Japanese to English…


So after many years, and a couple of recently rescheduled dates, we’ve finally made it to Japan…



So after many years, and a couple of recently rescheduled dates, we’ve finally made it to Japan.

After a fairly gruelling journey, from Glasgow, to Heathrow, to Tokyo, we finally arrived at Narita Airport, Tokyo, where we were met by our wonderfully pleasant interpreter Maki, who whisked us into a waiting van, and towards the city. On route, we passed Tokyo Disneyland, which was bizarre for the fact that unlike most Disney parks, it was right there, in plain view… Usually (or in our experience) theme parks like that, (and the far superior Parc Asterix just outside Paris) are shrouded from view, until you actually arrive at the front gate. Carefully placed forests and trees generally hide them from the road, so when you arrive you suddenly find yourself inside Gaul, or Disneyworld as appropriate…

So it was surprising (though quite good fun) to see the Magic Kingdom from the fucking motorway! Literally, the Cinderella castle was RIGHT THERE. In my jetlagged state, I found it exciting anyway…!

So after arriving at the hotel, the band went to get changed and relax for half an hour (Simon had travelled from Mexico back home, the day prior to us leaving, as he had enjoyed a couple of weeks of belated honeymoon, and so the jetlag was wearing heavy on him) whilst Churd and I met with the promoter and technical people involved with the Japanese gigs, to check everyone had the correct details, check equipment and the like. After that, we went straight out, and discovered that the Shibuya Crossing (the large intersection, a bit like Times Square in New York, with the massive video screens – think Scarlett Johansson, in Lost in Translation, when she sees the massive dinosaurs on the screens… right there) was right outside the front door of the hotel. Exciting.
We wandered for a while, taking in the sights, sounds and incredible smells of Shibuya, wondering what exciting food we could eat. After realising that we couldn’t actually work out where the fuck the restaurants were, we settled on 4x Big Mac meals (the band, and Churd) and a McNugget Happy Meal (me). Very Japanese. We even got the chance to test out or linguistic skills… by pointing at pictures on a menu, and saying ‘origato’ at the end. Mad skillz, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Don’t paint us as the typical western philistines quite yet though. Especially considering I’m wearing my hotel-provided Kimono and slippers whilst typing this.

After a walk through Yoyogi park (and a failed attempt to locate the Meiji-jingu shrine) we finished with a few drinks at the hotel bar, and retreated to our rooms to try and ward off the letjag.

The next day, we had a couple of acoustic sessions and tv shows to fulfil, so upon meeting our incredibly kind and pleasant record label rep, Koji (who you’ll hear more about soon…), we were off to the first radio station, which shared a space with a coffee shop. Amazing. After a session and interview, we asked Koji to show us a Japanese dining experience, which he graciously did, taking us to a very nice little restaurant, where we tried a variety of vegetable and seafood tempuras, udon noodle soups, and strange little fish discs. All beautifully cooked, and we finally felt like we were settling into the local vibe. We’re all quite big fans of Japanese food anyway (and admittedly, Wagamama and Yo Sushi provide a fairly westernised version of this amazing food, although we can heartily recommend Ichiban in Glasgow as an alternative…Try the Gyu-don on the Queen Street branch, its wonderful. Don’t be a dick and go for the chicken curry though, you’ll miss out on some exciting alternatives)

Later that evening, we continued the promo, this time at the wonderfully-titled Space Shower TV, on a programme hosted by metal guitar hero, and ex-Megadeth legend, Marty Friedman, who, in a display of mind-boggling musicianship, joined the band on an acoustic version of Saturday Superhouse. Literally, playing lead guitar like a man on fire, ON THE FIRST FUCKING TRY. Incredible. Watch out for that one on YouTube.

After which, we enjoyed some sushi provided by the TV show, and Simon and I tried out the legendary blowfish. Not to sound like a dickhead, but I thought it was quite similar to the classic staple of anyone’s school dinner, the legendary Birds Eye Fish Finger (which, as an aside, I know of at least 3 vegetarians, who won’t eat any meat, other than fish fingers… weird)

Things went slightly pear-shaped after the TV show, as we decided to go out for a few drinks in a bar near the hotel. 3 hours later, we were all utterly devastated, and at 3am made our way back to the hotel, for restless and largely sleepless nights all round. A combination of jetlag, and about 4 cans of coke, mixed with varying quantities of Makers Mark, likely didn’t help this situation. Red Wine all the way from here on in, I think. Whilst at the bar, Koji, who claimed to have never played darts before, fucking kicked the arse of both Ben and I, in a drunken (and prolonged) game of round the clock. I’m not sure I believed him, when he eventually won the game with an effortless double-20.

The next day was significant for a number of reasons. It was the first show the band have ever played in Japan, or indeed anywhere east of Stockholm. It was the first headline show that the band had played in about 2 months, and only the 6th headline show the band had played in 2008. Not that they’ve been lazy, just lots of overseas touring with other bands, and some recording…

The venue itself was great, though for some reason, had the Jamiroquai logo all over the place. We later learnt that this was due to Jay Kay helping design the place. He did a decent job, and the venue was mercifully free of lite-funk or stupid fucking hats.

