steve jansen interview – riverside 1983

For those of us old enough to have been Japan fans in the early 1980s, the arrival of Riverside, a music and arts programme aimed at a more discerning audience, was a god-send. Suddenly we had a music show that actually focussed on bands we wanted to hear and see.  I remember being astounded at seeing The Cure perform Siamese Twins live, whilst members of the Royal Ballet flung themselves all over the stage – utterly beguiling!  Sadly, Japan never appeared live on the show, but the individual members were often featured – in fact Mick appeared a number of times – and this interview with Steve was recorded the day before his Expressions Exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery opened.

The Expressions Exhibition featured 12 of Steve’s photographs and was heavily publicised in the music and arts press, both in the UK and Japan. Some 30 odd years later, Steve’s memory of which of his photos were on show is a little unclear but, fortunately for us, there are plenty of people who went to the exhibition and recorded these facts……(see ‘Exhibitions’ category for more photos and anecdotes)

7. 4 Pics from exhibition. 8. Outside Photographers Gallery

This article from a Japanese magazine shows some of the pictures from the exhibition: in fact, these images were the ones used most frequently in the publicity at the time.  Televisions and hotel rooms feature a lot in his photography at this time; a result of his peripatetic lifestyle, whilst touring for months with Japan and Ippu Do during 1982. The TVs are often placed in front of windows, and Steve was aiming to capture 2 views; the one on-screen and the one of the world outside.

The Actor's Audience
the actor’s audience
Rie's Song
rie’s song
4003 hotel room japan
4003 hotel room japan

3. New Sounds New Styles - June 1982 - Copy

Although this picture of a man in a rickshaw did not feature, it was used in the publicity for the exhibition and Steve explained it was also taken from a TV screen……

One review in the Made in USA fanzine listed the 12 titles and gave a brief description of each of the:

Faces of Riu – a shot of Ryuichi Sakamoto described as ” a blurred action shot”…..

Rie’s Song – see above

The Actor’s Audience – see above

View From The River – an old man, rather hilariously described as looking “evil, a bit like Davros”

Concerned with Etiquette – young girl from Bangkok with a “discerning look on her face”

Troubled Stone – eroded piece of stone with anthropomorphic qualities

Man From Bangkok – this image was used on the exhibition poster

Man From Pusan – see below

Journey By Instinct – old woman in a boat

The Floating Market – 2 children at the Bangkok floating market

There were also 2 prints of David Sylvian, taken from the Visions of China video shoot, his face looming out of a bank of television screens


Man From Pusan
Man From Pusan

Signed, limited edition prints of Steve’s photos are available to purchase via his imageshop here:

9 thoughts on “steve jansen interview – riverside 1983

  1. Thanks for the recent postings bringing back some great memories. I was at university in London in 1983 and went along to Steve’s exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery. I’ve always loved his photographs, and have a real fondness for those that chronicle some of the most wonderful recordings I’ve heard and which have been companions through life. Whenever I’m around Leicester Square I’m always reminded of the ‘Expressions’ exhibition when I walk past the venue.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have a vivid memory of watching Steve on Riverside, Victoria. I was agog with anticipation and persuaded my Dad to watch it with me, I remember we watched it on a portable TV, the build up to seeing and hearing Steve *actually speak* was incredible. Back then the opportunity to see Japan was almost nil. I probably saw them on TV as often as I have seen myself, which was about three times, on Jnr Masterchef – for one of my students mind.

      So the moment finally came and the shy, young, fragile creature spoke, at once direct and knowledgeable whilst having a general aura of being too scared to breath. He seemed so young, even to me at 14 but also world weary, which struck me, like Richard Thompson’s King of Bohemia, “Your eyes seem from a different face, they’ve seen that much, that soon..” It’s often forgotten that Steve was a young child when Japan began. Did he have the same years I had, watching him, without being in Japan? He set off on his life’s journey awfully young. The resulting body of work is extraordinary and we are better for it but he must surely have paid quite a price on our behalf. Still, his creativity is as irrepressible and with Steve Jansen you are never sure what the future will bring. Nothing would surprise me, once I got over the fact that any human that beautiful could also speak the sky was the limit. He’s a fascinating man. And they think George Clooney’s cool?

      If Steve appears in the next coffee add I will start drinking pretend coffee from overpriced pods. Thank you Victoria, you have brought back a very happy memory, must take this link to show Dad tomorrow. xx

      Liked by 2 people

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