Friday, February 22, 2008

Laverite origins, part 4



I woke up extra early since I'd slept for 11 hours, got my shopping done, then got ready and headed off to Narciss by noon.

Most of the members of most of the other bands were trickling in, and we all sort of claimed a spot in the place to set all our gear for the moment. Narciss's wonderful staff made sure all bands were present, handed out forms for us to fill out, and then we had a little meeting about logistics, schedule of rehearsal, schedule of actual bands, what rooms to use, etc etc.


There were two forms: one was for the passes (pictured top) which Yue filled out (above), and we had to provide both our stage name and real name, which must be funny for all those big artists who have gone to such efforts to keep their real name unknown. The other one was stage and lighting direction for the set list: we had to write who was going to need to use what equipment, whether we were using some pre-programmed tracks or not, how many mics, what kind of style each song is, and how we wanted lighting to be directed. Ryota filled that out in nearly no time at all; his vision is pretty clear.


This is where Narciss put our flier. That's Byakura's flier, on the door. I feel lonely way up there, and not too happy about being caddy-cornered next to a band called "It".

The rehearsal schedule is the real schedule backwards, so we went up for a short rehearsal right after the Luna Sea cover band. Narciss's staff is insanely helpful and friendly and many of them remembered me from many a free live and they were very pleased that I was now here in my capacity as a performer. I was slightly worried as to how other bands would react to us, but saw some bobbin' heads and some tappin' toes and I got lots of comments on my playing as I came off the stage. Nice blokes.


Here's Ryota's rack system. From the top down: 19-inch Chameleon LED light, Rexer wireless system, KORG digital tuner, Digitech pre-amp, Marshall power amp. Mayu of Lareine used the same pre and power amps, and hide and Kaoru used the same power amp. Me, I just use the house bass rig and my wireless.

And then it was up to the dressing room with the rest of the bands, and a looooooooot of time to kill. We went to the Lawson and bought food and came back to eat and hang out but mostly it was just a lot of being nervous and doing our makeup poorly for some reason.

We also played with this for awhile:
And I never lost once!



We were really, really nervous, Ryota most of all. He didn't move around much, but I tried to. I tried not to affect any unnatural VK posing but instead acted as much like myself on stage as possible. I'm kinda smiley, but they're gonna have to deal with that!

We had three girls down in front doing all the requisite headbanging and saku-ing and whatever that thing is that they do when there's a guitar solo. Not too many for a regular live but for a first live, with 15 people coming for us, I wasn't too disappointed. I was really just happy to be on stage again after two years (almost SIX years, if you don't count that show two years ago).

I was a little bit bummed because it was becoming increasingly apparent that none of my friends were coming. But as the curtain went back, I saw four of my housemates against the right wall toward the front, and I was really moved by that. These are people that I'm sure couldn't care two shakes about VK and probably actively dislike it but they still came out anyway. (My French housemate had no clue what was going on but liked the makeup of the crowd, by which I mean almost completely chicks.)

I did a big ol' jump during the last song and I'm surprised I didn't fall flat on my butt because of those boots.

After the set we came back into the main area to man our table, take anquettes, and hand out CDs and tickets for the free show. It was hard for me to take people coming up to me and thanking me and saying "great job" and writing nice things on the questionnaires. Some people worry that that's the kind of thing that'll go to a person's head, but for me it has almost the opposite effect, especially in the moment. Some of the girls look so nervous; frightened, even, to approach you. You can see them shaking and their eyes wandering and their mouths twisting in needless inklings of lack of self-confidence, but you smile at them because you want them to go home thinking they enjoyed themselves, and finally they approach and make the most beautiful small talk because they're too scared to say anything of substance, and I adore it. It's charming. And I've been in that position, so I want to reward that kind of bravery with my attention.


Also one girl bought us donuts!!

Over donuts the three of us talked about the live, what went well, what coulda gone better... Ryota the perfectionist initially wasn't pleased, but Yue insisted that there was nothing bad about it, and I'm a disgusting optimist so I was just all overwhelmed and smiles. Still, the first live was out of the way and now suddenly I felt like I wasn't just messing around anymore. That's why I waited until after the live to announce Laverite here, because it didn't feel complete without a legitimate performance under our belt.

