Off Hiatus and Back in Business
When I arrived home after my trip to Japan I decided I needed a break from music and NMFT. (sorry to those who emailed me and haven't got a response yet). Didn't do much exciting on my leave of absence since winter in Toronto is horrendously cold. Work kept me busy. Finally got around to playing FFXIII (not much of a gamer but I have a soft spot for FF... though if I see another turtle I think I'll puke.) Also finally got around to watching Ai No Mukidashi (Love Exposure).
This movie is 4 hours long!! But it's so breathtaking, thought provoking and ridiculously fun you'd wish it were longer (the original cut is apparently 6 hrs... bejeezus!). It's a scathing commentary on the hypocrisy of religion and various social norms, and a brilliantly twisted love story. Along with Lily Chou-Chou no Subete, it's become one of my favorite films of all time. Sakura Ando's outstanding performance allows her chillingly sinister character to become one of the most awesome and fiercest villians in cinematic history. You'll be appalled at her sadism but feel at least a modicum of sympathy towards her... much moreso than for example, Eihi Shiina's character in Audition. All the actors do a great job but she really steals the show. Yura Yura Teikoku's contributions to the soundtrack are absolutely killer. Highly f*cking recommended viewing. The absurdity, creativity, freshness, skill and audacity of this film mirrors what I find so interesting about the Japanese music scene.
My reasoning behind cancelling NMFT vol 3 in May are multifactorial.
1. It takes an insane time commitment and I LOSE roughly $30,000 per tour!! This is all money out of my pocket. Just think about that for a minute. I lost $60,000 last year due to the 2 NMFT tours. The main reason is because I am the one paying for all the flight tickets and hotel accomodations (not the bands!) My surname is neither Gates nor Zuckerberg. I make a comfortable living as a doctor but I don't make THAT much money. Losing $60,000 is a big deal to me. However, it would be (almost) worth it if I accomplish my mandated goals. The primary one being to significantly increase recognition of Japanese Indie music in Canada. By cancelling the tour in May I saved myself $30,000, have much more free time on my hands and can work on making the October tour the best one yet. (Assuming there is another tour. Without adequate support from you guys, I refuse to do any more tours).
2. Entitlement. Both fans and the bands were seriously taking me and future tours for granted. Examples: a) At the shows and on this site I made it clear that I need your support in promoting this tour. I asked for very simple things like reviewing or talking about the tour in your blogs, posting any footage of the tour on youtube if you have any, commenting on any of the bands' Youtube clips (even ones unrelated to NMFT) if you enjoyed their performances in Canada. Thanks very much to the few people who did help in this regard. It really means a lot as word of mouth is MUCH more effective than wasting money on advertisements. (The Exclaim magazine "partnership" was next to useless. They made me spend a lot of money to put an ad in their paper and did the minimum possible to promote the tour just days before it started. All they were interested in was my cash and they could have cared less about the merits/goals of the tour.) And it's never too late. If you come across any video (esp ones not NMFT related) by andymori, Owarikara, mothercoat, Mass of the Fermenting Dregs, sgt, グーミ, susquatch, KKG or uhnellys and you enjoyed their performance in Canada, please leave a comment. I lose $30,000 and devote almost all my free time for 4-5 months doing one of these tours. If you enjoyed watching either NMFT tour last year and want to see more, the least you could do is spend 30 seconds writing a simple comment. I'm not asking for money. I just want people to help me promote the tour on a grassroots level but very few people have helped me in this regard. Leaving comments on this blog helps as far as encouraging me, but Youtube and Facebook comments help the cause alot more! Lastly, some of the people who have helped me the most don't even live in Canada and aren't able to attend any of the shows (eg Denise in the US, Nicolas in France (actually he flew from France to help with the 1st tour!!), Aion in Belgium, etc). They just like what I'm trying to accomplish and are helping me because they're also fans of Japanese music. More and more Japanese bands are wanting to perform outside of Japan when they hear about the NMFT bands playing in Canada. Helping what I'm doing may indirectly lead to Japanese bands coming to your country as well.
