Rayko's #MeToo Anthem - Gender Genocide
By Carin Chea
When I was a confused, bullied adolescent, I always wanted to be someone else. Someone cool. Someone confident. But, I never had a face attached to this ideal person. Well, not until I met Rayko.
The lead singer of epic rock band Lolita Dark, Rayko is not just a singer-songwriter. She is the singer-songwriter. Identified as a prodigy by a piano teacher at the age of 5, Rayko has been composing music since.
She is a ulti-instrumentalist and prolific melodic creator who recently released Gender Genocide, the anthem of every woman (and man) who has ever suffered abuse at the hands of the powerful.
Inspired by actual and repeated events in her artistic lifetime, Rayko was convinced to share her story through writing when others started speaking up for themselves through the #MeToo Movement.
Gender Genocide is what the world needs during this time of female empowerment and agency. Known as "big sister" to fans and colleagues alike, Rayko is officially my new role model. And, if you ever get the chance to meet her, she might be yours, too.
Rayko, you are so cool! You were born in Tokyo, came over to the states, and now you're a rad composer, bilingual vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist. How did all this happen?
Music was always a part of me. When I was an infant, I would only drink a bottle of milk under the piano. I would crawl there, lay down, and drink the bottle.
My mother was an amazing jazz singer. She would always have jazz parties with jazz cats from all over the world. Music was always there. They'd play all types of different genres of music. I was very blessed.
When did you come to the US and how was the transition like?
I was the black sheep in the family. I derailed from being the good Asian girl, the straight-edged Asian girl, you know? I was modeling for a catalog when I was really young and I met a model from California during one of those shoots.
I ended up coming here thinking I would visit. I'm a beach person, and I skateboarded a lot. My sister was already here and married. I ended up staying.
Those were my early teenage gangster days. It wasn't easy for my parents. They were happy I was alive and under the watch of my sister, so they just let me be.
You have an incredible life journey that you are very open and transparent about. What would you say were the most transformative moments in your life that have made you the artist you are today?
It's so interesting. One time, over dinner, a friend of mine asked everyone, "If you were able to talk to someone from the past, who would it be?" Some people said Lincoln, or Marilyn Monroe. People named several celebrities that passed away.
I said, "I'd love to talk to me when I was 11 and give her assurance that she's be protected because I'm her big sister. I'd tell her what to do and not to do, and who to hang out with." A lot of people in my community and demographic - they all say "I wish I had a big sister like you." A lot of them actually call me Big Sis.
Every time I write, it's based on things that happened to me or someone I know. I don't write about imaginary things. I don't regret any of my good or bad experiences. I grew up at a very young age.
When I first got here, I didn't have any friends. I had to start from nothing. I walked up and down Melrose and Hollywood Blvd. I passed out my demos to everyone I could walk up to. As a little girl, rejection could be very hard. And, I also couldn't speak English as well back then. But, I had to do what I had to do to gain a fan base.
But, one transformative experience happened when I was about 5. I had an extremely progressive female piano teacher. At that age, I hated every tutor and piano teacher. When she came that one day, I threw a tantrum.
I told her I hated her and even said to her, "You're fired!" She said, "Okay. We're going to play a game. We're going to take all this sheet music to your backyard and have a bonfire." After that, I told her I loved her and she was my best friend.
[Laughing] I bet! That sounds like a great teacher!
So, we went back to the living room, and she said, "Let's play another game." But now, we didn't have sheet music. She told me to either put a blindfold on or look the other way.
She said, "I'm going to play a chord and I want you to try and memorize those chords. No pressure, but I want you to know you have an incredible ear. I believe in you. I'm not going to teach you any traditional piano lessons. I want you to remember in your head and in your heart the chords I play."
A few weeks later, she said, "I want you to play anything that comes to your mind about your mother." And it just flew out of me - a full-on song with verses and choruses - about my mom! It was called "Mother", and that was my first song. That was exactly the moment I became a composer.
Who or what have influenced you the most as a singer-songwriter-instrumentalist?
Every time I do an interview, I want to honor her [my first piano teacher]. She gave me the confidence. She gave me the freedom. She gave me the mindset of: "It's okay to be different and not cookie-cutter." As a composer, it's so important to be free.