I'm really looking forward to the free live; I like the set list a whole lot and there should be lots of people coming. I think I'll be more nervous for that one.

Finally, I just want to thank you all for the wonderful comments and well-wishes. I was telling Go that it's a loyalty that I've done nothing to deserve and I really appreciate it. Whether we rock or whether we suck you guys and gals are just plain nice and supportive. You make ignoring awful comments so easy! XD

I'll try to respond to some of the questions raised in earlier comments here:

We're a three-piece right now. We're going for that 'one guitarist' thing to begin with, and then drummers (e.g., good drummers who can follow a click track and aren't already in a band) are extremely difficult to come by. Heck, they're lucky they even found me. We'd like for a drummer to come along (me most of all, perhaps), but for the moment this will do, or else we'd never get around to actually performing.

We have just over a dozen or so songs in the repertoir right now, many of them from our previous bands. I'll be contributing a couple soon as well.

I forgot to mention how much money has gone into this, per person: approx. 2000 yen per rehearsal, 10000yen for the costume matrials, 7000 for the photo shoot, 3000 for website registration, I forget how much to print up 100 CDs, 5000 for fliers and photo printing, and then just under 10000 per live. It's adding up but this experience has been worth it so far.

One of you asked about a band "concept"; I personally don't pay things like this too much mind but because it has something to do with Aestheticism I'm quite pleased by the providence of it all. All of Mr. Volt's training and my studies that started in December of '06 have culminated in my chance joining of this band. I hope he's proud. :-P

Thank you all again very much!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Laverite origins, part 3


Once I got back from the States, we outlined a schedule: get our costumes fitted, get the photoshoot done, and get ready for the lives.

I forgot to mention that before I left for the states, we had been kicking around designs for costumes. I had a design sketched out, culled from elements of stuff I searched for frantically among the pages of VK mags on the racks of the bookstore on the corner, and a base color of green (since Yue was going with blue and Ryota with red).

The morning of the first day of my Honda commercial shoot, we met up in Shinjuku and went to the fabric shop where our costume staff gal worked.

She was going to make our costumes for free; she's a design student so it serves as good practice for her.

My design and color ended up changing completely as we discussed things; I went from green to black and white and gold. That's okay; they all know better than I do, for the time being. I forked over the money for the base materials and then I headed off to hang out with a robot and some kids.

So finally in January we went and met up with the Costume Girl and we got our fittings and last-minute adjustments done. It was this day that Ryota, Yue and I seemed to loosen up a little bit more around each other. Ryota really, really likes the Resident Evil series and had recently been talking non-stop about the 4th one. At one point he said, "Jimi, look!" and enclosed himself in that closet. Yue and I were a little confused, but I went over and opened the door, and he began to lumber after me making zombie noises. I pretended to shoot him down and made to stomp on his head (the only effective zombie killer!) and by this point he was just cracking up. I was cracking up because this seemed so unlike him.

Yue went down to the closest convenience store and bought a bunch of food for our dinner and pretty much refused to take repayment. Nice guy.

I like the costume for now but I'll be taking a more active role in my own designs from now own.

We met up for the photoshoot at a studio near Shinjuku, a fairly normal portrait studio but they also have specialized in visual bands as far back as '93. The genial older guy that was shooting us showed off his impressive collection of work; old fliers for Rentrer en Soi, Fatima (with Daisuke still in the band!), Yuki's old band way before Jinkaku Radio, and L'arc's first guitarist's next band. Also Exist Trace's first flier, when Miko was not yet the flower she is now. He also had the issue of Cure that Ryota was in back in October of '06 with his last band, RevieR.

We took loads and loads of shots. For the member shots we had to come up with thirty to forty unique poses. Yue and particularly Ryota had a difficult time coming up with something comfortable; I have experience in this kind of thing so I was finished very quickly.

