Thursday, January 03, 2008

My Life in J-Pop

When I was bumming around the music biz trying to have a respectable career so that my parents wouldn't freak out, one of the many jobs I held was working for a music management company. They dealt exclusively in J-Pop, their main client being the band Pizzicato Five which at the time was a cult sensation signed to Matador Records.

We operated out of a small one room office on Broadway and 25th Street. I got paid a pittance and worked weird hours. We always had more money going out then coming in and a few times they didn't have enough money to pay me. My two bosses were an awesome lady named Terri who was a total Japanophile and a Japanese man named Tom. They worked, quite literally 20 hours a day. Often I would come in to find Tom sleeping on the floor. They really had to hustle to get their deals done.

Dealing with the Japanese recording industry posed a unique set of challenges. First of all there is the obvious time difference--we would come in to find faxes littering the floor and the answering machine filled with messages. The mastermind of the p5 duo was named Konishi and he would send long hand-written letters via fax complete with pictures he had drawn and little cartoons to illustrate his points. At that time p5 was pretty big in Japan but not so much in America, and Konishi perceived this to be an unfair disparity, which we heard about constantly.

They also had a completely separate management company and record label in Japan which caused a lot of problems and wrangling so we could do deals without fucking up the pre-existing deals they had made in Japan. Matador Records fits the cliche of indie record companies - their office was in a loft space on lower Broadway and people wore ripped jeans to work and smoked cigarettes at their desks. The Japanese record executive wore suits, bowed upon meeting you, constantly talked about honor and things of that nature. Bringing both sides to the table for import/export deals and the like was an exercise in diplomacy that I hope I never have to deal with again. One time I had to forge a letter from Matador apologizing for some faulty product.

Through this job I met Simon Timony and his mom who ran our fan club. Simon was in a band called the Stinky Puffs which he had formed with the son of someone from Sonic Youth when he was 7 years old. I think he was about 10 or 11 when I met him and I set up some gigs for them at dives like the Continental since in those days I knew everyone that booked everything in the downtown music scene. Simon's biggest claim to fame was that Kurt Cobain had been a huge fan of the band and they had become friends before he died and had played together. Lots of heavy stuff for a 10 year old kid. I think he has a band in San Francisco now.

Anyway, after about 6 months, my interest in this high-pressure low-paying job began to wane and I decided to kiss the music industry good-bye. My bosses were really sweet people, and I think were relieved to have me go, as I was beginning to have a pretty bad attitude. Right around the time I left they signed Buffalo Daughter which went on to some success here in the States. Last I heard the whole company had relocated to Japan where I assume they still are hustling and working exhausting hours.


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