Hey guys! Today I’m here with a really special post: Yes Tiger’s first interview! I got the opportunity to talk with Derek Vasconi, the creator of the upcoming East Meets West Music Festival in California and a staff member for NECRONOMIDOL, about the festival, how it came to be, what it will be like, and his plans for future idol events in the future.
Thank you for joining us here at Yes Tiger! Could you start off by introducing yourself and the East Meets West Music Festival?
Thanks for having me! I really appreciate it so much!
My name is Derek Vasconi. I’m the creator/producer of the East Meets West Music Festival, which is a two day concert that takes place on August 18th and 19th at the Chain Reaction in Anaheim, California. The purpose of this festival is to bring Western musicians together with Japanese musical artists and have them share their cultures through their different styles of music.
How did you get the idea for the East Meets West Music Festival and mixing American indie and metal groups, Japanese-American artists, and Japanese idol groups?
During Necronomidol’s North American Tour, Ricky Wilson, Necronomidol’s producer, and myself, had a discussion during one of the many long drives we had up and down the West Coast about expanding Necronomidol’s fanbase. The idea instantly popped into my head to bring them back to America, this time with some other idol groups from Tokyo, and have them play with American groups, and see if we can bring new fans into the world of idols. And from this sprung the bigger idea of just sharing culture through musical acts being so varied and different and having them be from Japan and the West. And that’s how it got to where it is now.
Can you tell us a little bit about each of the groups from Japan? How were NECRONOMIDOL, 14Generations Toilet hanakosan, and Yanakoto Sotto Mute chosen for the festival?
Well, as mentioned, Necronomidol was the group that I initially built the show around. They are a talented group of idols from Tokyo who take their inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft’s writings.
Yanakoto Sotto Mute, or Yanamyu as they are more commonly called in Japan, are a group that has been my favorite idol group for about a year and a half now. I have seen them more times than I can count, and over the past year, especially, I’ve grown close to them as idols. I particularly had been a super fan of Nadeshiko, the main vocalist of the group, and would often do chekis with her, prior to becoming a staff member for Necronomidol (since I am staff now in the idol world, chekis are not really appropriate to take with idol groups). Anyway, during a show Yanamyu did in January of this year, I just casually asked them if they would do a show I was putting together in the United States. They had heard about my successful tour I put together for Necronomidol in the United States in December, and to my absolute shock, they all said yes! I nearly cried that day in their manager’s arms I was so happy. Here is my second all-time favorite idol group (second only to the legendary but now defunct Guso Drop), saying yes to a show I was putting together! I mean… it’s just… I’m blown away still thinking about them coming on board. I feel they are going to be a huge surprise at this festival, since most people are not familiar with them, and their music is deeply emotional and very powerful and guitar and vocal driven. Not only that, but I honestly can’t watch them without crying. I have a pretty solid record right now of like twenty or so shows in a row now where I’ve kind of broken down watching them. The very first time I saw them I had to leave the venue they were playing at, just so I could go outside and privately break down. I was an emotional wreck seeing them… they are THAT good!
Hanako San… she’s another one of my all-time favorite artists. Some of her music is actually written by Necronomidol’s guitar player that they use during live shows with a band. Her performances are kind of anything goes, absolutely crazy death metal surges that culminate in Hanako throwing food and drinks on everybody. She is working hard in the idol world doing her own thing, and I just really respect her a lot. So I asked her if she would play my show and she, to my surprise, also said yes, though it took a little coaxing and reassurance that people in the West would want to see her. She actually is the idol out of the three Tokyo idols that I am getting the most inquiries about for this festival. So I’m happy I asked her to do the show, and even more happier that she said yes. I will forever be grateful to all these groups, and to Hanako San.
There are a lot of different VIP ticket tiers – $100, $250, $500, $1000, and a recently added $400 ticket tier. Can you explain what each of them offers?