b) Sebastian X were invited to participate in May 2011 for NMFT vol 3 along with the Mornings and Mow Mow Lulu Gyaban. The Mornings had a valid reason for backing out (work schedule), Mow Mow's manager never replied back even though he previously wanted to do the tour, but Sebastian X's response upset me the most. I am friends with the band and manager and they clearly know the reason why I am doing these tours. They would absolutely love to come to Canada and have been bugging me to bring them for over a year. Maybe they were upset at me for not bringing them on the 1st tour. I invited them for the 2nd tour but they backed out b/c the drummer had to go to Italy). Anyhow, for the tour in May they agreed to participate... under certain conditions: - I pay for everything: the flights, the hotel rooms, the transportation within Canada, and the food (not to mention I pay for the musical equipment renting the venues, hiring doorpeople/security and pay for all the advertisement/promotion) - I have to bring the 4 band members, the manager and their sound technician (and cover all their costs) - The 2 girls from Sebastian X get their own hotel room (note: on previous tours, 2 bands ~7people were happy to share the same room.) - the Mornings and Mow Mow Lulu Gyaban must take part as well - in addition to paying for everything, I have to give them a "guarantee," This means I have owe them a performance fee as well. To their credit they said it didn't have to be much, but they wanted extra money. - I had to treat them well during their stay in Canada
Were they f*cking SERIOUS?!!! Owarikara and グーミ etc told them how awesome the experience in Canada was and I'm already doing more than enough to give them the same opportunity and they want to tack on some selfish ultimatums? I might have expected this from higher profile bands on major labels like Rin Toshite Shigure or Midori but Sebastian X's demands were ridiculous considering we're friends and I've been supporting them for a long time. Most of the demands were likely due to the manager but they were clearly discussed with and greenlit by the band. In December, I talked with both the manager and the band. They apologized and things have been smoothed out but the experience remains unnerving. A lot of bands want to take part in NMFT but many of them have this notion that I'm profitting from the tour (ha!) or have an unlimited expense account. The bands on the 2nd tour were fairly apathetic in helping me organize the tour (which is why it was cancelled at one point) but during and after the tour they were extremely grateful and appreciative of what I did for them. It's only after the bands arrive in Canada that they realize how special the tour is and how much better it could have been if they had helped out more.
c) Midori disbanding. Noone can say for sure why Midori broke up but after talking with close friends of the band we're fairly certain of one of the main causes. First of all, the members got along with each other extremely well so interpersonal conflict was not an issue. Also, all 4 members love performing and making music. Mariko Goto got married last year but she clearly wanted to continue with Midori and they were set to release a new album around May or June. They fired their management a couple years ago (who now manage Go!Go!7188) and decided to manage themselves with some help from Sony ME. Firing your management agency can be a risky move b/c they often retaliate by screwing opportunities up for you. Even with an amicable divorce and justifiable cause the Japanese music industry frowns on artists/bands that fire their management. Anyhow, for the last 2 years the big music festivals such as Rock in Japan, Fuji Rock, Countdown Japan etc have been ignoring Midori despite being very active with performances and releases. They were getting less and less coverage in magazines and TV. Midori used to be able to sell out shows in a matter of hours after tickets go on sale but less people were going to shows, recently. If you've ever had the pleasure of watching Midori play live, you'd know they pour their heart and soul into each performance. Mariko Goto literally risks her life every show diving from insane heights into the audience. It's one thing for the industry to shun the band (they enjoyed being black sheep) but when the fans started to take the band for granted Mariko Goto got PISSED. I went to Midori's final show (one of the best concerts ever) and she remarked on her displeasure at how tickets to the year-end show only sold out when Midori announced they were disbanding. Mariko Goto is one of the most passionate musicians on earth when it comes to music and stage performance and fans assumed she'd continue Midori's hectic lifestyle after recent marriage even if they didn't give their support. She loved the band but there was no way she was going to let Midori fade into obscurity. She'd rather break the band up while they were still germane and send a message to the "fans" who took the band for granted.
