Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wishing, Hoping and Believing

Wishing, hoping and believing. The three are close in definition. But there's a huge difference. I think people too often get them confused and use them interchangeably to their own disadvantage. I think it is best to know exactly what they mean. Words have meanings and using them incorrectly can cause a disadvantageous situation.

Wish is an intransitive verb. Merriam Webster defines "wish" as, "To have a desire for (as something unattainable)." Related words are, "crave," "hunger," "covet," "desire."

"Unattainable"? Well, that's no good. It looks to me here that "wish" is sort of a waste of time.

"Hope" is defined as, "To cherish as desire with anticipation," or "to desire with expectation of obtainment."  "Expectation of obtainment"? Well, that's a bit better.

How about believing? "Believe" is defined as "To have a firm religious faith" or "to accept something as true, genuine or real."

I think, often times, that wishing and hoping can be a waste of time... Wishing is fine for children... Hoping too... But hoping, for adults, can be an awful waste of time.... I often hear from people at work situations that they "hope" things get better... Folks, "Hope" is a terrible business plan.

Hoping that things get better at work is like being a leaf on the ocean being blown every which way. Is this your plan for your future and for your families well-being? Hope?

Belief....Believing, and only believing, is the only one of the three that can deliver your hearts desire. Believing, along with doing the necessary preparation in order to achieve your beliefs, is what must be done.

Think about when the Wright Brother's made their first airplane flight or the old story in the bible when Jesus walked on water. It was impossible for man to fly. Did the Wright Brothers fly because of hope or because of wishes? No. They flew, in spite of all, because they believed that they could and they made the preparations in order to do so.

I also believe that the story of Jesus walking on water is a parable. Everyone knows that it is impossible for man to walk on water (even if he is the son of god - you and I are the son, the children, of god.... Don't they say we are all god's children?) So, I think the story of Jesus walking on water is a representation that if you believe, really believe, then you can do the impossible. After walking on water Jesus said, "I told you. All you have to do is to believe."

Belief moves mountains.

Also, instead of always wanting more and always climbing that mountain towards success, you also need to stop and make base camp. One cannot simply climb and climb Mount Everest. They must stop along the way to daily create base camp to rest before they can continue the journey the next day. You must do the same. You need to stop and to take an assessment of what you have and to give thanks to your loved ones and to your god.

Here's what I do, and I do this religiously everyday; I write down in my notebook this, "Thank you god for all the truly wonderful things I have and all the truly wonderful things I am about to receive."

I do this because, instead of always wanting and wishing, and hoping, or desiring things, I want to give thanks for the great things I already have. If I can wake up everyday and know in my heart, really believe, that I am one of, if not thee, most fortunate people in the world, I will create a positive and happy existence for myself and my loved ones and all the people who I come in contact with.  

I have another friend who has an ill partner. We met the other day and I related this story to him:

When my 1 1/2 year old daughter was diagnosed as having a rare, deadly childhood cancer, I was devastated. She was given a very low chance of survival. That particular type of cancer is extremely rare and, in Japan, about 2 or 3 kids get it a year... Most of them die within the first 6 months.

I sought out the help of a professional priest to help me and guide me with the battle I was about to enter alongside my daughter and my wife.

One day, at the beginning when I was especially distraught and worried, I told the priest, 

"I have realized how to cure my daughter and have come to understand the way. All I need to do is to get the doctors and nurses to believe, to really believe, in their hearts, that she will recover and then she will. That's what I must do."

To that, the priest replied,

"Mike! It doesn't matter what they believe. All that matters is what you believe."

Those words! That moment! It was like the skies opened up and god reached his hand down to me. 

Of course! It was all so simple! Why didn't I see it sooner? It only matters what I believe! My belief can move mountains! 

From then on, I didn't wish nor want, nor hope, that my daughter would recover from this rare and terrible disease, I knew. I knew it without a doubt. I also prepared and did what was necessary for that outcome because I believed. 

That was 16 years ago. My daughter is now a healthy, happy, beautiful high school student looking forward to college someday soon. 

