Earlier this week, a Japanese fan kindly shared some photos of prints he had bought from Steve some years ago, on the JAPAN Facebook page. This caused a flurry of excitement amongst a number of people, as they included some shots taken during the Tin Drum cover-shoot, which many of us had never seen before.
I took to ‘sleepyard’ to ask Steve about the images, wondering if there were others and why they hadn’t been included in his recent book, ‘through a quiet window’? It was obvious that quite a few people were interested in the images, and would like to purchase copies, if they were available.
The answer was as bleak as it was brief –
The simple answer is that I can’t locate the negatives so these prints would have been made around the time the photos were taken. steve via sleepyard
I contacted the owner, Maasaki Fujisawa, who has very kindly given us permission to share the images here.
I can’t help but wonder how many other, unseen (by us, at least!) images have also disappeared over the years? Steve has made reference to other negatives going ‘walk-about’, including the ones which graced the ‘Art of Parties’ sleeve, so I can only assume there are others out there, just waiting to be re-discovered.
Non-UK residents will have to excuse me if I am being specifically Britain-centric today, but…..blimey, hasn’t it been hot? You see, us Brits get all excited when the big, yellow glare-ball comes out; then after about 15-minutes, we all start moaning about how “it’s too hot to be stuck in an office” or “it’s fine if you’re on holiday but try sitting on the #42 bus to Preston” and “it’s not the same as heat in the Med” – along with other such nonsense. However, it really has been particularly toasty over the last few days, and this has led to me spending most of my time, lounging around in a bikini and sarong, drinking far too many glasses of Campari Spritz and wondering why I haven’t written any posts on the blog for ages.
The answer to that is far too long and dull for me to bore you with, but at least I feel slightly more motivated, than of late. However, now that I am sitting here, keyboard at the ready, what on earth am I going to write about? Well, whilst I was wilting in the heat, over the weekend, I remembered a couple of ideas I had for posts many moons ago, which never actually made it to fruition. So, because I am a bit lazy, I thought I’d dig one of those out from the old archive, spruce it up a bit and get the blog-ball rolling again. And, considering the recent spell of tropical weather, this one is sort of in keeping with the theme.
As Ian Astbury once bellowed: “hot, sticky scenes; you know what I mean?”.
Well, no, not really; but here are some photos Steve took, featuring the band looking a tad toasty.
When Steve first published this shot of Mick and David, from a trip to Thailand in 1981, I was rather taken aback. Firstly, as Steve often shot with b&w film, and I was so used to seeing mainly monochrome images, his colour photos can sometimes seem to be unnaturally garish – almost too colourful, I suppose? It wasn’t just that, though. The photo positively oozes tropical clamminess. Mick, with his Cypriot heritage and horrific Hawaiian shirt, looks (ironically) cool as the proverbial cucumber; but, David? Well, let’s just say, that this was the first time I can remember clocking an image of him (from this era, at least) looking like an everyday kind of bloke. Seemingly devoid of make-up, his skin a bit pink and flushed, he looks oddly and uncharacteristically flustered, but also just so normal. I really liked it.
Taken during the same trip (same hideous shirt on Mick, but Dave had brought a spare), this image – which has been shared umpteen times on Tumblr and FB, and seems to make a certain kind of JAPAN fan sigh wistfully – suggests that a cool drink alongside the banks of the river, makes for altogether a less uncomfortable experience. The band spent a week in Thailand, after their promoter got the dates of their show confused, and they had time to just enjoy themselves (and the heat) before they headed back to the UK.
