Over the last year there has been a lot of evidence that shoegaze is re-emerging as a popular genre in Japan, as well as all over the world. Sure, it’s never really gone away, but thanks to My Bloody Valentine’s resurrection this year and all of the anticipation, the global shoegaze scene is booming once again.
Lamppost Records is a new Glasgow-based DIY label focused on showcasing the globe’s finest up-and-coming shoegaze artists. Founded by members of The Cherry Wave, Lamppost has just put out its first release – a 4-track shoegaze compilation titled Under the Wildflowers Volume 1: A Lamppost Records Compilation. The CD features one track by the Cherry Wave as well as songs by Beach Volleyball (London), Shallow (Arizona), and Fluorescent Tiger (Alabama). The album is currently available at bandcamp as a “Pay-What-You-Like” release, though really the quality of the music is well worth a few bucks if you’re willing to part with it for a good cause.
In addition to managing releases by The Cherry Wave, Lamppost is looking to put out some more compilations featuring artists from different countries. Though primarily a shoegaze label, Lamppost features noise and psychedelic sounds as well as “pretty much anything that’s fuzzy”. They are looking for acts that fit the bill for future volumes of Under the Wildflowers. It’s my hope that the next edition will feature some artists from Japan. Regardless, I’m looking forward to future releases from a label with a brilliant mission to globalize shoegaze music.
Music is something I’ve always been interested in. When I was a child I was obsessed with throwing together mix tapes, carefully choosing select tracks from my father’s casette and vinyl collections. When I entered high school I started a band with some friends with whom I shared an affinity for metal. From that point on making music is something I have been passionate about. It was perhaps my own experience in a “garage band” (though later we made the transition to a “drummer’s grandmother’s basement band”) that I have always found self-production and humble beginnings an endearing and attractive quality in music. My taste in music has of course changed over the years, but I still am overcome with a sense of nostalgia and appreciation when I hear a demo track from a home studio or a recording of a live practice session.
It is because of this, and the fact that I was preparing for a move to Japan, that I started this site. Coming from Chicago I grew up amidst a wealth of homegrown talent. From high school and into my adult years I frequented some of the well-known local venues that young band members, including my teenage self, dream of eventually playing. Moving to Japan I was instantly infused with the same sense of wonder I had when I was younger. The country’s general music identity overseas is comprised mainly of J-Pop idols and Visual Kei artists. This isn’t to say that there aren’t folks in other countries who aren’t aware of what a rich music scene exists in Japan, but simply that I don’t believe it gets enough credit or is easily accessible. Being able to make a modest effort toward doing a service to fans of music that I personally find enjoyable is something that’s evolved into a cool little adventure.
Over the last few months or so my enjoyment of music in a Japanese context has led me to a new adventure however. I recently moved to Nagoya and was lucky enough to find a relatively spacious 3-bedroom apartment. One major selling point was a small icon of a guitar on the real estate papers indicating the apartment was music-friendly. This was a huge bonus as a lot of apartments here have paper thin walls through which a person can hear more than they’d probably care to. Two extra bedrooms and the thumbs up for music eventually led to one room being converted into a “music room”. It’s been a few months since we moved here and it has gradually been transforming into a nice little humble (no amps, direct input, laptop recording-level of humble) home studio. It is in this room that I kicked off a new musical project and can hopefully use as a starting point for my own journey into the local music scene in Japan.
I plan to use my own experiences from this point on as sort of ethnographic research into a music scene that I have been lucky enough to be involved in to some capacity. It’s no secret that Japan is different than my home country in a number of ways, and the process of starting a band and making music is no exception. It’s a topic that I find very interesting and really am excited to delve into on a personal level. More progress and commentary to come in future posts!
The Shoegazer Festival Extra hasn’t even wrapped up yet and High Fader Records’ Masashi Imanishi has confirmed three events in the fall. With the Osaka leg of the extra event coming up this weekend, Imanishi announced via Twitter this evening that there will be a third Shoegazer Festival in 2013. The big news is that the event will be coming to Nagoya for the first time.
The first two shows will be held on the final weekend of October, starting in Osaka on Saturday the 26th and heading to Nagoya on the 27th. The third show will take place on a to-be-determined weekend in November. According to Imanishi, the venues have mostly been determined, though they will be disclosed at a later date. At this time bands and DJs for each date are being sorted. More information is expected in the coming weeks.
