Hi this is Tak “Tone” Nakamine from Imari Tones.
Thank you for all your encouraging messages and thank you for your continuous support.
We have been praying, meditating, or simply thinking about our future, thinking about what we have done and what it means.
But sometimes it’s good to look back on our past, just to find the answer for the future. So today, let me talk about the history of this funny band, Imari Tones.
We always had our “history” page on our website.
But it was in Japanese language. Only our Japanese friends can read it.
So I think it’s a good time to tell you our story in English.
At first, this is a history from my point of view.
Probably if you ask other guys, they may give you a different story, but I think I am the best person to talk about our history, because I have been in this band for more than 10 years and after all, I am the one who started the band.
So, here is my story.
This band, Imari Tones, has a long history.
(So I guess we are actually older than you think. Japanese boys look young.)
Our official profile says Imari Tones as a band was formed in 2004, but we actually have a history older than that. This band Imari Tones first began as my personal music project, I guess, in 1998.
Back then, it was not called “Imari Tones”. It had just no name.
Don’t ask me why I started. Because it would be another very long story.
But let me tell you one thing.
I was not a type of boys saying “Hey I wanna be a Rock Star”.
I didn’t believe in music business. I never did in my life.
In this internet age, now you can see the music industry is breaking down, but I knew things like that would happen when I started. I knew I would never be a Rock Star or something like that.
So let me say it was not my plan. It’s against my plan to start my music. It was a hard choice, and I had no choice.
Anyway I started recording songs in my home studio (luckily there was a little music room in my parent’s house) in 1998. And I myself did not know why. Sometimes I start things without knowing why. I always learned the reason after I started.
So if you are talking about the musical body (recorded music) of Imari Tones, I say it started in 1998.
1st recording work, done in 1998, I named it “Through The Garden of Gods”.
It was about Sin, Suffering, and about Hope.
I think it makes sense somehow, since now we became a Christian band.
If you want to listen to the songs back then, here it is.
I recorded 4 recording works (I mean, “albums”, I don’t like the word “album”) there in my home studio just by myself from 1998–2001, which including “Through The Garden of Gods”, “Prototypes”, “Kodomo Metal”, and “Entering The New World”.
Since I was not with my band back then, all the drum tracks were programmed drums.
But I’m still very confident with the music I made in this era, and I’m very happy with these recording works.
Especially “Kodomo Metal” (1999) was an explosion of my young talent.
I think it was quite unique music.
Here are some songs from that era.
And around year 2000, the name “Imari Tones” suddenly came to my mind.
Let me explain something about this band name, because I know it’s a funny sounding name.
When naming my band, I wanted to choose a name which is not so common, I wanted a name you can’t find anywhere else. And I didn’t want to put any human-made-meaning. I wanted my band to have its unique name, not made by a human reason, but by a pure coincidence.
Let’s see Van Halen (my all time favorite band), it has no meaning. It is called Van Halen because they are Van Halen. It’s just a family name of Alex and Eddie Van Halen. I wanted to name my band that way.
But it’s difficult to find such a unique name just by a pure coincidence.
My family name was not that cool.
And I didn’t want any common heavy metal sounding name.
But hey, there was someone who has a very unique, cool sounding name, standing right next to me. I asked that person “Hey, can I use your name for my music” and she said “Yes”. Her name was Imari, my girlfriend back then, now my wife.
Yes her name was Imari.
And she was the key element of this music project (though she does not play any music instrument).
If I didn’t meet her, there would not have been no Imari Tones.
If I didn’t meet her, I would never have started this band.
(And probably I would have become a lawyer or something.)
It’s hard to explain and I’m not sure if you can understand this, but my life back then (Yes we were so young) was just like a choice of this girl or elite life.
Just like, “You have to make a choice. You live with this girl and abandon your dream, or, you will be a lawyer and abandon this girl.” (My teenage dream was to become a lawyer, NOT a rock musician.)
Here I don’t want to explain how Japanese society is like, especially in a local town, but I think I knew what I was fighting against. It was a choice between Love and Money. Bible says you can’t follow both Love and Money, right?
And I think I choose Love. I guess that’s what happened. And that was the reason I had no choice but go for music. That is why I started my music, even though I didn’t believe in music business.
Besides the name Imari (伊万里) sounds cool, it has a proper meaning for this band. It sounds very much like “Japan” or “Japanese Beauty”. As our official profile says, “Imari” is a Japanese old art, picture painted porcelain art from 18 century, which was exported to Europe.
Not only it was old Japanese art, but also it was an international art.
So “Imari Tones” means “Japanese Beauty Sound”.
It’s a proper name for a band aiming for an international market, isn’t it?
I was making those music without knowing the reason. I was making it simply because I felt like I had to.
But by the time around 2001, I slowly realized what kind of choice I had made, and I was thinking about what I should do.
Finally, in 2001, I clearly decided that I would devote my life to this thing called “music” and “art”. I knew there was no chance for me to be “successful” or “famous” or something like that, but even though, I decided to dedicate all of me to “music” and “art”. That was because I believed in “truth” beyond music and art.
Just like I said, I never believed in music business, but I believed in “truth” beyond the music. That is why I started this project called Imari Tones. Probably I would live a miserable life. Probably nobody cares about my music. Or I may have to die because I have no money. Anything bad you could think of. But I had no choice. I was ready to die for the music.
The recording work called “Entering The New World”, recorded in 2001, was the record I made upon that decision. I wanted to live a New Life. I wanted to find the New Way of Life, as a musician, as a person. Not by money, not by success, not by fame, but something else. There must be something bigger than that. Rockn’Roll has a meaning, or purpose bigger than those worldly success.
I wanted to find a “New Value”. I wanted to find a “New Way”. I wanted to live a “New World” governed by “New Rule”. Those things later I would find in Jesus and New Testament.
Anyway that’s the reason I named the record “Entering The New World”.
It was in 2001, it was a beginning of the internet era, beginning of independent music world, and beginning of the new century.
Here are some songs from that record.
In 2002, I finally moved to Tokyo to pursuit my music. (Until then, I graduated from University. I guess you can tell my age from that.)
It was because I wanted to make this project a real band.
I wanted to make this a real band consists of 3 or 4 persons, and play a lot of gigs.
Also I wanted to try my best to find some success, just like other young bands. I knew I was away from that kind of success but I had to try my best in order to “survive”. It was not about win or lose. It was all about survival.
I moved to Tokyo and got a job as a clam school teacher, but I quit soon and started working at small restaurants.
And I started searching for band members.
It took a few years.
I (Tak) played several gigs as a solo act, while I looked for proper band members.
It was not easy.
That’s when I met “Hitchy”, he was a guitar player. Hard Rock/Heavy Metal guy who loved Nuno Bettencourt.
I and Hitchy hit if off soon. We became friends and worked together to put a band together.
We met a drummer “Haratti”, a very special drummer who would play with me for years to come.
And we brought in Woi-chan, Imari’s good friend from university, as a bassist.
And with Hitchy’s suggestion, we decided to live together in a rental house in Saitama.
It was Summer-Autumn of year 2003.
Young ambitious boys (with their girl friends) living together, with their passion for music.
Let me tell you, it was fun, though it lasted only for a short time.