She is only the second child to have ever overcome that cancer in Japan's history. She won't be the last.

At 16-years-old

You can do this too. Anyone can. Like Jesus said, "All you need to do is to have faith."

From today, take account of all the good things you have. Be thankful for them. If you have a sorrow, then take account of that too and do what is necessary and what is required so that you can believe in a positive and good outcome.

The only things that can be borne out of fear and worry will be more of the same. Prepare and do what is necessary and believe in the positive outcome.

You can create your own reality. You can accomplish the impossible. And when you do, don't be surprised, you won't have been the first and you certainly won't be the last.

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

   Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed.  

For Wendy... You amazed us all (except daddy. I knew you could do it). Thanks for your love and inspiration.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Baby Shakes Newest Video Released This Morning

The Awesome Baby Shakes just won 1st place in the readers vote for NY's Deli Music Magazine for "NY's Best Emerging Band Contest 2017!" 

The Baby Shakes with Ken Nishikawa and me

My partners Ken Nishikawa and Les Deciduous just finished their newest video yesterday too! Wow! What timing!

Here's the video we made for them: Baby Shakes - Do What you Want

Monday, April 10, 2017

Japanese Girl Rock Bands (And More) That Matter in 2017!

This is part two (sort of) of a series on the best Japanese Girl Rock Bands... I added the (and more) because, well, frankly speaking, it's hard to find all-girl bands so, I've expanded the list a bit to add Japanese bands that have girls and guys also; Japanese bands who are crazy (there's lots of those) and, well, just Japanese bands that I like.

Japanese Girl Rock Bands That Matter in 2017 (part 1) is here:

I have culled the list to exclude bands that, for me, seem to veer too far into the J-Pop arena. Personally, I don't really like J-Pop. But I "get it" why some of those groups are popular. Hell, the first group I ever liked was the Monkees and the first 7-inch record I ever bought was the Monkees, "D.W. Washburn." So, I can understand why some people and kids like that kind of music.

Also, I can respect it. I mean, anyone who can do music and make a living at it as an artist must be doing something right. I applaud them...

J-Pop, K-Pop and America's "Hit Parade of Hell" is just not my cup of tea. 

My tastes have "matured".... Bwa! Ha! Ha! (My testes have "matured"? Isn't that hilarious?) Can you imagine the amount of ego it requires to make a statement like that? My god! I hate conceited DJs and "Musicologists." 

My point is I am trying to stick with what I personally really like. After all, isn't everyone a critic?

But to steal a line from Spinal Tap, "Enough of my yakking. Whaddya say? Let's boogie!"

In the first issue of this "Japanese Girl Rock Bands That Matter in 2017," I didn't include today's first band. Their name is TsuShiMaMiRe. I got lots of complaints from people for not including them, but I didn't include them because I heard that their drummer had quit and was replaced by a guy! (So they can't be in a "Girls" band list!) Now, I hear that the guy was just temporary???... When I find out what is really going on, I'll let you know. 

Their Wikipedia only lists two of the original girls members as being active now.

From Wiki: Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re ... is eclectic punk rock, mixing noisy and pop instrumental sounds with idiosyncratic, quirky, often funny or disturbing lyrics. They are one of the many bands to have become famous in the United States through SXSW music festival, and also through their performances at anime conventions and at "Japan Girls Nite" U.S. tours. The band's original lineup consisted of Mari Kono on lead guitar and vocals, Yayoi Tsushima on bass, and Mizue Masuda on drums. They originally formed the band while in college in Chiba, Japan. In January 2017, Mizue announced she was leaving the band to pursue other projects.

TsuShiMaMiRe - Speedy Wonder:

Next up is a band that is introduced to us by my good friend, Bee Bee Clark! "Bee Bee Clark? I've heard that name before!" You say? Yep! Bee Bee is one of the criminal master minds who made the definitive Japanese Garage Rock Movie, " Garage Rockin' Craze." It's freaking too cool! I can't find a 

Garage Rockin' Craze Trailer 予告編 :

This band is the Stompin' Riffraffs! I love this band! These guys rock!....Nao, the lead singer has a Facebook page, but I can't find one for the band!

