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A Report From Japan From Shin Miyata on Earthquakes & Music

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, March 15, 2011 10:49pm | Post a Comment

Shin Miyata and I have been friends for over ten years. He owns a record company called Music Camp Inc, which distributes such labels as Six Degrees and Nacional Records in Japan. But if you ask him, his true love is his own subsidiary label called Barrio Gold, dedicated to reissues of classic Chicano Rock and Soul artists as well as new Chicano artists coming out of the barrios of East L.A, San Francisco and Texas. Back in 2006, I was fortunate to go on package tour dedicated to promoting Chicano culture in Japan with the band Quetzal and writer Luis Rodriguez, author of the infamous book Always Running. It was an honor and something I’ll never forget. When Shin visits L.A., its always a great time. It’s about seeing lots of great music, going to his favorite Mexican and Japanese restaurants, having a few drinks and digging for vinyl. Truly, a man after my own heart!

Naturally, after the earthquake and tsunami hit, I contacted Shin. Even though he lives on the outskirts of Tokyo and far from the damage of the north, I was still concerned about my friend’s wellbeing, as are many of his friends across the U.S. All those horrible images on the news and the threat of nuclear fallout doesn’t help, either. After e-mailing back and forth over the last couple of days. I asked him if he wanted to do a quick interview just to let some of his friends know how he is doing. I thank Shin for taking time to do this in a very difficult time for him and all of Japan.

So where were you when the earthquake hit?


I was at the train station, just about to get on a train to get to work. The train started to sway, so I rushed to get out because the station is currently under construction. It was really scary. Once I got out of the station, I realized that it was a big quake because there were so many people out of the buildings and out in the street. I did not get hurt and no one got hurt around me. After the quake, all the trains were shut down. I went back home and rode my bike to my office to see if there was any damage.
 
What were your thoughts when it was happening?


I thought to myself that this must be the big one, the one that [was] expected to hit Tokyo for some time.

When did you become aware of the damage that happened in the northern part of Japan? Do you have any ties to that region?

I didn’t realize how dire the situation was until I returned home and watched the news. There was a live satellite feed from the coast that was near the quake’s epicenter. The news showed an unbelievable big wave that rushed the port. Some of my friends are from that region. It took one friend a few days just to find out that his family was safe.

What was the damage to your business and home?


My home was fine. My CDs and books fell from the shelves, but nothing major.

How often are the rolling blackouts? How has business been affected by the earthquake & tsunami? Are people panicking about the fate of the nuclear power plants?

All business is slow, due to all the trouble from the nuclear plants. The power company started rolling blackouts in the greater Tokyo area, section by section. It affects the transportation system and many offices and stores have closed down since employees cannot get into town. We do not complain because we know it's helping people in the damaged areas. Today we went home earlier because a blackout was scheduled for our area, but it was canceled. Of course, they announced it after the time it was supposed to start! We are forced to cut down electric usage, so now is not the right time for entertainment. The group Los Amigos Invisibles, which my company distributes in Japan, was supposed to perform in Japan this week. They were booked for an event in Tokyo, but  it was cancelled. Also, this week we are releasing two titles: Legendary East L.A. soul singer Ruben Guevara and Turkish belly dance/dub group Baba Zula. We are just trying to keep our business going.

We just had another aftershock two hours ago. It was happened in nearby Mt. Fuji [which] is very far from the northern area, but it shook Tokyo hard. I woke up from a nap and ran to the nearest escape just in case. The aftershocks continue and there are so many of them. People are starting to get used to it.

The tremendous damage caused by the earthquake and Tsunami, followed by the fear of the nuclear fallout are getting people real nervous. People are panicking a bit. People are running to get food and gas. There was a big line of housewives around the bakeries and supermarket this morning.
 
What do you think is next for you and for the country of Japan?

I do not know yet, but I hope this tragedy will change our society both spiritually and financially. Mostly I think that people need to establish a new social and business system independent from nuclear power. It will be a main theme, I think. Even people in Japan not in northern region are exhausted by this situation. I realized how much of our lives are full of joy and peace. 

Is there any music you are listening that helps you forget about everything going on around you?


Yes. Last night I got two 7-inch singles from the USA in the mail. One is by Hank Crawford on CTI label and the other is by Ismael Quintana accompanied by Eddie Palmieri on the Coco label! Both are so good, and it helps me to forget this crisis. But again, it is not the right time to use electric power. But I think that God will forgive me for playing just two singles!

Again, people are really frustrated by this chaos. Music is a necessity to get out from this reality. People in Califas, Pray and Play for us!

And the Award For Best Use of Christmas in a Non-Holiday Movie Goes To...

Posted by Kells, December 23, 2010 08:00pm | Post a Comment
...Gen Sekiguchi's patchwork vomitorium of tsunamic set design and cinematographic eye-candy  Survive Style 5+!!! The random yet clearly delineated Christmas sequence of this whirlwind adventure, set to the strains of "The First Noel" turned way up to eleven, is so over-the-top fabulous and inspiring that I hope to one day successfully drown my house in holiday decor à la Sekiguchi --- every year I get closer to the mark. Enjoy the visuals! Wanna know more about how Japan "gets" its Christmas kicks? Check out my "Christmas in Japan" jam here!

