Music

Nobuaki Kaneko heads in darker direction on ‘Lobo’ and rises to the occasion

by Matthew Hernon

Special To The Japan Times

A singer, drummer, actor, model and occasional game reviewer, Nobuaki Kaneko is clearly a man that likes to keep himself busy. So when we meet up for a chat at his studio in Tokyo’s Yutenji neighborhood, the first thing I want to know is where his true passion lies.

“Definitely the drums,” he says immediately. “I’m probably most well-known for the acting, but drumming is something I’ve been obsessed with for as long as I can remember. My parents were musicians so they were both hugely influential. I think I first got a toy drum-set when I was around 3 and was always practicing. I then started the band Rize with my school friend Jesse (McFaddin) at the age of 14.”

The rock group — which also features Kaneko’s younger brother, KenKen — is regarded as one of Japan’s nu metal pioneers. Kaneko continues to play in the band, but it’s no longer his sole focus. Stepping out of Jesse’s shadow, the 34-year-old has become a star in his own right.

“I was getting commercial and TV offers on the back of Rize’s success, but always turned them down,” he says. “People told me I was crazy to say no, so I eventually started doing them and in 2009 I appeared in ‘Crows Zero II.’ This was a big movie that had a massive impact on my career.”

A man in demand — particularly among directors requiring a villain — Kaneko decided to capitalize on his newfound fame by launching a solo career that same year.

“There have been a few drummers who were also frontmen, like Phil Collins, and I just felt as I was getting more of a name for myself it was the right time to try and go it alone,” he says. “Playing in Rize has been, and still is, magical, but at times I’ve felt like a stagehand. As a solo artist I’ve had the opportunity to create my own thing.”

Experimenting with a slower electronic rock sound, Kaneko’s first two albums “Orca” and “Historia” sounded very different from anything Rize produced. His latest single, “Lobo,” has a heavier, slightly darker feel to it, even though it was inspired by a children’s book.

“I read ‘Lobo: The King of Currumpaw’ by Ernest Thompson Seton and was deeply moved,” Kaneko says. “The artwork by Asami Kiyokawa looked amazing and it was brilliantly translated. It made me want to make music and create something that complemented the story. That’s the first time I’ve ever felt like that. I can’t wait to play it live.”

“Lobo” is in stores on Oct. 9. Nobuaki Kaneko plays Daikanyama Unit in Tokyo on Oct. 27 (03-5459-8630); Umeda Shangri-La in Osaka on Oct. 29 (06-6343-8601); and Apollo Base in Nagoya on Oct. 30 (052-261-5308). Tickets for all shows are ¥4,500 in advance. Shows begin at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.kanekonobuaki.com.