Imari Tones

Of the long list of factors that make Imari Tones stand out from the world around them, it is their drive, their reach that tops it all. An unapologetically Christian heavy metal band out of Japan, Tak, Hassy, and Jake have a passion to reach beyond their culture to make the music they love, and to reach beyond their music to bring Jesus into their culture. While drawing comparisons to legends like Van Halen, Rush, and Stryper with their hybrid of old school metal/glam/Brit/70’s prog rock, they are one of very few bands in the world that can claim true originality. How so? They are the first Christian heavy metal band ever to come out of Japan.

“There are very few Japanese bands who say ‘Hey, we’re a Christian band.’ A Christian band from Japan almost sounds like a joke, since most people in Japan are Buddhists, or Atheists,” says Tak, founder, guitar/vocalist, and frontman of ImariTones. Things didn’t start out Christian for Tak, though. Having started playing electric guitar at age 14 and joining his first band at 15, Tak gained local teen success in his hometown of Toyohashi and won awards for his songwriting. However, he quit the band at 17 to pursue a career as a lawyer. Music stayed with him, though, and while playing an acoustic show in Harajuku Tokyo in December of 2007, Tak was impressed by several Christian performers who were playing as well. Feeling that Jesus may be the larger meaning behind music that he always felt was there, his mind and heart opened to Christianity.

Breaking many written and unwritten rules of Japanese culture, Tak, Hassy on bass/background vocals, and Jake on drums/background vocals, are reaching upward and forward to see changes happen in the world. Currently based in Yokohama, their astonishing 15-album discography includes Hero of the Lights, Color of Hers, fireworks, Japanese Pop produced by metal legend Sascha Paeth (Angra, Edguy, Rhapsody of Fire, Avantasia, Kamelot), Welcome to the School, and their most recent release Victory in Christ. Not content to play the standard soft pop/rock of the major label Christian industry, their music is 100% heavy metal and 100% independently recorded and produced. Victory in Christ hit the street in October 2010 with the single “Faith Rider” leading the charge. Originally written as a parody of the big 80’s metal of Judas Priest and Stryper, it quickly became a fan favorite and was put on Victory in Christ.

With both their commitment to making stellar heavy metal music and their driving passion to share Jesus with their native Japan and the rest of the world, ImariTones is always reaching to join these two primary goals together. “Since we are a Christian band, our goal is not business success,” says Tak. “We are not chasing glory in this world. We are chasing the glory of God.” Staying independent and record label-free is an important part of the process for them. “We don’t believe in ‘music business’, especially in Japan, and have chosen to go independent, looking for our own way. We really want to change something about society and about what people think and believe. That’s our ultimate goal.”

That ultimate goal, to see their native Japan embrace Christianity, is what they reach for most of all, even while their sights are set on the USA and the rest of the world. Some think they’re a joke, or a contradiction, that Christianity, Japan, and heavy metal just don’t belong together. Some think they’re ahead of their time. But if you ask Tak, Hassy, and Jake, they’ll say they’re doing exactly what they love at exactly the right time, and they’re never going to stop reaching for more.

How do you describe your music to people?
'80s heavy metal with some Japanese alternative taste. Japanese version of Christian heavy metal.

Seriously, we always say we are an 80s sounding classic heavy metal band. Because that's easy to understand. However, actually we are a some kind of post rock band who is trying to re-create 80s heavy metal.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
My name is Tak "Tone" Nakamine, I'm the main songwriter and I'm the one who started this band. When I was 14 I heard some heavy metal music like Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne, and I started playing guitar. When I was 15 I heard Van Halen and my life totally changed (I'm a 80s metal guy). When I was 16 I started writing my own songs and played in my local band. After that, I tried really hard not to be a musician. But I failed.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
I'm in love with Rockn'Roll. Also I'm in love with Jesus Christ. When I knew I can play Rockn'Roll for God, that was the most exciting thing in my life.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Turning back from all the trends. Easy to say, so hard to do.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a lawyer. Yes, I failed.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
Grew up in a local city in Japan, it certainly had a big meaning for my/our music. Japanese culture is not so rock n'roll. People are supposed to do same thing, same life. However, searching for Rockn'Roll against those environments was a very good learning. Same thing can be said for being a Christian artist. Because there are very few Christians in Japan, we have to push harder in everything. As a result, we can grow more.

What other artists out there do you love?
My all time favorite,
1960's Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles,
1970's Led Zeppeling, Yumi Arai (Yuming)
1980's Van Halen, Judas Prist, Stryper
1990's Suede (London Suede), Sachiko Kumagai
2000's bloodthirsty butchers, +/-{plus/minus}
Among contemporary Christian rock bands, we love
Demon Hunter, RED, Article One, Third Day, etc...

What does your future hold?
We are a Christian rock band, so we have to Save The World, haha. Or just getting older.
Seriously, we are trying to impact on Japanese culture and tell the name of Jesus Christ to people in our own country Japan.