Last year, we did a crownfunding campaign in order to release the concept album “Jesus Wind”.
For some of the backers on the campaign, we provided them with “All Albums Download” package, including all the digital albums of our discography.
As crazy as it may sound, we have a very big catalog of albums. I don’t know how to count it, but “Jesus Wind” is our 16th studio album. We are just an unknown indie band from Japan, but we have a long history of making music.
In order to explain the history, we have written a little “liner note” for the download package.
If you look at our website, we did this history page before.
But this liner note will be a good update and an opportunity to show you our history.
We we decided to post it here. This is our little history of making music.
Imari Tones album download package liner note
Hello, this is Tak from Imari Tones.
Thank you very much for helping us on IndieGoGo for our “Jesus Wind” concept album.
Without your help we couldn’t have released it in the right form.
So here is the “All Albums Download” package for you, as a token of our gratitude.
But let me take advantage of this opportunity and explain a bit about our band history.
Because, even though we are relatively unknown indie band based in Japan, we have a long history of making music and have so many albums out. You might get confused or have a hard time understanding what is going on, without any information, so.
1st era: Tak’s self recording project (1999 – 2002)
Kodomo Metal (1999)
Entering The New World (2001)
Tak “Tone” Nakamine: Guitars, Vocals and everything
When did the Imari Tones start?
For me it is a difficult question to answer.
Because I myself don’t quite know when or where it started.
I usually say the band was formed officially around 2004. But actually we have some history prior to that.
One definition of “Start Date” is, probably 1998, when I started recording music with my Windows computer. (I was using Cubase VST.)
Don’t ask me “why” I started making music. Because I didn’t know why and I myself could not answer that question.
But it was not like hoping to be a rockstar or anything. I knew I was not going to be a rockstar. I didn’t hope for any success. It was just a therapy. Back then I had some “nervous breakdown” thing due to my personal life issue. I could not do anything. I was a college student but probably I fell out of Japanese society system. The only thing I could do was to write and record music. So that was my therapy. It was VERY personal.
Back then, it was not a band. It was just my personal project. Naturally, I didn’t play any show. Just recording at home. It didn’t have a project/band name yet. However, I was decided I was going to name my band using the word “Imari” (伊万里). It was my wife’s name. It’s a very beautiful and unique name, with Japanese traditional vibe. I met her in high school, in 1995. She’s been together with me since then and still smiling next to me at this very moment.
– – – – – – – – –
During this time, I made “Prototypes”, “Kodomo Metal”, and “Entering The New World”.
They are all good. But I should say “Kodomo Metal” is the album that sticks out. Some of my friends say “Kodomo Metal” is STILL the best album we/I have ever made….
Naturally, the lyrics are all in Japanese language.
(* I have made an album titled “Through The Garden of Gods” in 1998 and that was technically the 1st album I/we have made. But things are kind of complicated for that album, with half of the songs being re-recorded later. We are planning to “re-make” that album and because of that, we decided not to include it in this package.)
2nd era: Imari Tones was formed (2004 – 2005)
The Record of Live 2004 (2004)
Hero of the Light (2005)
Tak “Tone” Nakamine: Guitars, Vocals
Minetti: Bass, Background Vocals
Haratti: Drums, Background Vocals
So now I was better and I started working. I found a job in Tokyo and moved there.
I only lasted 4 months on the job and ended up working as a part-time cook (Not a good example for decent people). But one good thing: I was able to form a band.
I met some like-minded music players and jammed together. I was not sure if I was going to be a singer or just a guitar player. I wanted to meet a proper lead singer and focus on guitar myself, but somehow I always ended up singing while playing guitar.
I jammed with guitar players, bass players, and drummers. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. It was February 2004 that I felt we had the right people. It was a 3-piece band. Power Trio, so to speak?
The first line up of Imari Tones was:
Tone (That’s me. My nickname is Tone.): Guitars, Vocals
We started gigging at music venues around Tokyo.
We were very powerful, full of energy and creativity.