Stompin' Riffraffs - Phantom Rock:

Next up is a band introduced to us by The Routes lead vocal and guitar, Christopher Jack. It's Samehada Shiroko & Dynamite! I think that roughly translates to: "Shark skin ass and dynamite." Bwa! Ha! Ha!

Samehada Shiroko & Dynamite have been playing together for 4 years now. And they are from Fukuoka and on the Sasanami Label. The singer is an artist and she does all the artwork for the CDs... They even opened for the seminal Japanese Punk/rock band, "Sheena and the Rokkets!" Wow! They put on really wild live shows, and they're constantly playing up and down the country. 

Samehada Shiroko & Dynamite - Moshi Yokattara: 

Next up is a band that your mom would not approve of! It's Otoboke Beaver! Their Facebook page says, "We are Otoboke Beaver "Japanese girls ‘knock out or pound cake’ band”!!!!!!!!!" OK? I got it! Lots of the bands on today's list don't have much of a Social Media presence or even a Facebook page, but Otoboke Beaver has one:

Otoboke Beaver (おとぼけビ~バ~) - Anata Ga Falling Love Shita No Ha Watashi Ga Kirai Na: 

Is that freaking cool, or what?

Next up is one of the hottest girls groups on the planet! They are called Kinoko Hotel (Mushroom Hotel). This band has been around since 2007 and do a sort of Showa era retro rock. They just released a new album last year. I'd like to post a full video from that, but the label won't post them in full... So here's an edited version. This band is HOT! I love these girls!  

Kinoko Hotel - Onedari Strange Love:

In the west, Heavy Metal seems to always be a seller, in fashion or not. In Japan, it's Rockabilly. There are lots of good rockabilly bands in Japan. Here's a Rockabilly band that sounds great! The Learners! The Leaners are a 5-piece band with Sara as lead vocalist and I hear she is a professional model! Wow! 

Learners - I Want You To Be My Baby

Next up is a trio named Bo-Peep from Fukuoka, Japan. (Fukuoka? Kyushu Japan? There sure are a LOT of hot bands from down there. I think there must be some sort of boom going on and I approve!) Bo-Peep call themselves "Sheet Metal" and "Alternative Punk." They were guests on my show about 10 years ago.... Why isn't this band more famous? Here's their Facebook page: 

BO-PEEP - Hello

Next up is a band who claim to be "from Japan." (Well, duh!) This band was introduced to us by the leader of the world famous Routes (who also hail from Kyushu!) The band's name is "The Swamps." Their bio on Facebook is quite funny. It says, "Imagine a band with Moe Tucker of the Velvet Underground on drums, Chuck Berry/Johnny Ramone on rhythm guitar and Link Wray on an acid trip on lead guitar. Bass? They don't need no stinking bass. Vocally many of the tunes were a mix of Lux Interior of the Cramps meets Cookie Monster (especially when the vocals were done through the guitar's pickups as they were on many of the tunes). At times it was noise trash rock and at others they locked into a serious rock rhythm."

Here's their Facebook page:

The SWAMPS – Ain’t Love Me Baby

And speaking of Kyushu again, here is the band that's been getting TONS of airplay on my show, "WTF?" (Please come "Like" our FB page and on the World Famous KROQ in Los Angeles on the Legendary Rodney on the Roq show as well as stations around the world. It's The Routes and they are Japan's best kept secret!.... Until now! Go Like the Routes' Facebook page: The Routes just released their latest wax and it sold out within days (But I think they are back in stock. Grab one while you can!) This is the debut video from that release.

The Routes - Perfect Hell / No Permanence

Next up, once again.... Another band from Kyushu??? WTF??? It's the awesome Titty Twister! I love this band! Their Facebook page ( "Titty Twister, from Fukuoka City Japan, was formed in 2002, by Howlin' Kimiko, and Dee Dee Kyoko. The band plays exciting, all original Rock n' Roll, and covers such styles as Garage Punk, Pop/ Bubblegum, 70's Punk, and Rockabilly. Come on, get Twisted!!" These guys should be on air constantly!

