Tonight is to be our last night in Tokyo. We met up with Hideho Takemasa and Chihei Hatakeyama at the Nakano-Sakaue station along the Marunouchi subway line. Just before reaching this line, april and i had a first hand experience of the jostling and manic at the Shinjuku station during rush hours. It looks like everyone didnt mind to be pushed into the train…the force, i thought was going to break the guitar i was carrying on my back.
The neighbourhood of Nakano Sakaue is in contrast with Shinjuku (just 2 stops away). We walked through private residences and weaved through tiny alleys which resembles a maze to me. It reminds me of Malcom street in Singapore albeit a more congested one. Eventually, after a long walk (Japanese loves walking) we reached a small Tadao Ando like 2-3 story commercial building. We took out our shoes and proceed down a stairway to the basement where the Nature Bliss office is situated.
On this evening, we get to see what it is like in the office that is home of Nao Sugimoto’s 3 record labels, Nature Bliss, Plop and Spekk. Collectively, the office is called Nature Bliss, a creative company providing audio post production, sound and graphics design, distribution, artist management etc. Before the formation of Nature Bliss and this office was also shared with two other Japanese independent record labels, Cubic Music (which was run by Keiichi Sugimoto and Tetsuro Yasunaga) and Flyrec. Despite moving out of the office, I could still sense the strong community support they all have for one another. This should provide a working example of independant labels and the artists revolving around it by giving support to one another…whether in areas like design, event organisation, production and even down to CD duplication… this is how an independent scene is created and most importantly sustained. This could be the determining factor that puts the Tokyo minimal electronics scene on the global map.
Ohara-san, the studio manager, then showed us to a small recording studio just next to the stairway. This is a studio where alot of the artists from the related labels have used. It is equipped with a G5 Power Mac running Logic Pro 7, Fostex Monitors, MOTU 1296, Nord Lead 2, Sequential Phophet 600 and minimoog synthesizers. I also spotted a pretty spiffy Avalon U5 pre-amp. (edit: Hideho added that almost half of these equipments belongs to Ohara-san) Although the studio was quite small, it could somehow fit the 3 of us (Chihei, April and me) and we arranged our equipments for the recording of our collaboration.
Chihei had the same equipments as he had for his live last Sunday, one apple G4 powerbook and a newer Macbook Pro running Max/MSP and Recktor respectively, a boss space echo twin pedal and a boss looper pedal. He had brought with him many pre-recorded samples with him while i improvised live mainly with my guitars. Regretfully, i wished i had brought along my entire repertoire of sounds to Tokyo however this invitation for a session came unexpected but i am glad Chihei did so. April on the other hand would contribute improvised vocal arrangements for this session.
Our first session ended in about 40 minutes and Chihei gleefully expressed that the recordings reminded him of “Singapore at night”. Much to our surprise as Chihei doesnt speak alot of English, he could also pronounce our band name “aspidistrafly” effortlessly. We have also noticed that Japanese has somewhat no problem with getting our names right as well as making sure our names are perpetually in small caps.
During the break, we were then presented with 7 copies of Spekk’s releases as a gift from Nao. An extremely generous offer…thank you Nao-san ! We had ice cold bitter coffee and Chihei revealed to me that he likes Windy & Carl and Sylvian Chauveau and his experience touring in America with the likes of Greg Davis. While Hideho, who has patiently waited for us to finish the session, showed April an article he had written about Singapore for the Afterhours magazine. I too had read the article before and many agreed that his protrayal of Singapore is highly accurate and commendable.
Then we would go back into the recording studio and eventually we have 80 mins worth of music ready to be manipulated, processed, edited after this session. Hopefully someday, it would be fitting for release. Nonetheless it has been always a pleasure playing with Chihei, as i like his approach in creating warm but quiet melodies with his pallette of pre-processed guitar sounds.
We ended the day with a mini celebratory dinner at a small restaurant and the meal turned out to be like an episode of Fear Factor, all in the fun of tasting weird cuisine from Japan. We ate Cow’s heart, cheeks, stomach. I am not much of a fan of the innards but yet again, the sashimi was delicious and fresh. The cow’s stomach tasted good in the miso sauce.