New Moon at Red Deer Wallow

‘One of the strangest tracks’

Following their excursion into commercial pop territory with The Dolphin Brothers, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri’s next joint project was set to take a very different direction. ‘We try to alternate our recordings in terms of types of album,’ explained Jansen. ‘Our first album [Worlds in a Small Room] was instrumental, the next vocal; so this should have been instrumental. Also, the record company weren’t budgeting enough for a vocal album, which requires studio time. If they had said, “do another vocal album, here’s the budget,” we’d have done it. But we were quite happy not to.’

In 1989, with a modest budget of £10,000 from Virgin’s subsidiary Venture label, the pair set about the creation of what would ultimately become Stories Across Borders. It was a new experience, said Barbieri: ‘We’ve never recorded on a small scale before, from our first [Japan] album we always had a lot of time in top studios.’ However, there was a certain challenge in a fresh approach. Jansen: ‘We’ve had enough time in studios that we know what we want to achieve, and we wanted to try and do it with limited equipment.’ Continue reading “New Moon at Red Deer Wallow”

In Vogue

Realising possibilities

Tin Drum was my introduction to the music of Japan, and from there I explored the previous releases. These were my final years at school and it was an exciting time with a world of music opening up to me that I just hadn’t been aware of before. A friend encouraged me to listen, passing me C90 cassette tapes of his favourite music which I would lose myself in, then saving my Saturday job money so I could visit the local record shop to buy the vinyl. The skull-and-cross-bones symbols may have said that home taping was killing music, but it also helped to foster a life-long appreciation of some incredible recordings – many of which I now own in multiple copies: vinyl, cd, re-releases, remasters… Continue reading “In Vogue”

Red Earth (as summertime ends)

‘A completely different approach and feel’

It seems that there were certain aspects of being in a band that David Sylvian felt liberated from after Japan split up, but there were others that he missed almost immediately when setting out as a solo artist.

In 1986, just after the release of his second solo album Gone to Earth, he explained that his desire for musicians from a jazz background to perform on his records ‘came out of the frustration of working within a band like Japan which was studio-bound. Nothing was improvised except in rehearsals when you are putting the track together. Going into the studio everything was well prepared and you really knew what you were doing, and it was only a matter of sound you were working with. So, when Japan split up I wanted to get into something that had a bit more life to it, a bit more spontaneity to it.’ Continue reading “Red Earth (as summertime ends)”

Sons of Pioneers

Collaboration in a band context

Recently I returned to Tin Drum after a long break. I’m not sure why I neglected it, maybe because David Sylvian has often spoken of his work implying that ‘Ghosts’ was the one Japan song truly reflective of his musical journey. Maybe because the literature and websites tend to differentiate between Japan and the solo period as different eras, and lately I’d given much more of my attention to the latter. Continue reading “Sons of Pioneers”