Episode 14. Anterior in Japan

British band Anterior tour Japan for the first time. They are support to US band Lazarus A.D. for four shows.

Day 1

23rd November 2011

Arrival and drive to Osaka

After a twelve hour flight, passed away gently with an endless supply of alcohol, the dynamic quintet collectively known as Anterior, stumble through the customs gate in anticipation of their first trip to Japan. Unfortunately, the brakes are quickly applied to the excitement when they are told that they have to wait for the second band, Lazarus A.D., to arrive some six hours later. Given the option of being taken sightseeing in Narita or to hang around the airport, they plump for the latter. Well, there’s a bar in the airport you see…

Lazarus A.D. are returning to Japan for their second visit having played a very successful show at the prestigious Loud Park festival a couple of years ago. They have also spent some twelve hours flying to Japan and by amazing coincidence, also happened to pass the time on the flight with as much alcohol as they could legally consume without forcing the pilot to divert to the nearest airport fearing passenger safety. When these two bands meet for the first time, it is with grins and smiles through 70% breath but then instant trepidation as they are informed that they now have an eight hour bus journey to Osaka. Guitars, pedals, bags and then loaded onto the bus and with a fearless driver at the wheel (who in a very short time become known as Kojak due to his impossibly shiny head), they rolled out of Narita, ETA at the Lionsrock hotel in Osaka at 1:00am. This is where your author comes in as he has already decided that an eight hour drive to Osaka with ten rather smelly hairy metal musicians was not for him and opted for the luxurious bullet train which sped him there nicely in just under three hours thank you very much.

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Anterior just after discovering that there is a bar in Narita airport to pass the time while they wait for Lazarus A.D. to arrive.

Sharing rooms is defiantly an instant bonding thing for guys and this was to be no exception but that will be something for tomorrow’s diary as my two roommates  decided to drop their bags and guitars when they arrived without waking me and to go out for yet more beer. I awoke somewhere around 4am and noticed that there were three guitars in the room where there had been none when I went to sleep. Figuring that they must have arrived I curled up in the duvet and went back to sleep.  I had a dreadful feeling that this could be a long four days…

Day 2

24th November 2011

Osaka Fanj-Twice

I am awakened at about 6:00am by two very noisy and drunk foreigners who have just burst into my hotel room after being out drinking all night. I am soon quickly to learn that they are Luke (lead singer) and James (drummer) and that they are already very impressed with Japan as it has bars that are open all night. Within an hour, they are asleep and I am awake catching up on emails and having a hearty breakfast. The Lobby Call for the band is 1:30pm so I let them sleep until midday and then wake them up. Amazingly, they seem very bright and happy. James is a far more organized musician than I have ever seen, even to the point of borrowing an ironing board from reception to iron his heavy metal T-Shirts. He also has a quite incredible supply of hair products (shampoo, conditioner, brush, etc) his own toothbrush, deodorants and medicine. He wears a cloth cap in the tradition of a British working class man and has all his clothes folded neatly in his suitcase. Luke’s suitcase on the other hand looks like it hasn’t been unpacked since the last tour and his sole contribution to organization seems to be his ability to brush his hair and his teeth without getting the brushes mixed up.

Just before 1pm, the three other members of the band knock on our hotel door. First in is Leon (guitar) followed by Steve (guitar), both of whom are dwarfed by the imposing figure of Frank (bass) whose body practically fills the Japanese business hotel door frame. Food is apparently needed as no one has eaten for since leaving Tokyo almost eighteen hours ago. I take them to Mos Burger where they are perplexed by the Mango Burger and decline to try it but are very satisfied with the quality of everything else. Frank in particular declares it one of the best burgers he has ever eaten. Back at the hotel, we grab guitars, drum pedals and effects and go to the soundcheck. The gig is actually under the hotel and an elevator from their rooms on the 10th floor will take them straight to the dressing room. This again impresses the band that they celebrate with their first beer of the day. There is a small problem with the equipment as the electricity transformers that have been supplied only have two-pin European sockets and the band’s equipment has three-pin UK sockets. One of the Japanese staff is sent to buy adaptors while I go to buy more beer as the initial supply is already close to running out. It is not yet 4pm.

