The Enigmatic Genius: GACKT

Told you I’d explain this guy in a later post.

Gackt Camui is an Okinawan musician, composer, lyricist, poet, author, actor, designer and model. Usually referred to by his mononymous stage name, GACKT. He is known for his work with Malice Mizer, and for his solo artist career after leaving Malice Mizer. In addition to Japanese, he has performed in English, French, Korean, Cantonese, and Mandarin. The man is nothing to laugh at.

He is something of an enigma too, as he has never released his real name or birth date. While the exact year is unknown, it is known that his birthday is July 4. Until 2004, he said he was born in 1540. Since then, he has dropped that claim, and admitted that he is in fact in his 30s.

According to his autobiography Jihaku (“Confession”), at age 7, he nearly drowned while swimming off the coast of Okinawa. After this near-death experience, he was a mischievous child and enjoyed taking risks. Due to his father’s job (both of his parents were teachers, his father taught music), he had to move often growing up, and lived in many different cities–Okinawa, Yamaguchi, Fukuoka, Shiga, Osaka, Kyoto and probably more.

His parents were very strict and didn’t allow him to watch television. At the age of 3, his musical education began thanks to his parents enrolling him in classical piano lessons. He grew tired of it four years later, however it would take another four years for him to be allowed to quit. However, GACKT is known for being very competitive, and so when he learned, 3 years later that a friend was also learning piano, GACKT took up the piano again, in order to outdo his friend.

GACKT didn’t become interested in rock music until he was a young adult as he only listened to classical and enka (which is best explained as Japanese blues) while growing up. He cites Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” as being particularly inspiring. In high school, amazed by watching his senior play with such force, GACKT got into drums. “Was there really an instrument that was so violent?!”

Somewhere down the line, he also learned guitar.

While working as a host/dealer at a casino in Kyoto, GACKT met a guitarist named You, who is actually the one who first got GACKT to sing. The 2 of them formed a band called CAIN’S:FEEL. However much about that band is shrouded in mystery.

In 1995, GACKT joined Malice Mizer as the vocalist, lyricist and pianist. They released a number of successful singles as well as two albums. At the beginning of 1999, GACKT left Malice Mizer, although the reason has never been revealed (there are rumors though). Five months after GACKT’s departure, his friend and Malice Mizer’s drummer, Kami died of a subarachnoid hemorrhage . It’s said that GACKT felt the death but was unable to come to the funeral because he was working on his solo career. He’s since dedicated two songs to his friend’s memory (“U+K” and “Emu ~For my dear~”).

GACKT launched his solo career on May 12, 1999 with the release of the EP “Mizerable.” He also created his own support band, entitled GacktJOB, for which You returned to play guitar and violin with his friend (of 18 years, as of this writing). GacktJOB has gone through a number of members. The current line-up is: Yukihiro “Chachamaru” Fujimura on backing vocals and lead guitar; You on violin and guitar; Ju-ken on bass; Jun-ji on drums; and the rarely-seen Igao on keyboard. To date, GACKT has released 37 singles (including some re-releases) and 13 albums. His music runs the gambit of genres. While it’s technically classified as J-Pop, it also has electrometal, techno, rock, and even the classic rock ballad. Even though I don’t always understand what he says, he sings to a point that I can feel it, and that speaks more volumes than the language barrier. (Let’s not forget there are translations online too. Shout-out to Mina-P.) In 2007, VIZ Pictures released two DVDs of GACKT’s, entitled Gackt – The Greatest Filmography 1999-2006 ~RED~, and ~BLUE~, containing music videos of his harder, and softer songs respectively.

His concerts are definitely something else. GACKT’s artistic interpretation is unique to himself. From 2000 to 2006, he had a Japanese tour ever year, and after a 2-year break from touring, he returned this year. With each passing year, the stages got more and more elaborate and the production levels rose drastically. From pyrotechnics, to rain falling during songs, to moving set pieces, to fully-costumed dancers, to riding horses into the arena and to the stage, GACKT’s artistic vision is phenomenal. Not to mention that most, if not all of his tours have a theme that’s explained at the beginning of both of the 2 sets they do. GACKT isn’t just a musician, he’s a performer. He doesn’t just sing his songs, he knows how to convey his feelings by moving in such a way that he acts while he sings, and usually GacktJOB gets into the action as well.

GACKT’s music has also been featured as theme songs for anime and video games multiple times, Texhnolyze and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII being his more recognizable, stateside. His single, Ghost is the opening for the Japanese version of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. He has also provided voice-acting, motion capturing and his likeness for video games, notably Bujingai: The Forsaken City, and Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-. His acting chops don’t stop there however, not by a long shot.

He starred in the 2003 movie Moon Child, which he also co-wrote. The film also features HYDE (lead vocalist of L’Arc~en~Ciel) and Taiwanese-American singer Wang Lee Hom. In 2007, GACKT played the warlord Uesugi Kenshin in the historical drama Furin Kazan. He also portrayed Maltazard in the Japanese release of the film Arthur and the Invisibles/Arthur and the Minimoys, a role that was played by David Bowie in the English version. In addition to appearing in the upcoming Kamen Rider Decade movie, Kamen Rider Decade: All Riders vs. Dai-Shocker, as Yuki Joji/Riderman, GACKT will star alongside Josh Hartnett in the forthcoming Hollywood film, Bunraku.

To celebrate his 10th anniversary as solo artist, this summer, Gackt changed his stage name from Gackt, to GACKT (all capitals). Why, I have no idea.

The song is titled “No Reason.” (Not “Not Reason,” like the subs say)

Andrew Monkelban

Andrew Monkelban is an avid gamer and writer, who has been featured in Second Skin, and on Wired's GameLife and The Escapist. He is also really into the Japanese entertainment scene. Even though he has Cerebral Palsy, he does not let it stop him from doing what he loves, although he's always on the look-out for technology that would help him with difficult tasks. He came to PopTen in the Summer of 2009, where he's now able to combine his passions.

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1 Response

  1. It amazes me that someone this brilliant and popular can fly completely under the radar here. Maybe it’s not such a small world after all. First Slumdog reveals AR Rahman, and now this…

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