Ryota really likes old Japanese music, not limited only to enka but also some older folk tunes and stuff, so the fact that photographer had the radio tuned to a station playing tunes like that seemed to have a calming effect on him.

We finished the shoots and changed out of costume as the photographer printed up the sample page. We had to pick shots for the website (group shots and profile shots), for the picture sets we'd be selling, for the flier--it was pretty intense. Oftentimes a group shot Yue would like I wouldn't like my positioning in, or if I liked one Ryota would express disapproval of his eyes, or things like that. Good thing there are only three of us for now, right?

Still, we settled on some good shots. We forked over the money for the shots and headed off: the next day, our site went public over here, linked through mixi and visunavi and the like.

By this time all our live dates were pretty much settled. All that was left was some more rehearsals, printing up the fliers, and then the first live itself.

On Valentine's Day, Ryota and I took the fliers and headed into Tokyo to distribute them.


First we hit Narciss...

Then all the way down to Meguro for Third Stage, and Rokumeikan...

In Harajuku we ran into Ryota's old boss and an old bandmate as well before we hit up the Closet Child there.

In Shinjuku, we went to Like an Edison...

Club Indies...

And the Closet Child there. We also went to the Closet Child in Ikebukuro.

This is the whiteboard in my apartment on which I wrote information about or first live for anyone wanting to come, not really thinking anyone would:

The last thing left to do was one more rehearsal on Saturday, and then the live the next day.

After the rehearsal on Saturday I started getting really nervous. I developed a headache and my stomach was acting up. I had originally planned to do some necessary shopping when I returned from rehearsal but I was feeling so awful that I ended up going to sleep at only eight in the evening. Still, it was nice to get enough sleep for the day ahead...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Laverite origins, part 2


I wasn't about to go traipsing around Tokyo gathering ads and getting low returns again, so I planted my fat butt in front of my compy and started scouring the internet for listings there. I got what was somewhat of a repeat performance: few responses, those that did seemed hesitant about hooking up with a foreigner, etc. Also, almost every single posting mentioned that they were "serious" about wanting to become major. (Obviously! Those who aren't don't have the forethought to search very hard!)

One band got back to me five minutes after I sent the email. A few emails back and forth about basic information and then we started talking on the phone. It was Ryota, asking me questions to get a feel if I'd be all right. Not once did he bring up my foreignness, and he never had trouble understanding my Japanese, nor I his. "We don't have a drummer right now--is that okay?" "I want this to be a one-guitar band--is that okay?" I pretty much said yes to everything, as nothing really raised a red flag and I just wanted to be playing music with people. He asked to see a picture of me. We figured out a time and a place to meet up and that was that.

I got to the place and Yue found me and introduced himself. I suppose I'm not that hard to spot. He was very polite and soon enough Ryota showed up; we took our seats in Denny's and sat around snacking and mostly drinking an endless amount of tea.

The conversation revolved around our respective musical histories at first; achievements, affirming each other's tastes, whatever; I was being honest but I was also trying to win them over. I had been mulling over, in my head, a big speech about how I had a good long visa and I was going to be here for the long haul, depending on how well music worked for me, and etc etc, and basically it was going to act as the climactic, swelling moment in a scene from a movie where a guy has to scrape just to get anywhere--

"You're in," they said.

"...wait, what? But my speech!"

Yes, just like that, they wanted me. They were pleased with what I had said about my own experiences, although they hadn't heard me play a single note yet. Sometimes you can just tell from the way someone carries themselves or how they talk, I find. Ryota handed me an MD player and some headphones and had me listen to a few tracks. The ones I heard I either liked or felt had good potential. Either way it certainly wasn't music I was averse too, having previously been a huge fan of Malice Mizer-ish stuff years back. And, stylistically, I didn't mind momentarily looking towards older, lighter VK if it meant avoiding the slew of drop-D Japanese nu-metal copies of any band that happens to make it to the cover of a vk mag.

