Day Nineteen: January 18th
The fucking alarm goes off at 4am and I try to drag myself up after a fitful “sleep”. Fucking hell… I fall asleep for another 10 minutes and the alarm goes off again. Fuck off.
I take a poop and hear Timmy’s partner Loz pull into the driveway in their Land Rover Defender. I drag my clothes on and pack the last of my shit up. I mumble goodbyes to Alice and Tristan. We drag the gear out to the (frickin awesome) jeep. I smoke the end of a bift. I grog into the jeep. We drive to the airport. (Loz drives like a maniac).
We go through all the airport bollocks. Check-in, pay extra weight on our gear, go through security, get checked for nuclear weapons, etc etc. I resist getting a coffee cos if I do there’s fuckin no sleep ‘til Nippon.
We have the same flight from Gold Coast to Tokyo, but Timmy’s on an earlier one to the Gold Coast. We’ve to wait an hour and a half before ours. It’s boring as fuck and I just space out. We get on and take off and I drowse. We get off and get our stuff and meet Timmy. We go through two more security checks. Fucking holy jaysus.
Eventually we’re on the flight to Tokyo…it’s scabby old Jetstar, so you have to pay for the movies. Ha!...as if. I start reading Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House. It’s decent, much more in a classic literary style than all the other stuff of his I’ve read. Myself and Ad-Rock have ordered food (it don’t come for free), we get it and eat it and it’s pretty rank but does the job. About an hour after takeoff I’m drowsy and dead happy I didn’t go near the coffee. I sleep fitfully for perhaps fours hours…thank fuck.
I wake up and continue typing up this nonsense and read a bit more of the book. Some great stories in there, all short vignettes verging from the profanely amusing to the brutally vicious. Particularly good is The Soft Touch. Between reading and writing, the final four hours go pretty quickly and, after another crappy-ish meal, we’re landing before I know it. It dawns on me…fuck, Tokyo!! Fucking hell!! We’re about to start our tour in Japan!!! I’d been too exhausted to really register it but fuck yes!!
We land and get out, filling in our embarkation forms and visa bollocks. No probrems. We get through and pick up the gear. The captain and crew come out past us and are all star-struck…hahah! We go past the friendly customs officer, lying that we’re not in a band. With all our instruments. Out in the arrival area there’s no sign of So, our hardcore survivor host, so we walk around a bit, change some money and give him a call. He’s on the way…bad traffic.
We get some Pocari Sweat and rice balls from a kiosk and wait around. It’s hilarious being in the airport, people ogling us with our guitar cases and jackets, hangin around and being cool bastards. So turns up with his mate from Filthy Hate and we head off for Koenji in his station wagon…yeeesss!!
TOKYO IS FUCKING AWESOME!!!!!
Driving into the city at night is amazing…the towering skyscrapers, the colours, the neon, the shapes of the kanji and hiragana and katakana…the closest thing I can compare it to are the cityscapes in Blade Runner, but no words can do it justice.
My previous and first trip to Japan was last June, and that was the genesis of this tour. My friends Hiro from Crucial Section/Crew For Life Records and Hidehito Out Of Touch/Alternative Distribution then invited NDT over, offering to book and drive us on tour, while another friend Eiji from DSB offered to help out with some shows (he’s putting on the final Japan gig). I jumped at the chance, getting on to the others as soon as I got back, and it’s finally come to fruition in this…
Since I was perhaps 10 years old and crazy into comics I’ve been fascinated with Japan. There used to be this collected manga comic available in Ireland, Manga Mania…it serialized shit like Akira, Godzilla, Appleseed, Bubblegum Crisis, Hellhounds, etc. From the second I saw the ad for the first issue in 2000AD I was hooked. Yes, I am otaku. (If you can’t find a single manga that you like then you’re fucked.) From there I got into anime, and since I was in my teens and found out about Japanese hardcore, it’s always been THE dream to come here.
And then there’s the girls…
So, last year I finally came here and it was everything and more than I’d ever hoped…dreams, fantasies and new experiences all rolled into one. Naturally, playing here was the ultimate, ultimate, “now I can die happy” ambition. And now we’re here. Oh fucking hell yes…
We get to Shinya from Crucial Section’s place in Koenji and leave our gear and bags at his flat before heading out to an Izakaya nearby. Izakayas are fucking awesome…it’s a sort of traditional pub/eatery, often underground, with various booths, rooms and compartments sectioned off. What usually goes on is that you get there, order a round of drinks, and then slowly order a load of food off an extensive menu. It’s an awfully fuckin civilized way to drink, meaning that you temper getting pissed with eating loads of mad Japanese food. And drinks are way cheaper than in regular bars.
We order some drinks and then good ol’ Wada from Crucial Section turns up, much to my delight. He’s a fuckin legend, acted as a guide for myself and Rob (my mate from Muelheim, Germany) for two days when we were here last time. Mysterious hilarious maniac. We get a ton of excellent food and drink beer, but we’re all really fuckin tired after such a crazy day. We pick up some drinks from the convenience store and head back to Shinya’s place. After a few drinks we’re all fuckin destroyed, passing out on the floor and all…I’m offered a shower and I fuckin need it. Knowing the extent of Japanese manners from last time, I guess that the session won’t end until the guests pre-empt it, so I take the opportunity of a shower, hoping it’ll break things up and we can get a bit of kip…it works, and we do, the four of us huddled together in the 6 square metre living room. Blessed, gorgeous sleep…
Day Twenty: January 19th
…or perhaps not. More of a fitful, troubled sleep, but it’s sleep nonetheless and that’s good enough for me. We wake up to OT (Crucial Section drummer) returning from the airport at about 9.30am with C&J, who have separate flights to the rest of us. Naturally, they’re totarry psyched to be here, their first and previous trip to Japan being five years ago. So nips out and picks up a load of rice balls, tofu and a 2-litre Pocari Sweat…yessss!!
Japanese efficiency takes over and we’re out of the apartment before we know it. The plan is Akihabara, Yasukuni-Jinja Yushukan and record shops. Akihabara, or “Electric Town”, is an area of Tokyo bustling with manga and otaku culture, discount electric items and common-or-garden kitschy awesomeness in general. We stroll around being typical gaijin dicks and marveling at the odd products available. We visit a massive electrics store and fuck around with cutting-edge technology (3DTVs are amaaaazing!!) and Christina gets a fantastic new camera with a ninja lens and all the accessories for a massive discount price. We take the train over towards Yasukuni-Jinja Yushukan and walk up to the shrine and museum; there’s a temple commemorating Japan’s wardead and a museum with stuff like a Zero Fighter, mini kamikaze sub and human torpedos. Many of the exhibits have English text included and there’s an unsettlingly defiant attitude towards Japan’s imperial history; any of those familiar with atrocities on the scale of the Nanjing massacre will probably find it somewhat distasteful. Then again, Japan is probably the most awesome country in the world so it’s fair enough that they should have a superior attitude.
We then head to Shinjuku and I get an amazing dinner set for only about 650 yen whilst Jakob and Christina head up to Disk Union for some record shopping and the others take a walk and end up getting some Indian food. Everyone else in the band is either vegan or vegetarian, and there’s no way I’m settling for insipid veggie muck every day when there’s culinary delights on the scale which Nippon has to offer. Ah, that’s not entirely fair, but if you want to eat anything interesting, you won’t find much in the way of veggie fare, nevermind vegan options. Afterwards I go on up to Disk Union, even though I’d decided not to…there’s too many quality records available in Japanese record shops and I’m on a tight budget, so it’s torturously tempting. But ultimately impossible to resist, and I end up buying GBH, Blitz and World Burns To Death LPs. Whilst new releases are generally more expensive than Europe or the U.S. on vinyl (anything from 800 to 1200 yen for a 7” –about £7-£10), secondhand records can be found that’ll blow your head off. Rare, unusual or hard-to-find classic LPs often for under £5.
We head back towards Koenji in a state of euphoric shock at our surroundings…if you didn’t get the picture already, Tokyo is a constant barrage of sensory rapture.
We go to Record Shop Boy but I’m all vinyled out and get nothing, though I do bump into an old mate, Makoto, an icon of Japanese lunacy. By the time we’re done with all this I’m pretty wrecked, so we get a few cans of chu-hi and head back up to Shinya’s place to chill out. Chu-hi is amazing; it’s basically sour lemon soda except with 8% alcohol, totally indiscernible in the taste. Dangerous shit! On the way we take a look in the singer from Rocky & The Sweden’s clothes shop; it’s amazing, all sorts of excellent punk gear, but mad expensive. Ah well.
After a few hours we go out to meet Derry and Laura, some mates from Ireland who’ve recently moved to Tokyo, and then onto an awesome little bar called Riot Café. The owner is a total madman; he's soon rechristened Roco due to his general craziness. Don’t you know I roco!!? Wada turns up and we meet a bunch of the dudes from Isterismo and drink a fuckload of shochu in all sorts of flavours…mango, cranberry, banana, apple, lemon, acerola, etc. Then it’s on to the sake, followed by beer…I’ve got a headache from all the smoke, since it’s legal to smoke inside public buildings in Japan, plus smokes are really cheap so seemingly everyone is a smoker. It gets fucking mental sometimes, especially for those who’re now used to smoke-free environments. Well, you know what they say…when in Lome, so I get on the menthol wagon and bum a few off Derry. Ah, minty fresh…just as good as going for a hike up a mountain. This gorgeous cutey wants to talk to us, as she had an ex-boyfriend from Denmark and is curious…very curious. She speaks good English and wants to know where I’m staying and if I’ll bring her to our gig on a date. Oh lordy. I tread water. She asks if I have a girlfriend. I tell her I do. She looks disappointed. When we’re leaving she kisses me on the cheek. She’s gorgeous. This monogamy business is tougher than buggery…
Myself and Jæppe go back with So to his place along with Isterismo’s guitarist, picking up a few more chu-hi on the way, while the others go back to Shinya’s. So’s gaff is fuckin tiny. He plays us the new D-Clone recordings for the split with Nerveskade he’s got coming up, and gives us copies of his new releases and some other stuff, and we’ve an interesting conversation about Japanese attitudes to homosexuality. Go to sleep on the fold-out sofa…
Day Twenty-One: January 20th
Wake up around 12 after the best sleep in weeks…energy!! Both myself and Jæppe have a had a night of raucous sex dreams…mine were madly homoerotic, involving a ton of bumsex and BJs, whilst his involved having dirty toilet sex with a black girl while her mates cheered them on… Christ alone knows what we got up in our sleep whilst sharing that sofa bed, but it’s probably best left undiscovered.
