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This month, Chris Morris discusses his biggest challenges and rewards with ORIONlive, meeting Mary’s Blood and being blown away by Wagakki Band’s live performance!

Q. What artist was the first addition to your Japanese collection?

A. The Headbangerrr!! single by Babymetal.

Q. Which live act would you love to see perform in the UK this year?

A. There is one in particular which ORION may be working with so I’ll keep my mouth shut. Don’t want to tempt fate!

Q. Have you discovered a new act recently that you can’t stop listening to?

A. I do not go on binges of listening to artists non-stop, but I have recently been exposed to The Makai and am really intrigued. I have known of The Makai as a concept for a while but musically it remained off my radar until very recently. Going on 35 years of being a pro-wrestling fan, I knew of The Makai as a hybrid pro-wrestling theatre troupe which incorporated metal music. Saki has been a frequent contributor. I had wanted to check it out for a while and the musical component recently put on a show in Shibuya. With Saki playing with them, I had to attend. It was astounding! I picked up the debut CD and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for next level power metal that comes from a unique context. Fans of Mary’s Blood will be impressed thanks to Saki’s presence, and fans of Disqualia will be happy to hear Ibuki share some vocal work.

Q. What is your most prized possession in your music collection?

A. It’s not a piece of merchandise but a simple photo of me with Mary’s Blood is my most prized. It was taken in December 2016 at a meet and greet event in Fukuoka. It was my first time meeting them and I was beyond nervous, which I had never really felt before or since when meeting artists! The band was of course very sweet, but Saki was particularly kind to me. She had become my favourite musician while MB became one of my top bands. Before I could say a word to her she called me out by name and introduced herself. Turns out she was expecting me after reading something on Twitter. It just meant the world to me. Now, over a year later, we’re actually friends and try to say hello whenever we can. It’s a trip! It started that day in Fukuoka so the photo represents a very special day and moment for me.

Q. Which act blew your expectations out of the water when you saw them live for the first time?

A. Probably Wagakki Band. My friend Aaron and I were big fans when we saw them for the first time in Osaka in 2015 but neither of us were quite prepared for how exquisite the show was. Even the DVD I had didn’t do it justice! I was nearly brought to tears at how beautiful everything was. Yuko’s shigin vocal performance alone was a transcendent experience. Add everything else and it was such a perfect evening. But damn…they may set a record for length of MC!

Q. Which aspects of creating ORIONlive have been the most challenging and rewarding so far?

A. The biggest challenge so far has been maintaining a balance with professional relationships, friendships, and fandom.  It’s one thing to love an act as a fan and see them perform and get photos and all of that stuff and another thing entirely to be discussing a tour or a gig where money, reputation, and their professional life is involved. There’s a gravity to that and a pressure to deliver. Because Dave and I are still new at this, and it’s growing very quickly, the pressure is more acutely felt. I have met with five artists/managers in Tokyo in the last week and I felt that pressure every time.

Then there is approaching these artists who were already my friends and trying to make that jump to trusted professional. The artist doesn’t want to disappoint anyone but business is business and there is that inherent tension when business and friendship mix and no one wants to ruin something good. I have a feeling this might have actually held us back from working with Mutant Monster, for example, who I know quite well. We even named our company after one of their songs but we have yet to book or promote them. I’ve assisted in different and less obvious ways behind the scenes, but it would have been nice to book them too! All these things combine to form a unique challenge that I hope will get easier as ORIONlive’s reputation as a trustworthy touring partner develops.

As far as the rewarding part goes, I write this as I literally just got out of a meeting with an idol. She asked if anyone in the UK would even know who she was. When she found out she has fans and that hey would love to see her and meet her, and we were offering her that chance…her little face just lit up. THAT moment is why Dave and I do this.

Q. Why do you think the fan community with the Japanese music scene is so dedicated?

A. I suspect it has something to do with the proliferation of impressive acts and which satisfy diverse tastes as well. It’s difficult to drift from a scene which never appears to grow stagnant. I think if it was just Babymetal fandom and other acts never came along, it would be anomalous and loyalty to one group and fan community would persist with no larger context to draw us in. But as the scene continuously produces varied acts of quality across genre demarcation and which maintain an identity separate from the West, devotion is earned and a deepening sense of goodwill is created. The scene is also part of a wider context. We devoted fans do not just listen to the same music, but we have engaged Japan as a nation and as a culture. It has become our own experiential social organism. This breeds and rewards dedication.

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