Japan Tour 2009 / News

Japan Tour Diary, Part 8

Sunday 15th of February Tokyo.


We say goodbye to Marvin’s dudes. Hopefully they’ll be over to Dublin soon to play. They’re more or less off straight to the airport to go home. We crawl into the van and Kazuto drives us back to his house. En route I keep falling asleep and waking up as I drop my phone on the floor in a loop. I also fall asleep alternately on Brian’s and Donnchadh’s shoulders. Thankfully I don’t drool on either occasion. We stumble to bed and I sleep solidly until 2pm.

I get up bleary eyed and have a Japanese style bath – a hot shower to clean oneself with soap followed by a soak in a hot bath, completed by a cold shower. This is very relaxing! Kazuto’s Mum and Dad lay out an amazing lunch and after we give them a present of a Cactus plant which the lads bought the previous day when I was in a jocker. Soon after we say our thank yous and goodbyes. Kazuto drives us back to the same hotel in Kashiwa City, where we will spend our last night. We cannot get over how generous Kazuto and his folks have been throughout the tour.

Its around 6pm by the time we’re checked in. We say goodbye and thank you to Kazuto. Hopefully we’ll see him in Dublin soon.

We wander off round the edge of Chiba and Kashiwa city for a stroll. All we see is gambling places and dodgy brothels with “Information charges” listed outside. Ultimately we buy a load of take out food and beer from the 7-11 near the hotel and crash out. “Bringing out the Dead” is on TV in English. It’s a great movie and I have a new appreciation for Nicholas Cage’s insomniac ambulance driver character. Soon after I crash out and sleep solidly for 9 hours.

Monday 16th of February.

Keita arrives at the hotel door around 10am. We’re already packed and ready to go. He’s planned a day of site seeing and shopping round Tokyo. After parking in Shinjuku we head to a few electronics stores. We get a call from Nez, who is now back home in Sapporo. He congratulates us on going the distance and reckons its been a job well done. Again, we’re too tired to get any real perspective on how it all went.

We head to AIRS, a legendary Tokyo store in Shinjuku where bootleg DVDs and videos have been sold to generations of Tokyo music fans. The AIRS guys find out we’re in a touring band and get our picture and autographs and give me a copy of a DVD from Italian prog rockers Area. Maybe our picture will wind up on the wall with Metallica? Either that or it will wind up covering the catflap! 


Later we wander round some cool guitar shops and head to the legendary Disc Union, a massive collection of independent records shops, where I buy the mother-load of 70’s Japanese experimental music -  Flowers Travellin’ BandTaj Mahal Travellers and Les Rallizes Denudes to name a few. I also buy records from the Pogues, Dinosaur Jr and A Place to Bury Strangers. We could spend a few days here!


Finally we head to a beautiful Buddhist temple in the centre of Tokyo. It is surrounded by a forested park and is somehow secluded and quiet despite being bang in the middle of Tokyo. I buy a few beautiful good luck charms as presents for the folks back home and we offer a prayer by writing it on a small wooden plaque to be hung with thousands of others in the temple. 

Tired and all shopped out, it’s time for us to go to the Airport. Keita drops us off at departure and helps us with the baggage to the plane. What a legend! We joke that we have become totally dependent on him as tour manager and may not survive on our own! We say our goodbyes and head through the security gates. Keita will be back in Dublin a few days after us so we’ll catch up then. Keita has been an invaluable help, saving so much time and effort for us, always ready to do whatever needs to be done to get us onto the next gig. I reckon another week of this tour and we would have been entirely dependent on him in “Spinal Tap”-esque fashion!

Our flight leaves around 9.40 at night. We hit Brian’s herbal sleeping pills and they work a charm. 14 hours later we arrive in Charles De Gaul airport at 4am. Nothing is open and we wind up stuck for an hour waiting for a bus to another terminal.

