Monday, December 19, 2005

Radio,recording,mixing,hot springs and shrines

Greetings TenGoophiles! My deepest apologies for not having written the blog in SO long. i hope that all of you are doing well wherever you might might be and thanks so much for your support.
As many of you know, Jon and I went up to Mito (the capital of Ibaraki Prefecture) to record a radio show.We had a great time doing it and are planning to go do it again soon.The band also has recorded 2 new songs, Clear skies and wish you...
On Saturday the 17th, I did the final mix down with Go, our engineer for the song.We hope to get the new version on-line soon.another important happening was that Jon and Mickey finished setting up Jon's home studio and we put it to quick use by recording our Christmas song Wish you...though we still have to practice using the equipment, the new studio set up should mean a lot more recordings.

Personally, I have also been doing a lot of travelling in the past month, with the highlights being Bessho Hot springs and Togakushi in Nagano on one trip and then Nasu Hot springs in Tochigi on another.

Maybe the most exciting news of late has been our joining jamendo, a French music sharing website.getting encouraging comments from Europe was a big lift for us.

Sorry for the lack of blogging and for the extreme brevity of this entry(Im sorry the the absence of any interesting details) but it is so cold in my computer room that I wanna get out of here as soon as possible!
I promise to be better!
All the best

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Friends come from afar and recording!

Confucius got it right when he taught that one of the great things in life are having good friends come from afar for a visit.
At the beginning of the month we had the pleasure of having Dr. Ascelin 'FLASH' Gordon staying with us, as he stopped by on Japan for a few days on the way to a conference in Mexico.It was an action packed couple of days, as we desperately tried to fit in as much as possible into the short time span.Though we couldnt do everything (go to ryutaros gig or play stickball among other things) we still managed alot! Most memorable and tenGooz related were our highly productive(and fun!) jam sessions.Hase G and Tanaka were there and Joe Kern came up from asakusa to drum. We recorded 6 new songs on md and we hope to get those ready for serious recording. We also enjoyed a pleasant walk around my house among the bamboo and pampas grass. We hope that ascelin will be back soon!
This past weekend was also very productive.We went into studio and recorded 'Clear Skies' with the help of engineer will be able to hear the results soon!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Halloween Madness!!!!!!

Just got back from our HUGE Halloween bash at the Corkheads. Kenya is staying here for the night, but we dont have much time to rest because its 3:30 now and we have our next gig tomorrow morning at 11:00 at the Tsukuba style festival main stage.
Tonight was certainly a success, especially in terms of turnout.It was so crowded that I couldnt do my usually thing,
which means dancing like a madman all night, because I was jammed up against the rest of the band, completely cornered. Thats just as well, since for some reason i had almost NO energy tonight. In fact I thought I was gonna pass out!this might have been because I had no dinner but more probably because I did the first set in mask and heavy shirt and I got overheated
It was also great working with DJ Makoto, who kept things going during our much longer than usual breaks. His selections were also much more to my liking than the DJs we have had at the barge Inn.
Jon and I spent some quality time together shopping for costumes and then getting a new mike for me! That was definitely a great buy, and with Miki`s skillful mixing.I was about to project my voice even though I was at about 20% of my usual energy.
Jon did a great job emceeing the costume contest and I was impressed by all the great ideas the contestants had.
I guess its lucky the police shut us down early, since we have a gig in a few hours anyway. But tonights dance responce was phenominal! We could have gone on till dawn!
Id better get some rest though I dont feel very tired.
More later............

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Contemplating the course of history at Enryaki Ji temple on Mt. Hiei

On a recent trip to Kyoto, I started out the day in Shiga prefecture, at Ishiyama Dera Temple,where it is said that lady Murasaki shikibu wrote parts of The Tale of Genji.
The ancient wabi and sabi reeking wooden buildings set among the lush early autumn greenery were not only'Picture Perfect' but refreshing to the soul.
A short train ride later I was atop Mt Hiei where Oda Nobunaga finally put an end to the power of Enryaku Ji Temples warrior monks by incinerating them along with the thousands of temple structures which had been standing on the mountain, which was burned until nothing but ashes remained.
Proceeding down to the Kyoto side of Hiei Zan and on to Jakko In in Ohara I was further overwhlmed by a sense of the passing and vanity of all things, recalling the unfortunate story of Kenreimon in who went from being a pampered aristocrat, the consort of an emperor and then the mother of the child emperor antoku, to living the last decades of her life as a nun in Jakko In after her entire clan, including her infant son was wiped out.
Ahhh the impermanence of all things!
Just the stuff for a new tenGooz song!!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Fireworks in Tsuchiura!