We walk down towards Koenji station and get some breakfast. So also orders a shochu and they accidentally make two, so I get one for free. It tastes like a tonic water on ice with about three shots of vodka in it. Then we walk to Shinya’s but there’s no-one there, so we have a walk around and look in some shops…we find some hilarious soft porn and a children’s book with highly questionable illustrations. Come into my mind indeed... I buy a tiny miniature Lego guitar: coool!
After a couple of hours we head back and finally meet Hiro!! There’d been complications in the month leading up to the tour’s beginning, with Hiro having to go into hospital with a mysterious lung disease, seemingly quite serious. Language barriers mean that I’ve not been able to find out what the problem is, so I’ve been pretty worried about what it could be. It’s great to see him and he seems healthy and in good form; we find out that it was TB…holy crap. He’d had an operation and will be on a buttload of pills for the next six months.
It’s time to get down to venue and soundcheck; the nerves start to jangle…I’ve not really been genuinely nervous for a show in years, even when it’s been big stages with 1,000+ or whatever. But this is fucking Japan. The standard here is out of this world; 90% of bands, even if not your cup of tea, are still absolutely at the peak of their game. We’re a bunch of intercontinental wastoids with more crazy ambition then good sense…bound to fail!
Things here are conducted with the utmost efficiency; everything is bang on time, everyone must work together to get the job done and group harmony tends to override individual preference at every turn. We drive to Zone-B in Hiro’s van, load in, and then arse around for a couple of hours before soundchecking at 5pm. It’s an old ‘70s Marshall I’ll be using; every venue has their own backline, but there’s only one JCM 900 and Christina gets it, so I plug the Metalzone in and work on the sound for a while. It’s pretty hard to find a balance between dull fuzz and a trebly mess, but we end up with a decent sound, particularly nasty, loud and overloaded with high-end though it is. If anything the soundcheck and unusual sound just makes me more nervous…
People start turning up and we drink a few chu-hi. Tonight is So’s gig and it’ll also be a release show for the two new EPs on his label; as such, also on the bill are Unarm and ATF, along with Isterismo…they’re gonna make mincemeat of us!
There’s starting to be a pretty big crowd, the Tokyo crusties turning out in force, and I meet a few characters from my last trip.
Isterismo kick off and it’s a total holocaust of noise chaos; barely punk in fact, it’s more on the total noise end of the spectrum. Earsplitting frequencies and damaging noise, I’m wishing I hadn’t lost my earplugs in Australia. More drinks and ATF follow; they’re amazing, coming across live as something along the lines of Axegrinder and Doom with a touch of Hellhammer. Real songs and some great hooks…it’s starting to get pretty intimidating.
By this stage I’m feeling in such state of hypertension that it’s as if I’m coming up on something. Then Unarm are up and it goes through the roof; utterly incredible, they blow our fucking heads off, going completely bananas onstage, their tiny singer Nanae smashing about like a possessed doll whilst the guitar player is too far off his head to even bother playing his guitar half the time. It’s amazing. But unfortunately then we have to play…
I’m unconvinced that anyone will give a shit for our more structured, linear approach, with the norm amongst bands of our type over here being to have a much more chaotic, noise-ridden sound. Yet they do…in fact, people go fucking mental. We play one of the best shows we ever have, and at the risk of seeming conceited, we… fucking… destroy. It’s amazing and afterwards we’re all fucking buzzed, in great humour aswell as immensely relieved…it’s gonna be okay after all.
Naturally, it’s time to get fucking ratarsed.
There’s gorgeous vegan food at the bar upstairs, specially prepared by some of Unarm and Isterismo, with the Japanese tradition being to party with food and drinks after the gig. Drunk as a monkey's arsehole, a bunch of us take the metro back to Koenji whilst others go in the van. It’s chaos, our raucous behaviour at odds with the polite and humble innocent bystanders unfortunate enough to share our metro carriage. Oh but what fun…we get back to Koenji and go to an Izakaya somewhere and I vaguely remember something involving a lot of Asahi, eggs and chicken. So is utterly shitfaced, passed out on a table. An American girl has accompanied us, Kate, and she’s particularly loud. At some point we leave. The others go back to Shinya’s and somehow myself, Timmy, Nanae, So and Kate end up going to another bar…I have vague memories of some kind of leisure facility? A swimming pool perhaps? More drinks. More chaos. More of So passing out. Eventually we’re back at So’s place and myself and Timmy pass out on the sofa bed as I gently fondle his swollen gonads.
Day Twenty-Two: January 21st
We have to get up pretty early to head to Sendai for tonight’s show at Birdland. So is cataplectic from the alcohol and we can elicit little other than squeals and meeps from him, so the rest of us leave him be and head towards Shinya’s. We meet the others outside Freshness Burger, which has fast become a daily port of call for the others since they offer both tofu and beanburgers. Forgetting my moratorium on American muck (or any other non-Japanese food, for that matter) I get a spam burger and a cheese burger. The spam burger is mostly because I’m still drunk and it seems funny, but it actually turns out to be pretty nice. It’s also got a fried egg in. We’re in a hurry to get on the road, so I dash to a convenience store and get a 2-litre of Pocari Sweat. Dude fuckin hell yeah.
For the uninitiated, Pocari Sweat is an “ion-replacement drink” of dubious authenticity, but it actually works…every drop that goes into you feels like hardcore rehydration, and since I still don’t need to piss three hours after drinking the whole thing then I guess it works?
We’re in two separate small vans for the first part of the tour, so Jakob & Christina go with the others, whilst the rest of us travel with Wada and Shinya. It gets colder and colder as we head North, driving through huge white-capped mountains and curiously squared-away snow-clad plains. The rest stops here are mental, full of families and truckers all milling about eating various mad stuff. And they’ve got free brown rice tea, which is pretty good.
We get to Sendai a little bit before dark; it’s a city of over 1,000,000 people but compared to Tokyo it’s like a little village. The venue is awesome, Bird Land, a punk club with really decent sound and a perfect size. We load the shit in and I get a chu-hi in and we soundcheck and it’s great…I get to use a Dual Rectifier and it sounds utterly slaying, nice!! Timmy’s gonna go for a stroll and I decie to head with him and before we know it all of NDT and Crucial Section is in on it and it turns into another case of massive group walk lowest-common-denominator waiting around and going nowhere…impossible to find somewhere to eat and we eventually get a coffee…and then we have to be back in the venue and stroll back. But it’s nice to see a small bit of Sendai.
As soon as we’re back I run off on my own and find a little ramen shop and get a bowl of really average ramen; the worst food I’ve had eating out in Japan. Not that bad, just boring…for 700 yen it’s a disappointment. And disappointing food pisses me off.
So I go back and get some Asahi and the bands are starting. Desperdicio are up first and I’ve been told they play Spanish style raw punk; sort of, but not really. They’re still good but pretty much standard d-beat. Next up are Boltstein and they’re fun, but not anything you’d listen to at home…joke-grind with a thrashy edge. Nah. But fun to watch. Then it’s Last Judgment, a mix of ‘90s Rev style hardcore with a bit of Japcore unexpectedness. Not bad to watch but mostly whatever. Conversation Zero follow and they’re actually pretty great, a bunch of sex-obsessed 20-somethings who mostly shout about manko. They’re a mix of U.S. melodic hardcore ala Strung Out, Slick Shows and early NOFX, all incredibly good at their instruments and with a certain charm. It’s mad how this kind of pop-punk in the 21st century tends to be more musically proficient than most metal bands. There’s one more band before us and it’s really getting a bit much…should have been half the bands, but anyway, Detour wheel out their weak Saves The Day meets weak Taking Back Sunday melodic punk and their best bit is that that one of their songs sounds like they’re singing “we’re so gay”.
We’re all a bit wrecked from the mad wait to play plus the drive and the hangover so Timmy, Adam and I get tequila shots before we play…they’re frickin massive, and they do the trick.
We set up and start and the sound is awesome; it’d been hard to hear what was going on at Zone-B but it’s crystal clear here and it makes it so nice to play. We get really hard into it and we’re playing more intensely than I can ever remember, feeling it more than any time before except for perhaps the first tour. I’m drunk as fuck but we’ve had consecutive shows now such that even drunk as fuck I’m not fucking up. Except for dropping the plec, knocking the leads out of the pedal and pulling the strap off my guitar…but I tell myself that’s from the intensity of attacking the instrument rather than the tequila and that’s good enough for me. People really get into it and go mental, and afterwards we’re buzzin again; getting complacent now with every show being so excellent: SKETCH.
There’s this one kid in a hilarious hat, who gets really embarrassed when I want photos with him. He knows that the logo is a bit of a no-no, and so he spends the evening looking a bit scared no matter how much I tell him that I just think it’s funny. Then again, he does ask what would happen if he wore it to a punk gig in Europe and my response probably doesn’t make him feel any less worried...
The promoter has organized amazing vegan food for after the show, so tables are brought out and the ubiquitous promoter’s war-chant takes place and we tuck in. Some chap gives me a go of his whiskey and I show appreciation; before I know it he’s back with a full bottle for me and won’t take it back…oh-oh. Then the barkeep whips out an industrial-sized bottle of Sake and we’ve no choice but to be polite. Someone gives some weird yellow wasabi to Jæppe and he makes the mistake of giving it to me…it immediately ends up squirted all over him…he grabs it and squirts it back, INTO MY FRICKIN EYE. It burns. I run to the toilets and wash my eye out and it’s okay after a little while.