Yes, so basically the whole VIP ticket tiers are there to help fund the show. They are the main reason I can even do this, since this show is extremely expensive to pull off. I’m doing all of this on my own too, but thankfully, I’ve had a lot of sponsors pitch in and the people who bought the VIP tickets have really stepped up and helped me by buying these ridiculously priced tickets. And yes, I’m painfully aware of how much these tickets cost. I like to think of this more as just you contributing to make the show a reality than buying a ticket worth 1000 dollars. I don’t think there’s too many artists, if any at all, that could demand that kind of money from a ticket and keep a straight face doing so. And I am saying all that because what I’m offering at these ticket levels are nowhere near the monetary value that each tier represent… so please think of these costs more as helping me make this show possible than anything else. Okay?
100 dollar tier gets you into both days of the show, as well as entrance to the VIP meet and greet that will take place Sunday, August 19th, from 2 to 4 pm. It also gets you an unsigned but very special VIP exclusive poster.
250 dollar tier gets you access to both days of the show, VIP access, a signed VIP poster, a group cheki, penlight with the logo of the Tokyo Idol group you choose, and official East Meets West Music Fest T-shirt.
500 dollar tier gets you everything from the 250 tier plus a signed set of chekis added and a special item from each of the groups from Tokyo. These special items are still being decided and worked on and quite frankly, I think will end up being a surprise for the ticket holders. But from what I’ve heard each group is doing… everybody is in for a super special treat from each group!
1000 tier is the ridiculous tier that I can’t believe people actually bought but happy to report several did so far. This tier gets you everything the 500 dollar tier gets you plus a thank you video from the member of your choice and a signed, framed photo of the member of your choice.
So, there you go. I also added a live stream ticket for those who can’t make it to the show. It includes a live stream link both days of the show, plus a T-shirt and penlight and poster.
What should attendees bring to the live? Is there anything we should know about the Chain Reaction? Anything you can’t bring?
Ah, great question. So this is an idol show and a metal show. I would say dress light, since it might get kind of hot inside. However, we are allowing cosplay, so if you want to dress up like an anime character or something to that effect, the Chain is permitting this in light of the idols playing. Just don’t bring anything that could be considered a weapon. Use common sense, you know? Also, no food or drinks allowed in the venue, but there will be in and out privileges, so you can always grab stuff from your cars or nearby places that might have stuff for you to eat/drink. That’s not a problem. I believe you can buy drinks inside the Chain as well.
As for the Chain itself, the place is legendary. I played there twice in my career and both shows were absolutely incredible. The place has an atmosphere of DIY mixed with anything goes mentality. It’s a great place for an idol show too because you can do lifts, mixes, and if you want to dance, that’s okay too. Also, you can bring glowsticks/penlights and light them up for the idols too. Just like I said, use common sense. Don’t bring anything that would get you in trouble. Oh, and I had somebody ask me this earlier… yes, backpacks are allowed, but they will be checked.
How will the VIP meet and greet event be run? If you can only afford a $100 ticket, will you still be able to meet all of the groups?
The VIP meet and greet is from 2pm to 4pm at the Chain Reaction. First, VIP ticket holders will be brought in for the group chekis, according to ticket pricing and when an attendee bought their ticket. So if you bought a 1000 ticket and you were the first person to buy any ticket, you are first in line to do the group chekis. After all group chekis are done, then all ticket holders will be brought in to do individual chekis with all the members, according to the ticket VIP level a person purchased and when they purchased the ticket. So, once again, if you bought a 1000 ticket and you were the first to purchase it, you are first in line and get to choose who you want to meet. Every single person who bought a VIP ticket will have a chance to meet the members for the groups. Once you meet one member, you can join the line for another member, and you can keep doing this until time runs out.
I highly encourage everybody to meet as many of the members as possible. I don’t want to see a single member not having somebody to meet during the VIP, so I’m hoping everybody who purchased a VIP ticket will consider meeting more than just their oshi in a group.
How much will meeting each of the groups cost? Will the chekis be signed? Can you get a cheki with one or several members of NECRONOMIDOL or Yanakoto Sotto Mute or will only unit chekis be offered?
