hi steve! what is your favourite memory of you and david playing music together as young boys? do you have any advice for young muscians from lessons you learnt along the way?

Whether you learn an instrument methodically or end up playing in a band and learning ‘on-the-fly’ (I was the latter) the lesson I learnt was to have self-belief and to try to develop a style that wasn’t limited by lack of technique (a more studious player might fall into the trappings of being buried by technique). Playing an instrument is an opportunity to convey expression and it’s always worthwhile aiming for that.

I don’t have particularly fond memories of playing music as young boys, it was one long learning curve, although it didn’t seem so bad at the time, because until you’ve reached a better level you optimistically believe things are going in the right direction and are spurred on regardless. Probably at around 20 years old I settled in and started to have some idea of what I wanted to achieve as a musician.

(Outside The Music Machine – photo by Günther Rakete, 1978)

Japan outside The Music Machine, Camden

I noticed Richard Barbieri spent some time with music students and public at Huddersfield University alas I missed it but would you consider doing the same in the near future, my son is studying music and has been listening to my collection of Japan and solo records (and an imported Sakamoto vinyl) with much interest in techniques and effects used.

Would I consider missing Richard’s masterclass?

I don’t think I’m a suitable lecturer … no conveyable codes of practice nor feeling suitably specialised in any particular field …. just doing what I do. But I’m happy to take any questions your son may have and will endeavour to respond with whatever expertise, insights or amusing anecdotes I may posses.

Dear Steve… I have couple of questions which im curious about your answers. We all know, Fin Costello was always very important at Japan’s visual image. He made a lot of sessions with the band and he was like a band member at Japan tours… Did he give you some advices about photography or how to approach a moment as a photographer, generally? Did you have a photograph from your Japan years which he also inside the frame. I mean a photograph together with Mr. Costello… Another important person was probably Yuka Fujii at japan’s image and music… When you were active at tumblr you shared couple of images which Yuka was also appear inside the frame (i remember she and Karn together outside the Manor and together in front of an exotic instrument)… But she was looking very blurred, faded or i maybe i can call “shy…” Was she? She didnt like or prefer being photographed with the band? Could you pls share with us at least one of your photograph, she is more visible, more clear, more in front… For sure, if any exist at your archive… all the best and thank you for answering our questions…

Fin taught me a little about printing techniques and also about using large format cameras as I didn’t own one myself and I picked up on basic studio lighting techniques during our time working with him on a regular basis. I’m pretty sure there have been one or two photos published of him with the band. As for Yuka, she was ‘Cantonese Boy’ on the single cover image, not so shy… and she too has appeared in photos on various occasions.

  1. Fin Costello shoot (me not him) in Primrose Hill
  2. Fin Costello with not his camera … wait actually I think it is.
  3. Yuka in tour bus
  4. Yuka alternative shot for ‘Cantonese Boy’ single cover

I am curious how the band first came into contact with Ryuichi Sakamoto? What was it like working with him on “Gentleman Take Polaroids,” “Brilliant Trees,” and “Secret’s of the Beehive”? I’m also curious if you could shed some light on how Mick and Rob came into contact with Gary Numan? Thanks for all of the wonderful pictures. – MH

First meeting with Ryuichi was on our second visit to Japan in 1980. He came backstage at The Budokan venue, Tokyo, (a photo of that encounter appears in my photo book) and an interview was arranged for a publication that he contributed to as an interviewer (this may have occurred in the reverse order… but either way). He was later invited to record on GTP when in the UK. He constructed the basic track purely on a Prophet-5 synth which was quite a masterclass in synth programming and sounded reminiscent of his inspiring solo album B2-Unit. I’ve worked with Ryuichi on quite a number of recordings over the years since then, as well as for live and tv performances and he is always a great pleasure to work with and the consummate professional.

The Gary Numan connection is rather vague. I think I sold his drummer my old kit.

Ryuichi ‘Polaroiding’ on day of Old Grey Whistle Test shoot with JAPAN in London.

I love the new reworking of last album all 55.47 minutes of it and it’s seem quite incredible to have made it so seamlessly. It’s wonderful how it moves from the new to the familiar pieces which act, for me, as touch stones to the original songs and music. Could you say a little on how ‘The Extinct Suite’ came about? Did you have it in mind during the the writing/recording of ‘Tender Extinction’? With some of the songs I can clearly hear your voice singing them (in my head that is), did you record any versions of those with you singing? One of the things I’ve always wanted since being introduced to instrumental music by Japan (those ‘B’ sides), JBK, Jansen & Barbieri etc. (‘Worlds in a Small Room’ springs to mind), was to have long pieces of music with the occasional song coming in now and then but not forced. The closest I’ve heard is Górecki’s Symphony no.3 ‘Sorrowful Songs’ beautiful and haunting but the ‘song’ is more prevalent. I almost have this with The Extinct Suite (again in my head), do you fancy making it a reality and bring this and the vocals of the ‘Tender Extinction’ recordings together? :)

Thank you for the nice comments. As it happens Górecki’s Symphony no.3 ‘Sorrowful Songs’ is one of my favourite pieces of music (along with Mahler’s Adagietto from Symphony no. 5) so to hear any comparison is quite the compliment.

The idea of making ‘Tender Extinction’ as an instrumental piece was looming during the mixing stages but I felt the need to write additional pieces to make it more cohesive. I didn’t record my own vocal versions of all the songs …. I think a second reworking of ‘Tender Extinction’ might be pushing things right now however the suggestion is much appreciated.

do you still have your polaroid camera? where do you store your polaroids from the early ’80s? yours don’t seem to have faded (“rich colours”). polaroid 3 of the masami series is album-cover worthy (hope masami sees these). is he holding a photo you took? is “gentlemen take polaroids” in ref to you or did all of you have polaroid cameras at the time or — ?

I do still have a Polaroid Land Camera. The film stands up well over time as long as they’re not in direct sunlight. Mine have been stored away which means there’s been no noticeable fading. Masami is holding a previously taken Polaroid in Polaroid 3. Both David & I had Polaroid cameras but I guess the album title would have simply been a collection of words to romanticise the concept rather than any direct reference. I’ve no idea what that song is about.