studio keyboard.

by ted richardson 3 September 2015.

Real estate is expensive in downtown Tokyo and every square meter is built upon. Studio Keyboard, the actual name of  a music studio near Shinjuku station, is no exception. Awkwardly situated between the sidewalk and the front of a much larger building, this five storey micro building is only a few meters wide at its thinnest point. From the front it looks sort of normal but from the right side it is a thin triangle like an architectural wedge with a door. The five storey Studio Keyboard has 4 single-room studios which can be accessed by a narrow stairwell at the pointy end of this wedge-shaped building. The first floor consists only of the small reception area. It was once a bar. The reception area was originally on the second floor.  Once you enter one of the music studios, all is normal again. The studio rooms are a decent size of about 12 tatamis [look this up]. The floors are carpeted, and the walls are carpeted in dark gray. Once inside, it's easy to forget that the room is not at all square. Especially if the overhead fluorescent lights are turned off and the abstract polygon room is illuminated only by the small incandescent ceiling lights. The studio then becomes a twilight gray of indeterminate shape, and the porthole near the drum kit may as well be on a ship at sea, with the heaving of the ocean replaced by turbulent ebb and flow of the Music Man bass guitar.







スタジオキーボード

+81 3-3370-5258
〒151-0053 Tōkyō-to, Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi, 2 Chome−2−7, 1F.  Japan.


The short haired fuzzy gray carpeting on the walls gave good soundproofing and wonderful sound. In further trippy detail, the bass amp was also covered with a similar short grained carpeting. I'm not sure why the bass amp would have such a covering. Although sometimes we smuggled beers into the studio, there was never any danger of the bassist passing out and hitting his head on the corner of the bass amp. The studio was well appointed with drum kit and choice of guitar amps. As with most studios in Japan, keyboards could also be rented. Like the building itself, the name of the studio was always a slight enigma. Why Studio Keyboard and not, for example, Studio Microphone or Studio Guitar? In the end, the puzzling name and the fuzzy gray carpeting creeping up over every surface in the oddly shaped room, like a world in which soft concrete gray grows like grass, created a perfect ambience to stimulate creativity. I remember being there at the genesis of most of the classic songs of that period of the band. Infact, the creative music from that studio began earlier with Marcus and Norie. Before Kuriko and, before I joined the band. There are many cool photos and videos of that early musical period. Of the sessions I played in, I think some of the original creative jam sessions were not recorded or not completely recorded but there is still a lot of material from that studio which found its way onto video and audio, such as Close The Curtis. For some reason, one of the video captured moments featured Curtis pointing to specific frets on the bass as the t-shirted bassist learns some melodic lessons on his instrument. On the other hand, the saxophone with its mere 7 or so holes and valves and finger combinations is an utter mystery to me. I know only that if you take a deep breath and blow really hard, it "overloads" the sax airway and the sound jumps an octave or more into a John Zorn squeal. It sounds cool but it is the only single useful sound that I can produce on this otherwise flexible and sexy instrument. The equivalent on guitar might be a Jimi Hendrix wannabe who can't play an E7 chord and only knows how to set fire to the instrument at the end of the show.


more articles coming soon.




meeting kuriko sakuma for the first time. 

by ted richardson 8 December 2008.

