Sonic Temple

JAPAN – Tokyo and Osaka

The alarm goes off at 5.00am and the last thing I feel like doing is travelling six thousand miles around the world and spending a day and a half doing it!! But the coffee and cigarettes work their magic, the shower breathes some life into my tired frame, and I shuffle downstairs and into the car at 6.00am, and let my mind shut down until I get to LAX. It’s a bizarre journey in front of us – We leave early Monday morning, fly for fourteen hours, and arrive Tuesday night. My brain spends a long time trying to work out the mathematics of this, before failing miserably and giving up. I decide instead, to enjoy the facilities of the American Airlines First Class lounge. Ian is already in Tokyo, doing some stuff with Zilch, the band that we are playing with at the warm up show, so it’s a slimmed down team that settles into the lounge sofas. Moe, our production manager, Richard, our tour manager and Rick, the band’s manager, along with Jimmy, Vegas, Swiss Chris our guitar and drum techs, and Doug, our monitor engineer. And of course, Billy, Matt and Mike. The management types get online, on cellphone, and on top of things, the crew plot up in Duty Free, buying up enough tobacco to keep Russia smoking for a few years, and the band just……well, we kinda just fall asleep again!!

Finally, we board our flight, turn left when we get on the plane, and make ourselves comfortable in the first class section of the plane. These seats are definite wonders of modern technology. They turn into a complete bed, with blankets, pillows and slippers to finish it off. The menu includes caviar, and lemon chicken with asparagus, and we have a choice of about forty movies. Definitely the way to fly long distance. And the flight is not too much bother. I suffer from a distinct lack of nicotine, and by the tenth hour, even the Nicorette inhaler that I’ve been sucking on since we took off, isn’t working anymore and I start to feel a little trippy. Gotta stop smoking. Matt sleeps the whole way, and Billy and Rick talk shop. And then we land. Just in time for the dramas to begin. We stand around the luggage carousel and slowly realise that although we are first class passengers, we are becoming the last ones to be waiting for our luggage. And sure enough, an hour after we get off the flight, our bags are still nowhere to be seen. Lots of airline officials begin running around, looking extremely embarrassed, and we find out that although we are in Tokyo, our luggage (all twelve pieces of it) is in Taipei, in Taiwan!!!! Suddenly, the clever packing that I did, which involved having nothing as a carry on bag, except my computer, starts to seem a little silly!!! Billy has got a spare tee shirt and some underwear in his carry on, and so does Mike. Matt and myself, however, have absolutely no clothes with us, other than what we are wearing……Welcome to Japan, gentlemen!!!

We are assured that our bags will be back from their holidays by tomorrow, and we are sent on our way, through customs, and into the bus that takes us into the centre of Tokyo and to our hotel, The Capitol Tokyo. Once we are checked in, Billy, Mike and myself grab a taxi into Rappongi, the nightlife centre, and get a few slices of pizza inside us, along with the ubiquitous Starbucks Coffee, and then the evening gets the better of us, the jetlag kicks in, and we go back to the hotel and crash out.

The following day is a complete day off, and my chance to shop like I’ve never shopped before. I have one whole day in which to get around one of the biggest and most expensive cities in the world, and I grab Billy D as a partner in crime and set off on the shopping mission from hell. We get the subway all over town, and I get a fantastic pair of painted Evisu jeans, and a cool pair of Nike Dunks (I collect them and now have about thirty pairs).  Billy gets a very cool pair of Evisu camouflage trousers and we walk around Harajuko looking in all the stores, drinking coffee, and digesting the Japanese way of life……Retail Therapy!! We leave the hotel at about nine in the morning, and get back, shattered and sweaty, about five at night. A successful and enjoyable day. The evening is all about food, food, and food. We get a great meal bought for us by the Japanese label, involving mushrooms, salmon and rice, eat more than any human has a right to eat, and eventually we go back to the hotel and call it a night.