The adaptors for the transformers arrive in time for the soundcheck which goes well although the venue is very hot. Luke decides he needs to buy some shorts as he didn’t bring any with him so he goes shopping with Frank and Steve after the soundcheck. They are back in my hotel room talking and drinking by 6pm and I ask the band if they want to eat and they all say no but they would like to buy more beer. They have already discovered the vending machine on the 3rd floor of the hotel and quite amazingly, have drunk all the beer in it. I have to go to the hotel reception to ask them to fill it again. The hotel staff gave me some very strange looks and tell me it is full but I take them to the machine and show them that it is indeed empty. They have no idea how all the beer disappeared. Meanwhile, Luke borrows some scissors from reception as he couldn’t find any shorts to fit him but did find some trousers so he bought the trousers and his plan is to cut off the legs to make some shorts. As previously mentioned though, Luke isn’t very organised and doesn’t bother measuring how long they should be and simply starts cutting. There are great guffaws of laughter when he tries them on because they are way too short to wear on stage and he has just wasted 4,500 yen.

Showtime is 9pm but everything is running a little bit late so they do not start until 9:20pm but it’s a great show with lots of stage divers and their forty minute set is very well received. Once all the equipment is packed away, the band go upstairs for a shower and we all meet in the hotel lobby at midnight to go out for a few drinks. I take them to RockRock which is famous amongst foreign musicians for being the best rock club in Japan. The band love it and are very happy to talk to everyone there whilst buying more drinks. I try to calculate how many beers they have had since arriving less than 24 hours ago but I give up as it is impossible. I say goodnight to Yoko who runs the bar and then to the band about 1:00am and go back to the hotel to sleep.

 Day 3

25th November 2011

Nagoya Club Zion 

I have déjà vu as I awake again at 6:00am when James and Luke stumble into the hotel room drunk. This is a problem as we have a 9:30am lobby call to pack the gear onto the bus and then drive to Nagoya. I figure the best thing to do is to let them sleep for a couple of hours and wake them at 8:00am. Luke however starts to complain that he has money stolen out of his suitcase by the hotel staff. James tries to tell him that him that he probably spent it at RockRock but Luke insists it has been stolen and storms out the hotel room. James goes back to sleep, I shower and Luke returns with a burger and chips. He manages to eat the chips but falls asleep with the burger in his hand and I let an hour slip by before I try to wake them for the lobby call. It’s impossible. They are so deep in sleep that even taking away their duvets does not wake them. Trying another tactic, I decide to wake Frank, Leon and Steve in the next room and give them the responsibility of waking Luke and James. This fails as well when I bang on the door and nobody answers. The time creeps by and it is 9:30am before I manage to wake anyone. Frank is the first up and answers the door. I tell him we are already late and he quickly wakes Leon and Steve. I go back to our hotel room just as Luke is waking up and the first thing he sees is his half-eaten burger that he fell asleep holding almost three hours earlier and he starts to eat it. Having satisfied myself that the band are now actually conscious and making an effort to pack, I go downstairs to make sure the bus will wait for us. The promoter isn’t happy but he’ll wait. Amazingly, two of the guys from Lazarus A.D. have just arrived back from drinking all night. Their guitarist Dan Gapan and drummer Ryan Shutler are so drunk that they cannot stand up and when Dan goes to his hotel room to pick up his guitars, he traps his finger in a door and rips off a layer of skin. Blood pours out and I have doubts if he can play the show that night. Back upstairs, Luke and James are arguing about Luke’s missing money. Luke still insists it has been stolen while James keeps telling him he spent it. I shout at them both saying I didn’t care about the stolen money but I DO CARE THAT THEY GET TO THE NEXT FUCKING GIG SO MOVE YOUR FUCKING ARSES!

The last member of our entourage boards the bus at 10:10am and we depart for Nagoya. Most guys sleep due to having been up all night but Frank, Leon and James are awake all the way, cracking jokes constantly. Frank buys a bottle of Strawberry Pepsi and passes it around to the rest of the band who don’t like it. Frank also tells me he has an unusual body condition in that he doesn’t sweat and so doesn’t have to wash. Today is his sixth day without washing his hair and it looks magnificent. He went through an entire 23 date tour of Europe without washing and apparently didn’t smell or have greasy hair. Leon barrages me with questions all the way from Osaka to Nagoya about Japan. He is very keen to learn about the country, its people and its history. James moans that the camera that they bought to record the entire tour has been dropped for the third time and is now not working. He is annoyed at the rest of the band for not taking care of it. We stop at a service area for twenty minutes and everyone makes up for their fights earlier.

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On the road somewhere between Osaka and Nagoya. Their cure for a hangover was to just drink more.