So as mentioned, after those who are eligible for the group chekis ($250 and above on the ticket purchase levels) take their chekis, then the individual chekis will begin. You can get as many chekis as there will be time to take them with the members. We only have two hours, so I would encourage everybody to come with a plan to meet the members they really want to meet first, and then afterwards, meet members who maybe they are curious about meeting.
As for the chekis being signed, we have two tiers for chekis.
$10 for an unsigned cheki with a member. This means you will take a photo with a member, the member will speak briefly to you, and then you will receive the cheki photo and be on your way. You ARE allowed to ask for the member to pose by herself instead of with you if you want. Just let the camera person know you want this.
$20 for signed cheki with a member. Same rules apply above, only you will have a little more time to speak with the member as she signs the cheki for you.
Will there be translators during the performances? How about at the meet and greet? Do any of the idols speak English?
We will have several people floating around who are fluent in Japanese and English. I feel for the meet and greet that, although there will be some translators there, I think the experience is better if you come and just try to talk to the idols either in English or Japanese, if you know any. It is much more rewarding, I feel, because what happens is if you use a translator, you’ll talk more to the translator than the idol, and the idol will talk with the translator instead of you, and also it takes a lot more time. So, yes, they will be there, but I wouldn’t want anyone to rely on them. The translators are there more for the idols and their staff, so I can make sure they have people present who understand them at all times and can assist them in their needs. Make sense?
And no, none of the idols really speak any kind of English that you could call fluent. Taniyama, the manager for Yanakoto Sotto Mute, speaks decent English. Ricky, manager for Necronomidol, speaks fluent English and Japanese. As for the idols, Risaki from Necronomidol speaks and understand some English, and some of the other members in Necronomidol can handle English speakers fairly well. They get a lot of foreign fans coming to their shows in Japan, and they’ve played several times abroad as well, so they are perhaps the most comfortable overall out of the idol groups with English speakers.
Yanakoto Sotto Mute are not really able to speak any English. They have never been outside of Japan, so they are actually quite nervous about speaking to their fans. But I’ve assured them that international fans are very kind-hearted and understanding. They will be fun to talk to, I’m sure. Every time I used to meet Nadecha, who was my oshi back when I was a fan of them, I never once had a problem understanding her or she understanding me. We talked very easily always. The girls in Yanakoto Sotto Mute are all very, very sweet, so please, do not worry!
As for Hanako san, she speaks no English but I’ve worked for her in the past and seen her handle a foreign fan really well, in terms of trying to speak English to him. She does try, and is getting really much better about speaking English.
Overall, I don’t want people to worry about the idols speaking English or any of the people attending speaking Japanese. Even if you fumble through your cheki meet and greet with the member you adore it’s okay. That’s all part of the fun!
Is there anything attendants should know about live performance or meet and greet etiquette? Any dos or don’ts?
For the live performance, common sense stuff. No fighting, don’t try to touch the idols in any way, shape, or form, unless they grab your hand or something of that sort. Don’t get on the stage with the idols at all. If the idols get off the stage and perform, give them space and don’t try to touch them at all. If you see the idols walking around the venue, which some of them might, do not try to talk to them and carry a conversation with them. I will be very strict about this point. In Japan, when you see idols at live shows walking around or watching performances, it’s customary to not talk to them or engage them in any way. Also, no filming them on your cell phone. If I see this, you will be asked to delete the video. No pictures either. During the actual performance, pictures and videos are totally okay. But before/after the show, just give the idols their space. Please respect this rule.
For the meet and greet, this is what I’m asking people to respect:
Many of you already know how Chekis work, but for those of you who don’t, there are very specific rules to taking cheki photos with members. These rules will be strictly enforced, so please we ask that you pay very close attention to what is expected from you during the cheki sessions:
- Do not say anything sexual or offensive to the members. You will be immediately ejected from the venue without a refund.
- Do not insult the members in any way. You will be immediately ejected from the venue without a refund.
- Do not attempt to kiss, or hug, or inappropriately touch the members. You will be ejected from the venue without a refund and possibly prosecuted. The members will shake your hand ONLY, though some of them may hold your hand or hands during the cheki session. This is okay.