Ryota slid a minidisc across the table. 3 songs; learn 'em, he said. We then just started shootin' the breeze about any ol' thing. I remember actually getting a phone call about a photoshoot in the middle of everything; I didn't end up getting that job but they were impressed by the mere fact that people call me and offer me jobs like that. But like I've said before, it's really more of a curiosity than it is "cool". :-P

Then we went to the Lawson close by and Ryota made copies of his hand-written band score musical notation for me. We parted ways, and Ryota told me to contact him when I'd learned the 3 songs and then we could go into the studio.

The 3 songs on the disk were "Sephirot" and "Kamen Butoukai" (the first two in our first setlist) and then another one. The next day I called Ryota and told him I'd learned the songs, then we made a date for the studio. I had followed the notation closely enough but also added in my own pieces of flair.

In the studio, Ryota really dug some of my changes but didn't like some other ones, which I totally respect: he had a vision for the songs but wasn't about to let a cool bit from an outside source slip through his fingers. And some of my changes didn't fly because they didn't work rhythmically or some other such thing and he was right. Luckily my changes get approved of more often than not.

Ryota gave me another MD with 11 other songs on it. I learned those in a handful of days and we went back into the studio and polished them up.

Rehearsals are fairly serious business for us, which to me is so refreshing because while certainly every practice needs its bit of fun or humor injected into it, I've never been a part of a band that didn't seem to horse around too much. That, I think, is one pitfall in doing a band with your friends. I didn't start of as friends with these guys, so the dynamic was great.

Then it was time for me to go back to America for two weeks. The only band-related thing I did there was buy that wireless thing (it works beautifully, by the way!!) and bring back some costume pieces and boots and bass strings.

Once I got back, then things really started picking up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Laverite origins, part 1


I had everything lined up to start modeling and music. I did not go into modeling based on any false notion that I am what people traditionally think of when they hear the word "model", but simply that I have been a performer for years and don't care how small of a role I play so long as I get work and have interesting experiences doing it. I mean, I'm not getting any sexy glamor catwalk work, but that's not what I set out to do: I'm sitting at a counter eating a burger as a robot leads children onward; I'm running away from hippo monsters as the Power Rangers save the day; I'm holding a plastic board that will get turned into some futuristic communications device in post-production.

But jobs were slow to come and rejection was disproportionately high. I can take rejection, but this is no way to fill up my time. I began the search for a band.

I went all over whatever rehearsal studios and music shops I knew in Tokyo. Almost all of them have folders of members wanted ads, and I collected a bunch that sounded interesting, both VK and non, and headed home to call or email them.

My spiel described my musical experience, what I could do, what I liked, and then the fact that I was a foreigner but I had a visa and I was in this for the long haul. Most never replied to me; a few that did expressed reservations about my foreigner-ness which was really just a lame, weasel-y way to say "no thanks".

I went with a melodic, pretty proggy metal band that called me back. They were called Willpower. My main two influences have been Yes and Dream Theater, and the guitarist told me that they were big fans of DT too. We made a date I could come check 'em out at the studio and jam a little bit. They welcomed the 'foreigner' angle, too.

Their rehearsal space was out in Ikebukuro, easy enough to find, and they were all very glad to meet me. They played a few of their originals for me and I was really impressed; they were so solid as musicians, and the singer was talented as well. The bassist was great, too, but he was quitting at the end of October, which is why I was there. Then it was my turn to play with 'em; we ran through some DT numbers (Pull Me Under, of course, but also Under a Glass Moon and Strange Deja Vu) and a few Yes riffs (because not everyone was that familiar with Yes), and then they threw out some other song titles and band names that I was increasingly unfamiliar with, but by that time it was sort of time to pack up anyway so I didn't have to pretend to slough through some Deep Purple song when what I know of Deep Purple is limited to their name.

Nonetheless, they seemed impressed with me, and we talked logistics and stuff. They told me they were going to go discuss things one more time and they'd get back to me. I wasn't 100% in, but things looked hopeful, and they invited me to come see their last live on 10/31.

The day before, they told me that the live had been canceled, and details to come later. Okay...