We meet various madsers and find out how Sendai’s mainly a university type town. Lots of engineers. Some real nice people. Eventually it’s time to go back to the house of this dude who had a distro with some of the filthiest manga I’ve ever seen; as far as I can figure out, it’s about an invisible chap who’s dick is visible, and he spends most of his time perving on girls who, coincidentally, tend to spend most of their time hanging out in changing rooms, at the beach, or masturbating themselves and each other. He gives us a present of a load of DVDs of porno!? We head back to his house around 4am and find out we have to get up at 8am…he’s got a full room of mattresses and sleeping bags, so we crash out ASAP. But not until after Jæppe commits a massive faux pas by lighting incense and candles for duder's dead realtives. Oh dear…
Day Twenty-Three: January 22nd
Wake up dead at fuck o’clock, still drunk and grisly as a bear with a wounded arse. Get slightly annoyed at people for telling me to get up. Oh dear. Go downstairs and get into the van, feeling slightly guilty for not partaking in extended goodbyes with the various playas. We drive out of city and I drop off for an hour or so…lulls me into a false sense of rest and I get coffee and a weird pastry thing. It tastes like a donut but it’s full of curry!! It’s really nice! Then I have another one. It’s the same except including a bloody poached egg!! Weird as fuck!!
We get back to Tokyo around 1.30pm; today is Hiro’s show, United Thrash Night No. 73, with a particularly diverse line-up. He needs to get down there early to sort everything out, but we’re in the same groups as yesterday so myself and the lads head back to Shinya’s with Wada. We’re scheming to find a way that we can manage to get away off down Tokyo before the gig…it’s frickin Saturday and we want to head down to Harajuku and watch all the cosplay teens and other assorted madsers running around. Might aswell try and climb Mount Everest; there’s no way the lads will leave us off to get the train ourselves, despite the fact that we know the way fine. It’s around 2pm and their plan is to leave for the venue at 3pm. We say they should just go ahead and we’ll take the train and meet them there. They eventually agree…as long as we get to the venue by 4pm, latest. We discuss it with them, confused as to why we need to be there at 4pm when the show starts at 6pm and we don’t need to soundcheck. We never quite figure out but we just have to be there. Everything’s way too much hassle so we just capitulate and say we’ll go at 3pm…I’m lucky enough to get in a shower, a shave and two minutes to spike my hair before we go…aaargh, Japan time!!! Busy busy busy!!
We get down there and there’s nothing going on so we sneak off as soon as possible and roam around the area. It’s pretty cool, there’s a Saturday market going on at a nearby temple with various curious characters insisting we try their funny foods and suchlike. People are so curious and friendly here; they hang back and never initiate conversation, but if you show an interest they’re more than happy to buzz with you for a bit. I get some takoyaki (squidballs) and it’s defo time for a chu-hi; almost 5.30pm so we head back.
First up is Punk & Disorderly, who I’d been particularly keen to see. I’d heard it was members of Discocks and Tom & Boot Boys, though it turns out it’s only the singer. They do a few of their own songs and covers of stuff like Peter & The Test Tube Babies, and though Nori is pretty good, his backing band is young and inexperienced…the drummer’s adding in shit that 1-2-3-4 punk definitely does not need and it’s hard not be irritated. They’re followed by Stagnation, who I’m not that into…an experimentally melodic approach to raw punk that’s commendable but doesn’t get me going.
Next up are Life…one of my favourite Japanese crust bands of all time. They don’t disappoint; their bassist Nori (a different Nori, also of Screw Within and previously Nightmare) gives the maddest performance I’ve ever seen and doesn’t miss a note. He’s seriously attacking the bass as if hellbent on its complete destruction. In fact, he keeps accidentally whacking their guitarist over the head with it, who doesn’t look too happy. It’s over all too soon but fuck, what a band. They’re followed by Vivisick, again a band who do little for me. Next up is Unkind (not the Finnish one) and they’re AWESOME. Total raw d-beat assault, like a less noisy Framtid, with some great hooks and really memorable songs. They’re all frickin nuts, only three of them but they make a hell of a racket.
The bassist/singer keep screaming at the crowd and standing on the monitors looking like she’s gonna batter someone, except that she’ smiling all the time and seems to be having a ridiculous amount of fun. The singer’s a funny bastard, shouting “Nuclear Death Terror –welcome to China!!” which gets a big laugh out of people. No idea why I’ve not checked this band out before. We head out for more drinks and I get a little snack of octopus tentacles...naturally there's only one thing to be done...CTHULUPUNX!!
When we go back in it's Fuck On The Beach; I’ve not been interested in grind for quite a while now and this doesn’t change the fact, but their power violencey approach is good to see live. Finally it’s time for Crucial Section, who I’ve been looking forward to see for ages. They’re incredible; intense beyond measure. They seemingly spend more time in the air than on the ground and have a rake of huge thrash anthems. It’s all the more impressive for the fact that they’ve not rehearsed for two months and that Hiro’s just out of hospital…can’t imagine how full-on they must be when on top form.
Then it’s time for us dickheads.
It starts off great and the trend towards ever-heightened intensity continues…then Timmy’s snare breaks. FUCK. He borrows a snare and we continue, but the energy’s sapped and we have to build it all back up from below even the initial starting point. Frustration. It takes half the set to get back into it, and the last few songs are great, but it’s just not on the same level as the past couple of nights and I can’t help but feel some disappointment.
Afterwards we hang out and drink with the punks, there’s some food, whiskey and chu-hi, but no-one’s really on for a big one…we’ve to get up at 8am again for the drive to Nagoya. We head back to Shinya’s to get our stuff and split up - myself, Jæppe and Adam go with Hiro out to his place in the Akitsu suburb, and the other three stay at Shinya’s. We get there just after 2am but I can’t sleep. Drop off sometime after 3am.
Day Twenty-Four: January 23rd
We get a bit of a sleep in to the grand old hour of 8.30am. Ah, bliss. The others aren’t budging and Hiro’s keen to get on the road so I pull the covers off and tell ‘em to get their arses in gear. I head downstairs and briefly meet Hiro’s family, off out the door to baseball practice. It’s great to see Kato, his adorable little boy…three years old and cute as hell. Japanese kids are the cutest things in the world…so funny. His mate is there too to help with the driving to Nagoya, so we get into the van and on the road by 9am.
It’s a long drive to even leave the Tokyo area. Can’t sleep. We get out onto the highway and stop sometime around 11am for a break. It’s a massive gas station/rest area with all sorts of shops, stalls and restaurants. Seems everyone’s out for their Sunday trip, families of all ages and, needless to say, the omnipresent array of audacious cuties. I get some garlic and leek yakitori and it’s pretty good, but the chicken’s a bit too much for that early…so I get some fish sushi. Yum!! It’s excellent and feels so healthy!!
Back on the road and drive is spectacular. Through the mountains with Fuji-san growing nearer in the distance from miles away. It’s a gorgeously clear, cold sunny morning…perfect for Fuji-viewing. It’s snowy peaks are mightily impressive and I make a pact with myself to climb it some day. Imagine the view from up there… The drive continues along the coast and it’s highly enjoyable, the sparkling sea to the south contrasting with the steep, pine-blanketed slopes to the north.
We arrive in Nagoya around 3.30pm, greeted outside the venue by something I never imagined: screaming fans looking for autographs. Well, screaming fan looking for autographs. And actually she wasn’t screaming, she was really polite and quiet, though excited. Know what the best part is…? She didn’t even come to the gig! She just collects autographs! Ah, Japan…
It’s great to see Leader (Hidehito) again, as he’d been an awesome host on my last trip. He’ll be driving us for the next three shows, and following the Nagoya show we’ll have a day off at his gaff before going to Osaka to the recording studio on Wednesday. We load in and I meet one of the chaps from Chaos Channel and some of the other bands and everyone’s really friendly. Leader’s partner Barbara (a nickname, not her real name…) has prepared some great food for us that Leader’s brought down, so we get a bit of that into us and myself and Leader head off to find a public phone so I can call Anji. We try a few of them but it’s impossible to figure out calling codes and suchlike so we say we’ll leave it till tomorrow. Back towards the venue with a stop at a department store for a 3-pack of fresh socks and a 6-pack of Asahi…perfect.
We soundcheck and it’s great, really good sound and friendly helpful soundmen. Why is it that 90% of soundmen in Europe are total dicks and 90% of soundmen in Japan are supremely competent and friendly? The show’s on at Huck Finn, a legendary Nagoya punk venue with a history of 30+ years…great atmosphere and lay-out, with a nice bar upstairs.
I meet Rafael from Darge, a total legend who I’d hung out with last time and stayed in contact with. He’s Brazilian, though one of his grandparents is Japanese. There’s actually a sizeable proportion of Brazilians amongst Nagoya's population of nine million, as the two countries enjoy a symbiosis with a high crossover since the post-war period. Unfortunately, Brazilians here seem to have something of a second-class status, with little integration and an acceptance which seems reluctant at best, despite the fact that you’ll find, for example, subway directions and other place markers printed in Portuguese alongside their Japanese counterparts. The city is the capital of Aichi Prefecture, Japan’s industrial heartland. Ranked alone, the area is one of the top 20 global economies…guess who provides the labour. We chat for a good while outside and drink a few beers before it’s time for the gig to start.
First up are Acute and they’re pretty excellent; their singer is this little schizoid maniac, jumping around the place and going totally rasher. It’s a slightly experimental take on crusty punk, though enjoyable. They’re followed by Ada+Max, of whom I’ver heard a lot. I miss a couple of minutes due to changing my strings (last night’s broken snare was an omen if ever there was one, and I’m not going more than three shows without a string-change), and walk in to the venue to the most astonishing display of adeptness from their guitarist, a total legend who completely wails on his axe while their singer runs around squealing in madness. Crossover thrash is what’s on offer and it is sweeeeet.
Chaos Channel come next, a band I’ve been particularly looking forward to. They exceed my expectations, playing a fantastic mess of noise that’s something akin to Crass and Flux Of Pink Indians in a blender with New Order and Joy Division. Their drummer has no bass drum, and stands up for the whole show hitting an array of toms, cymbals and a snare along to a recorded drum track. He occasionally gets on top of the PA and basically just drops off face-first, hoping the crowd will catch him. They do. It’s amazing, maybe my favourite live band so far.