This visit to Thailand, which followed the band’s only Japanese live dates that year, in February 1981, also provided the inspiration for Steve’s first foray into photographing specifically for a record cover. The single was The Art of Parties, and he wanted to try to capture that “sweaty and unkempt look” – admittedly a massive departure, style-wise, for the band, but seemingly in keeping with the feel of the music, and the repeated “I’m burning” refrain of the lyrics. Although, as Steve said in Anthony Reynolds’ A Foreign Place’, “I have no idea what it has to do with any art of any parties” 🙂
The photos were taken in Mick’s Stanhope Gardens flat, a bucket of water on hand to give the impression of tropical humidity…….and resulted in the beautifully captured portraits of each of the members of ‘japan’, which grace the cover. These pictures were a million miles way from the perfectly sculpted images we had been used to seeing of the band; bear in mind that, only a few months earlier, they had released Gentlemen Take Polaroids, with the icily iconic shot of a heavily made-up Sylvian, looking almost otherworldly. And yet, here we see them in just a dash of eye-liner, looking sultry, sweaty and dishevelled. Marvellous stuff – and exactly the perfect way to confound the critics. Again.
art of parties – alternative composite
Compare these photos, as stylised as they are, with the images we are used to seeing of the band. Even though Steve was “on the inside” and therefore able to take rolls & rolls of film of the his friends in more relaxed mode, the majority of even his shots, show them looking cool, classy and composed. No dress-down Fridays, for this lot. Even when they were on the road, driving from London to Cornwall for the opening night of a tour, in the middle of a British winter, the band manage to pull-off looking remarkably coiffed. These images couldn’t be further away from the tropical, techni-colour of the Thailand shots, could they?
Maybe it is because I grew up in the north of England, during the 1970s and early 80s, but I have never felt particularly drawn to happy, summery music and imagery. JAPAN never suggested flowery meadows and long, sunlit evenings, to me. When I think of JAPAN, I tend to think of autumn and winter. Of long dark nights. Their music, and their image I suppose, was more intense and therefore far more interesting to the teenaged me. It still is. Which goes some way to explaining why I like Steve’s photography, so much. Yes, he was the drummer in my favourite band; but he also managed to reflect a sense of what I was yearning for, at a time when I was most easily impressed. Life did feel colder and certainly more monochrome back then. Possibly because the only times I ever saw JAPAN live, was in the middle of winter, and those are my strongest memories from that time? Who knows.
JAPAN may have been at the forefront of the move away from the dull and dank past; after all they were daringly colourful in their atire, with their perfectly made-up faces and hair, but they did it without the dreadful brashness of others. As they have often said, they lived that every day, they didn’t just pile the panstick on for the photoshoots.
So, how wonderfully refreshing, and occasionally hilarious, to see the odd photo of David looking a bit flustered in the tropical heat on a Bangkok evening. How lovely to see Mick, with massive shades clamped to his face, wearing a gaudy shirt and showing off his natural tanning ability. How exciting to see alternative shots from the AoP photo-shoot, with all the band looking sultry and sweaty (albeit in Kensington) whilst trying to recreate the humidty of their recent Thailand sojourn.
As is usual with a British heatwave, I imagine it’ll all be over by tomorrow, what with it being mid-summer, and all. In which case, we can all get back to our normal lives again, and start moaning about the rain.
All of the photos are available to purchase from Steve’s imageshop
Over the last few weeks, followers of Steve’s ‘sleepyard’ blog may have noticed him sharing a number of ‘previously unseen’ photos of JAPAN. The images, taken by a range of photographers and spanning the band’s full career – from the pomp & pout of the late 70s, to the pristine poses of the Virgin era – were discovered earlier in the year, and it has been fabulous to finally see some new photos emerge.
Whilst many of the images have not been officially published previously, some of the shots may seem familiar to many fans; there are a number of ‘alternative’ photos from sessions with Patrick Litchfield, which appeared in The Sunday Times magazine (and one of my least favourite JAPAN photo-shoots, for the record!) as well as lots of early promos by Günther Rakete and a whole slew of uncredited shots of the band in recording studios and on stage.
A number of these photos are now being auctioned on behalf of the band members. For those blog-readers who do not access the FB groups, where the auctions are discussed and promoted, here is the link to the goodies which are currently on eBay.
