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A grunge darling of J-rock, Aya entered the field after the genre died in America along with Kurt Cobain, but still managed to make a stir on the Japanese scene and work with prime American grunge rockers, including members of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and, yes, Nirvana. This career trajectory obviously has to do with the pent-up energy Aya accumulated during her childhood years spent in a town of 2,000 on the northern island of Hokkaido. She first heard electric guitar at a Ventures show in primary school; it was instant conversion. Soon Aya began playing in a local girl band playing punk covers, but that wasn't enough for her, and, dropping out of school at 15, she took to the road, ending up in Tokyo as a bar singer and already a faithful Nirvana devotee. Her first chance at success came after she won a pop vocal contest, but the story was cut short by the death of her songwriter; however, that made Aya work on her own material, which she honed by playing American military bases and Shibuya streets; several demos later, she landed a deal with BMG Japan. Given her style, it came as no surprise that she worked on her first professional record in Seattle's Studio X, where she gathered a dream lineup of Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden and Pearl Jam), John McBain (Monster Magnet), and Glenn Slater (Walkabouts); for a producer, she landed Adam Kasper, who worked with Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Foo Fighters. The debut single "Hands" (the first song she ever wrote) came out in 2001, followed that same year by "Crazy Mermaid," and then in 2002 her first full-length arrived: Senjou No Hana had been recorded in Seattle as well, with the same musicians along with Krist Novoselic of Nirvana. The release received good press in Japan as well as Germany, and had Aya on the road, where she did a solo tour and scored a stint on Summer Sonic, one of Japan's biggest fests, as well as the opening slot for the 50,000-strong stadium gig of Japanese rock legend Eikichi Yazawa. Her next record, the Kinjirareta Uta EP, was delivered in 2003 and done without any American help, as Aya attempted to show that she could stand on her own. It worked out -- the streamlined rock sound of Kinjirareta Uta was well received by critics, and the supporting club tour was sold out. After that Aya proceeded to record the epic Baghdad Sky, arguably her magnum opus, which came out in Japan and Germany in 2004, again to good reviews; Aya spent 2005 promoting it, and in 2006 she provided the song "Over Night" for the anime series Le Chevalier d'Eon. Then, however, she took a hiatus.
© Alexey Eremenko /TiVo
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