Journey to the Beatles - The Moribund Course of Music-Related Video Games

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 9, 2010 01:00pm | Post a Comment
With the recent availability of the music by a scouse four piece known as The Beatles [sic] they could now become the biggest Liverpudlian musical export since The Top or maybe even The La's. This followed their release of 2009's video game The Beatles Rock Band. With a sound that was obviously indebted to The Everly Brothers, The Miracles and Buck Owens, no one ever accused the Fab Four of being innovators. Indeed, the concept of a band promoting their music with video games goes back 28 years to a now-forgotten five-piece called Journey, whose brand of radio-and-roller rink-ready pop/rock once brought favorable comparisons to the likes of Night Ranger, John Waite and Mr. Mister.



That first rock band video game was Journey Escape (1982). In it you have to help guide a faceless ginger (see above screen shot) through the night sky, past disembodied Italian heads and lilac-colored jelly beans with legs to the famous scarab ship that was, frankly, my favorite thing about the band. Occasionally, a character that looks like the Kool-Aid Man comes to your aid.
  

I haven't played the game's sequel, Journey (1983) but I was transfixed by the title screen as a kid. 


My stepbrother David had It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (1984) for the Coleco. Although the packaging makes it look like your band is some five man electric jam Three Dog Night brand of sweaty, endurance defying classic rock; in fact, whenever your band takes the stage, you produce a pleasing chiptunes melody. You also can call your band anything you like, up to a certain amount of letters, which is why my band was simply "Blowtorch" instead of "Blowtorch Balls," which was my favored, bizarre and alliterative insult at the time.
Make My Video (1992) allowed the player to play auteur and make videos for INXS and urban acts like Kriss Kross and Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch. Somehow, despite the promising set-up, it failed critically and commercially. Game Informer gave the Marky Mark version a 0 out of 10, the lowest score a game has ever received by the magazine. It has appeared on "several worst video game of all time" lists as well.
Total Distortion (1995), on the other hand, looks pretty kyewel.
The game ???????? (aka PaRappa the Rapper) (1996) was pretty massive. It's crazy how, post-Eric B & Rakim, east coast rap never surpassed this level. 
?????? (aka Beatmania) (1997) pioneered the performative music video game was and the first in Konami's Benami music game line.. Although it never really caught on outside of Japan, it's pretty obvious that the folks behind Rock Band and Guitar Hero were aware of it.
???????? (aka GuitarFreaks) (1998) was another Benami music game that probably only didn't catch on outside of Japan because most of the music was J-Pop, something most non-Japanese aren't familiar with, and music composed specifically for the game.
??????????(aka Pop’n Music) (1998) was yet another Benami game.
When Spice World (1998) came out, Benami-style games still hadn't crossed the ocean. The New York Times pithily remarked of Spice World, "The music is derivative and shallow. The game didn't have to be."
?????? (aka DrumMania) (1999) was again, for the most part, not marketed outside of the Japanese market, and amazingly Guitar Hero's John Devecka holds a patent for drum simulation games.
Not surprisingly, it was a team of Japanese developers (Shun Nakamura, Tomohiko Aita, Satoshi Okano and Hiroyuki Watanabe) who had the bright idea of targeting a Benami-style game to foreign markets with Samba de Amigo (1999).
Playstation launched their first sequel to Parappa the Rapper with ????????? (aka Um Jammer Lammy) (1999).

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Monterey Park

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 23, 2010 07:00pm | Post a Comment

PRIDE IN THE PAST, FAITH IN THE FUTURE -- MONTEREY PARK 

This blog entry is about the Los Angeles County community of Monterey Park. To vote for more Los Angeles County communities to be the subject of future blog entries, click here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County communities, click here.

Monterey Park is located on the western edge of the San Gabriel Valley at the junction of the Eastside and SELACO. It is surrounded by Alhambra to the north, San Gabriel to the northeast, Rosemead to the east, South San Gabriel to the southeast, Montebello to the south, East L.A. to the southwest, and Lincoln Heights to the west.

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The J-Pop Don't Stop: Amoeba Music Took to the Streets for the 2nd Annual J-Pop Summit!

Posted by Kells, September 20, 2010 09:31am | Post a Comment
This weekend I had a blast workin' it with my fellow J-Pop enthusiasts at the Amoeba Music booth during the 2nd annual J-Pop Summit street fair in San Francisco's Japantown! In terms of people watching alone this was an affair that almost eclipses the Pride parade or Halloween masquerade in that it's virtually a marriage of the two festive events announcing the birth of their fresh to death Japanese love child.
With a table overflowing with both popular and rare J-pop CDs, LPs and DVDs, we stayed busy all day mixing with the ever shuffling crowd that stopped by to pick through the goods we stood by. Chic ladies dressed and tressed in their Loli finery (pictured above) pined for idol artists like Nana Kitade, Mana's Malice Mizerand an astounding avalanche of Gackt offerings, while others plucked hard to find anime soundtracks and bargain priced boxed sets (including a boxed Pink Lady vinyl collection, the complete Zatoichi films boxed set, as well as the Ultraman television series on DVD) from the broad selection.
 From all of us here at Amoeba Music: thanks to all the fans, otaku or otherwise, who stopped by our booth to chat and shop our wares, thanks to all those costumed folks who consistently made the day by merely mosying through our field of vision, and, lastly, thanks to all the other vendors (especially the purveyors of fine shaved ice delights!) for making our appearance at this years' J-Pop Summit a memorable experience! どうもありがとうございました!また来年よろしくお願いいたします!

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