Tour to Japan - Interview with Japanese magazine



Hi there!

This September I plan to do a new tour in Japan. On this occasion I was interviewed by a magazine called Euro Rock Press.
I think that fans all over this planet might be interested in it, so I also publish it here:

1. Your last visit to Japan was the first time in thirty years, and you featured a Japan-exclusive set list. How about the set list this time, as you come to Japan in two consecutive years?

Yes I’m a little confused myself about it, because I didn’t expect to come back so soon after our last tour in November 2006. So it’s hard to say on the forehand what I’m going to do, because from the horizon news may come... musically. I will promote the “CU 2 Live in Tokyo” CD’s and release of the studio rendition of "CU" in Japan.
But for sure I’m going to play some old Focus material like “Hocus Pocus” or “House of the king” and material from previous solo-CD’s.
The only difficulty is that I made so many CD’s that it’s almost impossible to make a choice from all that old material; I mean the songs that’ll suit the occasion, otherwise I might be playing non-stop till next November 2008 in Japan, which – come to think of it – I wouldn’t mind at all.

2. It might be difficult to bring them from your country, but is there any possibility that you will play classic instruments such as the lute or cittern?

I’ve been asked this question many times and I would love to play the lute and it’s music but it’s almost virtual impossible, because of the time limitation and discipline it takes to get concentrated from a present concert into the renaissance realm and start performing in a totally different atmosphere and technique.
It’s already hard to switch from an electric guitar to a steel string acoustic guitar, as I did last year on a borrowed guitar and the result has to be the same. Now, if you consider that to be difficult, the lute is 100 times more sensitive and if you play, for example, on a 24-string baroque lute and walk from 1 room to another 4 yards, you have to retune the lute for at least half an hour. So if a lute player reaches the age of, let’s say 80 years, studies not included, he’ll probably be tuning the Lute for 69 years or more.
I think a concert of just acoustic guitar and Lute would make sense, but right in the middle or end of a fusion band in concert, it’s a disaster.

3. Your album, CU, will be released in Japan. Please tell us what you want listeners to pay attention to and what are the best things about it.

I’m very proud of that it’s finally released over there, because it’s the culminus of the state of the art as I play at the moment. The thought behind it is very illogic, but a 58-year-old guy steaming away with a DJ at the helm is a gaz.
I love electronics, always did. In the Focus days I used an old rhythm machine, an old Roland: "Roland, Roland, Roland" (Franky Laine in "Rawhide", the cowboy series or the Blues Brothers in the cowboy bar) on several tracks, but only one still stands out. It was called “Glider” and the thing I remember was an English engineer, who recorded all that stuff, saying to me:"You prefer machines above people, aye!”, while he himself got almost square eyes from looking at the monitor while mixing on 3 or even 4 of those pre-digital 24 track machines. Now the whole world is using that stuff for recording. Especially the "Dance scene" and not only that scene, of course.

The beauty of this recording lies in its r&b simplicity and it swings. Listen to the rhythm and guitar at the end of CU and you know what I mean. It only shows that guitars or machines are also instruments, if in the right hands. I think Ronald (not Roland) Molendijk, did a fantastic job here as a producer and drum programmer or rhythm designer as he calls it himself.
Jeroen Rietbergen was co-producer, as was Michel (Picacciu) van Schie, who mixed all the material.
What I like about the CD is that all the eclecticism in the world is put aside and the energy is put into danceable music (r&b in this case, which was my first love anyway, be it 40’s/ 50’s/ 60’s swing/or even Arab music it doesn’t really matter as long people can dance to it and feel good). Through the years I’ve seen some troubles in guitar land in the sense that the fun in what musicians were doing had completely gone to my opinion. So in order to keep my fun, I recorded this in 4 days in the studio during the summer of 2003, that’s it, playing r&b my way.
To prove what I’ve stated above, please go to "Archive" in the bar tray of this website and check out my first business card. It states:"The Friendship sextet" Modern songs and Rhythm & Blues. That was in ‘57..... when I was 11 years old.

4. Last time, many Dutch persons resident in Japan (or tourists?) were seen at the venue. As you played a special selection, did you have any special response? Aren't you asked to play old tunes from your FOCUS days or early solo career in Holland?

I think they were Dutch people living/working in Japan and they loved it, as far as I could notice, but I was pretty busy signing autographs left and right, so I didn’t get a chance to have a long conversation with my fellow countrymen.
It’s a weird thing with me in Holland: I do have a large following and of course they’ll ask me to play some Focus tunes or some of my older songs, but the my first hit was called "The Russian Spy and I" containing some idiosyncratic guitar licks and of course I could still play that, but the thing is that I was 18 then. These last few years, from what I see and experience with other older bands or groups who made it big in the 70’s or for example the Prog Rock years, I get feelings of substitutional shame when I see guys from that period and hear their old hits in exactly the same form as 30 years ago under the flag of "Classic Rock" or "Prog Rock" which is pretty ridiculous 30 years later, but nonetheless. There’s this old college who already does that under the same flag as I described before but time marches on. Fans in my home country rather love to hear my own material and of course some of the older famous tunes as a conformation, but rearranged very differently, that’s the least that I can do. Fans over here actually can’t wait till the next new release. It’s a select group all over the world, who buy my work as it is now, which is great. So I’m not complaining about anything.
So in order to keep the top floor clean, or even the basement for that matter and that of the audience too, I take the liberty not to repeat the past too much. Even stronger: I feel very privileged that I don’t have to repeat myself.

5. Your last performance in Japan was recorded live and will be released as an album. What’s your impression on its final song selections, mixing and mastering?

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the first mix of "That Dream", so I trust the rest will be fine too.
The order of appearance of the songs are also quite astonishing, as was the sound but I have made a few remarks on the mixes and I hope they will turn out OK.

6. Please tell us about your schedule in the near future (before and after the Japanese concerts?)

I just came home from “La douce France” in August there were some acoustic concerts in the UK, then some festivals in Holland straight after the Japanese tour there are plans to go to Damascus in Syria and afterwards to Brazil in November and further I have a theatre tour throughout Holland until May 2008. Between these tours there are a lot of other things happening, but too many to mention in short terms, otherwise there’s the Gigs list on this website.

Kind regards from Holland

Jan Akkerman

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