Tuesday 17th of February

Soon we are on a relatively short flight back to Dublin. Deliriously tired, we are looking forward to crashing out at home. There is a panic when we land around 8am where a passenger gets an awful altitude headache upon landing in Dublin. He passes out and the crew call the emergency services to meet us upon landing. Five minutes later and he seems to be coming round and we all leave the plane. Upon reclaiming our baggage we find that my guitar has gone AWOL. I’m too tired to panic or get upset. It arrives in Dublin later that day and is delivered out to my house, fair dues!

We clamber into my car out in the long term parking and after a ropey drive home I drop each of the lads off one by one until finally I stumble in the door of own house. Its 11am. Finally I fall into a deep, deep sleep.

Japan Tour Diary, Part 7

Saturday 14th of February, Lush Tokyo:

We wake up relatively rested to another wonderful breakfast from Kazuto’s mum. Tonight we play our last show. I wind up going back to bed for an hour as I’m so knackered. It’s a sunny morning and Kazuto drives us to Lush, a venue also in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. On the bill tonight are Tokyo noiseniks Kuruucrew9dw (Nine Days Wonder) jazzy fusion project of Kensuke from Catune Records, who distributed the Spook CD in Japan and finally Z, experimental jazz noise band and Transduction label mates.


We have a full hour set to play so will do our full set, including a newly arranged cover of Lizzy’s “Emerald”. As the 5 o’clock slump hits the lads head off to buy a present for Kazuto’s folks. I’m a little too tired to head off so head backstage as soundcheck finishes up. Kuruucrew sound amazing: like the proverbial flight of stairs falling down another proverbial flight of stairs. I’m slumped over a table backstage trying to get a little rest. The lads arrive back and its time to wake up and watch some of the bands. I head to a 7-11 and buy this energy drink with an alarm clock logo that tastes of condensed coffee and cough syrup. I really like it but the rest of the lads hate the taste. This is supposed to do the trick, and it does. Soon I’m jittery but very awake. Most of LITE are here and its good to be hanging out for one more night. I also meet some of Keita’s friends who have an excellent band called Knock Note Aliens who are hopefully coming to play Ireland next year.

Kuruucrew take to stage. Their set is one long pounding freakout, driving bass and drums, atmospheric feedback soaked guitar and effects laden sax. Its not a million miles from Lostage, who we saw in Osaka, but even more demented. It brings to mind Cope’s “Japrock sampler”. In the book he describes how post World War II Japanese embraced western musical influences but passed it through what he termed as “the Japanese cultural filter” to produce something even more out-there and inspired than the original inspirations. Kuruucrew demonstrate this filter, they could be from nowhere other than Japan right now, yet they sound as universal and relevant as anything I’ve heard round the world in the last while. There’s talk of them touring with LITE next year and I hope this happens!


Next up is 9dw who play layered jazz fusion with sequenced electronics, live drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards. Kensuke from Catune is the main man in this band. It brings to mind some of the more upbeat Tortoise stuff I know and some French dance music such as Justice or Daft Punk. Groovy!

Z (pronounced Zed) plays next. They are also signed to Transduction. Recently they have lost a member and so are now stripped down to drums, guitar and saxophone/ vocals. Its an incredible sound – mathy jazzy rhythms, chugging post metal riffing and demented vocals and saxophone from front man Jun Nemoto. It seems to bridge several gaps between experimental jazz, noise rock and Japanese folk. At one point Jun plays two saxophones simultaneously! Holy shit!


Finally, we take to the stage. This is our last and longest set of the tour. Its nice to be able to play the entire set, including the Lizzy cover. The sound is great on stage and I feel we nail the harmonies. We build up and up, through a run of 3 guitar-based songs “The Spook”, “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Down Comes The Bridge”. We follow with “Emerald” and it goes well, although I wish I could do a meaner solo!  Brian is pummelling the kit and we’re giving it our all. As per the previous night Brian gets up and gives a short speech in Japanese to the appreciation and amusement of the crowd, which gives us a bit of time for re-tuning (and a rest!). We start into our last tune “Pimlico” and in the noisy outro I jump off the stage into the audience and start running around the front of the stage to everyone’s amusement. And that’s that, the tour is over.


