“Feeling the same in touring local cities in Japan and also other Asian countries” - Interview with Kowloon right after a live performance in Hong Kong


*Japanese version is here
*Korean Hangle version is here

kowloon is the instrumental band based in Tokyo. As a part of the promotional tour for their new album "metallic, exotic" released on May 2011, they had a live performance in Hong Kong on Sep 16th and Korea on Sep 18th. I was also at the live music club "Hidden Agenda" to report on their performance in Hong Kong. The concept of Offshore is to make a cultural network within Asia and report out Asian underground culture & stuff from Japan to overseas. In a music scene, kowloon has been flexibly sending out their music to the world in their independent way, which we can share our concept although our communicational way is different. I hope that this report can be a leading reference for bands and creators who also would like to promote their creation overseas and kowloon's attitude and action will give any impact on Japanese indie music scene.

>>>the posters of kowloon's first gig in Hong Kong

kowloon http://kxwlxxn.net/
The trio band, Kowloon features Teppei Takahashi (bass, guitar, micro KORG), Keisaku Nakamura (keybords, synthesizer), and Taichi Umeki (drums) and has released their first album "Infection" (2007), the live album "LIVE: Shimokitazawa henshin", and "LIVE: Minamiaoyama henshin".
Their post-rock sound featuring mellow & sophisticated keyboards play and danceable and loud-at-times rhythm parts struggling with each other in their original sound space has obtained many followers in Japanese indie music scene, and tours with their fellow bands, toe and mouse on the keys had great success in 2008.

kowloon "tones of nowhere" PV from kxwlxxn on Vimeo.

*Interview with Kowloon in the morning on Sep 17th , the day after their performance in Hong Kong

"The audiences fully enjoyed our music as what it was regardless of no pre-promotion"

──I've actually heard of Kowloon from Gary in Hong Kong since a half year ago for the first time.
(Gary is a owner of the only-one underground music shop in Hong Kong, White Noise Records, organizer of a live performance in Hong Kong for Kowloon and also manager of Asia tour for toe.)

*Link : Interview with Gary from Hong Kong ver. of "Wondering off for Asian Culture Exploration" as serial reports in webDICE. (Japanese language only)

Keisaku: It's interesting that you've heard of us from Gary. (laughing)

──That's right. Firstly I would like you to briefly talk about the beginning story of kowloon. So Keisaku and Teppei were in the same band, right?

Keisaku: We used to play for the band 界 -cai- consisting of 5 – 6 members which is more than what kowloon has now, and Teppei played a guitar at that time. The band broke up with the last performance in 2005, and Kowloon was formed probably in the same year. Although we'd not have any live performance as kowloon, we started a jam session at a studio, which overlapped the last period of 界 -cai-.

──I've heard that kowloon also had a performance in Beijing before. How long ago was that and how did it come out?

Keisaku: I think it was about when "Infection" was released, so sometime around 2007 or 2008.

Teppei: We've been interested in a performance in oversea countries for a long time, and a staff of Perfect Music which released "Infection" happens to be from Bad News (Japanese indie label managing the bands represented by Qururi and running the live music club MAO in Shanghai and Beijing). And then we're kindly offered to play at MAO anyway and actually had two performances at MAO and D-22 in Beijing.

Keisaku: We had quite small audience at MAO, probably less than 20 people. It was almost like a rehearsal although we had a full set of equipment.

Teppei: D-22 was more for drinking than watching a live performance.

Keisaku: Right, we had a wide range of the audience there. We have another story for a performance at MAO, remember? It would be possibly canceled for the Olympic games.

──Why is that?

Taichi: It was just right before the Olympic games would start, so we heard that the Chinese police might suddenly enter and inspect such spot.

──But you actually had a performance there without any troubles, didn't you?

Keisaku: Someone might have leaked out to the police that there would be too small audience for them to go on patrol.

──LOL How long did you stay in Beijing to manage your tour?

Keisaku: about 4 days & 3 nights. We all had a different schedule and met together in Beijing. We remember that Teppei flew in from Vietnam, and Taichi arrived on a day before the performance, and I did right on the performance day. We all followed a different flight schedule.