One of the big annual events in our area is the Tsuchiura fireworks festival, held each October. People really get excited about it and huge crowds gather to enjoy the latest creations of Japans top pyrotechnical artists.The best way to get there is by bicycle, though the sidewalks that lead there have bcome violently bumpy over the years becauseof protruding tree roots.Dont let that mislead you 1 Japanese roads are usually as smooth as silk even in the most remote areas.Translation problem that i have had in the past has been finding the Jpanese equivalent of the common English word 'pot hole' !The fireworks are launched from the site made famous by our frequent TenGooz barbeque parties, and on the festival day that peaceful enbankment is transformed into an audio war zone, jam packed with tens of thousands of ooers and ahhers.One thing that always disturbs me is thinking about how the remnant of the local wildlfe must feel about the thundering intrusion upon there rest.Anyway, as often happens, things did not turn out as planned on that day, and I never met up with Jon or Miki.Jon took some good pics though, he even got some good video footage so you can get a little tatse of what its like to be there....

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Since Avi didn't actually make it to the fireworks festival, I took it upon myself to write the next entry.
Every year we look forward to the Tsuchiura Hanabi Taikai (Fireworks Competition) It's a huge event. Actually, I think it might be the largest fireworks display in Japan. Thousands of people flood around the Sakura river, fighting for the best place to have a picnic and check out the action.
To start, Mik and I were throwing around a few plans. We knew we wanted to BBQ, but we also had to work until 5pm that day. We also had decided to ride our bicycles to the event. Mik said that last year it took him about 15 minutes to reach the event, but for some reason, it took nearly an hour on this particular day. Don't forget we had to BBQ, so Mik had the grill in a plastic bag in his bike basket. What a sight to see.
So the plan was to hook up with some friends who had gotten there early and have a nice peaceful BBQ while watching the spectacle. But oh no, that wasn't the case.
See, it's more crowded than you could imagine. We are talking 3 square kilometers of wall to wall people. After parking the bikes, we set off on foot with the BBQ grill and random bottles of wine and a lot of beer. To make a very long story short, it took forever for Mik and I to find our friends. And when Mik finally found them, he lost me for another 15 minutes. It was not a very relaxing experience up to that point.
Well, I finally found Mik and friends and we settled in to watch the show which had now been going on overhead for an hour. Our friends had a really nice spot and that's where we took this little video. Pretty cool huh? Since it was so crowded, we were not able to BBQ. That made us a little sad since we lugged the grill with us through the whole ordeal. We decided to wait until the crowd cleared away and re-positioned ourselves near the river bank and had a great BBQ while watching all the traffic flee the scene.
At the end of the night, it was time to go home by bicycle, uphill the entire way, with the grill and all left over party supplies. It was a journey that I will never forget. What a great adventure. Next year I will take my van for sure.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Korean Buddhist Vegetarian Fare

Life with the tengooz is INTENSE, and sometimes you just HAVE TO get away from all the excitement, intrigue, and general INSANITY. This is especially true after a 4 hour show in which you've given everything you've got,taking it to the LIMIT and performing until you are nearly BLIND!
One of the places that I sometimes take of to the day after a gig is Korea,the Land of the Morning Calm. Dont get me wrong, Korea is not a relaxed place,in fact its almost as frenetic as the Tengooz,but within all that aggressive up and coming energy there are tranquil oases of serenity and beauty.
Since Im a vegetarian(see, you learn a little more about me every day!)my favorite spot in Seoul8and one of my favorite in the world!) is Sanchon, a Buddhist Vegetarian resaurant hidden among the winding alleys of Insa Dong,the traditional art and antique district.The only drawback there is to a meal at Sanchon is that there is so much food, or should I say so many small dishes,that a meal there pretty much knocks you out for the day!
The tea shop next door is tastefully decorate with traditional motifs, and if there is room enough in your stomach you can enjoy fruit and nut teas as song birds fly freely about the room.Its very special and these two places have drawn me back again and again!
Tomorrow night,i'll probably go with Jon to the renowned Fireworks competition in tsuchiura, just down the road from my house. Goodnight TenGoophiles
Avi Landau

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Live at The Fiddler

Doing a show at the fiddler is always an adventure for us because we never know what kind of crowd we are gonna get.We have already come to realize that most friends who say they will come WONT! Who can blame them, though,especially when the forecast called for a vicious typhoon!
Jon and I travelled light to Tokyo,since we didnt have to take our own sound system,though using the Fiddlers system did not instill me with a sense of confidence.We were praying that Hase G wouldnt forget to bring his amp head since we had had so much trouble at our previous gig. Another worry and sad note was that Mik, our trusty soundman and recent ex- bachelor would not be coming down with us, and this left me more ill at ease.
The drive was smooth and passed in good conversation. All in all it was a good show with very positive responses. we gave it our all as usuall and by the end of our night(2:00) I could hardly see! We were especially happy that our new song,Clear Skies went over so well.Lots of people seemed really excited by our stuff and we sold out all our cds.
I cant really say much more right now since so much has happened in the passed couple of days.
especially my trip to......

