Hi Steve, I noticed that Virgin have commissioned Abbey Rd Studios to “half speed master” GTP and T-drum. What difference will this make to the originals in your opinion. I am not familiar with this method hence unsure what benefits it will bring to the originals. Also I thought Virgin had “lost” the master tapes to Japan albums after being stored somewhere in a damp basement etc? Intrigued!

The short answer is that the half speed masters will preserve quality to the max and will be comparable to the actual master tapes, unlike the original vinyl which were far inferior but alas was the acceptable standard at the time. As a recording artist, listening to the vinyl was wholly depressing after hearing it ‘perfected’ in the studio. Half speed vinyl would have been a much more acceptable form of mass production.

The master tapes were not damaged or lost. However multi-track tapes were irreparably damaged, which means the music can not be remixed.

Hello, Mr. Jansen, it is me again with another enormous letter. I am writing to you with the strong need to feed my curiousity. Since it is interesting to know what you could think of something that was written about you and others, my question is: have you ever read any articles about Japan/yourself in the press? What was the most ridiculous gossip or article you ever read, and how others reacted if they had read it too? Also, what was your opinion on band PR back then? As far as I know, some gossips were started by your own PR-manager, but perhaps it did not work out fine for Japan and the band needed another promotion tactic. So, from your point of view, what is more effective in making an artist or band more popular: articles in scandalous cheap press or in serious magazines? Thanks in advance and best regards!

I would argue the buck stopped with manager Simon Napier-Bell, he was responsible for the characters he employed as PR agents. It’s fair to say that he was coming from a bygone era and it was time for a change but he wasn’t about to make it. I don’t think it could have been much more ludicrous than it was. Spinal Tap couldn’t do it justice. The idea that any press is good press was, in the innocence of the 70’s & 80’s, still a concept, and making the press listen seemed to be a measure of how good a flirt you could be. It appeared desperate, without any dignity and treating the public like morons. And it stained everything. A PR might argue that attaining press coverage is what made the group successful but that’s not the reality. No one holds onto sensationalist storylines for more than a few minutes of curiosity then it’s forgotten, or it becomes a token piece of worthless knowledge: “oh yeah isn’t that the guy that ….’ etc. and is most likely mocked. It does nothing to further a musical career. It’s short-sighted, like downing relentless tequila shots so you don’t sober up to realise everything’s shit. Keep creating a headline because no one’s actually buying the records, but maybe they will if there’s something … anything in the newspaper. Pour another tequila. That’s how the PR functioned. Must have been hard work but not at all representative of the essence of what the group hoped to achieve. Yes, we liked looking a certain way that might’ve warranted some attention by older generations but that’s just youth expresses itself. Our actual job was to focus on making music, and PR’s job was to make the public aware of it, but we were two completely different machines thrown together by default under the misguided concept that we were aiming towards the same goal but were in fact in different ballparks. Most of us made a speedy exit from that as soon as the band disbanded.

Hi Steve. In preparation for the Quiet Life shows with Japan, how did you go about deciding how the reworked versions of the older material should sound? Adolescent Sex from these shows is just brilliant and the slow build of Obscure Alternatives to it’s cascading finale is just genius. Your drumming on the latter is outstanding, by the way. Apologies if you’re sick of answering Japan related questions :)

We just jammed until the songs sounded like something we might enjoy playing again. The aim I guess was to bridge the gap between the original and where we were heading.

Hi Steve. Is it true that somewhere online there is/was a version of ‘Sow The Salt’ live but with Tim Elsenburg singing a different vocal to Thomas Feiner’s? Thanks.

Yes that’s right. Tim and I started to co-write for my solo album ‘Slope’ in ’06 and while the recording was still in progress I was invited to join Yukihiro Takahashi’s ‘Something Blue’ tour that same year. Tim and I opened the show with a selection of tracks from ‘Slope’ before it was completed (‘Ballad Of A Deadman’, ‘Sleepyard’, and what became ‘Sow The Salt’ but was at the time featuring a different vocal by Tim). Yukihiro’s set followed and was a laptop performance which I joined. This small tour obviously pre-empted the one-off ‘Slope’ live performance in Tokyo in ’08 and was the first opportunity to work with visual artist Shoko Ise who went on to make all the back-projection films for my show. Tim is one of my favourite people, always great company and a very talented songwriter.

a few snaps here by Sari Hayashiguchi

Hi Steve. I was a huge fan of your work with RB on Dolphin Brothers. I thought your vocals brought the album to life and I wondered why you you never featured vocally on any of Japan’s tracks or much material since? Why stop after only one album?

I took on the vocals for The Dolphin Brothers because of the nature of the deal on offer from Virgin Records at the time, they wanted a more commercially viable album (our first collaboration was an ambient album). Richard and I felt that we could develop this alongside our more ambient/instrumental work. Turned out Virgin were not up for a long term investment and post Dolphin Brothers we made the decision to focus on the less commercial side since I didn’t enjoy the role of front man and I knew my limitations as a vocalist. A second vocalist in the band JAPAN was never considered.

The Dolphin Brothers photo by Sheila Rock
The Dolphin Brothers – photo by Sheila Rock