in japan – day 1
This blog was originally posted to The Dresden Dolls Diary.
japan. in the DD east-side posse: yours truly, brian (excellent drummer), joel (our esteemed sound engineer), emily (our US tour manager and girl friday), robert (our romanian-born-german-and israel-raised-london-dwelling-jewish tour manager and die-hard kylie minogue fan who insist my life would improve if i shaved my legs), sean slade (our esteemed next-record producer and closet haiku master) and eric sussman (an old friend and american expat living near tokyo, who used to wear adam ant war paint to dresden dolls shows).
my knowledge was limited to general american chatter and stories from friends, lost in translation, gung ho!, the last emperor, memoirs of a geisha (great book), assorted films by akira kurosawa,
my japanese classes a few years ago, a book on etiquette that i read last week and a book on the hostess industry in Japan that i read in my early 20’s while briefly fanasizing about moving here to work in the sex industry where apparently you don’t always have to fuck your clients. you could just charm them, act wonderful and make a killing. mom: this idea lasted briefly and i didn’t do it, did i. do not email.
the toilets (even some of the the public ones at gas stations) do warm your bum and play music and squirt water at your bunghole if you press a special button. everyone bows constantly. people are incredibly humble and gracious. there is, contrary to my assumption, a shitload of meat available and it’s harder to find vegetarian food (i’ve been a pescitarian for ten years, i no red meat or poultry but i do eat fish). pork is everywhere. the tea is awesome. i am testing green teas by the bucketful. so far, i love this country. the language barrier is intimidating.
we flew into tokyo and were driven directly to the fujirock festival site (a door-to-door total of about 23 hours or travel – yay ambien) and checked in to our festival-provided hotel rooms at the ski lodge.
emily and i shared a room, as per usual, and she charged out heroically to see to see the foo fighters and coldplay, leaving me to slumber in solitary bliss. i don’t think a disinterred beatles reunion could have kept me from collapsing. i received an unexpected middle-of-the-night visit at 3:30 from a british rock star. there was wine. not too much wine. i’m recording in six weeks. i’m recording in six weeks. i’m recording in six weeks. fuck. we’re back on the road. it inspired a good song and i went back to bed at 6:30.
we ate a cafeteria-style breakfast in the morning (half pseudo-western, half japanese) and started to get our bearings. juliette lewis ate across from us, wearing sweatpants. yesterday turned into a meeting-lots-of-fancy people day for me, which i assume must often be more likely when you are among other whitey rock people in a foreign land. set time was a ludicrous 11:30 am, but the entire festival was up and happening and our tent was full – about 2000 people. we had no idea what to expect…none…our record came out here 4 days ago and we knew nothing in terms of what had been done to promote it. then we found out that it had already sold 2000 copies, the video was being rotated on MTV, and there was already press in 2 major rock magazines. this is why being on a major label is awesome…things like this happen without us knowing or lifting a finger…the machine is at work while we sleep.
so. we took the stage and played a kick-ass show. one-off shows like this can go either way, i’ve found….very rusty or a burst of pure brilliance. then a day full of non-stop japanese press in the festival press tent – 7 or 8 interviews and 2 photo shoots and 1 video shoot in under 4 hours. every festival has an area like this. it’s a large cattle-like tent where the press camps out and artists show up (with their label representative, generally), vaguely scheduled, and make the rounds like a press-buffet. The “label rep” is an interesting phenomenon that is also a huge perk of being on a major. Everywhere you show up – any country any time – there is a label rep to ferry you around and take you to do your promotional bullshit. Roadrunner has reps who cover entire countries or chunks of states (there is a woman, for example, who covers 13 states of the midwest). if they have no reps in a particular country or continent, they borrow reps from universal, who is their parent company. when we toured in australia and new zealand all of the reps were universal folks. what they do is simple. they fly to meet you wherever your show is, they greet you at the airport, they herd you into a rental car (sometimes with a driver), and they take you to your hotel. they usually stay in the same hotel unless they have friends in town or happen to live in the city you’re playing. then their main job is to insure that you do your press and get to your show (though this is basically the tour manager’s job) and basically act like spies for the label to report on how you were received by the natives. if you are a label rep for roadrunner your life consists of wrangling the nine guys in Slipknot and making sure nobody sees them without their masks on, then going to the airport a week later to pick of 3 Inches of Blood and getting them some special decaf coffee, then making sure Deicide are safe and sound and checked into their hotel. it’s a weird fucking job. but god love them, they make our life so much easier.
that was a gigantic tangent. back to japan.
after the press was a little bit of dinner and then a signing session. we met a bunch of japanese fans and perfected our japanese “thank you”. i found myself instinctively bowing my head a great amount. then the work day was over and we got to see the festival, which was an aesthetic masterpiece. it’s nestled by a ski-resort and so every backdrop was a misted-over mountain covered with lush trees. i couldn’t stop looking up. the lighting was brilliant and there was en entire field and wooded area covered with sparkling light from disco balls that were hung 20-50 feet in the air and illuminated by lights suspended elsewhere. there were recycling stations every 100 yards with 5 or 6 different boxes for very specific items, like paper cups and compost. there were boardwalks though the thick woods and big glowing blow-up creatures growing out of the forest floor. it was heavenly. within the space of a few hours, we had seen my morning jacket, gang of four and beck. beck took the cake by far. his band was tight as hell and he had a dancing dude in an eighties short-shorts warm-up get-up, sweatband and blu-blockers dancing around like a maniac, occasionally busting out a good-sized ghetto-blaster for no reason. but the highlight of my entire night was when beck started playing his solo songs. as he picked up his acoustic guitar, his band (instead of clearing off stage) sat down at a long table behind, which was set for dinner, him and started to eat. they just ate. while he played. the table was mic’ed and you could hear the perfect and comforting sounds, ever so slightly, of glasses being filled, forks being lifted and food being shared. genius. when he broke into the first track from “sea change”, the band very gradually started to play the table (one banged forks onto wood, one started shaking a fruit shaker, one struck glasses that were perfectly tuned to the bells in the song) and by the end of the tune they were all in full swing. it was sheer brilliance. i can’t wait to have a budget for a stage show. we are going to do some WHACK-ASS shit. the japanese audience were wonderful….completely into everything and loud and wild and smiling.
i had split up from brian, who favored seeing dinosaur jr. over meeting mr beck (or “Bekku” as he’s known over here) so emily and i headed back into artists land and gave him a disc. he complimented the artwork and we chatted and emily was very happy because she had had a junior-high school crush on bekku. then we headed over to the dinosaur show, where we caught the very end of the very loud set. lou barlow approached me with the line “hi. you stole my melody”, and indeed he was right. the melody for jeep song was ripped off shamelessly (but unconsciously, i assured him) from “skull” by sebadoh. he was very funny about it and we talked a while about how everything is essentially stolen. he quoted me the old adage “talent borrows, genius steals”, and i felt much better. at any rate, the fact that lou barlow likes “the jeep song” made my life. i got to meet kevin shields, an old hero of mine from the My Bloody Valentine era of my life, and was pleased to find out that he had seen us at the patti smith meltdown festival in london. this man, as far as i am concerned, is an Actual Genius of Sonic Bliss and i sort of felt like an insignificant piece of fluff in his presence. it was pouring rain and time to leave and i managed to score a ride back to the hotel with all of these folks, plus the dude-singer from primal scream, and as i sat there in the van surrounded by all this great rock royalty someone pointed out that is was a Historic Rock Van, since there were so many generations of musician and they sort of looked at me, the kid, and i thought….wow. i am validated. my band is real. and that was also a very nice part of the night.
then i collapsed again.