- Do not attempt to take selfies with the members or take pictures of the members during waiting in line in the VIP. Also, NO FILMING is allowed during the VIP. If you are caught doing any of these things, you will be asked to erase the film/photo from your phone. If you do it again, you will be ejected from the venue without a refund.
- Do not attempt to pass onto the members any kind of personal information like your cell phone number, email, or anything personal in nature.
- Last, be polite and use common sense when talking to the members. Also, when your time is up for your cheki, do not try to stay longer. We have many people wanting to take chekis, so please respect the others in line waiting to meet the members. You can always loop the lines as much as you want during the event.
What type of merchandise will each group be bringing to America (CDs, T-shirts, towels, random chekis, etc)?
Each group is bringing CDS, T-shirts, chekis, and various other items. I can’t give out the specifics because it’s still being decided at this time. So far, from what I’ve seen, there is a lot of merchandise that is being brought over!
Can you take pictures or video footage during the live performances? How about at the meet and greet?
Ah, already answered this, but quick recap: Meet and greet, absolutely no video or pictures allowed at all. For the live performance, during the actual sets the idols will play, pictures and videos are totally allowed. Before and after the live, no pictures of the idols or videos will be allowed. That’s just plain creepy if you are there snapping pics of the idols walking around, but also it’s an invasion of their privacy and I am not going to allow that. So please do not try or you will be asked to delete all videos and pictures and if you do it again, you will be asked to leave the venue without a refund.
Can you give gifts to the members? If so, what kind of gifts do they like? Are there any gifts that aren’t allowed?
Yes, gifts are not only allowed, but I fully encourage everybody to bring gifts! It’s an idol tradition to do so, and I hope people will be kind enough to the idols and bring them gifts! Oh, and it’s my birthday on August 20th, so yeah, you can bring me gifts too, ha ha! Just kidding. I don’t expect anything.
NOTES ABOUT GIFT GIVING:
We are allowing gift giving to be done during the VIP meet and greet sessions. DO NOT GIVE THE GIFTS TO THE MEMBERS DURING THE GROUP CHEKIS, as we will need to hurry those chekis up as quickly as possible. However, if you have gifts for all the members of a group, you can present them at the end of the cheki session. That is not a problem. Just let me or one of the staff know you have gifts for the entire group. ALL GIFTS will be checked and examined before you give it to the members. Do not attempt to hand the girls anything without first having it inspected by me or one of the staff members.
What gifts are NOT allowed: Anything sexual in nature. If you attempt to give the girls anything sexual, you will immediately be ejected from the VIP event without a refund. I’m sure none of you will do this, but it needs to be said. Also, nothing profane or offensive in nature. No hand made food items of any kind, or drinks. The girls will not accept anything freshly baked or freshly made, for safety purposes.
Also, nothing LARGE. The girls can’t take anything big on the planes back to Tokyo. Keep your gifts small to medium size. Smaller is better.
Also, Yanakoto Sotto Mute and Hanako San have both requested absolutely NO FOOD ITEMS OR DRINK ITEMS at all. Please do not bring them anything food or drink related. Necronomidol is okay to receive sealed food items.
Flowers are also okay but please note they will not be taken on the plane. However, it IS customary to get idols flowers for special shows, so I would love to see many of you bringing all the girls in every group flowers. I think that would be a very sweet gesture. Some of the girls will keep flower petals and take them home with them, as I’ve seen members do before in past tours.
WHAT TO GET THE MEMBERS:
I’ve asked each group to give me an idea of what gifts to get their members, so this way we can make sure the girls get items they would really enjoy.
For Hanako San,
she likes anything relating to Tim Burton, including figures, movies, pictures, etc. She also likes anything horror movie related, like the Exorcist, and cute accessories. Also, anything the color red, as this is her color, but really, she stated anything would make her happy.
Himari-Anything anime or otaku related. She enjoys Cardcaptor Sakura especially.
Rei- She really wants teddy bears or other stuffed animals.
Okaki-Sweets, particularly good American chocolate.
