Episode 45. Night Demon in Japan 2023
26th April - Arrival
An early start, about 4:30am. I pick up the minibus and then pick up Dan on the way to Haneda airport. We arrive in good time and check the arrivals board. Night Demon’s flight is going to arrive 20 minutes late. Time for a coffee then, ‘Large one thanks Dan’. I need four of those cream capsule thingies in mine to make it palatable and we shoot the breeze for half an hour before going back to the Arrivals area and wait for them to emerge. We wait an hour. Then another hour. ‘Must be out soon’ I said hopefully in Dan’s general direction but moments later he gets a message…visa problems. It turns out that the visa applications are incomplete; we had the same problem with Bullet. Not to worry, it’s just going to take a bit longer. As it happens, it was less than half an hour before they appeared. Welcomes, handshakes, apologies, etc including a very brief introduction of their drummer who didn’t look like the guy in their photos. ‘He’s new’ says Jarvis and without further ado we load their (rather substantial) gear into the minibus. Dan heads back to the office and I drive the guys to Mendips, their accommodation for the duration of their stay in Japan. We stop at a 7/11 to load up with snacks, each one is degusted and commented upon. The garlic ones being especially savoured.
At Mendips they make themselves at home helped no doubt by me stocking the fridge with a couple of dozen beers. Premium Malts Master’s Dream and Orion ‘The Premium’ being the winners in this particular tasting. Three for everyone is enough after which they sign an EP of theirs for me which I immediately frame. ‘It should have been a vinyl copy of the live album but we grabbed the wrong merchandise bag’ explains Jarvis and apologises. It’s not a problem. Brian and Armand head off to bed and Jarvis catches up on some management work whilst playing records (Mountain Live, Floyd’s Animals and The Ramones debut) and I start ploughing through my overdue stuff. A few hours later, Jarvis wakes Armand up as Armand’s girlfriend, Christina, is due to arrive at Haneda soon. Tracking her flight, immigration finally and her transfer onto a bus to Tachikawa, we can do no more so I take them to a Japanese restaurant nearby. Lots of food is ordered, beer and sake as well. Forty minutes later, Armand and I leave the restaurant and walk to Tachikawa to meet Christina. She’s already there when we arrive and it’s a taxi back. Ten minutes later, everyone is in the restaurant again and Brian spots the ‘All you can eat ice cream’ option on the menu. He goes for it at which point, I depart, making sure they know their way back. Less than an hour later, the front door opens and they all head off to bed as do I. It’s been a long day.
A big relief all round as they finally emerge from customs.
27th April – Tachikawa Babel
I’m up at 5am, that’s normal for me. Jarvis is already awake and working. He slept a few hours and then got up. Coffee tastes good and it’s not long before Armand and Christina emerge and are tucking into a bit of breakfast. I ask if any equipment is needed before the first show. Just a US three-pin to Japanese power adaptor. Whilst rummaging through my stock of adaptors, I overhear ‘Oh and then there’s Rocky’… I source an adaptor and hand it over asking about Rocky. ‘He’s our mascot’ says Armand. We need someone to dress like him at the gig. In my head I nominate Joe, Dan and myself but say nothing at the time. One of us will do it. Armand and Christina go out but its 7am so there isn’t going to be much open, not even the park. I opt for another hour of sleep, Jarvis thinks that’s a good idea and will do the same. When I wake up, it’s just gone 8am and Jarvis is still awake. ’I got a phone call’ was his only explanation. I work a couple of hours. 10am and Jarvis is asleep. Through the next few days, I realise he is a lot like Keith Richards in that he works until he drops and then he’ll just crash out on the nearest sofa for a few hours. I tiptoe around so as not to wake him. Brian by the way is yet to be seen today. Just after midday, Armand and Christina arrive back. They have made it out to Yoyogi which involved a commuting time trip on the Chou line in rush hour. I pity them but am glad they have had the experience.
Brian has awakened from his slumber just before I set out to pick up the minibus. Sleeping seems to be a hobby he indulges in whenever he can. I load the gear, we set off for Babel. Dan is there, we set up and the soundcheck goes well. They have a terrific onstage set-up which they travel with at all times. They bring their own mics, they have a rack system that controls their onstage instrument sounds and volumes from a tablet and use in-ear monitors which means they have an identical onstage sound every night and everywhere on the stage. They also trigger their own intro and outro tapes which makes things a lot easier for the local crew. It’s a lot to lug around but as I see later, well worth it to put on the perfect show. After the soundcheck, Jarvis and I pull Dan aside to talk to him about Rocky. We are not three sentences into it when Dan volunteers. He’s as keen as mustard and is given a tutorial about how to do it. Joe has turned up to help out and will be doing the Meet and Greet later but for now helps out on the merchandise stand.
