animefringe august 2003 / feature
Animefringe Coverage:
B'Z - The Pinnacle of Japanese Music

In the beginning, God created Takahiro Matsumoto and Koshi Inaba.
Now, Tak was a professional guitarist who wanted to start a band but needed a vocalist, while Inaba was a part-time Mathematics tutor and an amateur singer looking for an opportunity.
Then God said: "Let there be a demo tape."
And there was a demo tape, and it fell into the hands of Tak Matsumoto. And Tak saw that Koshi's demo tape was good. Excellent even.
And Koshi received a phone call.
Two days later, Tak Matsumoto met Koshi Inaba for a session.
That was 1988, the year the two-man band B'z was born.

In the same year, B'z released their first self-titled album and their first single, Dakara te o hanashite, on the same day. The next year they released another album, Off the Lock, and their single Kimi no naka de odoritai in May, and by June they were performing their first Live-Gym (a B'z word for a concert tour) in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. By this time, they already had two albums under their belt, and yet both albums sold far less than they expected. Because of this, their third album was an all-or-nothing proposition. This, Tak thought, would make them or break them.
And it made them.
On the 21st of October 1989, B'z released their first mini album, Bad Communication, and sold 1.16 million copies in 3 months. With their newfound fame, B'z launched another Live-Gym, and performed 14 concerts in 11 places all around Japan.

By the first half of 1990, B'z had released yet another album, Breakthrough, and two singles, Lady go round and Be there, and embarked on another Live-Gym where they performed 22 concerts in 21 cities. Yet nothing prepared them for what would happen in June, because it was then that they released a single that would catapult them to the center stage of the Japanese music scene. That single was Taiyou no Komachi Angel, and it went straight to No.1 on the Oricon charts. From this single on, every one of their songs would fly straight to that no.1 spot, as if B'z had a reserved seat on that position. And this is no mean feat either, for in the next 15 years, they would release 30 singles after Taiyou no Komachi Angel, and 9 full albums after Breakthrough.

The combination of Tak's energy-charged revving of his Gibson and Koshi's heart-stopping singing has won them numerous awards. One of them was the World Music Award for the Best-selling Artist in Japan in 1999. B'z has also gathered a huge following, and J-pop stars like Ayumi Hamasaki and Glay's Teru have professed to be fans of B'z. Both Tak and Koshi have cited various western bands such as Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin as being influential on their music. Koshi is even said to sometimes write his lyrics in English before translating it to Japanese. Perhaps the secret to B'z's popularity is their ability to adapt to various musical styles. They have sung pop songs, blues songs, rock songs, sometimes an eclectic mix of various genres. Their hard work has paid off, it seems, and they have expanded to countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong, and now, in October 2003, B'z will be embarking on their first Live-Gym in North America, with plans to perform six concerts.

Their prolific music-making is continuing, and in September this year, they will be releasing their 13th album, Big Machine.