With all this upheaval in Zimbabwe in the news lately, did the Japan track ‘…. Rhodesia’ cross your mind … ? Have you ever listened to the Miles Davis track ‘Zimbabwe’ from Pangaea ? I found myself listening to both ‘… Rhodesia’ and ‘Zimbabwe’ the other day . Are you familiar with the drumming of Al Foster ? Foster’s drumming on that track seems like either a Jazz person playing Rock within the parameters of Funk … or a Rock person playing Funk within the parameters of Jazz and thus exploding all three categories . In my opinion . Lastly, there is the Bob Marley & The Wailers track called ‘Zimbabwe’ released a year after the release of ‘… Rhodesia’. Is there any Reggae or Ska tracks that have been source/s of inspiration or, barring that, good-times listening ?

Foster is rocking on ‘Zimbabwe’ for the most part but with a lovely light Jazz player’s touch, can’t say that I hear funk in the rhythm section despite all the wah-wah guitar.

Big Youth were big in my youth, as well as Bob Marley.

‘Rhodesia’ doesn’t hold any real political relevance … more a case of spurting soundbites (we have reggae/funk on that one, clavinet even!).

Hi Steve. I’m just listening to ‘tender extinction’ for the first time in a while, and was wondering about the vocals for ‘mending a secret’. I know that the Japanese CD release includes the lyrics for the other vocal tracks on the album, so was there a reason ‘mending’ was omitted? To my ears, your voice seems to be there as an additional ‘instrument’ rather than to provide a narrative (for the want of a better word)…?

The vocals are layered in such a way that the lyrics don’t make proper sense if laid out sequentially in the order they appear, they’re broken sentences, and the concept is that these phrases would need to be deciphered, thus the title. The listener might pick out phrases and have their own interpretations of what is being said or suggested, as if overhearing part of a conversation. And as you point out, the vocal melody is woven into the musical arrangement as opposed to taking the role of lead.

Hi! First, thank you for this wonderful way of communicating, it’s so direct and personal and in that somewhat unique. Just curious if you could tell us anything more about Exit North? Its one of those projects I keep thinking about with gratitude and curiosity from time to time! All the best /Dan

Thanks Dan. ‘Exit North’ is still in progress albeit working around each member’s schedules. The work is based in Göteborg to which I’ve made trips to record in Charlie Storm’s studio and will be heading back in February to hopefully complete mixing. We are continually moving the project forward in the meantime by electronically exchanging audio files with new additions and changes. I won’t venture into describing the music except to say that it’s song based material with an emphasis on acoustic arrangements.

(snaps by Steve Jansen / Ulf Jansson)

Hi Steve :-) someone (SNB) is thretening to write a book about you Japan. Does anyone have the possibility to publish a book about you Japan? We have ’74-’84 A Foreign Place by Anthony Reynolds, a Japan biography which I’m veeery happy of (I guess he will soon publish a new one covering following years up to Rain Tree Crow) Wish you and your Mates the Best Marta

SNB writing a book about JAPAN would be SNB writing a book about SNB. The only thing I’d like to read from SNB would be his bank statements covering years 1979~1983 but I suspect he feels that would be too much of an invasion into his private affairs, despite never being shy of spouting rubbish about others.

I contributed to Anthony’s book because his stance on digging below the surface of the true dynamics within the band and how the work was achieved had never been approached before and it seemed like a good idea to help shed some light on that. I genuinely feel it’s informative in that sense. No one else is going to write such a comprehensive, unbiased portrayal incorporating such a wide variety of meaningful sources, I don’t think. I decided not to contribute to the follow up mainly because post JAPAN involved too many personal struggles and the fact that I was involved in everyone’s work might’ve resulted in me having too big a voice in it whilst not actually having half as much output artistically due to problems with lack of support from both label and management at the time. I also had no desire to discuss other people’s various solo projects let alone any aspects of their personal lives post JAPAN. I trust Anthony has managed to do a good job regardless.

comment: The Nine Horses track ‘When Monday Comes Around’ is often my favourite Nine Horses track . Just finished listening to it for the first time in a while . There’s an intriguing “rattling” sound to the kick drum, which leads me to believe it’s not a traditional kick drum . The snare has a more “clean” sound . I also hear something that sounds like a shaker but with a quieter, more organic sound . Do you remember recording this track, what you contributed to it and are those muffled American sounding voices speaking frantically from a television ? The creaking doors are quite comfortingly creepy — if that’s what they are — and the “notes” they play don’t clash .

The rattling sound is on the ‘snare’ beat actually, whereas the bass drum is fairly normal sounding. What I was in fact playing was a ‘cajon’ which is a box drum, the type you sometimes see street performers using and which are thought to have originated from Peru. It can simulate a drum kit fairly well. I endorsed a manufacturer of the ‘cajon’ who called themselves POPercussion. If you follow the link there’s a comment from me down the page. Photos were also provided.

The shaker would have been one that we had in the studio, the background tv ambience was no doubt a random room recording (it sounds Australian to me when the guy says: “yer fucking kidding me” at 4:54) but I can’t recall what it was. We added various other samples. The more organic sounds (creaks and scrapes etc) were recorded in the studio. I believe the creaks were actually tension ropes on an ethnic drum but I’m not entirely sure … it was more than a decade ago.

Popercussion

 

Hi Steve. Someone has recently shared some photos of a few of your prints, which they purchased from you some years ago – including a couple of images of David, from the Tin Drum album shoot. I don’t recall seeing any of the shots previously, and wondered if you had any others from the session? Was there a reason why they didn’t appear in ‘through a quiet window’?

The simple answer is that I can’t locate the negatives so these prints would have been made around the time the photos were taken.

You’ve mentioned Johnny Thunders & The Blackhearts – ‘Chinese Rocks’ as being a favourite track at one time, and listening to it as well as Television tracks give the first two Japan LP’s a new perspective on how to hear them. ‘In Vogue’ stands out from the rest of ‘Quiet Life’, is a distillation of later Japan style and one you said, here, was your favourite Japan song. Was there anything musically or otherwise from your perspective that catalyzed the change from what was created before to ‘In Vogue’ ?

There were probably a variety of different musical influences from each musician’s perspective, and obviously I didn’t write the song therefore I’m not in a position to say what influenced the compositional content but for me personally the overriding association I have with that particular track is the album Manifesto by Roxy Music which was released in March 1979. Quiet Life was released in December 1979.  Manifesto was something of a musical backdrop throughout the writing/recording of Quiet Life.