Tom Waits once played here!!!! Tom Freaking Waits 🙂
This just shows the prestige and heritage to such a venue. Thought by many to be Japan`s First Live house it was a true pleasure to be involved in such a wonderful event and live space.
Also playing on the bill was the exceptionally talented Jon Levy. His fluid guitar skills and understated vocals warmed the audience with ease. A truly nice guy also and a pleasure to hang out with.
Next up was one of Kansai`s music legends. Kobe based Wataru `Wax` Minamide. Wax has years of experience touring to the far flung corners of Japan. He has toured the UK twice and tonight it was true pleasure to once again share a billing with him.
I can honestly say there is no way I could have seen my way through the Japanese circuit over the past couple of years without the help of Wax. A great musician and a great friend.
Ever since I first played here in 2009 I have always returned with every stop in Japan. It was even my home for a week as I slept on it`s hardened concrete ground to save funds whilst in town.
It was also during that time that I wrote the song `Varit` in the middle of the wee hours.
The night organised was a part of an event with a difference hatched by venue manager Wax. When he had toured the UK with his music he had seen how things were done in the UK and so decided to divert from the Japanese system and make the entry cheaper with the hope of encouraging folks to visit the venue and to make up the difference on drinks.
The quality fo the bands on the night was exceptional and I was drawn especially to the skills of Trumper player for a band called the Gypsies. Her name`s Mio and she was bold enough to join me for 2 songs during my set.
I opened the set with `My Pet Junkie` song `Breathing Without Living`. and managed to break a string almost instantly 😦 However the vibe was a true joy to be a part of and so the momentum was not lost whilst I chatted in broken Japanese/English and changed it.
All in all a great evening to be on the road. So pleased to be in the abyss during times like this 🙂
Once again I return to the English themed pub in the Traditional and quaint town of Nara. Also once again I am sharing the billing with the fantastic `NolenNiu-de-Ossi`
We alternate the show with 3 song sets each taking it in turns. The moment of the evening for me was the chance to perform the darkly twisted `1-2-Seppuku`. This song has a Japanese influence not just lyrically but also as a part of the instrumentation as Yasushi Kita & Toruko Nolen of http://www.de-ossi.com guest on Shimisen & Accordion respectively.
This for me was a wonderful and rare moment to play a song I had never played before. Also the pub does surprisingly good shepherds pie 🙂
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.