host to the unholy

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Can you believe that it is almost September? In fact, by the time I actually get around to posting this, it actually WILL be September. How did that happen? Up here in the frozen wastelands of northern England, we are still waiting for summer to start. Or, at least continue. Anyhoo, enough of my thoroughly British whingeing, about the passing of time and the weather, and on to more exciting things. For, the onset of September brings with it the promise of something rather wonderful…..Richard Barbieri is heading oop north at the end of this month, to play his last show of 2017, and it is going to be fantastic. Huzzah!

For those of us who have already bought tickets for the Liverpool show (and more than 3/4 of the tickets have sold, to date) I thought it would be a great opportunity to ask Richard what we can expect from this rather special event. For, this is not any old gig; this final show of 2017, will be played within the Gothic grandeur of the beautiful St Margaret of Antioch church, in the heart of this fine city.

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The venue – just imagine how Richard’s music will sound in here.

Last week, Richard was kind enough to answer a few probing questions about his live performances, and his plans for the future.

So, without further ado, I give you, Mr Richard Barbieri:

VCC: Over the last 18-months, you have played a number of ‘solo shows’ – starting with the university masterclass in Huddersfield – where you have showcased new material, as well as featuring re-workings of older tracks, from throughout your career. How easy is it to step out onto that stage, on your own, knowing that it is all down to you?

RB: “It’s quite easy and I never ever thought I’d say this……I’ve always been rather quiet, and a little shy, so it surprises me that recently I feel very comfortable being alone on stage and communicating with an audience. Everything before and after the show is more stressful for me,  especially all the technical preparation and concerns. There’s so many things to consider on a performance day, including the needs of the musicians with me, so any help I get is really appreciated.”

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recording ‘quiet life’ photo by steve jansen

VCC: You seem to really enjoy these appearances, and having been fortunate enough to witness a number of the recent shows, I know how positively they have been received by the audience. Are there any memorable moments, which stand out to you?

RB: “I try to choose venues or spaces where the audience can concentrate and focus on the performance without distractions. It enables me to play some of the more sparse material – and to hear silence in the musical pauses is amazing for me –  having toured with a rock band for so long where subtlety is very hard to achieve. I did really enjoy previewing an early version of “New Found Land” at the chapel in Huddersfield.  I thought it sounded good in that environment.”

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Richard performing in St Paul’s hall in Huddersfield  – photo by Paul Rymer

As someone who was lucky enough to be at that first solo-outing, in Huddersfield, I can only agree with Richard; hearing snippets of the new music, in such a beautiful setting (albeit, on a wet January afternoon) was a wonderful experience, and only whetted my appetite for what was to follow.

RB: “The “comedy” and more lighthearted moments come with the recent Q & A sessions, and at the last show in Birmingham a member of the audience was very concerned as to whether I was happy in myself, and what pension provisions I had made. Possibly he was hoping I would fall into a teary rant about the music industry and how broke I was – or maybe he was genuinely concerned?

Of course I hate the industry and I’m usually pretty broke – but mustn’t grumble… ” 🙂

Chortle.

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Richard and some technical-looking stuff, recording ‘tin drum’  photo by steve jansen

VCC: Having the musical polymath, Lisen Rylander Löve, join you on the recent shows, seemed to create a whole new ambience – certainly from the audience’s perspective – and especially when you played at the beautifully-intimate, Hoxton Hall, in March. What can we expect from the up-coming Liverpool show?

RB: “Lisen has transformed the music and her input enables me to experiment a bit more and rely much less on any backing tracks. Of course we need rhythms, bass and some fx running in the background, but we can now improvise more and each performance can be different. For the Liverpool concert we will be joined by Luca Calabrese on trumpet, so I’ll have the two main contributors to my album with me. ”

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The utterly mesmerising Lisen Rylander Löve, on stage with Richard. Photo by Martin Bostock

VCC: What additional challenges will you face, playing this material in the Gothic splendour of a Victorian church?

RB: “I think the acoustics will present some problems for certain tracks and we will have to adjust our approach accordingly. On the other hand, some pieces like “Unholy, New Found Land and Experience Of Swimming” should work really well.”

(at this point, I desperately wanted to suggest that Richard could create a wonderful ‘mash-up’ of 2 of his songs…..just imagine ‘host to the unholy’!! However, common sense prevailed, and instead I used it as the title of the blog, Quite fitting, don’t you think?)

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Richard in Japan 1982 Photo by Steve Jansen

VCC: You have said that the Liverpool show is your final one for 2017, although you are also planning to join Lustans Lakejer on their 35th anniversary tour in Sweden, in October. Do you have any plans to step out onto the stage again in 2018?

RB: “There’s talk of possible concerts in Japan next year.  I’d like to do a couple in Scotland and then hopefully Rome, and maybe Amsterdam? Scandinavia would be nice if something could be arranged. Beyond that I don’t know.”

(VCC immediately cancels her planned trip to Japan in March and awaits further news!)

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Soundcheck in Birmingham  – photo by Debi Zornes

VCC: What else may be on the cards for the coming year?

RB: “I’ll be releasing a series of EPs over the next 6 months. I can’t follow up my recent solo album just yet, but want to continue the creative process with diverse pieces and collaborations.”

So folks, there you have it. The promise of new music, some shows on foreign shores, as well as the upcoming performance in 4 weeks time. Exciting times, eh?

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More twiddly knobs (and Richard) photo by steve jansen

If you haven’t yet booked your tickets for the Liverpool show on 29th September, what are you waiting for? This promises to be a performance like no other, with Richard being joined by Lisen & Luca, in the most beautiful of settings. I have it on good authority, that there will be some new items available to purchase from the merchandise stand on the night, including a ltd edition print and concert posters.