After we pack up quickly, Keita heads home for the night and the rest if us leg it over to the Shinjuku venue Marz where Marvin’s Revolt are about to play. Marz is another very modern Tokyo venue, full of people and there is a bit sense of expectation in the air. The Marvin’s lads take to the stage and play out of their skins and the crowd are into it. They finish on “Days Are Getting Shorter” the main track off of their Parabolica released record and are done to rapturous applause. Nez appears to have gone back to his hotel. It’s been a long night’s drinking so this is understandable.

Afterwards, we hit the bar just before Jun from LITE begins DJ’ing on stage. He starts by playing “The Hare” off of our album. He wants us to come on stage and dance but we’re too sober for that carry on (yet). Soon after he plays some Adebisi Shank to a dancing crowd and later The Vinny Club remix of “Infinite Mirror”. We bust several moves! A few pints later and we’re on stage locked, pogo dancing to Marvin’s Revolt! That’s beer for you. It’s now 6am on the morning of Sunday the 15th of Feb.

Japan Tour Diary, Part 6

Friday 13th of February, O-Nest Tokyo

Friday the 13th - lucky for some! And maybe lucky for a band with 13 in their name. I wake up early yet again, having had yet another terrible sleep. I get up and have another early morning wander outside. It seems a fleet of early morning deliveries are passing by as I make a quick phone-call home to Ireland. I’m over my bad gig, I hope and ready to hit the legendary O-Nest in Tokyo!. We bundle into the vans and hit the road. Nobuyuki is travelling with us again. He tells us about playing in the interesting improv band Brother’s Sister’s Daughter at a one off gig in Tokyo. BSD features Mike Watt, Nels Cline and Jim O’Rourke and a host of guests have played with them. How cool is that! Here’s a video of them playing in Tokyo.

We pass Mount Fuji and yet again it is enveloped in cloud. “It doesn’t really exist” jokes Laurids as we stop off for some food at a service station close to Tokyo. Akinori shows me a coffee machine that shows you the coffee being made on a built in screen. Mental! The coffee is pretty decent, never mind the audio visual experience.

So we all arrive at the O-Nest venue in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. It’s a modern venue on the 5th and 6th floor of a modern concrete building. We load in and sound-check after Marvin’s. The sound here is pristine and I’m hopeful I’ll redeem myself after the previous night. Again LITE are playing, but cannot soundcheck after us as Kozo is still at work. Also on the bill is Deepsea Drive Machine, Shinya’s band. Brian’s friend Dave Brennan arrives at the venue. He plays some decent Irish folk on guitar under the name Davey Boy. The two lads head off down town for a bit. Keita heads home for a bit. Given the fact that he hasn’t been home in nine months, this is long overdue! I buy batteries and stay put. Soundcheck comes to a close and doors open. A big crowd begins to file in and again, I hit the 5 o’clock slump and I try to rest up backstage.

Patrick aka Nez, Transduction main dude and Dublin buddy arrives. It’s great to see Patrick. He’s put a lot of work in to get us over here and Transduction Records put out our record to our eternal gratitude. We chat over a few pints. Nez is getting married over here in April. Brian and Dave arrive back, as does Keita and we head into the venue to catch some of LITE’s set. They are on the money as per usual and even play “Infinite Mirror”, one of my favourite tunes which they haven’t played on the tour so far. It’s a terrific set and the crowd are digging it.


I head back to swap batteries yet again and wait nervously for LITE to finish.  Soon on Friday the 13th the Spook of the Thirteenth Lock take to the stage in Tokyo. We start with “The Ragged Rock”. My voice seems tired as I set up the vocal drones, but I rein it in and get more confident and precise as I go along. As I set up the parting vocal loops the band grinds into action, in the slow build up to a frenetic release and we’re away! This set is the best of the tour by my memory. After 40 minutes we’re done and I’m a happy man. We head back to the upstairs bar to rest up as we are well and truly knackered.


