Tag Archives: Asia Player

INTERVIEWS // First Cutlery’s Deepest (2007)

Tokyo Pinsalocks (l-r Reiko, Hisayo, Naoko)
The first interview I ever did for publication was with David Gedge of The Wedding Present, one of my favourite guitar bands when I was a teenager. It was exciting to meet with one of my musical heroes at the time and I was pleased that he was such an approachable subject. Gedge gave me a long interview and I committed the whole thing to cassette tape.

When it came down to getting an article out of it for the magazine I was writing for at the time, I spent literally hours in the college library, rewinding the tape again and again with headphones clamped to my ears as I transcribed the entire interview. This made the man hours quite considerable and the prospect of going through this process every time I interviewed somebody less than tempting to say the least.

Many years later, interviewing actors at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo about a play I had just watched them perform, the task was made much easier with the interview having been recorded on a MiniDisc player – the ease of the digital age making my writing job that much faster.

In 2007, I became a staff writer for the now-defunct Asia Player magazine. In what turned out to be my last piece for their final issue, I interviewed another musician and stumbled across the grail of making an interviewer’s life even easier. Holding down a writing gig in Tokyo with a handful of other committments at the same time left me with very little space in my life to get more than a few hours sleep a night, so I was grateful for any shortcut that came my way.

The answer? Email your questions to your subject and then just edit their responses into a nice clean looking piece – the trick is that the person being interviewed actually does the work for you and gets their words as they want them in the bargain.

The subject for this piece was Reiko Kaiyoh, drummer with Japanese electro-pop queens Tokyo Pinsalocks. Having written about them already in my column for the magazine, Reiko asked me to give them some coverage on an upcoming event that the band was organising – a female focused arts event that they had called Spoon Market. The resulting interview can be found below.

Unfortunately, I never made it to the show due to there simply not being enough time in my life to squeeze in everything that Tokyo threw at me. It sounded like a really fun gig, but in a place with as much going on all the time as Tokyo has, you simply can’t say yes to everything.

Still, I did manage to take my interviewing technique discovery away from the experience, so I got that and Reiko got her coverage – everyone’s happy!

First cutlery’s deepest

In the rush of a busy life in the city, we take the clutter and bustle of our daily lives for granted. There’s always cutlery or chopsticks in the kitchen, and the vending machines will always have tea. Take the humble spoon. Use it to shovel in the cereal, soup or fried rice, wash it up and forget about it till hunger hits again, right?

Think again – there are those for whom it holds a much deeper meaning, and not just as something for Michael Jackson’s metal bending friends to show off with.

The Dan of West Africa have mastered the art of carving large spoons into impressive works of sculpture. The spoon’s owner is given the title of ‘wa ke de’, a high distinction given to the most hospitable woman of the village. The custom of the men of Wales giving love spoons to their sweethearts dates back hundreds of years. Even Freud himself has gotten in on the act, giving the spoon the female role in the knife/fork/spoon dinner table trio.

Tokyo Pinsalocks, Japan’s leading purveyors of all-girl electro-pop have taken the spoon as metaphor for themselves. Singer Naoko once described the band that way, being both cute and tough – feminine curves tempered with a metallic steel. To extend the metaphor further, they’ve organised not only an event but an entirely new scene named after the object – September’s upcoming ‘Spoon Market’ at Ebisu Milk.

The event is set to be an extravaganza of all things female from this fair city, and features bands, DJs, VJs, art exhibitions, shops, stalls and food. The music is ladled on thick, with appearances from the Pinsalocks crew themselves, along with Noodles, Motocompo, Falsies On Heat and Kate Sikora, amongst others. Spoonfuls of style will come from the fashion goods, accessories and jewellery on sale, with further treats served up in the way of paintings, photography and short films. It’s all stirred up with fine food from the likes of Patisserie Potager and Tacostar.

Asia Player managed to grab a few moments between courses with Pinsalocks drummer and co-organiser Reiko Kayoh to find out a little more about what’s cooking down at Milk.

Where did the idea come from?

We wanted to create an atmosphere where we would be excited to perform our music, and an ideal place to go out to have fun. We play music as a way of expressing ourselves, which is very similar to that of other artforms – film making, fashion designing, and food making. When we create our music, we get inspired by all these things, not only from listening to other music.

We couldn’t find a place like that, so we decided to make one.

What makes it different from other events in Tokyo?

