Meet Ladybeard, the Crown Prince of Japan’s Strangest Music Scene
Richard Magarey has facial hair, pigtails, a closetful of schoolgirl outfits and an endless supply of energy. In Tokyo, he became the world’s unlikeliest death metal superstar.
I’m a freak. I know this. It’s neither good nor bad. It just is. I can’t work a normal job. I spend most of my time alone, making things like books or music or movie scripts. It’s not that I don't like people. I’m fascinated by them. But it’s a certain type of person I'm most drawn to. If I see another who can't fit in anywhere, and has given every ounce of their blood to make a space all their own, I want to know how they did it, because that’s what I’m trying to do, too, each and every day. So when I first saw Ladybeard tearing it up in the pit in a nurse’s outfit, I had to meet him. I had to ask him what it was all about. I had to understand him, because in a way, to understand him was to understand more about myself. And I think that’s his appeal. He helps us unlock parts of ourselves that we would otherwise suppress. Parts that hope for the impossible, or dream of the unimaginable. But don’t listen to me. Like I said, I’m a freak. Maybe it’s only freaks like me that will understand.
After a few years of playing in a metal band, I’d seen a thing or two. I’d seen full-grown men go through solid tabletops like they were made out of cardboard. I’d watched a diminutive, bespectacled, ginger-bearded Frenchman get lifted off of his feet and slammed headfirst into a brick wall, his forehead squirting blood like a spigot when he came down. I’d seen a man rush the stage before we even hit the first note: manic one second, passed out and frothing at the mouth the next. But I’d never seen anything quite like what I saw on the night of August 29, 2009, at the rec center in Sai Wan Ho, on the northeastern shore of Hong Kong Island.
My band was playing its first overseas show, at a small death-metal festival. The venue was the basketball court of a rec center called Hang Out. The promoter had set up a stage on one half of the court, stretching from the wall to the three-point line. During the middle of our set, I saw something so startling I nearly dropped the mic: In the center of the circle pit that had opened up during one of our numbers, amid a sea of mostly Asian faces, was a burly, sandy blonde–haired white man, throwing down in the middle of the pit like his life depended on a steady windmilling of his muscular arms and stomping of his heavy feet. Blue eyes, a strong chin wrapped in a close-cropped reddish beard. Every bit a man’s man, from the neck up.
From the neck down, however, this man, who was kicking ass and taking names in the hellmouth of lashing limbs and flying elbows, was outfitted in a greenish-blue thigh-high nurse’s outfit — the kind usually reserved for kinky Halloween club parties, not actual hospital hallways.
I wouldn’t know it until later, but I’d witnessed the first incarnation of a man called Ladybeard — the crown prince, or princess, of kawaiicore.