Muso Japan exists as a means of exposing fans of Japanese music to bands that may be difficult for a foreign audience to access. Japanese music is something that I, like many people, am passionate about. Thanks to the internet and social media, there are a growing number of resources through which a curious mind can find the hidden treasures of the Japanese music scene. Typing words and posting them online is a valuable way to get the word out about the things we love, but it only brings the reader so far. It requires special efforts to bring the experience directly to an audience and allow them to witness first-hand the things about which we share a passion. One man has figured out a way to get this done.
Steven Tanaka is the founder of Canada’s “Next Music from Tokyo” tour. He is so passionate about Japanese music that he, almost singlehandedly, brings bands from Japan to Canada to showcase their talents for an audience which seeks access to Japanese music. Traveling to Japan at every opportunity to go to shows and find bands, Steven is a man who takes his love for the music scene to the next level. Not only does his event bring quality Japanese music to an excited audience, it provides Japanese musicians with the opportunity to perform overseas.
Next week brings the fifth installment of NMFT, in which bands will perform four shows in three cities (Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver). This year’s lineup boasts four excellent bands: Mouse on the Keys, Chi-na, Hara from Hell, and, one of my absolute favorites, Kinoko Teikoku. Steven was kind enough to take time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer some questions for Muso Japan. It was an excellent opportunity to get insight from a guy who does what many people (myself included) wish they could do. A very big thanks to Steven Tanaka for not only granting the interview, but also for all of his efforts in organizing Next Music From Tokyo.
Here is a promo video for this year’s NMFT. Enjoy!
Interview with Next Music from Tokyo’s Steven Tanaka
1. Why did you decide to start Next Music From Tokyo? How did you grow so fond of Japanese music to the extent that you were willing to start a non-profit, out of pocket operation to bring bands from Japan to Canada?
Music has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. And Tokyo has the largest and most progressive music scene in the world. For me nothing is more fun than travelling to Tokyo and watching my favorite bands play at tiny live houses and discovering new amazing bands along the way.
I wanted other Canadians to discover how breathtaking and fresh Tokyo’s live music scene is. Since most of the Japanese bands I feel are the best can’t afford to travel to Canada on their own I decided to pay out of pocket and fly the bands here myself.
Even if tickets to the shows sell out completely I’m still guaranteed to lose an insane amount of money due to travel costs alone. Planning these tours is extremely time-consuming, stressful and expensive but it has been one of the most enjoyable, memorable and rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. The amount of fun I have doing these tours is worth more than all the money in the world.
2. What is the band selection process for each event like? How do you go about finding these bands and then narrowing down the list to the final few? Are there specifics that you look for when choosing bands to take part in NMFT?
I travel to Japan 5-8 times a year and see 1-3 shows almost every night I’m there. So I go to more shows than a lot of music fans who actually live in Japan. (lol) Before each trip I research into which shows I want to go to and discover a lot of new bands via Youtube, Myspace etc. But videos and studio recordings are often misleading and the only true way to measure a band is by watching them perform live.
From the hundreds of shows I’ve been to I pick the bands that blew me away the most with their live performance. Unfortunately, even with the offer of a free expenses-paid tour many bands I’d like to bring to Canada can’t come because of work, family, or other conflicts. Sometimes bands have crazy demands in addition to me paying for everything; in which case I usually tell them to f*ck off.
For each tour I usually pick one “headlining” band that may draw fans in Canada who are already knowledgeable about Japanese indie music. For example andymori (vol 1), Mass of the Fermenting Dregs (vol 2), NATSUMEN (vol 3) and ZAZEN BOYS (vol 4). However, in Canada the Japanese bands are all on a level playing field and the lesser known acts frequently upstage the “headlining” act during shows.
In terms of narrowing the list I choose a “headliner” and an unmistakably great band that most people are sure to like as the core and then add two or three more great bands with a much different style/genre to inject variety to the line-up. Last year, ZAZEN was the “headliner,” group_inou was the sure-shot and Charan-Po-Rantan and Praha Depart were the dark-horses that some fans liked even more.
However, I don’t always follow this formula. But in order for a band to be considered for NMFT I have to love their music and more importantly then have to put on a great live show.