──So did you meet together in Beijing as scheduled?

Keisaku: We managed to see each other accordingly. Just in front of D-22.

to see bigger map of D-22

──I wonder about how could you do that at the place not good for a meeting spot.

Keisaku: No one picked us up at an airport at that time, so each of us had to load our stuff to a taxi and asked a driver to take to D-22 just with the access memo as the local drivers never understand English, and then we could see each other somehow.

──Basically why do you think you would like to have your live performance in oversea countries?

Teppei: We thought our instumental music never matters language barriers and also can appeal more to the oversea audience. However, it'd been difficult for us to have such chance, and also the budget matters of course, and some hosting staff familiar with local music scenes are necessary. It wasn't that easy for us to clear such matters anyway.

Keisaku: But China and Korea is not that far from Japan, so it's almost the same for us to go to local cities in Japan such as Fukuoka and Sapporo although it makes us tired to fly overseas from a quite suburban Narita or Haneda airport.

Teppei: It's not actually that far from Japan to Asian countries than going to the Western countries.

──I agree. I live in Osaka so it's quite the same for me to go to Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Keisaku: It might be that touring Asian countries can be considered to be an extension of touring local cities in Japan.

──On the other hand, how do you manage your tour in Japan?

Keisaku: We locally toured to promote our new album this time although it was limited to the area where we could drive in by ourselves. In Nagoya which I'm originally from, our band members and staff all stayed at my family's home. So we toured Kanazawa after staying at Nagoya , Kyoto after another stay at Nagoya, and then Shizuoka so that we could save expenses.

──That's great. You could be called as a completely self-produced band or to be truly independent.

Keisaku: We agree but except supporting albums.

Teppei: Right, that point is not independent.

Keisaku: Although the new album was released from the major label Pony Canyon, our stance to the band activity has never been changed regardless of if our albums are released from Pony Canyon or Perfect Music which released previous albums.

"The Japanese audience basically never go to a live performance of the bands they're not familiar with."

──Can I hear your comment or thought on your performance in Hong Kong?

Taichi: It's more comfortable to play as if we'd shared the close atmosphere. I didn't see any distance between the players and audience.

Teppei: I feel that they fully enjoyed our music as what it was regardless of pre-promotion. We often have the same impression when we see a live performance in oversea countries or share it with other Japanese musicians performing for the oversea audience. The atmosphere of oversea clubs seems to be more open and clear.

──While I was watching your performance at Hidden Agenda in Hong Kong yesterday, I noticed that there were more of the Western audience than when I was there before. The number of the Western audience might be increasing, or it just happened to be so yesterday. The director of Hidden Agenda, Kimi is a girl who's quite good at communication to get close to such audience, and I think it's probably because of such relationship with her guests. Besides, when people would like to see a underground live performance but currently have no choice except at Hidden Agenda which is the only live club in Hong Kong, I believe that more of them go there not because they want to see specific bands but they want to simply enjoy the place.

>>>before kowloon's gig, the entrance of Hidden Agenda

Keisaku: It might be a basic motivation for the Japanese audience to go to a live music club as they want to see specific bands as you said. They do so after checking local performance schedule. Mostly it's not as they personally know a staff of a club or have few choices. There are so many clubs in Japan as you know.

Teppei: We don't probably see any other reasons in the Japanese audience lately.

Keisaku: We can't judge it as good or bad, but it's exactly one reason to see a live performance. There should be a different reason separately for the Japanese audience, and also another for this city. Also, it's locally all different even inside of Japan.

──So you see any difference in Tokyo and Osaka?

Keisaku: It's totally different in how they enjoy and react to music. They're all different in Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Sapporo. A different local club has a different atmosphere that the audience create, which can be naturally applied to Hong Kong.

all photographs by Nishimiya Ryuhei
interviewed by 山本佳奈子 (Kanako Yamamoto)
English translation by 鈴村崇 (Takashi Suzumura)

>>>The latter part of an interview with Kowloon :about cost managing and scheduling for their Asia tour this time and Japanese indie music scene.
"A system of the Japanese indie music has been too much established."