Tokyo Tapes



So, here I sit, in a windowless office space in Tokyo, on a Saturday morning, working. The air con is turned off for the weekend and it's a cool 35 degrees C outside and 90% humidity. It’s slightly cooler inside …. Despite all this, I love being in Tokyo, and in Japan in general, it’s an amazing place. It might not be perfect, but the rest of the world could learn a thing or a 1,000,000 from this place.

I was just reflecting on the past few blurry months of my life and trying to remember where all the time has gone. This is my fourth trip to Tokyo this year on business. Along with other work destinations, I have been away from home for 10 weeks of the year so far. This really is not helping me to get the new Nine Stones Close and Jet Black Sea albums finished. I am eternally grateful for the messages of support I get from people in anticipation of new music, it keeps me going.
In between work I need to find time for my lovely family and also my music, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult. In stolen moments, weekends, afternoons, early hours, I have been working on the new music. The good thing is that it IS all coming together, it’s just taking time. I have been listening to the latest mixes of the new Nine Stones Close album this week and I am really pleased with how it is turning out, it will be a different kind of beast to “One Eye”. I really hope everyone enjoys the new progression of the music when it is finally released. I am also grateful to my bandmates and fellow musicians for their constant support throughout this process; it’s also very difficult for them when waiting around for me to provide updates, organize sessions, finalize lyrics and arrangement changes, organise promo activities, artwork, etc etc etc etc. Frustration is not the word.

For the new Nine Stones Close album we are working on the final pieces of the puzzle. I am on my 5th rewrite of the final set of lyrics, hopefully this will be the one, we shall see. It has to be ready for the final recording session in any case. The album requires one more lengthy weekend recording session for the final vocal and some minor arrangement changes, once that is done we can complete the mix towards the end of the year and organize release activities. Rest assured we are doing all we can.

In the background Michel Simons and I have been working on Jet Black Sea material. The second album is in the can apart from a couple of guest vocals, at which point we can organize mixing sessions and artwork and release the damn thing!
While waiting for the vocals and while on a small hiatus from working on the Nine Stones Close album, Jet Black Sea 3 appeared out of nowhere. After some sessions with Michel and working on arrangements, the whole thing is written and we hope to have it fully recorded fairly soon too. Who knows, it may get released before JBS II yet! And if that wasn’t bad enough we have plenty of material on the go for JBS IV. A box set looms large ;-)

Writing is never an issue for me, I always have more ideas than I am able to realize on a album, and every time I pick up the guitar something seems to flow. In that respect I am incredibly lucky. In sessions the band give that me that look of “Oh lord, not another idea, can we finish this one first please?”. The problem with having so many ideas is that I end up with a hard drive full of stuff that never makes it to an album, even if they are strong ideas, sometimes they simply don’t fit the theme or feel of an album and get shelved for later. While digging through some old ideas an idea to make an acoustic album appeared out of nowhere. This is also on the horizon. There are yet more projects on the horizon for next year, but first I need to actually FINISH something.

On top of that I still found time to add some guitars to the magnificent Northlands album and was incredibly flattered to be asked by Tony Patterson and Brendan Eyre to contribute guitars alongside some amazing musicians, including the brilliant Steve Hackett. If you haven’t heard that album yet you need to check it out!

Another one to check out is the Ashes Left EP by Simons & Van Buuringen, released in March this year. Michel did a great job on this one too.

What I could really use is a manager to administrate and organize everything for me, set things up, chase people, do promo, etc, then I could concentrate more on the music. Not going to happen though, so I will continue to run around in circles inside my head and try not to implode too much!
… and did someone mention live gigs? Trust me we are working on it, but this is not easy. We all have busy lives, some have other band commitments, families, day jobs (yes, let’s not forget that one!), financial commitments, different countries (Aio) and so on. Organizing playing live is not just a matter of turning up and playing. The material is complex and requires a lot of time and effort in rehearsal to really do it justice. That means we all have to commit time and money to doing it and rehearsing hard. Did I mention that word “time” again? There is no way I am going to play a half arsed NSC show, if we do it, we do it right! Rest assured we are trying to make it happen though. On the plus side, through playing together in the studio for this album, it gives me great confidence that we can do it and do it well.

So, now I can get back to working, and hopefully later today some time shopping for records and CD’s in Shinjuku. What a place that is, it’s a music lovers paradise for shopping. All those Japanese editions, limited editions, vinyl, … I love it. Tokyo is fabulous. The guitar and music shops in Ochanomizu are incredible, I have seen all kinds of new makes of guitar that don’t seem to make it out of the Japan market. I am going to see some traditional Japanese music on Monday evening with a friend, I am sure it will be inspiring.

Oh, and the food … the food …. <Insert Homer Simpson drooling noise here>
The people .. the culture …. The gardens … I could go on …
On a final note … thanks again for your patience, and for even taking the time to read this blog, I appreciate all of your support immensely. Please share if you can, as reaching people via social media is becoming more and more difficult these days due to the fact that sites like Facebook want to charge money for you to reach your fans. I don’t have the money.

Drink of the week: Sake.
Food of the week: The Gyoza I had a couple of days ago <more drooling>
Favourite place this week … Hamarikyu Gardens
In the words of Ozzy Osbourne … “I love you all!”