3. From the time you select the bands, what all goes into getting them to Canada and making sure the shows go off problem-free? How do you cater to bands who may have never toured overseas (language barrier issues, etc.)?
After the bands are selected I normally have a group meeting in Japan with representatives from all the bands to describe the tour and explain what I need done on their end. Contracts need to be signed and I need CDs, photos, bios/EPK’s in order to promote the tour in Canada.
Back home I need to book venues at least 4 months in advance, book and pay for flights (NMFT vol 3 had 26 passengers; $1700/passenger), hotel rooms, and backline (drums, amps, special instruments). The biggest headache used to be the mountain of paperwork and red tape involved with obtaining visas/work permits for the bands. However, I found out last year I could book specific venues that don’t require visas and now I only book venues that are work permit exempt. Score!
At the start I had to organize almost every aspect of the tour myself but with each tour more and more people have pitched into to help. My friends Rob and Ryotaro have created fantastic promo videos. Local bands have lent me gear to help save on backline and instruments. Friends and fans have designed posters for me and helped distribute them in each city of the tour. During the first tour my friend Nicolas came all the way from France to help me look after the bands. And for volume 3, my friend Dan came all the way from Cali to help babysit the bands and he even helped pay for hotel rooms and car rentals. My right hand man though is a guy named Geoff who has been absolutely phenomenal and indispensible in terms of promoting the tour, getting the media’s attention and securing interviews, articles and reviews. I owe a huge amount of thanks to Geoff and any friends and fans who have volunteered their time to help me with the tour.
The vast majority of bands have never toured overseas prior to NMFT. In fact, for many band members it’s their first time visiting a foreign country and they don’t yet have passports. So most of the bands are in the same boat in terms of language barrier and culture shock but as soon as they hit the stage it’s second nature and they always manage to rock the crowd some how.
4. The tour is called “Next Music From Tokyo” but have you considered looking to other cities with substantial and unique music scenes like Osaka, Nagoya, etc.?
Hyacca are from Fukuoka and they toured with us during Volume 3. In terms of signing contracts and having meetings, it’s a lot easier if all the bands reside in Tokyo but in the past I’ve invited many bands from other cities: Viridian (Nagoya), tricot (Kyoto), Midori (Osaka) etc.
It’s unlikely that I’ll pick all four bands from a region outside Tokyo and do a eg Next Music from Osaka tour. Although some of my favorite bands right now all come from Chiba: Happy!Mari, goomi, Harafromhell and Shaku. Though Chiba’s so close to Tokyo they’re basically part of the same scene.
5. What has the reception to NMFT been like? How has the tour evolved since it was started?
The reception to NMFT has been excellent. There may be a few people who are disappointed that I don’t bring “crazier” acts but my goal isn’t to shock the audience with the weird and bizarre but to express the level of talent and creativity inherent in Tokyo’s music scene. Most people who come to the shows really appreciate the skill and stage presence of the bands and the eclectic mix of musical styles.
Since the first installment of the tour it’s become a lot easier to gain the interest of ‘bigger” Japanese bands and especially in Toronto, the tour is popular enough to graduate to a much larger venue. But bigger isn’t always better and personally, I prefer watching gigs at smaller, more intimate venues. I don’t think the concept of the tour and nature of the bands has changed much but having fans help out with organizing and promoting the tour has made my life a lot easier. If I can bring the same level quality of bands and performances each year I’ll be happy.
6. Do you have any plans or hopes for future installments of NMFT? Have you begun looking ahead to volume 6 at all?
I definitely hope to continue the tour each year until I unexpectedly get sick of Japanese indie music. Hahaha. I’m hoping to do volume 6 this October but it may have to be put on hold until May 2014. I’d like to invite group_inou and Akai Koen again and Happy!Mari is a new new band that is sure to kick Canada’s ass.
As we mentioned, Masashi Imanishi had earlier announced on his blog a followup to this year’s Japan Shoegazer Festival ’13. This announcement, not surprisingly, coincided with the news that My Bloody Valentine would be returning for a second stint in Japan at this year’s Tokyo Rocks Festival. That event was shortly thereafter canceled, but we still get to look forward to what should be two more excellent nights showcasing Japan’s shoegaze scene. With the Tokyo leg of the event coming this weekend and the Osaka show to follow two weeks later, there is a lot to be excited about.
