Finding Your Own Personal Ecstacy

by Curtis Henker 22nd July 2010.

A couple of crazy recording sessions in Shinjuku opened my eyes to more musical possibilities than I had discovered in a long time. Tokyo in 1999. The country was slowly recovering from a monumental economic crisis. People were living on the street still wearing the Rolex the boss gave them the year before. A country and it's people were left not knowing exactly where they fit in their culture, their style of business, their way of life. There we all were, at the turn of a new century. Just waiting for the planes to fall out of the sky that new year's eve. The feeling I got with Marcus, Kuriko, and the gang in the recording studio was just a continuation of the same feeling. The same state of mind. Before i went in for the session, I had never heard Marcus' music. I had no idea what to expect. Well, not entirely true. I had already learned an important lesson; when you're with Marcus, expect the unexpected! Honestly, I felt like a musical child that night. Don't get me wrong, I had studied music. I knew the language, knew the math. but hearing the music was like  falling down the rabbit hole. The chords didn't make sense. The structure just didn't make sense. Well, if that's true how come it's still in my head eleven years later? Why do I catch myself singing ' bye bye my special friend ' in the shower? It was my mistake. It all does make sense. Forget all you know about music. Forget everything and just open your ears and your mind. Just listen for yourself. The music created a beautiful canvas. A blank canvas, but one that was already full of layers of sound so thick and repetitive that it really took me to a different place. It was a driving sound, but driving where? and Kuriko? how's that for a voice! She nails the attacks. No question, no hesitation. But then she mixes in a shy, whispering beauty. Mysterious. Unique. That night and the nights that followed, I found a new ecstasy. Hold on. I'm not getting all weird , just let me explain. Think about it. Why do ravers rave? Why do the whirling dervishes whirl? Why did The Beatles create Sgt. Pepper? It's all about finding your own personal ecstasy. Be it personal, religious, musical, whatever you are looking for. Listen to the music. Break down the walls of your mind. I think that is the message I took away from the studio that night.

enquiries: kagakuhakubutsukan@bigpond.com  there is no facebook page.

members and recording personnel

kuriko sakuma - vocals, percussion/ marcus stavely-alexander - guitars, keyboards, piano, programs, bass guitar, vocals/            yuki stavely-alexander - keyboards, piano, programs/                ayako nakajima - violin/ curtis henker - tenor saxophone/             ted richardson - bass/ mark loomse - drums & percussion/     satoru irie - drums & percussion/ jensen galan - programs/      norie inayoshi - vocals/ miku matsushita - vocals , keyboards/

special thanks to daisuke takashima and takeshi koma at studio keyboard 1999, the people at studio jam 2000 - 2001, nova cultural institute 1996 - 2000, BHLC ichigaya 2000.


contact and feedback

special thanks to ted richardson for providing this image.                                                          ( outside the shinjuku nishi-guchi nova branch. the outside entrance part became a meeting place for kurikokaleidoscope people. there were a number of teachers who loved dobbing other teachers in for associating with students. so honko was avoided as much as possible. )

Marcus Stavely-Alexander and Paul Solomon 17 october 2007.

It was Sunday the second of May 1999 at Nova Shinjuku Honko and Sunday was a Friday for me because i had Monday and Tuesday off. So it was the end of the week and in a lesson after lunch I met these three students for the first time. There was businessman, a quiet girl and then this really friendly and excited girl named Kuriko. I asked them to introduce themselves. Kuriko said that she was a dance teacher. I asked kuriko if she liked music and if she would be interested in doing some recordings with me and she said 'yes!' and that was it. I asked her to write her phone number on the back of a small paper flash card i had made during the break. She put her hand out for my pen and wrote her phone number down. Including her name and a little heart.  The meeting put her in a state. She was thrilled and it was electric and so i called her on the Monday and we met on the Tuesday.

Where did you have this  first meeting?

