Friday 28 September 2018

People are the weather

While I tend to describe the range of activities I do with Call And Response collectively as “doing music”, obviously I’m not personally making music most of the time. Most of the work with this label is dealing with people, and the extent to which I’m ever able to get anything done is really down to my ability to coax other people in a foreign language into doing things, usually for no money.

After nearly 15 years of putting on events in Tokyo and around Japan, the process is smoother and better-organised than it used to be, but it’s not always like that. These days, most of the vents I’m involved with run on a more or less regular timetable, with the Fashion Crisis DJ parties in Koenji happening on the first Friday of every odd-numbered month when possible, and the Call And Response Indie Disco nights happening in Shimokitazawa Three on the first Monday of every month. The advantage of a regular schedule is that you always know when you’ve got something coming up and you can fall into a rhythm, but the downside is that it’s a fixed deadline constantly bearing down on you.

One of the things I really appreciate about organising music events in Japan is that when someone says they’ll do something, they nearly always will. I remember trying to book some shows for a Japanese band in the UK and one London venue cancelling the event a few days before simply because someone else had offered more money — that would never happen in Japan. Bands, too, are usually pretty reliable about following through on commitments and if a band cancels, it’s usually because of extreme sickness or a family death.

The next Call And Response Indie Disco, which is happening on October 1st at Shimokitazawa Three, wasn’t a smooth process. Partly this is because I got overwhelmed by dealing with new releases and plans for a big event in December. Partly it’s because two of the bands I invited were people I knew would take ages to get back to me with what would probably be a negative answer. Partly it’s because one of the bands I did confirm managed to cancel, then sort of un-cancel, and then cancel again, leaving me desperately floundering around for a replacement with the clock rapidly running out.

In situations like these, you have to be zen about the situation. Bands being unreliable or flaky isn’t something you as an organiser can control, so you have to sort of take a deep breath and repeat to yourself, “People are the weather.” You can recognise the signs and dress appropriately, but you can’t prevent it from raining if that’s what it wants to do. Part of the problem I had with this event is that I didn’t dress appropriately and thus got caught in the downpour.

Another part of the problem is that musicians will usually give you the most polite excuse (work, schedule conflicts, etc.) and never tell you if the real underlying reason is simply, “We’ve judged that your party isn’t high enough status for where we think we should be at this time,” or just, “We can’t be bothered.” I was talking with another event organiser the other week and I remarked to her that if the same artist turns me down three times in a row, I basically won’t invite them a fourth time (at least not for a very long time) and she responded enthusiastically, “Yes, exactly that. I know exactly how you feel.” Another organiser I spoke to last weekend said something similar. On any given day, there might be very good reasons why someone can’t play your show, and second time might be bad luck, but if it’s three times, an artist probably just isn’t serious about the kind of thing you’re offering. If you’re a musician, you should probably know that this is how a lot of organisers think.

On the other hand, if someone is easy and smooth to work with, and treats organisers with respect and without bringing a lot of ego to the table, they’ll get a good reputation that will spread (organisers talk to each other, and we absolutely talk shit on bands who dick us about). After the cancellation for the October 1st show, I was rescued by the fantastic Transkam, who make this kind of groove-centred post-rock with psychedelic layers of delay loops. Joining them will be postpunk duo Demon Altar, who have recently emerged from the ashes of the excellent You Got A Radio, and minimal synth/EBM/industrial artist Soloist Anti Pop Totalization. DJs m87 aka Everywhereman and Yuko Araki from tribal psychedelic trio Kuunatic are joining me spinning tunes, so finally, after all the hassle, it’s shaped up very satisfyingly for me. I’m glad the process isn’t always like this though.

In other label news, the Velvet Ants album Entomological Souvenirs I is now up on the Call And Response online store after a short delay, and we’ll ship it anywhere in the world. The band are playing a release party in Nagoya on October 14th and they’ll be in Tokyo on December 8th for that big show I mentioned earlier, so mark that in your diaries if you’re in the area.

We’ve also got all the tracks in for a very cool new EP that should be out before the end of the year, but I’ll keep that under my hat for a while and make an announcement soon.

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