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Jun 19

[Interview] Ken Lloyd of Fake?: The Art of Losing Borders

fake_1Ken Lloyd, frontman of Oblivion Dust and Fake (typeset Fake?), is a man of dualities. He is British and Japanese, commercial and experimental musically, and outsider and insider to different aspects of Japanese culture. Just two hours before his alt-rock outfit Fake made their U.S. debut at Anime Next, Lloyd sat down with purple SKY to discuss his upcoming album, sideline interest in anime and why he thinks Vamps is crazy.

On the trip to New Jersey, Lloyd’s band mates in Fake were reading manga and playing video games. Anime Next had invited them to be the convention’s musical guest, and they agreed. Yet Lloyd himself isn’t an anime fan. “I was never brought up in that environment,” he says. He grew up in England, where he had little exposure to Japanese animation, although he did find it cool and advanced. “It’s almost intimidating because I hardly know anything about it,” he admits.

But observing American anime culture fascinates him. “It’s really different from Japan,” he says. “It’s the same vibe but it’s got this Western twist to it. I think it’s really cool.” He also appreciates how the Internet helps blend different cultures. “Everywhere, it’s becoming borderless, and all the countries don’t matter,” he says. “It’s just whether or not you find what you want, and if it’s in a different country it doesn’t matter.”

Fake’s Anime Next concert was one of several live shows restarting the band’s activities after a three-year hiatus. The group debuted in 2002 as a duo –Lloyd and Inoran, a former guitarist for the legendary Luna Sea—with a sound based off 90’s alternative music. Lloyd had previously been the vocalist for the mainstream J-rock band Oblivion Dust, which got its start in Los Angeles clubs in the 90’s and broke up in 2001. Fake suffered its own loss in 2005 when Inoran left over musical differences. Lloyd reworked Fake as a band of himself and session players—the current lineup is DJ Bass, Mine on guitar, Fire on bass, and Masuo on drums. Lloyd continued releasing music through 2006, when he put Fake on hold.

“I wanted to take a break cause I’d been moving for six years straight,” he says. “I’d release an album, then the next album and then the next album. I hadn’t taken a break and I really wanted to get a bit more organized.”

oblivion dustOblivion Dust reunited in 2007, in part so Lloyd could get away from Fake for a while. The band released a new album, and Lloyd wanted to make another. But then guitarist Kaz got busy with Vamps, his unit with L’arc~en~ciel pinup hyde.

Lloyd didn’t want to delay recording music until Kaz ‘s schedule cleared up, so he restarted Fake. “It was getting a bit boring waiting for him,” he says. “We’re not upset or anything, we just think he’s nuts—or they’re nuts.”

Having two bands allows Lloyd to take on two musical identities: commercial and experimental. Together, those two personas give him more creative range. “I don’t think that being commercial is bad at all,” he clarifies. “But being able to do things experimental makes me able to push the commercial stuff more without being embarrassed by it, and being able to do the commercial stuff makes me push the experimental stuff more.”

Now that Fake is essentially a solo act, Lloyd can do what he wants musically without having to persuade anyone. He prefers to mess with listeners’ heads. “Fake is there to play tricks on people,” he says. “That’s what I like to do, you know? I like to have people surprised and thrown back a bit.”

He took the spirit furthest on his last two albums to mess with his company, Tokuma Japan Communications, which he left subsequently to be an independent artist. “It’s kind of like my big ‘Fuck you,’” he says of his independence. During times the company was not supportive, Lloyd made the music he wanted, even though it was sometimes hard to market, a bold move in a society that prizes conformity. “If they’re only giving me a paintbrush and two colors, I’m going to paint whatever I want,” he says. “I’m not trying to be an asshole or anything about it. It’s just what I’m given. If I’m given a huge array of colors to work with, I’ll paint a beautiful picture. I still think the painting with two colors is beautiful, but it’s my beautiful.”

fake_5Lloyd’s plans for the new Fake album include a danceable kind of beautiful. The only confirmed information is that it will be produced by Youth, whose credits include Paul McCartney. Lloyd’s written 25 “really good, in my opinion” songs he’s going to narrow down to about 10 for the album, which he hopes to release in October. The sound? “Something new,” he says mysteriously. He adds it will include big beats and dance influences. It may not have anything to do with the various dance revivals in pop, rock and hip-hop—“There’s a lot of directions you can go with that,” he says.

When Lloyd writes music, he writes for himself and isn’t planning whether the music is for Oblivion Dust or Fake. From there, he chooses whether the songs better suit the listener-friendly Oblivion Dust or experimental Fake.

He writes the lyrics last and chooses their language—Japanese or English—based on which best fits the music. He finds certain language flows suit certain types of music better. “I guess I have more of an insight on this because I can speak both fluently,” he says. Fake’s lyrics usually end up in English because the sound is based on English and American music.

On the surface, that makes Fake an even stranger fit for Anime Next, a convention heavily focused on the Japanese. But it suits Lloyd’s personality as someone who never quite fits into the scene. And as Lloyd puts it, “Music is language free”—the con attendees can connect to Japan by enjoying the music the same way people there do.

Fake?  Official Website – http://www.hedfuc.com/
Anime Next Website – http://www.animenext.org/

8 comments

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  1. The Ben

    A good article and good photos to go along with it. Thumbs up.

  2. Catherine Catanzaro

    Indeed a good interview. Must have been a welcome relief to not need a translator to talk to a j-rocker, haha.

    And lol @ his description of Vamps.

  3. Victoria Goldenberg

    Thanks, everyone! :)

    Additionally: The “outsider and insider” wording came from Ken himself in his Askew interview. For some reason the link option isn’t working right now, so for now this comment will act as credit.

  4. Sarah

    This is really great, Victoria! I’m sorry I missed the concert.

  5. Tsuki

    Hyde? Wrinkles? Never! ~-^ He’s pretty well preserved even if he does look a little rough around the edges these days. I’m getting the impression he likes looking that way.

    Oh and those concert pics you took of Fake? are awesome. You really get a sense of Ken’s intensity in those.

    1. Kathy Chee

      Thanks! He is actually quite fascinating to photograph. Artists have little quirks about them, especially when they’re performing live and I like feeling those quirks out. I wish I had more time to do portrait type photos of him, but time ticked away too quickly.

  6. Kathy Chee

    Lol, he is! Just gotta airbrush those wrinkles out.

  7. Tsuki

    Great interview! You made me giggle referring to Hyde as the,”L’arc~en~ciel pinup”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone call him that before and I have no idea why not. ~-^

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