We arrive at Club Zion in Nagoya at 1:00pm and unload all of the equipment into the venue. The stage is very small, the backstage area only has enough room for four people comfortably and I can’t imagine how six bands can get their gear on and off stage in 20 minutes which is all we have between sets. Lazarus A.D. are very badly hung-over so they don’t want to soundcheck which means that Anterior can soundcheck earlier and therefore we can all go to the hotel earlier. I have an hour to spare so I go to meet a Facebook friend of mine named Maki who lives in Nagoya. She’s really cute and I wish we could have had more time together but unfortunately I have to go back to work. Whilst waiting to soundcheck, the promoter asks me to talk to the band and ask them not to be late for lobby call again. He’s a bit upset at their lack of professionalism and I have to agree with him. I speak to all the members individually and tell them they can go out drinking as much as they like but that they must stick to the schedule; this is Japan and schedules are very important. The guys apologise to me and say it won’t happen again and I then apologise to the promoter on their behalf and promise it won’t happen again. There is one problem with the equipment; Leon’s effects pedal lead has been lost which means I will have to switch his effects on by hand at the side of the stage rather than him use a footpedal. Leon says he will look at me when it needs turning on and off; we rehearse it and think it will be ok. Luke meanwhile is suffering from heartburn, I sympathise because I have the same medical condition and I go to a chemist to get medicine for him.

After the soundcheck, we check into the Route Inn Hotel just a few minutes’ walk from the venue. I set up my computer and answer emails whilst James sleeps. Frank comes to the room and Skypes his girlfriend who he is missing very much even though he’s only been away three days. After that we share a couple of beers and watch some Japanese pornography on TV. Most of the band wander in at some point to watch it and are amazed how censored it is compared to European pornography. Around 7:30pm we go back to Club Zion to prepare for the show. The dressing room is crowded but everyone from every band is in a good mood so it is quite bearable. Beers are drunk, and the band sign autographs for fans outside. It’s cold; only 6° C and I pass the time with various members looking at all the backstage passes that are stuck on the dressing room walls. We find one of a band called Orange Bus High School 300% and try to figure out what it means but fail.  I notice the time is now 8:10pm and Anterior are due onstage at 8:40pm and a little bit worryingly, Luke has not arrived at the venue. We guess he might be sleeping or lost so I set off to look for him. I find him walking from the hotel to the venue ten minutes later and tell him again about being late. He tells me not to worry and that he’s not late. I remind him that he is and escort him to the venue to make sure he gets there after which I go to the nearest convenience store and buy beers for the show.

The show goes very well. I turn Leon’s effects on and off as planned but make two mistakes as I’m not very familiar with the songs. Leon doesn’t mind; he’s cool and knows that gigs rarely are 100%. The audience more than make up for my errors by going mental, stage-diving, moshing and doing a ‘Wall of Death’.

Post show the atmosphere is euphoric. Lots more autographs are signed and we all go back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. We have to carry the equipment back with us but everyone is buzzing so much we have lots of adrenalin still flowing so it’s an easy task. A couple of beers while Luke does his Blog on my computer for Metal Hammer and then bed at about 00:30am.

Day 4

26th November 2011

Tokyo Shibuya Cyclone

5:30am I call everyone’s hotel room and make sure that they are awake and will not miss the 6:30am lobby call. Thankfully they are and after a quick shower and checking emails, I head downstairs. There are two ‘Osaka no Obasan’ in the lobby who keep looking at the guys. As we are loading the equipment onto the bus, one of them asks me who the foreigners are and I tell them it is a British rock band touring Japan for the first time. We are ready to leave at 6:45am - 15 minutes ahead of schedule – and set off for Osaka. As we depart, Steve asks me who the lady was and why she was dressed strangely so I explain what ‘Osaka no Obasans’ are to the band. They all agree that Japan is a very strange but wonderful country in many different ways.

The drive to Tokyo was quiet with most people sleeping to pass the time. We have a 30 minute break for food and drink close to Mt Fuji which provides a great photo opportunity for all. The band members are from Wales and grew up in a very mountainous part of the UK but even they admit that Fuji-san is awesome compared to other mountains that they have seen. I correct them by saying it’s actually a volcano and not a mountain which impresses them even more as they have never seen a volcano before.

We arrive in Shibuya at 12:30pm passing through Hachiko junction which brings gasps of astonishment from everyone as they see a swarm of Japanese people all crossing the roads at the same time in a seemingly organised chaos. Videos are taken of the event and photos are snapped of 109 and the giant video screens on display.  We are half an hour early and Cyclone is not yet open so we go to Rockaholic which is a bar owned by Tetsu, one of the guys organising the tour. Just outside the bar, someone discovers that there is a WiFi area and they all stop to check iPhones and internet messages. I find it amusing that they are in Tokyo for the first time in their lives and they are more concerned with their email messages than looking at this magnificent city of different culture. Thirty minutes later, we are unloading the gear into the venue. Cyclone has a good backstage area and big stage. We are told that the show is oversold by 20% so it’s going to be very crowded which pleases everyone. The soundcheck goes well and is over in 40 minutes after which I head home for a change of clothes and a shower while the band are taken to their hotel a few minutes’ walk away.

