Friday, September 10, 2010

Life's Rich Tapestry (Music Edition)

Shimokitazawa is the Williamsburg of Tokyo: a hustle-bustle locus of all things cool & au current that may have been genuinely countercultural a decade ago that is now more populated by tourists & trendspotters than radicals. Why it became a hotspot is a bit baffling: Shimokitazawa stands on the suburban border of the metropolis with nary an arterial road nor marquee metro line to access it. Beyond that, the neighbourhood is a near-unnavigable tangle of tiny streets wherein even the keenest sense of direction chokes in confusion.

At the bottom of a sloping street, in the unmarked basement of a liquor distributor, is Three - arguably the worst live venue in Tokyo. Sure, it's got glossy brutalist decor that screams modernism, and the clientele is tragically hip, but lord does it suck. The PA was set up by someone I wouldn't trust to fine-tune a home stereo: the speaker stacks face inward towards each other at 45º angles, creating a swamp of phase-cancellation that makes every square inch in the room sound different and bad. Then there's the one-meter-diameter column right in the middle of the fucking floor.

But there's something psychically wrong with Three as well. Maybe its low-lying location at the bottom of Shimokitazawa's labyrinth make it a sinkhole for bad voodoo, but whenever my band has played there we've suffered catastrophic, show-stopping technical difficulties. The first time, the bass cabinet blew out and the bridge on my guitar collapsed. A week ago, barely two songs into the set, I broke two strings and the drummer's kick pedal came unscrewed during the same verse. It's enough to make you wanna get medieval on a motherfucker.

The good news is that we've a chance to redeem ourselves tonight at a sightly more upscale venue in Shibuya. The better news is that in a little over a week, we're playing the Bakuto Festival in Osaka. Not only are Osaka audiences as bacchanalian as the Japanese get, the line-up includes some of my favourite bands - Solmania, Oshiri Penpens, OOIOO. A good way to spend a long weekend, indeed. (And I don't even have to do any of the 8-hour drive!)

The best news for the time being, though, is that my latest solo effort, Rogues Gallery, is finally available to you dear people overseas. Six months after its initial release in Japan, the album is now for anyone-from-anywhere to own on cassette. Yes, cassette, but not because I'm capitalizing on Reagan/Thatcher-era nostalgia. I simply ain't got the scratch for a vinyl release right now. But format snobbery aside, it sounds delightfully thick & feral on tape and every copy comes in a handmade cardboard case.

Still need to be convinced of this fine product's artistic worth? Well, you can stream the whole album on Bandcamp and the lead single, "The Bug Man", is available online for free. Lend me your ears and they will be richly rewarded.

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