Superheroes: Ayumi Tsubouchi

Minka Sicklinger_ Tom Tom Magazine_ female drummers

NAME: Ayumi Tsubouchi
When I first had the idea spring into my mind for this Superheroes piece, I immediately knew that the women celebrated in this feature had to represent as many different countries/perspectives as possible. So when my friend Amy Klein suggested I check out her friend Ayumi Tsubouchi from Japan, I was beyond intrigued to find out what she was all about. And damn! What isn’t she about?! A live music festival, a magazine, a record label, visual art, fashion. . . parties! And all with an emphasis on female badass-ery? Uh, yes please!

Ayumi Tsubouchi_ Tom Tom Magazine_ lady drummers

Ayumi is a complete whirlwind of lady-power; the kind that doesn’t have anything to do with holding others down in order to rise to the top, but rather sustains itself on being inspired, empowered and dedicated to bringing others up right along with it.

Why are women still not equally represented in music?
I do not think gender should ever be discussed around superiority or inferiority. Women are different from men in terms of physical appearance, feelings and mind. So, I simply think that equal representation is difficult in the first place.
I would say that, despite of some advances, the world may still be, even though not entirely, male-oriented when we face reality and our impression of what is going on around us. A good part of our history, society and industry has been formed mainly by men and for men, so, the standard of most things remain male-centered. For instance, a band with women alone is called “a girl band”, while we never bother to say a “man band” for the one with men only. Having been improved, this can be seen in other professions, using titles like ‘female’ photographer, ‘female’ driver, ‘female’ police officer and so on. This seems to be one of the factors that attributes to the concern of unequal representation between both genders. I will also point out another factor that women face as well, which is whether they choose a marriage and/or to have a child at some point in their lives. Many women, whether they are editors for music like me, or musicians in a band, may end up choosing to stop their careers temporarily, or even permanently once they are married or have a child. Alas, in Japan, a prevailing idea about female only bands is that they do not continue for long, and in fact, I would say that it may be true…

Apart from what I said, a lot of people, with a special emotional attachment, consider so-called female vocal stylings – a female band or a female vocalists – to be a separate musical genre. Those people are so to speak “Otaku for a girl band!” It is very true that there has been a special status that only female bands can enjoy, although this may be one of the negative examples of unequal representation. I am no exception, being a big fan of “Girl Pop & Rock” and of course of many other musical genres as well.

How do we change this?
I do not think we should ever force things to change. Personally, I think it important that we never give up and continue to try, and to go forth with our beliefs. Well, maybe.…… If I ever have anything to say about the word “change”, I would practice not consciously adding the word “woman” or female” to anything as some kind of prefix or suffix. I just so happened to have talked about this with some friends lately as well.

Ayumi Tsubouchi_ Tom Tom Magazine_ female drummers

If you could have any super-power, what would it be and why?
I have many ideas. I would love to issue more VAMP!, and hold more CHICKS RIOT!. I want to publish art and photo books. I want to travel around the world and conduct interviews and research with an IC recorder and camera in my hand. I want to hold events abroad. I want to have my own music studio for my own band. I want to release my own music albums as records from my own music label “Peachy Doll Records” (I’ve already released 2 albums). I want to make original items with original material. On top of online stores I‘ve already opened, I want to open a brick-and-mortar store where customers enjoy choosing among CDs, records, clothing and many kinds of goods that are specially selected according to our high standards. They can also take a rest at the in-store coffee shop.
Why do I want to do all this? Because I love music, people, books & magazines, art, fashion, travel, and above all: creating something!!

Tell us about your latest projects and what inspired you to do them.
I first launched the project of VAMP! Magazine, a Girl Rock & Culture magazine, in 2000, right after I attended as a guest at “Lady Fest 2000,” held by American feminists and riot girls in Olympia, Washington. I have released 5 issues in total so far, with the first one published in 2002 (I have only 5 because I had a baby in 2008).
I chose Le Tigre as the first cover, and Bobby Teens, Nikki Corvette and Chicks On Speed for the rest. In November, I printed the new issue after 5 years. I will use a new approach for the cover, featuring a piece of art created by a twin, hipBORNtwin, whose talents have been recognized by Sophia Coppola. This will also be the main art of CHICKS RIOT!2011. By the way, “VAMP” was chosen as the name of magazine because I heard it means “improvisation” and “an active girl”.

“CHICKS RIOT!” started in 2007, as an all-in-one girl festival, with Rock, Art, and Fashion. Initially held as a general live music event, it was then combined with the idea of having more of a party and festival. CHICKS RIOT! provides the space where visitors can enjoy a lot of programs as well as interact with other visitors and event owners, rather than just having to stare at the stage -boring-. To make this happen we have art galleries and parties at the festival since 2 years ago. Very open, creative and “multi-generational”! Inspired by ”Lady Fest 2000,” I created “CHICKS RIOT!,” filtering “Lady Fest 2000” with my own feelings and interpretations, and I coordinated it to fit Japanese art scenes. “CHICKS RIOT!” will commemorate its 5th anniversary in November (held once a year). Now, we have been asked to hold CHICKS RIOT! in Los Angeles. I ‘d appreciate if you let me connect with any person or organization that may cooperate us!
In the 90’s, I was an editor of 『Guitar Magazine』『Sift』『Indies Magazine』of Rittor Music (Ongaku Shuppansya Ltd.).
I have been able to do my personal exploration/activities since Spring, 2000 because of the knowledge and experience from those days. I have written since the late 90’s for music magazines as a freelancer, although I have been having to cut down my workload after a child delivery. I interviewed Deborah Harry and Joan Jett (to Joan as VAMP interviewer).

I respect all the women in the world who get themselves going with Pop and Creative minds, and do as their strong beliefs dictate to them… I really want to connect with all those women.

Words by: Van Alexander
Photo: Yoko Yamashita(SLANG)
Hair and Makeup: D’HATZ
Styling: Saki Imakado and SPANK!
Costume: Jeanee Hammett
Translations: Manami Tominaga
Illustration by Minka Sicklinger


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