Koenji HIGH will play host to yet another shoegaze event in Tokyo. The first show will be a one-man show with Lemon’s Chair, with special guests The Sodom Project (who featured on this year’s Yellow Loveless tribute album) and Musu Bore (participants in this year’s Osaka show). Though the lineup is not as stacked as the earlier Tokyo show, those in attendance will receive a special present; a 4-track CD (we’re not entirely sure as the packaging is actually DVD-sized, but we presume it’s a CD) featuring two Lemon’s Chair tracks and one apiece from Musu Bore and The Sodom Project. Of the Lemon’s Chair songs, one is a demo titled “The End” and the other a cover of the Cure’s “The Only One.” It’s a pretty neat show of appreciation for the loyal shoegazers who are certainly looking forward to this follow up event.
Back to Kita-horie’s Club Vijon we go for the Osaka leg of this event on May 18th. This lineup is absolutely stacked. In addition to Lemon’s Chair, which is always a treat, this card boasts two great bands who have recently put out fantastic new albums in the last couple months: Shelling and Sugardrop. Add to that Hiroshima shoegaze giants Speaker Gain Teardrop and some of my personal favorites in Ether Feels, Euphrates and Silica Gel and this show is something to be legitimately excited about. The not-so-shoegaze-but-still-awesome ASTRO ATTACK will also be playing and the event is rounded up with moonlight, Doyoubi to Jinchou to Coffee and Akushumi. I was in attendance at the earlier Osaka Shoegazer Festival this year and I certainly have no intention of missing this one.
It’s really interesting to hear different opinions about a lot of various aspects of the Japanese music scene. I have been fortunate enough to interview a lot of Japanese artists and people within the music scene to gain insight into it and hopefully turn that insight into something useful for others with similar interests. I thought it would be cool to build on it all by adding some foreign perspective to the mix and getting some reflection on what it’s like to come here and play. So this is the first interview (with hopefully many to follow) with a band I absolutely adore and who are certainly qualified to comment on music in Japan. They also have one of the best band names ever.
Ringo Deathstarr are no strangers to Japan, having played here a number of times alongside some of Japan’s more prominent shoegaze bands. This year they also appeared in Crossbeat’s My Bloody Valentine/Shoegazer Guide and just recently wrapped up a Japan tour. After the tour the band were cool enough to take some time and answer a few questions about playing in Japan and the country in general. There will be a Japanese language version to follow. Enjoy!
(For more info on Ringo Deathstarr please “like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.)
Ringo Deathstarr Interview
Muso Japan: First off thank you for taking the time to do an interview! How was your trip to Japan?
Ringo Deathstarr: Hi Matthew! Thanks for the questions! Our trip to Japan this time was the best one yet…of course it just gets better every time, and we never know what to expect!
MJ: Ringo Deathstarr seems to have developed a loyal following in Japan. When and how did you first make contact with Japan? How do you continue to promote yourselves and keep interest from abroad?
RD: Well…back in the Myspace days, in 2009, we were contacted by Vinyl Junkie Records, and they released our songs and brought us out. We thought we were in a dream…because people knew our music and they made us feel like Elvis! We try to keep people interested by using twitter and facebook, which are helpful in those matters.
MJ: How have your experiences been playing in Japan? In what ways has it been perhaps different than playing in the U.S.?
RD: Playing in Japan is like living out a fantasy…like being part of your ultimate dream gig. The clubs we played are really awesome…the sound men, the PA systems…no similar sized club ive ever been to in the states can compare with the level of professionalism. Also, nobody is looking at their stupid cell phones while the band’s on stage…nobody trying to talk to each other over the music…you can see people singing along and dancing, and everyone is super excited!
MJ: Do you have any particularly fond experiences either playing in Japan or interacting with Japanese fans?
RD: I always enjoy jumping into the crowd or throwing my guitar in the crowd so they can play the solo…one time we pulled as many people we could on stage and broke one of the club’s microphones….The club owner was pissed!
MJ: The band was featured in this year’s My Bloody Valentine/Shoegazer Guide along with some of the genre’s quintessential artists. How did it feel to be included in a project showcasing what is continuing to grow into a truly beloved genre?