Dan rehearses for his stage debut.
Hell Freezes Over are the support act and we have the usual problem with the stage not being big enough to add a second drum kit. After ten minutes, the usual solution is arrived at, the drums will not go stage centre but stage left. The back drop falls down. It was sort of bodged up there in the first place due to the way the lights are so Joe and I redo it. Pre-show in the dressing room, Jarvis digs into Snickers minis and spells out S-N-I-C-K-E-R-S on the table. He then swaps an S for a K. A few more follow before I join in and come up with a Judas Priest album title. He declares me the winner.
Throughout the last 24 hours, I’ve come to learn that Jarvis is a business man, Armand is an explorer (rather apt given his choice of guitar) and that Brian is slumberous. Three very different characters but when onstage, as one unit, they are overpowering to say the least. The energy they put into their shows is something to behold and sweat is flying everywhere. Dan does his Rocky bit and it’s an impressive mascot. All in all, it’s a terrific, high-octane, ‘Best of Night Demon’ set. Packing up the gear, I notice wood splinters all around the drum kit. No wonder Brian sleeps so much after pounding away like that for an hour.
Dan and Joe take care of the post-show Meet and Greet while I pack up the gear. We run half an hour after the curfew because they are signing autographs. It’s a five minutes trip back to Mendips, a bit cramped as Joe is staying over as well and we all have a few well-earned beers around the kitchen table. As expected, just one for Brian whilst he tells us a couple of Yngwie stories before going to bed. Armand is clearly flagging, head down and eyes drooping just before opening his third so heads off into the night and even Jarvis has had enough for one day so we all turn in.
28th April – Shinjuku, Zirco
I thought it was another 5am start for both Jarvis and myself as he was tapping away on his computer when I stumbled into the kitchen for my cup of ambition as Dolly Parton wrote. However, by the time I’ve gone to the convenience store across the road and come back, it’s clear he’s gone to bed. Good thing too. Armand is up an hour later and we talk English entomology – one of my favourite subjects. Christina comes downstairs and is ready to go out, Brian not long after and they all head off into the city to explore. They are happy to go out on their own, relying phones and apps and all that to get them around but this is Japan and very often that stuff, non-Japanese ones especially, doesn’t work well here, sometimes not at all. I know at one point it’s going to happen and I just hope it’s not today as they try to get to the gig. I don’t mention this as I wave them out the door with a smile.
So, it’s just Jarvis, Joe and myself who drive the gig. We arrive, unload, I go and park the van and by the time I get back, Dan has arrived and he and Jarvis and have taken almost everything down the two flights of stairs. It’s an easy set-up, plenty of time and we have time and space to put the backdrop up first, nice and secure. Around 4pm, I start to feel ill. Tired and ill. I make sure the support band, End All, are set up and then I lay down for a while but it doesn’t go away. Armand and Christina have decided to stay in Shinjuku for the night so after an interview with Young Guitar, they go to check into their hotel. I hope they make it back in time. Satoshi from End All requests that Night Demon play Maiden Hell as the song means a lot to him. Jarvis says they will, providing Satoshi introduces the song and sings two of the verses. Satoshi is gobsmacked and accepts. Around 6pm, I decide a coffee might help my tiredness. Amazingly, it does and adrenalin starts to flow. Armand and Christina make it back. At 6:50pm, I let End All know that it’s 10 minutes to stage time and go out front. It’s a good crowd, bigger than last night. 7pm, End All onstage, 7:30pm, End All finish. We changeover equipment with fifteen minutes to spare. Bang on 8pm, Night Demon go on and perform the entire Outsider album. After half an hour, I get word that they want the air conditioners off as it’s too cold on stage. It gets done and I stay side with towels and a bottle of water for Jarvis as he’s sweating buckets. After Outsider, they do a few classics, Dan does his Rocky bit during The Chalice and then the encore. Satoshi goes on stage, isn’t sure what to say so they launch into the song He’s not to sure of the words either but everyone seems to having a good time. One more song, Night Demon and the show is over.