There are events which have live performances, and art exhibitions together, but usually the art is secondary to the ‘main’ live show. At Spoon Market, all the art, shops, food, and music are given equal status.

Ebisu Milk is known as a venue/club, but we are proud to offer it as a gallery/cafe-bar/shopping market too that night.

What are you hoping to achieve with it?

To stimulate people’s everyday lives and make them a little happier by attending to this event. Also to establish a scene of female artists by combining these different fields, hopefully all getting inspired by each other.

What are you most looking forward to at ‘Spoon Market’?

For Milk to become one big market. All the artists we chose are awesome, but what’s important is to join them all together and make the whole place into one world, one market. From entering the door to the end of the basement floor, we want the audience to feel ‘what a cute and cool place!’

What are your expectations for it?

As far as we know there are no other events like it, but we are sure there are many people who would want to come to a place like this.

We expect more artists will become interested in Spoon Market culture. We want to join people who usually work in different fields together and create a scene.

We will be sure of our success when we hear people describing someone’s artwork as ‘that’s very Spoon Market-ish!’

Who do you hope to attract to the event?

The target will be people like us! That means women our age (late 20’s to early 30’s) who are interested in music, fashion, art, like going to cafes, want to make their own style and are looking for something that inspires them. However, people from different generations, genders, or cultural backgrounds are just as welcome.

What’s in it for boys attending?

Boys and girls might feel the same way about something but express themselves in a different way. They can definitely enjoy the similarities and differences in the art styles. Maybe they’ll be able to understand their girlfriend’s taste a little better too!!!

Is this going to be a one-off or a regular event?

A regular event hopefully, but we’ll see how it goes after the first one. We want to see if this is the right place to have this event, the right number of artists, etc. We definitely will continue the Spoon Market with the same concept, but don’t know when and where yet. So, watch this space.

What’s your message to the audience?

If you like one artist, you’ll definitely love the rest. For people who want a good night out in Tokyo, for people who’re looking for inspiration, for people who just want to enjoy music or to relax, see you at the Spoon Market!


VENUE: Ebisu Milk
DATE: 21 September (Friday) 20:00 – 04:00
TICKETS: Advance – 3,000 yen (inc. one drink) / Door – 3,500 yen (inc. one drink)
Available from Ticket PIA
WEB: www.pinsalocks.com/spoon
PHONE: 03-3413-9331 (Heaven’s Door)

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Filed under 2007, Features, Interviews

TRAVEL // Branded By The Bush (2007)

My second trip to Tanzania was longer than the first one and left even deeper impressions. This time I had some real chances to explore, including my first real safari – out in the wilderness and amongst the wildlife I’d longed to see since I was a very small boy.

The destination was Saadani Safari Lodge, a lodge in an astonishing place recently upgraded from the status of a Game Reserve to that of a National Park. The banda (beach hut) we stayed in was set on the exquisite coastal setting of the Indian Ocean, and the lodge offered safaris into the bush and out on the nearby river.

It was here that I earned my first bush stripes, on account of having gotten stuck in a dry river bed at the end of the stay and had to find our way out of the searing heat and unknown potential dangers of whatever lurked in the bush.

Back in Japan, I realised that I had a great story to tell. During the summer that followed my return, I began writing for ‘Outdoor Japan‘ and was keen to use this opportunity to tell my tale. I ended up writing a cover feature for them on summer music festivals, but the ‘survival in the African wilderness’ yarn I was longing to tell would remain untold that year.

In 2007, I started writing for Asia Player – an English-language ‘lad mag‘ based in Tokyo. Mostly, my contributions came in the form of a monthly music column, but Asia Player also finally gave me the longed-for chance to tell my own ‘Boy’s Own‘ story. It was great to also have the chance to write about ‘the bush’ and it not actually be about humanity’s ‘nemesis de jour‘!

In the end, they changed the narrative a little and the piece ended up with the perspective of the narrator making for slightly confusingly reading. However, it’s online and can be found here.

The piece as it was originally intended can be found below. All photos were taken on location by myself, except for the hammock one (taken by Hans Jamet).

Branded By The Bush

It was an unfettered paradise of such wild tranquillity. What matter now of timetables, bullet trains and pinnacles of modern convenience? His eyes drank in the vista. Still he was thirsty and still it went on. Apparently, you could sometimes spot elephants coming down to frolic in the surf.

He was there with his brother-in-law, a Frenchman keen to show the wilds of Africa to the new arrival. To get there, they had travelled through barren terrains, crossed the Pangani River on a dilapidated ferry and passed Maasai herders walking their livestock along the same centuries-old well trodden paths.