RD: I think its amazing that we are in ANY book or magazine in Japan!
MJ: What is your impression of the Japanese music scene in general? Are you interested in Japanese music? (if so, “Are there any Japanese bands in particular that you are into right now?”
RD: Oh yeah, there are some bands that i will never forget…we have not been able to see a great deal of bands since we are never around for very long…but I love Guitar Wolf, Shonen Knife, Negoto, Civic, Cruyff In The Bedroom, Bertoia, Plastic Zooms, Lemon’s Chair, and Sugizo!
MJ: What are the band’s plans in the near future?
RD: Well, we are gonna play a few more gigs here and there this summer, and begin work on our next recordings (we eed to write the songs)
I recently moved to Nagoya (one reason for the lack of updates lately) and one of my goals once settled in was to take advantage of living in a city with a special music scene. The first venue I had set my sights on was Huck Finn, a small basement live house a few blocks from Imaike Station, which hosts a who’s who of local artists. Having gotten past the initial money-sink that is moving to a new city, I was ready to get a taste of the local music flavor. After browsing a list of shows I noticed a band name that was hard to pass up. Crocodile Bambie (a ‘cute name’ as stated by frontman Yoshihiro Yasui) just sounded awesome, and upon checking out a teaser for their upcoming EP, I decided to book the evening. This was not an easy decision, as Kinoko Teikoku had a show at Club Rock n Roll the same evening, but I decided to dive into something new and different, and I wouldn’t regret my decision.
Crocodile Bambie, a band set to release their debut EP, may have, in name, been a relative unknown, but the band had already developed three decades worth of following. Yasui, the singer and bass player of Bambie, was previously the bassist of long-time Nagoya thrash metal outfit Outrage. It took a bit to get used to the change in atmosphere at the venue. The snappily dressed and fashionably groomed twenty-somethings I’ve become accustomed to at events were replaced by long hair and leather jackets adorned with studs and Motorhead patches. It was the sort of thing I had grown up with at concerts and I instantly felt right at home.
The show kicked off at about 6:30 with Osaka’s The Probes. The best way I could describe this band was a fun and energetic reminder of why we all start bands at some point in our lives. It was nothing complex, but simple, straightforward, aggressive rock music. Lots of fun and a good start to the evening.
Next up was The Nibs. Another band I knew nothing about coming in. I didn’t love it at the start, with the opening song feeling like a medley full of tempo changes. As the set went on, the songs turned into more down-tempo muddy tunes that had really nice grooves to them. They finished strong and made me eager to hear some of their recorded songs.
Stone Edge was the third band of the evening and by the time their set came up Huck Finn was packed tight. This show was a special event for them, being their first performance in 13 years. I had heard them described as an all-girl rock band, which wasn’t entirely true as their guitarist was a guy, but the one thing I had heard that I can verify as true is that this band is excellent. Their in-your-face and fun punk rock sound was a throwback to 90s Fat Wreck Chords-esque bands. Despite it being extremely hot and crowded, the atmosphere was great throughout their set.
After Stone Edge wrapped up a decent amount of the audience seemed to have headed out. Up next was a band whose recordings I had become fond of whom I was eager to see live. Eternal Elysium is another band receiving a good amount of local acclaim. While their live performance was a lot of fun, it didn’t do their recordings justice in my opinion. What I liked most is that the band had a great relationship with the audience. It was a really intimate set and at one point the singer even addressed the (rather large) non-Japanese section of the audience in fluent English. The crowd pleaded for an extended set, but Eternal Elysium reminded everyone at Huck Finn that this was Crocodile Bambie’s night.
Finally the moment we had all been waiting for. After a fairly lengthy set-up, Crocodile Bambie took the stage. They kicked off the show with “Freedom”, the track with which they promoted their debut EP. While Yoshihiro Yasui had made his name with Outrage’s thrash style, his new band is more of a stoner rock outfit with grooving bass lines and droning heavily-delayed guitars. The set was heavy, and despite a small tuning problem at the start, it was every bit as great as I had hoped for. They weaved jam sessions and drum solos in and between songs, but not obnoxiously. There was energy and aggression but it was controlled. I am a big fan of Yasui’s new style and I hope that the 4 tracks on the EP will hold me over until the next batch of sounds is released.
