INTERVIEW WITH kowloon FROM TOKYO 2/2- English version

kowloon interview [Part 2 of 2]:
About expense management and insight into local music scenes during the Asian tour, and saturated Japanese indie music scene.
"The Japanese indie music scene has been too much systematized."

Link : kowloon interview [Part 1 of 2] : "Feeling same in touring between local cities in Japan and also other Asian countries"

kowloon's website >>>

>>>kowloon's gig at Hidden Agenda in Hong Kong

──So Keisaku, how did you like your performance in Hong Kong by yourself?

Keisaku: We got the audience more than we expected.

──I heard that there came about 150.

Keisaku: 150? It's quite surprising! It's not that easy for us to have such number of the audience in Japan. Anyway, we had many kinds of people there and even those sitting in the front of the crowd.

──You mean the people looked like the Westerns sitting and smoking grass. (laghing)

Teppei: But it's quite common for outside of Japan.

Keisaku: We hardly see people sitting on the ground for a live performance in Japan.

Teppei: Yeah, no audience sitting and smoking grass in Japan. (LOL) It might have been so in DJ clubs a while ago. But no more such style for Japan, is it?

Keisaku: Running clubs has been getting more and more difficult these days. Club business has been drastically shrinking in Japan overall.

Teppei: As if it was wrung.

Keisaku: In Japan, new buildings have been rapidly replacing almost collapsing ones like that (by pointing at an old building seen through a window). There are still so many dangerous buildings in Hong Kong.

Teppei: I like people's generosity here to such things.

>>>The higher buildings in Hong Kong

"Reaction from the audience for our performance in Hong Kong yesterday was like at a DJ club, which is different from that when I came here with toe"

──So could I here your impression of Hong Kong again?

Keisaku: Well, impression? How should I tell you about my impression...

──You've been to Asian countries before while touring with toe as a support member?

Keisaku: I might be getting a different feeling since when I came to Hong Kong with toe. Although the audience for toe surely enjoyed music, I saw some similarities in their reaction with the Japanese audience. I had a same impression when toe played in Taiwan. They're quite serious listeners. Reaction from the audience for our performance in Hong Kong yesterday was like at a DJ club, which couldn't be at a live music club. I like it better. It's really up to each of the audience if he enjoys music or chats with others.

Teppei: I think the feeling of the club had made them do so.

>>>The audiences had their own styles to enjoy kowloon's gig.

──I agree. It just welcomes anybody coming. There should have been hip-hop or punk followers other than post rock in the audience yesterday, which might have created that feeling. So have you got another plan for a live performance in oversea countries in future?

Teppei: I' m just watching vigilantly for a chance. I wish we could have another one.

Keisaku: Watching, and also if the band could have more savings.

Teppei: Watching and saving.

──How did you manage your expenses for this tour in Hong Kong and Korea?

Keisaku: As the band itself doesn't get paid that much, each of us paid airfare out of our own pockets saved from our regular jobs, and the band's saving filled a deficit. Also we covered airfare for Takahashi supporting our tour as a sound engineer. Each of us cut down our living expenses to save for this tour.

──So you could manage a schedule for your regular job so that you could take days off together. It must be quite difficult for you to adjust your schedule so.

Teppei: But the band consists of just three of us. We thought it would be better to minimize the members when we started this band. We also don't need much stuff to play our music and definitely have a better mobility as compared to other bands.

──I heard that you could check in all of your stuff as regular cargo at airports.

Keisaku: It was actually a bit overweighted, but we could manage somehow. (laghing) We couldn't make it first so tried something such as carrying Micro Korg as hand luggage.

──Have you ever had any trouble in transporting your stuff? I believe that luggage lost or damage is quite common in touring to the U.S.

Keisaku: In that case, we have to manage with what we have. Although we've never had such trouble before, it should be one of what we have to settle during an oversea tour. It's predictable that local clubs have a different voltage or sound system. Also yesterday, we managed to play by adjusting many detailed things. It's quite common that we don't accordingly have amps or other stuff as requested. As I think it a waste to loose our motivation in such case, I try to think that it would be lucky if we had what we request as much as possible. Gary's exactly got us all of what we have in Japan yesterday although we asked him to arrange whatever he could have in Hong Kong. It would surely cost some to rent stuff, but he e-mailed me that he would like us to play under the best condition as we play in Japan, and we decided to totally depend on his kindness. So what we had for our performance yesterday was totally same as what we usually have in Japan.
(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 HKG ver. of“Wondering off for Asian Culture Exploration” as serial reports in webDICE.

Taichi: Even the brand and cymbal size for a drum was exactly same.

Keisaku: Bass and guitar amps are also same as what we usually use in Japan.

──I think such relationship of mutual trust must have given you the best performance condition.

Keisaku: He is just a quite rare organizer. (laughing) Our new album "metallic, exotic" has already sold 60 copies at his White Noise Records. Also other 20 at the place yesterday. We just brought 4 or 5 with us this time. Selling too many copies in Hong Kong doesn't pay to us because our buying rate from the Japanese label is expensive (*"metallic, exotic" is sold for HK$185 = JP¥1,850 at White Noise Records while for JP¥2,500 in Japan) . So we thought we would sell more copies of a live recording album instead. Supposing we sell copies for a studio recording album for JP¥2,500 and live one for JP¥1,000 together in Japan, the live one is always more popular, and copies of the other can be sold only in the fraction of those of the live one. But it was totally opposite in Hong Kong, which resulted in that the more expensive studio albums sold more copies than we expected. The live albums were also popular but less sold as compared with the other yesterday. It's hardly happened before. Although the studio albums are more expensive, the audience kindly buy them more. We're thankful to those buying the completely packaged albums more than those like bootlegs.

