it is a good thing that the sessions for the new disc have gone much more smoothly than when Fact first teamed up with Baskette to record its 2009 eponymous album.
"Elvis' studio is in Orlando now, but it used to be in a very rural area in Virginia," says drummer Eiji (all five members of Fact go by only their first names). "His old studio was right in front of the ocean. When we recorded there in 2008, there was a huge hurricane and we had to evacuate the area for a week."
"We spent that time at Elvis' house playing with his kids," adds guitarist Kazuki. "It was fun being with them, but we were worried about the studio getting flooded and not being able to record the rest of the album."
Despite the weather problems, Fact eagerly returned Stateside to make 2010's "In the Blink of an Eye" with Baskette, who has also worked on albums by the likes of chart-topping alt-rockers Incubus and Stone Temple Pilots. Fact has no plans to find a new producer anytime soon.
"So many U.S. bands have influenced us, so we always wondered what it would be like to record there," says Eiji. "We totally love how everything he has done with us has turned out. He's a wonderful person and treats us like family. We always come back to Japan knowing that we want to record our next album with him again."
Formed in 1999, Fact was originally conceived as a melodic hardcore group. However, its current sound has expanded into a cocktail of emo, punk and screamo, accented with an occasional electro-pop twist. And while it does have its detractors (renowned British music rag NME gave "Fact" a 1/10 rating, describing it as a "sh-t-drenched nightmare of a record"), the group has built a loyal domestic fan base. "Fact" reached No. 18 on the Oricon album sales chart and "In the Blink of an Eye" climbed all the way to No. 6.
Fact's image has definitely helped it attract a following. Prior to the release of "Fact," after signing with Maximum 10 (an imprint operated by major-sized independent label Avex Group), the band and label decided to have the members wear noh masks in photos and music videos. It abandoned the Noh mask gimmick last year, but the members still conceal their faces in promo materials.
"We wanted to make a strong first impression with people, and wanted listeners to approach our music with an open mind," says Eiji of the original concept. "For international audiences, we also wanted to show them that we were from Japan."
Fact has gigged in North America and Europe to generally receptive audiences. One of its more memorable gigs coincidentally came the day after NME's review of "Fact" was published. Playing in Knebworth, England, at the Sonisphere Festival, Fact was bumped to the main stage after a last-minute schedule change by another performer. This great opportunity proved to be a definite character-building experience.
"We were excited and nervous," says Kazuki. "When we were being driven to the main stage, we all sang the Japanese national anthem, just like the national soccer team.
"When we started playing, people were booing and throwing plastic bottles at us. We were soaked with liquid and some of our equipment got wet and broke. We tried to stay calm and just play a good show. It worked: By the third song, people started to actually listen to our music and the crowd was applauding us at the end of our show."
There will be no jeers or bottle-tossing when Fact embarks on a coheadlining tour with punk luminary Ken Yokoyama in mid-November. Under the banner of "The Rags to Riches Tour IV," the acts will play two nights per city in Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo. In each city, one show will take place in a large venue, the other in a small club. Yokoyama paid tribute to Fact when they last toured together in 2010.
"One day, Ken Yokoyama and his backing band changed one of their online profile pictures so that they were all wearing noh masks," says Kazuki. "It was really funny.
"We're excited to play with him again. Both shows in each city will be totally different experiences. It's going to be a lot of fun for everyone."
Fact play Huck Finn in Nagoya on Nov. 14 (7 p.m.; ¥2,500 in advance;  733-8347); Diamond Hall in Nagoya on Nov. 15 (7 p.m.; ¥3,000 in advance;  265-2665); Namba Hatch in Osaka on Nov. 17 (7 p.m.; ¥3,000 in advance;  4397-0572); Pangea in Osaka on Nov. 18 (7 p.m.; ¥2,500 in advance;  4708-0061); Studio Coast in Tokyo on Nov. 21 (7 p.m.; ¥3,000 in advance;  5534-2525); and Shelter in Tokyo on Nov. 22 (7:30 p.m.; ¥2,500 in advance;  3466-7430). For more information, visit www.factjapan.com.