After a long, long wait, the English audiobook edition of Quit Your Band! is now available. Currently, it only seems to be available via Audible, but I think it's due to go up on iTunes soon.
I narrated the book myself, which was a painful experience, although it helped me pick up on dozens of spelling and grammar errors that can hopefully now be fixed in subsequent print batches and Kindle updates. It was also cheaper to do it that way, and since I'm reliably informed that I have a voice like a late-night radio DJ, I'm sure it will be a pleasant experience for everyone.
It also features an exclusive mix/sampler with 70 minutes of music from Call And Response Records at the end, quite a lot of which is relevant in some way to the book. I posted a track list over on the Call And Response website, so go check it out (and investigate the brilliant bands) over there now, why don'tcha.
In addition to occasional writing gigs, and despite Quit Your Band! fading into the past in both Japanese and English editions, I've been featured in a few different things as well over the past few months, in my capacity as a journalist and as a general Tokyo indie scene face. I'll put some links and explanations below:
(1) The Barbican in London asked me to write an article for them on Japanese underground music for a series of concerts they were doing, but in addition to the article, they also interviewed me for their podcast, as the third part in a series focusing on different decades of Japanese music. I got the 1990s as my decade, which is definitely the place I feel most comfortable, as it allowed me to rattle off some awesome tracks by OOIOO, Otomo Yoshihide, the always wonderful Melt-Banana and more. You can listen to it and see the track list here.
(2) Interview with JRock News website, mostly focused on Call And Response Records and the indie music scene in Japan at the moment. You can read it here. It's always interesting to be on the other side of an interview after having spent so much time being the one asking the questions. It often makes me realise how scattershot and meandering my interviews are.
(3) Appearance on Got Faded Japan podcast. You can listen to the whole thing here. A very different kind of interview, carried out with the assistance of a couple of beers by two American men. No idea how this comes across, since I never listen to things where my own voice is going to be played back at me, but I remember it being fun.
While this site has been quiet, there has nonetheless been a fair amount going on (follow me on Twitter to get news as it comes in, in among the occasional 2AM political rant). I've written a few articles. Here's a summary:
First up, articles I've had published:
(1) Interview with Jim O'Rourke for Japan's ele-king magazine, about his new album Sleep Like it's Winter. The English edition is here and the Japanese version here. I was very nervous about this because Jim is such a deeply knowledgeable musician that I knew I'd struggle to keep up with him. In the end, we had a long and very interesting conversation (that, yes, I struggled to keep up with) and even this long interview feature is a heavily edited version.
(2) Interview with Laetitia Sadier, again for ele-king, this time for a feature in the paper edition of the magazine focusing on avant-pop. The English version of the interview is online here, and the Japanese version is in the print magazine. This was another very interesting interview, and again the version available here unfortunately had to be edited down considerably from the full text. It was interesting to me that, in interviewing Laetitia and Jim so close together, I'd been able to speak at length with two of the people behind one of my favourite albums of all time, Stereolab's Sound Dust.
(3) Feature on Japanese underground music for The Barbican in London, available to read online here. Published to coincide with a series of performances by Japanese composers and musicians including Ryuichi Sakamoto, Haruomi Hosono, Yasuaki Shimizu and Ryoji Ikeda, The barbican asked me to write a piece explaining the history of Japanese experimental and underground music. Obviously that's a vast topic, so I was only able to skate the surface, but in a way that was a relief, as it's a music world populated by intensely dedicated fans who would no doubt be able to pull apart any deeper discussion I ventured to offer with vicious glee. As a summary, there's stuff to disagree with, but I think it holds up pretty well.
(4) Feature on the process of releasing Quit Your Band! first in English and then in Japanese, commissioned by NPR in America. A long article that you can read here. This one was something that took a long time to come to fruition, and was an extremely interesting and quite enjoyable process, going backwards and forwards with editor Andrew Flanagan, who was very patient with me in shepherding the article through to completion. It ended up being quite personal, and in the context of trying to find a voice for my second book, I think it was a very important piece for me to have written.
(5) As a companion to the NPR piece, I also made a DJ mix of Japanese underground music that either came out from my Call And Response label or was released by people around me who inspired me in the process of running my label and events. You can read my explanation and listen to the mix here.
Last week, on the one year anniversary of the English edition’s release, the Japanese translation of Quit Your Band! came out, with the title バンドやめようぜ！ ("Band Yameyouze!”)
It’s an interesting choice for a title in that it works as a more or less direct translation of the English, albeit phrased more as a call to arms than an instruction, while at the same time it’s a play on “Band Yarouze!”, which is either a Japanese TV show, video game or both. That title alone seems to have done a lot to gather interest in the book in advance of the release, and judging from the chatter online since the release, that interest seems to be spilling over into the book itself.
Obviously when writing it I had to be aware of two different audiences it would reach, each with different backgrounds of knowledge and different conceptions of my role as a commentator. To English-speaking audiences, my value as a commentator is as an insider, while to Japanese audiences, what they want from me is an outsider’s perspective. Of course I’m both, and that was something I had to take into account during the writing process. An interesting reversal is in play in the way the translator, music journalist Mariko Sakamoto, is a Japanese expat living in the UK who made her name covering the explosion of new bands coming out of London and New York in the early 2000s, while I’m a British immigrant living in Tokyo whose reputation, such as it is, rests on my coverage of Japanese music over the same period. Our experiences of the UK and Japan are almost exact inversions of each other, so while living in the UK probably gives her some insight into my background, being absent from Japan over the main period the book covers means she has some sense of the audience’s position as well (the musical environment I’m describing is pretty obscure for the most part, even to people living in Japan).