Marvin’s take the stage and we watch them on the massive video screen. Again they belt out a great set. After a few pints we are in garrulous form, happy after doing a decent job. Marvin’s are staying in Shinya’s parents’ house tonight and we’re going to return to Kazuto’s house.  Keita heads home to his parents’ house after we pack up the van. We head off and the tiredness is really getting to me. I keep repeating to myself, “I’ve never been so tired before” and five minutes later “I’ve never been so tired before”. The rest of the lads pass out in the car. Poor Brian wakes up with a start after nearly choking in his sleep on some saliva! When we arrive in Kazuto’s gaff his mum has some delicious yakisoba fried noodles waiting “OM! NOM!”. With full bellies, we hit the hay and sleep like logs.

Japan Tour Diary, Part 5

Thursday 12th of February, Fandango Osaka


I wake up around 8am, and despite being horribly hung-over, I cannot sleep and so get up and take a wander round the neighbourhood. I manage to drink a can of coffee and sup some water. It’s a beautiful sunny morning and but I am a wreck of a man after last night’s boozing. I arrive back at the hotel to find everyone up and about. We have to leave by 10 to go to Osaka. I grab a shower and after a quick scramble we’re in the van and on the road.

Again we stop off at one of these excellent roadside restaurants en route and have a fine dinner. Keita is not showing any signs of fatigue and is doing an excellent job of managing this tour for us. I have a satisfying breakfast of giant prawns and noodles and this seems to get me over the hangover hump. 

After another hour or so we arrive in Osaka. Osaka is a bustling town and is pretty in the afternoon sunshine. We get caught out with the GPS where there is no legal turn right but Keita figures this out no bother. Soon we are loading into Fandango, a cool 200 or so capacity venue in the centre of town. We’re due to headline tonight so we want to do ourselves proud. After a smooth soundcheck we’re happy enough and head to the backstage area, which is directly above the venue but only accessible via a multi-storey car park next door. The tiredness is beginning to take its toll as we try to agree a 30 minute set. I seem to constantly think of one song but say another. Soon we are off on our eternal quest to buy batteries for our pedals and to see a little of Osaka. 

We wander through what appears to be a red-light district with signs saying “Fresh Girl”. This amuses us to no end. Beyond these series of streets we hit a shopping district including the shop “Mini Mini” which has its own theme music “Mini Mini Mini!” It’s very catchy believe me you! We call back to the venue and meet up with Keita before wandering off downtown again in search of an internet café. I take the opportunity to buy some fruit in a market en route. Keita brings us to a very plush internet café where I struggle with a Japanese keyboard and my own sleep-starved brain, and lose the first draft of this diary. NOOOOOOOO! I also check out the interview I did with our friends at One More Tune - cheers girls!! 

We amble back to Fandango and head backstairs to see that LITE have a load a delicious cakes provided by a fan. Cool! Now all we need is a fan to provide some beer wink! Enda and Donnchadh are feeling the tiredness big time and try to put the head down for 30 minutes or so. The quiet is shattered by Lostage taking the stage below us. They bring a fierce no-wavey floor shaking noise. Myself and Brian head on downstairs to check them out. Lostage are in full flight when we arrive and a crowd of 50 or so people are gathered to watch them. Their bass and drums bash out a pounding rhythm while the guitar player cranks out effects-laden guitar screeches. And over all this their singer yelps and howls. Excellent! This is the type of Jap-rock that Julian Cope speaks of – this music could not be coming from anywhere else in the world, although in parts it reminds me of Liars or Dublin’s late great Papercop. The rest of the lads head on down in time to catch Yolz in the Sky, whose vintage Smashing Pumpkins stylings are slick and infectious. 

