Good collaboration requires being on the same wavelength, making work flow painless. The hardest thing is when that is not the case and everything requires a discussion and a degree of moderate coercion. Those types of collaborations don’t usually happen too repeatedly. But there are very different types of collaborations, as in the role one plays, (musician, writer, producer, mixer) and this dictates how you mentally approach the project and the level of control you take as opposed to compromises you make. I generally prefer to be left to my own devices and exchange audio files once I’m happy with the way the work is going, but with long standing collaborators, on more familiar ground, working in the studio together can produce faster/better results (but not always). Recording budgets are also a major factor to the work process as commercial studios are still extortionately priced and create a time pressure for everyone, therefore if you have your own, even modest, set-up (thanks to advances in technology) you can work for much longer perfecting ideas rather than going with snap decisions due to budget restrictions.
As far as I can recall there are no unreleased collaborations … maybe some session recordings but I’m not entirely sure. I do remember back in ‘82 the Takahashi live band (other members included Masami Tsuchiya, Hajime Tachibana and Haruomi Hosono) recorded a track which was intended as a single, and at that time Hosono and I also started to collaborate on some new tracks but busy schedules meant these projects were abandoned for more pressing commitments. Generally speaking, once I take on a project I like to see it through to fruition.
That was Richard Barbieri’s home studio. Mine was named ‘The Nest’.
I only contributed lyrics to this track. I wasn’t present at the recording and had no part in the creating of it. If my memory is correct, I submitted lyrics without hearing any music therefore they were incorporated in the form I wrote them as opposed to writing lyrics for an already established vocal melody. Since Iva Davies sings backing vocals I felt that perhaps he’d contributed to the vocal arrangements to some degree but I don’t believe he’s credited as doing so.
The music was composed as a soundtrack to a silent Russian art movie by Vertov. If you’ve seen it you might understand the way in which it connects with these visuals. Although they are quite innocent (in a propagandist way) we attempted to suggest a more sinister, subversive quality, to create a sort of subtext that certainly wouldn’t have been present in the original content. This was our way of reinterpreting the visuals, transforming them into something more ethereal and ‘Kafkaesque’ at times. It’s certainly not easy listening and I hope it didn’t induce any nightmares.
Akiko’s music didn’t really facilitate anything too unconventional from the rhythm section so neither Mick nor I were being asked to work on the album to capture the essence of what we did together within our own band. Akiko usually incorporates a lot of chord changes and perhaps this restricted Mick’s more fluid style. Also, most bands don’t require the bass to be making a statement, they prefer that it’s sitting sensibly with the drums and defining the root notes, but as we know that wasn’t really Mick’s style. In JAPAN’s music the bass melodies were given the space they required and arrangements were integrated around them so the bass could be free to feature quite predominantly in the mixes, since they demanded to stand out in a similar way that a lead guitar riff might. The construction of Akiko’s music wasn’t really geared up for that (from what I can recall) therefore perhaps the combination of this, along with the fact that Mick was restricted by chord structures, meant that his performance is more subdued. Those familiar with JAPAN’s music would be used to Mick’s bass being much more audible whereas on “Ai Ga Nakucha Ne” it’s probably mixed at a more typical level. But the sessions went okay and the project was viewed as a bit of an adventure for all concerned.
During my photo session with Ryuichi Sakamoto & Akiko Yano. Behind the scenes Ryuichi Sakamoto & Mick Karn circa 1982. Photo by Steve Jansen
Ryuichi Sakamoto & Mick Karn during the recording of Akiko Yano’s ‘Ai Ga Nakucha Ne’ at Air Studios circa 1982. Photo by Steve Jansen