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JJ's Bizarre Blog #31 - Reaching Out Into Other Worlds


Hey hey folks! To all newcomers and returning readers, I hope you’ve come prepared because the Bizarre One has some new knowledge for you all! As we begin the third decathlon of blogs, I look back with great pride on the journeys taken so far. So many sounds, so many worlds, so many experiences that we’ve covered and there is so much more to explore! So for today, let’s delve into the realms of imagination, as I’ve prepared a very special topic for you. Songs beyond our reality, tunes from exciting stories and different worlds. Today, I will introduce you to the unique musical phenomenon that is fictional bands!


Let’s sync our watches first – what are fictional bands? Well, it’s kind of obvious from the name but this refers to real recorded music that's credited to fictional individuals. This can be when musician characters from various media record real music that ends up getting released or of course there are also fictional artists that exist on their own and aren’t spawned from other properties. Typically, fictional bands (sometimes also called virtual bands) have some sort of supporting media – movies, TV shows, games, comics, etc. - that explain their lore and backstories, as these acts often extend far beyond just the music recorded. Modern hologram, VR and simulation technology also allow these artists to peer into our realm and perform real live shows. And thus, from the depths of our imagination, we can enjoy real tangible music! So while the history and progression of this idea is a bit blurry and unclear, here are some of the most notable fictional artists of all time in no particular order.


The best way to showcase what this means is with an example (and arguably the most popular fictional band ever) are the British collective called Gorillaz! The band itself is comprised of vocalist and keyboardist 2-D, bassist Murdoc Niccals, guitarist, keyboardist and co-vocalist Noodle and drummer Russel Hobbs, all of them being these very eccentric personas from varying species and backgrounds, living in a vibrant and chaotic fantasy world. Created in real life by Damon Albarn of Blur fame and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz are one of the fictional bands that exist for their music first and foremost, while also starring in the plethora of side media created to explore their stories and adventures, which include cartoons, comics, spoof interviews and a lot being shown within their music videos. Playing a vibrant and unique sound, mixing a lot of genres like rock, hip-hop, electronic, dub and more, their distinct funk sensibilities showed the power of that style to a whole new generation and over the years, these party apes have become a bombshell success and a global sensation!


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Another very famous made-up band would be the awesome Spinal Tap. They were born from their titular 1984 film This is Spinal Tap, a parody documentary meant to exaggerate the stereotypes and cliches related to 80s rock bands and mock other real such documentaries from the time. They’re also a rare occurrence that they’re a fictional band portrayed exclusively in live action. Fully embracing the cheesiness and party atmosphere of this era of rock, Spinal Tap may have been conceived as a joke but their music is seriously well made and enjoyable. Their fun factor is undeniable and the party atmosphere is infectious. So crank that dial to 11 and let’s rock!


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This leads me perfectly into one very special band. Blacker than the blackest black times infinity, the kings of metal and the greatest band of all time (and my main inspiration for making this blog) – the unstoppable Dethklok! Created as part of the Metalocalypse animated series on Adult Swim, they are presented as the biggest thing in the universe and serve as brilliant satire on the stereotypes surrounding metal music and its culture – their singer talks only in death growls, their bassist tends to get forgotten, the rhythm guitarist plays in tribute bands to his own band, they all love to sacrifice animals in the name of the Devil and their concerts often result in mass death tolls. It’s all worth it though! The band, comprised of vocalist Nathan Explosion, lead guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf, rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth, bassist William Murderface and drummer Pickles, the badass metal these guys make truly is worth getting gruesomely murdered for!


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The band and show were created by Brendon Small, who also plays all the instruments on their records apart from the drums, which are bestowed upon the Atomic Clock himself, Gene Hoglan. Looking at Brendon himself, it’s kind of funny to think that Nathan Explosion’s voice is coming out of him of all people. All fun and jokes aside, their music is unironically awesome and was a major formative moment for me. It was genuinely one of my gateways into the realms of extreme metal, so I am living proof that Dethklok are no pretenders. They are as awesome as they say they are! The world’s greatest cultural force!


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Also lemme just give a quick shoutout to Brendan’s own project, Galaktikon! They’re not a fictional band per se, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get another opportunity to mention them so here they are. Plus the sound is very similar to Dethklok, so if the Dethalbums aren’t enough for you, these definitely deserve your attention too!


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Another similar band to Dethklok would be the hilariously funny and hilariously talented Belzebubs. Born out of the comic strips of the same name by Finnish cartoonist JP Ahonen, they follow the misadventures of a group of black metal musicians, serving to parody the eccentricities of the genre. These wild lads wear corpsepaint, spiked gauntlets and inverted crosses all the time and worship Satan on the daily, in a bit of an Adams family situation as these quirky spooky folks try their best to blend into and live alongside normal people. In 2019, Ahonen recruited some legendary Finnish musicians and the production talents of the legendary Swede Dan Swanö to produce the fictional band’s first album Pantheon of the Nightside Gods, showcasing a fantastically catchy blend of black and death metal with all the dark lyrical cliches in full force.