After a good soundcheck (the sound in the venue was amazing, and the boys were on great form… particularly their vocals, it would seem that a little bit of time off tour, on holiday, does wonders!), they did some more press and got ready for the show. Predominantly by arsing around, and listening to new music by Weezer incredibly loudly, over and over again. What a fucking return to form by the =w=. Supposedly their new single was written as a response to the band’s label asking for “bigger hits”.

They must have fucking shit themselves when they listened to the lyrics in response, and realised they’d have to release the song… There’s a real beauty in the principle somewhere!

And then the show… whoever said that Japanese audiences were quiet and reserved didn’t get it quite right… Either that, or they were watching the wrong shows! In a very happy surprise, the venue was really full when they took the stage, despite the time being 7pm, and there being no support band! They played a good handful of songs from the previous records, and gave Puzzle a good run out, and finished on a double-hitter of 9/15ths and Now I’m Everyone, before Simon went back for a solo machines, whilst Ben sat in agony backstage, after getting a horrendous cramp in his right leg. He managed to soldier on though, through a final Glitter and Trauma, though it was awful having to watch helplessly from the side, as he visibly suffered through the entire song. He did a fucking stellar job of keeping it together though, despite being in visible agony. Pain in the name of art, I guess, but something that you or I would find near-impossible, Ben fought through.

After the show, the band met some of the Japanese fans, and posed for many a photo and autograph. Some fans even tracked them down at the hotel, and even the day prior, we had met people in the hotel lobby. One of the strangest encounters, was when Simon was in an elevator with a man in a business suit, who turned to him saying ‘Biffy Clyro…?’ and pulled out a copy of the CD and a flyer for the show from his pocket. He then asked for a photo, and when Si tried to help him take the picture, he realised the guy just wanted to take a picture of Simon, without actually being in the picture himself.

They were all incredibly pleasant though, and so so polite. James asked one of the girls waiting at the hotel, how they found out where we were staying, as it was something that we had all been quite curious about… Turns out that they just guess, which quite possibly meant that other, less fortunate Biffy fans, were waiting at the wrong hotels across Tokyo (or at least in the vicinity of the venue in the Shibuya district)…. I hope not, as that’d have been a real shame. We met some of the most genuinely pleasant Biffy fans we’d ever come across that night, and they were just so far detatched from the more demanding fans that you come across in other parts of the world. No expectations or pre-conceptions, just big music fans excited to meet the people that created music that they took to their hearts. There’s something quite special about that, I think.

After we got back to the hotel (at around 9pm, which is generally half an hour before the would go onstage back home!), our wonderful hosts from our promoter, CreativeMan, took us out. I doubt they’ll ever read this but I hope they knew we were being sincere when we thanked them for the amazing opportunity to visit this amazing place. We had dinner in a wonderful Japanese restaurant, where we were presented with an array of amazing dishes, including some of the best tempura we’ve ever tasted, and quite possibly the best shrimp sushi roll I’ve ever had, in my short life. So good, that I had two, in fact. After a round of sake, and a photo of the table, we retreated back to the hotel, accompanied by our lovely promoter Naoko, and our interpreter Maki, who were kind enough to make sure we navigated the streets carefully and got home safely. Again, a huge and sincere thanks to Naoko, Toshi and Frank for having the belief and respect for the band, to bring them (and Churd and I) over to Japan. There are moments during this job, where its easy to forget the privileged position you’re in, when you’re tired, jetlagged, or just grumpy, and then there are moments when everything is put into context, and you realise that you’re seeing the world, meeting new people, and getting to do it in such a way that most people won’t ever experience. Its quite humbling. And on a lighter note, it can be a shitload of fun!

Today, we are at the record label offices in Japan, where the band are next door, in the midst of interview number 4. Each interview has so far lasted around an hour, with an interpreter relaying the band’s anwers to the journalists – the journalists, incidentally, are so in tune with the band, its unreal, to the point that two have already gone into so much detail, that they’ve asked about Simon’s second microphone onstage. One of the many examples of how things are so different here, but in very positive ways. We know many wonderfully talented and pleasant journalists back home, some of whom we consider great and close friends, but we’ve also encountered some who have no interest in the subjects they’re reporting on. To the point where they are so disinterested, that they create a sense of resentment towards the world around them. Over here though, there seems to be so much optimism and appreciation. It’s a good way of thinking. I should probably take note actually, and stop being such a vitriolic dickhead to the backlash biffy fans on the messageboard from time to time. Or alternatively, they should see the positive instead of focussing on the negative.

I’ve hit a classic bit of biffyblog tangent here, I think, so I shall tie it up here… Also, I’m due in the lobby in 3 minutes, to met everyone for dinner, so please excuse any typos or grammatical fuck ups, as I haven’t had time to proof-read this… Our sound engineer, Justin often pulls me up for grammatical idiosyncrasies, so I apologise in advance to him, and to you.

we ride the bullet train tomorrow… we are excited.x