Monday, September 19, 2005

The TenGooz Loooong day

Good morning,TenGoophiles! I hope you are in better shape than we are! We have barely survived another marathon recording session up among the verdant hills of central Ibaraki. Luckilly,we had the harvest moon to dazzle us and illuminate the blueberry orchard around us as we labored through the night, our stomachs fueled by Jons delicious barbecueing.
Before I get into the details of our day, let me quickly satisfy your curiosity and put you at ease by telling you right up front which songs we recorded.
Lost in translation
Strange Chord
Picture perfect
Ice Palace
With the exception of Picture Perfect, these songs have been in our repetoire from the start and it was good to finally record them,though we are still gonna have to do a bit(or more than a bit) of remixing.Picture Perfect is a recent song which was generated by chord progressions brought to us by that bluesman turned Tengu, 'Frets' Tanaka(by the way we have a new nickname for him after last night,The Cat).That why we sometimes refer to it as Tanakas song.It was a little more dificult for me to get through this one because the lyrics had not yet been set until seconds before getting before the mic.
Our Looooooong day!
Though neither Jon or I had gotten much sleep the night before, Jon picked me up promptly at 6am. We had miraculously woken up without alarm clock assistance (the excitement and expectation of getting back to the studio activated our inner clocks!),though we must not have been a pretty sight.I really felt awful and course I wanted to sleep,but that would be unthinkable to sleep while Jon had to be behind the wheel(by the way everyone,I dont drive!).
We rendevouzed with Hase G and Tanaka(who doesn't drive either. We are an extremely transportation challenged band!) at a convenience store and were off to Hitachi Omiya via the Joban Expressway. After picking up some food and a couple of bottles of cabarnet Sauvingon at another Convenience store near our destination( Life in Japan is a series of stops at convenience stores or as we call them, Konbinis), we finally pulled up to the studio,all gung ho and ready to go.Jon came prepared with all kinds of gadgets to document the session. Digital cameras,video cameras and a computer. Over the course of the day, we got some really great shots and footage of the band. We hope to get the best of it on the net soon.Come to think of it, we might have come away with better video and visual results than we did with recordings!
It was deliciously cool up where we were,but we spent many hours cooped up in a small room under asphyxiating conditions due to the preponderance of chain smokers present. Kenya was a little late arriving and he too seemed to be as sleepy as the rest of us.(in fact ,besides me everyone ended up spending a few hours sleeping at one point or another. When he arrived we had already started laying down Lost in Translation.I just want everyone to know, that I wrote and started performing this song a couple of years before the movie of the same title came out, so dont imagine that its based on or about the movie. It is a song about the communication gap between men and women!
Everyone did a good job on the recording, but after listening to the results at home and in Jons van on the way home(Jon: I've gotta remix this!')and then again at home this morning its clear that the verse section is to cluttered and busy.
We then put down Strange Chord, with Hase G coming up with one of his wildest bass accompaniments.We went all out trying to make Strange Chord as Strang as possible We hope you like the results. This was the song that got us all the most excited, though Jon is not happy with it(he is especially against delay and overdubbing of the same instrument). the cacophony of it represents a disharmonius couple in a frantic, though humorous way.There will surely be plenty of mixed opinions about this one, but no one will deny that it is a blazing tour de force!
As I mentioned earlier, Tanakas song was a tad stressful for me, because the lyrics were not ready. Somehow,though it pulled together, and despite the fact that I am far from satisfied with the results in terms of lyrics, it sounds alright. Jon had a good suggestion during mix down, and our engineer followed his advice by bringing the instruments into the break a little at a time. I think it works to good effect.
After the 3rd song, we had a little falling out and Hase G and I exchanged views in excited tones. The gist of the spat was that he wanted to rerecord Inertia, while i thought it would be better to record other song we had never laid down before. Things got a little out of hand at one point where Hase G and I were both ready to quit the band, Jon , Kenya, the engineer and even the Cat Tanaka joined in the fray and calmed things down. We had a vote to decide the next song.Ice palace won.
We put it down in a flash and decided to do a fast take of Oh, yeah, too. My voice was already shot at that point(though it is never very good anyway!) and I think we made a mistake not having Kenya sing play the fast chorus as opposed to my singing it. Jon and the guys went off for barbeque supplis and I stayed put and read. The engineer started to prepare the mix down.
It was gonna be a loooooong night......
To continued