The load-out is a struggle. It’s up two flights of stairs, there are people in the streets and I can’t leave the equipment anywhere and can’t park outside so I bring the van around and one by one, lug a case up the stairs, up the street, open the van, put the case in, lock the van and repeat as often as necessary. It’s done by 10:30pm, the dressing room is clear and after signing autographs, Jarvis, Brian and myself set off for Mendips. It’s a quick journey, less than 40 minutes and on the way, Jarvis mentions they had a stage-diver. Somehow, I missed it. Arriving at Mendips, we unload the gear and I say I’m going to return the van and I’ll be…’ten minutes’ interrupts Jarvis with a grin. It turns out I say that a lot and I have been given a new nickname. By the time I get back, it has morphed to ‘Glenn minutes to midnight’. I take it as a badge of honour.
Onstage at Shinjuku Zirco.
29th April – Day Off
Stuff 5am, I’m knackered. 6am came calling though so I set about the day, albeit very lazily, mainly because I don’t have to do anything critical until about 10am. The weather is good and I stroll around my garden in the early morning sunshine with another Dolly Parton special. Nothing much happens until midday when Brian, Jarvis and I set off to buy a guitar from Kunitachi. We are but five minutes into the walk and Brian realises he’s forgotten that he was supposed to bring Christina’s suitcase. A quick return, suitcase collected and we set off again. We get to Kunitachi where Jarvis shows that he is the ‘Fastest Guitar Shopper in the East’ by walking in, spotting what he wants and handing it to the guy behind the counter, who, it must be said, looked a little bit stunned. No doubt he was used to players coming in, trying a few different guitars, umming and ahing and then saying they’ll be back later. This purchase was all over in seven minutes.
After putting them on a train where Dan will meet them at the other end, I return to Mendips with the guitar. I have a few hours so do a bit of tidying up physically and digitally before heading off to Asakusa where we are all going to have a tempura dinner, courtesy of UPP-tone. My train gets held up and I’m fifteen minutes late. I walk in and apologise and notice three empty seats. Ah, it’s happened. Armand and Christina have discovered that non-Japanese phones and apps and all that are not very reliable in Japan. They make it just before 5:30pm, a bit flustered and very apologetic and they have to catch up on the first two courses – there are five more to come.
It’s not long before everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves, no doubt aided by the copious amounts of Kirin beer being supplied. After dinner we head off in different directions, I take Jarvis and Brian to Shibuya to see Hachiko and have a couple of pints in the Hobgoblin pub, Dan happily comes along as well. Shibuya on a Saturday night is manic and the guys dig it. The Hobgoblin on the other hand is empty – literally. We are the only people there when we walk in which leads me to ask the guy behind the counter if they are actually open. They are and Guinness is ordered. I half say apologetically to Jarvis that I’m surprised that there is no one else here. He replies by saying this is actually what he wanted, a quiet night. More Guinness is ordered as Armand and Christina catch us up. A few more people wander in but by then it’s time for us to leave. We take the train home where Jarvis and I have a nightcap and discuss life, the universe and everything. My head hits the pillow about 1:30am.
The dinner ensemble. Christina, Me, promoters Hiromi and Yasukazu, Mirai (from Sigh), Dan and three demons of the night.
30th April – Day Off
Today it’s Brian’s turn to buy a guitar and as per yesterday, I put him on a train where Dan will meet him at the other end to go shopping. Armand and Christina will be there as they stayed in Shinjuku again last night which leaves me and Jarvis at Mendips for a few hours. Jarvis works, crashes out on the sofa again and I throw a blanket over him. I catch up on some writing and then grab a couple of hours sleep myself. Around 5pm, we go to a sushi bar in Tachikawa and then onto Painkiller, a Rock bar in Kunitachi. There’s just us two and three customers and we enjoy the solitude in this off-the-beaten-track place. About 9pm, Armand and Brian arrive, Christina having made her way to Haneda airport for her flight home. The guys notice that there are amps and instruments set up and ask Shinichi, the owner, if they can play. Shinichi can’t believe his luck (and neither can we, the other four patrons) that he is going to get Night Demon playing in his bar. The band run through five songs, four covers and one of theirs after which it’s a couple more drinks and we head back to Mendips as it’s an early start tomorrow.
Post jam photo including the band and entire audience sans photographer, Minako Shimizu.
1st May - Departure
It’s a bit of a subdued journey to the airport, no doubt due to the 5:30am start, it also being the end of the Japan shows and ending on a big high last night. At Haneda, the check-in is swift and walking to the departure gates, I find myself getting a bit choked up. We’ve had a lot of fun on this one and I know I’m going to miss them. We hug, wish each other well and I get an offer to see them later in the year which if I can, I will do. They’ve become instant mates, the kind you make for life. Safe travels guys, I know we will meet again.