Japan Tour 2009 / News

Japan Tour Diary, Part 3

Tuesday 10th of February Drunkard’s Stadium


After decent enough six or seven hour sleep we get up late and have to pack up in a hurry to get out of the apartment for checkout at 10am. Keita arrives in perfect time to load up the van and head off to the first venue, Drunkard’s Stadium. The Stadium is a 200 capacity in Chiba, a city on the outskirts of Tokyo. It’s on the fourth floor of a concrete building.  We arrive before the venue is open and so to settle slightly dishevelled stomachs we head to McDonalds to take some familiar junk food. Brian keeps it real by ordering a prawn burger. “Om-Nom!”

At soundcheck we meet up with Marvin’s Revolt, Shinya’s band Deepsea Drive Machine and Irish folk rock band Johnson’s Motorcar with ex-pat Dubliner Brian on guitar, Canadian Martin on fiddle and Japanese girl Rinamame on drums. Johnson’s Motorcar tell us all about the Irish Folk rock scene in Tokyo. We’ve heard of the Cherry Coke$ before but it’s fascinating to see how Irish folk can become an established genre of music on the opposite side of the world!  

A few beers are had and I’m feeling a little nervous and giddy. Soundcheck goes fine, with Keita acting as translator and roadie, passing on our complicated sound requirements easily where we would struggle. We find out that standard power adaptors wouldn’t allow our pedal power supplies. It seems they draw too much current for a standard 230-110V adaptor. A quick run to the shops gets enough 9V batteries to keep us going and we finish the check. The venue is pretty impressive and LITE have lined up a great range of amps for us to use. I go with a Fender twin valve amp.


After the sound-check I go off to the van to find one power adaptor and see if it might work. While back there I pick up some deodorant as I am starting to sweat profusely in the venue. I stick it under my shirt “KSSSSSH”. That’s not right. Yep, I have sprayed shaving gel under my arm. Now THAT’s jetlag! Well, stupidity more like. I sheepishly make my way back to the venue.

Later we go to an izakaya which seems like the Japanese equivalent of a Tapas bar. We order a mix of dishes - calamari, rice, tomkatsu, sushi and more. The restaurant is packed due to some big business night out and dozens of Japanese businessmen file into the restaurant. We discuss the concept of the “salaryman” in Japan, a term used to describe any male careerist businessman regardless of occupation. Just after dinner around 5-6pm we feel a “slump” where by we feel wrecked and need to sit down. This will become a running theme on this tour. Well it’s 8am in Ireland and I should be getting up for work so my body is more than a little confused. 

We get back too late to see Clean of Core, featuring Sunao, brother of Nobuyuki, LITE’s guitarist, which is a shame. They were one of the local supports I was most looking forward to seeing. Also we get to meet Asuka, who befriended us on Myspace in the run up to tour and already has the record, which is cool!

We catch a bit of Deepsea Drive Machine. Shinya’s band play very upbeat guitar based dance music with live drums and melodic vocals. Later on Johnson’s Motorcar take the stage featuring dexterous rhythm guitar from Brian, amazing fiddle playing from Martin and classically trained percussionist Rinamame is a great drummer. This sets things up nicely for us to go on stage. We are a little shakey, the first three songs are a little limp and we finally get into form there after. It’s a short set (25 mins) but enough to shake us out of our jetlag and get us going. We’re happy enough but reckon we’ll do much better in Nagoya tomorrow.

Marvin’s Revolt play a great set, all complicated post punk/post rock riffing with some great group vocals and catchy as hell. I reckon our set has confused them a little and they are not sure what to make of us musically speaking (this is not uncommon for us!). We have a beer or two before packing up. Keita drives us back to Kazuto’s parents’ house in Saitama. Poor Keita is jetlagged as badly as us but has been working hard all day, between driving, carrying gear and manning the merchandise stall. 

We meet up with Kazuto who is arriving from a LITE gig in a Shibuya. It’s great to see him, the last time we talked was when LITE last played in Dublin back in October. He’s very welcoming and brings us over to his parents’, a beautiful modern Japanese house with a garden which is pretty unusual for Tokyo. Inside we see pictures of Ireland’s own Adebisi Shank and the legendary Mike Watt, who all stayed here last year. Kazuto’s mum is still up and has prepared for us a wonderful meal of sushi. “OM!”  After eating we all (Spooks and Keita) crash out. Myself and Brian are in a beautiful room with a shinto shrine. It’s 2am and we each grab a quick shower and get a short but decent sleep as we have to be up at 7am. It’s so cool to be staying at a Japanese home and to be so well looked after.


Japan Tour Diary, Part 2

Monday 9th of February, Tokyo arrival:

Finally we arrive in Narita. I have had all of ten minutes sleep despite taking those herbal sleeping pills and feel totally out of it. This will be a running theme for the duration of the tour. 