Fuji Rock has finally announced the first wave of artists to appear at the summer festival. The list is headlined by Bjork and the recently reunited Nine Inch Nails. Other notables are the xx, Coheed and Cambria, Flying Lotus, Killswitch Engage, and Tame Impala.
For the full list of announced artists check out the Fuji Rock Festival website here: http://www.fujirockfestival.com/artist/
The bands have been announced for a bit now, but the lineup has been revealed for this year’s resurrection of the Tokyo Rocks Festival. The event will take place May 11-12 at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium. The days have been arranged as follows:
Carl Barat (Libertines)
Man With a Mission
My Bloody Valentine (headliner)
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Tom Meighan (Kasabian), Alan McGee, Simon Taylor (TOMATO), This Feeling, Mark Beaumont
With the event a little less than 3 months away this lineup is subject to some change, but it looks pretty good so far!
“A Taste of Sonar” comes to Osaka
The Japan edition of Sonar Sound will be taking place in Tokyo, but this year, folks further west will be given a treat as an abridged version of the concert will be flanking the Tokyo weekend festivities. The main event will be taking place on the weekend of April 6-7, with the first night of “A Taste of Sonar” set to take place at Universe on the 5th. The second leg will be at Umeda Club Quattro on Monday the 8th. The “Taste of Sonar” event had only previously occurred in London, so it’s a pretty nice treat for electronic music fans in Japan. The ticket price for the first night has yet to be determined, but for the second night the advanced ticket price has been set at 5,800 yen. Here are the preliminary lineups for each night:
4/5 Fri @Universe (open: 18:00) Nicolar Jaar
Sherwood & Pinch
4/8 Mon @Umeda Club Quattro (open: 18:00)
Lemon’s Chair was formed in 2002 as an instrumental “acid rock” three-piece featuring Masashi Imanishi and Yuko on guitars and Ryo on drums. As time passed the band’s sound transformed into the minimalist shoegaze/post-rock blend that has since been a staple of the Japanese shoegaze music scene.
The band began to publish music actively beginning in 2009, having appeared on a compilation album for American label Series Two Records. Later that year, on Masashi Imanishi’s own High Fader Records, the band released a split album with monocism title “high shoegazer”. The following year the band released it’s first full album “I hate? I hope?” while also appearing on a Rocket Girl Records compilation alongside Ulrich Schnauss and A Place to Bury Strangers. In 2011, Lemon’s Chair took part in the “The Light Shines into your Dreams” compilation in aide of the earthquake relief efforts. The shoegaze/dreampop charity album also featured My Bloody Valentine.
In 2013, Lemon’s Chair played a major role in the release of “Yellow Loveless”, a tribute to the quintessential My Bloody Valentine record. The band submitted two tracks for the album: “To Here Knows When” and “What you Want”. Released alongside the tribute album was “Japan Shoegazer as Only One”, a split single with fellow genre-mates Tokyo Shoegazer. These releases coincided with not only the 2013 My Bloody Valentine tour of Japan, but High Fader Records’ Japan Shoegazer Festival.
While Lemon’s Chair are always accompanied by a “who’s who” of Japanese shoegazer outfits, the band have an impressive international resume. Among the overseas acts they have performed live with in Japan are Ringo Deathstarr, Ulrich Schnauss, Sad Day for Puppets, Chapterhouse, and Spectrum.
Masashi Imanishi and Lemon’s Chair’s role in the Japanese shoegaze community has been very highly-regarded. In addition to their contributions as a band, they are very active in organizing events such as the annual “Japan Shoegazer Festival” and the indie-music showcase “High Fader Night”, as well as offering services to shoegaze bands.
The band have slated the release of their second full album for the summer of 2013.
Muso Japan’s Thoughts: Lemon’s Chair are deservedly given a lot of credit for their contributions to shoegaze music in Japan. Their recordings are most definitely worth checking out, but their live show is a must-see. If you like extremely loud, beautiful music then do yourself a favor and make it out to one of their events. Masashi Imanishi and Yuko work brilliantly together on guitars, while Kondo is a very very impressive drummer. Their tracks tend to be quite long, which works out brilliantly as each song builds up in it’s own way.