“Hitchie” and “Woi-chan”. Though they left the band soon, they were the ones who helped me to make this band happen.
Pushed and inspired by these ambitious bandmates, I wrote 55 songs just in 1 month.
It was November 2003.
However, just after playing 2 small gigs, Hitchie decided to leave the band.
Ironically, he was the one who suggested everything and pushed me hard to make this band happen, and he left the band first.
But he was a talented musician himself. So he choose to pursuit his own music, rather than fighting me in this difficult band.
Soon after that, the bassist (she was actually a multiplayer) Woi-chan left the band too, since she was too sick to continue music.
Imari Tones’ members, including past members, all of them were “outsiders”. Somewhat rejected by Japanese society, suffering from too much restriction of the society.
We go against society’s value and its standard. So we can understand each other deeply, but on the other hand, they often have problems. It’s hard to find this kind of “right” person.
So it took me a while more to find a replacement for Hitchie and Woi-chan.
This time, I decided to make the band “3 piece”, trio in other words.
Luckily, I met a right person.
Minetti was his name. He was a glam-rocker who loves 70s British Rockn’Roll.
And here, finally the band was formed.
Tone – Minetti – Haratti.
Tone as a singer and guitar player, Minetti as a bassit, and Haratti as a drummer.
In March 2004, we played our first gig as a trio. (And after that we had a party under cherry blossoms.)
In my point of view, this was the moment the band really started. Imari Tones, my desperate personal music project, now a real band. That’s why I say in our official profile, the band was officially formed in 2004.
It was the 1st Golden Era of Imari Tones. Tone, Haratti and Minetti. The combination of the trio was perfect. Haratti loved Japanese alternative rock, underground rock, and post-punk stuff. Minetti loved Glam and old British Rock. Tone, if you don’t know, was somewhere between Metal-Pop guy.
It was Tone who wrote all the songs, but we tried to blend all those elements. Putting together Hard Rock, Metal, Alternative, Glam, Punk, Pop, and tried to make the best stuff.
Song writing was strong. We did our best songs like “Kyujo Reppu”, “The Imaginary Number Boy 2”, re-recording of 1998 song “Must Be….”, “That’s why i love you”, and glorious original version of “Winning Song”, which still is one of our strongest songs at our live shows.
We recorded an album called “Hero of the Lights” (光のヒーロー), which I still believe one of our strongest record. At least, in the aspect of “Japanese Pop Band”, this is definitely our best album ever.
In Imari Tones’ history, I think this was the only era we tried to catch an attention of Japanese rock market.
Here are some songs from that album called “Hero of the Lights”, the best pop album of ours.
In 2004-2005, yes we played many gigs in Tokyo, in those music venues called “live house” (that’s how we call music clubs in Japan).
All of them were “pay to play” venues. But that’s the only thing we knew in Tokyo. So we played those gigs, twice a month, just like every other young bands seeking success.
That’s what we did.
But actually, the reaction from the audience was not always good.
It’s difficult to explain why, but let me tell you, we were just “different”.
We tried so hard to be the “same”, but we couldn’t.
However, year 2004 was definitely a good time.
It was a Spring Time for Imari Tones.
We just learned this was not the right way for us, but we tried our best for success, and musically we were doing very well.
We all learned so many things from this 2004-2005 Tokyo-gig-around era.
Here are some photos from this era.
After that fruitful seasons, something happened in early 2005.
Haratti decided to leave the band.
And we, Tone-Haratti-Minetti, played our last gig in March 2005.
Haratti joined another band called Wotozure Plus, and I told him “Come back whenever you want”. Haratti, actually, he did come back 1 year later.
Anyway, Haratti left the band in Spring 2005, and the glorious trio was now gone. I was thinking about how hard playing in a band was, how hard it was to maintain a band.
I am a positive thinking person. Instead of being sorry on what happened, I decided to take an advantage out of it.
Now without a band, I can’t play gigs any more, but I have a lot of time for recording. So that’s what I did. Let’s do something I can do now.
So I decided to record 50 songs in 2005. Yes 50 songs in less than one year. Does it sound crazy? But I had those songs. Those songs I wrote in my high school days, those songs I wrote in November 2003, and those songs I wrote after that. I wanted to record those songs deadly.
I always did all of our recordings independently. mainly because we had no budget, but also that way we could take good care of our sound, better than hired engineers with no passion. So that’s what I did.
3rd floor of our shared house was furnished as a studio, so we did everything there, expect drums. We used a rental rehearsal studio for drum recording.
So this time in 2005, yes I recorded 50 songs. And I played guitars, bass, drums, everything. But my ex-drummer-still-a-good-friend Haratti helped me with background vocals. Some other friends of mine also helped me with background vocals.
Among those 50 songs, especially those songs I wrote in my high school days were very important and meant a lot to me.
Because, just like many artists, my teenage passion was so strong and ideas were fresh, and the message was most pure. I don’t think I can write songs like that again.
Those were everything I ever wanted to do in my life.
So in 2005 I recorded 50 songs mostly by myself, and named the 4 albums, “Heterogeneous Species”(異能レース), “Reluctant Savior”(無責任なメシア), “Color of Hers”, and “fireworks”.
Here are some songs from those albums.
Let me tell you one thing.
Now we are a Christian hard rock band playing songs in English for international market.
But music I made before that, in 1998–2005 era, these music are still my most important messages, native art written in native language, depicting my native Japanese boy life.
So now the message was said. My most important message, I said it all.
First thing came in my mind was “Now I can quit!”.
I always said (and I still say) I want to quit music. Because playing music in a band is very tough. There is very little chance for success. Music industry going smaller and smaller. I’m doing it because that is my mission and I can’t run away.
So, once the mission is done, I always want to quit.
So I was thinking about quitting music after those recordings were done. I was thinking about my future, how to live my “afterlife”, and how to die with pride as an artist. Maybe I can be a cook, maybe I can be a local politician, or maybe I can move to other country. Good bye Tokyo, Good bye, Japan.
However, things didn’t go that way.
In late 2005, just before I finish 50 songs recording, I met one person called Tak Yonemochi. I still believe it was meant to happen.
Tak Yonemochi, he was a music journalist, producer, guitar player and he plays guitar in a band called Air Pavilion. And, wow, I knew about him since the first day I started playing guitar! I read his article in “Young Guitar” magazine, I saw him on guitar catalog, I saw him on TV, and somehow I remembered them clearly.
I’m still not sure if he was really a good person or bad person (just like many music industry guys). But it was a correct encounter, at least musically. We had many things in common.
And because of this, I lost the timing of quitting music.
Tak Yonemochi showed me his plan on this band, he’s gonna produce us, and wow, the band is back.
The drummer Haratti was back, because his another band now split. Sadly, Minetti didn’t come back but we found a very skilled bassist “Baba-kun”.
So we started recording songs again, with Tak Yonemochi.
This time it’s not “independent”. It’s a professional recording.
Imari Tones is now active again.
We worked with Mr.Yonemochi 2006-2007.
But in these 2 years, the band was under control of Mr.Yonemochi.
It was not my band but his.
It was, to tell the truth, not that much fun.
Though he was not 100% good person, Mr.Yonemochi was always correct about Guitar and Soundmaking. I learned a lot from him.