It has now been over 18 months since Steve released his photographic book, ‘through a quiet window’. It was an incredibly exciting time for those of us who had long wished for him to publish his photos. However, the fact that it is only available to purchase via artes publishing, has meant that there has been little mention of it, outside of the JAPAN FB pages and forums, which is such a shame, as it deserves a much, much wider audience. Here’s a review from ‘moving the river’ blog. If anyone has seen the book reviewed or discussed elsewhere, it would be great to know.
Mick Karn and David Sylvian, Stanhope Gardens, London, 1981
Ringo Starr was once asked: What do you remember about recording Sgt Pepper’s? His reply? ‘I learnt how to play chess on that album.’ Not to do Ringo down at all – he’s the reason this writer picked up the drum sticks – but the line does say something about the sometimes tedious nature of recording in the era of multi-tracking. The drummer may have laid down all his parts in the first week of a project, so he or she had better have a Plan B for when the rest of the band are tinkering endlessly.
Japan drummer Steve Jansen didn’t learn chess but he did use his time very productively while the band recorded their masterpieces, Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum; he developed his formidable photography skills, and now his work has been collected in a…
The Japanese edition of Anthony Reynolds’ beautifully researched, written and designed biography of the group Japan focusing on 1974-1984 has now gone to press!
Our friends at Shinko in Tokyo will be receiving finished copies back from the printer soon, and they will be available to order by the end of May. We’ll have a better image plus some insides to show you once we receive our advances.
The UK paperback (Japan – A Foreign Place: The Biography 1974-1984, published by Burning Shed) is of course available now.
18 months ago, when Steve released his book of photographs, ‘through a quiet window’, he kindly took some time to answer a plethora of questions, for this here blog. Alongside chatting about how the idea of the book came about, and his life-long interest in photography, he also went into incredible detail about how the images chosen for the book, were digitised, scanned and ‘dust-busted’, before finally seeing the light of day.
It was a long and laborious process, but one which he was not unfamiliar with, as he goes through a similar procedure, each time he sells a new print, via his ‘imageshop’. As he is keen to ensure that the images he sells to fan are of the best possible quality, Steve relies on the services of a professional print lab, who produce test-prints of the selected photograph. If all goes well, only one test is required, but sometimes additional adjustments are required. Only then, will the image be printed and mounted, ready to be sent out to its new owner.
Fortunately for us, Steve occasionally has a bit of a clear-out at Jansen Towers and offers these test-prints for sale, at incredibly affordable prices. This week, 9 such prints have appeared, and are currently available on eBay. The images on offer include some which will be familiar to most, but there are some other, previously unseen shots, which have caused a bit of stir – not least these 2 photographs of Steve & Richard in a cafe, overlooking the Ginza 4-Chome crossing in 1983.
These will now only be available for a couple of days, so head over to eBay if you fancy bagging one for your wall. (It is worth mentioning that Steve sells ltd. edition prints for £150, and a couple of these test-prints are already heading towards that figure. In which case, you are actually better just buying direct from his ‘imageshop’.)
Two and a half years ago, when I first started writing this blog, the former members of the band once known as JAPAN, were barely visible to their remaining fan-base. Steve intermittently uploaded photos and answered the odd question or two, on his ‘sleepyard’ page; David seemed to come and go on his FB page, with just occasional posts, here and there; Richard had a FB page and website, both of which seemed inactive, and Rob had a personal account on FB. There were, of course, official websites for both Steve & David, where news of releases and forthcoming projects would be announced, but it was all done rather formally and there was, seemingly, little chance for interaction with them, as individuals.
My, how times have changed!
Like the proverbial London buses, it felt as if Steve, Richard and Robert were just waiting for one of the others to make a move, before they all eventually decided to turn up at once. Firstly, Steve started posting far more frequently on ‘sleepyard’, and he suddenly seemed inundated with hundred of questions – some of them frankly quite bizarre – which he duly answered with good humour. He then appeared officially on Facebook, at exactly the same time as Richard re-jigged his own account, and they both started interacting more with their fans. Rob and Richard then joined a couple of the fan-run Facebook sites – namely Paul Rymer’s ‘NIGHTPORTER’, ‘TMK’ – and the ‘JAPAN’ page, run by the northern, comedy double-act of Hamlin & Carter.
