Sometimes great music comes from unlikely places, but Japan is hardly that, with classic rock hugely loved there – and played, too. More so, BELLAPHON’s records found their way to the Western’s listener’s heart. Which is a reason good enough to talk to the band’s leader.
– Why the Japanese audience and musicians are so into classic rock stuff?
I don’t know… But I think progressive music is very minor now in Japan and it might be difficult to get information about recent bands or their CDs. In fact, there are lots of Japanese web sites featuring 70s progressive music on the net. As the result young prog fans might firstly start from 70s.
– Could you tell about prog-rock in Japan – back in the 70s-80s and now?
The 70s was the golden age of progressive music. I was crazy about British progressive bands, ELP, YES, PINK FLOYD and etc.. but, in the 80s I think progressive music was dead.
The music scene was very cold to progressive bands in those days. We often sent demo tapes to clubs and record companies but could not receive good answers. I think that about the Japanese prog scene in the 80s, the situation was the same as Europe or US.
Now, unfortunately the situation is probably the same as the 80s. It may be very difficult for Japanese progressive bands to release albums from major record company.
– You were in a band called STARLESS. Was it influenced by KING CRIMSON?
No. STARLESS was a progressive hard rock band. It was very different from KING CRIMSON’s music.
– Who is your personal hero keyboard-wise?
– As primary influence on the BELLAPHON music I consider CAMEL. Am I right?
Yes. I’m a big fan of CAMEL.
– Why did you choose to play plainly instrumental music with no vocals?
When BELLAPHON started we could not find a good vocalist. I played in a lot of band with vocalist before BELLAPHON. BELLAPHON was my first instrumental band and then I found it very interesting to play instrumental music.
– Why did you choose to play with no bass player instead of replacing the former one?
Also, we could not find a good bass player. We were playing live shows without a bass player. Tanaka played not only guitar but also bass guitar or synth-bass, and I also sometimes played synth-bass. Actually we were severely restricted when playing our previous songs on live stages. But, I think that the trio gave us more possibility than playing with four members. The live performances were quite exciting to us and to an audience maybe.
– What kind of music did AIN SOPH play?
They mainly played jazz-rock such as Canterbury music.
– Once you and Taiqui Tomiie joined reformed AIN SOPH was there a chance for it to be the new version of BELLAPHON?
Then I wanted to concentrate on playing in AIN SOPH. AIN SOPH was Yozox Yamamoto’s band and BELLAPHON could not continue its activities only with two members.
– Why did it take so long to record the “Firefly” album?
We took long time until starting recording “Firefly”. As you know, in 80s progressive music was not welcome. In fact we had opportunities to record an album before then, but it didn’t go well.
– What is the main idea of the album “Firefly” and why the tracks are titled mainly in French?
“Firefly” is not a concept album based on something. It consists of tracks that the band always played on live shows before the recording. Generally our songs were titled by Tomiie after the songs were completed. Almost tracks of “Firefly” were also titled by Tomiie. Maybe he only liked French language…
– “Le Petit Prince” was inspired by certain French writer, wasn’t it?
Yes, maybe. This track was written by Tomiie.
– What did you do since 1990 as in the group’s history is written: “Tanaka and Kaki seem to have totally vanish”?
After I left AIN SOPH in 1989, I stopped band activities until 1997 because of my job-problems. Then I sometimes recorded solo compositions with MIDI at home. Now I keep in touch with Toshihiro and sometimes meet him. I asked him to join the band whenever I met him, but he didn’t always give me a good answer. He seems to be busy with his everyday job.
– So music isn’t what you do for living. What are your full-time job?
BELLAPHON is an amateur band and all members continue music activities during their spare time. I’m a Buddhist priest.
– Did BELLAPHON ever played outside Japan? Were there invitations to play abroad?
No. I received email about that before, but now it is very difficult for us to play abroad because all members have full-time jobs.
– Are there plans for new releases?
We need a little more time to start recording a new album. BELLAPHON re-started last year with a new line-up (two keysboards, bass & drums), so I want to play live shows as many as possible, in order to complete the new BELLAPHON’s style.
– Who do you rate the best progressive artists – both old and new ones?
Old – YES, KING CRIMSON, ELP, PINK FLOYD, GENESIS, PFM, etcetera… New – …To be honest, I don’t know a lot about recent progressive bands. So, THE FLOWER KINGS, SPOCK’S BEARD and TRANSATLANTIC are my favourite bands.