Also, he had so much knowledge and insight about rock music, because he was a famous music journalist. He had interviewed all the legends in Rock history.
I learned a lot from him.
He recorded our songs with his Analog Equipments.
Tape, yes. It sounded good. Fat and warm.
Analog recording in this ProTools era, it was a kind of musician’s dream. So it was good.
He let me use his Bogner Fish Preamp for my guitar recording. It sounded so good, yes.
Before we met Tak Yonemochi, we were Pop-Hardrock-Alternative-Punk band (or something like that). But after we met him, we went back to our root and we became more authentic Hard Rock / Heavy Metal band.
Yes, 1980s style.
We recorded 6 songs with Tak Yonemochi.
After that, a big thing happened. He took us to Germany!
In Germany, we worked with a World Famous Producer.
His name was Sascha Paeth.
He used to be a guitarist of the band Heavens Gate, and now a successful producer, producing big heavy metal bands like Angra, Edguy, Kamelot, Rhapsody, and Avantasia.
Were we excited? Yes, off course.
The only irony was, Sascha was a “symphonic metal” “melodic speed metal” producer, which was not exactly our style. Imari Tones music is basically more like American Hard Rock, and actually I didn’t like German Metal and Symphonic Metal.
So Sascha’s big name value didn’t have full effect on us commercially.
That was the only irony.
But Sascha was without a doubt a great producer.
It was September-October 2006 and I heard it was midst Kamelot recording.
While they were away from the studio, we recorded 3 songs at Sascha’s Gate Studio, in Wolfsburg Germany.
We recorded “Karma Flower”, “Iron Hammer” and “Skies of Tokyo”.
Let me tell you, “Iron Hammer” was one of the songs I wrote in my highschool days. It was simply a leftover, since I didn’t record that song in 2005 recording session. I had no idea it was going to be so powerful. We still play that song often in our live show.
Thanks to the great producer, those 3 songs turned out to be awesome quality and they are still our most popular songs.
However, on the other hand, we felt something not right, because we were totally independent minded band.
Here are some photos from our Germany Recording.
Song called “Iron Hammer”, one of the most popular songs by Imari Tones, was recorded in Germany.
After coming back from Germany, we had 3 songs recorded in Germany and 6 songs recorded in Tokyo.
In addition, I did a Japanese version of “Winning Song”, and now we have 10 tracks.
We put those 10 songs together and made an album called “Japanese Pop”.
I know it’s a funny thing to call it “Pop”, because it is actually a Hard Rock album, but I liked the idea.
Most of the songs we did in “Japanese Pop” were re-recording.
Many songs we did in “Hero of the Lights”, “Heterogeneous Species”, or “Color of Hers”.
We just did those songs again in English language, with much better equipments.
Only “Iron Hammer” and “Skies of Tokyo” were newly written songs, recorded for the first time.
However, I didn’t like the result of Japanese Pop 100%.
One of the reasons was my voice.
The relationship between me and Tak Yonemochi was not perfectly right. And it had a bad effect on my voice. I felt nervous and could not sing as good as before.
One more thing was, I was trying to change the way of singing back then and I was not sure about how to use my voice.
So my singing performance on this record was ironically, my worst performance recorded, though it was the only professional recording we did so far.
On the other hand, it’s true this album “Japanese Pop” contains some of our best songs in our career.
The song “Karma Flower” is one of our all time best songs.
Sascha Paeth did a great job on this song.
The song was originally called “Hatsuharu Renpu”, Japanese sounding mystic song included in the album “fireworks”.
But Sascha transformed this song into more major sounding Big Rock song.
With the animation video made by Japanese animator Ai Sasaki, this song is definitely one of our most popular songs.
Also, “Winning Song”(Japanese version) is, not only the best track I did with Tak Yonemochi, but also the best track recorded in Imari Tones’ history.
My Van Halen styled guitar riff, song structure, singing performance, back ground vocals, highly technical guitar solo, and the warm sound of analog recording equipment, everything fit in its right place on this song.
This song has a very powerful, positive message.
I can say this is the song I have dreamed of making since I was a teenage boy.
Though we worked hard with our producer Tak Yonemochi, the album failed to get attention of Japanese record companies.
I think Mr.Yonemochi’s “fame power” didn’t work well in this fast-changing music industry. Also, like I already mentioned, Sascha Paeth’s “symphonic metal” fame didn’t have a full effect with our music style, which was actually more like American Hard Rock.
Because of that, Tak Yonemochi did one more thing to us.
He took us to the United States!
Because Yonemochi himself had an experience of getting a record contract for his band in MIDEM in France, he insisted we should go to the big music conference and see music industry people from all around the world, trying to get a record contract.
He said the biggest music conference in USA was something called South By South West.
So that’s where we went. SXSW, Austin Texas!
Actually it’s not the whole band who went there. Just I and my producer Yonemochi went there. I was kind of excited, to tell the truth. I always loved American Rock music since I was a teenager boy, and for the first time I was going to USA! It was in March 2007.
So Austin Texas, SXSW, that’s my first USA experience. Actually our “business talk” didn’t go so well, because SXSW was not exactly like my producer had expected. It was not like MIDEM. It’s more like live performance oriented festival, and it was more of Independent minded festival. We friended with some industry people but it didn’t bring us actual record contract.
However, on the other hand, I was so blown away and inspired by this whole SXSW.
I was so inspired by all the live performances I saw there on 6th Street and other places.
I was so inspired by all the conference and seminars and panels I heard.
They were talking about rapidly-changing music industry.
We are now in a big change.
And it was getting more and more of Independent Musician’s world.
It’s a new era. Everybody is seeking the future and the future is unknown.
I was inspired by music venues and bars, all the environment around musicians, because they were so different from Japan.
And most importantly, I saw The Greatest Indie Band I have ever seen in my life.
And I was blown away.
(Only if you are curious, this is the band which blew my mind.. http://plusmin.us/)
And I thought “Wow I got to do this! We have to come to this place and play! No matter how long it takes, I have to play our music here in USA, and Austin TX!”
So my SXSW 2007 experience, though we didn’t succeed with our business, it was so much precious experience for me.
In addition, I did some street performance there on the 6th street, by myself with my electric guitar and a portable amplifier.
It was, unofficially, my 1st ever performance in USA. I made 30 bucks in 30 minutes.
Not bad, right?
After coming back from SXSW2007, I kept working with Yonemochi for a while, but eventually I decided to part ways with him.
Those days with Mr.Yonemochi were awesome. We heard the stories of Rock legends we could never have heard elsewhere, because he was a music journalist and he knew so many Rock Musicians.
He let us do the recording with Analog equipments. He brought us to Germany and Big Producer. He brought us to Texas.
Though it put me in debt financially (and I’m still in debt), I think it was a necessary thing to work with him. I learned so many things from him. I have several persons whom I call “teacher” in my life, but he was one of the best teachers for me.
Above all, it was Tak Yonemochi who recommended us to go for international market. He made me sing in English.
Before meeting him, I was singing in Japanese language, but after meeting him I started singing in English.
And, because he brought me to SXSW Austin Texas, I decided to GO USA, play our music in United States, no matter how long it would take.
