It's been over a week since I arrived to Japan and this is the first time I found some time to reflect on my experiences so far. It has been overwhelming, to say the least. And this is how it started:
Some months ago Scott Bishop – a damn fine young lad – informed me he is starting a record label and he wanted to release my solo stuff. I only started mucking around on solo guitar improv thingy and was hapy that someone actually cared and liked it, so I said “yes” even before he filled me in on details.
We went to some Japanese restaurant in Perth, got smashed, got well-fed and drew the plan – Scott will release 100 vinyl LPs on his new record label Heartless Robot, they (him and his best pal Nathan Smith) will also release 200 CD-Rs. I am to submit 3 guitar and 3 bass tracks. No problem!
Immediately I started looking into getting gigs in Japan. I came here last year with Abe Sada and I was planning to visit on the way to Serbia anyway. Then one day I had a chat with another damn fine Perth lad – Chris Cobilis. He mentioned he would love to go back to Japan and play some gigs. And he also mentioned that Stina (Stina Thomas, a damn fine lass, if I may say so) would love to come. Fast forward a couple of months: 17 July 2008, Perth, Australia. Stina, Chris and myself are launching our 3-way split CD and I'm launching my vinyl LP/CD, bot on Scott's Heartless Robot Production. Not only that, but we're also leaving for Japan in few days after that.
So, on 29 July me, Stina, Chris, Scott, Rachael (she designed our CD) and Kenta (who came to film the whole thing for a possible doco) took off from Perth to Tokyo. The take off was a bit bumpy and I didn't get much sleep. Some 10 hours later we landed on Narita Airport. I took the train to my in laws place, while the other guys went to the places they stayed in Tokyo.
Rachael and Stina getting totally blurred on the plane
I caught up with them the next day. Scott, Kenta and me stayed in Koenji – “underground mecca of Tokyo”. I took the train from my in laws place to Koenji and managed to jump on the wrong one, of course. Still, a few minutes later I was united with the boys at Koenji station.
We walked to our parlour – a weekly mansion, which is basically a tiny self-contained unit. Still, we pretty much only slept there, so huge comfortable place was not necessary. I dropped my gear and we went to Kichijiyoji to meet with Stina, Rachael and Chris, who all went to Ghibli Studio Museum.We hung around big park over there, drank beer in public (yes, the savages we are), took some photos...
Around the corner from where we stayed
Scott and me went to UFO Club to catch up with Croatian psych outfit Seven That Spells who I have been in touch with for a while. They were gone to get something to eat, which is what Scott and me decided to do as well. I remembered a nice izakaya nearby where I went for a huge feast with Abe Sada last year. It was still there, but this time we didn't have my wife to order food for us, so we had to use our limited knowledge of Japanese to get some meals. Then my friend Mikiko came and helped us with another coupled of dishes.
Around 7pm we were off to UFO Club, which is a real cool venue. There I met with Croatian guys and found out their drummer left Japan after only a couple of days – he had way too much of a r''r lifestyle in two days, if you know what I mean. We started drinking straight away, chew some fat and before you know it was time to see Seven That Spells gig. They used different Japanese drummers on the whole tour and tonite's one was fuckin' amazing! The band was heaps better than on the live DVD I saw earlier (and that one was great!) and had two guests on saxophone and hurdy gurdy.
After the show we took a cab home, left the gear at our place and went in search for an after midnight snack. Now, if you live in Perth you would know that only places you can get something to eat after midnight are petrol stations and a couple of cafes that are open overnight. That's in case if you want to risk eating at those places. In Japan it's a whole different story. The streets are buzzing even at 1am on a weekday, there are zillions of places to eat open and they all (at least every single one we checked) have some really tasty food.
The place we ended up in was one of the tiniest small eating houses on the side street. If Kenta didn't point to that one we would probably miss it. We bumped in and the master was obviously about to close, but he let us in for a snack. And where there's food there's drinks too! We started eating and drinking some of the delicacies when a couple of extremely drunk blokes came in. One was so smashed, it was beyond belief. He wanted to talk to us, and he did, in a very broken English. I tried to reply in even more broken Japanese. Then these two ladies showed up, obviously they were paid company, and soon after the guy started touching the bum of one of them right in front of us. Oh, the joys of after midnight snack in Japan! The master soon kicked them out, we went home and hit the sack.
