The latter. Practice until each limb breaks free from being tied to another and a different type of coordination kicks in. Independently in sync.
Everything by ear and memory, never had a need to write anything down except when I had to rehearse many unfamiliar tracks in a short space of time, in which case I would make up my own primitive method of drum notation as I’d never learnt the proper way. I think there was some sheet music printed in Japan way back, after the second album maybe. Try listening and having a go, it’s much more fun. It’s not like other instruments whereby you need to learn chord shapes, you just need to play the beats as you hear them, and each element of the kit is pretty easy to determine.
Guitar isn’t the kind of instrument you can play convincingly as an occasional player, as is also the case with drums and percussion. There wasn’t a desire to switch probably because we were always keen to try to push ourselves on the instruments we’d chosen. I was called upon to play keyboard parts purely for the practical reason of accuracy of timing, since JAPAN albums were recorded before the days of midi and computers, so particularly on ‘Tin Drum’ this was the case, but it wasn’t by way of experimentation. I think the only time we all sat around recording ourselves bashing percussion was during the Rain Tree Crow sessions. As for David on live bongos (probably you mean congas) I must have been looking the other way.
Cherry tomatoes flash fried, served on pasta with plenty of garlic, parmesan and a glass of crisp white. So … two favourite fruits there.
Rob Dean, soundcheck in Japan circa 1980. Photo by Steve Jansen
It was a session for a track on the Nine Horses album ‘Snow Borne Sorrow’. Due to that particular track going through further changes, Robert’s contribution was not ultimately incorporated.
It’s not unusual for younger kids to look back into musical history, I think we all do that at some point, but perhaps the difference now is that the internet can create more of a trend in that respect, particularly if the band were very visual. Maybe another contributing factor is that because we were not the type of musicians who felt compelled to keep churning out the same thing for decades in order to remain commercially successful, JAPAN has become very much isolated and of that time, and perhaps that’s part of it’s charm. Having never been exported out of the 80′s it’s maintained a sort of idealistic purity, and subsequently allowed the original members to musically evolve.