JAPANESE BLOG, PART 1
Monday 13th & Tuesday 14th April
We left a pretty nice Bank Holiday Monday afternoon behind us in the UK as we arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3. With a completely painless check in (sometimes it can be a bit of a palaver with all the guitars), and after being told the flight was virtually empty, we knew we could stretch out on the plane and get some decent kip. This we did with gusto. Fast forward 12 hours or so, and we stepped off the plane at Narita, feeling slightly foggy but no worse than that. The weather was grey and very wet. "Happy Birthday" me I thought.. It nearly always rains on my birthday, no matter where I am in the world.
We had to make a connecting flight to Osaka, which once again was painless and efficiency itself, so when we emerged at Osaka Kansai International airport, we were all in good spirits, despite the weather, which was vile.
We were met as usual by Tom Tao our Japanese tour rep, and loaded up our gear into two big mini buses (we only take guitars and a few bits to Japan, the rest is arranged by the promoter and the equipment companies). Everywhere seemed eerily quiet to me as we made the 30 min drive to the hotel (it usually takes an hour).
Having got into our hotel rooms, we had a princely 40 mins to refresh ourselves before attending the production meeting with the promoter and our Japanese tour crew. This meeting is basically an hour long series of discussions about the equipment, positioning, guitar changes, string changes and other technical stuff. Very necessary, but it's hard to concentrate, having been travelling for the best part of 20 hours. Still the ice cold Japanese beer helped..
Then it was off to dinner near the hotel, where we consumed everything on the menu and all the beer in the place. Jet lag was (temporarily) banished at this point, so we set off for a bar called Rock Rock, where we drank more, just to help us get off to sleep you understand.
Weds 15th April
It was a slightly sorry looking bunch of former human beings who boarded the mini bus to the venue, though spirits were high and much laughing ensued, mostly hysterical it must be said. Soundcheck was very smooth, the Japanese crew being their usual thorough and professional selves. We blasted through some covers for the soundcheck winners, and had a bit of a giggle for 40 mins or so, then they popped back out the front and we popped back into the dressing room to iron our frocks etc.
The show was fine, though I had a bit of an air conditioning/smoke drama early on in the set. It appears my voice didn't like one or both of them, as it suddenly became very croaky after 3 songs. Very strange, as it was fine in the soundcheck. I ploughed on for a while but it got steadily worse, so I asked for both to be switched off. The DB voice returned to normal over the course of the next couple of songs, which was a big relief, and the show finished on a very high note indeed.
The after show was nice, with the usual set up of us sitting at tables and the fans filing past. Slightly formal, but it appears to be the Japanese way. I was given lots of very nice birthday presents (thank you again), so much so that it was hard to carry them all.
All done, we shot back to the hotel to dump bags, then it was out to meet the crew for dinner (Korean Barbeque), where we ate like Kings. Afterwards, as we sat and felt fat and full, the lights dimmed and a fantastic birthday cake appeared all covered with candles etc (very embarrassing having people singing to me). We somehow found room and promptly ate it.
Rock Rock is a 15 minute walk, so having said our thank yous, a leisurely stroll ensued, followed by much more drinking. Harry was feeling a bit tired and emotional, so he went straight back to the hotel after dinner. I enjoyed a few softies before retiring to my room for some work and rest.
More from Nagoya..
JAPANESE BLOG, PART 2
It was a damned civilised leave time at Osaka (2pm), and we assembled in the lobby in the usual fashion. Bags were whisked away from our hands as we arrived in reception and packed on the truck, and we jumped into a combination of mini buses and taxis for the hour long drive to the station, which took 20 mins (eerily quiet like I said).
The bullet train is a truly wonderful experience, though the station platform could have been slightly less noisy, with constant announcements and buzzers and bells going off, we seemed to be jumping out of our skins every 2 seconds.. The train is massive, extremely comfortable, clean, and very quick indeed.
Once we got to Nagoya (it took an hour) it was a quick hello with the local promoter, then into cabs to the hotel, where we had the rest of the day to ourselves. Some chose to sleep, others to go walkabout, I caught up on work, then had a power nap. I've struggled to get on to Japanese time on this trip, and have had an irritating tendency to only be able to fall asleep 2 hours before it's time to get up. Consequently I am in major need of a nap at every opportunity.
Dinner was a local Nagoya delicacy, chicken wings, loads of them, along with other stuff, all of it delicious. Tom taught us the local technique for devouring them with minimal effort, and time. We ate what looked like hundreds... Then it was out for more drinks and a walk about in Nagoya.
The venue (E.L.L) is small but brilliantly designed, and the sound is amazing. We got there around 2:30 pm for the soundcheck and of course the crew were ready to go (these guys are amazing). The soundcheck was the usual quick affair, we don't normally spend much time playing, just long enough to ensure we can all hear it, then to possibly run through a few of the lesser played songs of late. Once we were done, the soundcheck winners came in. This is a bit of a weird one, we don't perform, just play the tunes for 20 mins or so like we would in a rehearsal, only slightly self consciously, knowing we're being watched and analysed. Still, the fans enjoyed it (they clapped at the end of each song).