We woke up, had some brekky and went in search of a music shop – I needed to buy a a power adaptor for my pedals. We searched and Searched, and then searched some more. We asked for directions, but no one seemed to know of any music shop around Koenji. While we were roaming the streets we realised we lost our way. Suddenly we ended up in this beautiful park, but with no clue where the home is. We walked some more, took twists and turns and – BANG! - we ended up right on our footsteps. It seems we just went in a huuuuge circle.
I had to buy some batteries instead, knowing that I will be able to get the pedal adaptor the next day in Shinjuku. We got our stuff ready and hit the road to Koiwa, where we played our first show at Em-Seven. When we arrived the other three people were there already, we soundchecked and went to find a place to eat. After a while we settled on okonomiyaki restaurant and that was a great choice. We had a three course meal and 2 drinks each for $20 each. The food was awesome, the girl preparing it right in front of us was cute.
First band on was GeGeGeGe Quartet, who are actually a three piece. They were OK, but perhaps almost too funky for me. Then it was Chris, Stina then me. All three of us played cool sets. The sound (as in all other venues later) was superb! After me a band called Tokyo Super Stars took the stage. It seemed they were setting up for almost half an hour and the first song really put me off being kinda boring indie rock, so I went out to talk to venue manager Minoru-san (from awesome band called Tiala) and the guys from Seven That Spells who played their last gig on tour that night. When I went back inside the venue my crew told me that Tokyo SS were incredible and that I missed out. Apparently, they totally flipped the coin after the first song and went completely berserk. I watched some footage that kenta took and regretted decision to leave early.
GeGeGeGe Quartet. Nothing to do with GeroGegiGeGeGe, unfortunately
Stina tearing the staga apart in Koiwa
Chris doing his usual self-mutilation on stage. The blood flew.
Seven That Spells extended version.
Conti were next – sitar and drums. Unreal stuff. The Seven That Spells took the stage with two drummers, two saxophone players and bass and guitar. It was great, but perhaps not as great as night before and we had to leave before they finished, so we could catch our last train. In Shinjuku something like 5 million people got on that train and to say it was incredibly packed would be an understatement. I don't know how we got alive out of that...
Back in Koenji we went for another after midnight snack and more drinks, which is what will happen every night for next few nights.
After breakfast me and Scott went to Shinjuku. I went straight into the music shop and bought an adaptor. Then we went to Disk Union shops and spent some money on records and CDs/DVDs. After a quick refreshing ice coffee (did I mention it was bloody hot and humid all the time?), we went to Shibuya for more record shopping and to meet Sora-san from the Gimmies. He took us to some cool izakaya where we ate raw horse. I've done it last year and I love it, but it was first time for Scott. He didn't complain.
Sora took us to Shibuya O-Nest to see 5678s. I was excited about it, as I've heard them a long time ago, but never had a chance to see them live. The opening band was a hardcore one and they were cool. It was weird that the band has set up in front of the stage, but I thought that's OK, because they are support and later on 5678s would take the main stage.
The next band was Supersnazz, who I thought broke up, as I haven't heard about them for long time. They were great and I hope they can make their way to Australia soon. The next band started setting up in front of the stage. The bass player was these obese Japanese guy in a drag, but I saw 5678sdrummer there too, so I thought maybe that's her side project or something. When I saw guitar player/singer I started thinking that this is actually 5678s. Had to ask Sora-san, and he confirmed. It smelled fishy.
They started playing and straight away it was obvious this show will suck. It was sloppy as hell (apart from the drummer) and just very, very disappointing. They play 8 fuckin' songs only! There were 6 bands on the line up for the whole night and I seriously expected 5678s to play last in front of a packed house, but this was anything but. Later on Sora said this was their first gig in two years or something, but that's not an excuse.