I go up to the bar and get a pint of Yebisu, a stout from Tokyo. It’s expensive but I’m keen to try a Japanese pint of the black stuff, Guinness being my tipple of choice. To be honest, nearly every stout I’ve tried other than Guinness or Murphys is, to some degree, piss-water. Yebisu bucks the trend –it’s silken and gorgeous, leading me agree with their cheeky label –“what a creamy taste!”.
Back down to the venue and it’s time for Darge. They’re so good –brutal Brazilian styled metalpunk ala Lobotomia with a touch of Japanese hardcore for good measure. Whiplash-inducing thrash, I like it. Hopefully they'll be in Europe later this year...you need to check them out.
A quick warm-up on guitar before the last band which precedes us, Disgust. I’d been expecting some kind of metal/grind, but in fact it’s raging E.N.T. styled crustcore. Really really good, they’re intense and punishing, both the singer and guitarist making raids into the crowd to great effect.
Time for a massive tequila from the bar and we head on. Set-up and it’s all good, I’m really looking forward to this. From the get-go it feels excellent and once again our personal standards go through the roof with the whole band tighter and harder than ever –SEXUAL. Yet the crowd seem a little bit reserved; maybe it’s cos it’s a Sunday night and work tomorrow, maybe it’s cos of a low guitar volume as Jakob reports afterwards, or maybe it’s just cos we’re not that good. Either way, we have a great time and from peoples’ reactions afterwards they seem to have genuinely loved it.
I’ve got a mad hankering for the ganja so I ask a few people and no dice. But then the Chaos Channel boys come good and I head off with a few of them and the dude who does this. We ascend an elevator to a roof carpark and smoke up…oh shit, it’s pure weed, no baccy…we go back down to street level and within 10 minutes I am utterly mongoloid, mangled, bickeyed off my tits. It’s glorious. But pretty soon I have to remind myself not to get paranoid…as if Japan wasn’t mad enough already. Stuff that usually seems perfectly fine begins to take on deep, sinister meaning…colours intensify and shadows deepen…everyday objects and siutations become invested with seemingly infinite hilarity…there’s a large turtle in a small watertank by the door of the pub and C & J both separately point out how fucked it is…my post-vegan stoned paranoid head starts feeling guilty. If only I hadn’t eaten that chicken yakitori then perhaps animals just like this one could be freeee! People are being really nice and friendly in the typical semi-formal manner of Japanese folks who don’t speak much English, but I start going off on a socio-political rollercoaster ride in my head, comparing the warmth and friendliness of the Brazilian dudes to their very different adopted countrymen…my brain is in meltdown.
We need to sort out how we’re to get back to Leader and Barbara’s gaff, as we’ll be going in both a van and a taxi. A fairly simple affair, really. Yet in my intergalactic state it seems to take on cyclopean proportions, and I get a bit more paranoid that as the chief contact and organiser I’m supposed to be sorting this all out when I’m completely incapable due to being a monged mess. Obviously all that happens is that we wait for Leader to bring the van around and then the others get a taxi. But it seems like Hannibal’s conquest of Europe due to its scope and inventiveness. All the way back to Leader’s I make a tit of myself by continually pointing out to Jæppe and Adam how amazing it is that buildings are so symmetrical. To me it’s perfectly clear that the aligned symmetry of a Japanese city at night reflects the social organization of the Japanese people and all sorts of other gibberish, but I’m unable to express myself adequately. FOR THE RECORD, there is an amazing symmetry to Japanese cities, ESPECIALLY at night when they’re all lit up. So there.
We get back to the house and by this stage it’s mostly worn off; I’m back on Earth and able to talk sensibly. Holy crap, those last two hours were intense. There’s more food for the punx, so we have a few beers, tuck into some awesome rice and potato balls and watch old Japanese punk videos. Everyone’s wrecked and falling asleep around the table…I go to sleep something past 2am.
Day Twenty-Five: January 24th
Oh sweet glorious slumber, how I’ve missed you!! We get a massive lie-in until after 12pm and it’s GORGEOUS. We’ve got a day off in Nagoya, so after a nice shower and a great breakfast of a tomatoey chickpea soup we leave the flat to take a look around Nagoya. First up is a huge temple, situated in a really peaceful area of thousand-year-old trees, though we’re mostly interested in the stack of sake barrels. Umai!!
From there we catch the subway downtown and begin perusing various record shops. I get an Indecision LP that I was crazy into when I was a teenager, for a measly 300 yen. That’s about £2. Strangely, I’d just been talking about this record to Timmy a few weeks ago when we were listening to HHIG’s Monuments... album, which is a mutual favourite…I still hear new stuff listening to it even now, over ten years after first getting it. The Indecision album (Release The Cure, if you’re cureious –hi-ohhh, see what I did there!?), as I remember it, had a similar atmosphere of apocalyptic terror, though this was before I’d heard any proper crust or black metal, so who knows how it’s stood the test of time…but now I can find out, for just 300 yenaroonies! After that we hit up another record store and I get a Misfits LP for pocket change.
We stroll down to the main shopping district, or “crazy town” as Jæppe renames it, and it’s awesome, all sorts of nutty little stores everywhere selling wacky clothes, mad shoes and cool jewelry. Everyone’s getting pretty hungry, so Leader brings us to an Indian restaurant. Then I get in a bad mood.
Look, I have nothing but respect for those who are vegan or vegetarian; I spent almost a decade in the same boat. I’m not interested in getting into the reasons why I got out of said boat, mainly since I unintentionally sunk the fuckin thing for some poor vegan a few years back who wanted to discuss my lack-of-veganity and ended up convinced to hop on the meat wagon. But anyway, I’m getting carried away here, the point is that I am not under any circumstances interested in eating Indian food in Japan. If I was in India, I would only eat Indian food. (except for one time when I got a pizza after getting sick of curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a month). If I were in Poland or somewhere else with a similarly dubious “cuisine” then yes, I’d eat foreign food. But I’m in JAPAN. I want to eat JAPANESE food. Never mind the fact that it’s so frickin’ delicious. Even if I was still vegan, it’d be tofu, rice balls and noodles all the way. I don’t want no stinkin’ curry. Okay, rant over…soapboxes aren’t for standing on, they’re for the stuff you spike your hair with.
So, I get into a bad mood, not just cos of the food but because I’m still really tired and also pretty hungry. Yes, I know I’m a selfish moron. Anyway, I get a curry, which is decent enough but nothing special, and it helps the mood a bit, but I nevertheless make a silent pact with myself that I won’t eat a single bite in another restaurant unless it’s Japanese food. Food’s not just a matter of life and death –it’s way more important than that!
Afterwards we separate, since C&J are up for more record store action and the rest of us are more inclined towards wandering around crazy town and checking out the randomness. We go into some amazing toy shops and I get a cool action figure, Jæppe buys a sexy second-hand jumper with a print of wild stallions going nuts on it, and we have a nice coffee in some fancy place. There’s a hilarious hippy shop with all sorts of great mystical Far Eastern crap and I can’t resist buying a cheapo brass ring covered in a certain infamous symbol that was fairly popular in parts of Europe around 70 years ago. It gives me a green ring on my finger so I take it off pretty soon, but it’s a funny souvenir all the same… We go into an arcade and I have a go on Street Fighter Zero, getting through four matches on 50 yen before losing…boo-urns. Then it’s time to meet up with the others and head back to Leader’s for a punky gyoza party that Tomoko (Barbara) is preparing for lucky old us. The food is fanatastic, there’s also a spicy beancurd stew that’s excellent, and we wash it all down with a few beers and some shochu while watching more old Japanese punk videos. There’s a particularly fascinating old tape of Leader’s from the ‘80s with a talk show which has an episode titled Punk vs Metal…yesss!! The audience is filled with various luminaries from all your favourite legendary ‘80s Jap punk bands, and Leader translates some of the funnier comments for us. Despite such a calm day, we’re all destroyed from accumulated fatigue and happily head off to bed not long after midnight.
Day Twenty-Six: January 25th
Another much-welcome extended sleep and I’m actually feeling at least semi-human again. The plan is to leave for Osaka this evening since we’ll begin our recording session there early tomorrow morning and want to be well rested. The others are all keen to go back into the city and hang out, while I decide to take advantage of a private space and internet connection to catch up with various real life nonsense. Everyone leaves and I’m all alone…it’s great! Despite being a fairly sociable person I enjoy having a lot of time alone, so any opportunity on tour to have some “Cormy time” is generally snatched up…they’re few and far between.
I spend a useful afternoon updating this fuckin thing and responding to a lot of commissions for magazine articles over the next few months and researching others, though unfortunately being on the road means that a big feature on the imminent new Pentagram album slips through my fingers and is passed on to someone else…fuckin shite. I send a few emails to the promoters in Malaysia and Singapore nailing down the last few details and have a long skype chat with Anji, catching up on her news and discussing a roadtrip we’re planning for when I get back to Aussie. Then I spend a couple of hours putting the finishing touches to the lead guitar parts for all the songs we’re recording tomorrow. Barbara comes home from work and starts preparing more food for this evening and to bring with us for tomorrow…she’s a culinary superhero!! I spend the last few hours before the others return transferring and choosing photos for the blog…with three cameras on the go we’ve well over a thousand shots so far! A daunting prospect!
The dudes get back and we’re served up an absolutely amazing meal of Okonomiyaki, or a Japanese pizza-pancake as it’s otherwise known. Sooo good! We’re already stuffed when Leader brings out a huge plate of fried noodles…but we manage to make some space. Just to be polite, of course. So much good food!! The others are particularly excited about all this, since it’s difficult to get authentic Japanese food that’s vegan…it’s out there, but most of the battle is in figuring out what’s in the ingredients. We’re gonna leave as much stuff as possible in Nagoya since Leader’s van doesn’t have a lot of extra room, so we pack up, wave goodbye to Barbara and get going. It’s hard to get used to the lack of physicality here; you never ever see people kiss, or even touch, and it’s rare to see people hold hands. Just give us a proper fuckin hug, goddamit! None of this back-patting nonsense! I’m not a frickin dog!! Well, actually…
It’s 10pm when we leave and the drive is uneventful, the best part being able to listen to the Alliance album twice…can’t wait to play with them! There’s a flurry of snow and Leader drives like a maniac all the way, even managing to crash into a lamp-post when we arrive in Osaka! It’s not a long drive, and we get there just after 1am. We pull up outside the new Punk & Destroy shop in the Americamura district, just a short walk from where the old shop is, and are greeted by a sleepy Shin. It’s great to see him again. The new shop’s even better than the old one, which was already one of the best punk record shops in the world. So much great, great stuff and at prices which are more-than-reasonable. As soon as we have the gear dragged in, said hi and opened a beer, everyone’s rifling through the racks before someone else gets there first and snaps up all that rare exotic awesomeness. Christina beats me to it on a few items, and despite trying to be careful with money, I still end up spending almost 7,000 yen…the deals are just too good and the trio of Neurosis records plus stuff by Contrast Attitude and State Of Fear are stuff I know I’ll listen to again and again and won’t ever come across for those prices, if at all (I don’t use Ebay…it’s only for hoarder collector perverts).
