pjsouthlondon asked: “Hi Steve. You’ve been working with Richard Barbieri on and off for 40 years now. What would you say are his best qualities – both as a musician and as an individual?”
SJ: “OK Richard, you can’t be that desperate for compliments :-)”
This is one of my favourite question/responses on Steve’s sleepyard tumblr……..mainly because it made me laugh out loud but also because it seems to speak volumes about the relationship between Messrs Jansen & Barbieri.
Seemingly, they were never particularly close during the Japan days; Mick & Steve as the rhythmic duo of the band formed a close bond (often sharing a room when on tour as well as a flat in Mayfair in 1979/80) which is apparent when you look at the amount of photographs Steve took of Mick during this period. However, whilst Japan were quietly imploding, due to the on-going tensions between Sylvian and Karn, the two seemed to become closer; far more grounded by the reality of their situation than their band mates – and maybe because they were deemed to have the most to lose? Touring together with Ippu Do after Japan’s demise sealed this relationship and they began a collaborative writing partnership which endured for 25 years.
“We had grown together because of the situation when the group split up. ….we didn’t feel that way, having to have a solo album or whatever…. we found ourselves in the same situation and just naturally started to write together” Richard Barbieri
Whilst Sylvian and Karn had always been the visual focus of the band, generating hundreds of images across teen magazines and the serious music press alike, Jansen’s photos of Barbieri from these days are no less fascinating; far less stylised and posed, they seem to show the side of Richard we are most familiar with – the quiet man who shunned the limelight, with the occasional flicker of an enigmatic smile on his lips…..
The Jansen/Barbieri partnership spawned a wealth of material, not as commercially successful as their work with Japan, but music which continued to showcase their increasing talents as composers and musicians. They even tried their hand at producing an album of ‘pop songs’ as The Dolphin Brothers, ableit done in their own rather uncommercial style!
Steve recently published some photos on his ‘sleepyard’ tumblr showing Rich and Mick relaxing during the recording of ‘ism’ in the late 90s. These pictures reflect a far more relaxed attitude – 2 decades had passed since Steve first started photographing his band mates at work and long gone are the outfits, hair styles and make-up of the Japan days….and with the trappings of youth out the way, we get a sense of just how comfortable these sessions must have been.
However, Barbieri’s natural reluctance to shun the limelight has also partially masked his easy-going nature and sense of humour from the public eye – something that is apparent when reading interviews with him and Steve, where their good-natured banter comes to the fore. One of my favourite examples of this is in an interview Steve did with Gavin Harrison in Rhythm magazine in 1991 – having finished the interview, Gavin left the 2 of them whilst he nipped to the men’s room. Later that evening, he played back his recording of the conversation to find that they had added their own opinion on the process:
RB ” he talks a lot of old rubbish doesn’t he?”
SJ “That’s what I thought”
RB “How does he get away with doing that kind of a job? Look, he isn’t even man enough to drink his beer; he’s left half of it! Why don’t you drink it whilst he’s down at the toilet?”
SJ “OK, I’ll have some”
RB “see if he’s left his wallet in his jacket….”
All photos by Steve Jansen.
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Steve publishes photos on his sleepyard tumblr here: http://sleepyard.tumblr.com/