Soooo many bands shared the billing with me on this show.
It was one of those nights where simply being something different (English) made the night a worth while experience for me.
The bands did not really support each other when performing and instead opted to stay in the bar area on the floor above. That was until I was due to grace the stage. Then suddently the venue was packed. Not because they knew of my music but because it was a rare chance for them to hear a real professional musician from England (the home of the Beatles and the stones ect…)
So my novelty presented me with the opportunity and I siezed the moment with both hands. A mix of crazy, mellow and loopy enabled me to push the crowd into about as much of a frenzy as anyone can get from what is always a subdued crowd in Japan.
Prior to this show in Kobe I was scheduled to play in Osaka. However just a day before my departure I was struck down with food poisoning. This took performing out of the picture for a couple of days as I was forced to cancel the show and stay in and watch episodes of the Walking Dead.
So when it came to this evenings show in Kobe I had a long distance to cover to be there involving many trains, one bus and a shinkansen. It was a pleasure to be on the super fast shinkansen which raced through the Japanese countryside passing rice fiends and industrial areas at high speed.
Eventually I reached my destination city and after missioning it through the Kobe streets I found the venue. I had not eaten in many days and so was feeling a little weak but I was just happy to be returning to normality.
The show was supporting a popular kansai performer called Nanako Minami. Arriving at the venue I found she was a wonderful talent and very friendly and supportive.
The show was a joy to do and I chose to keep it just to 4 songs as I was worried about over running. The place was a totaly sit down vibe and I had a great time playing. I was a little weak after the show but the atmosphere of playing was amazing and the whole place was truley supportive.
Finally after the delay my Kansai tour was off the blocks. Next stop would be a second show in Kobe.
Bussling with Japanese and Gaijin alike I made my Juke Joint Debut supported by Koji Tamura (of the band `Dogs`) and Martin Leroux
Koji was first up and fresh back from playing shows in Seattle it was evident the Early 90`s grunge sound was a big influence. Next up cam Martin with his twee singer/songwriter style. His pop sensibilities came through and I found the show warming.
My set was a little on autopilot if I was to be honest. I tried hard to evoke a reaction from the crowd and in retrospect maybe I should have kicked back a little more.
But a few CD`s were taken home by listeners and the connection with the other musicians and the promoter for the night made good on the efforts made.
Never in my time touring have I ever been keen to do a cover version. The main motivation has always been to push my own music and try to get it heard by as many folks as possible. Also there’s the factor to bear in mind that covering somebody else is usually best done if you feel you have something new to offer to the composition. In most cases I’ve never felt my take on a tune to be varied enough from the original to consider recording it. And finally there is the problem of getting copyright clearance to cover the tune in the first place. That again is a no go for me as most songs involve going through red tape so far and wide that it becomes like a second job but with little reward.
However when I last toured through Japan I found myself falling deeply for a melody. The song was written by a musician I had played a couple of shows with called ‘Mogura Ka Maigo’. Translated into English it means ‘The Lost Mole’.
The song is called ‘Tsukinohi’. I still don’t know so much what it is about but when it came to working on my own album back in the UK I just found myself playing my own interpretation of ‘Tsukihohi’. This quickly became a complete re-interpretation with lyrics in English (With an English titele – ‘Your Guitar’) and a theme to the song that is deeply personal.
Truth be told lyrically it was a song I had been wanting to write for years. But I was never sure how to go about doing it and because of the personal nature of the subject matter I was never content that a melody could serve the nature of the song. But suddenly out of nowhere it was written.
At this show in Tokyo I was able to meet the author of the song for the first time since recording the cover and I was able to hand him a copy of the finished album which has been pressed to Double Gatefold Vinyl.
And what’s best is that we managed to perform the song together live.
Playing my version next to his I realised how many times I had changed parts of the melody and structure without awareness. But for me personally it was a huge moment and something I will always be happy to think back on.
At the end of the night he gave me a hug and I felt that the experience had ment alot to him aswell. I’ve never had anyone cover any of my material but I know if would mean alot to me if it happened.
And finally after so much rambling please find the 2 songs linked below.
Click HERE for a live video of Mogura Ka Maigo performing his original composition ‘Tsukihoni’.
And click HERE for my cover version renamed ‘Your Guitar’ (Tsukinohi).
Every tour I do I try to make at least one show with out using my array of effect pedals. So for this show in Shimokitazawa I chose to use only my Guitar/voice and Harmonica.
However when I arrived I found there was one additional instrument on offer. One of my support acts for the night was Reina Kitada. A French/Japanese violinist and vocalist who was full of character and beauty in both her playing style and her vocals. The french influence clear in both.
So anyway I got going with my set by digging out old tune ‘Time & Places‘ before geting a little more modern with the material.
For the song Reality & Pretence Reina joined me on the violin. It was a pleasure as always to hear her doing her thing 🙂
You can check out a video of the performance recorded by a member of the audience here:
It was a true joy to discover after the show that member of the audience had seen me a few times before and for them it was truly refreshing and surprising for them to hear me without the effects.
This made the whole process seem far more rewarding.
So whenever I am headed to a venue I try my best to keep at least semi clued up on exactly where the hell it is I am going. I’m still not very up to date with technology so without a smart phone I tend to look up where a venue is before I set off and then navigate my way to the place from memory.