After clearing customs we meet up with Shinya from Deep Sea Drive Machine, one of the Parabolica Records crew. We drop off our gear into a Toyota Hi-Ace that will be our home from home for the next five days. We head for the hotel near Chiba in Kashiwa city on the edge of Tokyo. Japan seems super modern and organised. Everywhere we spot the bright signs in Japanese kanji characters.  We pass many people wearing face masks. Later we learn that this is often done in Japan for hygiene reasons, to avoid catching or spreading disease. 

Parabolica have arranged a two-room apartment for us to stay in for the night. As we arrive we meet the lads from Marvin’s Revolt who are leaving the apartment to stay at Kazuto’s house. The lads (Klaus, Seron, Laurids and Martin) are similarly jet lagged but in good form. Jun, bass player from LITE is also there.  Marvin’s Revolt are no strangers to Ireland, having played in Ireland plenty of times and had their records released in Ireland by the excellent Richter Collective, home to Adebisi Shank and BATS. Shinya and the lads head off in a second van.


We decide it’s best to crash out for a few hours and we arrange to meet Jun later to have a look round Kashiwa city. As per Japanese etiquette we take off our shoes at the door and leave them on the step into the room. Also there is a specific set of shoes to be worn inside the bathroom. These bits of Japanese hygiene etiquette seem strange at first but kind of make sense when you think about it.


After an attempt at sleep and a cramped shower in the tiny bathroom, I stumble onto my feet just before Jun arrives. Brian is too wrecked to get up so we leave him be. Jun shows us round some electronics shops so we can look at digital camcorders and then onto a beautiful Buddhist temple. After we eat some delicous Tonkatsu (pork in breadcrumbs, served with rice) in a cool local restaurant, we park up the van in a lot near the hotel and then hit a local bar for a few beers. Jun leaves us to hang out in the hotel that evening. Brian is now up and about, we buy in some food from the local 7/11 market where we get a selection of Japanese snack food including onigiri - delicious fish wrapped in rice and wrapped in seaweed. “Om, nom, nom”, says Brian. These snacks and some more beers knock us out and we finally crash out that night.


Japan Tour Diary, Part 1

Our band, The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock, is leaving for a five date Japanese tour. This has been arranged by Transduction Records and LITE manager/ Parabolica Records main man Kazuto. I run a music club called the Ballroom of Romance and a few years ago we were lucky enough to put on a show for LITE under request from Transduction, who had released their records in Europe. This was a revelation - LITE played an incendiary set of intricate post-rock and instantly won over Irish audiences. They’ve since come back for two more tours, building on this success. In Japan we will be touring with LITE and Parabolica’s latest signing Marvin’s Revolt from Denmark.

To set the scene, here is a clip of an interview I did with One More Tune talking about the Spook, my involvement in the Ballroom of Romance live music club and the background to this tour.

Sunday February 8th Dublin Departure:

It’s a very cold morning as I drag myself out of bed at around 6 am. We’re due to fly out at 9.40am and there’s a very real risk of the airport shutting down due to the cold weather. LITE are arranging backline and guitars but as I’m left handed I’m bringing over my own guitar and banjo. I bundle everything into the car and drive over to Stoneybatter to pick up our Japanese friend Keita. Keita has offered to come to Japan with us to act as our tour manager. Next I drive over to Irishtown and pick up Enda, our bass player and Brian, our drummer. Brian has arrived back safely from his gig in Waterford last night despite a treacherous four hour drive along icey roads. He’s barely in the door and we’re off to the airport where we meet up with Donnchadh, our guitar player. We check in only to find there is a problem with Keita’s ticket. After a bit of a panic, Keita arranges to travel the following day. The four of us head on without Keita through to our gate. Keita is going to carry my guitar to even out the baggage load.

At the gate we see snow coming down thick and the progress of flights leaving the airport grinds down to a trickle. Thankfully we get on our way only one hour late after the plane is sprayed with de-icing fluid, still arriving in Schiphol with plenty of time to transfer to our onward flight. After a two hour stop over, we jump onto the flight to Narita Aiport near Tokyo. I have Julian Cope’s Japrocksampler book to read and my iPod to keep me going, and KLM long haul flights have a pretty decent entertainment system, so we have a range of films and TV shows to watch. We hunker down for an 11 hour flight. Brian has some herbal sleeping pills which seem to make us hyper rather than knocking us out. Donnchadh and Enda get a few hours sleep but myself and Brian barely close our eyes.

Japan Tour!

Spook Japan Poster

We’re off to Japan next week to do a 5 date tour sharing stages with Marvin’s Revolt from Denmark and our fellow Transduction Records label mates LITE.

Full schedule:

10/02/09 - Drunker’s Stadium, Kashiwa, Chiba (with Marvin’s Revolt, Clean of Core & Deepsea Drive Machine)
11/02/09 - Club Rock’n'Roll, Nagoya, Aichi (with Marvin’s Revolt & LITE)
12/02/09 - Fandango, Juso, Osaka (with Marvin’s Revolt & LITE)
13/02/09 - O-Nest, Shibuya, Tokyo (with Marvin’s Revolt & LITE)
14/02/09 - Lush, Shibuya, Tokyo (with ZKurukurucrew & 9dW)