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For a different approach, we can look at Your Favorite Martian, the project created by once titan of the YouTube space, Ray William Johnson. If you know who he is, you’re showing your age as much as I am. With Your Favorite Martian, Ray teamed up with several musicians to create satirical pop and rap songs making offensive jokes about all kinds of topics, accompanied by some hilarious animated music videos starring the cartoon facsimiles of the creators involved, hence why I count them as a fictional band. It was unfiltered fun and these songs were cornerstones of internet culture back in the day. And the band have made a triumphant return recently, so a whole new generation gets to join the party now too!


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It would be remiss of me not to feature video game music in these blogs somehow and I think I’ve found a way. Virtual bands from video games are surprisingly rare, but one game that has branched out into the sphere multiple times is the seemingly undying League of Legends. Over the years they’ve released a ton of music “performed” by various in-game champions as a method of cross-media promotion for the game with the first foray being the heavy metal band called Pentakill! Releasing three albums in an epic power metal style and fronted IRL by Norwegian metal legend Jørn Lande, these albums will stunlock you for a good while! And if metal isn’t your forte, you can get full sonic whiplash by switching to the other notable LoL virtual band, K/DA – a K-pop girl band, that covers all the bases the flesh and blood acts do. Given how absurdly popular League is in Korea, creating this group was a very obvious choice.


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And since we mentioned some Eastern culture, let’s travel that way to explore some more unique facets of virtual music. Starting with Vocaloids. If you don’t know what those are, Vocaloid is a computer program that allows you to use a synthesized voice to serve as a replacement for a real singer. There are various sets called voicebanks available that allow you to use different voices to accomplish your desired sound. Now, where this ties back to our topic is that a lot of these voicebanks evolved into complete characters, often not just with visual designs, but personalities, lore and supporting media too. Doing so would explode in popularity in Japan and it would birth many vocaloids that became widely recognizable, serving as virtual counterparts to popular idols. By very very far the biggest of these is Hatsune Miku, who is so ubiquitous that I’m sure that even if you’ve never heard of vocaloids, you’ve seen her iconic turquoise twin tails. She has become a pop culture icon all over the world and has even performed her own concert tours using projection technology. It’s really quite a unique phenomenon that you’d never think would take off like it did, but here we are!


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While we’re on a Japanese wave, let’s delve into the realms of anime, specifically the musical variety. For you see, there's plenty of anime out there about musical groups and their struggle to both stay together and find some modicum of success in the overly competitive music industry. Some excellent examples can be Bocchi the Rock!, the massive K-On! franchise and the whole array of bands in the Bang Dream universe. A lot of these tend to also release music for the bands that the stories are centered around, resulting in a huge collection of certified bangers!


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So now, let’s combine anime and virtual idols into one, as I introduce you to another concept some of you may not know about – Vtubers! For the uninitiated, to put it very briefly, these are online streamers who use virtual avatars instead of their own visage to present themselves. A step more human than vocaloids as instead of being purely virtual, Vtubers still have a human behind the wheel. While most of them just act like exaggerated versions of themselves, many also take advantage of the opportunity the virtual avatar provides and fully embrace behaving like fictional characters, coming fully equipped with detailed lore, interconnected stories and unique fan culture. Thanks to its connection to the idol industry, a lot of Vtubers also have a background in music or began to dabble with it after the fact, so many have released music credited to their fictional personas. 


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While initially quite niche and popular almost exclusively in Japan, Vtubing culture has exploded in popularity and has become a global phenomenon. Thus many more faces and voices have thrown their imaginary hats into the ring to entertain the world and many of them have blessed us with awesome music in all kinds of styles too! Vtubing is a rabbit hole that is almost impossible to climb out of and many have fallen into it in the last few years. Perhaps now some of you will too!


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To wrap this up, the last project I want to talk about, just due to its sheer uniqueness, is the case of Puffy AmiYumi. You see, these two were and still are a real rock duo from Japan who have achieved great success. However, over in America, Cartoon Network chose to create the show Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, which centers on the high jinks of the cartoon version of the two. And thus this real Japanese band became a fictional band on American TV. A perfect intersection between real and virtual and a harmonious merge of East and West.


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So, while the realms of fictional bands are as boundless as imagination itself, I think I’ve given you enough material for now. This phenomenon is so unique and fascinating to me as it truly represents the uniqueness of human creativity. A lot of music tells stories, but now stories can sing songs too. It’s also always so cool when media and music intersect in a unique way like this. People have always been fascinated by the stories of celebrity artists, so it makes sense that you can reap even greater benefits if you become the character you want to be and write your own story, all without actually having to start real drama to keep things interesting. Fictional bands come in any shape, size and sound imaginable, so I hope that with this blog you found something new to enjoy and explore. Explore forth, stay creative and catch you again soon!


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