It was a great time and I’m still confident that we were doing great musically.
But eventually, we could not get a good reception by audience.
There were several reasons for this, but the biggest reason I think, was that I was trying to convey messages.
I was trying to convey social, political, sometimes spiritual message to audience.
But, most likely, that was too heavy and Japanese audience didn’t like that.
– – – – – – – – –
During this time, we made “The Record of Live 2004” and “Hero of the Light”.
“Hero of the Light” is the first real BAND album for me and I’m very proud of it.
Now THIS is Japanese rock band!!
Musically speaking, we were playing somewhere between Hard Rock, Alternative, Punk and J-Pop.
All the lyrics are in Japanese.
3rd era: Tak recording by himself, for a very short time (2005)
Heterogeneous Species (2005)
Reluctant Savior (2005)
Color of Hers (2005)
Tak “Tone” Nakamine: Guitars, Vocals, Drums and almost everything
So the band, the lineup [Tone, Minetti, Haratti] broke up in March 2005.
This kind of thing happens, even if we are doing great as a band. We are living a real life.
So what should I do now?
What I did next, was, making more music.
Working with a band was fun. But I found it somewhat “limited” in some aspects.
Now the band was broken-up, but I thought it was a good opportunity to make music more freely.
From June – December 2005, I recorded 50 songs almost by myself.
I played guitars, bass, piano, sang and played drums.
Some friends, including the former drummer Haratti, helped me with background vocals.
How could I record 50 songs in such a short period of time?
I don’t know. It’s probably because I was younger….?
Surely, some things were not perfect and I ended up “remixing” them years later, and some songs were thrown away, but I made 4 albums in 7 months.
That is, “Heterogeneous Species” (異能レース), “Reluctant Savior” (無責任なメシア), “Color of Hers”, “fireworks”.
To tell the truth, I was planning to quit music. I just wanted to record all of the songs in my head before calling it quits.
However, something has happened and my life plan went wrong, again.
– – – – – – – – –
During this time I/we made “Heterogeneous Species”, “Reluctant Savior”, “Color of Hers” and “fireworks”.
These albums include many songs I wrote in my teenage/highschool days and some of the songs are very personal.
“Heterogeneous Species” and “Reluctant Savior” were remixed and “Re-built” in 2015 to fix some sound issues.
Some people praise “Color of Hers” as hard rock classic and call it “Japanese Zeppelin”. Ohhh, I’m not sure. You listen and decide….
All lyrics are in Japanese.
4th era: Working with producer(s) and flying to Germany (2006 – 2007)
Japanese Pop (2006)
Tak “Tone” Nakamine: Guitas, Vocals
In December 2005, Tak met a renowned Japanese musician/producer called Tak Yonemochi (oh, another Tak, very confusing).
He was a guitar player from a band called “Air Pavilion” and also well known as a music journalist.
He interviewed almost every guitar hero around the world and his articles/interviews were all over Japanese rock magazines. If you are Japanese and were into HardRock/HeavyMetal in 1980’s and 1990’s, most likely you know his name or at least you have read one of his articles and liner notes.
As a matter of course, I started to working with him. All of a sudden there was a plan for professional recordings and hiring famous players. Things were suddenly looking professional.
However, rather than hiring some famous musicians, I wanted it to be a real band. Now Haratti was back in the band. He came back for one more shot. Also I met a new bassist called Baba-kun. Baba-kun was more of a jazz guy rather than a rocker, and more of a studio guy rather than a live performer, but he was a very good player in his own right.
We started recording with the producer Tak Yonemochi, in a professional recording studio, using great equipment. Tak Yonemochi believed in old fashion analog recordings, so all of the music was recorded on analog tapes.
Mr. Yonemochi said “You have to reach for the international market”. According to Mr.Yonemochi, real rock music was not well received in Japanese domestic market. I said “What!?” but eventually said yes. So that’s what we did since then.
Mr. Yonemochi said “You have to sing in English”. I said “No, I want to sing in Japanese, my native language.” But well, if you try to reach for international audience, it’s true you better be singing in English. So that’s what we did since then.
