Profile: Ayn Rand – Rush Tribute Band

Rush boasts one of the most dedicated fans in music today. The trio from Toronto, Canada celebrates their 40th anniversary this year and is arguably as popular, if not more popular, than their heyday.

Along with such a dedicated and passionate fan base comes a number of tribute and cover bands from the very fans who make up the strong cult following that helps keep the band chugging along after so many years. Rush has fans all over the world and the same can be said about the tribute bands of three, four, five or however many it takes to play the music that Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart seem to perform so flawlessly.

One such band is Ayn Rand from Japan. Ayn Rand is comprised of a quartet in a tribute to Rush. Though Ayn Rand plays songs from other bands, they primarily play Rush. This despite that fact, the real Rush hasn’t toured Japan in 30 years. A three decade absence from Asia hasn’t seemed to hinder the popularity of Rush’s music as Ayn Rand can certainly attests.

Ayn Rand Band

Ayn Rand – Rush tribute band from Japan

Founders: Masao “Madmarkz” Seko

Year Founded: August 2007

Hometown: Kobe, Japan

Current Lineup:

  • Masao “Madmarkz” Seko – Vocals and Synthesizers
  • Takasi “Mokuson” Kimura – Bass and Synthesizers
  • Mr. Shorts – Guitar
  • Eiji “Carbonara” Matsuura – Drums and Percussion

Influences (other than Rush):

Masao: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), David Coverdale (White snake)
Mr. Shorts: Shinji Wajima and Susumu Hirasawa
Takasi: Too many artists to write down
Eiji: Queen, Led Zeppelin, Bay City Rollers

Favorite Rush Song(s) to play:

Masao: Hemispheres
Mr. Shorts: Anything in Hemispheres
Takasi: Freewill
Eiji: Pretty much everything, but especially Tom Sawyer

Hardest Rush song learned:

Masao: A Farewell To Kings
Mr. Shorts: Distant Early Warning
Takasi: Hemispheres
Eiji: Pretty much everything. All albums after Test for Echo are very difficult.

Easiest Rush song learned:

Masao: At first, all songs sound simple and easy to play, but once we start practicing, they’re all difficult.
Mr. Shorts: The Spirit of Radio
Takasi: Nothing is easy
Eiji: Nothing is easy

Website: http://aynrand.web.fc2.com/

Ayn Rand Band 2

Ayn Rand

1. How did Ayn Rand get started and why did you choose Ayn Rand for the name?

Masao: When Eiji, who was the last member to join, started playing in our band, we were brain storming the name for the band. At that time, my girlfriend suggested “Ayn Rand” because the song lyrics for Rush were influenced by Ayn Rand. There was no disagreement in the band to adopt this name.

2. What do you like about Rush’s music?

Masao: Using a variety of rhythms and melodies, it makes their music hard to cover.

Takasi: The music itself.

Mr. Shorts: Their music sounds really simple, but at the same time they sound complicated as well. After Signals, it’s vice versa. Their music sounds really complicated, but at the same time they sound simple.

Masao Ayn Rand

Masao “Madmarkz” Seko – Vocals and Synthesizers

3. Do you understand the lyrics or do you mostly appreciate the medley between the vocals and music?

Masao: The lyrics of Rush music often includes unfamiliar words, and words with double and triple meanings. It makes it too hard for Japanese people to understand.

Eiji: I can’t understand the lyrics. But I enjoy the harmony of the vocals and melody in unison.

Mr. Shorts: I am Japanese, so I mostly appreciate the medley between the vocals and music.

4. Does Ayn Rand play songs from other bands or are you strictly a Rush tribute band?

Masao: Honestly, if we played only Rush covers, it would be too much for our audience in Japan so we expand our variety. Whatever artists we want to cover, we challenge ourselves to cover.

Eiji: It’s about 90 percent Rush and 10 percent others.

Mr. Shorts: Yes, we do play other artists’ songs.

5. Do you or would you consider writing your own songs?

Masao: I’m not interested in writing our own songs. It is more fun to cover my favorite Rush songs.