Saturday, September 17, 2005

View from my bedroom

As you can see, I can enjoy the changing of the seasons from the comfort of my own home!The wild fields you see are the stomping grounds of pletiful pheasant, weasel, rabbits, tanukis and snakes. Once,I even saw a fox!
Every weekend in winter hunters ply through the brush with their dogs in search of pheasant. Sometimes their shot pellets even crackle on my roof. I have tried calling the police, but they never do anything since for some incomprehensable reason, that are is actually a hunting zone! Anyway, Tickles and I do our best to harass the hunters and save the pheasants!The whole area you can see in the pictures were designated to be developed into some kind of housing.Miraculously,archaeologist found some interesting artifacts during their standard pre-construction survey, and the development project has been halted!It might be made into a history park.
On sunday, we will be back in the studio.any suggestions as to what our next recordings should be?
Avi Landau

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Avi's view and Jons place for practice

Autumn has announced itself today with a pleasant chill and the serenading of crickets. What a relief from the sweltering humidity and the shrill cacophany of cicadas which has made life a bit uncomfortable for the past month or so.
Last night was a strange practice, to say the least. First of all, we all got to Jons place real late, for various reasons and jon was a bit impatient since he had wanted to play us a riff he had in his head ,so that we could all work with it.It was a rhythmically interesting piece and we will have to work on it soon, though no melody came to me upon first hearing. we went on to play the newest TenGooz song 'clear skies' which will be upbeat,optimistic and easy to listen to(in contrast to the rest of our dark, disturbing and barely listenable repetoire!)I had been playing it on the acoustic for a few weeks and had worked out a nicely construced little piece,but after Hase G and Tanaka put their hands to it
it sounded, especially the intro, quite beautiful, and seemed to have taken on a life of its own. Jons drumming was also key to developing the phrasing of the vocal line.Jon and I in some of the songs have developed a singing and percussing in unison style that can be heard in such pieces as Jin Jin. We are thinking about recording the song this coming Sunday,though it might be better to wait until we ar emore confident with it and the lyrics are set.
We then moved onto 'Only time will tell' which Jon had suggested needed some serious overhauling.This is a song I had had in my head and had been fiddling with for a few months(Hase G's adjustment period to the band)and we finally started rehearsing it a couple of weeks ago.
I think its a good song with a set theme and a catchy chorus. Last night Hase G and Tanaka were toying with a Jazzy break with django style guitar. That would fit well with the gypsy motif of the song.
Before we knew it, it was past eleven and it was time to call it quits.We didnt really accomplish anything and somedifficulties arose. The sorest point for me is that haseG refuses to play our old covers which people loved to dance to. I think we need something to fall back on when the dancing doesn't stop and you need something to keep it going.With five very different people, its very difficult reaching a consensus. I think we will have to make a song on that theme someday.Or maybe not.
More tomorrow......

Avi at the festival

Participating in the Nagasaki Shrine Festival was not unlike doing a Tengooz show.
The first similarity is superficial.I mean superficial in it direct sense, that is in costume. I usually wear something traditionally Japanese for a show. Also, the carrying of the portable shrine and the chanting are done in 4 sets of about 30 minutes. The most striking similarity however, is in the intensity and power.
In a Japanese festival involving portable shrines,the men and women who bear its great weight, try to make the shrine 'alive' by shaking it and rhythmically chanting. This is done to the limit of endurance.Though I was probably the only one involved who was not drinking, I was still transported to a different spiritual plane due to the physical stress,and chanting.
Those of you who have seen a TenGooz show know that that is what they can expect in terms of effort and intensity form Jon the other members and myself. Sometimes I am amazed that Kenya hasnt blown his own lungs out of his horn!
Tomorrow I will talk a little about tonights practice and our plans for the next recordings.
Avi Landau

