頑張れRyan! potential susquatch new guitarist
(note: I had intended to write this post a couple months ago. Better late than never!) When people find out that I'm organizing a tour bringing Japanese bands to Canada and that I need help promoting the tour, they often give me lots of advice on where and how I can target the Japanese community. But the fact of the matter is I really have no interest in getting more Japanese people out to the shows. If that was a priority I would just organize shows in Japan and save myself a ton of money (believe me the thought has crossed my mind). The main goal of the tour is to show Canadians that Japan has an incredible indie music scene. Arguably the best in the world. The people who I want coming to the shows are open-minded music fans, especially those who have never listened to Japanese music before. Probably the greatest thing that comes out of these tours is when people come up to me and tell me that they never knew Japanese music was like this and that the show they saw was one of the best they've ever seen.
As an example, I give you the story of Ryan VanDrie. He was working for Indie Week and was assigned to be our stage manager @ the Rivoli so that we didn't go overtime and cut into their bands' playing time. Initially we butted heads b/c of my insistance that the Japanese bands be allowed to move the drum kit to where they normally set it. (each band prefers it in a different spot). Obviously it takes a lot of time to move the drums and having to re-mic etc and Ryan insisted that we keep the drums in the back to save time. I explained to Ryan that it makes a huge difference in terms of the aesthetics and performance dynamics and it wasn't something we would compromise on and that once he saw the bands perform he would realize why. We also explained that if the Japanese are anything they are motherf*cking efficient and that we will get the drums repositioned and re-miced in no time. Ryan was skeptical but let us do our thing. Then the show started and Ryan had an absolute BLAST! He liked all the bands but he especially fell in love with susquatch. The intricate guitars, insane melodies, smooth jazzy style, Kenta's phenomenal charisma and Maki's deliciously tight drumming was like nothing he had seen or heard before.
The next day we played at the Velvet Underground. Although Ryan was scheduled to work elsewhere for Indie week he made it a mission to at least catch susquatch's set. Since Ryan had gone out of his way to make the show I asked Kenta to give Ryan a shout-out during one of his emcee breaks. Ryan got a kick out of that. As expected, susquatch tore it up! It was an all-ages show so the kids were stage diving and crowd surfing.
(okay, only one girl was crowdsurfing in this vid and I did most of the stage diving and crowdsurfing at the show but I can't take video of myself. lol. And I cannot get over how fast maki's drumming is. Her sticks are a constant blur and she makes it looks so damn easy. Her head never moves!)
Up until the Rivoli show, Ryan had never listened to Japanese music before. susquatch's music made a HUGE impression on him. How huge? Well, at first he immediately wanted to find a way to bring susquatch back to Canada again for a larger tour. He ended up corresponding with Kenta through facebook/email and realized that Kenta and Maki are the only official members of susquatch and that Kenta is aiming to write the lyrics to the next album's songs completely in English. This gave Ryan an incredible and crazy idea. Why not move to Japan and become an official member of his new favorite band as the 2nd guitarist!! He could help Kenta write songs in English and he was confident in his skill as a guitarist to be accepted into the band.
Naturally Kenta couldn't just let anyone join his band no matter how long he might have been playing guitar. So he asked Ryan to learn some of susquatch' songs and record footage of himself playing them as sort of a video audition. Ryan obliged and here is some of his work:
Pretty f*cking damn good if you ask me. Especially since I don't think Kenta sent him tabs and Ryan probably learned the songs by ear. Kenta asked me for my opinion and I thought it would be good to give Ryan a shot.
Ryan had never been to Japan before, obviously doesn't know how to speak Japanese, didn't have a job lined up to make money while in Japan but he was willing to drop everything and take a chance at becoming susquatch's new guitarist. That takes an immense amount of guts. Especially since there was no guarantee that Kenta would accept Ryan into the band in the end.
Unfortunately, the story has an unhappy ending. Ryan was all set to fly to Japan in early April, but as we all know the Tohoku region of Japan was decimated by a 9.0 earthquake on March 11 complicated by tsunamis and an ongoing nuclear disaster. He had to postpone his trip to Japan indefinitely.
Hopefully, when the socioeconomic climate in Japan has stabilized from the aftermath and Ryan feels comfortable about the move he'll make a 2nd attempt to become a member of susquatch. However, when NMFT vol 3 rolls around he may end up auditioning for Natsumen too. hahaha.
I wish Ryan all the best. Even if you don't end up auditioning for susquatch again you should visit Japan at least once and soak up it's truly amazing music scene. Definitely take in some yakiniku, Ramen Jiro, fine-as-hell girls in Daikanyama, all-night drinking in Koenji and the usual sightseeing spots but you have not been to Japan if you haven't seen a show in a small live house in Tokyo.
Even though this story doesn't have a great ending... yet (Ryan may still end up a member of susquatch), I'm glad the tour was able to make such an impact on someone's life. A lot of people have told me how much they've loved the shows and it's especially great when it's their first exposure to Japanese music. I go to great lengths to choose the right bands for these tours. Not everyone will like all the bands since I purposely aim for variety but there's a good chance one of the bands will make a lasting impression. Maybe not enough to make you want to quit your job and move to Japan but they may become your new favorite. And if that happens I consider the tour a great success.