I was at university in London in the mid-1980s, and my primary connection to what was happening in the world of the ex-members of Japan was the fanzine Bamboo. I would eagerly anticipate each new issue, taking a walk after lectures to the Virgin megastore on Tottenham Court Road to check whether they might have a new issue in stock. If in luck, I’d hop on the bus back to Denmark Hill, make a coffee and sit in the one easy chair in my student accommodation to devour the content from cover to cover. The full set of these A5 volumes still sits proudly in my music cabinet at home – and if any of the dedicated band of instigators and contributors should read this, then please accept grateful thanks for being a lifeline to fans in those days before the information superhighway.
Issue 6 from 1985 carried pictures of David Sylvian taken on 7 July that year; he’s wearing large shades, a designer white shirt with bold black design and has a portfolio case tucked under his arm. The photographs are accompanied by the following news: ‘It’s been over a year since the release of Brilliant Trees and the wait for another LP continues. David’s second album provisionally titled The Holy Blood of Saints and Sheep was due for release in September but has now been delayed until November when the video Preparations for a Journey will also be released.. ..Side One of the album is an instrumental piece entitled ‘Explosion of Faith in a Cathedral’. Side Two consists of three or four songs.’ Continue reading “Wave”
‘a masterclass in synth programming’
In March 1980 Japan headed for the country of their band-name, embarking on a tour to support the Quiet Life album. Mick Karn later recalled how their travel was, ‘more often than not, by Shinkansen, the luxuriously smooth bullet train.. ..It was on one such journey I heard a cassette that was being circulated amongst the band, on my Walkman, the latest invention from Sony. Electronic music was the future, Kraftwerk were already a favourite, but there was something different about this band. YMO were the perfect accompaniment to the speeding scenery outside, it was one of those moments when music and visuals became one, quite by accident, and somehow captured the very spirit of Japan. We couldn’t believe that no-one had heard of them abroad.’ (2009) Continue reading “Taking Islands in Africa”
‘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)”
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”