Bullet trains, planes and Osaka. 31 July 2018
I have been so used to waking up ridiculously early that I did not set my alarm clock for the 10am lobby call to give out luggage to the staff taking it to the airport. Well, you guessed it. I woke up at 9.50am. I threw some clothes on and packed my suitcase and charged down to the lobby. It was all fine so I grabbed breakfast (marvellous, but a bit rushed today), and went back to my room as we were not leaving until 11am. Then off to the bullet train to Osaka. Very comfortable, very fast and cool to see lots more of Japan if only through a train window, and at high speed. We passed Mount Fuji, but annoyingly missed it as we must have been chatting. I did still have a photo on my phone of when we passed it on the Softs tour of 2015, so that will have to do!
We arrived in Osaka and the weather was hot. I mean...HOT. The forecast is for it to get even hotter. About 100 degrees Fahrenheit infact. On reaching the hotel we checked in and waited for the luggage. My case was delivered to my room, and 20 mins later John Marshall knocked on my door asking if I had received my case. He had not...Reception did not know about his case either. I went down to reception with him to talk to the staff about this. After much confusion, several anxious calls and Skype calls with interpreters, we found that some cases had been delivered to the wrong rooms and some instruments had been taken direct to the venue. So thankfully nothing was actually lost this time. But for a while hearts sunk, particularly John Marshall's as he had already lost his bags once on this tour. We grabbed a light late lunch and coffees at the hotel. We have many interesting conversations in this band and one we had then was about whether a certain well known musician who some of the guys had played with and who is no longer with us could be said to have had a 'life well lived' and what that actually means. Does it mean achieving great things or being a universally acclaimed pioneer in your field (music in theirs), success whether artistic or financial, personal happiness, or just making the most of what you have and who you are. There were arguments on both sides as to whether this artist could be said to have had a life well lived, and it did make me think about the rather fundamental issue of living one's life and all that that entails.
People sometimes say to me 'How do you get your gigs? Do you have an agent?'. The answer, as far as Soft Machine is concerned is simple - Leonardo 'Moonjune' Pavkovic. Leonardo is an amazing enabler, facilitator, a massive music fan and a man who makes things happen. He has loads of energy, puts an enormous amount of work in, and is very generous too. Without Leonardo I am not sure this band would even exist now. So mucho gracias to Leonardo!
For our evening's entertainment on our night off before the Osaka gig, we all went to see Gary Husband's solo show in Osaka at Mr Kelly's jazz club. He is playing piano, keyboards, percussion and a special hybrid drum kit that enables hm to play parts of it whilst playing the piano or other instruments. On the way there, Leonardo pointed out a bizarre building that he said is one of his favourites in Osaka. It is a high rise office building with a road running through it. The city was building a new raised highway through Osaka and it needed to pass through where this building is. The building owner refused to have it demolished, and eventually a compromise was reached whereby this main road actually went through the building. How weird is that!? We arrived at Mr Kelly's just before Gary went on for his first set. He played two full sets and the music was extraordinary and wonderful. If you get a chance to see his solo show I strongly recommend you do.
Today I got up for breakfast and had a quick shower first. To understand how the shower controls worked you needed a degree in mechanical engineering. I pulled and twisted all the handles and knobs but could only get the bath tap to work, not the shower. Giving up, I clambered under the bath tap for a sort of shower before getting out. On turning off the tap however, the shower spontaneously started working! Oh well...Breakfast was OK but certainly not up to Roppongi standards.
We went to the venue for soundcheck at 2pm and got everything ready for the gig. Billboard Osaka is very like the one in Tokyo but a slightly better layout. The two gigs went very well and the new tunes really felt like they had bedded in, and the set orders were honed too. A great audience, many who bought CDs and waited in an orderly queue for us to sign afterwards. The whole organisation of this tour has been fantastic and the Japanese promoter and clubs superb. A final end of tour drink and now getting ready for tomorrow morning's flight back to London, again via Frankfurt. I do hope this one goes smoothly...
Some good friends are staying with us at home and then off for a family holiday before the next leg of the tour in Norway and Central Europe. Japan has been a blast and I look forward to the next visit whenever that may be.