Mark your calendars Canada! Next Music from Tokyo Tour: Vancouver May 22@the Biltmore Cabaret, Montreal May 25@ il Motore, Toronto May 28@ the Rivoli, Toronto (All-Ages!!) May 29@ Whipper Snapper Gallery, Tour finale in Tokyo, Japan July 9@ Shibuya O-nest!!

A few weeks ago on a small Japanese music forum, I read a very interesting post: “…I still think Japan Nite is great (I’ll be at SXSW and NY again this year). They help bands by taking care of the visas, booking venues and guaranteeing some form of press in the States. But very few bands I like can afford to travel to N America, let alone pay Japan Nite’s fees which more than doubles the overall cost. So how can we make it easier for GREAT bands (without deep pockets) to come over to the US and Canada? Well I guess we could pay for their flights. HAHAHA! That’s crazy, right?! ….Well, I guess I am CRAZY. Because that’s exactly what I did to organize this tour.”

Intrigued immediately, and though I didn’t know Steven Tanaka at the time. I knew I had to ask this self-proclaimed crazy-person and tour organizer some questions. Let me say, before talking to Steven in this interview and visiting his site, I knew he wasn’t crazy. Just crazy about great music!

Next Music from TOKYO!!! Hopes to add new fans to Japanese indie music and give pre-existing ones an opportunity to watch 5 great bands without having to travel all the way to Japan. Steven Tanaka, Next Music from Tokyo!!!

Five great bands: andymori, mothercoat, OWARIKARA, グーミ (goomi) and Kulu Kulu Garden. Four of which; Kotone Miyahara (Kulu Kulu Garden), Ryogo Kobata (Goomi), Kenta Kawano (Owarikara) and Toki Imada (mothercoat) participated in one of the funnest interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure to be apart of.

NMFTWhy, did you decide to organize Next Music from Tokyo tour?
Steven Tanaka: Some of the best music in the world is coming from the indie/underground scene in Japan. But the language barrier limits its accessibility to Western listeners and few indie bands in Japan can afford to travel abroad.

I decided to organize this tour so that pre-existing fans of Japanese music could experience it live without having to travel far east. But more importantly to give Japanese independent music greater exposure in Canada, to break some of the stereotypes (gravure pop, enka, VK) and to hopefully create new fans out of those who had never heard Japanese music before.

Ultimately I’d love to create an atmosphere where more Japanese bands are willing to come to North America and especially Canada.

What, sparked this is the time to follow your dream?
Steven Tanaka: There were 2 key events that inspired me to finally get off my ass and bring some Japanese bands to Canada.

First was the recurring underground music festival known as Tokyo Boredom. It’s organized by a handful of Tokyo punk bands who put on free shows with excellent bands from various musical genres. As great as the underground scene is in Japan, it can be very cliquey and these guys are doing their best to create a more united and communal atmosphere. Shows in Japan can also harbor a hipster attitude where the audience is “too cool” to display any enthusiasm. At Tokyo Boredom, everyone is encouraged to yell, dance, crowd surf and go nuts without fear of losing their hipster cred. Every foreigner I saw at the Tokyo Boredom events was awestruck by the camaraderie and insane amount of energy.

In fact a reporter who was visiting from England was completely blown away by Tokyo Boredom and wrote an article about it for MOJO magazine. Seeing firsthand how foreigners absolutely fall in love with an event like Tokyo Boredom, I wanted to bring some of that great music and fanfare to Canada.

Toyko, Rock’N’Roll Capital Of The World! The Tokyo Boredom weekend ripped my head off. It was as if I was back at school, during glam rock’s heyday, discovering Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane and The Velvet Underground again for the first time. Not only was it the overriding “beat that!” attitude, intensified by the two-stage set-up at the Tokyo University venue which meant that as the feedback finale stage left was still howling, a mad-eyed screamer would leap into action stage right and howl even louder, usually to a ferocious, expertly fragmented rhythm. No bouncers policed this or any other event. The moshing was fast, furious and overwhelmingly good-natured. Unlike back home, where rock music has arguably become humdrum and safely incorporated into the system, here it retains a secret society vibe, rather like London’s jazz and R&B scene of the late ’50s and early ’60s. And like back then, it’s the music that matters, not the pose. No one here is chasing fame, or faking it. Ross Bennett, MOJO the Magazine.