Keita’s friend Kohe comes along. He used to work in Yamamori Noodles in Dublin and is no stranger to the Dublin music scene. Also there is Kazuto, bass player with the excellent Electric Eel Shock , for whom I have organised two concerts in Dublin. They are an amazing band and played my personal favourite Ballroom of Romance night a few years ago. I’m amazed to find out that EES are not well known in Japan, despite been quite well known in Europe and the States. We chat about having EES back in Dublin and he tells me about EES cutting their teeth as a young band in Osaka before hitting the road. We also meet Kana, who’s been in touch via Myspace. She’s a mate of Asuka and has been listening to the album and says some great things about it. Again we’re chuffed to travel so far and find out someone’s been digging the music beforehand!

LITE play another savage set, with cool visuals projected to the stage right.

Marvin’s Revolt hit the stage. I can’t sit to watch them as I’ve a bit of work to do in swapping the batteries for my pedals. I’m a ball of nervous energy with a queasy stomach and jittery hands so can’t really sit still to watch the remainder of their set. 

Finally we hit the stage and start rockin’. I have some problems with banjo feedback early on, but thing settle down. Enda jumps into the audience for a quick rockout which goes down well! We finish our set and are asked for an encore which on reflection means that the audience didn’t really notice our problems, I suppose. [am I remembering this right?]. 

I’m a little freaked out over the banjo sound problems but it turns out that this was only audible on the stage monitors. Out front it sounded good.

We have a beer with Kana and chat to a few others and hit the road back to Nagoya. I’m totally fucked and need to sleep. The lads had the right idea in resting earlier on and I need to watch my energy levels in the coming days. We stop at another roadside restaurant and I buy a fish-burger type sandwich which settles the stomach. Kozo and Kazuto have to drive back to Tokyo tonight for work in the morning, leaving just the two vans to carry everyone back to Nagoya. To even out the load in the vans, Nobuyuki joins us in our van. Myself and himself chat long about Italian progressive rock and play a load of Area, Goblin, Picchio Dal Pozzo and Arti e Mestieri on my ipod. Enda is getting scared!

Finally we arrive back in Nagoya, but this time we’re too tired to even consider boozing. All of us hit the hay soon after arrival. Brian is first to crash and Donnchadh grabs his nose to stop the snoring! Brian is not impressed! I say “Everyone turn clockwise!” and yes, this seems to stop the snoring all round.

Japan Tour Diary, Part 4

Wednesday 11th of February, Club Rock’n’Roll, Nagoya


We each crawl out of bed around 7am to find Kazuto and his parents already up and about. Kazuto’s mum has another amazing spread of Japanese food ready for us including a soup that reminds us of coddle. “OM-NOM-NOM!” No time to waste so we all jump into the van (Spooks, Keita and Kazuto) and hit the road. I have brought along an iTrip so we are able to listen to tunes via the radio. It’s a beautiful sunny morning and despite being tired we’re in good form and pretty excited about hitting the road.

We meet up at the edge of the motorway with LITE and Marvins who are in the second van and a “People Carrier” and after stopping to let Kazuto swap vehicles, Keita takes the wheel. We all hit the motorway to Nagoya heading west. Along the way Brian regales us with stories of shouting “OM-NOM-NOM” during Jaws any time the shark eats someone. This has me in stitches. Yes, I am delirious with tiredness!

All three vehicles stop off at a service station en route for food and a toilet break. These truck-stop restaurants are amazing. I have a noodle dish that is very tasty and a far cry from a jumbo breakfast roll at a Statoil in Laois! Also, in a Lost in Translation moment we notice the vending machines for Boss coffee seem to all have this ad featuring a bleary eyed Tommy Lee Jones. Cheer up Tommy, the house extension must be paid for at this stage!

Later we pass Mount Fuji which is unfortunately covered in cloud. Ah well, hopefully we’ll see it on the way back.