Show day, and a chance to lie in……NOT!! The jet lag has really got me by the balls, and I wake up at two hour intervals throughout the night, until at 6.30am, I finally give it up, get dressed and head downstairs for the morning ritual of coffee and cigarettes. We all meet up in the lobby and get driven down to the show at the Zepp Theatre, where we are the ‘surprise’ band, inbetween Zilch and J. Now, here is where it starts to get somewhat bizarre! The Japanese timekeeping is definitely something to behold. They have a schedule on the wall of the dressing room that has to be seen to be believed –  band arrives 03.37pm, band enters dressing room 03.39pm, band sits on sofa 03.41pm. Rest for six minutes!!! No, really……god knows what happens if you decide to change your mind……heads roll and questions are asked at a very high level!! So once we digest the six page manual that tells us where to be and at what time, Ian, Matt and Billy D go off to do some press, and Mike and myself terrorise anyone and everyone we can find with my new toy – a Desert Eagle .50 replica BB gun!! We discover the joys of balancing bits of sushi on top of a water bottle, sticking a Dorito in the sushi, and then blasting the shit out of it with the gun. These are the things that keep us amused!!

The vibe backstage is really cool – the band we are playing with, Zilch, are good friends of the band. Ian has been guesting at a few Japanese shows with them, singing with Ray, their frontman. Ray has also brought Steve Jones over to play a few Pistols songs at the end of the set, so Jonsey is hanging out too.

Our first show in Japan is a very short one – we’ve been slotted in as surprise guests, so we only play six songs. Half an hour. And it’s very weird. The Japanese audience are very polite, and jump up and down throughout the songs, and then clap and scream in the breaks, kinda like a pop band audience. Its over before we know it, and Mike, Matt and myself jump straight into the van and head back to the hotel.  Ian and Billy D stay on for Zilch’s set, the jam session at the end, with Jonsey, and the party afterwards. For me it’s bed time!! The jetlag is screaming through me and I’ve not slept much since I arrived here.

The next morning I wake up and feel rested for the first time. It’s a travel day on the Bullet Train to Osaka, and we are going up in two shifts. Billy, Rick and Richard are on the afternoon train and the rest of us are going………SHOPPING!!!! Once we are all in the lobby, it’s a taxi over to Harajuko, and the beginning of another mad day of expenditure. After about an hour, we decide to split up (much to the dismay of the poor little Japanese record company girl who’s in charge of us!! She doesn’t quite know how to cope with the madness that is Astbury and Morrison in Full Shop Mode!! She opts to stay with Ian, and Mike and Matt join me in a taxi ride to Shibuya and the biggest denim shop any of us has ever seen!!! Two hours later and those two are still trying on various pairs of Levis and trying to decide on what to buy. Finally, purchases are made and we jump in another taxi to head on over to my personal clothing temple – The Evisu Jeans Store!! Oh god, I could spend a fortune in that place……..oh, sorry……I DID spend a fortune in that place!! If any of you have ever noticed the painted jeans that I sometimes wear, those are Evisu jeans, from Japan. And Ian and I are totally into them. We spend some time ordering custom painted bondage jeans, and then Yoshi, our girl “in charge” starts having the third nervous breakdown of the day, trying to get us to leave the store and into the van to catch the train to Osaka!! We make the train with time to spare, and I start to question just what it is that makes these people so obsessed with timekeeping, order, and ‘getting it right’. What happens if they make a mistake? Or if they get stuck in unexpected traffic? I suppose its about losing face – it’s a cultural thing and something to behold. I’m just glad it’s not me trying to get us around Tokyo in one piece!!

Four hours and one 160mph Bullet train ride later, and we are checking into the Hyatt in Osaka, and making plans to go out. Mr Manson (that’s Marilyn to you) and his guys are in town and at a club called Rock Rock. By the time we leave, most of the guys are crashed out, but Matt joins me, along with Massa, another record company guy who’s arranged for us to go to the club, and we get a taxi into town. The ride one way costs us fifty bucks!! Fifty dollars just to get to the club? It’s a good thing we don’t pay to get in!!