Titty Twister/ Live at Keith Flack

Next up is a Japanese girls band that just celebrated their 20th anniversary (and they were guests on my show a few months back!) It's The Noodles! Their bio says, "Noodles is a Japanese alternative rock band currently consisting of Yoko (vocals/guitar), Ayumi (drums) and Ikuno (bass). The band is originally from Yokohama, where they performed their first show. They are well known for the song "Love My Life", which they recorded for the movie of the same name, Love My Life.

Noodles - Blood Waltz

Hope you enjoyed this. 

There is a rock n roll boom coming to Japan before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and I can see it coming. I wrote to a close friend the other day: "It seems to me that what is happening now in Japan reminds me of the late 1970s Punk Boom in Los Angeles, 40 years ago... I think the same sort of thing is happening again here.

I am lucky because I have seen this before when I was in the Rotters (
, so I have seen this before, but not too many people have… So, I think most Japanese rockers don’t realise what is going on…. I believe that what is happening now is a legendary time in Japanese rock music… These bands are all a part of it…. There is a music movement happening in (Tokyo) Japan now…. The music boom is just starting. I know it. I have seen it before. I have the feeling of Deja Vu."

Anyway, there are lots of other good Japanese bands, so if you know one, let me know. - Mike

Oh, and be on the lookout for the biggest rock n roll movie to come out of Japan in years. 
It's hitting theaters this autumn 2017!: 
"Ghostroads - A Japanese Rock n Roll Ghost Story." 
Here's the trailer:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Japanese TV Commercials are Amazing!

This TV commercial was just sent to me by my friend, James Honeycutt who helped me write the screenplay for the movie Ghostroads. (

This is a commercial for a new computer sales or service company.

James writes: "Japanese TV Commercials are Amazing!"


If the video does not play, click here:

Friday, March 3, 2017

Rock N Roll Music and the Proof of the Existence of God!

I'm making a rock n roll movie. It's called, "Ghostroads - A Rock N Roll Ghost Story" Here's the trailer

The movie stars my favorite Japanese rock band of all time, "The Neatbeats." Rodney Bingenheimer (AKA "Rodney on the Roq" KROQ Los Angeles) is also in the movie. Rodney is one of, if not thee most famous DJ in the world. He's made many great stars famous. As some regular readers might know, I used to be Rodney's assistant (Read: His lowly "Go-fer.")

Rodney Bingenheimer

In Japan, it isn't too cool to "toot one's horn" so to speak, so I tell few people about my past....

One day, during the shooting of the movie, I was at the Neatbeats' studio. There I saw they had a book about Phil Spector (a very famous music producer who did the Beatles, etc.) 

I saw the book and then I opened the book to a random page and, I'll be damned if there wasn't a photo of Rodney and Phil Spector right there. "What a coincidence!" I thought to myself.

I walked back into the studio where we were shooting and said to the Neatbeats members, "Hey! You guys like Phil Spector?" 

They all said, "YES! HE IS GOD!" 

Phil Spector

I answered, "Oh? I've met him two or three times. I even "had lunch" (or was it dinner?) with him and Rodney when he showed up to that restaurant that Rodney 'lives' at in Hollywood named 'Canters.'"

Oh. That was a mistake. I opened my big mouth. Should have shut up and said nothing.


I could tell by the expressions on their face that they didn't believe me at all. Their jaws dropped open in disappointed disbelief... They looked stupefied.... 

Here, all this time, I was their friend. They thought they could believe me and trust me.... But here I was telling them something that, to them, couldn't possibly be true in a million years...

I said, "No! Really! I have! I have met Phil Spector a few times.....I'm serious." They still looked like they thought I was full of shit....

Flustered and insistent to prove I wasn't lying, I figured I'd offer proof... I added, "Do you guys know who Rodney Bingenheimer is?" 