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Frank at a soundcheck. He also worked as a doorman in a nightclub and trust me, if he told you to leave, you would.

Tonight’s show is an early one and there are only three bands playing so I have to be back at Cyclone by 6:00pm in time for the gig. I walk into the dressing room and immediately start coughing as the place is thick with cigarette smoke. I turn around and walk out again, turning on the air conditioner as I do. Ten minutes’ later I go back in and the air is clean and everyone thanks me for turning on the AC. Drinks are organised, the changeover is very quick and Anterior go onstage at exactly 6:45pm. I operate Leon’s effects again and this time only make one mistake. There are lots of stage divers and security is needed at the front to keep control. It’s another very good show and the band are very pleased. Lazarus A.D. finish their set at 9:00pm and we pack up all the equipment and take it back to the hotel. From there I take them back to Rockaholic but there is another event on and we cannot enter until 10:30pm so I take Luke, Leon and Steve for a beer across the road in a Stand-Up bar. They like the ticket system that the bar has but wonder why it is needed when there are also waiters. I order food as well including a guacamole dip that Luke finds delicious. Just after 10:30pm, the event in Rockaholic finishes and we go back over. I leave the guys there trusting them to make their own way back to the hotel later and head home to watch English Premier League football. I fall asleep on my sofa watching it. 

Day 5

27th November 2011

Tokyo Kichijouji Seata

It’s the last day of the tour and I leave home at 10:00am leaving me plenty of time to get to the hotel for the 11:30am lobby call. Just as I arrive, the guys are going to Mos Burger for breakfast so I join them . Mos Burger is unusually slow however so I have to leave just as my breakfast arrives to let everyone at the hotel know they band will be back from breakfast in ten minutes. As it happens, I needn’t have bothered as our translator and tour co-ordinator were also late.

We load the truck and walk down to Shibuya station where we will meet Lazarus A.D. I take photographs of the band at Hachiko and other places which will accompany Luke’s blog in Metal Hammer. We meet Lazarus A.D. at the entrance to the Inokashira line and board the train for Kichijoji, arriving twenty minutes later. It’s a five minute walk to the venue and once there we discover that the equipment has already been loaded in, that it is the biggest venue of the tour (600 capacity) and that it is almost sold out. The stage is twice as big as Cyclone’s, the backstage area is large and comfortable and the sound is superb. Our sound engineer, Brandon, has been doing a terrific job mixing both bands through the tour and has been very impressed with the standard of equipment at every place so far but this is the best. He rambles on about compressors, limiters, EQ’s and other things but no one really listens to him; he’s happy in his own little world though. It’s an easy and quick soundcheck but the problem is that it finishes it at 2:40pm and we are not on stage until 8:45pm so we have six hours to do nothing. There is one small problem in that the band have been so popular that they have sold out of merchandise. The only thing they have left is one T-Shirt. I suggest we customise it with autographs and auction it at the merchandise stand and that we should do the same with Luke’s too-short shorts. This brings nods of approval all around.

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The shorts signing session. History does not record how much we sold them for.

After signing the two auction items, all the members wander off and do different things. I go shopping for Blu-Ray discs (I buy four), Luke disappears somewhere and we don’t know where; Frank and Leon spend some time in the Yodobashi Camera superstore which is next door to the venue, Steve and James wander around the shops. We bump into each other at various stages of the afternoon and later I take Frank, James and Leon to Shakey’s Pizza. It’s a buffet and Frank devours 22 slices. Back at the venue I watch Heap Phones President perform as one of the support bands and they are very good. I had been recommended them by Hiro Arishima from Grindhouse and have wanted to see them for sometime so it was a bonus for me to have them on this tour.

8:00pm finally comes around and I load the band up with drinks and ukon to fire them up for their final performance. They rock the place to the ground and the fans go crazy. I operate Leon’s pedals again and don’t make any mistakes. It’s the best show of the tour by far. After packing up the gear I heard the band onstage for a final photo with the audience behind them and we then go to the Merchandise stall where they are swamped for autographs and photos. It’s madness and the band love it. I take as many photos as possible and then with midnight approaching, rush them down to the train station where we take one of the last trains back to Shibuya. We are joined by Mats from Spiritual Beast Records who very kindly offers to take them out for beers but as I have to start work at 5:30am the following morning, I have to decline the offer of joining them and say my goodbyes and thanks to them at Shibuya station.

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Last night, end of show.

It was a good tour. It was fun, difficult, tiring, demanding, frustrating, tense but most of all, hugely enjoyable made by the characters within the band. They have their differences and arguments at times but they are always resolved onstage and a better bunch of guys you couldn’t wish to tour with.