Episode eleven: Japan...and China
In 2019 we had planned a few Tokyo dates which we were really looking forward to... one show was to be a selection of songs mainly pulled from the first 3 albums... and the 2nd one an almost totally different set!
As it’s such a bind to fly out... spend a day recovering from jet leg.. play a few shows and then return.. I figured “ why not add....China!”
We had a contact that was interested in setting up a few shows there so we went ahead and had the fun process of applying for both Japanese and Chinese temporary work visas... ouch.
With days to spare, all the paperwork plus our visa enshrined passports were returned and we were set!
(click images to expand)
Japan as usual did not fail to impress... we were booked into a very nice hotel right in the heart of the Shibuya district... shoppers paradise! The good people of Upp Tone ( our promoters) had set up a welcome party in the hotel which was very cool indeed!
Next to the party room was an art piece consisting of a 10 necked Stratocaster guitar.... too much even for Rick Nielsen!
A real mans guitar!
The next day was spent initially doing a production meeting to discuss the various aspects of the 2 shows we were doing.. as regards venue arrival, soundcheck, food and showtimes as well as confirming the backline and drum equipment.
Our good friends Yuki and Tak met up with us and we did some sightseeing... the Godzilla head on top of the Toho studios building had to be checked out!
The gift stores had plenty of Godzilla merchandise... as well as a huge selection of ladies Halloween style costumes....????
Godzilla is watching..!
The first show was about 40 min away from the hotel and as usual in Tokyo, the traffic was jammed!
We arrived and as we have come to expect, the equipment and overall setup was nothing less than perfect! We did the soundcheck and ran through the few extra numbers we had learned for this show... although Mike had been playing drums with us for over 2 years at that point.. we still hadn’t ( and still haven’t!) formally rehearsed!
The show was a blast... totally crazy packed house full of metal maniacs!
Still amazes me how they know ALL the words! An extra treat was our old mate guitarist extraordinaire Marty Friedman jumping up to join in on a few songs!!!
Raven and Marty! And onstage... 3/14 Kichijoji CLUB SEATA
The next day was a day off.. more of playing tourist.. Yuki took us to the fabled Tokyo guitar stores where almost any instrument an be bought.. for a price! No space us wasted in Tokyo - we grabbed coffee at a cafe inside a department store and as there were no seats available, Yuki suggested we went up on the roof - where there was a full garden complete with lawn.. trees.... plants.... crazy!
Gig 2 was literally 100 yards down the street from the hotel and a very similar but larger venue... again a great success and we were quite simply emotionally overwhelmed by the fans... just amazing!
More to follow 3/15 Shinjuku BLAZE
The next day we were off to the airport for our flight to Shanghai... about 4 hours later we had arrived in the belly of the beast! Our promoters were there to greet us and take us on a long van ride through possibly the biggest city we have ever been in.... just endless.
Our hotel was on an interminable avenue next to a very convenient convenience store... nowhere near as opulent as Tokyo but clean and serviceable. Our minder was to let us relax for a few hours then pick us up for dinner later that night.
This is where we were introduced to “ real” Chinese food.... let me tell you, this army marches on its stomach and a lot of what was presented to us barely fit the description of food lol.... we have travelled the globe but by and large “ western” style food is easy to obtain on the menu... here? Not so much.
First course appeared to be chicken in a sauce on rice - ice cold! When questioned the minder said “ 1st course is always cold!” As we couldn’t negotiate the menu it was more miss than hit... I’d got a variation on the 1st dish but it was hot .. apparently they had cooked the chicken and just chopped the whole carcass... bones and all...... uggghhhh!
This was to be played out out in various restaurants over the next few days!
The first gig was a small club .. great crowd with a few English and Americans in the crowd. The opening act was a Motorhead tribute act lead by a crazy character called “ Metal Jeff”... due to his simultaneous likenesses to Lemmy AND Elvis we had him christened as “ Lemvis” almost immediately! A very entertaining guy!
The next few days were off... we played tourist and went into the heart of Shanghai - which basically looks like a set from the Jetsons... futuristic! Patsys pizza ( Frank Sinatra’s fave from New York) was shut so we settled for Papa John’s ( more choices downtown). We also visited old town which was pretty cool... until dinner.
Shanghaied in Shanghai... Shanghai
The restaurant tables had a large wok built into the table.... as you can see in the pic Mark & Mike worn out for a full day playing tourist. Then.. a little old lady came over with a steaming metal bucket and upended it into the wok... we literally jumped up shouting “ WTF????”
We left... leaving the chicken heads and feet behind!!!
Pre meal Chicken heads and feet
The 2nd gig was up north in a city called Tianjin... we were picked up and taken to the biggest railway station I’ve ever seen.. bigger than most airports by far!
biggest railway station
We took the high speed ( 250 mph plus) train north through a landscape that boggled the mind... areas of high rise dwellings.. 20 or 30 in a patch .. over and over again.. the sheer number of these housing blocks was beyond belief. Tianjin was smaller... more rural by far and in the shadow of a large mountain peak..
The hotel was a welcome step up ... as was the food! The gig was in a strange large underground venue.. the equipment was fine ... the drums were certainly “ interesting “ but serviceable! After soundcheck we went wandering and one of the fans outside directed us to the local supermarket..... I’ve been to many Asian supermarkets in the States but this was very very different! We got admonished by the supermarket manager for taking photos of delicacies such as octopus flavored potato chips... so just went back to finding more “ normal” snacks!
The gig went great.. at least after sorting out the initial nightmare - my bass guitar which is usually never put in the monitors at all..was pumping 120 decibels through EVERY onstage monitor... louder than God! We managed to grit our collective teeth and survive the 1st number .. then I called to the monitor man to “ kill the bass”... through an interpreter he stated the bass was not in the monitors.. I suggested he put his ear to the monitor as I pumped out Lemmy-esque volumed notes... suitably chastened he said he’d fix it ... nothing changed to I just disconnected the DI cord removing the problem, turned my amp WAY up.. and off we went!
The next day was another crazed travel day... we drove by van to Beijing airport which was interesting... once you enter the airport periphery you have exactly 5 minutes to get in .. drop your passengers and leave or face an enormous fine! Our guys got us in and they got out pronto!
Then came the long flight to Los Angeles where we’d prepared to do a weeks writing of new material.. and I came down with pneumonia....but that’s another story!