They all lit up again and said, "Of course! Rodney on the Roq is legendary! He is a DJ god!" 

I paused... hesitated a bit, and then I said, "I was Rodney's assistant from 1980 ~81. He introduced me to many famous people...."

It seemed then like the roof caved in. I was ready for the insane asylum by the expressions on their faces.

I could tell by the way they looked at me that they had lost all respect for me at that very moment. They thought that I was a total useless bullshitter. 

They didn't believe me at all. 

...Not anymore.... 

.....Not about.... 


I protested, "No! Really! I was! Rodney introduced me to lots of famous people. The Ramones, Phil Spector, etc. etc." 

They still didn't believe me... So, in frustration, I threw my hands in the air, gave up and said, "OK. Fuck it! Whatever!...." 

That was Jan. of 2016. 

A few short months later...

In May 2016, by sheer coincidence, Rodney came to Japan and I was able to be a tour guide for several days for my old friend, Rodney on the Roq! I hadn't seen him in over 25 years.... 

We went to many good restaurants and fun places in Tokyo while he was here with his girlfriend (and fab movie director), Kansas Bowling who made the horror film, "B.C. Butcher." (

And, Rodney and Kansas both appeared in my movie too! What timing!!!! 

So, don't tell me, "There's no God!" 

There is. 

I have met him. 

His name is Phil Spector....

...and another god named Rodney Bingenheimer.


(I took lots of photos and wrote about sightseeing with Rodney here: 

With my old friend and legendary radio DJ, Rodney Bingenheimer 
at the Poor Cow in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, Japan May 27, 2016.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Japanese Girl Rock Bands That Matter in 2017

I got together with my friend, Satoshi Miyaki and, unbeknownst to him, I've come up with a list of Japanese Girl Rock Bands that matter in 2017.... Satoshi, who just likes cool music because, well, just because that's what he does, has selected a bunch of these groups (Thanks Satoshi san!)... I have also added a few of my own. This isn't the complete list. This is just Japanese girl bands - with girl members only - who are performing gigs now.... If I miss your band from the list, send me an email as I am going to make another list a little later.

Also, these are all female only bands. There's lots of cool bands in Japan but if we start making exceptions and adding bands that have guys and girls, we'd be here forever. 

Also, these are bands that I think (from my most probably confused viewpoint) that a foreign audience might like. Also, there is no particular order to this list excepting the first two. I think not putting Shonen Knife at the top of the list along with the 5,6,7,8s, would be an atrocity. Maybe even deserving the death penalty!


First up on the list of Japanese Girl Rock Bands that matter in 2017 (Vol. 1) are two bands that need no introduction to that foreign audience. And, so, of course, that means the first band we "introduce" are the queens of Japanese Girls Bands, Shonen Knife. 

Shonen Knife (HP:

If there were no Shonen Knife, I wonder how different the Japanese rock scene would have been? Shonen Knife are THEE legendary Japanese girl's rock band. Wikipedia writes: "Shonen Knife is a Japanese pop punk band formed in Osaka, in 1981. Heavily influenced by 1960s girl groups, pop bands, The Beach Boys, and early punk rock bands, such as the Ramones, the trio crafts stripped-down songs with simplistic lyrics sung both in Japanese and English. Despite their pop-oriented nature, the trio maintains a distinctly underground garage rock sound rooted in edgy instrumentation and D.I.Y. aesthetics, which over the course of their long career has earned them a solid, worldwide cult following and made avid fans out of seminal 1990s alternative rock bands such as Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and Redd Kross. The band has been credited with making "the international pop underground more international" by "opening it up to bands from Japan". They have a Facebook page here:

Since this is my blog, I want to show you a Shonen Knife music video I made along with my video genius friend Ken Nishikawa over at Robot55 (

Shonen Knife - Ghost Train 

(I can't remember well, but I think Shonen Knife were first personally introduced to me in 1986 (or 87?) by my dear old friend Page Porazzo. R.I.P. We miss you Page!) 