(or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUVPai1M6KU (since the other video is pretty dark), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w5jNJzAKeo)

Steven Tanaka: The 2nd event was my first visit to a show organized by journalist/DJ/promoter/label owner and all-around punk meister Ian Martin. He routinely holds shows in Koenji, Tokyo where obscure and avant garde bands from all across Japan come together for a fun-filled night of music. Similar to Tokyo Boredom, his events always have a high degree of interaction between the performers and audience. Instead of feeling like a spectator at a concert you feel like you’re at a house party with a bunch of close friends.

Unfortunately, holding a show at any club in Tokyo can be very expensive and more often than not, Ian loses quite a bit of money despite reasonable turnouts (because he keeps the ticket prices very low). Seeing, Ian’s dedication and passion for Japanese underground music was the main impetus for me bringing Japanese indie bands to Canada even if it meant losing a lot of money in the process.

What was going through your mind when you asked, each band to come to Canada? And how did you feel when they said; yes?
Steven Tanaka: Unfortunately, my decision to organize this tour came near the end of one of my trips to Japan. I knew a project of this magnitude would take many months in advance to organize so I ended up emailing bands right away from Canada instead of asking them in person on my next trip to Tokyo. There are a number of amazing bands (eg Midori, Mass Dre) that never replied back (staff likely filtered my email as being bogus) but were thrilled with the idea when I asked them months later in person.

The 5 bands on this tour are some of my favorite bands and the ones who responded to my email request the quickest.

It was essential that at least one member in a band speak fluent English to cover for my deficiencies in communicating in Japanese. So, I was happy that Kulu Kulu Garden agreed to participate as Ryotaro is bilingual having grown up in Tennessee.

What was going through your mind when you said, yes, to this tour?
Kotone Miyahara (Kulu Kulu Garden): I love you, Steve!!!!!! Touring overseas was one of our goals for 2010. I really love maple cookies!!!

Steven Tanaka: Goomi has always been a favorite band of mine so I was ecstatic when they agreed to come on board.

What was going through your mind when you said, yes, to this tour?
Ryogo Kobata (Goomi): We were surprised and delighted, because touring in a foreign country was one of goomi’s goals for 2010. And we were already good friends with Steve, so that played a big part in us deciding to join the tour very quickly.

Steven Tanaka: OWARIKARA and SuiseiNoboAz are the 2 hottest bands in Tokyo’s underground scene and I definitely wanted either band on the tour. I knew the members of OWARIKARA more closely so I emailed them first and they quickly replied, “Yes.”

What was going through your mind when you said, yes, to this tour?
Kenta Kawano (Owarikara) : I wondered if we’ll have any time for sightseeing…

Steven Tanaka: My response? “F%ck yeah!!”

Four bands was initially my limit and when mothercoat agreed to join the tour I felt I had acquired the unequivocally great band that fans in Canada were guaranteed to love. I was overjoyed and satisfied with the roster despite it being a collection of bands that even the most diehard Japanese music fans in North America have never heard of before.

What was going through your mind when you said, yes, to this tour?
Toki Imada (mothercoat): In the first place, it was very natural choice for us to say YES to this tour because we are always willing to have opportunities to let anyone who doesn’t know us yet listen to our live music. More importantly, we thought Steve’s offer was incredibly wonderful idea. We were so moved when we found his motivation to convey real indie music of Japan which he would enjoy so much to the audience in his own country where only limited stereotypes of traditonal and pop idols music are accepted as the ceiling of Japanese music scene. It’s a shame people in Canada (or anywhere in the world, even in Japan itself) would continue to be forced to stick to this common sense so we would like to commit as much as possible to Steve’s project to make this tour successful.

Steven Tanaka: But, almost immediately after mothercoat, andymori’s manager emailed me back expressing interest in the tour.

Although a 5th band seemed impossible to take on… this was ANDY freaking MORI… arguably the hottest up & coming pop/rock band in Japan.

With a marquee band like them there was no way I was going to say, “Sorry, but you’re too late.”

When andymori joined I was definitely jumping up and down thinking this will truly be an awesome tour.

What do you hope the audience will take away with them, from each performance? From the tour?
Steven Tanaka: By coming to see these bands I hope the audience experiences the wealth of creativity, quirkiness, passion and energy inherent in Japan’s independent music scene. And also its diversity.

None of these 5 bands sound remotely alike but they all know how to engage the crowd with their music and stage presence.