Mr. Yonemochi said “You have to go back to your musical root. That is heavy metal from 1980’s”. I said “But heavy metal is out of fashion now.” But he was right. My biggest influence was Van Halen and I could not hide it. So I decided to go for more straightforward heavy metal style. That’s what we did since then.
Just like that, I learned many things from Mr. Tak Yonemochi. He also told us some cool stories about his rock star friends such as RATT and Motley Crue. (It’s true. He made some records with RATT’s Juan Croucier.)
In September 2006, another thing happened. Mr.Tak Yonemochi had so many musician friends around the world. He talked with one of his friends in Germany. That guy was called Sascha Paeth. He was now a very successful producer in heavy metal world, producing great bands such as Angra, Rhapsody and Kamelot. Mr.Sascha agreed with Mr.Yonemochi and we flew to Germany. We went to his studio in Wolfsburg, Germany. We recorded 3 songs there (“Karma Flower”, “Iron Hammer” and “Skies of Tokyo”). That was a great experience.
So, by the end of the year 2006, we had recorded enough songs for a full album. Now the album is done. But do we have a record company to release it? No. So we tried and contacted some record companies but it didn’t work. Maybe Mr. Tak Yonemochi was more influential and powerful in 1980’s and 90’s. But in 2000’s hard rock and heavy metal was not very popular anymore. Especially in Japan it was nearly impossible for a new metal band to make a career.
Tak Yonemochi said “We have to go to the United States. There are more chances for you. Also your music is more of American sound rather than European metal”. So we flew to the United States. It was in March 2007. This time it was just me and Mr.Yonemochi, not the whole band. We went to Austin Texas. We went there to attend SXSW (South By South West), one of the biggest music industry conventions in the world. We tried to meet music industry people there.
Because Tak Yonemochi had so many friends in the music industry, we DID meet some important people. But things were not that easy. In my mind, I was planning to quit music, if nothing happens at SXSW.
Well, something DID happen. I saw so many great indie bands from all around the world. I don’t know what it is like now, but back then SXSW was still a festivity of indie music. On the last night of SXSW, I saw one great indie band from New York and fell in love with them. I thought “Oh God, I want to be an indie band like them. I don’t want to be famous. I just want to be the best indie band in the world. I have to come back to this place, Austin Texas, and play shows here!”
So now I knew. It was not about being big or successful. It was about how you play your music. It was about how much freedom you have in your music. To live a life with your music, successful or not.
We could not find a record company. But now I had a clear vision. I had a new goal. I want to be an indie band. I want it to be as authentic as it can get. I want to take my band back from the producer. I wanted to build my band in a way it should be. So I decided to start all over.
We played a couple of gig with this lineup [Tone – Haratti – Baba], and we said good-bye to Mr.Yonemochi.
I told Harrati and Baba-kun that I wanted to restart my band and said good-bye to them.
Harrati went on to be a Japanese Traditional Koto (TaishoGoto) builder. Baba-kun went on to be a professional jazz bassist.
– – – – – – – – –
During this time we made: “Japanese Pop”
This was the first and most likely the only “professionally produced” album of ours.
In spite of the popularity of this album, apparently due to its title and artwork, I’m not very happy with the quality of this album. The biggest reason is the communication between me and the producer was not perfect. Because of that communication issue I don’t think I did my best performance on this album.
However, the song selection was almost “Best of” at that point, and I have to say the lively analog sound on this album is what makes it special. I believe “Winning Song Japanese Version” is one of the best things we have ever done.
Those 3 songs we recorded with Sascha Paeth in Germany turned out very well.
Especially “Karma Flower” remains one of the most popular songs of ours. (Even though I don’t like the “main stream” sound production very much.)
Most of the songs on this album actually were “re-recording” version from the previous album songs, now with English lyrics.
e.g. “New World” initially appeared on “Kodomo Metal” album as “Big World”.