The 5,6,7,8s (HP:

Wikipedia writes: "The's are a Japanese rock trio, whose music is reminiscent of American surf music, rockabilly and garage rock. They frequently cover songs from American rock and roll. All members are from Tokyo, Japan. The's first started performing as a quartet in Tokyo. They first officially became a trio in 1992. The's made a brief appearance in the 2003 Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill Volume 1, where they were shown playing barefoot in an izakaya. In 2012, they appeared at the "Girls Got Rhythm" fest in alongside artists such as Ronnie Spector, The Muffs and Nikki Corvette." Here's their Facebook page:

5 6 7 8's - Woo Hoo:

su凸ko d凹koi - すっとこどっこい(HP:

This is difficult for foreigners to say the name of this band correctly (I still can't) but try "Su K D Koi." That's close enough.

Su Ko D Koi are on this list because I think they are one of, if not the best, new comers. They are basically exploding on the scene. Besides an awesome reputation and incredible audience reaction to airplay on the FM radio, a few things really stand out: 1) Their newest CD that went on sale Jan. 11, 2017 sold out all over Japan within the first 2 weeks - It was sold out even at online shops. That's amazing! Nobody does that anymore. 2) Their recent live shows were sold out. 3) They have been charting on several of the Japanese hit charts (an indies band!? WTF?) 4) The video for one of their most recent single releases, "Shop Manager, I'm Quitting My Part-Time Job" has more than 175,000 views! Amazing! Once again, today's video is made by Ken Nishikawa and myself in some more shameless self-promotion for Robot55 video production companyOf course, Su K D Koi has a Facebook page

Su Ko D Koi - Busu (Ugly):


The Drop's are 4 or 5 girls who met in high school in 2009 (I don't know how many girls exactly!) They've performed at Rising Sun Festival and at the Rock in Japan Festival. Here's their Facebook page:

Drop's - The Red Blues:


The Let's Go's are a "Japanese girl's band formed in Tokyo." I guess it was around 2009. At least, that's what their bio says. They also want to rock all over the world. Which is a fair and worthy goal. Here's their Facebook:

The Let's Go's - Snakey Shakey:

Check out: Top 3 Indies Artist Videos for Mar. 4, 2017! Baby Shakes, TsuShiMaMire (Japan), The Coathangers, Hands Off Gretel!

The Pats Pats (HP:

The Pats Pats are two girls from Tokyo named Midori and Akiko who make up what I think is one of the coolest and most fun bands in Tokyo! The Pats Pats just released their newest 7-inch record on Feb. 25. It is available on Passion RecordsHere's their Facebook page:

THE PATS PATS - Girls Talk:


Who are the Noodles? Their FB page explains: "In 1991, four young girls gathered to start the band Noodles, performing their first shows in Yokohama. In 1995, they released their debut album on the Benten Label. That same year, the girls wrote and recorded a song for a Coca-Cola commercial. The song became a big hit and was a radio favorite throughout Japan. In 1999, the band moved to the DELICIOUS LABEL. In March, 2003, they opened for The Breeders, in Osaka. Later that year, Noodles started to branch out overseas by performing at the CMJ Music Marathon. They have since been back to the States for two US tours and have appeared at SXSW two years in a row. Noodles remain Japan's best all-girl rock ensemble." Here's their Facebook page

The Noodles - Blood Waltz:


Old Lacy Bed are 4 girls from Nagoya, Japan. Their bio says, "They’ve carried on shows with many bands from abroad (including)“Summer Twins.” Also, they’ve released their first 7 inch vinyl “Little Girl” and a split 7 inch vinyl “Coastlands” with “Summer Twins” in the UK with “Dufflecoat Records”. On August 5th 2015, They released their second mini album “SHE DAYDREAMS” from “2670records”. Here's their Facebook page

OLD LACY BED - Hold Your Dreams: 

The Stephanies (HP:

The Stephanies are a girls three piece band from Tokyo. They features great chorus work, tight rhythms and powerful vocals. They are hot live and they are performing about 100 shoes live every year! They have also won several awards including the Emerging Festival, Hard Rock Rising and the Space Shower Contest. Very cool. Here's their Facebook page:

THE STEPHANIES - Baby, I love you:


Tadzio are two girls whose webpage says, "An explosive hardcore pop band composed of a leader and director TADZIO (Tagio).
Tazio formed in 2010. They released their first album in 2011 which is a mix of rock, metal, hardcore and garage.  etc., all original 11 original songs mixed with various elements are all released. Tadzio has appeared on UK 's SPINE TV and appeared in Italy' s FAR EAST FILM FESTIVAL.


