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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ten Questions - Ian Martin

In true Tokyo Music style, I have stolen another blog's idea in an attempt to make this site something more than just reviews and video clips lazily posted from YouTube. Praxis Theatre have been doing a 'Ten Questions' interview on a fairly regular basis, and in lieu of any ideas of my own, Tokyo Music will be trying to do something similar (to be honest, I'm sure Praxis nicked the idea from somewhere else anyway). First up in the firmament of Tokyo's musical luminaries is Ian Martin - take it away sir:

1) Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Ian Martin and I run the now very infrequently-updated
Clear And Refreshing web site, do the odd bit of writing for The Japan
Times and run Call And Response Records.

2) Which artists/albums would you recommend as a 'way in' to Japanese
indie/underground music?

Depends what you mean by a "way in". My way into the music scene was
to just find bands I liked and go to their gigs. They'll usually be
playing with three or four other bands and if you go to enough of
them, one or two of those bands might turn out to be decent too. What
band you choose as your "in" will depend on what kind of music you
like. Personally, the bands that really kicked me off into the sort of
music that I tend to listen to now were Nisennenmondai, whose shows
about three years ago introduced me to a lot of other underground and
experimental gigs, and Mosquito, who seem to be into all kinds of
music and play with all kinds of different bands. As far as albums go,
there are a lot of decent compilations out there: Kimica Records'
"Kimica Golden Package" has some good stuff and "Headache Sounds
Sampler CD Vol.4" has a lot of the current generation of underground
bands. Less Than TV Records have a compilation out that I haven't
heard, but lots of good bands from around Japan are on it, and Disk
Union has a compilation CD and DVD series called "Central Point
Of...", which has a lot of good bands on it too. In Nagoya, the "7586
Nagoya Rock" series is good.

3) How would you describe the current state of Japanese music?


4) What made you start the label/putting on events?

Going to gigs and seeing one or two bands I wanted to see and three or
four bands I thought were rubbish. It's my way of making sure that
once every month or two, there's a gig where I like everything.
Obviously, not everyone has the same taste as me, but I do take into
account what bands are going to appeal to fans of the other bands at
the gig, but at the same time offer I always try to offer something
different. I really think people enjoy themselves more and get more
excited about a show if there's something different there, but on the
other hand, there are so many bad shows out there that people are
reluctant to go out to a gig with a bunch of bands they don't know.
Maintaining a kind of balance is what I try to do, and I hope that
eventually the word will get out that my shows are always pretty

5) I've heard you say a few times that you think there are much more
vibrant music scenes outside of Tokyo, for example, Fukuoka. Why do you
think that is and which non-Tokyo bands would you recommend?

I wouldn't say that the scenes outside Tokyo are more vibrant per se -
the good thing about Tokyo is that there are just so many bands here,
so Tokyo will always have more good stuff than other cities. On the
other hand, I think places like Fukuoka, because of their smaller
size, force bands into closer proximity. If they want to play shows,
they have to keep a more open mind about who they play with and what
kinds of audiences they play to. The negative side of there being so
many bands in Tokyo is that it makes it too easy for them to clump
together with small groups of like-minded musicians, which I suppose
is nice, but it really is such a sterile situation to be in, and from
my point of view as a promoter, it's utterly unbearable trying to deal
with bands like that. It's interesting to watch the difference in the
way ex-Fukuoka bands in Tokyo operate compared to native Tokyo
musicians. They just seem a bit mentally tougher somehow.

6) Any other bands we should be watching out for?

Not sure. Mahiruno are on the up at the moment, but what happens with
a lot of bands is that they release and album and then all the energy
seems to go out of them and they stop writing new songs, as if that
was as far as they'd ever really thought, so I hope that doesn't
happen to them. Uhnellys have been around for a few years, but there's
a bit of a buzz around them now. There's a fantastic EP from Fukuoka
that I heard recently by a band called Miu Mau, but all the members of
Miu Mau play in other bands, so I don't know how seriously they're
going to be pushing it.

Outside Tokyo, I like Nohshintoh from Nagoya a lot. In Kyoto, Fluid
are pretty good and in Osaka, Squimaoto seem pretty good (although I
haven't seen them). Velocityut are a good punk band from Nagasaki. In
Fukuoka I recommend Folk Enough, Moth, TepPohseen, Spectrum
Synthesize!, Miu Mau, and (of course) Hyacca.

7) What's your favourite venue?

Depends on the kinds of music. Koenji 20000V is a good punk venue -
it's dirty and smelly, and it has really nasty sound, so it's not for
everyone. Akihabara Goodman has very good sound, but audiences there
can be a bit quiet. Decadent Deluxe in Fukuoka is a lovely place.
Heaven's Door in Sangenjaya is good, and they let you take your own
beers in as well. Aoi-Heya in Shibuya would be one of my favourites if
the booze wasn't so horrendously expensive.

8) Vinyl, CD or mp3?

CDs sound best, mp3s are most convenient. Vinyl makes you look coolest.

9) Kirin, Sapporo or Asahi?


10) What have you got lined up that you want to promote/publicise?

July 27th at Koenji Club Roots:
Natasha Forrest (my band) / Inoue Shuichi (From Folk Enough - Fukuoka)
/ Mosquito / and about hers

August 17th at Koenji 20000V:
Saladabar / UMIBACHI / Agolay Culkin / COTTONIOO (Opening Act) / more TBC

September 23rd at Koenji Penguin House:
"Koenji Pop Festival - All-day Event"
Miami / and about hers / MIR / Basement Park Is / more TBC
October 20th at Koenji 20000V:
Hyacca (From Fukuoka) / MIR / Tacobonds / more TBC

Hyacca: "Sashitai"
MIR: "This Tiny World"
Both CDs are available now at live shows and Koenji Enban. I'll be
adding them to more indie record shops over the next couple of months,
and they'll be distributed properly nationwide from mid September
(Hyacca) and mid October (MIR).