Eiji: I’m not interested, because we love Rush.

Mr. Shorts: I’m not interested, at least with Ayn Rand.

Mr Shorts Ayn Rand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


6. Rush hasn’t played in Japan since the mid-1980s do they still retain a strong following in your country?

Masao: I think there are many strong fans that are waiting for another Rush Japan tour. Of course, I’m also one of them.

Eiji: Yes. As well as fans in other countries, we also want Rush to tour Japan again.

7. Rush indicated their experience in Japan was unique in how polite the audience was – has that changed over the years or do bands still need to adjust to the formal audience reaction compared to the boisterous shows in the United States?

Masao: Even right now, Japanese audience may seem very polite at first, but once the music starts, we can become boisterous. The Japanese audience looks polite because it may be the audience trying to observe artists playing instruments or trying not to miss their words. I don’t think American bands have to change their style of play.

Eiji: The Japanese audience may be polite, but Rush should perform as they are, because we want to experience the real Rush.

Mr. Shorts: It’s all up to the musician’s preference. If Rush plays in Japan, they may think we’re polite audience. I think each band can decide what they want to do. Our culture or our opinions should not influence how each band plays.

8. What’s Ayn Rand’s process to learning Rush songs?

Masao: I don’t look at music tablature. I listen to the music and then copy it. Then I repeat practicing.

Eiji: We just keep practicing as a band until we get it.

Mr. Shorts: We practice each part on our own then we practice as a band at the studio.

Takasi Ayn Rand

Takasi “Mokuson” Kimura – Bass and Synthesizers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Do you incorporate any of Rush’s live show into Ayn Rand concerts?

Masao: We haven’t but we’d love to try sometime.

10. Give us a glimpse into popular music in Japan – is it more rock like Rush, pop or does Japan enjoy their own genre of music?

Masao: I’m not interested in Japanese music at all. I do not listen to them at all, so I don’t know what’s popular right now.

Eiji: Sorry, but I don’t know much about popular songs in Japan. Rock music is not popular in Japan. “J-POP” is the mainstream in Japanese music scene right now. Please take a look on You Tube to search “J-POP”.

Mr. Shorts: I don’t know what’s really popular in Japan, but if you want to listen to Japanese Rock, I suggest “Ningen Isu”.

Eiji Ayn Rand

Eiji “Carbonara” Matsuura – Drums and Percussion

11. Have any members of Ayn Rand seen Rush live?

Masao: I’m the only one who has seen Rush live. I saw them in November 1984 in Osaka.

To see more videos of Ayn Rand performing Rush songs, click here.

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Kings of Leon a Bit Mechanical in Portland

In professional football, sometimes the starting quarterback goes down and the back-up jumps in and plays so well that player moves on to a starting position the next year with another team. It’s then quickly determined that he was always a great back-up but not a good starting QB.

This is how it feels with the Kings of Leon.

The Tennessee-based quartet of three brothers and a cousin (plus a fifth musician) brought their Mechanical Bull tour to the Moda Center in Portland on Thursday and played to an audience about the size an opening act can expect when touring with a much larger band. The upper bowl was covered with about 80 percent of the lower bowl and floor filled.

KOL Band smal

Kings of Leon perform at Moda Center in Portland, OR

It’s not that Kings of Leon played bad. They played alright, sounded tight and no audible mistakes. They just didn’t perform or put on a spectacular show. In fact it felt more like they were the opening act, say circa 2005, when the band opened for U2.

Singer Caleb Followill’s voice was raspy by “My Party” just the third song, which at first, came across like sound issues but by “Back Down South,” the ninth song, it was at times beyond just scratchy and you wondered if the band might call it quits. He did offer an apology, of sorts, acknowledging the hoarseness of his voice and said the show was the band’s 22nd on a 29 city tour. (How will he get through tonight’s show in Seattle?) Props to him for sticking it out however to be an arena band it takes some professionalism to know your limits. He never once appeared to grab water but if he did it had little effect.