About a week after that, I get word that the band had broken up. (Mr. Volt told me, "the irony of a band called 'Willpower' breaking up is not lost on me.") I'm sure there were other complicated internal issues that led to the decision, but at the moment, briefly, it felt like they would have rather quit than continue on with me.

But that taught me that I should stick with what I know. It's clear that my repertoire is somehow both too eclectic and too shallow to hang with certain musicians, so what was left was to seek out the comfort of a scene I already knew...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Live Report 2/17/08, Urawa Narciss: LAVERITE, Larme D'ange, OZxBONE, CKroll, Despair


It has been a long time since I'd been to Narciss, although this wasn't exactly in the same capacity.

First band up was OZxBONE, traditional thrash metal but silly. Their guitarist is a ridiculously nice guy who I got to talk to a little bit.

The second band was Despair and they were high school kids or something and I didn't even watch their rehearsal.


Larme D'ange is from Osaka and really talented. Friends of mine who came to the show said that this band had the best vocalist of the evening. Another of my friends was blown away by their guitarist Hiiragi. The other guitarist seems to be going to America all the time so it was a bummer to miss him as I would have liked to have talked a little bit. I only watched a little bit of their rehearsal, though. Still, backstage they were very polite to me.


CKroll went after them and I only watched a little of their rehearsal too. The blue dude is a nice guy in person; greets you with a loud voice and a smile.

The last band of the evening was a Luna Sea cover band with a cute chick drummer. They didn't do the covers poorly, but they didn't do them super awesomely or anything. They were an above-average cover band; what I mean by that is that when they play the songs they sound fairly faithful to the original and you're glad you heard a good song. I tend to like cover bands that do weird, gimmicky stuff with the material: Richard Cheese is one, but more recently The Dan Band has totally wowed me.

The fifth band was--

--okay, I have a confession.

I've been lying to you for a few months.

Well, not really lying, per se, more like withholding information, and from the looks of things, withholding it poorly.

The fifth band of the evening was LAVERITE.

They're pretty good. I mean, it was their first live. The guitarist, Ryota, is very talented, though, with a strong ear for a pleasant guitar solo; sometimes with a focus on technical flair and mostly with an emphasis on melody. They seemed pretty nervous, though; Ryota didn't move all that much and Yue, the vocalist, did his best to make up for it and largely succeeded. Helping them out on bass is Jimi, and he had a good amount of energy and is one damn fine bassist but it was pretty obvious that he hasn't played live in a few years.

The samples on the site aren't that hot, and Jimi's bass tracks aren't even on there as the recordings were made before he joined but the CD was printed up after he joined. And they aren't the two songs he would have picked from their repertoire. Still, they did a respectable job. They had 20 or so people come to see them and while there were only 3 or so people at the very front, people seemed to be enjoying themselves. The anquette box was filled, and while no photos were sold, they seem excited about their next free live at Narciss on 3/5. Personally, I'll be attending every single Laverite live from here on out.

Here they are on visunavi too. :)

Tomorrow I'll start telling a more detailed story of Laverite.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Elec's Musical History


Like I wrote in an earlier entry, I come from a musical family. On my mom's side, my grandparents both play many instruments between them: piano, guitar, harp, steel guitar, harmonica, and the both of them often perform duets on the marimba and it's one of the cutest things on earth. Momma-bear is a graduate from the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, in piano, and she has also been choral teacher, vocal coach, piano teacher, and many other things at all levels of education. She started me off on piano at an earlier age. She often reminds me that I once, in a six-year-old fit of frustration, told her that I'd never become a musician, to spite her. She laughs now.

Poppa-bear, on the other hand, was in a band with my uncle in the late '70s and also ran a music/instrument shop with him. Two young dudes running a business: I have no acquaintances who can make the same claim. He also built the bass in the above picture by himself from scratch and he still plays it to this day and it sounds beautiful. (Keep in mind that Brian May also built his Red Special from scratch!)
He started teaching me both guitar and bass when I was around twelve years old, and for years and years I would often help accompany my parents on guitar, bass, or drums when my mom's vocal performance group had a holiday gig or session or other commitment.