The band after them was called Punch Your Face. I'm sure you're aware that Japanese bands tend to copy western bands. Some of them become better than original, but some are just plain boring fuckin' copy, like Punch Your Face. They totally ripped Dwarves off, including a bass player in nothing but wrestling mask and jocks. Well, the crowd seemed to love them, don't know why. It was entertaining watching them jumping all over the place. At some point a woman in kimono and wrestling mask appeared, but 30 seconds later all she got left was the mask and knickers. Guitarist and singer took their turns in grabbing her breasts and she didn't seem to mind...
We decided to piss of and meet Kenta and his friend Adnrew who was in Tokyo at the same time. They were in karaoke place, already quite drunk. We joined in for more songs and singing. I was total shite. Pex, don't try to sing, please, even drunk. But for about $12 an hour you could drink as much as you can the place, so we certainly took advantage of that. We had to catch the last train home, went for another snack and more drinks.
3 & 4 AUGUST
These two days were spent in doing sightseeing, eating, drinking, then eating and drinking some more. We went to Harajuku, visited a temple, visited rockabilly guys in the park, crappy bands playing to a bunch of stupid teenage fans, went to my in laws for a feast (and I mean FEAST!), bought some more records...
Kenta, Scott and me really liked Koenji. We met some locals and every night we would buy a few drinks, sit on the street corner and had a chat with local people. I guess we would be arrested in Perth right away for drinking in the street. Here no one seemed to mind.
Stina, Rachael and Chris came to Koenji, so we checked local shops, ate some nice burgers at Freshness Burger and went to the venue of our second show – Penguin House. I went there first, as I had a soundcheck at 4pm. On the way there it was pouring down with rain and umbrella couldn't help at all. By the time I got there, I was soaked wet. The first thing I've done when I went inside was went to the toilet, took my sneakers off and poured 5 l of rain from it. No Joke. I did a quick soundcheck and went home to change. Of course the rain has stopped by now.
During Stina's soundcheck Sawada-san came to the venue. He organised last year's Abe Sada tour and would play with us the next day at UFO Club. We went in search of some nice place to hang around before the show. Unfortunately prog rock cafe was closed, so we had to settle for traditional Japanese restaurant, which had super tasty food.
I was on first and it went well. Penguin House is a tiny venue, capacity of 40 and it's ideal venue for my kind of music. I wish we had something like that in Perth. After me there was an improv free jazz act Bon No Kubo, and they were great. Then Stina took the stage and it was my favoruite of her 3shows I saw in japan. She used a piano in the venue too for two songs. Then there was a three piece with a guy on drums, a guy on Irish bouzuki, and a guy who was playing his self-made instruments. They were OK, but kinda lost me after 3 songs. Chris finished the evening.
Kenta, Scott and me dropped our stuff home, then went in search for one last after midnight snack together. We settled for jumbo gyoza, which was a good choice. Then we checked some comic store that also sold X-rated DVDs. Then we went for one last drink at some cool cafe and hit the road home.
Kenta and Scott left today. It was difficult to see them go, as I had some great moment with those two guys and they were certainly upset about leaving. I said goodbye, met with other 3 guys and went to UFO Club for a soundcheck. It was great to be there again, and see some familiar faces. Soundcheck went easy and then we went for dinner. We bumped into guitar player from Tokyo SS on the way, how fuckin' small this world is???
At the venue I met my myspace friend and awesome music artist Sachiko and her husband, as well as Matsuoka-san from Geltz. First on were Sawada+Harada, awesome two-piece (drums/vocals and laptop). Sawada is a superb drummer. Then this band came on stage and we were kinda shocked. They sounded like they only got together 5 minutes ago. The bass player were playing repetitive dub lines, drummer couldn't keep his shi together, lead guitarist were plucking his strings out of tune with other and vocalist/guitarist was playing for himself. At best it sounded like dub version of Captain Beefheart, at worst it sounded like total crap. They gave me their CD (original, not CDR) and it shocked me to say it sounds exactly the same as their live show. Was there something I didn't get???
Next on was Outsuka-san, one of guitarists from Shibusa Shirazu Orchestra. This time he was doing solo performance, very Jimi Hendrix-like. Not my cup of tea, but he was great for that kind of stuff.
Then it was Chris, Stina and I finished the show. I was kind of exhausted, both physicaly and emotionally. I said goodbye to Stina, Rachael and Chris, I said goodbye to everyone else and went home by myself. Felt quite sad...