Fortunately this time around I remembered exactly where I was going from the map. Except I had missed the bit that told me which exit I left from the station.
So heading out from the station I believe I’m on perfect course for the venue only to discover it’s not where I thought it was. And it’s not on a later road either. And so the wandering begins 🙂
Onwards round random streets lugging a guitar and wheeling about a big travel case filled with effects pedals.
Eventually I stumbled across another live music venue who pointed me in the right direction. Eventually I managed to get a bit of a soundcheck in and play a gig with many other wonderful bands also in attendance on the bill.
My show was a response to the act who played before me. A guy who worked the looping wonderfully and so left me wondering what I could offer in the way of variation. I decided to focus on the folky stuff with harmonica and to only call upon the looping for ‘Alaskan Sky’ and ‘Default Escape’ (2 new tunes).
My thanks to Meets for their patience with me. I’ll try not to get sooooo bloody lost next time. But that’s not a promise.
Sometimes the road does not treat you so well. As much as it’s easy from an outsider perspective to look upon a touring musicians life as ‘living the dream’, we all know deep down that it can be frought with misfortune and apathy.
This show was just simply one of those. The venue and staff were lovely as most of the time they are in Japan. But the other act playing was a well known guitarist from the 70’s who had lost alot of his enthusiasm for music or even social grace.
He talked loudly during my set and made sure he remained the centre of attention even when he wasn’t onstage. The 2 or 3 hangers on who were with him were eager to follow his lead and so my show became a mere formality. Anyone who was trying to listen simply could not.
Then when it came to his set he was joined by many session players and he proceeded to play what was on the whole pure 12 bar blues. Later on Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ made a broken english appearence but it did seem to drag on for a lifetime.
After the show the venue owners were very apologetic and proceeded to offer that I return next time and they wont place me with him on the billing again.
I happily shook their hands and said I’d be happy with that.
My favourite memory of the night was packing up in the back room eating my favourite Japanese candy. Kinda like Banana M&M’s.
I have been playing shows at Gari Gari now for a couple of years. Run by Sorcha and her husband it’s a pleasure to be asked back to perform each time I return to Japan.
Sorcha was first to play on this evening and she displayed her normal sense of relaxed brilliance as her strong voice and easy going stage presence got us all into the feel of the occasion.
Next up were the Watanabes. I had already mentioned them from a previous blog as this was my 2nd of 3 shows with them. Down to a 3 piece due to a member off sick they still sounded tight and with impressive harmonies for the show.
It’s important to keep a positive mindset! It’s important to keep a positive mindset! It’s important to keep a positive mindset! It’s important to keep a positive mindset! It’s important to keep a positive mindset! It’s important to keep a positive mindset! It’s important to keep a positive mindset! It’s important to keep a positive mindset!………Even if there are only 6 people in your audience.
This is often the challenge with touring. Sometimes you get a big crowd and sometimes it’s tough to be able to justify calling it a crowd at all.
But here’s the positive bit. 1. The place was a small/pokey Tokyo Cafe and so 6 people made it look kinda half full. 2. I sold 6 CD’s. Not bad!! CD per person on average. That’s enough to cover my sleep for the night travel to the show and food for the day. Plus (And this is the main thing), I REALLY ENJOYED PLAYING!!
I was super relaxed and played a bunch of songs at this show that were only this once on the whole Japan tour.
Chaos! This place is always chaos. Drunken Gaijin stumbling around the dimly lit bar bumping into folks and eye balling the beautiful Japanese girls who are (to be fair) often there looking to meet Western guys. But none the less the atmosphere can at times feel like you’re blending with the low brow side of human kind. This was emphasised by the arrival of a good friend from the UK who had yet to witness this enviroment as it was only his 3rd day in Nippon. Dom Graham (an experienced and accomplished guitarist in his own right) looked on in partial shock at the debauchery that lay in front of him as he entered the venue. “There are too many dickheads in this place for comfort” he uttered to me.
None the less this was a gig and I am here to play it. The night was organised for charity to help feeding starving homeless kids from Indonesia I believe. But apart from that it was tough to find the good a performer could be doing as playing to the chaos was always gonna be a challenge.
A highlight to the evening was meeting up with Duncan and Andrew of the Watanabes who are both great guys. I also owe Duncan a big thanks for the help and support he has shown me over this tour. This night was the first of 3 shows with them 🙂
The venue also has a good PA system but no-one is manning it so I’m left to work the desk which is unfamiliar. It does my head in when a venue has events with heaps of bands but not a single soul is there to help the musicians with sound of logistics. I was lucky to have some of the other performers come to my aid when trying to work the rig out and also I once again had help from good friends Sou and Jerry (Jerry has been mentioned I a previous blog recently).
The set was short at only 4 songs and generally it was synth laden psychedelic prog folk until final tune ‘Make a Little Silence’, which sent in a bit more of a Bossa Nova route.
I did also have a wonderful moment when member of the audience joined in with ‘Map of Shibuya’. Even if they are folks I consider to be friends it’s important to remember these folks only know me from touring and so it’s fair to say they could be fans also.
Tough one :I
But none the less another night survived in this big eastern smoke.