In Junior High I was in the school band, and one of my first tastes of non-school-related music was when some friends during the lunch hour and started discussing our love for progressive rock without realize that we were talking about a genre. I was heavily into Yes and we were all into a little bit of ELP, King Crimson, Rush, and Jethro Tull; the others threw in some other things like Led Zeppelin and we would just start talking about the riffs and then setting up instruments and hacking some of them out. We ended up working together a really heavy version of the "Rumble" from West Side Story.

Prog took to the sidelines as I, a young male in school band growing up in California in the late 1990's, discovered a way that even band geeks could suddenly seem cool: ska. I could make a joke about the embarrassment of this confession but honestly it was a really positive thing for me overall, and it was in this vein that I formed my first band, Sevensealed.

Sevensealed started off as a ska band but we quickly weaned ourselves of horns and any other signs of ska and morphed into a punk band. We weren't amazing, but we were better than a lot of local bands and certainly the only ones under 18, so we got called on to play a lot of the local scene. We all had talent, individually, but somehow it failed to add up to something solid. I place the blame solidly upon my own shoulders.

I was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Upon forming Sevensealed my guitar skill seemed to stagnate; or, rather, it ossified as the music we wrote didn't really help us grow as musicians. I tried to write intelligent lyrics and succeeded only when I wasn't expressly proud of the results. I was a terrible frontman but I was still the most charismatic of the group. I had a bad habit of wanting to explain the lyrical content of the songs before we played them which killed any and all momentum of a set. We did get better as we went along and I think if a few things had gone differently we could have had one more good year in us and been really good.

The others were clearly more talented; Scott Lord, the bassist, is now in LA having studied at the Musician's Institute, and now loans out his considerable talents, touring with bands or artists who require someone amazing like him. Gary, his brother, I don't think plays anymore but was doing extremely well in real estate in the Bay Area. And I'm sure Terry the drummer is off doing something cool. He ensured I got something good out of the whole thing, though: I started learning drums at this point.

In 2001, with Gary out of high school and Terry at a different high school, we decided to break up the band, which bummed out quite a few people and secretly made me feel kinda cool, but Scott and I still played together in a small jazz combo. We won lots of awards, and I even took home some awards for my piano playing. This was hard for me to take because it was clear to me and no one else that I was in fact a weak link in the combo. I may be an above average pianist, but jazz, no matter how much I adored it and the guys I played with, it was much too big a Goliath for me.

That same year, I formed another band with a popular vocalist at school; the band was called "Fragile" and we wrote simple, good rock tunes. What I remember best about that band was that the singer really helped me learn when to keep things simple, catchy, and accessible and when I could make things smarter, more inscrutable, more complex. We'd also cover, like, Boston, or Fuel (the band, not the Metallica song) for some reason. We played a few gigs and then sort of faded away.

The next year was one of huge experimentation as I threw together a little gothy outfit called Flight of the Mechanics, which I still think is an awesome name, and now years later that I know about Flight of the Conchords, I love them but I get a little sad! Anyway, FotM was kinda late Smashing Pumpkins-y and kinda Radiohead-ish, only with better, and therefore probably boring, vocals. The bassist wasn't so hot and the drummer had tempo issues so we played a few times and then I laid the project to rest.

The other big experimentation was with hip-hop, as two other guys and I got together to program some beats and write some rap. This was all done without irony and with the purest of intentions; we simply wanted to make something positive and engaging without being preachy and something dance-able without the lyrical content in mainstream rap that made it nearly impossible for us to digest. We called ourselves Corporate America because, despite our pure intentions, we were flippin' idiots.

Now, if we had known about indie rap we could have easily found something we could have enjoyed, and either incorporated what they had done right or mercifully dropped the project altogether, but our ignorance may well have acted as a creativity enhancer, as we simply didn't realize that there already existed the kind of thing we wanted to do. We had no pretensions that we were doing something "new" or anything; we just wanted to make something that we wanted to listen to. I started playing with words and rhythms, trying to avoid what I saw as stereotypical delivery, and I started listening to a bit of older hip-hop, in particular Digable Planets and such. Nowadays, of course, I sit back and let people who know what the heck they're doing provide all my rap entertainment, but at the time it was just three guys having fun with sounds and words. We performed a few times to good reception but I think I must have seen the light or I had a falling out with the other guys very slowly and that fizzled out too.