Winning Song, That’s Why I Love You initially appeared on “Hero of the Light” album.
“Speechless Speaker” also was initially on “Hero of the Light” album as “Utsukushii Monowo Miyou”
“I” was initially on “Color of Hers” album.
“Juku-Shiki” initially appeared on “Heterogeneous Species” album.
“Karma Flower” was initially on “fireworks” album as “Hatsuharu Renpu” with different arrangement.
Lyrics were written and sung in English, except for “I” and “Winning Song Japanese Version”.
5th era: We became a Christian band (2007 – 2008)
Welcome To The School (2008)
Tak “Tone” Nakamine: Guitars, Vocals
So, after saying Good-Bye to the famous producer, I didn’t have any big plans.
I wanted to start small.
I had just 2 goals in my mind.
1. Be a local band and stay being a local band
2. Play a gig in USA, preferably in Austin Texas.
Basically I just wanted to be “local band” and didn’t want to make money or anything. Don’t worry I have not quit my day job….
So that was what I did. Meet local players and form a local band.
A few months later, I met this bassist, called Hassy. He was a very sensitive guy and we somehow “hit it off”. I knew I would be playing with him for a long time.
I also met this drummer called Manzo. He was an older guy but was a very skillful drummer. Most importantly he had his fully equipped studio in his house. Now we don’t have to pay for a rehearsal room. Yeah!
That was August 2007 and we started playing as a regular local band you can find anywhere.
Things went pretty well for a while.
But, WOW, something has happened and 6months later we were a band you CAN’T find anywhere else.
Now we were a JAPANESE CHRISTIAN METAL BAND.
So what happened?
Basically, I finally figured out why I had been playing music.
I found out the real reason I was playing music in the first place.
IT WAS FOR GOD.
HE was always with me. With us, me, my band and my wife.
I knew it in the bottom of my heart.
Now I found out HE was JESUS CHRIST.
Everything made sense and I decided to dedicate my music to HIM.
This was the mission of my life.
I was always trying to convey message to audience.
Now I knew what the message was all about.
It was SALVATION.
It was all in Jesus and His Cross.
So, this is how it happened actually.
Dr.Manzo said to me “Hey, why don’t you play acoustic shows once in a while? I found this gig on the internet. Are you interested?”.
So I went and play an acoustic set just by myself. There was of course other musicians as well. And there I saw this singersongwriter lady. She was singing about God. She was a Gospel musician.
I said “What!?” and something clicked inside me.
That was it.
I talked to the singersongwriter lady and she gave me the bible and stuff. The next day I decided to become a Christian.
So I am forever grateful for Dr.Manzo, giving me a chance to be a Christian, even though he didn’t like “religious” stuff.
I went on and told my bandmates that now I was a Christian and had decided to play Christian Heavy Metal.
Hassy, the bassist, said “Okay. It sounds cool.”.
Dr.Manzo said “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want anything religious in my life. However, because I’m a good guy, I will let you use my studio and finish making the album we started to make.” (Yes, he was a good guy.)
So that’s what we did.
All of a sudden, we were making a “Christian Album” in Dr.Manzo’s private studio.
It was surely a funny experience for Japanese band guys.
I wrote the lyrics in English, because even though I said Good-Bye to Mr.Yonemochi, I wanted to follow his footsteps and “go for the world”. (I still respect him as a musician.)
The album, eventually titled “Welcome To The School” was a concept album in a loose way.
It consists of 2 parts. The first half was “Our Side” and singing more of “reality of this world” and “doubts in human mind”. The second half was called “His Side” and singing more of “Truth in God” and Worship type of songs.
Technically speaking it was a Spiritual Mix of Christianity, Buddhism and some New Age thing.
Probably this is a “Christian record by ordinary Japanese guys”.
It was not a typical Christian record, but I’m very proud of it to this day.
In the hindsight, I regret a bit about consulting my pastor about the lyrics, because it blurred the meaning of the songs I originally intended it to be. But hey, my English back then was WAY WORSE than now. I needed someone to help me with English.