My grandfather - really everyone in my family- I was so blessed because everyone was so supportive of me in wanting to become an artist. When I derailed, they wanted me to get back to a normal life. But, they were always supportive as far as my desire to be an artist. It's very rare.
It wasn't until recently that I was working 4 to 6 jobs to support myself. Now, finally, I am supporting myself with composing. It took a long time for me to get here. I started early, but I honestly couldn't think of anything else I wanted to do. I never even tried anything else because I just wanted to sing, perform, and compose. I would rather live in a tent and write music. It's an all-or-nothing mentality that kept me going.
Are there any movies or television shows you'd like to create the soundscape for?
Right now, I'm waiting on a British commercial. They liked one of my songs, so we'll see about that.
There's another song I wrote about 10 years ago that got picked for the ending credits for a feature film. I write pretty fast and I keep putting into my library for my agent to pitch to music supervisors.
Right now, there are a lot of Asian shows that are so popular, so I would love to submit to those shows as well. I would love to work with Marvel because I love Marvel comics.
How did Lolita Dark come about?
I have always been a girl's girl. I'm all for supporting women and supporting artists. But, 90% of my demographic are men. I believe that if women are supportive of other women, there wouldn't be this huge ratio. Especially in bands. There are so many guy bands. There are so few female bands that are successful.
I grew up really fast and wanted to have a band where I could express my autobiography. Lolita is a word for "mature young child who grew up really fast". It symbolizes dark innocence. I wanted to project my life story in my band. I also wanted to have a bilingual band.
What motivated you to create Gender Genocide?
Gender Genocide is genuine. There is absolutely no bandwagon for me when it comes to this subject. I dealt with this ever since I landed here in the states. Because of my age and my being Asian, I had so many obstacles in the form of power-abusers. I was always true to my art and I am very thankful for that.
I always knew: No matter what happened, if I made it in the music business, I would always be able to look in the mirror and know why I am here. I turned down every single opportunity that was tainted. It was not easy because you would get so close. Some people would bring you so close that you could almost taste the stardom.
And, meeting some of the top people, having all these amazing compliments and then -the night before this big thing is going to happen - there was always, "Okay. Let's do 'this' [insert unsavory favor]." One time, I even had to fight myself out of a situation.
So, when the #MeToo movement came out, I wrote this song, but I didn't want to release it right away because I didn't want people to think I was on this bandwagon. I actually didn't release the video until 2 weeks ago. My incredible co-writer, Frank, really pushed this song. I am extremely happy with this product. I released it on my Facebook on my own account. It is so close to me and hits me so deep in the core.
I experienced a lot, and I want to help others. It's like when you go to a good restaurant and taste something out of this world, you want to share that with others. If any of my experiences can help others, I will be grateful.
I hear Gender Genocide is stirring a bit of controversy. Could you tell us about that?
I think it's controversial because there are still women who don't speak out. I respect everyone as long as they're not harming others. But, if it's hurting you, I believe you're in denial. At the same time, if you need to keep your mouth shut for survival, I understand that, too.
There are a lot of issues that surround this one core issue. If you look at the broad scheme of things - sexual harassment is obviously wrong. But, not everyone can come to one conclusion. Especially Asian people. We are the "quiet" race. We are polite. That's what a lot of people thought when they projected that onto me when I was mistreated. It's a very hard issue.
With Gender Genocide, I wanted to speak out for everyone - every voiceless person in the human race - who was abused by people in power. I'm hoping someone will hear the song, watch the video, and get motivated to make a difference in their lives.
How do you feel that Asians and Asian Americans are being accepted and portrayed in the entertainment industry?
Right now, I think it's Asian time! There are so many roles and projects. Crazy Rich Asians. Man in the High Castle. There's even a new show that's coming out that centers around an Asian family.
How do you feel Asian women are perceived in the entertainment industry, particularly the rock world?
In the rock world, it's unheard of. In anything other than rock world, we are beginning to get more accepted. But, not quite in the rock world yet.