A swarthy and welcoming South African showed them around when they arrived, recommending starting with the pool. Beers in the water, lounging around in the shade, topped off with a siesta in the banda. The hut opened out onto the widest, empty stretch of long and glorious coastline the Tokyoite had ever seen. Lulled by the gentle fall of the breakers on the waves and a cooling breeze to billow the mosquito nets around him, he fell into the calmest sleep.

The purpose behind the expedition was for immersion in true wilderness – the first real safari. They began their adventure in an open Land Rover with an old British soldier and a local guide for company. Acacias and baobabs dotted the scrub. The only other signs of humanity were the tyre tracks running in parallel with the lion ones in the mud.

After a little training of the eyes, an abundance of wildlife began to appear – graceful waterbuck hiding out in the long grass, elegant giraffes striking poses against the savannah skyline, gangs of warthogs scuttling through the undergrowth, brightly coloured rollers flitting from bush to bush. That evening, with the breezes of the Indian Ocean wafting through and at tables lit overhead by lobster pot lanterns, they ate with their safari companions and drank themselves senseless.

The following day, they set out on a small boat to explore the Wami River and entered the territory of Conrad’s dreams and nightmares. Submerged hippos eyed them from murky depths. Crocs on the banks gave a flash of tail to remind of their presence. The river bank was teeming with life. Monitor lizards basked in the sun while brilliant kingfishers darted, flashing red or blue amongst the vegetation. Herons and ghostly egrets perched atop the forest canopy or loitered, stock still in the shallow waters.

They later headed out in their own vehicle, surveying the bush from the luxury of an air-conditioned Toyota Land Cruiser. The Frenchman was in his element, playing up his role as the knowledgeable Africa man, an expert in his field with tales to tell.

It had been an almost too perfect experience – heavenly beaches, complete immersion in raw and unbridled nature, the remarkable contrast between teeming Asian hub and wide open spaces under African skies. Something was missing. The guys that spent their lives in the bush had tales of struggles endured and how they’d earned their stripes. The Tokyoite had nothing but surface. Tick boxes in a field guide. He’d not had the bush seared into his being. It came at the last minute.

Early morning, checked out, one final safari before hitting the road. Through the open scrubland and cushioned from the searing heat in their Land Cruiser. Down a dip…must be a dried river bed…looks like tyre tracks…wonder what’s down there…let’s follow…

Immediately, the vehicle that had cocooned them from a world of hidden predators, tsetse flies and baking hot sun became stuck in the soft sand. Every attempt to extricate themselves from their trap only got them stuck deeper in. The Tokyoite tried to dig them out, but the car merely sank more. They had no choice but to walk through the bush and try to find help to pull the Toyota out of the sand.

Grabbing what they needed, they locked the car and abandoned it in the river bed. The Tokyoite covered his head with a fishermans’ wrap. The Frenchman grabbed his long bush knife and they set off, two Arab samurai ready for the elements and any surprises. A vital bottle of water completed the kit. Trekking through the undergrowth, every sound or shadow triggered an explosion in the imagination. Overhead, two vultures circled, coasting on currents and waiting for a moment of rich pickings.

A mile or two on, they came across a track, serving as open road but providing little mercy from the sun. Water was rationed, and parched throats cried out. At one point, a villager from a nearby settlement appeared on a bicycle. The Frenchman stopped him and spoke in Kiswahili. He instructed the man to fetch help, greasing his palm and promising more if he returned. The man went back to his village, telling of a white man on the road and his money, but never reappeared.

They finally arrived back at the lodge, out of water, drained of energy, but emboldened by the experience. The lodge was owned by a Greek guy, raised in Burundi who had escaped when the massacres were raging. They spilled out their story and he began to organise a recovery team – slowly, as this place ran on bush time not Tokyo time.

Back at the river bed, the car was intact. The cobbled-together recovery team pulled out jacks and winches, gathered branches to lodge under wheels for leverage, did everything in their means to free the machine – all to no avail.

At the lodge again, the two original strandees were ordered off recovery duty and sent to the pool to recuperate. Rarely had one man ever been more grateful for an hour in water. Their ride was eventually returned, hauled out by Land Rovers and bigger winches.

Back on tar, the wilderness looked less wild when seen through glass and with a road stretching out ahead. The Tokyoite was changed though, now forever branded by the bush.

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Filed under 2007, Features, Travel