So I’m thankful to Tak Yonemochi. I really appreciate his music. He didn’t sell his soul to Japanese commercial music market and he was always trying to reach the international market, always trying to play real Hard Rock.
His band Air Pavilion released 3 albums in Japan in late 80s and early 90s. And their 4th album “The River / The Life” became a hit in Europe around year 2000, selling more than 130,000 copies (Ironically it was mostly ignored in Japan).
I heard now he started his Air Pavilion project again. I really pray for his success and blessing on his career.
The reason I parted with Mr.Yonemochi was, because I wanted to walk as an independent artist.
What I saw in SXSW in Austin Texas was, Independent Spirit, and the trend of music industry.
It was not major record company theory which makes music anymore. It was those independent bands and local music scenes which make things happen.
Rockn’Roll was not in huge arena anymore. It’s in small dirty bars, clubs, (and churches, off course) and on the streets.
I wanted to go back to the basic. I don’t care if my band is small. Even if it’s a small local band, I’m happy with that. So, let’s start my small local band!
So that’s what I did.
I finally parted ways with Haratti, the long time drummer, because he was now married and wanted to work for his family in his hometown. He was happy. Yes he found his answer in Rockn’Roll. I was happy for him, too. He had done his mission with this band and he left, “graduated” from the band.
Same thing goes for Minetti, the bassist 2004-2005.
He could not join our journey with Mr.Yonemochi and we brought in the new bassist Baba-kun instead.
But even after he left the band, we were good friends. He got married with his girlfriend soon after that. Yes he found his answer in Rockn’Roll, too. I was happy for him, too.
For Baba-kun, it was not an easy break.
It was the only split that was not 100% amicable for Imari Tones so far.
I “fired” him because I thought he was not appropriate for “local band” activities.
He was a very good Jazz player, and he had a bright future in Jazz field.
Mostly it was because of lack of communication that made a trouble between us.
There was not enough communication.
After all, he was more like a session player and not really in the band.
But that’s true he was definitely a very talented, excellent player.
He was one of the best.
He was a good guy, very serious about the music. It’s true he did a very good job on our “Japanese Pop” album, which probably will be our most popular album forever.
So I wish my best for Baba-kun on his career. I hope he is playing in big venues with Jazz giants by now.
So I went back to ZERO. Starting point with nothing.
It was July 2007.
We did our last gig with Tone-Baba-Haratti line up, and split.
Did I say we did only 3 gigs in those 2 years with Mr.Yonemochi?
We played only 3 live performances with this Tone-Baba-Haratti lineup.
One of them was my private wedding party in October 2006.
Yes I finally got married with my long time girl friend Imari. The person who has the same name with this band.
I was 17 and she was 15 when we met each other.
(So “Karma Flower” lyrics is not a true story. Sorry it’s not that romantic.)
In that party we played our music, we played with our friends, off course with Mr.Yonemochi. My wedding party with one of Japanese rock legends, yes that was awesome.
Anyway, being unable to play live shows, that was one of the reasons I parted ways with the producer and this lineup.
I started to look for new band members.
I didn’t expect much.
I was not going to “Go Professional”. I was not going to chase a big dream.
It’s just an ordinary local band I wanted to do.
And that’s when I met Mr.Manzo, a skilled drummer who was already in his middle age.
He was a “big daddy” and he was a Japanese “Salary-man”.
But he was crazy for Rockn’Roll.
And, most importantly, he had his own private studio, fully equipped with amps, speakers, drums, microphones, and even flashing stage lights.
Probably in USA where houses are big, you probably wonder why it’s so awesome, because there in USA you can use your garage or basement as your rehearsal room. But in Japan this is so unusual. Because in Japan houses are so small and things are so expensive.
Mr.Manzo, he was also the one who didn’t believe in music business.
Instead, he choose to have fun in playing with local bands.
He was making a good money as a Salary-Man and at the same time having so much fun with his local bands, spending his money on his Studio and Equipments.
Wise choice, right?
(Especially when his Professional Musician Friends making much less money than him.)
But let me say this, Mr.Manzo was a very talented drummer.
His passion for the music was real, though he had chosen not to become a professional musician.
In a short time, I met a bassist called Hassy.
Funny thing was, he was living in the same town I was living in.
The first moment I saw him, I knew he was one of us. He was “Imari Tones” person.
He was rejected by society, he was out of place, and he was frustrated.
He was thinking he could do better than this, and looking for a place he could play a real stuff. So I told him now you got a your place to shine.
On the first day we met, Hassy said to me “I want to play in the United States.”
So I said “Oh year? Probably we can.”
That’s how he joined the band.
It was in August 2007, if I remember correctly.
We started rehearsals in Mr.Manzo’s private studio in Yokohama (We call him Dr.Manzo – Doctor Manzo, because he was just like a Scientist of Rockn’Roll).
3 of us, all living in Yokohama. Yes it’s a local band!
At the beginning, it was really a local band. We played some local gigs on weekends. It was fun! We played with No Pressure. Because it’s not for business, not for success but it was for FUN.
At the same time, we uploaded songs to MySpace, and started to get good reactions.
(Those were the days MySpace were still big.)
Most of them were from USA.
Sometime after the rehearsal, on a train to our town, Hassy and I talked. Hassy said “I really want to go to USA”, and I said “Yeah I want to go there too.”.
And secretly I started to submit our songs to some festivals on Sonicbids.
(I guess, we were one of the first Japanese bands to use those Sonicbids and Reverbnation stuff.)
It was December 2007, something happened. 1st thing was, I started writing songs for our next recording project. Dr.Manzo said he wanted to do Recording, because he had his recording system in his studio, and he was eager to learn about recording technique. Recording our own album, it would be the best lesson for him.
So I started writing songs. Something happened inside me and I came up with guitar riffs. I can remember how excited I was when I came up with the riff of “Illusions” and “God Has No Name”. These were the riffs I always wanted to write. I said to myself, “Wow I can still write songs. And these are real Rock Songs I have never written before.”
Another thing was, probably the most important thing happened in this band. In December 2007, I played an acoustic show in Harajuku, Tokyo. It was because of Dr.Manzo. He found that gig on internet and recommended me to play the gig, because he thought it was good for our band promotion.
However, unexpected thing had happen. I played a solo acoustic set, that was good, hopefully.
But after that, I saw other singers play.
And, they were Christian Musicians!
And I said, “What’s this!?”
Something clicked inside me.
Let me tell you, that was not the first time I heard about “Christian Musicians”. Yes God had prepared things for me, secretly inside my mind, taking years and years. God was waiting for the right moment.
One year before that, in the end of 2006, my ex-producer Tak Yonemochi told me about those “Christian Musicians”. Because he was a renowned heavy metal journalist, he had so many Rock Star friends. Almost every heavy metal guitar player was his friend, especially from 80s Hair Metal bands. And Mr.Yonemochi told me about “Stryper”. Yes “Stryper” was his good friends, too.
Mr.Yonemochi said one of the Stryper’s agents was a good friend of his, and that person also works for Gary Cherone, Extreme/Van Halen singer, who was also a Christian Musician. And he mentioned about other Christian Musicians in Rock History.