Hina- Anything Harry Potter related, fruit related food (if it can be in a sealed package). She enjoys fruit cakes in particular.
Sari- She enjoys chewing gum, food, vintage clothes (she really likes ugly sweaters that are old!), American TV shows like Orange is the New Black.
For Yanakoto Sotto Mute,
they have not given me specific requests at this time. Nadeshiko likes Winnie the Pooh stuff and Mani is into manga, fashion, and anime, and the girls, overall, are really into Disney, so you can use that perhaps as somewhat of a guide. However, as a general rule, no food or drinks of any kind, and only items that are small or medium sized.
Final note about gift giving:
I encourage all of you to research the members and see what the actually like. And feel free to give as many gifts as you want to each of the groups or members. It would be very encouraging for them to receive gifts. And I hope all of you will consider doing thank you cards or something collective, like a banner all of you sign saying thanks for coming to America. This kind of thing does make a difference to the idols. And it would mean a lot to me if one of you organized something like this for the members.
If you can’t make the festival but would like to support the event, is there anything you can do?
Yes, please, buy a VIP ticket anyway and either let me give it away to somebody or give it to a friend or family member! If you can’t do this, but you want to sponsor the event, I’m still looking for sponsors. You can make any cash donation of any size and become a sponsor. Just get in touch with me and I’ll make the arrangement to have you do this and be recognized for your contribution as well. Outside of this, please promote the event! I want to sell the Chain Reaction out both days! Can you help me do this? Please?
Will you be putting any footage up on YouTube for people who can’t make the event?
Yes, there will be a livestream available if you want to purchase that. Afterwards, I will be working on creating a DVD for the event, so I won’t be putting anything official up on YouTube. However, I’m sure many people will be putting the footage up online for everybody to see and enjoy. It’s inevitable somebody will post something from the event on YouTube. Please take the time to watch it and enjoy!
Do you have any plans for future events? How about any dreams for future events that you’d love to make happen? Would you like to hold events in other parts of the United States aside from the West Coast?
Yes, actually, I’m working on something pretty epic in terms of what is next. I can’t get into specifics, but if you come to East Meets West Music Fest, you might hear a huge announcement about what I’m doing at that time. And trust me, it’s HUGE!
Also, I have a lot of dreams to do bigger things, like do a gigantic Idol Matsuri festival, with like ten idol groups, and have that be someplace in the world like the USA or possibly London. It’s just the money and time it take to do something like that is exhaustive. This fest in August has taken up months and months of my life to organize and make happen. Thousands of hours from me, the groups involved, and everybody else working on it. And it’s just three idol groups coming to the USA. I can’t imagine what it would be like for ten groups to do so, but… that’s why I suppose it’s called a dream, right? I would need funding for something like that, and we would be looking easily at 100K to make an event like that actually come together.
Additionally, I am starting to get into booking shows in Tokyo. That’s been very interesting for me to explore, and so far, it’s going well. I also want to work on an idol documentary, which I think will be my next big project aside from booking shows. I am going to try and raise about 50K for this, as I already have a director and film crew to help me make this happen (The same director and film crew who made Necronomidol’s Dawnslayer MV). I have all the connections and the access to make the documentary a real exploration about what is the underground idol world really all about, and I want to dispel all the horrible myths and stereotypes and misunderstandings surrounding the idol world via my documentary. That is my main focus. So… that is the next big dream of mine, in addition to the huge next booking I have in place and am pulling together right now. So… please stay tuned on that!
Any groups you’d like to work with in the future? If I have a group that I’d like to come to America, what can I do to bring them over?
Oh God, there are SO Many! For me, my top groups I want to work with next, aside from Necronomidol, Yanakoto Sotto Mute, and Hanako San (who I want to work for forever, since I love them all so much), would include the following: Oyasumi Hologram (been listening to them for years. They are at the top of their game right now and honestly, are putting out some of the very best music in the idol world today), Toriena (not exactly idol but she is just somebody I’ve known for a long time. I’ve seen her a lot and she was one of my first introductions to Japanese music), Kaqriyo Terror Architect (Beyond awesome music and idols. Their album, Cultural Mixing, might be the best album of 2018, SO FAR), There There Theres (no explanation needed), Kaishin no Ichigeki (Very emotional idol music), Pikarin, Cy8er, Burst Girl, Broken by the Scream, Koto, etc.