──I believe that Gary's promotional methods are excellent, and he's well known and respected between the listeners for underground music in Hong Kong. Also he's quite familiar with indie music scenes in the mainland Chia, Malaysia, Philippine, and Thailand and becoming a hub player to network the underground music scene in this area with others.

Keisaku: I got a message from Brazil through facebook asking where our albums are available. So as I knew that White Noise Records does oversea shipping, I responded that why don't you ask Gary. (LOL) And I got another message that he got it and thought Gary actually sent it to Brazil.

Teppei: I also got a message from Germany, again through facebook saying that "I got your album from Gary".

Keisaku: I wonder about if Gary charged a shipping cost accordingly. (laughing) The album itself is sold just for HK$185.

"When we ask locals, we find out that each local city has its own culture which is never same as others."
- How to make a live performance in Asia independently.

>>>Many audiences bought CDs or T-shirts after the kowloon's gig. Some of them were coming to backstage to chat with members of kowloon.

──How did your tomorrow performance (on Sep 18th '11) come out in Korea?

Keisaku: In Korea, the guy named Kon is an organizer, and he is about 27 or 28 years old, runs his own label, and is also the member of the band, achime playing together for tomorrow event. He is a real tough guy running his own band and label which released the album of toe in a Korean version. They trusted him while they would receive various offers for their album release in Korea. He is truly reliable and independent. So I asked him about if we could have his support for our album release tour in Korea when toe joined in a festival or had a tour in Korea.

──So you did ask him by yourself?

Keisaku: Right. Scheduling our performance in Korea is totally same as we do in Japan. I proposed to Kon which days when we're available by e-mail. As Kon is a fluent speaker in Japanese, we always e-mailed to each other in Japanese, which actually made me feel as if I were in contact with a Japanese local club. And although I received his e-mail saying we're accordingly booked with clubs on this or that day and tried to follow it, we couldn't find any flight from Japan matching the offered schedule. Then we have to adjust our schedule again, so I asked Kon and Gary about if it could be readjusted. At that time, I was thinking that we would go to Korea first and then Hong Kong on Sunday but told by Gary that “you can have more audience on Friday and should avoid a weekend as people never go to see a live performance on weekend” So we visited Hong Kong first and delayed our arrival in Korea a day behind. We might think in Japan that a weekend should be better for making a live performance as we have more audience on Sunday, but when we ask locals, we find out that each local city has its own culture which is never same as others. That's our teachings. And while we paid airfare out of our own pocket, we asked them for a ride at airports, a place even where we sleep together in a huddle, and splitting the profits fifty-fifty.

Teppei: I think a managing agent has not been common any more like before for bands. Direct contact with local clubs is the most effective way, and we also don't have to pay any commission to a agent.

Keisaku: We understand that we shouldn't make abrupt contact as they must think "who're these guys" until we actually see each other. Also if they're not interested in our music, we can't force them to support us. Fortunately we received a good reaction to our music from everybody and were kindly offered "Let's make a show for kowloon."

"Those who's not interested in other than music might feel uncomfortable at such places. A Japanese club is getting like a community by itself"
- current situation for Japanese live music clubs.

──I share with your attitude and do the same such as when making an appointment with a report subject although we're in a different creative genre. If a personal network as we do spreads out more, I believe various things in cultural scenes will be changed. For example, miaou went on tour to China on the same day kowloon left Japan, and there have been more creators sending out their creation oversea by themselves. I would like to archive information on such phenomenon and keep on sending it out. I just hope that introducing the band activity methods of independent bands such as kowloon can call to mind of those related in the Japanese music scene with the old-times attitudes.

Keisaku: There're too many clubs in Japan now, and they're making frantic efforts to fill up a event schedule but can't have enough audience for such filling-up event, which forms a vicious circle. It's getting that only those with a large capacity can make ends meet. It might be quite unbalanced.

Teppei: I feel Japanese club business has been too much established. Just doing this or that to make a profit, which I should call as the same know-how.

Keisaku: Those who's not interested in other than music might feel uncomfortable at Japanese clubs. Japanese music scene is getting like a community by itself, which is different from Hidden Agenda yesterday appealing to the people who would like to just hang out or have some drink. Although not all of the Japanese clubs might be so, most of them has a small capacity, no place for enjoying drinks and space for a break outside of a crowd. And they're mostly a jam-packed club suitable for punk rock or hard rock followers, and there're few clubs where the audience can enjoy a live performance more casually.

──I see. I believe that the Japanese should broaden their horizons to not only music but more various cultures.

Teppei: I hope it becomes more and more casual for us to go back and forth between Asian countries as if it would be default. They're not that far from Japan though.

Keisaku: Yeah, it's not some distance away. But it's been a problem to us that a selling price for CD in other Asian countries is way different from that in Japan, so it's not been profitable. Anyway, as we believe that we can gain a great deal regardless of such profitability, we hope to come back again as many as possible. We're totally with no thought of profit.

Teppei: If you do it for other than making a profit, then we believe it valuable to go outside of Japan, see different cultures, and exchange with each other.

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

Please access to get more info.

2011/11/19(sat) in Shibuya, Tokyo (*simultaneous shows festival at 8 venues in Shibuya)

2011/11/27(sun) at 代官山UNIT
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