Mr.Yonemochi said that his good friend agent would come to Japan soon, who also working for Narnia movie, and asked me if I wanted to meet him. I remember I said “YES!!”, and I didn’t know why I was so interested. Though I could not meet him then, I felt something about the combination of Music and Faith.
Funny thing was, Mr.Yonemochi’s band Air Pavilion, their biggest album “The River / The Life” was a Christian album. Mr.Yonemochi was not a Christian, but he had chosen the theme for his album because it’s a interesting topic as a musician. Christian album by a Japanese artist, I heard that was one of the reasons why the album became a hit in Europe.
Also, while I was working on “Japanese Pop” with Mr.Yonemochi, I tried to write my lyrics in English. And somehow, I noticed I was trying to write something “inspirational”.
I was writing about God without knowing it.
Take a look at songs like “Speechless Speaker” and “New World”, you will notice I was singing about God and Heaven, though my English lyrics were not perfect. And in the song “Karma Flower”, for the first time in my life I mentioned about Jesus Christ in my song. The title word “Karma” itself implies something spiritual.
So when I saw those Christian musicians playing, I remembered those things. I soon understood they were playing music not for money, success, or not even for themselves. I felt they were playing music for something bigger.
So is this something called Faith? Is this Christian music? They are actually playing their music for God!
The Christian singer I saw, I can never be thankful enough for that person.
Her name was Yutaka Hagiwara. She was a singersongwriter.
She was singing her own songs while she played her classical guitar.
Good thing was, her music was good, very original, and it was very pure from her heart.
Otherwise it didn’t catch my attention.
And she was a guitar player, a classical guitar, but her guitar playing was very cool.
That’s another good thing for me, because I’m a guitar player too.
It didn’t took so long for me to realize she was one of the best independent artists I had ever seen.
Yutaka Hagiwara, performing in Isezakicho, Yokohama, 2010.
I was remembering when I first started my music.
I was believing in the TRUTH beyond the music. I was looking for something bigger than worldly success or fame. I was eager to devote myself to something bigger beyond the music.
Now I saw a musician playing her music for God. So this is the Christian Musicians I have heard about. They were playing their music for something bigger, the truth beyond the music, and they were believing in it from their heart.
I felt this was exactly what I had been looking for, since the first day I started my music.
Soon I was convinced, at least, this was the best and ideal form of music, with its pure mind and artistic vision.
So I talked with that singer, Yutaka Hagiwara, after the show, asking what this Christianity is all about. She said she had expected this, because that day she had heard God’s voice saying she was gonna meet someone important.
That moment my music began to change drastically.
Soon later, she introduced me to a church in Yokohama, the city I lived in, and I was introduced to a church called VIC (Victory International Church).
I felt God’s guidance, because that church VIC, turned out to be the best church for me. I found out their style was just right for me.
Do you know how hard it is to find the right church for a Rock Musician like me, in Japan?
And I was introduced to the right church from the beginning, totally by a coincidence. I felt I was guided by God.
Let me say one thing, many people are asking us why we became Christians and a Christian band.
But we didn’t do it just to become “Religious”.
We did it for a Musical Reason.
We are Musicians. We became Christians to be Better Musicians.
I became a Christian to be a Better Rockn’Roller.
Just after I went to VIC (my church in Japan) for the first time, I read the bible, especially New Testament. And I was mesmerized by Jesus depicted in New Testament. Jesus was just like a Rockn’Roller.
Soon I realized that I made a right choice.
Because Jesus was The First Rockn’Roller On The Earth!
And, off course, He Is The Best and Greatest Rockn’Roller ever lived here on earth!!
“Wow, this is Rockn’Roll! I have to follow this guy to become a better Rockn’Roller myself!”
That’s what I thought. That’s my honest feeling.
Let me tell you one more thing, it’s about “Spiritual” side of Imari Tones.
Yes it was in the beginning of year 2008 Imari Tones became a Christian band.
But, was Imari Tones a band of God before that?
I say, Yes, even though we didn’t realize that.
I had never been a believer of any religion before, but I was always interested in Spiritual things.
My mother was a very spiritual person, and she used to take us to spiritual places like Temple and Shrine (actually Christian church, too. I was 7 years old when she took me to a local Christian church for the first time in my life).
So I admit I was somewhat “religious” type of person from the beginning.
Funny thing was, when I was a teenager, I was playing my high school band, and I remember playing a some big show in our local city and I was thinking “I’m going to play my music, not only for the audience here, but also God above. Because He is the one who can really understand me.”
So I somehow believed in God, even though I was not a Christian.
This is my testimony, by the way.
Just like I said, I was thinking about something bigger beyond the music, when I first started this music project in 1998. And, it was in 2001 this name “Imari Tones” name came to me and I decided to dedicate my life to this.
At the same time, the word “The Wandering Savior” was given to me. I didn’t know what it exactly meant, but I liked the idea. I said “Okay let’s play music to save the world!” and it became our musical purpose.
Also when the band was formed in 2004, this name “The Wandering Savior” was another option for our band name.
But since I didn’t wanted to use a name with a deep meaning, I instead used the word just like a subtitle for the band. “Imari Tones – The band of Wandering Saviors”. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?
I like this word “The Wandering Savior” because it tells so much about me and this band.
I know music can’t save the world. We all know music can’t change the world.
It’s more than 50 years since Rockn’Roll music was born in human history and it seems like Rock music has lost its meaning.
But still, we try to do it. “Wandering” means, we don’t belong to any worldly power.
We have no place to stay, we have no one to depend on.
We are totally independent. And it’s a “self-deprecation”.
It means, we have no power.
We are powerless, we are nobody, we are unknown artists.
But still we try to dedicate ourselves to music and God.
In 2004, when we were playing gigs in Tokyo livehouses, I often said “We are a band of Wandering Saviors” at our shows. Yes it was a joke. Self-deprecating joke. But that’s what we were.
Yes that’s what we are. We are a JOKE.
That’s very important for us.
We know we can’t change the world. We know we can’t save the world.
But we still try, making fun of ourselves.
We look like a fool, but that’s exactly what we want.
We don’t think Christian Rocker is a good people.
Christian Rockers don’t play Christian Rock because they are good people.
From my point of view, Christian Rockers play Christian Rock because they are useless bad people.
Rockn’Roller is basically crazy people, bastards. But because we are bastards, we try to play Rock Music for something good. We need Jesus because we are bastards, right?
We are just crazy people. That’s why we started Christian Heavy Metal in Japan. We are crazy enough to start a crazy thing. That’s why we are The First Christian Heavy Metal Band from Japan.
We are just WANNABE saviors. We are nobody. We have no power.
But after I became a Christian, I learned that’s exactly “Jesus Follower” is like.
Yes it was a Joke. This music project Imari Tones, it was a joke.
“We gonna save this world with our music.”
That was “the biggest joke in my life”.
But after we became a Christian rock band, it became REAL.
Now we know GOD.
We know who to follow. Now we know who can change the world.
Now we know who can save our lives.
We are now students learning from the Real Savior.
This song called “The Wandering Savior”, this says it all.
It is our personal history. It is about our funny destiny.
It’s about how we play this entire joke.
This is the testimony from my point of view, a crazy musician who had always been looking for the truth, and finally found God.