before meeting any one in the band, i heard the songs, i vividly remember kuriko’s voice. very seductive and sexy. from the start marcus had praised kuriko the singer to high heaven. i was very interested and hearing her voice, i thought that praise was well justified. i loved her low sexy voice. not at all like the shrill glass – shattering japanese singers who were slightly and annoyingly off pitch and seemed to be so common in the 90’s. arrgghh! anyway, kuriko’s voice was great. low and relaxed, but sometimes cute high pitched chirpy sounds, screams to punctuate choruses. very, very nice. i was so impressed that this guy marcus, who was a singer/ songwriter/ guitarist, had just put this whole project together. i mean, most guitarists record guitar-ish songs and do everything themselves and it sounds like.. guitar rock home recordings. but this kurikokaleidoscope stuff was so cool because it was like a professional cd project. marcus had this image of jazz rock fronted by a cute female singer, perfect for the japanese pop world. then he went out, found and recruited various singers who were all really wonderful. he played me some older stuff with a singer named norie. that was entitled unknown norie. it was different but equally good. like with each project. the singer and the songs were a close fit. these amateur singers and the music seemed to work like magic together. like gin and tonic. i was to meet marcus and kuriko outside the shinjuku west exit nova language school then it would be a typical fun night of drinking beer and karaoke. i was late to meet them. i was waiting in the wrong place. kuriko made a dazzling first impression. i expected a young gyaru type. i expected a shibuya gyaru type and she was a shinjuku gyaru type. that was a good thing. very cute, gentle, sweet. not at all arrogant like some of the hot gyaru. let’s see, i remember her smile, shaking her hand, sparkles on her cheeks. as in the sparkles make-up. that is my memory of meeting kuriko for the first time. very sweet and very very positive. i remember it very clearly. then the three of us had a fun time in karaoke. i think bits of it are caputured on videotape. marcus always had a video camera. i remember watching it. we were on the top floor of that really cool karaoke place on the way from shinjuku east exit walking towards tochomae.  it was called karaoke kan and we actually went there a few times. it was definitely part of the vibe in those early days. marcus seemed very proud to take kuriko there and i could understand why. i remember kuriko’s singing at karaoke. she was very good. very lively and fun. it was a very good vibe, all of us were goofing. taking the piss out of classic songs in a fun way.





left: the west exit meeting place. right: the karaoke kan tower. classic photographs by ted richardson from july 2015.
the unofficial count of karaoke kan visits with kuriko stands at three or four. some sourxes say we went there eleven times in may 1999.
the west exit meeting place was exactly at the front of nova nishi-guchi, the school where marcus had met norie in 1998.





i am the  matron from time lord


by ted richardson 4 march 2013


I had played bass on the 3 songs on Kuriko Kaleidoscope 1. It seemed like the KK1 period stretched over several months or more but I can't remember an exact set of dates. I remember that we had a lot time in the studio jamming and rehearsing the KK1 songs. In short, even though I messed up the melody a lot, there was plenty of time to work it out. After that, Marcus mentioned a next batch of 3 songs which would become Kuriko Kaleidoscope 2. Of course I was delighted and honored that he asked me if I'd contribute some bass for these.

One night he called me and asked if tonight was good. OK, sure. Maybe it was around 8PM on a Tuesday evening. I know it was on an average weekday evening after work. He brought over his machine. It was a Yamaha MD8. I think I had heard the song but not actually learned it. Or maybe I sort of learned it but still wanted to come up with a very cool bass line to match the unusual feeling of this psychedelic rocker. On KK1, I played deliberately simple bass lines to support and not clutter the complex multi-layer arrangements. I'm pretty sure my first attempts at a bass part for Matron were also simple and sparse. However, there was already another song, Kotomi Satomi Hitomi, which had a very simple bass line. I felt that a more interesting inventive bass line was called for.

I don't remember exactly how that bass line came about but I remember bursting out with a punkish style bass line. I was playing full time in a pop punk band (Bob) at the time and playing a lot of fast, tricky bass lines for Bob. So, bouncy punk merged with jazzy complexity in the odd bouncy deliberately off kilter bass part of I Am The Matron. I recall that that bass line emerged over about half an hour. I thought it might be too aggressive and sort of an unusual rhythm for that song. To be honest I don't remember Marcus's opinion of it at that time. Perhaps he too was unsure if it was a good bass line or a bit too weird and off kilter. At any rate, we kept recording takes. Each time I added a little more diversity and cleaning it up a bit on each take. Probably Marcus stayed at my apartment until last train around midnite. We both have perfectionist tendencies. For some reason I remember that the alcohol consumption was minimal. Maybe 2 beers each over the entire night. A bit of alcohol is good for musical flow. Too much and it turns to mush. Not enough and it feels stiff like a coat hanger. The bass part came out of nowhere and was captured on the Yamaha in just one evening. Listening to it again, I think it was one of the best bass parts I ever played! However much it was my bass part, it could only have come about because of the inspiration and existence of the unusual Matron song in the first place. Also, I remember that Marcus gave suggestions on the general structure of the bass part and organization of each part of the song. I supplied the chopped up rhythm and off kilter melodic twists to a basic flow. Furthermore, the drumming by Mark was very good. It was one of those songs where every piece seems to come together well.