Kulu Kulu Garden bring an aggressive, powerful sound. Their singer/bass-player Kotone Miyahara is so “girl next door” friendly and charming to meet in person but your jaw will drop when she transforms into a crazed demon on stage.

What do you hope the audience will take away with them, from each performance?
Kotone Miyahara (Kulu Kulu Garden): We’re always happy to play live, so we hope people will walk away with that same sort of happiness. And we want them to know about all the interesting music that’s happening in Japan right now.  We hope a lot of people will see the tour, then go home and immediately go online and stay up all night looking up Japanese music and become addicted to it.

Steven Tanaka:  Goomi soften things up with irresistibly catchy melodies and sublimely harmonized male-female vocals but they also have a dark edge and honesty about them that distinguishes them from traditional pop. Incorporating shoegaze guitar, violin, glockenspiel, accapella, hand-claps… Goomi craft a uniquely eccentric performance that has made them cult favorites in Tokyo. I’m sure Canadians will be enamored by their underground pop sound.

What do you hope the audience will take away with them, from each performance?
Ryogo Kobata (Goomi): We hope that people will see that we’re not just three band members, and that there’s something more there with each gig we play. It would be great if both us and the audience can both feel happy, and that we’re able to surprise them with our uniqueness, because I don’t think there are many bands out there like Goomi.

Steven Tanaka: OWARIKARA play an awesome brand of retro-psychedelic rock. They don’t try to wow you with complicated guitar riffs and drum fills. Instead they focus on building an infectiously soulful groove with brilliant instrumental phrasing, unpredictable outbursts of emotion and power and a degree of on-stage unruliness that just has to be seen to be believed.

What do you hope the audience will take away with them, from each performance?
Kenta Kawano (Owarikara): We don’t want to sound arrogant and tell people what they should take away with them. We just hope both the bands and the audience can enjoy and share the moment together.

Steven Tanaka: mothercoat is the band that is almost guaranteed to be a crowd favorite. If Radiohead were Japanese… and quirkier… and rocked out more… you’d have a band similar to mothercoat but there are still some great intangibles to their music and live performance that I can’t express in words. They are a phenomenal live band that will leave a lasting impression on any audience that sees them.

What do you hope the audience will take away with them, from each performance?
Toki Imada (mothercoat): CDs, T-shirts and our love, really!!!

Steven Tanaka: andymori write fantastic pop songs with timeless vocal melodies but play these songs with raw power and reckless abandon. They’ve been compared to the Arctic Monkeys but definitely have a less serious, more laid-back, fun loving attitude that shows both in their songs and stage performance. Watching andymori will take you on a fun roller-coaster ride.

Most of the audience will have no clue what the bands are singing but I’m confident the emotional content can transcend the language barrier and at the very least the crowd will be moved by the energy and passion with which all 5 bands play.

And I guarantee you’ll have fun if you come see the show.

I would like to thank Next Music From Tokyo Tour and Steven Tanaka, Kotone Miyahara (Kulu Kulu Garden), Ryogo Kobata (Goomi), Kenta Kawano (Owarikara) and Toki Imada (mothercoat) for their participation in this interview.
~Denise Smith (interview 2010.04.01)

Next Music From Tokyo Tour HomePage
Next Music From Tokyo myspace
Next Music From Tokyo TICKETS

NMFT

Tour Schedule
May 22   Vancouver @ the Biltmore Cabaret
May 25   Montreal @ il Motore
May 28   Toronto @ the Rivoli
May 29   Toronto (All-Ages !!) @ Whipper Snapper Gallery

July 9  Tour finale in Tokyo, Japan @ Shibuya O-nest !!

Next Music from TOKYO!!! Hopes to add new fans to Japanese indie music and give pre-existing ones an opportunity to watch 5 great bands without having to travel all the way to Japan. Steven Tanaka, Next Music from Tokyo!!!

Next Music From Tokyo! Tour Documentary – Part 1

Five great bands: andymori, mothercoat, OWARIKARA, グーミ (goomi) and Kulu Kulu Garden.

グーミ (goomi) — homepagemyspace

Kulu Kulu Garden — homepagemyspace

andymori — homepagemyspace

mothercoat — homepagemyspace

OWARIKARA — homepagemyspace

Next Music From Tokyo Tour: HomepageMyspaceTICKETS

ROAD TRIP!