My music finally found the purpose. My music finally found the right direction.
After I became a Christian, my songwriting has changed.
Let me say, my music was always about joy, because that’s the kind of music I always loved.
But after I became a Christian, I learned what JOY really means.
So now I can use my music to express my JOY to GOD.
I felt like “a fish in a water” (that’s Japanese saying).
So here I want to say, my spiritual side of music, which I always had, finally became REAL and found the right direction, after I became a Christian. I believe it was the right decision, in the aspect of music and songwriting.
Anyway, in the beginning of year 2008, I told my band that now we were going to play “Christian Rock”, just like Stryper.
It was awkward, at first. I was so passionate about this new found faith, I mentioned passionately about Jesus at our gigs. It may have been a little bit over the top. But I could not help.
Those songs I wrote for the recording, now I wrote lyrics and those lyrics I wrote about God.
And here it is, the album is called “Welcome To The School”. The first recording work we did after we became a Christian band.
It was recorded in Dr.Manzo’s private studio.
We recorded it in March–September 2008. We tried to make a Christian record, off course.
However, it turned out, it’s not 100% Christian record, when it’s done.
I didn’t want it to be typical worship type of music.
I wanted it to be more realistic rock music, trying to describe the relationship between Human and God in this secular world.
I have to admit, I’m a type of believer who says “I want Jesus, not Religion” or “Crush all the religion, so that we can only see Jesus”.
That’s because I’m basically a Rock musician who likes to destroy.
So I took “Every religion basically the same but after crushing every wall you can see Jesus is the only savior” approach. (Song called “God Has No Name”.)
Also I put an emphasis not only on “faith” but also on “doubts”, because you have to face your doubts inside you in order to really believe.
I sung about “Illusions”, because in our human world there are so many “illusions” about God and Religion. Those “illusions” are man-made and not real. You have to overcome those illusions in order to find your real God. (Song called “Illusions”)
And it is YOU who have the power to choose, and it’s your choice to live with or without God. You have the freedom, even freedom to fall, and it’s because God loves you He gave you the freedom. (Song called “Freedoom”)
I even sung about my personal belief on Rock Music, which is, Rockn’Roll is a gift from God. God gave us Rockn’Roll to free our mind. God wants us to free our mind so that we can find The Truth and grow spiritually. (Song called “i love you, now ur on your own)
For those artistic reasons, I made this album in 2 parts, which is “Our Side” and “His Side”.
First part “Our Side” contains those “doubts” songs, describing our secular world and what it is like to be a believer in this real world. Songs like “Illusions” and “i love you, now ur on your own” are still important songs in our live show and we play these songs often.
Second part “His Side” is more like Worship, simply giving thanks to God and singing about Joy of believing God.
Somehow, this “His Side” turned out to be more Catchy and it contains important Christian songs like “Only One Wish” (our first original worship song) and “He’s Still With Us”. We often play those songs in our live shows, too.
That’s why some people say this album is not 100% Christian, but I still think this is one of the coolest things we have done.
And I believe, musically, it is very good stuff.
I’m proud of this album “Welcome To The School”. It was mainly produced by Dr.Manzo, who learned so much about recording technique in this recording session, and he has done a great work. I think it sounds not bad, even compared to our previous album “Japanese Pop”, which was done by 2 famous world renowned producers.
Here are some songs from that album “Welcome To The School”.
Yes, these are Christian songs.
When this album “Welcome To The School” was done, Dr.Manzo said now he wanted to quit the band.
That’s because, he didn’t like Christianity.
He didn’t like religion, and he didn’t want to be in this “religious” band any more.
It’s ironic, because it was Dr.Manzo who told me to join the acoustic gig in December 2007.
That’s where I met Christian singer Yutaka Hagiwara and I became a Christian.
So if there were not for Dr.Manzo, I probably would not have a chance to become a Christian.
(Yes it’s in Japan. Do you think there are so many chances to be a Christian?)
So I am so thankful to him. It’s because he told me about that gig I became a Christian.
Yes, now he wants to quit the band because didn’t like Christianity.
But he was a good person.
At least he had worked with us until we finish “Welcome To The School” recording.
We played many local gigs together, and it was fun.
And he did a very good job on “Welcome To The School”, as a drummer as well as a sound engineer.
Off course, his gorgeous private studio, too!
It was perfectly an amicable split.
We said best wishes to each other, and then we left.
Hassy, the young bassist, was with me. He said this Christianity stuff was cool.
And he said he felt something like Destiny.
He said he was feeling something guiding us.
So we looked for a new drummer.
I visited some churches and talked with worship drummers there.
But somehow I felt like I should find a drummer outside church, not in church.
Because if you play with a drummer from a church, it’s gonna be “religious”, that was something I didn’t want to do.
Eventually we narrowed down the list and we auditioned 3 drummers.
One of them was our church drummer in VIC, who was a good friend of ours.
But we didn’t choose him either.
We choose the drummer called “Jake”.
Actually he was a friend of Hassy.
Hassy and Jake used to play in other bands in the past.
They said it was 3rd time playing together.
Rhythm section who knows each other very well. Very good, isn’t it?
Actually, Jake was, at least at that point, not so a good drummer.
His skill was not perfect, his rhythm was not so tight.
But he had a spirit.
There were 3 reasons I choose Jake.
1, He had a possibility to grow, even if he was not perfect at that point.
2, He had a good sound. His drumming sound fits with this band very well.
3, I felt he was also an “outsider” of this Japanese society, looking for a place to shine.
It turned out to be a right choice, at least to this day.
We found Jake had a great spirit of SERVING.
He sacrifices himself to other people’s happiness.
He is eager to make a difference in things.
Sometimes he has too much pride in himself, but he is learning.
I think he had a mission, something to learn in this band.
Yes he is growing in Spirit.
I guess that’s why he joined the band.
I guess that’s why God put him in this band Imari Tones.
I told Jake we were a Christian band and asked him if he was okay with that.
He said “Yes I’m okay”, and now we were at a new start.
It was in October 2008.
“I knew Dr.Manzo didn’t like Christian stuff. So we could not do real Christian activity with him. But now we can do it. We gonna be a real Christian band now.”
“How about going to USA and playing gigs there? I always said I wanted to do that. And you said that, too.”
“Yeah, we can do that. Dr.Manzo was a middle age guy and he had a decent job. He can’t do that kind of ambitious move. But now we are young, ambitious band again. I know we have no chance to do something big if we stay here in Japan. Okay, shall we try and go to USA and play some gigs? At least, it’s gonna be fun.”
So that’s what we did.
In my point of view, it was the beginning of 2nd Golden Era for Imari Tones.
We started working on songs, as we were playing local gigs in Tokyo occasionally.
Since now our target is an international market, we mainly worked on our English songs.
Those songs from “Japanese Pop” and “Welcome To The School”.
It was kind of funny playing those English songs in our local gigs in Tokyo.
But funny thing was, we were getting better reactions from audience.
I guess, back then in 2004 and 2005 we used to play more Pop-Punk-Alternative style stuff, but now we play more of in-your-face style Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, which is more straight-forward and suitable for my guitar playing style.
My guitar begun to shine, and my voice begun to soar high.