“Welcome To The School” was the first album we made after we became a Christian band. Also it was the 2nd album I sang in English language. Even though the song writing was good and I like the album musically, this album somehow often gets forgotten.
– Dr.Manzo was in the band only for a short period of time. People like later albums with Jake drumming.
– Songs on the 1st half of the album are singing about “Doubts for God”, even though it has more “Praise&Worship” type songs in the 2nd half. (We should’ve done it the other way around?)
– Dr.Manzo (drummer) engineered and mixed the album and DRUMS are TOO LOUD in this album, while the guitars are rather quiet. Imari Tones without Tak’s guitar? Is that even possible?
In anyway, Dr.Manzo quit the band right after the completion of “Welcome To The School” album.
Now we had to find a new drummer, to pursue this “Christian Heavy Metal” mission.
– – – – – – – – –
During this time we made: “Welcome To The School”
Even though this is not the most popular album of ours, it has some good songs that we played live constantly. Such as, “He’s Still With Us”, “Only One Wish”, “First Pop” and “i love you, now ur on your own”.
All the lyrics were written and sung in English.
6th era: Let’s go to the United States (2009 – 2012)
Victory in Christ (2009 – 2010)
Japan Metal Jesus (2011)
Heroes EP (2012 – 2013)
Tak “Tone” Nakamine: Guitars, Vocals
After Dr.Manzo had quit the band, was it hard to find a new drummer?
Nope. It was quite easy.
Actually Hassy and Jake had played together in several bands in the past. All we had to do was to send just 1 text message. Jake came and we jammed together in a rehearsal room (Yep. We had to pay for a room again.) and that was it. He was in. He loved the idea of playing Christian music.
Jake joined the band in October 2008. That was the start.
So now we have this long-time-line up. [Tak – Hassy – Jake].
Probably this is the Imari Tones as we know it, isn’t it?
Up to this point, I have already told you a very long story.
Also, this LINEUP is not a story of the past.
This is what is happening NOW.
So I want to keep it short.
Now we are a super awesome band that can play ridiculously fun shows.
We toured in USA, 4 years in a row.
We had so many great shows, had so much great time.
We experienced miracles in many ways. Most importantly in a musical way.
We made some awesome records.
We took part in The Extreme Tour (grass root style Christian music tour in USA) for the first time as a Japanese band.
We made so many friends.
We became stronger in faith and spirit.
But even though we had this “Spiritual Victory” in USA, we could not get it in Japan.
It, however, would change soon……
– – – – – – – – –
During this time we made:
“Victory in Christ”, “Japan Metal Jesus” and “Heroes EP”
“Victory in Christ” album was almost like our first album. It’s fresh, raw, full of energy and passion. I don’t think we can re-create the pureness and passion again.
On “Japan Metal Jesus”, things got MORE FUN! It’s another example of what Japanese Christian rock can sound like, and it’s the bridge that bridges the cultural gap between East and West, Japan and Christianity.
If I were to pick some songs, I want to say all songs are my favorite, but I have to say “Faith Rider” and “Love is To Do Something No One Dares To Do” stick out and remain super special in our live set list.
Most of the song lyrics were written in English. But some of the songs, especially worship type songs, we sang in Japanese, or made Japanese versions.
7th era: Seeking for roots and identity as a Japanese band (2013 – ongoing)
Revive The World (2014)
Atomic Live! (2015)
Jesus Wind (2016)
Tak “Tone” Nakamine: Guitars, Vocals
In 2013 we made a fairly big decision.
We decided to do “The Extreme Tour” in Japan. Indie-Style Christian music tour in Japan.
At first it seemed impossible. Everyone I consulted, they all said “That’s impossible” or “It will take a lot of money”.
We had great time as a band when we toured in USA. But in Japan, things are very different. Christian situation, music situation, culture situation, very different.
That was a decision to focus on Japan.
I don’t say we won’t tour overseas anymore, but I think these several years our priority was to improve the situations in Japan. And that’s what we did.