Hope you enjoyed this. Like I mentioned, there are lots of other good bands, so if you know one, let me know. - Mike

Oh, and be on the lookout for the biggest rock n roll movie to come out of Japan in years: "Ghostroads - A Japanese Rock n Roll Ghost Story." Here's the trailer: 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Very Own Rock & Roll Swindle! How I Scammed the Music Business in Japan!

Alternative title: "How to use lessons of the Sex Pistols to sell records."

"Hype is always better than reality" - Me

In the early nineties, I ran one of the best-selling independent record labels in Japan. It was called "Samson Records." We were based in Shinjuku, Tokyo and I started the label with a guy from Osaka named Suzuki who owned a radio program recording studio named "Sam." Hence the name of the record label, "Samson Records." 

"Of course you do...."

The company was set up so that I would split 1/2 with Suzuki everything we made. He provided the studios and staff and engineers. I would set up the music and branding and marketing... Later I would be given shares in "Sam" on a stock option (an option that I was never able to exercise). 

The former president of Tower Records Asia, Keith Cahoon, once told me that Samson was the number one selling Indies label in Japan.

This is a brief story about how that label began and how I scammed the Japan music industry.

The beginnings of Samson Label:

We wanted to make a cool indies label that had a policy of very stylish and sophisticated music. J-Wave FM radio station in Tokyo was booming and they had a very chic and stylish image. I wanted to sell music that they would air for us (I also had my own late night show on that station).

I was trying to license music from Europe (mostly France) but was having lots of trouble with conceited artists (what's new?) who wanted huge advances (like $25,000 ~ $50,000)... We didn't have any money to pay advances like that!

It was funny dealing with artists from around the world. If you were interested in music from an American artist and inquired with them, they'd normally say, "OK. Let's have our lawyers get in contact with each other." 

If you were interested in music from a Canadian or Australian artist, they'd normally say, "Great! We'll even pay for our own airfare to come play in Japan!"

If you told a European - or especially a British artist - that you liked their music, they'd take a drag on their cigarette and in a very aloof manner say, "Of course you do."

It was very difficult licensing music from Europeans and Americans. So I decided that we'd make our own stylish music. That first project became known as "Nadege" in Japan and was a smash Indies success that was later sold to a major label. 

Besides problems with licensing foreign artists for Japan, for Indies labels, there was (still are) problems with the music publishers in Japan. Mostly the problems are with the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC).

At that time, JSRAC extorted money, er I mean, "arranged payment" from all small labels by a silly "sticker on album" system. JASRAC used to charge indies labels ¥90 per sticker to be placed on CDs (about $1.10) whether they sell or not - just for manufacture of product. JASRAC would make you buy these little stickers at ¥90 a pop to place on all CDs made. It seemed ridiculous to me.

No, you couldn't just print these on the CDs jackets either. They had to be the actual stickers!

A new label can't afford these types of charges up front. If our Indies label was going to fly, I had to figure a way out of these problems. But how?
Well, as I wrote about the other day in I Was a Teenage Punk Rocker - Why Dedication Beats Fanaticism Any Day! Even for Punk Rock or Success in Any Field!... I had a punk rock band background so I got to thinking.
First off, I went to Korea and made a deal to press CDs over there (I think I was one of the first, if not thee first, to go make a deal like that)... 