At the old Kinokuniya bookstore just down the road from Shinjuku Studio Alta. I caught the train from nakano-shimbashi with my wife and I had to explain to her that i had forgotten what kuriko looked like. I hoped that Kuriko would remember me and recognize me and of course she did but I was extremely nervous. I had the demo tape of Tokyo Rose with me and a cassette walkman. I remember the exact moment of seeing her looking right at me and I knew it was her. We went to an Izakaya somewhere near the Minami-guchi and i played her the Tokyo Rose demo. Meeting her outside of the school was a very magic moment right in the start of a very special time. When did you first hear about kurikokaleidoscope?

I don't know. I probably would have been in japan for quite a while before I heard about it. There was a lot of alcohol consumed at the time and my memory is not the best with specifics, dates and so forth. It was eight years ago. I think it was august 1998 that I started work at nova and I finished a year later. I never renewed my contract. I could have stayed another six months but it was a bit unbearable.

Who did you know in the band?

You, Yuki, Curtis, Ted, Ayako. I never met kuriko. I never had much to do with it. I never saw you guys play. There were substantial amounts of alcohol being consumed in those days. I would have been drinking five or six nights a week heavily. The hard part was getting past the Izakayas near the train station out where I lived. I liked Izakaya's. They were fun. Usually you'd poke your head  into one or two and there'd be someone you knew having a few. Some nights we'd drink late and I would have to get the last train back. There were a few chain type Izakaya's out where we lived. There was a quiet downstairs little jazz bar. It was good. People in wako had lived out there in that community and nobody had known that bar was there. The barman loved me because I brought all the western customers in. I don't remember the name of that bar. It was in Japanese. Characters. We just used to call it the jazz bar.  Do you remember the CD player in the teachers room at Shinjuku Honko?

I am certain The Return Of The Space Cowboy by Jamiroquai was playing the day I met kuriko at the school. The first two songs on that album stand out in my memories of that day. That wasn't all we listened to of course. I heard the Pakistani vocalist named Najma, Kevin played Young Girl by Gary Puckett. That was a great moment. People would go out and buy CDs at lunch and they would return and sometimes ask if they could put them on. That was kind of uncomfortable. Nobody needed to ask anything. Just put on what you want. That was weird. Mark L was into a lot of what we played. We are talking about the stereo that Curtis found in the street and brought in. The big one near the door. It could hold 5 discs. There would always be discs going through it, Zappa or Mahavishnu Orchestra on standby, or Duke Ellington. There was a stereo before that. A long black one with dual cassette and CD. For a while it was right under the schedule.  I had John Cage on once, The Move and ELO. Like early ELO with Roy Wood, Queen Of The Hours and Look At Me Now. In Old England Town. I think a lot of people were hearing incredible material for the first time. That is my memory of it. Go to japan, teach English and listen to The Inner Mounting Flame by Mahavishnu Orchestra. And 1940s movie tunes. Sometimes,  I wouldn't touch it but people would say, 'What have you got today?' I remember being asked that question. Rene from Melbourne asked me once or twice. Murray, Paul L, Mark L and yourself were big on DJ work in that teachers room I think. You guys must have loved it when I wasn't there. Sadly, I remember a French teacher walking over and actually kicking the stereo whilst we were listening to Lionel Hampton.

I remember that Essential Soundtracks album and I ended up buying it. Music from Tarantino and Guy Ritchie films. And lots of stuff. There used to be battles over the CD player sometimes. I bought in some Funkadelic and Beck and Can. Generally my stuff was not fully appreciated. It wasn't accepted by the majority of teachers who heard it. There was a lot of Madonna. Paul Head Teacher was a big Madonna fan.  I remember I swapped a bit of music with Paul L. I got some DJ Shadow from him. I think he grabbed can and Funkadelic.  The only club i went to was CODE in Kabukicho. I'm not a clubber. Never have been. I prefer pubs.


© Marcus Stavely-Alexander 2018.

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