We’re all totally stoked to be in Osaka and have a bit of a thirst on…never mind getting a good rest before the recording, let’s go to Bar Konton and fucking drink!! For those who’ve not heard of it, Konton (Japanese for “chaos”) is a tiny little bar synonomous with the Osaka crust scene, a place I’d long imagined as key to the crasher crust sound native to the city which was pioneered by Gloom, streamlined and popularised by Framtid. Back in the day it’s where everyone would come down and get pissed on beer and sake, watch old punk and metal videos and check out all the latest records.
We walk through the night-time streets and it’s awesome!! Fuck, I love Osaka!! If Nagoya is the stern but fair dad, Kyoto the gracious geisha mum and Tokyo the spoilt screaming teenager of the family, Osaka is the eccentric little brother, hangin out doing his own thing, not giving a fuck about how weird you think he is. There’s all these totally fruity little bars and shops around the place, like nothing you’ve ever seen…I’m seriously gonna move here some day.
We file down the stairs and all around the scary concrete corridors, straight out of a Japanese horror movie, and then we’re there…KONTOOOON!! Hatamaka from Zyanose is behind the bar and an old friend of Shin’s is there too. He’s a movie director who Shin used to live with; they stopped being mates after the both fell for the same girl 15 years ago, but made up after they both got her…hah! I’d met Hatamaka in the very same place on my last trip to Osaka, when we got monged and stayed up till 6am playing computer games at this amazing little bar upstairs called Bar Continue which has every fucking console and handheld ever invented…sooo good!! Shin gets the beers in and even Jakob buys a round and we’re having a fuckin blast. Videos of Bad Brains, Amebix, Axegrinder and Black Sabbath are on the telly and Hatamaka’s playing fast and loose with the sake and Jaeger…eventually someone happens to check their watch when we’re about to get another round in and we realize it’s after 4am…fuck! We do the sensible thing and head back to get a couple hours kip before we’ve to get up. We’re sleeping on the floor of Punk & Destroy II…I’d thought we were booked into the studio from 9am, but it turns out it’s 11am, so we should be all right. I can’t sleep for a while since I’m way too excited, my head busy with going over the lead parts and extra tricky bits I want to add in…holy fuck!! We’re recording in Japan!!! At the same place where so many of my favourite records were made!! Outo, Cobra, Laughin Nose, Framtid, GLOOM!! AAAAAARRRGH!!!
Day Twenty-Seven: January 26th
Today is the day… Not too much trouble waking up since it’s like Christmas friggin morning, though I definitely need a coffee. We get our shit together fairly handy and head down from P&DII to Freshness Burger, where Shin’s already ordered us a bunch of tofu burgers, fries and coffee. I KNOW, I KNOW –say nothin. It's delish, and who wants fish for breakfast anyway?
We get our shit together and take a walk through Osaka with our gear to the subway. Cutie holocaust. And then…Studio 246!! We meet the engineer, Mr. Hara, and his assistant engineer. Mr. Hara’s a long-time associate of Shin’s, meaning that it takes a lot of the usual stiff politeness out of the equation and we can easily communicate our wishes…a dicey business with studio engineers at the best of times, nevermind across a language barrier. They both seem really nice. Then it’s time to select amps, as there’s quite a choice. In the absence of any Laney amps, Christina goes for a Mesa Boogie, I opt for a Marshall, while Jæppe takes a Hartke. We spend half an hour or so tweaking the settings and come up with a sound we’re very happy with, and then take a break while the engineers set up. I’m getting a bit nervous, though this is perhaps the best prepared we’ve ever been for a recording…on the road with these songs for almost a month, we could play ‘em in our sleep.
Everything’s ready and we head in; it’s the most professional set-up I’ve ever encountered, taking all the pain out of what can at times be a fairly daunting experience. We’ll record all the basic tracks together, with the two guitar amps in one separate room and the bass amp in another. So nice to have the proper facilities for this. We even each have private monitor consoles, with a master dial and four separate dials for each instrument. Genius!! This is what we’re paying for…the cost of this session is far beyond what we’ve ever paid in Sweden or Denmark.
We run through the first song to warm up and check levels and it all sounds good. Adrenaline: what’s committed to tape now, that’s it forever. Let’s do it. We do a take; it’s fucking perfect. Brutal, precise and wild. Little voice in the headphones: ”ehm, there’s a problem…it didn’t record properly…you’ll have to do it again. So sorry.” What the fuck. I’m quietly raging, but say nothing…this is not what we’re paying for. The atmosphere grows tense and I get nervous. We do another take and fuck it up, do it once more and it’s down –fine. Next song, get it on the second take. Third one, get it down first take. Again, the little voice: “So sorry…”. The fucking computer, again. We take a break while Mr. Hara changes the computer to another one.
This is why digital recording sucks. You can’t trust a computer the way you can reel to reel, or tape in general. I’m not one of those trendy audiophile luddites who is instinctually anti-digital…I used to be, but the manner in which the technology has improved over the past decade means that awkward drop-ins and 13 takes for one shitty song are a thing of the past. Pro Tools is fucking awesome, along with the other components that make for a more relaxed process. Recorded music is a sham anyway; it’s never real except for when it’s live, and it’s pretty rare for a studio recording to be completely free from tricks, tweaks and overdubs, no matter if it’s analogue or digital. There is something to be said for the warmth and depth of the analogue sound, but truly, it’s only 1% of hardcore music lovers (only musicians and collectors themselves, really) who will notice the difference. I’ve made 100% digital recordings that I’ve seen praised in reviews as having a beautiful analogue sound. Don’t trust the majority of anti-digitals…they’re only trying to be cult.
The computer is changed and we head back in to finish it off. No problems, it’s down in a few minutes. We re-do the guitars and bass on one tricky section, and then fix a couple of other small errors we notice in playback. By this time it’s after 4pm, and our session only lasts till 7pm, so we need to get on with it. We decide to leave the second rhythm tracks until later, and only do them if time permits. I go in and do the lead guitars, getting them down in half an hour…a far cry from my usual pernickety stressed-out prima donna “only the perfect take” approach. Fuck it, this is crust punk!!
It’s time for the vocals; we realise that due to the particular set-up in 246 that we’ll be able to track the second guitars simultaneously with the vocals. Yessss!! Easy access!! We go for it and it’s piss-easy. Every track in one go (with the exception of one part where I forget to play and do a drop-in after), we’re able to add in some extra little textures while Adam gets his vocals done straight up. I warm up my throat a bit and then go in a do my vocals; again, no problems.
All day Shin and Leader have been working on a translation of the lyrics to one song, which we’re going to do an alternate version of. It’s tricky as fuck, with literally double the syllables to the English version in the Nihongo one. Adam goes in and does his and it’s fucking awesome…he gets it straight down. I do mine and they’re less good. Can’t get the timing. Come out and listen and get the dudes to demonstrate them again. Then I have a funny idea…I go in and do a second take, only this time in a different way to my usual voice…Japanese lyrics, well, they’re gonna have to be done in a Japanese style! Burning crusty spirits!! We’re right down to the wire on this one in terms of time, but we got just enough minutes left to get everyone in the main room for gang vocals on one song. It’s hilarious, and works out pretty good…we pack down the gear, leaving it for Leader to take in a taxi with Mr. Hara, with the plan being that after some food we’ll head down to his other studio in Americamura to do the mix.
I am fuckin buzzing off my head. This has been the best session ever; usually I’m exhausted and pissed off by the end of recording with NDT, nerves fraught and head wrecked. But this was so fuckin painless, other than the early glitch in the computer. In fact, we’re all on a massive high, excited and wild on the streets of Osaka! Chu-hi time!! We get on the subway and head back towards Punk & Destroy II where Jacky Crust War is making us food, there’s a bunch of other people there too, so we hang out, drink, eat and listen to awesome records. Around 10pm we leave for Mr. Hara’s mixing room, stopping in at a hilarious shop below P&DII called Rastaman…they sell various types of legal high joints, so we buy a couple, smoke one, get some more beers and walk the short distance to the studio. By this stage we’re all drunk as hell…perfect state for mixing a record! Altogether we’re there until after 2am with half the band passed out drunk…but it’s far more painless than I would have expected.
Mr. Hara is a genius, seeming to know what we want before we’ve even explained it, and for the most part we don’t need translation help from Shin at all. We end up with a fucking amazing sounding recording…and Timmy, Jæppe and I celebrate back at P&DII with something called a “Monster” from Rastaman. It blows our fuckin heads off. Seriously, I start tripping from it, we’re listening to the recording again and dancing sexy dancehall stabbin-er-up-pon-de-wall stylee, Timmy’s totally losing his head, and it’s all completely bonkers. I stumble around for a while looking for somewhere to sleep until Jakob rescues me and I cuddle up in a messy ball…
Day Twenty-Eight: January 27th
Wake up bleary-eyed and fuck-headed, confused and dry-mouthed to Jakob loudly moaning about how cold it is. Great…me being awake will definitely make things better. I’ve no idea what time it is and we’re lucky enough to have most of the day to hang out in Osaka, so I drag myself up and have the misfortune to catch sight of my ugly mess in the mirror. Holy god…I’m a bloody mess. No-one else is up so I head out and take a walk around the streets. Leader’s up and about and I can see that if I’m caught leaving I’ll be corralled into some kind of vegan nonsense, so I sneak off and find the mankiest, filthiest, most decrepit looking restaurant and go in there. Yes, I know it doesn't look that filthy in the picture...this is bloody Japan, not Beirut.
