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Q&A with Anthony Reynolds

PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2015 9:00 am
by Blemished
On October 2, Burning Shed will publish Anthony Reynolds' definitive biography of Japan. It's being published with full co-operation and approval from Richard Barbieri, Steve Jansen, Rob Dean and a host of key figures involved with the band, including Steve Nye, producer of Tin Drum.


Full details here:

To celebrate this milestone event, I've created a special forum section for discussion of the book. Also, Anthony has very kindly agreed to a Q&A from forum members. If you have a question for him about the book, please PM me or send an email to over the next few days. I will put together a list of the best questions for Anthony.

I will keep this topic locked until the Q&A is available.

Thank you!


Re: Q&A with Anthony Reynolds

PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2015 6:39 am
by Blemished
Thanks to all of you who submitted questions. Anthony has very kindly answered them. Very much looking forward to reading the book! I've unlocked the forum now.

Japan's history has been relatively well documented from the outside, but not the inside which is why this book's release is so exciting. What surprised you most when researching the book?

The possibility that fate and or destiny exists. Looking at the Japan story from such a historical perspective, things seem to fall into place so often as if they were pre-destined. For instance, I think even if Steve and David weren't related they would have been ideal musicians for one another. Or maybe it was a nurture thing? That said the Batt household wasn't musical...

Then there was the success in Japan the country. In the early to mid 70's there was a cartoon character in Japan- 'Oscar of Versailles' - a girl posing as a boy- which was enormously popular in Japan. It was a phenomenon which peaked just before Japan’s first exposure there. And Oscar looks exactly like the Sylvian of that time. It's uncanny. And Sylvian was the singer in a band called Japan! There are a few weird coincidences like this that occur throughout Japan’s story which in themselves are trivial but which had profound resonances.

Also, the fact that the members of Japan were all of similar build. Can you imagine if Barbieri had been six foot? It wouldn't have worked, it would have ruined the visual aesthetic. It's as if there was a shared genetic thing going on. Osmosis?

Asides from this; how young they were. And how much work they did within their band lifetime. Sylvian was..what..23 when the band split up?

Finally ; how 'normal' they were within their own limited social hub. It was odd that they were so insular as people in general but when they were together, alone, they were pretty 'ordinary'.

Did writing the book change your views on the band and their work in any way?

I became a lot more sympathetic to Steve, Richard, Robert and Mick and perhaps less sympathetic to David, although his integrity and his commitment in relation to the work remains beyond question.

Do you shed any light on some of the tensions that emerged in Mick's book in particular? Are they all reconciled now or is there still some ill-feeling?

It was impossible to avoid reporting such tensions when telling this story. In fact some tensions are part and parcel of being in a group and can fuel the work. In Japan’s case however, these tensions often seemed to go beyond acceptable. I'm thinking of certain money issues. As to whether the ex members are reconciled to these matters- you'd have to ask them.

You had access to many of the key people involved with the band. Which interview/s did you enjoy the most?

Meeting Richard on several occasions was a joy. These were purely social on some occasions. But when he played me the Japan out-takes/rehearsals- in the very hotel his father used to work in – that was a special afternoon. I had countless Skype's with Rob Dean which covered all subjects, not just Japan and these were a rambling pleasure. Nick Huckle, childhood friend of the band and a chap who went onto work for Nomis had some great memories which he was very happy to share. It was amazing to talk to someone who was actually at school with the band. Steve stuck to Email but did allow me some access to his diaries of the time. That was pretty helpful to say the least. Steve Nye was also as comprehensive and erudite as one would hope. Being a fan I enjoyed pretty much all of the interviews.

Did you manage to have a look into the post from the old Mick Karn-forum, on which Mick posted his thoughts about his music, arrangements and improvisations?

I didn't but would have liked to- where is it?

It's now 34 years since Tin Drum and nearly 30 since Secrets of the beehive. How do you feel about their legacy and influence?

I think most classic albums are of their time- but you'd say Tin Drum was much more so, I guess. For me these two albums represent the pinnacle of a musical history outside of the accepted history we're constantly sold- The Dylan/Neil Young/The Who/The Clash legacy we're bombarded with. These artists mean very little to me musically. Japan are part of an alternative legacy and one that is much more informative to the culture I feed off. That said, I do think there are some similarities between The Beatles and Japan...

You mentioned hearing unreleased material. Can you say more about it and do you think there is any chance that any of it will be released in some form?

You'll have to read the book! I did pester Universal regarding the original Virgin/Japan master tapes and they were found eventually. There was some talk of 5.1 remixes incorporating out-takes but it came to naught. No, I don't think any unreleased stuff will ever be heard never knows.
That said, only today I suggested something to a label which would possibly use some of Karn's unreleased solo demos. This would have been for the follow up to 'Titles'. Surprisingly poppy. Let's see.

Members of the band seem to have become more willing to acknowledge and talk about the Japan era recently. Any views on this?

I think it's just a matter of getting older. Your perspective changes; you become maybe kinder to the younger version of yourself, more forgiving. Sentimental even? It becomes someone else’s' life in a way.

Is it hard to write about a band you love, particularly when they've given you first-hand access?

I couldn't write about music I didn't love. The access only helped.

Are you still planning to write a second part covering Rain Tree Crow? 

I'd love to. Financially this one was a bit of s struggle. But if 'A foreign place' is a success- and it looks that way- then I see no reason why not.

What comes next?

I'm just finishing two film soundtracks and then have to get back to my third solo album.
Writing biographies I enjoy but it's a holiday in some ways for me. It's more of a job and less work. And work is what sustains me ultimately. After writing about other people's work I need to get back to my own. I need to return to poetry.

Re: Q&A with Anthony Reynolds

PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 1:24 pm
by Quiet Visitor
Blemished wrote:Thanks to all of you who submitted questions. Anthony has very kindly answered them. Very much looking forward to reading the book! I've unlocked the forum now.

Did you manage to have a look into the post from the old Mick Karn-forum, on which Mick posted his thoughts about his music, arrangements and improvisations?

I didn't but would have liked to- where is it?

A short note: I gave Anthony the address he could use to contact the forum-owners. It seems he didn't use it.