I've done opera for many years, and I've voice trained for many years. But, I'm still in an "Asian" female rock group. They don't call Evanescence or other rock groups "The Caucasian-fronted rock group." But, if I am fronting a band, it's always "Asian" fronted.
So, I thought, "Okay, I'm just going to go with it." We are always known as the "Asian" something.
Do you have any upcoming projects you want to tell your fans about?
My band is very well-received in the Anime circuit. We play all kinds of Anime conventions. I'm an intermediate tea master for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. My mother is a Master, and I've been studying under her for years. The conventions hire me and my band, but they also hire me to perform tea ceremonies. I came to realize that people are very, very happy when they're cosplaying and wearing their favorite superheroes costumes.
I receive a lot of messages from my fans who are very troubled. A few years ago, I had an incident with one of my stalkers who was planning to murder the original Green Power Ranger, Jason David Frank who has half a million followers on Instagram.
One of my stalkers messaged me one day and said he was fully loaded and wanted to kill himself. He didn't tell me his location, but he kept dropping hints, wanting me to stop him. It was a week after the Ariana Grande incident in Manchester. We contacted the local authorities, and sure enough - he snuck into the Phoenix Comic-Con, and he was going to kill Jason.
Within 11 minutes of us contacting the authorities, he was arrested. He had a rifle, a hunting gun. And because everyone was cosplaying, people thought he was just dressed up.
That incident was really eye-opening. In fact, it drove me and my collaborator Frank Kilpatrick (www.frankikmusic.com) to write "Stay Alive," a song in support of suicide prevention.
We then went to work with Dr. Mark Goulston, MD, a noted psychiatrist specializing in suicide deterrence, and Kevin Hines, one of the few individuals who had attempted suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge and yet survived, to create a 30-minute educational podcast/video program (also entitled "Stay Alive") to reach out to those in similarly dire situations: The core of our presentation will be to support these individuals in identifying and "Re-Pairing" with their higher purpose for living.
Further, based on my personal experience and my band's performances at Anime expos over many years, I knew that many members of these communities chose them to find a sense of acceptance - yet continue to suffer a high level of alienation and deep despair.
As such, we are tailoring our initial production for this community. We hope to create a bridge for those in need by making this important message available on line at no-charge by November.
Frank and I are also working with on a meditatively-themed song and video series entitled "Gratitude" in collaboration with Grammy Award winner Alex Wand. Gratitude will consist of a "paired" set of Morning Energization and Evening Relaxation pieces for each day of the week; for example: "Awakening," "Universe," "Mother Nature," etc.
Gratitude will contain beautiful vocal and acoustic music - including binaural beats, micro-tonal arrangements and other science-based technologies - and related and evocative visuals. Gratitude is intended to provide the viewer/listener the opportunity for a brief trance-like respite from the overwhelm of typical everyday routine.
Gratitude will be available as a YouTube video and an Amazon Alexa program. ("Alexa: Play Gratitude/Relax.") We plan to release the first two modules of Gratitude by December.
What message do you want to send across with your work as singer-songwriter?
It makes me feel good, reaching out to one person at a time, sharing our resources for the good of the world. I want to emphasize that it's not the easiest being a starving artist who is trying to thrive. But, if you really, really believe in it, if you believe this is your calling, I wouldn't let anything hold you back or bring you down.
I've said before, "Don't put a limitation on your capability because the worse you can get is 'no.'" When it comes to your dreams, I would go forward fearlessly and wisely. Don't ever think there is anything you can't do. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I know it's trite, but it's true. Your body and mind are strong.
I had this horrible back injury a few years ago. The orthopedic surgeon said I'd need 2 surgeries, and maybe I'd get to walk again. I have always been such a tomboy. I was training for marathons. I have always been very active when I heard that news, I thought, "Okay, give me a gun." But, I was able to be healed without surgery.
For two and a half months, I couldn't stand for more than 3 seconds. But, within a few months of non-surgical treatment, I was playing basketball. The mind is strong. The will is strong. You might not be able to jump off a building like Spiderman, but you certainly can in your mind.
Rayko is possibly the coolest woman I have ever met. To admire how cool she and her amazing works are, please visit www.GenderGenocide.com and www.LolitaDark.com.
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