I don’t recognize anything on the menu and they can’t speak English, but I hear the dude on front of me order tempura and it’s less than 1000 yen so I decide to go for the tempura aswell. There’s no-one else other than myself and the old chap in there, but before the food arrives it begins to fill up with various business types and ladies-who-lunch. Help-yourself green tea goes a good distance to helping me rehydrate. The tempura arrives and it’s diviiiine, proper Japanese lunch set style with a load of different bowls and dishes. I hardly know where to begin…great stuff.
Afterwards I wander back towards P&DII and meet Timmy and we head out to Mandarake, a massive manga shop. Naturally we go straight for the filthy stuff…and it’s far beyond any kind of reasonably perverted smut. This is the proper gnarly shit, highly skeptical stuff altogether. Brilliant, of course, but far too dirty for innocents such as ourselves. We bump into Adam and Jæppe outside and stroll about the area, getting into a delightful little pickle with a brace of adorable cuties in a discount fancy goods shop. We promenade down to a guitar shop selling primarily Gibsons and drool over awesome Flying Vs and SGs, as well as picking up some new strings. Someone stops us and Shin runs over to tell us that we’re going in a minute to some veggie restaurant. We do so, and by this stage I’m feeling particularly awful and still completely monged from the “Monster”, so while the others order salads and things I go and pick up a coffee from a little secondhand bookshop café. It does the trick and I start feeling better immediately, more awake and aware. Still, this legal high shit, it’s too mad…I’ve a mate who works in a headshop in Dublin and used to get us all we wanted of this kind of nonsense, and after a week or two I gave up on it (other than in the case of extreme emergencies) since you actually stay stoned off it for about three days. Nobody wants that! Rastas, maybe. I dunno. Anyway, since we’re on tour and I’ve nothing to do, it doesn’t matter that I’m good naturedly lethargic and spaced-out all day, but it’s still a bit much.
After the others have done with their food we walk around Osaka and find some awesome bullshit in a 100 yen shop…I get a load of Hello Kitty stuff and then we go past this army store with a particularly risqué window display depicting a certain historical leader, so we have to go in for the requisite photo ops. By then it’s getting on in the afternoon, and thus time to head for Tsuyama, where tonight’s show is. But only after spending a buttload more yen on tasty vinyl in P&DII. Tsuyama’s quite a rural area, and a short drive, so we set off shortly before dark…listening to our new recording all the way of course, interspersed with an SDS discography CD I’d not seen before and the Alliance album again. It’s only our second trip in the car with Leader but already after getting halfway there we’re all getting extremely antsy about the, shall we say, unique chauffeurial style. I quickly learn not to ask questions since the wheel tends to follow the eyes, but I’m still getting really fuckin freaked out. One hour to Tsuyama turns into three hours to Tsuyama with some navigational difficulties, but we’re not late or anything so it’s grand.
Instant chu-hi action and we meet the promoter, Yu, who I’d previously been in touch with, a real friendly bubbly sort of a chap. There’s food there for us and it’s decent, so we get some of that in and I pick up a few records and a bunch of zines from the Vox Populi distro. At this stage our own distro is looking fairly pathetic…gone are the reams of awesome merchandise gracing our table at the start of the tour, and we’re left with a sad few patches, the tour CD and one t-shirt design…what a pity, we should have brought so much more stuff.
The gig-space is a tiny rehearsal room in which the sound is frickin deafening, and the crowd are diverse…first up are Massgrave, and their vicious stenchcore attack is completely overwhelming in the confines of the tiny room, with my new Hello Kitty earplugs coming into full-effect to save my ears…slightly. They’re followed by a band whose name I never found out, who I didn’t really like, and then by Akka, who are pretty good…three girls playing aggressive hardcore. Next and last before us are Skizophrenia, far and away the best band of the night. It’s excellent ‘80s European style hardcore and gets the room going pretty wild. It takes us a while to try to come up with a sound on the amps provided, especially since Timmy’s drumming style (read: loud as hell) drowns out everything but my guitar. So we decide it’s better to have only drums and guitar primarily audible than nothing at all. It’s a decent gig, and the sound would certainly have been better for those facing us than it is for us with our backs to our amps, but it’s frustrating nonetheless. My vocals are barely audible and all I can hear is my guitar really loud, plus the drums…still, it’s fun, and instantly Boner City when the bassist from Effigy introduces himself and tells us he drove over two hours to get there since no bands of our style usually come, and that we’re the best crust band he’s ever seen there…yessss!!! Afterwards there’s more food and plenty of drinking and I hang out and talk to the guitarist from Akka for ages. The DJ had previously driven Pisschrist on a Japan tour and was mates with Timmy, and plays an excellent selection of punk and metal...it’s all a lot of fun. I’m still pretty wrecked from the day & night before, so I don’t mind when we head back to sleep at Yu’s house relatively early. It’s a big place, but cold…I finally get up the courage to try the “asshole shower”, as Shin Framtid so endearingly terms it. It's a button on Japanese toilets that makes a little microscopic arm extend from beneath the toilet bowl and…well, use your imagination. It’s tremendous, and I go to sleep happy.
Day Twenty-Nine: January 28th
We get a decent kip in but it’s still too early when Leader comes in and says it’s time to get up…dying for a shower, but there’s a queue, so I’ve to wait…and wait…and wait…and eventually get showered, shaved and clean. Yu’s prepared an excellent tofu miso soup, so after a quick breakfast and a peruse of some awesome 70’s horror manga (some seriously good tattoo ideas in there) we’re on the road again.
This time we’ll be traveling in convoy, since Massgrave are playing the first of tonight’s shows. Yep, the first…tonight we’re gonna be having two shows, the first at Bear’s, the second at P&DII, so it’s going to be a fairly massive day. Deathrace 2000 all the way to Osaka and the way our driver treats the gas pedal you’d swear he was trying to give Michael Flatley a run for his money…I don’t get carsick, but after this, I am.
We get to Osaka in the afternoon and go straight to Bear’s and load in the gear. It’s soundcheck time and the two ladies in charge of the sound are geniuses. Seriously…we each set up our gear, play one song, and it’s perfect through the monitors and out front. So amazing to deal with such professional people and equipment as is the case 90% of the time over here. We have a couple of hours before the gig starts at 6pm, and we’re all keen to have a look round the otaku area nearby so we take a walk down there. We spend a long time in the amazing Astro Zombies, a shop owned by the bass player from City Indian (Japan’s answer to Motorhead) full of all sorts of amazing horror toys, jewellery, t-shirts etc. Last time I managed to confine myself to buying only a set of cast-iron Cthulu buttons, but this time I go all out and spend way too much on a load of really nasty stuff…disgustingly modeled Hell Raiser toys, Godzilla monsters, etc. So good!!
We get back to Bear’s just in time to witness the grand feat of the singer from System Fucker getting his hair put up. It’s easily the best mohawk I’ve ever seen. After spiking my own hair earlier, with Jacky Framtid now doing his foot-long pole spikes alongside this outrageous Mohican, I feel like the kid at an orgy who can’t get a boner. In fact, it’s all a bit intimidating, since we’re about to play with Framtid and System Fucker with the later show being with Zyanose and Nightmare…we’d better be fucking good. Hiro’s driven from Tokyo and is there to help with the onward driving…nice!
Sugi shows up and we meet him, he’s really nice and friendly and seems just as stoked as we are to meet. He’s even wearing one of our shirts, and we give him a load of merchandise and so on as well as a thank you for the artwork he did for us. We’re backstage when this really tall smart looking chap in a pinstripe suit comes in and introduces himself as Tam from Acrostix, I’m flabbergasted, having been thinking “who’s this fucker?” as he really looks the wall street part. He’s real friendly and it’s good to meet him, having been in touch before over email and since it’s Acrotix who’re putting on tomorrow’s show.
Then it’s time for Framtid. They’re fucking brutal, mad hemorrhaging noise and destruction with some new stuff in there too…can’t wait for the forthcoming second album. I even end up with pit-burn and a bleeding hand after violent brushes with a studded jacket. Massgrave follow and it’s decent, but I only watch a few songs as I need to warm up on guitar before System Fucker start. I’d been so looking forward to seeing them, even more so after hanging out with them a bit and finding out (slightly to my disappointment) that they’re not even a small bit scary but in fact pretty shy and nice. I’d actually met one of them last time I was here but didn’t realize he was in the band. So, they go out, set up, and when the start the singer runs in and they all go mental. It’s fucking great, he’s climbing around like a chaotic chimp, going nuts and scaring people with his mic-stand. Sexcellent! They scorch through their set and the second it’s over I go back to get my gear and set up.
Osaka’s sort of a big one for me, for all of us, so there’s definitely some tension before we start. It means that we’ve been fairly safety-minded alcohol-wise and not overdone it, or perhaps just that we focus a bit harder than usual, but whatever’s to blame, it works, and we have a great show. One of the best so far, we fuckin own the stage from the first note. It’s a great feeling and a huge relief to do ourselves justice in a place we know will appreciate it. It’s beyond mental on front of the stage and we’re all loving it; afterwards it’s immediately party time and beer-guzzling commences in earnest. After hanging out drinking, taking photos and suchlike we hop in the van and get a lift back to P&DII. The late gig will begin at 1am and is in a back room of P&DII on the third floor. I’ve not really eaten much all day and there’s serious drinking ahead so I go out immediately to find something to fill me belly. I roam the streets of Namba and there’s a massive party atmosphere all over – I suddenly realize that it’s Friday night. For everyone else that is - in my world, every night’s been Friday night for the past month! I go to a Takoyaki (squidballs –hey, squidballs, what’s up!) stand and the old dudes running it are hilarious. A bunch of swish dudes and their curious-cutie girlfriends come up and are looking me over, I give them a nod and they start talking to me, no doubt intrigued by my incredibly handsome visage, stunning clothes and audaciously fashionable lifestyle. They turn out to be all sorts of illuminati, involved in big business, one’s a professional footballer, etc. They bring me to some sort of mad bar and we do tequila shots before I breezily excuse myself and inform them that I have a gig to play.