The show was stonking, very noisy crowd, singing along with everything. The band were great too. We had a few tears in the aftershow, but nowhere near as many as last time, so that was a plus.
Dinner was a Chinese restaurant near our hotel, specialising in spicy food. It was spectacular, and we all loved it. Then it was round the corner to a bar playing good music, and some very obscure jazz, which was quite an eye opener.
Another day ended, and we were half way through our final Japanese tour. On to Kawasaki tomorrow...
JAPANESE BLOG, PART 3
An early start today by previous standards (10:30).
We gave our suitcases over to the crew the previous night, so we were travelling light when we checked out of the Nagoya Leopalace hotel, jumped into the bus, and headed off to the Shinkansen (train station). The train ride to Yokohama is about 2 hours, but it is luxurious and smooth. You have to hand it to the Japanese train peeps, they've got it seriously going on.. Everybody conked out, but flew into action when the announcement came. We emerged from Yokohama station into bright warm sunlight, which I have to say felt great as we walked down the steps to the waiting vans.
Club Citta is in Kawasaki, it's a great venue, holds about 1200, it's state of the art, and we love playing there. The backstage food was lovely, the staff pleasant, and all was well in the world. Soundcheck was simple and drama free, and we smashed through the tunes at a rate of knots. We're definitely getting good at this playing songs lark. We were scratching our heads trying to think of tunes to play to the soundcheck winners, when they came into the hall, so we had a slightly awkward moment or two while we continued the debate. The fans just stood and observed us patiently and intently. It was a bit like being in a cage at the zoo. We eventually got some ideas and played the tunes and they clapped (again), we of course laughed at our ineptitude as we progressed. Once we were done we thanked them and out they filed, very obediently. We retired to the backstage where we ironed our dresses, pressed our lips and oiled our shoes again.
The show was great, somehow we've been building the intensity as we've gone along. It's certainly not been by design, maybe it's the crowd reaction, which has been slightly more fevered each night. Not sure, but who cares? It's definitely building up to something. Perhaps we'll explode tomorrow..
Dinner was local in Kawasaki, and lovely again (the food is one the things I think we'll miss the most). Then it was into the vans again for the 45 minute drive to Roppongi (Tokyo) and our hotel. The valiant and professional drinkers then transformed themselves from tired rock stars to glittering party animals, and hit the bars. I fell into bed for yet another night of non sleeping.
Luke and Ben had interviews beginning at 11am, so I'm sure they would have been chuffed to pieces to receive their alarm calls at 10. I got a bit of a break (mine were set for noon), so I got up and had a leisurely shower, followed by a walk into the Izumi Garden (a sculptured terraced garden with shops and cafes inset into the hill) next door to the hotel. The sun was shining again, and it felt good to be out and about, despite the noise of the flyover above my head (the traffic is everywhere in the city). Back at the hotel, the interview with Naomi from Burrn magazine was intense and rigorous as we've come to expect. It was significant to me that she'd requested to speak with Luke and I separately, presumably to get our different takes on the band's decision to split. She certainly gave nothing away when we got going. I don't know what he said, and as it's in Japanese, I probably won't ever know.
Once we got to the venue in the afternoon, we went through the same routine as the day before, only this time we had even less idea of which tunes we were going to play the soundcheck winners. A certain amount of panic ensued, but we somehow came up with the goods when we needed to, so it turned out fine.
The show was quite literally incredible. Despite a lack of discussion, I got the distinct feeling we'd all subconsciously decided that as it was going to be our last show in Japan, it was going to be one of our best. We were on fire, both musically and physically (well it felt like it, the lights were so hot), and the time quite literally flew by. Changing the set each night made it hard to get a feel for the passage of time, so I think we were all quite surprised when it was over. Having played for 2 hours, we fell into the dressing room soaked in sweat, and physically done in (I know I was). The fans kept clapping and screaming for more, but I knew I had nothing left to give. It was all I could do to get myself into the shower, let alone sing another song.
After a while, as the colour came back to our cheeks, the dressing room filled up with our Japanese media friends and label people, and we toasted 20 years and great relationships, and drank some very nice wine and champagne, before attending the final after show party. This one was informal like we do them elsewhere, so having arrived and made a couple of speeches, we mingled and did the usual pics and autographs for an hour or so, before saying our goodbyes and driving back to the hotel. Then it was out to dinner again, this time to our favourite restaurant. We are always told the name of it, but we always forget, so apologies for being rubbish, but it is famous for being the place where Quentin Tarantino got the idea for the famous restaurant fight sequence in Kill Bill (the first one). The restaurant is basically the same as the one in the film, only without all the killing and dismembered body parts all over the place (obvo). Apart from looking incredible, the food is simply wonderful, and we ate like it was our last night on Earth.
With an early start next day for the airport and the long flight home, there was general apathy among most to the idea of raging in the bars, though some did their heroic best, and they were of course helped into the van next day, like elderly relatives.
That's it, our final tour of Japan. I've not done it justice I'm sure, having written most of it whilst extremely strung out in the middle of the night.
Please forgive me if it doesn't sound like we had a great time, we did, it's just hard to enthuse sufficiently when your eyes feel like you've been rubbing them on the pavement....
JAPANESE BLOG, PART 1