If you want to bring an idol group over, well, you can do it the way I did it: Simply ask them to come. But make sure before you ask, you have a plan in place and the money flow established. That is the key. When I asked Yanakoto Sotto Mute to come over, they did it because I had the show already figured out and I told them everything would be paid for, and they knew me as a long-time fan who transitioned over to staff by working with Necronomidol. So they said yes. You’ll find that if you ask most idols here in Japan if they want to travel to the USA and play, or anywhere outside of Japan, many of them will very excitedly say yes.
If you want me to help you bring an idol group to your neck of the woods, then get in touch with me. Just make sure you have the money to do it or you can get the money, because honestly, that’s where it gets difficult. To bring somebody like Pikarin, for example, you would think it’s just going to be her coming over, right? But you can’t forget her two dancers that she uses for her live performance, and she’ll want to bring two staff members, including her manager and possibly her producer or music coordinator. So a solo idol ends up being five plane tickets, two to three hotel rooms, food and drink, transportation, mic rentals, guarantee payout for whatever the show or shows are you want them to do, and so on. You’re looking easily at about $10,000 dollars, and that’s on the low end. If you get a group with two or more members, well… do the math. So, be sure if you really want somebody to come over, and if you want me to do it, you have that money established beforehand. And just for the record, I am currently open to people wanting to bring idol groups over that fully understand what I’ve just said. So hit me up because for me, it’s a matter of talking to the groups and getting a structured deal in place, and I can do that for you. But please, please, please be serious, and by serious I mean, understand that it’s a lot of work and a lot of time and a lot of money. But if it’s successful, well, then you’ve done something historically amazing, and the value of that is truly priceless, isn’t it? And that’s why I am open to doing this… I love being part of something creative and fun and especially when it deals with idols!
Any final words about the East Meets West Music Festival or anything else you’d like to say to those who are attending?
Just a huge thank you to everybody who has believed in this since the beginning and supported it so far. It’s been amazing and I’m sure when the shows happen, it will be all worth the time and effort and money put into making this all a reality. Also, my love and thanks to Necronomidol and Ricky, Yanakoto Sotto Mute and Taniyama, Risa, Shin, and Junta, and Hanako San. I am deeply grateful to them all. And also and most especially, everybody who has sponsored the fest, bought tickets so far to the event, or plan to buy tickets. This doesn’t work without all of you. My business model is simple: You provide, I provide. So far, everybody has provided me with the tools necessary to make this festival happen, and words don’t even touch upon the emotions of humility and gratitude I have for everybody involved here. And thank YOU too for the interview! See you all very soon!
Oh, and tickets are still available! Please buy yourself a ticket and come hang with some Japanese idols in Anaheim!
A big thank you to Derek Vasconi for this opportunity. It’s been a pleasure working with him and I’m so excited to see what he will do in the future and to hear about his huge East Meets West announcement! Derek has also provided me with the opportunity to interview NECRONOMIDOL, Yanakoto Sotto Mute, and 14Generations Toilet hanakosan. I had a blast coming up with questions for them to answer and I’ve already gotten responses from Yanakoto Sotto Mute and Hanako-san. Their interviews will be up shortly and I was very impressed by their enlightening and entertaining answers. My interview with NECRONOMIDOL should also be up before East Meets West and I’m really excited to hear what they have to say. Derek, thanks again!
The East Meets West Music Festival takes place on August 18-19th at the Chain Reaction in Anaheim, California. Tickets are $40 in advance for one day or $70 in advance for both days. VIP ticket packages are also available, starting at $100. If you can’t make it in person but would like to live stream the festival, you can buy a live stream ticket for $40 or a VIP live stream ticket for $400. Regular tickets are available here and VIP tickets are available here.