Kings of Leon opened their 26 song set performing “Charmer” behind a curtain with a video backdrop showing scenes likened to a horror flick. The studio version of the song is nearly unlistenable but it managed to come across OK live. “Rock City” was next, the first of seven songs from their latest album Mechanical Bull.

“My Party” third-up on the night, has that great opening drum cadence, but now, less than 10 minutes into the show Followill’s voice began to show signs of cracking. The single “Temple” also from Mechanical Bull helped push the show along.

“On Call” fell a bit flat but guitarist Matthew Followill put in for a pretty decent solo. The hip-swaying “Family Tree” got the audience moving a bit but “Closer” perhaps the band’s best song with the excellent vocal work and that beautifully haunting guitar backdrop didn’t quite measure up to the album version but mixed with the video back drop it was effective nonetheless. Caleb’s back-to-the-audience guitar solo didn’t help much, either.

Songs like “Charmer” and “Milk” sound more like what the band came up with screwing around before practice and then for some reason included them on their respective albums. Though “Charmer” held up, “Milk” along with, by that time (12th song), the botched vocals, was dreadful.

The audience seemed more into the performance then the band did at times and when Caleb commented after “The Immortals,” “I think we all need to pick the energy level up a bit,” it makes you wonder if he was talking to the crowd or his band mates. Perhaps it’s that down-home relaxed southern way of life but even when Caleb tried engaging the audience between songs he sounded like he’d just woken up.

KOL doesn’t offer much of an emotional pull to their songs like, for instance, how Coldplay works it. Nor do they command a strong catalog of songs with memorable and/or catchy hooks. Sure, they’ve got some radio worthy options like “Temple,” and “Use Somebody” but by and large much of their songs have little in the way of fun melodies and languish a bit like your generic A/C/D chord tune.

Despite that, KOL really shined on “Cold Desert” where Caleb managed to find his voice despite now 22 songs into the show. “Pyro” provided welcome relief coming after “Milk” and “The Immortals” mixed in a good use of lighting effects and the giant stage screen.

Kings of Leon bassist Jared Followill

Kings of Leon bassist Jared Followill

Bassist Jared Followill at times played with his back to the crowd and with the thumping bass line on “Be Somebody” and “Radioactive” taken on guitar by Caleb, he might as well have stayed behind the opening curtain. Caleb wasn’t exactly the engaging frontman as he too turned his back on the audience during two pretty good solos on “Closer” and “Four Kicks.”

None of the band members seem to have the chops for nomination into any Top 10 list of their respective instruments but Matthew Followill is no slouch on guitar and fingered off some solid work on “Crawl and “Black Thumbnail.”

Midway through the evening it felt like it was a matter of simply getting the job done until Caleb gruffled about the broken video projection. Oh, that’s what was wrong. No sooner did he swear about that then it popped on and accompanied the band for the rest of the show.

Ironically, KOL ripped off the best string of songs in the encore with the fantastic “Crawl” another good rock song in “Black Thumbnail” and one of their biggest hits “Sex on Fire.” The encore featured lasers for the first time and the entire 15 minutes or so felt exactly what the first 95 minutes needed.

Regardless, KOL is a good opening band but as a headliner probably better left to smaller venues and a 17 or 18 song setlist. Their catalog does not command a 26-song set though the band should be commended for cranking out so many tunes.

Kings of Leon – Portland (Moda Center) Setlist

1. Charmer
2. Rock City
3. My Party
4. Temple
5. On Call
6. Family Tree
7. Closer
8. The Immortals
9. Back Down South
10. Wait for Me
11. Supersoaker
12. Milk
13. Pyro
14. Tonight
15. Radioactive
16. The Bucket
17. Don’t Matter
18. Molly’s Chambers
19. Four Kicks
20. Be Somebody
21. Notion
22. Cold Desert
23. Use Sombody
24. Crawl
25. Black Thumbnail
26. Sex on Fire

Written By: AndrewT