I get back to P&DII and hang out with the boys before Jæppe and I head out looking for trouble. Which reminds me, the night before last after we smoked the “Monster”, we’d gone out looking for trouble, but hadn’t found any. We had, however, found a “shooting bar” called Cross Fire Point (Open Fire: 1800 Hours, Cease Fire: 2600 Hours) but it had been closed. It looked awesome, all military themed and so on. So we went back there...but it was just ceasing fire! We tried to reason that it wasn’t even close to 2600 Hours, but the dude was having none of it. We got a foot in the door, but that was all…he wouldn’t let us go any further. There were fucking modern disposable SAM and handheld anti-tank one-shot missile launchers just inside the door! Jæppe even got to pick one up and extend the crosshairs before the dude managed to hustle us out! Not content to give up, we pass a massive nightclub pumping out techno around the corner, with a load of madly dressed Japanese ravers and cuties queuing to get in. Without even a word we glance at each other, turn around, march to the front of the queue and demand that we have to get in as we’re a guest of Kato’s. The bouncer looks over his list, radios somebody, then nods and opens the door. Yesss!! We climb the stairs and are walking past a fancy desk into a big room full of lasers and booming techno beats when someone grabs my arm. There’s this little mustachioed ratty looking fella there, and he’s got a big list. He asks for our names. “We’re fucking NDT, mate”. Who? “Nuclear Fucking Death Terror. We’re a mate of Kato’s.” Who’s Kato? “Our mate who owns this place”. Suddenly there’s two huge sumo-looking dudes who’ve got us in a deathgrip and are pushing us down the stairs on front of us. Meanwhile I’m yelling “Kato!! Kato!!” and I dunno what Jæppe’s shouting but it’s really funny either way. We’re unceremoniously turfed out onto the street and walk off shouting that it’s a shit club anyway and that nobody should bother going there. Some girls ask us what happened and we tell them that it’s a racist club and they should come with us instead; they giggle loads and one of them wants to come with us, but the others don’t…her friends convince her that it’s a bad idea. It is. We get some more drinks and head back to P&DII just as Zyanose are about to start.
They are fucking amazing. Total holocaust ear massacre, two basses, drums, no guitar, it’s this massive wall of sound destruction and I’m really feeling it…FRIENDLY AND VIOLENCE!!!!!! OSAKA CRUST DETONATION!!! Nightmare follow and the room is heaving, mad full of people all going fancy crazy. Then it’s time for us.
Needless to say, by this stage I’m completely bollo. Ratarsed, shitfaced, three sheets to the wind. Timmy starts the first song and it goes mental, the crowd are right in my face and people are going apeshit, I’m beside Christina and keep crashing into her, the mic is smashing my teeth in, I fall into Timmy’s drumkit and he gets a cymbal in the face, everyone’s going mad, I break a string halfway through the set and couldn’t be fucked changing it and it ends with me losing the head completely and ripping all the strings off my guitar before falling over in a corner. Next thing myself and Jæppe are upstairs with these bunch of white guys who’d been there earlier, one of them has a mixing studio over P&DII and we somehow end up in there, the dudes who’d invited us up are gone and we’re just chatting to these dudes and decide it’s probably time for a “Monster”. We run down to Rastaman and shock!! horror!! It’s fuckin closed. We traipse back upstairs in disappointment…but it turns out that the studio dude has an emergency Monster stashed away for just such occasions.
From here on out things get very hazy…the original dudes come back with a load of weed and the party continues, various faux pas are committed, paranoid misunderstandings are conveyed and eventually the Cormy Monster and the Jæppe Monster emerge from this odd lair to discover that we’re actually still in P&DII, rather than some weird extra-dimensional space-causeway. The others appear, as if magic, and say they’re going to Bar Konton. Fair enough, says we. I stumble through the streets, about 10% lucid, drinking a somewhat optimistic Pocari Sweat along the way. I have a Polaroid memory of being in Konton and someone forcing a tequila shot upon me. After this I’m The Drunk Guy for the rest of the night…you know, the fucker who just kind of mumbles, falls over, gets happy/maudlin/sentimental/angry at random intervals, and sleeps at the table. Or at the karaoke, as the case turns out to be. Everyone else has a great time, but I don’t remember…I was just asleep. Eventually I’m dragged up and remember falling across the streets of Osaka to the hotel we’re staying at. It’s light outside. On the way we see this big car outside our hotel and Jæppe runs and jumps on the back fender…it snaps off. The guy gets out and there’s a scene. Somehow we run away and get to the hotel. It’s fuckin mad fancy, and I have another Polaroid memory of me and someone else running around screaming and smoking cigarettes and a worried receptionist helping us back to our room?
Day Thirty: January 29th
I’m peeled out of the hotel room by someone. It’s something like 12 O’clock cos that’s when we have to check out. I look in my jacket pockets. Of the 26,000 yen I changed the day before yesterday there’s only 3,000 yen left. I must have left it in Magic Monster Land. I’m at P&DII. The party there has continued. We get our gear down. I have a sneaking suspicion. I check my guitar…the bridge is missing. Oh fuck…I have a vague recollection of someone finding it and giving it to me after the show, since it had gone flying when I ripped the strings off. I must have lost it again afterwards…without the bridge my guitar’s basically just an expensive sexy sculpture…I’m panicking like a motherfucker…this is me fucked, right here. I explain the situation…and it turns out good ol’ Chuhiro-san has found it! Chuhiro and his bandmate Rookie from Bad Dirty Hate were both excellent hosts to me the last time I was in Osaka, we had so much fucking fun together and I’ve been looking so much forward to seeing them again this time. They’re playing in Mie City at tonight’s show too, so there’s three carloads of us going. I make sure not to get in a certain car. We wave a big load of goodbyes to everyone, and it’s especially sad to say goodbye to Shin…what a legend! Who knows when we’ll see each other again…hopefully not too long.
I manage to go asleep in the car pretty quick and sleep most of the way to Mie. We arrive there and load in to Club Chaos. Christina's after doing a puke in the car on the way! Acrostix are soundchecking and they sound AM-AY-ZING!! I put new strings on and we soundcheck and it sounds good and I actually feel fine. Totally fine. That fuckin Monster is still going…everything’s all tripped out and easy-access. I realize I’m still drunk and get a chu-hi because if I stop now I’m fucked, and tonight is Acrostix, Contrast Attitude, Folkeiis and Bad Dirty Hate…we’re fucked! Everyone else has disappeared, so I walk down the street to this punk shop called Vortex I found a flyer for in Club Chaos. It’s awesome!! I meet the Contrast Attitude dudes there and we trade some t-shirts. There’s so much great stuff in the shop and I’ve only got this poxy 3,000 yen left so I have to content myself with just a few small things. The shop is run by the wife of Shin from Acrostix and the girlfriend of the System Fucker singer and they’re both really nice, awesome punk girls and way tougher than the usual wallflowers you tend to meet over here.
I go to a supermarket and get some drinks and a tray of mad sushi. Come back and hang out drinking, smoking, acting cool and talking to the dudes from Folkeiis, who are all really nice. It’s pretty funny meeting all these bands and people that you’re fascinated with and expecting some kind of attitude somehow, and then figuring out they’re the same, and they’re just as fascinated in return. JAPAAAAAN!!! On the other hand, certain lightweights can’t take the pressure, and the dreadlocked weekend warrior is asleep on the stage whilst the little one is cuddled up to her guitar asleep in the corner. Acrostix are on first, so Jæppe is banished to the backstage and they begin. Probably one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen –they’re unbelievably good. From where they’ve gone with the early Amebix influence to incorporate a more traditional Japanese punk flavour with crust, they’re now about as much prog as they are punk but in the most awesome way…so good. There’s a big, diverse and growing crowd and people are really up for it and I’m really getting in the mood.
Contrast Attitude follow and they’re incredible…raw d-beat noise punishment of the highest order. The crowd and band are both going nuts, some poor dude gets a guitar in the head and starts pissing blood, and I nearly lose my mind when they play “Who Can Change The Future?” So freakin good. Next on are Folkeiis and they don’t disappoint; mad Finnish style raw hardcore with a burgeoning influence of almost NWOBHM styled OTT craziness?! They go bananas onstage, the singer being particularly mad out of it doing all sorts of sexy business with the mic stand. Finally it’s Bad Dirty Hate and they’re excellent, weird and eclectic hardcore with Rookie Fuck In My Face and the boys showing immense talent…can’t get over the way, way, way higher level of instrumental competence which is the standard over here. Intimidating as fuck.
Jæppe arises and Christina seems a little more alive and we get onstage to do our thing. What can I say, it’s great, not our best show performance wise but in terms of stage act and all it’s just wilder and tighter every night. By this stage myself and Jæppe have gotten into the habit of attacking each other when backs are turned and at one point after I shoulder him he kicks me hard as fuck in the side and I barely avoid going arse-over-tits off the shoulder-height stage. It’s particularly good fun and afterwards we’re all ebullient, people throwing all sorts of compliments our way and making us feel like the cool dudes we think/wish/pretend we are.
The rest of the Crucial Section boys have come down and Leader wants us to leave right after the show to drive back to Tokyo via Nagoya; we’re having none of it and compromise with spending an hour at the afterparty and then driving back to Nagoya before continuing in the morning. Seriously, when will we ever be in this situation again. After hanging out drinking for a while we head to an awesome izakaya with a huge bunch of people; we go in, there must be 30 of us, and get a whole room. Loads of food and drinks and I have to work pretty hard at it but eventually manage to get some real proper sashimi and sushi rather than chips or salad or tofu. It’s so much fun but we have to leave all too soon…I could easily have spent the night there…we say big goodbyes to Chuhiro, Rookie and Snoopychan plus all the other total legends we've met here...they all wait waving at the restaurant entrance till we're out of sight and it's unbearably cute...Japaaan!! ...but it’s back to the vans and we drive to Nagoya before crashing out something around fuck-knows o’clock.
