Anthony Reynolds va publier l'ultime biographie de Japan
Why is Japan your favourite band ?
It was love at first sight and sound. I'll never really know why.
Timing was a lot to do with it. They had already split up and I have a thing for the dead. They cant disappoint you. I was a young teenager in an ordinary environment and Japan signalled a different constellation from the one I lived in, a star system with its own rules, signs and codes and one I fancied moving to someday.
Since then I’ve given it more thought and I can think of various other reasons as to why they appeal.
They're working class- they came without privileges –This appeals to the Arthur Seaton in me. They're self taught musicians – and unique ones. Beguiling. Not self taught in a punk way but oddly proficient, quirky, perverse and sexy. They also didn't appear to want to be liked particularly yet at the same time they were very seductive sounding (and looking). A powerful paradox. Who knows really why some music and bands appeal and others dont? Its one of life's happier mysteries.
Why is Japan not the favourite band of many more people ?
Compared to what? Japan are a popular, beloved band. Compared to The Beatles they are a cult act. Compared to The Bones of Saint James they are Pink Floyd. Compared to Pink Floyd, Japan are Japan. But I know what you mean, Japan are an acquired taste, too rarefied for the common mob. Blandness is important in society at large. I used to walk through a shopping centre every day for years and they would play the most dreary drivel over the speakers- just horrible Muzak. I actually enquired about this and when I got to the guy in charge I asked him why he didn't play Sinatra or something. He told me that many people loved Sinatra which also meant that someone somewhere hated him. If they played Sinatra they would get complaints from the haters. So he had to play Muzak which no one either liked or disliked. You know when Brian Eno actually played 'Music for Airports' at an airport, people hated it. It unsettled hem and they complained. It was taken off. I can't remember what my point is but I hope you get it.
Why « A foreign place » is the first Japan biography ?
(Did you interview Sakamoto too ?)
There have been books on Japan before. A flimsy piece from 82 by Arthur A pitt. A pedestrian work by Martin Power in 98. This will be the first great Japan biography. The biography this strange, unique and powerful band deserve.
I haven’t approached Sakamato, Id be doubtful he would spare the time. But I will try.
Why a Kickstarter to make a bio of a band that put out records on Virgin, BMG and Epic ?
Firstly, being on a big label doesn't mean you’re a big band. There are countless groups on BMG and Epic we've never heard of, that have sold a few hundred copies. Most of my back catalogue is owned by BMG – it means nothing in terms of profile.
The question is not how many cds etc. have Japan sold but why a publisher wasn't interested.
For a start, I don't know conclusively if a publisher was interested or not. My agent wasn't interested in a book about Japan. To him, like many people, Japan are a vague Duran Duran type band from the 80's, so....Look. let me tell you a story.
My first book was on The Walker brothers. I wanted to write a book on The Walker brothers. I was and am a huge Walker brothers fan. I met with Sean Body (RIP) who ran a cool but snug publisher called Helter Skelter. He was not a Walker fan. They were a vague notion to him, as Sardinia is to me. He himself had written a book on American music club. He was crazy about American music club. Now, Objectively, The Walkers are bigger fish than American music club. Add it all up and The Walkers are the bigger band. Thus they have the potential to sell more books. But Sean wasn’t having it. He didn’t care about the Walker brothers. His imagination was not piqued. But he liked me so he said 'Suggest someone else'. I didn’t want to write a book about anyone else. So. He suggested something.. A book on Mark Eitzel. Now obviously, this was much less a commercial idea than mine but Sean was the publisher and this is what excited him. As it turned out, toward the end of our meeting it became apparent that he liked a record I had once made and once he realised I was the same guy who had made this Jack record, I could write a book on anything I wanted. This is how it can work. This is how random getting a book commissioned can be.
By far, the most popular book I’ve written is The Cohen book. But Cohen is rare. A sort of secretly giant Act with a very literate audience. And the book sold because he has a substantial audience in many countries. (except Japan, ironically). So this means the book can be translated and sold abroad. This is another incentive for the publishers to commission it- they can sell foreign rights. This wouldn’t happen with a Japan book. There would be an English and at best a Japanese edition. So there’s less profit to be made.
I only know a few publishers directly and I asked them and they weren't interested. 'Is Sylvian involved' is the eternal question they'd ask. In fact, when Keith Richards and Morissey are publishing autobiographies, its a fair question. I had also tried to get Mick Karn a publisher for his autobiography and no one was interested. Perhaps they were right ; I understand it sold a few hundred copes. If so, that’s not the point of this Japan book- to write for millions. Its to write a beautiful book for the few. And myself. And the remaining band members themselves. I could have spent a year taking around a pitch to no end but I wanted to write the book now. Thus Kickstarter is perfect for such a venture.
Why Japan and Asia were a key universe in late 70’s/80’s pop culture ?
Good question. Sylvian himself was asked that at the time . He said
'Musically its fascinating because it hasn't been explored before...by bands over here or in America, It's looking for a new way out of....you get stuck in a groove...there's only so many influences you can pick up on here or in the US...its nice to pick up on influences from the East and see where you can take them ..with a totally different attitude to the people who live there.'
This doesn’t explain the cultural fascination though, not fully. Something to do with technology? A hangover from the war? The fact that it seemed like such a successful, capitalist society that at the same time seemed Alien?
Ill be getting to the bottom of this in my book....hopefully. If anyone reading this has any theories let me know.
Why Tears For Fears stole the Japan style ? (:
Why David Sylvian never became a true pop star ?
He was a pop star. In the UK and Japan at least. Until 84. But he had a surfeit of dignity and didn’t suffer fools gladly so he just wasn't suited to that type of self promotion. He would promote his work but wasn’t interested in promoting himself as a personality.. He was also very guarded, private and more interested in an interior life than an exterior one, so celebrity and fame were an anathema to him although I wonder... if he didn't feel the need to know that he could have such fame – before rejecting it..
I think this is something he had in common with Scott Walker.
As for the rest of the chaps, I think Mick was under the illusion initially that by promoting himself as a personality he would gain an independence that would help feed his work choices. Mick only really began perusing this when the end of Japan was in sight and you can't blame him for trying to prepare the ground for a solo career. Ultimately though, he too, was an artist at heart and I don't think he enjoyed appearing on TV shows as personality for hire or whatever.
Richard and Steve I think were driven by almost totally by music and the hope of making a living from it. They really were focussed on exploring their musical abilities and in forging a unique musical identity that was their own.
For some 'pop musicians' having a number one record is paramount. They want to compete with other groups and artists. While Japan would have been elated to have a number one record it wasn’t as important to them as the music itself was. They were competing with themselves, ultimately. Perusing the title of pop star is an exhausting game and their energies were better served elsewhere.
Why the band splitted during New Romantism climax ? (are they the real originators ?)
They split because they wanted to do something outside of the group. They'd been going 8 years. Sylvian said he didn't believe in the band any more. I think Mick was eager to get away from David's influence and establish himself as his own man. Perhaps Steve and Richard would have been happy to continue. I'll have to ask them, actually.
I don't think a fashion trend such as The New Romantics had any bearing on it.
Japan were of their time but they didn't chase trends. Their appearance was something important to themselves as a way of identifying themselves outside of a society they didn't relate to.
Why Rain Tree Cow ?
There was a valid sense of 'What would have happened after Tin Drum'? They split at their peak which I think has fuelled their ongoing appeal. There was a sense of potential unexplored and thus we have Rain Tree Crow. Of course, they split again before the record was even mixed. A classic sad story but a compelling, dramatic one. And the music was great.