Episode seven: Our first trip to Japan
It was 1995.... metal was taking a bit of a beating in both the USA and Europe... grunge had given way to this horrible mongrel entitled “nu-Metal” which pretty much was neither...
We had shopped our most recent album “Glow” here there and everywhere.. and surprisingly enough it was a Japanese company Zero Corp. who made overtures towards us... the boss was a very flamboyant rock and roller and was very “hands on”... a refreshing attitude indeed.
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Me and Minoru Yokoo…
He immediately started planning for some Japanese dates... eventually it turned out just to be one big show In Tokyo but we didn’t really mind ... this was a bucket list moment as all our heroes had made the pilgrimage to the land of the rising sun and following a tough few years when I’d suffered a house fire... guitars and basses being stolen from said house.... the demo tapes for “ glow “ and some early masters destroyed or damaged...and the aforementioned grunge/nu metal hype.....
It was good to have a big step forward. Our good friend Yuki Kuroyanagi was of course instrumental in us linking up with Zero, along with the great Koh Sakai...the idea was to record the show with a view to releasing a live album ( a LIVE IN JAPAN ALBUM? YEEESSS!!!!!) which obviously did not take much persuading.
These are one of the few times over many many years that I can remember us actually REHEARSING for a show... as we lived all over the place it was usually prohibitively expensive but we ponied up the money and spent a week or so ensconced in a rehearsal room in Long Island NY going over the new songs especially. I may be mixing memories but I think my good mate S.A. Adams was running the studio and provided much mirth in the form of surreptitiously recorded tapes... of some of the more terrible local bands in the same studio....which had to be heard to be believed ! Apparently 10 minute monotone versions of “Cocaine” by Clapton were mandatory.....
We were introduced to the Byzantine ways of the Japanese consulate... in order to get a entertainers work permit there were several hoops that needed to be constructed, painted, approved & then jumped through. Eventually our passports were finally adorned with the all important visa and we were good to go!
We loaded up my piece of crap car with all of our equipment and intrepidly set off down Long Island towards JFK airport... narrowly escaping being crushed into scrap by a marauding dump truck when my car stalled in 70 mph traffic.....
Our airline of choice was the now sadly defunct North West airlines... a fine organization indeed. The prospect of a non stop 15 hour flight should have been daunting but like giddy school kids we just watched movie after movie until we eventually collapsed.
Eventually we reached Narita airport at approximately 4pm... gathered our possessions and trooped off the plane onto the terminal bus. Halfway to the terminal Mark realized he has left his passport in the seat pocket...brilliant. We had to wait until we reached the terminal and arrange a bus back to the plane to retrieve the offending document...with the obligatory curses and insults!
Our promoters had dutifully waited the additional 3 hours it took to sort this nightmare out and were waiting for us when we finally tumbled into the arrival area....introductions were made ???? was to be in control of our destiny for the next few days and he seemed competent enough. We climbed into a barely big enough mini van and were told due to rush hour traffic the relatively short drive into central Tokyo would take 2 or 3 hours....one by one we collapsed snoring on top of our gear.
We pulled up to what looked like an extremely snazzy upscale hotel.. with a very opulent and large reception area. Porters appeared and were all over us loading our luggage etc onto carts. Following the check in we all went up to our rooms....walked along a large and very long hotel corridors...our rooms were all next to each other. We all opened our rooms at exactly the same time... and all burst out laughing at the same time!
The rooms were TINY! Maybe 10 feet long by 6 feet wide! Amazing enough everything you could need was in the room (except space)...bathroom...shower...TV...bed... ironing board... hairdryer etc etc....
Almost immediately we were presented with an itinerary of military specifications.
It instructed us to come down for food and then a full scale production meeting...where every possible aspect of the next days show was discussed. (The one thing they missed out would have been a days grace to catch up on rest as my throat was starting to grate painfully.....).
Visiting a temple…
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King of the donot….
The great day arrived... and yours truly was feeling godawful.... sore throat and not much coming out of it other than a croak. The psychosomatic mania of singers could probably fill a number of books... I’m usually bulletproof... with the caveat of plenty of rest. This was our first real show in months and the jet lag was beating on me like I was a red headed stepchild.
We went to the venue .. Club Citta... unlike any “ club” we had played.. probably 1200-1500 capacity but more like a theatre in that it had a huge stage and enormous headroom... perfect for a real light show! Our gear (provided by the promoter from our specifications) was already set up... a few small adjustments on the kit by Joe and we were ready to soundcheck... which was a relatively uneventful affair.. especially concerning the vocals...of which only our pal Mr. Croak had bothered to show up. Now I was getting scared.
Of all the times for this to happen... recording a live album?
We met the opening band...a crazed bunch of nutters from the Netherlands called the Sleeze Bees... crazy and just as excited as we were to be here.
I inhaled endless cups of tea with honey & lemon.. sucked lozenges... and slowly freaked the fuck out.
I typically never warm up... but grabbed a towel from the dressing room and hid in one of the bathrooms .. singing into the towel to damped the noise....Mr.Croak has backed off a bit & Mr. Voice was making overtures... it would have to do.
Showtime was early... I think 7.00pm for the openers.. the time was 6.45pm-ish and the venue was as quiet as the grave. The venue had a full stage curtain which was great as it enabled a set change without doing it all in front of the crowd.... if there was one! I’m assuming all musicians are as paranoid as I am... hoping there’s a full house rather than the “ 3 men and a dog” scenario... you can never really know.
I walked to the side and pulled back the curtain.
The hall was absolutely 100% jam packed with people.... and they were absolutely unnervingly silent. Like the grave.
It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen!
As soon as the lights went down for the openers... it was as if a switch had been pulled bring the audience immediately to life! They played and went down very well... I continued to drown in tea not even speaking a word & hoping for a miracle of sorts.....
I believe the intro was the “Voices” thing from the “Architect of fear” album... we plugged in ... made the customary noises to ensure mission control would not be needed... the curtain opened and BOOM!!
The crowd went cataclysmically APESHIT!
First song was “ Victim” from the Glow album... I shouted a perfunctory “ yeah!”! and..... my internal monologue clapped me on the back and said “ we are gonna get through this”
And somehow.... I did!
It was a monumental show for us... the new songs worked... the old songs killed...
We trashed everything after “ Break the Chain” COMPLETELY...... but they wanted more.. so we rebuilt it all and played on
After a day off we were brought to the studio where they were mixing the album...we were graciously allowed in on occasion to make comments... which were almost universal ignored... we figured we were gonna mix this back in the USA anyway so we let them futz around while we did some sightseeing and shopping.
Thunderbirds are go!
Of course I wanted to “ fix” whatever I could on the vocals.. and we actually set up a microphone to do so... but my voice had completely checked out and had apparently left for the States without telling me! So.. what you hear on the album is what you get other than Mark playing 10 seconds of guitar to cover where he broke a string...
Still, it’s a raw honest document of our first ever Japanese show...its special.