When I realized this was likely the main reason Mariko Goto ended Midori, it made it easier for me to cancel the NMFT tour in May. The people who loved coming to the NMFT shows last year weren't willing to help me out with even the simplest requests and a lot of the bands I planned on inviting seemed to take it for granted I would pay and do all the work myself. So even though I would have loved to do a tour in May it didn't seem worth the sh*tload of time and money I'd have to sacrifice. Plus I was bummed Midori broke up since they had already agreed to participate in NMFT in Ocotber (did you know I was actually very close to having them take part in vol 2 but I ended up having to go with sgt? no haps since sgt f*cking ruled and I love sgt, but Midori would have been INSANE!). I was actually so bummed that I felt like quitting the NMFT tours for good. But I sincerely love the Japanese indie music scene and the bands within so I intend to help out while I can. (Some day I might get married and do you think my wife would let me spend $30,000-60,000 on some crazy tour that takes up all of my free time?)
3. Tradition and Quality Control. The first tour was amazing. A ton of people came to the Vancouver show and the Toronto/Montreal shows had incredible crowd response. Discorder magazine (UBC) said it could end up being the show of the year. andymori blew up and became one of the most popular bands in Japan. The NMFT vol 1 finale in Tokyo at Shibuya O-nest sold out easily and on my last trip to Japan, people who never knew me before recognized me from that one show and would come up to me saying it was by far the best concert they have ever been to.
Turnout for the 2nd tour was much less than expected. In Vancouver, 1/3 as many people came (75 vs 260 for vol 1). Turnout in Toronto and Mtl was almost the same as vol 1 but should have been better since the original tour was an unequivocal albeit critically unheralded hit. But those that did come to the show had a blast. Some thought the 1st tour was better (eg the bouncer at Biltmore), but almost everyone who came fell in love with at least one of MOTFD, sgt, uhnellys or susquatch. There was no clear cut favorite since each band had their supporters (one guy is actually planning on moving to Japan to audition as 2nd guitarist for susquatch) but MOTFD appears to have made the biggest impression on the only 2 music critics that actually bothered to come see the shows. 2 different journalists for the Montreal Mirror named NMFT vol 2 the concert of the year for 2010. http://www.montrealmirror.com/wp/2010/12/23/music/the-tens-that-topped-2010/ Thanks Rupert and Erik! I'm glad you guys enjoyed the show and thought enough of the tour to mention it in the year end list. I wish more music critics would actually take a chance and come see the shows. All the booking agents, club owners, and sound techs that have worked with the NMFT bands have been completely blown away by their skill and professionalism. And people in bands who have come to the shows have been thoroughly impressed stating they'd have to "step up their game." Since I set the bar high with the quality of the bands on the first 2 tours, I feel I need to exceed or at least match that level with volume 3. While in Japan in December I felt I was being rushed into choosing the next line-up. The bands I originally intended on bringing could no longer make it (Mornings / Mow Mow/ ...Sebastian ) Some of the bands I really liked lived far from Tokyo eg viridian (Nagoya), King Brothers/N'Shukagawa Boys (Osaka), Usotsuki Barbie (Nagasaki). I could have gone with a line-up of: viridian, 385, Bugy Craxone and any of the Zankyo bands (haisuinonasa, Mudy on the Sakuban, the Cabs. Perfect Piano Lesson or Luminous Orange were the ones I was considering). A show with viridian / 385 / BUGY CRAXONE / haisuinonasa would have been kickass but definitely on a more raw/intimate vibe. Unfortunately, it would have been very difficult for me to promote these bands since they're obscure to even diehard indie/underground music fans in Japan. These bands wouldn't have been able to give me much (pics/media) to promote with but Zankyo label would have been the most helpful resource to date. I could definitely see these bands putting on a great show together but I didn't want to risk another poor turnout. I felt like I needed at least one "higher profile" band like the band apart or Rin Toshite Shigure to guarantee a core group of people attending the shows. Having andymori and MOTFD participate in previous tours definitely helped with credibility and drawing a core of pre-existing J-music fans in Canada. I feel bad for all the bands I had talked to and invited to potentially come to Canada. I know Praha depart are coming to New York next month and I'm sure SuiseiNoboAz will find there way to America on their own in the near future (tag along with Zazen maybe?)
