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!). 

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.