We started to work with our church. Hassy and Jake came to VIC, though not as often as me. And we played some outreach gig with our church band. It was fun. Our church was very small and had no network in Japanese Christian community.
But that’s okay. We are an independent band who loves to “stand alone”. We don’t want to be “religious”, we don’t want to belong to any big Christian organization. We loved to work with our small unknown church. We simply wanted to work for God.
And finally we visited USA, for the first time as a band. It was April 2009. I have to mention our good friend Akashiya Banto, who lived in Dallas Texas, who was off course a passionate Christian. Without her help, we could not make this tour happen. We called the tour “Rock, Faith, Anime Tour 2009”
We played 9 gigs in cities like Austin TX, Nashville TN, and New York. Mostly small bars and clubs.
Yes, just like what I saw at SXSW in 2007.
2 years later, finally we made it happen.
We got great reactions.
We knew being from Japan was a kind of advantage, because it’s a novelty, but let me say, Japanese audience are quiet, or shy to say the least.
So here in USA, we felt like we were playing in front of real audience for the first time ever in life.
People in USA understand our Rock Music, because here is the country where Rockn’Roll was born. The music I write is, for some reason, more for international market rather than Japanese domestic market. I guess you can understand this if you know about Japanese music scene well.
That was the problem I had from the beginning. It’s a very unfortunate thing. We have to cross the sea and come to the other side of the earth, just to find the right audience who appreciate our music.
If people in Japan don’t understand our music, then how about people in USA or Europe?
We are getting good reactions on internet and most of them were outside of Japan.
What if we play our music live in USA?
Will they appreciate our music?
We always felt like we had to try this, and now we got an answer.
For us, it was enough accomplishment for the first visit.
Also we were amazed by music circumstance in USA.
Venues, clubs, internet, beer, music stores, garages and basements.
I can’t explain well. But in USA, everything was HOT.
Rockn’Roll spirit everywhere.
Yes in Japan we have everything.
In Japanese music stores we have more guitars than any Guitar Center in USA.
In Tokyo we have so many “livehouses” furnished with stage equipments better than any venue in USA.
We have neat and clean “rehearsal studios” in every town, equipped with state-of-art sound systems and instruments, and we still have Tower Records.
But in Japan, everything is COLD.
(You can call it “Cool” if you want, if you only love those Vocaloid Hatsune Miku or Anime and Manga stuff.)
I agree some people say Japanese audience are one of the best listeners in the world, making no noise and watching the stage seriously, but don’t forget Japan was the last market to accept AC/DC.
AC/DC was not so popular until several years ago. And Rush is still not so big in Japan. People listen to J-Pop and Visual-Kei, but Real Rock Music is still not common in Japanese society.
I always say in Japan we have everything.
Huge Buildings, Great Food, Latest Fashion, High-Tech Computers, Modern Technology, everything comes in best quality.
But in Japan 2 things are missing, which are Rockn’Roll and Jesus.
It’s tragic if you are a Rockn’Roll and Jesus lover.
That’s why we have to reach out for international market.
That is why we have to go all the way and cross the sea, to find your place.
In my opinion, Japan is the last country to accept Rockn’Roll and Jesus.
And it’s our desperate desire to change this situation in Japan.
Anyway, we learned so many things as a band.
Seeing is believing.
After touring in USA for the first time, we had a better understanding in Rockn’Roll.
That’s very important thing for a Japanese band like us.
Touring experience surely makes a band grow.
So after the 1st tour in USA, we came back to Japan, and what’s next?
Off course we kept playing local gigs, we did some outreach events with our church.
Also we begun to make friends with other Christian Musicians in Japan.
It’s a small community. We were not so outgoing type of people, but we felt it was a necessary thing to network and see other Gospel Musicians, at least to see how they are doing in this country Japan, where Christians are minority.
We did some major outreach concerts at Sakuragicho Station, Yokohama, with other Gospel Musicians like “Saluki”, “Misa Kamiyama”, “Enka Friends”, “Kaori Yamamoto”, “WIND” and “Yutaka Hagiwara”.
But most important thing we did after our 1st tour was, to make a record called “Victory In Christ”.
We had no plan to do any recording for a while, but just after coming back from our 1st USA tour, I heard the voice of God. And inspirations came to me. I wrote 45 songs just in 1 month.
This time, I wanted to make a Real Christian Rock record.
100% praising God with all my heart and soul.
Doing it with our own Rockn’Roll.
Imari Tones was always an independent band, running all alone, defying the law of gravity.
We got our own unique sound.
Now we want to do it for God.
It was going to be an independent recording again, because we had no budget, no more private studio. But that’s what we wanted to do.
In the past, I always did our recording by ourselves, since I started by myself in my home studio, like “Kodomo Metal”, “Hero of the Lights”, and “Color of Hers”. Maybe they sound different from major commercial recordings, but they have a lot of LOVE in them. Now we wanted to do that in English language, for worldwide audience, and most importantly for GOD.
So that’s what we did.
My songwriting was at its very best.
I used all of my songwriting skills.
I wrote my best guitar riffs.
I did my best guitar solos.
I used many rhythm changes in the songs.
I did my most difficult melody line.
I never thought it was possible, but God gave me all the inspirations.
We picked up 13 or 14 songs and worked on them for several months.
And we did recording from November 2009 to February 2010.
Here it is, the musicwork called “Victory In Christ”.
Our love gift from our heart.
The song “Testimony” became our new powerful show opener.
Before that, “Winning Song” had been our best “flying riff opener” for a long time, but “Testimony” became even more powerful tearing-down riff song.
“Precious” has its positive Love message, with complex rhythm changes and riffs you can’t find anywhere else.
“God Kids” is a result of experiment, mixing up my Hard Rock and Alternative Guitar Rock influence.
“Love Is To Do Something No One Dares To Do” became our best ballad song, with its strong Christian message in its unique way.
“Faith Rider” is…..let me tell you, this song “Faith Rider” was just a joke at first.
I didn’t mean to include this song in our album.
It was a joke song of 1980s heavy metal style parody which I wrote for my friend.
Sometimes you can do your best thing when you are having fun.
This Stryper or Judas Priest style classic heavy metal song became our most powerful song, which I didn’t expect when I wrote it.
This is an independent Christian Rock record.
Our soundmaking, some people may say it’s not good, because it’s different from today’s commercial standard. But we made this record more like 1970s or 1980s way. Because we love the sound of 1970s and early 1980s.
We are so much confident and happy with this record.
It has an independent spirit, it has Faith for God, and it has a lot of LOVE.
For a long time we thought it’s impossible to make a better track than “Karma Flower” and “Iron Hammer”, because they were recorded and produced by a world famous producer in a professional facility. Songwriting wise off course I can write better songs, but because of this recording quality I thought it’s almost impossible to surpass these songs.
However, “Faith Rider” and “Love Is To Do Something No One Dares To Do”, these 2 songs received much better reactions from listeners than “Karma Flower” on a major music streaming website!
That was the moment I realized that we did a right thing.
So, these are the songs from “Victory In Christ”.
In February 2010, we visited USA for 2nd time as a band.
We got a slot in some local music conference in Pennsylvania.
So we decided to visit USA again and booked some shows at venues on East Coast.