And then after high school, I completely turned my attention to my studies, only briefly flirting with the idea of a band once freshman year. I was in a play, our student director who I was sorta/kinda seeing? said she knew a guy looking for a bassist. I met with him, they seemed a bit heavy for my tastes at the time, but I thought I'd give it a shot--I was all set to join and then I realized that he was the boyfriend of the student director. I did not join the band and didn't try again until my senior year.

That was when I took a music history class and the professor wanted to do an experiment by throwing together a band of students and then having them perform songs written by other students, usually non-musicians, in various styles. I decided to audition, and even though I play all the standard rock band instruments, I thought I'd audition on bass, as that is my strength.

The Professor had brought in a friend of his to help advise and coach the final band: Rob Sabino, a keyboardist from the Bronx, childhood friend and former bandmate of Ace Frehley (Frehley's Comet in 1985), also formerly of Chic, and played on David Bowie's "Let's Dance" album and Madonna's "Like a Virgin" album. Among a bajillion others, as you can see.

I had everyone beat easily until this one guy showed up and blew me away. (He played in a group called The Parlour Dames, which he would later ask me to join, but as I was moving to Japan in 6 months it might have been too much trouble. I grudgingly declined.) I knew then and there that I wouldn't be in the project. That bassist that would beat me was, unfortunately for my disappointment, a really great guy and we hit it off. I sat at the piano and he and I noodled around with various songs. Sabino noticed me, came over, started jamming on the keyboards with me, and he asked me if I'd like to be the keyboardist. Such an endorsement restored my confidence in my piano playing.

The band, called "Rockward" (very apt), was huge, and there were so many personalities in it... also, with two weeks before performance, the professor told me I had to arrange horn parts for all six of our pieces. I said no, prof. said yes. I called Rob, who called the professor, and we reached an agreement that I'd write and arrange horn parts for three of the songs. I sort of resented that, but so it goes.

The set was pretty cool; four original songs solicited from students, and two covers, all pretty unrecognizable by the end. There was "Foster Mom Blues" (imagine Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line" if it were taken at a shuffle and add some sax solos), "Empty Bottle Blooze" (imagine wanting to make out with and possibly get to 3rd base with a song, and then a harmonica comes in), "Sharp" (dual lead guitar/keyboard lines make it kinda metal but then it turns into a solid rocker with this part in the middle with a zillion chord changes that sounds inexplicably like Elton John), and some lame song with a million unfunny references to our university that we ended up somehow making not-lame by the end. The two covers were Heart's "Barracuda" which we did fairly straight, and Stone Temple Pilot's "Plush", which thanks to us now had ragtime piano and muted horns. And it worked well, if I do say so myself.

And now I'm in Japan. I was looking for a band for awhile, mostly because I realized that the world of a beginning model who still wants a roof over his head and food in his stomach still needs a part-time job and there's too much waiting involved. Most bands didn't ever get back to me, and those that did either expressed reservations about my Japanese (obviously not a problem and I have a piece of paper to prove it!) or the simple fact that I'm a foreigner. Black:List sent me a very, very polite email on my phone saying that they were going to go about the new member search in their own fashion. At least they got back to me, though.

I found a melodic hard rock band called WILLPOWER who welcomed the fact that I wasn't Japanese; they were into your standard metal staples and then some prog and Deep Purple and stuff. We got along great, they were extremely talented, and jamming with them felt great, but just before I was set to join a few weeks later, they decided to kaisan instead.

That's been my musical journey up until now; for several reasons I was suddenly struck by a lot of the memories and wanted to write about it. I'm leaving out quite a few little projects and filling in I did as favors, but I think I've gotten almost everything important. I wish I had more to show for it!