To add to the fun, we have arranged an ‘aftershow’ get-together at Club 27, where a few dozen of us will be drinking, dancing and chatting the night away.  If you fancy spending an evening, in the company of like-minded people, please feel free to join us.

Tickets for the show are available here: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/397153

Details of the afterparty & meet-up are on the Nightporter FB group: https://tinyurl.com/ybo758tr 

Many thanks to Richard for answering my questions, and to Paul Rymer, Debi Zornes & Martin Bostock for the additional photographs.

 

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Camera Obscura Alternatives

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1982 Sons of Pioneers promo shoot Signed by Steve & Richard

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.

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Richard Barbieri – photographed by Yuka Fujii

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.

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The Alternative Smiling Session – by Patrick Lichfield

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.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/karnsculpture/m.html?_ipg=50&_sop=12&_rdc=1

 

The auctions will run for 7-days. News and discussion about this, and other JAPAN-related announcements, are updated regularly on the ‘NIGHTPORTER’ facebook page. Come and join us!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/nightporter/

legal tender extinction – so many lovely things to buy, so little money

Despite my best of intentions to try and keep the Jansen Photography Blog focused upon the very specific subject of Steve’s photography (rather than it becoming a fan blog for all-things-Jansen) there are times when events beyond my control conspire to make it impossible for me to remain on message, and I find myself veering wildly off course into the murky waters of all sorts of Japan/Jansen-related topics. So, forgive me friends, if today I am guilty of doing this yet again; but the news that has been coming out over the last couple of weeks deserves sharing far and wide.

When this blog first came to life, there was little going on in the world of Japan-related news. Steve had started sharing some of his photos via his tumblr site and there was a steady growth of interest in the few facebook fan-pages, but other than the promise of Anthony Reynold’s Japan biography and the long-awaited publication of David’s ‘hypergraphia’ being on the horizon, it was all pretty quiet. Then, it all got a bit exciting.

K-Scope announced re-releases of Jansen/Barbieri material, as well as vinyl editions of much of Mick’s back catalogue, which was incredibly welcome news to many of us. Steve then published ‘through a quiet window’ (hurray) and started hinting that his long-awaited second album may well be forth-coming (hurray again). Then, just at the back-end of 2015, came the incredible news that Richard Barbieri was going to perform a master-class and concert at Huddersfield University in January.

Whatever next?

Along came 2016 and with it the surprising news of a new JBK release ‘breakable moon’, as well as the sale of the limited remaining stock of some the Medium titles, which had been discovered languishing under Richard’s bed (or so I like to believe). Following this, came the announcement that Steve was indeed gearing up to release his new album, ‘tender extinction’ in a matter of weeks. I was more than delighted to note that it was being released to coincide rather beautifully with my birthday, which has to be just about the best present I could have asked for.  So much better than another M&S voucher and an out-of-date Easter egg (such is the curse of an early April birthday). Surely, we all thought, this would be it for now? Could our middle-aged tickers take any more excitement?

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I have a feeling that this may just be the beginning….in which case, we may all need to reach for the beta-blockers.

Having lived through somewhat of a drought, it now feels like we are in full monsoon season, doesn’t it? It is as if Steve has just awoken from a particularly long and restful snooze and, having stretched and yawned in a rather Bagpuss-like way, he has looked around and thought “OK, just how many pies can I stick my fingers into?”

(N.B. For legal reasons I feel I should point out that my reference to ‘pies’ here is not related in any way, shape or form, to the ‘pies’ Mick mentioned in his book. Please do not sue me.)

For, alongside the impending release of ‘tender extinction’ comes the news this week of Exit North, a collaboration between Steve, Thomas Feiner, Ulf Jansson and Charlie Storm, who have been working on material and have plans for an autumn release.In response to a question on ‘sleepyard’ today, Steve has also hinted at a possible live, improvised performance with his long-time collaborator and friend, Yukihiro Takahashi. Good grief.

As if this wasn’t enough, following the incredibly successful (and for me, rather emotional) performance by Richard Barbieri in Huddersfield in January, he has announced 2 further concerts (now sold out) to be held in Birmingham in November.  Richard, who has been hoarding Japan-related memorabilia for 4 decades, is also now in the process of sorting through his collection, and is now selling off items, including some unique personal pieces; including these fantastic glasses, as worn by Steve on the cover of ‘obscure alternatives’ and Richard in the picture below. (thanks to Keiko Kurata for the photo)

 

The auctions of items are being held on alternate Sundays on ebay – I would strongly urge anyone who may be interested in knowing more about the actions, to join the ‘Nightporter’ facebook page, as Paul Rymer posts intriguing clues as to which items may be appearing next.  It is also worth joining this page, as Richard sometimes posts personal photographs for our amusement and edification, which can lead to some incredibly surreal threads!

I have a strong feeling that 2016 may well be the most interesting of years for anyone who follows the careers of Messrs Jansen, Barbieri, Dean, Karn and Sylvian. I just think it may also be one which leaves many of us pretty skint….but, as Doris would say, que sera sera

(Many of you are regular readers and contributors to a number of facebook groups which focus upon the members of Japan, so some of this news will be familiar to you, but I know that we have a large number of blog readers who are not part of this community, so it feels appropriate to share this information with as many people as possible.)

You can join the Nightporter facebook group here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/nightporter/

Follow Steve and JBK on bandcamp here:

https://jbkmusic.bandcamp.com/

https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/

Steve and Richard both have facebook pages where they post information on up-coming releases:

https://www.facebook.com/Steve-Jansen-Official-803014983085400/?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/Richard-Barbieri-467964556684204/?fref=ts