We did “The Extreme Tour Japan”, 4 years in a row. Each year we have some guest bands/musicians from USA/Canada, sometimes Russia and even Chile.
We did this hardcore grassroots touring things with those oversea bands AND Japanese bands.
We were breaking down the walls (spiritual, cultural and musical walls) a bit by bit.
When we knew it, we had so many friends, loving Japan and praying for Japan, all around the world.
We have now these other Christian Rock Bands in Japan, going for the same goal and helping each other.
We have launched “Calling Records” together, to establish “Christian Rock” in Japan.
We are not alone any more. Now we can play some awesome gigs in Japan.
So many things have changed during this period.
Nope, no one has had a baby or no one has died. (Please understand this is modern Japan.)
But musically and spiritually, we have experienced the changes.
Has the March 2011 Earthquake/Tsunami changed your life?
Maybe. It did more than we knew.
Has the political situation in Japan and in the world affected your musical vision?
Probably. But is it a bad thing?
When we knew it, we were searching for musical and spiritual roots and seeking for “Sound Identity” as a Japanese musicians.
All of a sudden we were using Made-in-Japan guitars and basses.
Tak started to learn Japanese traditional scales and melodies.
I kept saying I wanted to make a concept album about Japanese history. Japanese history from a Christian point of view. I said that many times but I never thought it was possible. I had no idea what it would sound like.
But one day I had a vision, and I wrote almost all the songs within 3 days. (31 Dec 2013 — 2 Jan 2014, to be exact)
So, this our latest album “Jesus Wind” is a result of our soul searching as a Japanese Christian band.
This is probably the most important album we’ve ever made.
Probably this is the MUSICAL PEAK of our career, I think.
But I don’t think we have reached our SPIRITUAL PEAK yet.
Or SPIRITUAL DEPTH, to be exact?
To me, this is just a beginning.
That is why we decided to call our next album “Overture”.
“Overture” will be ALL JAPANESE album.
All the songs on the album will be sung in Japanese.
It has been a long time since we made a Japanese album last time.
And it actually will be the first time since we became a Christian band.
I’m not sure if it will attract the international audience, but we will do it for our Japanese friends.
After that, we are going for something big.
It is called “Nabeshima”.
All the songs for “Nabeshima” have been already written.
But I don’t know how long it will take for us to play and record it.
“Nabeshima” will be the ultimate Japanese Christian metal, from the deepest of Japanese souls.
We will bring it to the world, when the time has come.
Please pray for God’s guidance upon us.
– – – – – – – – –
During this time we made:
“Revive The World”, “Atomic Live!”, “Jesus Wind”
and will make “Overture” soon.
“Revive The World” is quite certainly the apex of our “Spiritual Rock”. Our previous albums, “Victory in Christ” and “Japan Metal Jesus” were good Christian rock records in our own style, but on “Revive The World”, we felt things were at “highest”, both in sound and spirit.
“Atomic Live!” is a live album, but was made as a, kind of joke. It was a parody to “Big Stadium Live Albums”. Even though it sounds like playing in a big arena, it actually is a small room and playing for a handful of (quiet Japanese) audience. It was recorded when a certain show was cancelled and we had nothing else to do. But it still represents our best live performance.
About “Jesus Wind”, what can I say. This is totally different. I don’t even know how I wrote those songs. Let me just say this is a real heavy metal record. Yes, we are a heavy metal band. But we were always “diverse” type of metal. We didn’t think we could make this kind of really intense metal album. But we did. I hope it conveys the message. This is an album for which I can say “I was born to make this record.”
All lyrics were written and sung in English.
However, all the songs on “Overture” will be sung in Japanese.
Also, “Nabeshima” will be half Japanese and half English.
– – – – – – – – –
This is the end of the story for now. But it still continues!!
We hope you will stay tuned and experience the awesome things coming, together with us.
Again thank you very much!
God bless you ALL!
Tak “Tone” Nakamine / Imari Tones (Japan)
6th November 2017