A New Chapter: Wabi_Sabi
I have been given an extremely rare opportunity to be a part of a project that I can honestly say not many foreigners have had. Starting this month I will be touring with a professional band all over Japan as a their drummer. I'm super excited for this opportunity and because of the rarity of the situation I thought it would be an interesting topic to share with you all. With this shift in blogging I'll get a chance to publicize my band overseas and also give some of you who may be interested in playing in a band in Japan an inside look at the industry.
Last month I accepted an offer to play with Wabi_Sabi, a band that's been active all around Honshu, Japan for the last 5 years. You can visit the website here and listen to our music and find out where we are playing. We are currently working on an English page which should be available soon. If you can't read Japanese and want to come see us live then go ahead and friend me on Facebook and you can get event info that way as well.
We are a three member band, drums, vocals, and bass. Our vocalist, Hiro, plays guitar and piano. In addition to bass, our bassist also spins a DJ mixer turn table and provides backup vocals. I've got all four limbs pinned down to a drum kit and I also provide backup vocals. We play a mix of j-pop and soul music with genres like funk, R&B, Jazz, Motown, and disco. While our music is quite varied, virtually all of it sprinkled with a soul/funk feel.
We play all around Honshu (main island of Japan). During our tour season (post CD release), we are on the road every weekend for roughly 3-4 months with live shows back to back three days in a row at times. After that we slow down so we can practice and record our next album.
In Japan, and especially for up and coming bands like us, mall gigs are pretty much where the scene is. Live houses are doable if you can attract a large crowd, but malls remain the most attractive means of getting your sound out to the masses effectively and cheap. Booking a live show is not easy. You've gotta have proof that your band is at the level of playing mall gigs. This means providing the event coordinators at the mall a full profile including any CD's, major past events, and contracts, if any. And of course, you've got to know people, especially in a country like Japan, connections are everything. Tower Records is particularly hard to get into because they typically only book idol bands (solo singers or a group of singers) because the in-store atmosphere and limited available space is much more suitable for a vocal band than a traditional 3/4 instrument band. Wabi_Sabi has been active long enough though that we've grown a reputation for providing a great musical experience despite the limited space in-store and possible volume issues. In fact, we are one of few bands who are allowed to play with a drum kit in-store. This is totally unheard in the music scene, here. Most bands will exclusively play on a stages in malls, but we do both, stage shows and in-store.
My kit is nothing short of a piece of artwork. My bassist is a bit of woodworker. He managed to build a drum using the toms from a used kit. The rack tom is a 10inch tom from an old pearl kit. The floor tom is a 13inch rack tom that belonged to the same kit. We ripped of the tom legs from another kit that had a 16inch floor tom and attached them to the 13inch tom. Using that same 16inch tom, he cut the shell in half to create the 16inch bass I'm using now. He ripped off the the old veneer shell wrap and stained the shells a purple hue as you can see in the photos. While the shells are really nothing to brag about, the kit actually sounds pretty darn good! Most importantly, it's super portable and lightweight. As we carry everything to our live shows, portability and weight are of utmost importance. I use a Paiste 8inch splash and a 13inch Zildjian for my crashes. The ride is a no namer but it gives me the sound I want. Hi-hats are 13inch Zildjians. I use a Tama speed cobra on the kick drum and a 13inch Pearl Firecracker for the snare.
Our PA system is wicked awesome. We use a Behringer X32-Q which allows us to connect via any device and control the board. It's very capable and can make my drum sound much larger than it actually is, which is great for the stage gigs we play. And it's also small and light. Below is a picture of just how well we manage our gear.
Next week we will be playing in Makuhari Outlet mall in Chiba. It'll be outside and were supposed to have a large crowd. I'll be sure to post about it next week.