Anyhow I do want to do another tour in October. But there are no guarantees. Natsumen said they'd love to take part... but I haven't contacted them again b/c I was unsure if I would do another tour. Hopefully they're still willing to participate. Natsumen are f*cking legendary. One of the most respected and loved bands in Japan for those who favor quality music. (Jpop aficionados wouldn't have a clue who they are.) In December, I also met and talked with nisennenmondai and Nakano Pierre of Rin Toshite Shigure. Having a line-up of Natsumen / nisennenmondai / RTS would be extremely badass as they represent some of the premiere "non-mainstream" Japanese bands that have yet to play in N America. Natsumen are really down to earth and wouldn't have high demands. The only thing is they are 8 members large and have a manager that would likely have to tag along. Nisennenmondai and will likely demand a sizeable guarantee and RTS will likely demand a guarantee and for me to pay for their manager and roadies to come as well. Five bands were involved with NMFT vol 1, four bands with vol 2 and vol 3 may involve only three bands and end up being the most expensive tour by far.
So if I were aiming for critical acclaim and "buzz" from the media to help improve the visibility of Japanese indie music in Canada, this would be the route to go. But it seems a little ridiculous that I'm paying so much extra money to bring these bands to Canada when I'm doing the tour primarily for THEIR benefit. MOTFD and andymori's managers were extremely understanding of the situation and Midori's manager was very sensible as well. Hopefully, nisennen and RTS can commit to participating without egregious demands and I might be able to add a 4th band.
Or I could go a completely different route and contnue with what I did in the 1st two tours. Volume 1 worked so well because the bands were a tight knit family, very interactive with the crowd, extremely humble and brought energy in spades. The bands were unknowns and people had low expectations. It took time for the crowd to warm up to the bands but then like magic the extreme passion and intensity of the performances would win the crowd over and people would say "Holy sh*t! I haven't had this much fun at a show in a long time." The bands in Vol 2 were older and there wasn't as much youthful energy (less jumping around) but they were equally as intense and brought more technical skill. Even though the bands weren't as visibly supportive of each other in the audience, we were actually even more tight-knit than the vol 1 bands (and that's saying a LOT since the vol 1 bands got along extremely well).
A line-up of Natsumen, nisennen, RTS wouldn't have the mystery, rawness and charm of the first two tours. There would be expectations for a kickass show which I'm sure would be met, but there wouldn't be the pleasant surprises of the previous tours and the mood wouldn't be as energetic, soulful and fun. If I wanted all-out entertaining, energetic and fun I'd go with The Mornings, hyacca and Mow Mow Lulu Gyaban for example but I'd have to sacrifice the "newsworthy" appeal and opportunity to more subtantially raise Japanese music's profile in Canada.
Since I'm not doing a tour in May I'm willing to increase the budget a bit for October. However, I'm not going to pay a ton of money to a band with a sense of entitlement if I can bring a lesser known band that is hungrier, more entertaining and just as skilled. I'm aiming to make volume 3 the best NMFT tour yet without being too fiscally irresposnible.
HOWEVER, if you guys don't volunteer to help out (not by money but by simple things) I refuse to do any tours at all. The DIY (Do It Yourself) principle doesn't mean Do It Alone. It means getting your hands dirty and effecting change at a grassroots level, but often with help from likeminded people. I want to do another tour in October but I can't and won't do it without your help.