After a second pit-stop we arrive in Nagoya. We pass the Arc de Triumph style archway building called the Midland Square building but never get close enough to take a picture. Here is a picture from someone who did:

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We finally arrive at the venue, Club Rock’n’roll. It’s a small 100 capacity venue with a decent sound system and the crew seem to know their stuff. The full lineup tonight is Marvin’s Revolt, The Spook, LITE and local Nagoya band Akutagawa. We run off to buy batteries while Marvin’s soundcheck and have a quick stroll around Nagoya. It’s a major city by Irish standards but is definitely smaller than Tokyo! We arrive back to do our own soundcheck. I use LITE’s Roland Jazz chorus amp which sounds great! Overall the sound is pretty cool at this venue and we are feeling good about tonight. We watch LITE soundcheck. However, Brian is watching me watching LITE soundcheck:

Ourselves and LITE head off to a restaurant round the corner. The weather is turning and it’s now drizzling. No danger of getting homesick here so! We have a great (and cheap) dinner of miso soup, rice and tonkatsu. We watch in awe as Keita and the LITE guys show us how roll strips of seaweed round rice with chopsticks to make tasty treats. “NOM!” We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to do this.

Ourselves and LITE head off to a restaurant round the corner. The weather is turning and it’s now drizzling. No danger of getting homesick here so! We have a great (and cheap) dinner of miso soup, rice and tonkatsu. We watch in awe as Keita and the LITE guys show us how roll strips of seaweed round rice with chopsticks to make tasty treats. “NOM!” We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to do this.


No time for digestion – we leg it back to Club Rock’n’Roll in time to see Akutagawa take to the stage. There is already a decent crowd of 40-50 punters at the venue. The lads are very young and very talented. Their songs are slow building post-rock inspired rockouts building with impassioned vocals to full on riffing rock-outs. After each song the audience enthusiastically applaud but soon after they quieten down and listen intently as the singer gives a very long speech. The words “Thin Lizzy” are mentioned. Nice one! We will come to realise that this respectful audience behaviour is typical in Japan. Audiences almost always expect a band to have a dedicated spokesperson to make at least one speech and will listen respectfully. This would never happen in Ireland!


LITE take to the stage. They are well liked in Nagoya and the audience swarm up to the stage. LITE don’t disappoint and effortlessly pile through the tunes. It’s no wonder they go down so well in Ireland. “Ef” and “Past Three Days” sound as amazing as ever. Akinori is a powerhouse drummer and it’s a wonder to watch him play. Definitely a hard act to follow, but follow them we must!

We have a 40 minute set which gives us a bit of time to warm into it. Inspired by the energy of LITE and Akutagawa we put more and more energy into our performance. We have some issues with bass early on during “The Ragged Rock”, but Enda is well able to wing it and it doesn’t affect the overall performance. The audience is into it and we do good versions of “Black Diaries” and “Down Comes The Bridge” in particular. We only muster a few words of Japanese and after observing the manner in which bands talk to the audience we feel we ought to make more of an effort. Our job is done for the night and overall this was a big improvement on the previous night in Chiba. We kick back with a few beers and watch Marvin’s Revolt play another excellent set. We chat to a few people including Scott from Australia, who’s over in Japan teaching English and who spent a lot of time in Dublin and is familiar with the Dublin music scene. We chat about The Redneck Manifesto and gigs at the Lower Deck. Also I chat to the two Yukis about Japanese kanji characters.

There’s time for a chat with the singer from Akutagawa about Thin Lizzy and to finish our beers and then we’re off to the hotel which will be our base for tonight and tomorrow night. As per usual we take off our shoes and place them in lockers near the door of the hotel and head on upstairs. All three bands are split between two dorm rooms with futon style mattresses laid upon straw floor mats. Frugal but very comfortable.

We think we’re alone in the hotel so a party ensues, fuelled on beer and sake! Between jet lag and post-gig tiredness we get almost immediately locked! I bow out around 4am but Donnchadh and Laurids stay up boozing til 6 (mad bastards!).