The evening is just what you would expect from a night out with Manson and The Cult, involving bizarre polaroid camera incidents, and a 4.00am walk around the backstreets of downtown Osaka (not the thing to do if you are fully tattooed……like me!!) Police with bullet proof vests on the outside, gangsters in Japanese lowrider saloons and more strip clubs than Amsterdam take their toll on us and we crawl into bed – very late!!

The show in Osaka is a festival, set on a piece of industrial wasteland, and when the wind blows, dust clouds the size of Texas bowl around the stage, covering equipment, artist and stage in a thin layer of dust. Nice!! Slipknot and Manson are playing after us, but we will be catching the train back to Tokyo straight after our set, so we don’t really see anyone. We get taken to the dressing room, warm up, and then its ‘Hello Osaka’. But something happens on the stage today…….everyone has a really good, fun time!! Normally, at least one of us has a bad gig, or is unhappy with the sound, or something breaks – that’s just how it is. But today, all five of us run around, have a blast, and really enjoy the set. It’s a fifty minute festival set, with three or four songs from Beyond Good And Evil thrown in. The audience is……..well, Japanese really. Its hard to tell if you go down well or not because they are so polite!! But everyone claps when we finish, so I guess they liked us!!

I love Japan and love the vibe in Osaka – laid back, respectful and polite……no assholes trying to get in your face, or put you down and hold you back. A lot of people I know could learn a lot from a trip here. But enough preaching – its back to Tokyo for the last Japanese show……a repeat of todays festival, and a big night out in town before the flight to England.

The last day in Japan, and believe it or not, all of us do more shopping!! Before the show and after the show, we are all running around Tokyo in separate taxis, grabbing last minute Ape gear, denim stuff, and presents for friends back in LA. I’ve never seen so much retail in such a short space of time!! The show today is a big baseball stadium, with the same bill as the Osaka show. The guys from Slipknot watch our set from side of stage and I can see them digging it as we do our thing. Ian’s feeling athletic today and stagedives, works the sides of the stage out by the PA, and runs all the way to the back of the stadium during Love Removal. I have a fun time jumping up and down and running around, and I play well today, so my show is good. Matt and Mike both seem happy, and apart from a problem with one of his tunings, Billy D has a good one, and we leave the stage having won more friends over here. Within ten minutes of leaving the stage, Ian jumps in a van, and instructs the driver to go to Harajuko……this man is a SERIOUS shopper, boys and girls!! The rest of us get driven back to the hotel, put our bags in our rooms, and…….”TAXI!!!!” I’ll spare you all the gory details of this last minute race to spend every yen we have, but suffice to say that the very important record company dinner, which has already been rescheduled from 7.30pm to 8.30pm to accommodate our ‘needs’, gets delayed even further while we all find our way back from whatever shop we’ve been in……..oops……sorry!!! The Japanese record company guys look a bit disconcerted at our tardiness, but say nothing, smile, and take us to a traditional japanese restaurant – shoes off, mind yer head on the tiny doorframe, squat down to get at the table etc.

What follows is a veritable feast of sashimi , tempura, and dodgy looking chicken grilled on a barbeque right in front of us.  Everyone eats more than they have a right to and at the end of the meal , we partake in a traditional Japanese meal-closing ceremony, which involves making weird throat noises and clapping hands. Nuff said!  And that, ladies and gentlemen, was The Cult’s first visit to Japan since 1987.  Much coffee consumed, many Yen’s spent, and about 70,000 happy Japanese fans got to see the band play all the hits.  I suspect we will be back in the Land of The Rising Sun before long and I’ll need to take out a second mortgage before I return!!!!  Thanx to everyone in Tokyo and Osaka for making the trip a memorable one.  Next stop, England and the famous Reading and Leeds Festivals.

See you guys next time,


Billy Morrison