Day Thirty-One: January 30th
Wake up at Leader’s fuckin wrecked…again…”time to go”. My legs don’t work the first time. I feel like an 80-year-old man… Nothing to pack up, so just get dressed in a haze, skull some water and head down to the vans. We say our goodbyes to Leader before leaving and it’s a pity that it’s such an early morning lack-of-sleep situation…not the most sociable of times! Sad that it’s the last we’ll see of him this time, hopefully won’t be too long before we cross paths again. We pile into the vans and my plan to catch up on this fucker are scuppered with the realization that the power cable had been knocked out of me laptop the night before when I’d left it to charge…no juice. It’s a bit of a struggle to keep up, as internet and power access are rare, let alone time to actually write it up…and when it’s left more than three or four days the vividness fades and details start to merge. So I content myself with sleeping for an hour or two before enjoying the view. And what a view…reversed now with the Pacific coastal view to our right and endless forest peaks to the left, it’s a continual stream of incredible landscapes. I’d really never realized just how mountainous Japan was before coming here; I hate flat countries, this is gorgeous! As for Mount Fuji, it’s even more impressive from this angle. I realize as we drive that it’s not rained once since we got here almost two weeks ago.
We arrive in Tokyo mid-afternoon and suddenly, wheeee! It’s carnival time again. This city is bonkers…the sheer scale of it, the impact of simply opening a car window and looking out onto the street is mind-boggling. I don’t think I could live here…too mad. We get to Antiknock, load in and meet Eiji. “Five minutes until soundcheck”, aaarrgh, it’s fuckin relentless! The venue is amazing, the most impressive so far, an awesome interconnecting shape consisting of labyrinthine corridors and rooms…really atmospheric. The onstage sound, as usual, is amazing, as is the sound on the floor. In fact the stage itself is just awesome: big enough to move around without being too big, and with awesome pose-tastic low barriers at the front. We get it done and then hang around watching the other bands soundcheck and eating food which Eiji has prepared for us. I go for a walk with Jakob and we get a 12-year old bottle of Tullamore Dew for Eiji, since it’s his birthday…we come back and the other four have been out too…and bought a 12-year old Jameson for Hiro, plus a litre of Jaeger and a bottle of Zubrowka vodka. Holy fuck it’s gonna be a big one! Well, this is our final Japanese show…we gotta go out with a bang.
People start showing up and the drinking begins in earnest; I’m sticking to beers with the occasional coffee since, truth be told, I feel like shit…I’m barely hanging in here after over a month of solid drinking, and the volume level in these venues being what it is, the ringing in my ears is worse and more persistent every day…fuckin hell but I need to start using proper ear protection. 18.00 and first on are Alliance, who I’ve been so excited to see…members of Frigora and Assault, they do a unique take on crust with melodic elements, bearing no resemblance to the Tragedy-clone neo-crust wave, more akin to something like The Dagda or Scatha. They’re excellent, and it’s fantastic to see them at last, especially since their drummer is leaving and they’ll not be playing for a long time again. Terror Squad come next and they’re decent, fast thrash metal with a mad dynamo of a lead singer and crazy instrumental work from the other three. I’m in between feeling awful and getting there whilst Hazard and Extinct Government play and find it hard to get into, and Final Bombs are particularly awesome but I’m more interested in warming up. I’m so fucking exhausted…my body is fucked, I feel like I’ve been beaten up. Maybe I have, I can’t remember. We’ve made a half-bottle dent on the Jaeger and we’re feeling it, myself, Timmy and Jæppe going fuckin loopy shouting and roaring and running around with our shit backstage. Now I’m really feeling it, really up for it, and fuck yes, it’s time for us to go on. It’s fucking awesome, we open with World Enslaved and from the first note it’s pandemonium both onstage and off…I’m thrashing out so hard I lose my balance and Jæppe kicks me over again as I try to get up and play the solo at the same time. He turns his back during the break in At The Altars and I flying kick him and send him sprawling. Adam’s in the crowd half the time, we’re all posing like fuck and playing so tight, hardly a break between all the songs and at the end we have to go back twice and finish up with an unrehearsed cover of Disaster’s Inferno, swapping instruments and playing it for the first time in over two years. People are going fucking nuts and it’s the best possible end to the Japan part of our tour…best gig we’ve performed so far. Afterwards it’s a storm of masturbation and mutual back-slapping all round. Everyone’s mad excited and we meet Kaori, who translated all our lyrics for the Japanese discography CD. She’s really nice and we hang out with all sorts of various mad bastards. There’s food, drinks, various speeches, we present the bottles of whiskey to Hiro and Eiji and it’s merriment all round…the vodka comes out and it starts getting rowdy…and all too soon the club has to close and it’s time to go…no!! We don’t want to! It can’t be over!!
We load all the gear out in a flurry of drunken tomfoolery. There’s lots of hugging and shouting and photographs and all that, and eventually we’re in the vans and taking off. First back to Shinya’s in Koenji to split up the gear and bags, since Christina & Jakob will be getting a different flight to us in a few hours time. They stay at Shinya’s and we drive back to Akitsu, stopping for a chu-hi on the way…I can’t believe it’s over…our final Japan show…we want to stay up and party, but take the sensible option and crash out…ah, sleep…
Day Thirty-Two: January 31st
Final day in Tokyo…wake up around midday and spend some time fixin my pants, which got shredded in last night’s chaos. Hiro puts on this amazing 10” record that was given out at Nori from Tom & Boot Boys wedding…so good! One side is a one-off band of Tokyo pogo punks singing all about manko, the other side is Osaka crusties singing about...o-manko. I have a goooorgeous shower and we reorganise all our crap, packing up the merch and records, toys, clothes that we bought, etc. It’s a bit of a fuckin chore, but later we’ll probably be drunk and our flight is real early, so it’s best to get it over with. Timmy goes with Hiro to buy bus tickets for our trip to airport and I manage to grab half an hour online to catch up with commissions for work and update this bastard of a fucker…
It’s a gorgeous day outside and time is slipping away, so we head out and get the train from Akitsu into the city. I get a fuckin manky bento box –it’s gross, some kind of jelly chicken filth, but the rice at least fills the belly a bit. The considerably growing belly, with all this fuckin beer and great food on tour. The train ride is awesome, solely because it includes the funniest fuckin kid I’ve ever seen. He’s this fat little jolly chap with the most spaced-out gormless look on his face. He’s about eight years old and dressed in his school uniform –school uniforms for younger kids here are hilarious, a blazer with a shirt and tie, shorts, and the pièce de résistance –a riduclous little wide flat bowler hat with a drawstring underneath so it doesn’t fall off! He sort of blobs in on front of us and commences to stare whilst slouching ever further down the seat…he nearly even outstares Timmy. Respect, young padwan. It’s really hard not to laugh, and that’s when he starts unashamedly harvesting his boogers and hungrily devouring them. Oh me oh my…hi-frickin-larious!
We get to Shinjuku and once again we’re all speechless at the sheer spectacle: towering skyscrapers, hordes of people, neon everywhere, music blaring from billboards, cutesy voices on speakers imploring you to buy fuck-knows-what, trains rushing past on high rails…I’ll never get over this no matter how many times I see it. We walk down the kubukicho district with all its gaudy sex clubs and slick yakuza pimps and find this huge five story video arcade with all sorts of nutsoid games… Jæppe and Adam make a beeline for the Japanese version of a coin-push machine, which, as you’d expect, is completely OTT and bizarre. Hiro, Timmy and I go and play this really cool illegal street race driving game with proper gears and all, and then a couple of mad shoot 'em ups. We go up and have a try of some drumming game, but it’s pretty lame and you’re not even allowed to just wail on the kit…so we get bored and leave. Next on the agenda is a huge shop that exclusively sells junk and weird crap. Straight to the pervy stuff…the future of sex is freakin’ weird. Various people pick things up for the girls back home -rubber ducky vibrator, anyone? It’s dark by now and rush hour as we make our way down to Shibuya, home of the busiest pedestrian crossroads in the world. Totally nuts. Myself and Hiro go for some ramen while the lads go to an Indian restaurant for some veggie fare. Then we head to Koenji for one final party…we meet up with So and the Crucial Section boys plus a bunch of other mates we’ve made over the last two weeks and go to a Chinese izakaya. Beers are ordered and it’s the most limp kanpai ever…everybody’s fucking destroyed. All of us but Adam switches to chu-hi in the hope that the caffeine and sugar will pick us up…it works for a couple, and then we level out, except for Adam, who gets pished, leading me to believe that the scabby pricks were mostly serving us flavoured tea with only the merest drop of alcohol in it. Various other friends turn up and it’s a nice goodbye, but my mind is like a fuckin empty warehouse… I’ve got no energy for any kind of social interaction and even listening to what people are saying feels like climbing a mountain. We leave at 11.30pm and everyone walks us down the station for the last train to Akitsu…Wadasan secretly gives me a present of some unagi-flavoured chips –my favourite!! But the poor chap is particularly camera shy: check out this sunny disposition.
There’s a big round of hugs and goodbyes and I’ve a bit of a lump in my throat saying goodbye to all these legends who’ve contributed to one of the most amazing experiences of my life…we go through the turnstiles and make it on to the last train, which is packed with drunk and sleepy workers on the way home. Some drunk businessman on the train is plainly attracted to Jæppe’s arse, so Adam pimps him out for a sip of the dude’s Chinese wine. It’s funny as fuck, and everyone around us is massively uncomfortable. Business dude has a grand old fondle, and Jæppe doesn’t mind too much. We get back to Akitsu shortly before 1am and walk back to Hiro’s…it’s absolutely freezing. Wasting no time when we get back, we all get under the covers as quickly as possible…we’ve to be up at 4.45am to catch the 5.40am bus, which arrives at Tokyo Narita for 8am, with our flight to Malaysia leaving at 10.30am…oof. Lights out, sleepy time…or not. All that fuckin caffeine in the chu-hi and I can’t get asleep. I need to get up twice to piss…the others are snoring…the clock is ticking…tick-tock, tick-tock…at some point after 2.30am I finally drift off into a restless sleep, dreams full of pursuit and paranoia...oh gawd, kill me please...