Now, it feels like hardly a day goes by, without a new nugget of information, an amusing anecdote, or a never-before-seen photo being released to the waiting world, by one of them. And, it is quite frankly, wonderful. However, those people who choose to avoid the murky world of Zuckerbergland, are definitely missing out on a whole slew of goodies.
Richard, in particular, has been instrumental in releasing some incredible photographs, from his own collection – informal shots of his friends, just hanging around together; on tour, backstage, in Ryokans, outtakes from photoshoots – you name it, he has shared it. So, in response to a request from Seymen, and with Richard’s permission, I thought it would be good to share some of these fantastic photos with you here.
Now, I know that the minute a photograph gets published on the ‘net, it is shared and shared, to within an inch of its life, on tumblr, instagram, FB – all I ask is, if you do share any of these photos, please credit them to Richard Barbieri, as they are all from his own private collection. Thank you.
Steve Jansen: “I bumped into Mr Barbieri the other day (while he was having a day off from his usual circle of friends) and he showed me a collection of transparencies by Fin Costello and one of them was of my drum kit taken from the front, I think. Maybe ask him if he would kindly scan and post it online as part of his amusing library of snaps? To be honest, he does keep boasting that he’s taken some good photos of me but I never see them.” sleepyard 03/02/2017
Richard Barbieri: “Until Steve J admits that I have at least taken one good photo of him – namely the snooker room photo in Hiroshima that Victoria now has – I shall be withholding the drum photograph.”jansenphotographyblog 19/03/2017.
FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
Well, I can indeed confirm that the photo of Steve with the snooker cue is fantastic – and those of you who have a copy of “JAPAN – A Foreign Place” will be familiar with the image, as it is published there. However, there are other photos, of Mr Jansen, taken by Richard, which are equally as good.
Like this one……. 😉
JAPAN were a much photographed band. We are so used to seeing their polished and perfect poise, in the formal photoshoots which appeared in so many magazines, and on record covers, that it warms the cockles of my heart, to see these lovely, informal images, of friends – just hanging out with each other. Whilst it is great to see the un-posed photos of them in restaurants and mucking about backstage, I am constantly fascinated by glimpses of them in recording studios. Steve has released quite a few from the ‘tin drum’ recording sessions, as well as JBK at Foel Studios – and thankfully, Richard seemed to take a fair number of photos during the Rain Tree Crow project.
Steve playing the big wheel
Mick plays, Steve & David listen
“Don’t press that button, Mick!”
Waiting for i-phones to be invented
These are only a handful of the images that Richard has shared with us, on the FB pages, over the last few months. There are many more, which I don’t have room for – and judging from his reputation as a mass-hoarder, I can only assume that there are many, many more to yet surface. So, my advice to those of you, who are not on Facebook is this – come and join us. You won’t regret it.
Many, many thank to Richard Barbieri for sharing these images and for permission to publish them here.
Those of you who do not use Facebook, will have missed this new photograph of Mick. Steve very kindly provided this previously unseen image, for the TMK ‘i’ll be here dreaming’ event, which is held every year to mark the occasion of Mick’s passing.
Richard, Rob & Debi Zornes also shared some of their private photos and memories of Mick.
For the last couple of years, I have written a post on 4th January to mark Mick’s passing. This year, I am not sure that I have anything more to add. I think everything has already been said. Instead, it feels appropriate to simply share some of the new images of Mick, which Steve has kindly published over the last 12 months.
Steve once said he reckoned he could post a new photo of Mick, every day for 2 years, and still have some left over. Let’s just hope he continues to do so, and allow us to revel in the joy of seeing some previously hidden gems.
For those who may have missed the previous ‘i’ll be here dreaming’ posts, they can be found here:
TMK are having their annual event to remember Mick and would like everyone to join in, and share their memories of him. Please join the discussion and add your own favourites – let’s all try to remember Mick as the vibrant and passionate man he was, rather than merely mourn his loss.