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

omikoshi bearing in shina machi

Our gig at Cork heads ran through to about 2am Sunday morning.Jon and I agreed that it was a'feel good show' with the audience seemingly enjoying themselves throughout and ourselves recieving only positive feedback(for a change!).Special thanks to our sound man Mickey for doing a great job again, against impossible odds,trying to blend the sound of five loud instruments in a small and acoustically challenged venue.The most daunting challenge is surely getting me to sound good up there!
After packing up(once again I failed to assist my comrades adequately) Jon and the other guys split. I had to get home ,too, since I still had a big day ahead of me. I had been invited to participate in a traditional Matsuri(festival)in tokyo. during the drive into the city I tried to doze but the over excitement of the evening left me too agitated to slumber. So I just closed my eyes and tried to rest.
We changed into our beautiful festival garb(I could even choose from dazzling array of traditional head wraps) and I couldnt help but think again of how traditional Japanese costume is so much more striking than the standard western wear preferred by most Japanese today. Walking outside among the Hapi(festival coat) clad revellers,I wanted to take a picture of each individual, for each man woman and child looked, how should I put cool. though I consider myself a very serious Nipponophile and have joined in occassionally on one of the many, many festivals I have visited over the years in Japan,this would be my first time to be part of the official Omikoshi(portable shrine) bearing group.And though I had witnessed and photographed such scenes countless times I was absolutely unprpared for the experience I was about to undergo.a reversion to the PRIMEVAL,a revival of Baccanalia., a dangerous, violent, and painful expression of the communities pent up energies.
To be continued........
Avi Landau

Sept 10, Corkheads

Septembers are unexpectedly hot in Japan,though the sky seems higher and the light crisper.I made the mistake of walking back home from the dojo(martial arts training hall) at The University of Tsukuba, after having been thrown to the floor a few times too many during jujitsu practice.The pounding of the blows, combined with the pounding of the merciless sun left me in need of a little rest, before our big gig, at which we planned to introduce our new song Clear Skies.My condition, left poor Jon, Mickey and Hase G to load the truck and set up short-handed.
I had no time for a nap, so I tried to regain my energy while packing my gear, reading the New york Times online and checking the Yankee score. When I arrived at Corkheads there was already a tangible buzz of anticipation in the air.Jon looked great in his silk Chinese shirt and mickey was with Ki, his bride to be.Tanaka was in good spirits,and was shmoozing with some musician friends Hase G was chomping at the bit and ready to. We just had to wait for Kenya to get in from Funabashi, with his trusty trombone.
We started out with a bang. Face to Face. Its thrilling to have the audience remember the chorus and chant out the catch phrase.I cant remember the whole set right now, but we did play Inertia and a version of Gershwins Summertime of which Hase G complained of my coming in too soon(guilty as charged!). It was truly a special night being that it was Jasnas Birthday. We sang our original birthday song for her and everyone joined in offering their best wishes.
We ended up playing 4 sets.Or was it 5.
Things got to a peak in the 3rd set as Jon brought the crowd to a frenzy with his hard driving renditions of some classic rock songs. As usual,our originalspanish and celtic dance numbers had everyone salsa-ing and river dancing. A highlight of the evening was my coming in too early during the guitar solo in Infatuation, earning myself angry glares from Jon and Hase G, not to mention Tanaka. As usual Kenya had the girls screaming. His charisma and on- stage antics are priceless.
We kept going till the wee hours and finally realized that We hadnt played our new song! When we finally did go into it we quickly regretted having done so, since WE seemed to have forgotten the song! Fortunately, the audience was kindly understanding and gave us polite applause.
I'll write a little more about our newest songs and my harrowing experience carrying the omikoshi at a festival in tokyo the next morning in my next posting.

Avi Landau

Monday, February 21, 2005

Back Up-Over!

I made it back to Japan with all the bumps and bruises accumulated over 11 gigs in ten days in Adelaide Australia,
as part of the world famous Fringe Festival. Kenya flew back a day earlier, and HOPEFULLY Hase G, Tanaka and Jon will make it back tonight. I have my fingers crossed!
We wuold like to thank all those who befriended and supprted us, especially Sue and Ross, who we will miss very much.Thank you to our supportive audiences foryour warm and enthusiastic encouragement. You made travelling the thousands of miles and the gruelling daily gigswell worth it. A very special thanks to Dr Ascelin Gordon who came out to spend some time with us and honoring us by playing with us on a few songs each night he was with us.Thanks to Tim at radio Adelaide for his warmthand kindness while hosting us on his radio show,and to the fringe reviewer John McBeath for his article on ourshows.
Another big thanks to Dush and Otto for having us on as the house band of the Fringe Club Cabaret,an experience we are not likely to forget.
All in all, it was a wondeful experience for us and we arelookingf forward to getting back Down-Under real soon!