We got around massive import duties by having them ship the CDs as "unfinished product" (parts). The Korean manufacturer would ship the boxes, discs, wrappers all separately and then we'd assemble them into finished product by hand in Japan (that was a tough job!) We printed the sleeves, etc. locally in Japan.
Then I knew a half-French / Japanese girl named Vivi. Vivi was a Deejay at Bay-FM (a Chiba Japan FM radio station) and so was I. Vivi was an excellent singer. She also spoke perfect French (well, at least good enough for the Japanese). We put her and the engineer and the producer in the studio and played some music for them and told them to write songs like some examples that I had brought along for them to hear... You know, smooth jazzy lounge music (like Bossa Nova style, Sergio Mendez, etc....) They did a good job writing songs. They went to work on making the music and I would check it out every once in a while and add comments or advice...

Some advice they took; some they didn't. It was okay with me, I figured. If I already knew what 17-year-olds wanted to buy, I would have already been rich! And anyway, I was in charge of sales and marketing and branding anyhow....
In Japan, at that time, if a CD said, "Made in Korea" or "Made in Japan" on the jacket then there were 3 problems: One, JASRAC will demand payment and two, Japanese radio station directors won't play it... Nor would store buyers at places like Tower Records, HMV, Virgin Mega-Stores buy them - that was the third problem... 

This was at the very start of the boom in foreign music stores in Japan and I desperately needed these stores to carry our product... I needed the local radio stations to play the songs... I didn't want to pay JASRAC unless I sold a record....

Malcolm McLaren

So, how to fool all these people? I thought about it for a long time and then it dawned on me like a bolt of lightening! I asked myself, "How would Malcolm McLaren or the Sex Pistols do it?" I soon had my answer. 
I forbade my staff from putting any Japanese writing on the CD at all. None. Zero. Verboten! Then in large letters on the back of the CD backing sleeve, I ordered the designer to write, "Made in France." 
When the JASRAC people saw that they thought, "Oh? Not manufactured in Japan? You don't have to pay publishing royalties!" And, since the sleeves were printed in Japan and parts shipped from Korea, I didn't pay import duties for finished product! (Smirk, smirk!) 

We finally finished the CD, put it all together and started selling it. We offered a really good price to stores for quality product that the stores believed was imported. Even though it looked like an import, we gave the stores excellent product for about half the price of a regular import. We even gave them 100% return rights. The CDs sold like hotcakes!
Soon after, I took some CDs to J-Wave (the big radio station in Tokyo that plays that kind of music) to promote the CD. 

There I met a director named Ishii san. Ishii san was a very arrogant and conceited little piece o' sh*t... er, I mean politically powerful radio director and producer. He was director of what was probably the most famous J-Wave radio program (I can't remember the name). I walked in with the CD to hand to him and he laughed at me (in a very condescending manner) and said, "I already have that CD. I bought it at the store yesterday!" (As if to say, "I'm always way ahead of you Rogers, you are always behind a cool trend setter like me!") 

I saw the CD he was proudly holding in his hand and had a hard time not laughing, but I bowed my head to him and said something like, "Yes. Of course. You are an expert on French pop music. It figures you'd have it first, Ishii san!"
That CD sold well over 20,000 copies in the first month. Considering that we were an Indies label, we made about $10.00 (USD) profit for every album we sold.

Later on we sold all the past released albums for that artist known as "Nadege" to Victor Records for about $600,000 (USD)... Hilarious, huh? We sold to Victor Records a "French pop group" that didn't really exist except that it consisted of one half-French / Japanese girl and two Japanese in studio dorks for over a half million dollars.  

Man, did we have a massive party the night that deal was signed!

I think they released several albums on Victor but never had any more hits... Major labels always have a way of making something cool quite the opposite.
We never were able to repeat the wild success we had with Nadege with other artists but we were able to still have several artist's albums that sold well over 15,000 ~ 20,000 each. 

It was a great time to be running an Indies label in Japan and it was a wonderful memory! It was my very own "Rock and Roll Swindle!"
The music was good, for sure... But the entire concept and selling and marketing was all a scam! It was a lesson that I will never forget: Hype truly is always better than reality!

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