So here it is, “East Coast Tour 2010”.
It was the moment we really became a Christian Rock Band.
We played many songs from “Victory In Christ”.
Playing those songs for the first time in USA, it meant so much for us as a band.
It was not like a concert. It was more like a Street Fight with Faith.
Off course we just played our music, but playing in other country is such a hard thing.
Most important moment in this 2nd USA tour was when we played a church in Long Island, New York. It was a church called “Gloryzone Ministries” by Pastor Richy.
Even it’s a small concert at a local church, Japanese Christian Band playing in a New York Church, it was a big thing for us.
We did our best. I felt God touching us.
It happened after the show. A pastor asked me if I had something I wanted them to pray.
And, without thinking, I answered, “Please pray for our country Japan”.
I was surprised myself.
That was the moment I realized about the love I had inside me.
As I mentioned here, we were the outsiders in Japanese society. Probably that’s one of the reasons we were able to become Christians.
In Japan Christians are minority, there are very few Christian people. Mostly, we are having a hard time, as a believer, as well as a musician.
But even so, there is LOVE for our own country in our heart.
We realized that our goal is to change our country Japan.
We are doing this for our country Japan.
So we prayed for Japan, so that our country would change, so that our country Japan would come to know Jesus.
After learning that fact, it was a totally a new game. It was a start of new battle.
In year 2010, we played several church concerts in Japan, as well as some outreach gigs in Street Venue in Yokohama.
We played club gigs off course. We played in a nice large venue in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo.
We played some shows with the band called “Eikogo”, they were the one of the first Christian rock bands in Japan, who had been active since 1980s. It was a good year for our band. We became better, tight, stronger in faith. We did some of our best shows in 2010.
It’s always hard to be in a band.
Being in a major famous band must be tough, but being in an independent band is tougher, as you can easily imagine. We are getting older, we have come a long way.
Still, we choose to go ahead.
We planned another USA Tour. Because our main target is still international market.
Reaching out to the international market is our only way to survive.
Getting some exposure or some little success in international market, and bring that buzz back into Japan. That is the only possible strategy for us to change the situation in Japan.
We all knew that.
So that’s what we did.
We made a plan for our 3rd USA tour.
It was tough.
But we wanted to do something bigger than our previous tours.
We didn’t have enough budget, so we did some fundraising on internet, on a website called Kickstarter.
Thank you very much for all the people who helped us.
Tour was planned and it was going to be in April–May 2011.
While we were preparing for the tour, something happened.
Something terrible. Something awful.
March 11th, the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, followed by the Nuclear Power Plant Crisis in Fukushima.
Luckily, none of us were hurt.
But I can’t say how heavy it was.
It was a huge shock for all of us, huge shock for entire country.
I still don’t know why it happened.
Probably it will take much more time to know the reason why it happened.
But one thing I can say is, we felt God moving.
I don’t know if you would agree, but I felt God was moving, here in Japan and all over the world.
Just like he was answering our prayer.
In year 2010, we prayed for a change in Japan.
I think now Japan is changing rapidly, more rapidly than ever.
Japan has been a country which would never change, since it became an economic capital in the world. As a result, Japan has became a spiritually broken society. So many people committing suicide, so many people mentally ill.
However, after the big shock on March 11th, things finally begun to move. Our society has finally begun to change.
But the price was very high.
Yes we asked for a change. But not in this way.
We had a very complex feeling.
Here is my honest feeling about what happened. A video during USA tour 2011.
We are now going through a tough time in Japan.
Japan, as a nation, going through a tough time now.
But one thing I can say clearly is, we never lose our trust in God.
We believe in God’s will and His work.
Our 3rd USA Tour, we call it “We are okay, we rock tour 2011”, was very successful.
We named the tour this way, because after the earthquake disaster, so many people asked us if we are okay, and if we were still going to tour. We decided to give them our answer before asked. Later we found out Rock Band saying “we are okay” is kind of funny. That was a good English lesson.
Anyway the tour was more successful than we had ever expected.
We played 13 shows in 37 days. clubs and churches.
Not bad for an independent band from Japan.
We got a good reaction everywhere, many CDs sold, also very nice church concerts.
We teamed up with a Christian organization in Japan and asked people for a donation for Japan Tsunami Relief. While getting better as a band, Hassy (bassist) and Jake (drummer), their faith in God became much stronger. We are now a REAL band with FAITH.
At the end of the tour, we took part in a Christian Music Convention called “The Objective” in Nashville TN.
It was a great experience.
We met many Christian bands like us, and made friends with them.
We played a showcase gig there, with other Christian bands.
And wow, we got the biggest reaction, both from audience and critics!
That was a great moment for a Japanese band like us.
We made friends with other Christian bands, and we also made friends with many music industry people there. I hope we can work something out with them in a future.
Like I said, being a band is hard.
Especially when you are in an independent band.
Every tour or every recording project, I’m thinking, “Okay I’m gonna quit after this”.
Every live show we play, I’m thinking “This may be the last show we play”.
But we can’t quit until God says it’s okay.
We can’t quit so easily.
Because we are The First Christian Heavy Metal Band from Japan.
There is no other band who can do this.
Maybe we should move to USA to get some success. Or maybe we should stay in Japan and help our country change. I don’t know, it’s not us who decides. It’s God who decides everything.
Now we are working on our new recording project.
We already recorded 4 songs earlier in 2011 before the tour, and we recorded 2 songs during the tour. We are going to record several more songs to make it a full album. We didn’t decide the album title yet.
And God has given me another vision of making an album. It’s a concept album.
God has given me a vision of making a concept album about Japanese History.
I don’t know how long it will take.
It would need research and a lot of homework.
But we are so determined to do our mission.
At least, we won’t quit until we finish the concept album project.
No matter if we will become successful or not.
After all, what does “successful” mean?
This is internet era. Music industry is changing (some say dying). In my point of view, I felt “successful” many times in this band’s history.
I have made a good record by myself, that was a success.
I have made a great record with my friends, that was a success.
I have recorded most of the songs I wrote in my teenage days, that was a success.
We went to Germany and recorded songs with a World Famous Producer, that was a success.
We experienced several member changes in a band but all of them found their answer in Rockn’Roll and now they have happy families, that is a GREAT success.
Thanks to the music, I became a Christian, that is a MIRACLE.
We can call ourselves “the first Christian heavy metal from Japan”, that is an HONOR.
We toured in USA 3 times totally independently, making all the plans by ourselves, that is like a DREAM.
We have survived to this day and still making music independently, that is a BIG success!
Many people can find us and listened to our music on internet, that is a HUGE success!
So I consider this project as very successful. I am very happy and I can quit anytime. But every time I was going to quit, God showed me another plan and told me to go further.
I have no idea what the future will become.
But when we have no idea, God gives us His idea. So I’m not worried at all.
As I’m writing this, I have a feeling that we can do a bigger thing, bigger shows in a future.
Yes I have a HOPE in side me. And that is enough to live TODAY.
And let me tell you.
My personal dream as a musician is to play A BIG ROCK SHOW in THE KINGDOM of GOD in HEAVEN.
It’s gonna be an AWESOME party!!
Tak “Tone” Nakamine
Imari Tones (伊万里音色)
July 20th, 2011