Hi Steve. I noticed recently you`re credited as `Drum programmer` on Annie Lennox ` DIVA album. Would it be possible to explain to this non muso what that entailed exactly, please ? I suppose i`m curious as to why, having programmed the drums, you didn`t play them, or likewise why the drummer used , didn`t program his own stuff. Kindest regards Craig

Hi Craig. Annie invited me to listen to a new track she was working on at her home studio in her attic space which I believe wasn’t really set-up to record drums. She sang a guide vocal on it and we discussed what sort of thing was required. Since programming had become a fairly common practice by that time I took the track away and programmed something up in my own recording space. I actually used some of the same samples that I’d made for ‘Blackwater’, Rain Tree Crow, (which was also programmed, that’s another story). I think I drove my neighbours a bit nuts at the time as my place was being refurbished and there was no sound insulation. I had a few complaints. The track was called ‘Why’ and that explains why there are no drummers performing on it. I think the neighbours heard it a lot more after that.

Hello Steve, My apologies if you’ve been asked this before. Your precise but highly creative approach to rhythmic composition has always strongly appealed. Even now, listening to Japan’s cover of ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ deceives me as much as when I first heard it. At several points in the recording, I find myself questioning where the ‘one’ is. I’m not sure if you perceive the same rhythmic illusion that I do, but can you recall if it was an effect you set out to achieve? Many thanks.

It’s in straight 4/4  and the 1 is as ever on the 1, however the bass drum and snare emphasise the ‘and’ (8th notes) on 1 and 3, so you are probably slipping into perceiving the 1 on the ‘and’. There’s also a BD on the (6th) 16th beat which adds to the illusion of a triplet rhythm if you’re thinking that the Tom on the (3rd) 16th is the downbeat, which might confuse things further.

Yeah I know, none of that helps really … how about a diagram? Probably doesn’t either. I don’t know, it makes sense in my head but being self-taught doesn’t equip you with the appropriate tools for teaching. I’ll bet Gavin Harrison could elucidate this matter in no time 🙂


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 expressing 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