Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Superheroes: Ayumi Tsubouchi

Written by Van Alexander

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! 

 Illustration by Minka Sicklinger


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.

Van: Why are women still not equally represented in music?

Ayumi: I do not think that 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 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 remains 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 female vocalist—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.

Van: How do we change this?

Ayumi: I do not think we should ever force things to change. Personally, I think it is 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.

Van: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Ayumi: 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 two 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 can 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 and magazines, art, fashion, travel, and above all: creating something!!

Van: Tell us about your latest projects and what inspired you to do them. 

Ayumi: I first launched the project of VAMP! Magazine, a Girl Rock & Culture magazine, in 2000, right after I attended as a guest at Ladyfest 2000, held by American feminists and Riot Grrrls in Olympia, Washington. I have released five issues in total so far, with the first one published in 2002. (I have only five 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. For the newest issue I used a new approach for the cover, featuring a piece of art created by a twin, hipBORNtwin, whose talents have been recognized by Sofia Coppola . . . By the way, VAMP! was chosen as the name of the 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 had art galleries and parties at the festival since two years ago. Very open, creative, and “multigenerational”! Inspired by Ladyfest 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 fifth anniversary in November (held once a year). Now, we have been asked to hold CHICKS RIOT! in Los Angeles. I ‘d appreciate it if you let me connect with any person or organization that may cooperate with us!

In the 90s, I was an editor of Guitar Magazine . . . 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 90s 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 . . .

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.

This is a repost from the site Tom Tom

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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