The other interesting thing about the Japanese edition and its audience is the way the publisher, big indie label P-Vine’s Ele-king Books imprint, clearly envisions a wider audience for the book than would have been possible for the English edition (they’re looking for thousands rather than hundreds of sales). This means there are going to be people far outside the music audience I know and recognise from my weekly gig-going who encounter the book, and they’re going to bring with them all sorts of expectations I hadn’t accounted for. This has been a source of certain anxiety for me over the past few weeks, but it’s out in the world now, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
When writing Quit Your Band! I made a conscious decision that the book wasn't going to be a guide to the music itself so much as a book about the world musicians inhabit and the background against which their music exists. Under this structure, the artists I talk about really function as examples for broader points I want to make about trends in music culture or aspects of how the scene’s infrastructure work, and they fall into two main categories.
Firstly, there are the artists I encountered in the live venues of Tokyo and beyond as I navigated my own path through the music scene. This would include the bands I have released myself through Call And Response Records, the wider pool of artists I book my events from and the even broader tapestry of artists who make up that world. Basically no one knows who any of these bands are, and most people don’t really want to.
EARLY JAPANESE POP AND ROCK
1. Tokyo Kid - Hibari Misora
2. Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana - Kyu Sakamoto
3. Test Driver - Takeshi “Terry” Terauchi & The Bunnies
4. Aoi Tori - The Tigers
5. Hey Joe - The Golden Cups
6. Marianne - The Jacks
1970s UNDERGROUND ROCK
7. Night of the Assassin - Hadaka no Rallies (Les Rallies Dénudés)
8. Horibieta-mono no Densetsu - Zuno Keisatsu
9. Kodomo Bosatsu - J. A. Seazer
10. Satori Part 1 - Flower Travellin’ Band
11. Lemon Tea - Sonhouse
1970s "NEW MUSIC"
12. Dakishimetai - Happy End
13. Jiko Ken’o - Yosui Inoue
14. Kanashikute Yarikirenai - Folk Crusaders
15. Hikouki Gumo - Yumi Arai
THE GOLDEN AGE OF KAYŌKYOKYOKU AND IDOLS (70s-80s)
16. Koi Dorobou - Chiyo Okumura
17. Hitonatsu no Keiken - Momoe Yamaguchi
18. Junketsu - Saori Minami
19. Shochuu Omimai Moushiagemasu - Candies
20. UFO - Pink Lady
21. Young Man (YMCA) - Hideki Saijo
22. Makka na Onnanoko - Kyoko Koizumi
23. Akai Sweet Pea - Seiko Matsuda
24. Sailor Fuku wo Nugasanaide - Onyanko Club
PUNK/HARDCORE/NOISE/EXPERIMENTAL ROCK (70s-80s)
25. Crazy Dream - Friction
26. White Man - Totsuzen Danball
27. Ponytail no Kawaii Anoko - Ultra Bide
28. Coca Cola - SS
29. Kii Kurete - Inu
30. Subete Urimono - Aunt Sally
31. Signal - Phew
32. Romanticist - The Stalin
33. Broken Generation - Laughin’ Nose
34. Nih Nightmare - G.I.S.M.
35. Fuck Head - Gauze
36. Zouroku no Kibyou - Hijokaidan
37. Pow Wow Now - Boredoms
38. Ecobondage (Ending) - Merzbow
39. Galois - Aburadako
40. Dadaism - Ruins
41. Twist Barbie - Shonen Knife
42. Owaranai Uta - Blue Hearts
NEW WAVE & AVANT-POP (70s-80s)
43. Mummy Doesn’t Go to Parties Since Daddy Died - Sadistic Mika Band
44. La Femme Chinoise - Yellow Magic Orchestra
45. Sheena & The Rokkets - You May Dream
46. Copy - Plastics
47. Bijutsukan de Atta Hito Darou (Artmania) - P-Model
48. Puyo Puyo - Hikashu
49. Medaka - Chakra
50. Jenny wa Gokigen Naname - Juicy Fruits
51. Radar Man - Jun Togawa
52. Uchoten - Wahaha
53. Parallelisme - Miharu Koshi
BIRTH OF J-POP (CIRCA 1990)
54. Ai ga Tomaranai (Turn it into Love) - Wink
55. 17-sai - Chisato Moritaka
56. Furyou Shounen no Uta - Blankey Jet City
57. Kimi Shika Inai - Tama
58. Aoi Kuruma - Spitz
59. Rosier - Luna Sea
60. Gravity of Love - Tetsuya Komuro
PEAK J-POP (1990s)
61. Boy Meets Girl - TRF
62. Can’t Stop Falling in Love - Globe
63. Only You - Yuki Uchida
64. Seesaw Game ~ Yuukan na Koi no Uta - Mr. Children
65. Mottö - Judy And Mary
66. Asia no Junshin - Puffy
67. The Audrey Hepburn Complex - Pizzicato V
68. Dolphin Song - Flipper’s Guitar
69. Konya wa Boogie Back - Kenji Ozawa featuring Scha Dara Parr
70. New Music Machine - Cornelius
71. Good Morning World - Kahimi Karie
72. Fantastic Cat - Takako Minekawa
73. New Rock - Buffalo Daughter
74. Living on the Same Planet - Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her
END OF A CENTURY POP AND ROCK
75. Boys & Girls - Ayumi Hamasaki
76. Can You Keep a Secret? - Hikaru Utada
77. Love Machine - Morning Musume
78. Ne~e - Aya Matsuura
79. Cream Soda - Supercar
80. Ai Naki Sekai - Quruli
81. Toumei Shoujou - Number Girl