On the whole, this song is one of my personal favorites. The song smoothly pulls off the tricky feat of balancing off the wall
eccentricity with accessible, melodical pop. As my favorite bassist is Paul McCartney, and of course both Marcus and I are huge Beatles fans, I was very happy to have come up with an inventive bass line for this richly textured fun song. This particular song also seemed to be heralding new directions for Kuriko Kaleidoscope into uncharted musical territory which I was looking forward to.






clockwise from top left: close the curtis overdubs at ted's apartment, ted and kuriko at karaoke in yodobashi camera town, the yamaha md8 at studio keyboard in shibuya-ku, recording under the moonlight in september 1999, curtis and ted during the close the curtis sessions in may 1999, and kuriko holding song lyrics during the hong kong recording in october 1999. 

right: curtis and marcus at studio keyboard in 1998.

 

kotomi satomi hitomi.

by marcus stavely-alexander and ted richardson 17 august 2011.

i remember quite a bit about recording kotomi satomi hitomi. it was the only time we recorded at kuriko’s apartment. actually there were plenty of sessions for this particular song. the identical mixes that are on youtube at the moment are audio cassette mixes from 1999 which had overdubs added in 2009. this was a couple of months after i had already completed the cassette tape/ ZOOM MRS-1266 mtr reconstruction for youtube. that was april 2009. new machine came in november 2009 and work on tokyo rose commenced soon after. i have not done a remix of the original kotomi satomi hitomi recording yet. originally, the click track and guitars were done in nakano shortly after play with me was completed. curtis was going to add flute tracks to play with me. it did not happen because curtis was just about to leave the country. that is all an entirely different story so lets just look at the kotomi satomi hoitomi recording first. click track and guitars done in nakano and then vocals done in shimo-takaido. you added your bass in nerima. mark loomse and i added percussion in yoyogi. you heard the song for the first time at the sakuma apartment. i remember changing the lyrics for the verses at the last minute. we did not have an amplifier or speakers for the recording unit and ended up plugging it through kuriko’s television for a playback at the end of the session. kuriko had fun lying on the floor while we recorded her vocals. she was very sweet and cool. the whole day was spent recording her vocals for this classic song. i know i wrote a great great great diary entry about the session with kuriko. let me look for that.

for some reason the thing i most remember about recording kotomi satomi hitomi was that kuriko had a mars lander space probe in her apartment. we got to her place with all the musical recording equipment and there it was in her bedroom. it stood about one and a half meters tall and was resting on the floor on several long retractable legs. about mid-height were about 10 longer arms sticking out in a circle around the center, and near the top were a number of smaller arms sticking out in a smaller circle. kuriko was using it to dry socks and t-shirts and other articles of clothing. actually it was a one of those plastic folding clothes hangers designed to fit into small japanese apartments. but it looked like an alien space probe. that was my first impression. apparently you had the same impression because during a break, you went into the other room and we heard you making noises like a static-like nasa transmission then you walked into the living room carrying the clothes hanger and making beeping noises and simulated radio transmissions. everyone was cracking up. as for the recording, yes, we spent all day on it. i remember recording many takes and many layers to get it right. or just to get different variations and styles. i always thought that was a great way to record. at the end of the day, you always had a hard disk jammed full of musical tracks which allowed endless creativity in the mixing and construction process later. that’s right, actually, i didn't have a recording part that day. the bass track was later recorded in my apartment. i just went along for the ride with you and yuki for the vocal recording session. it was you, kuriko, yuki and myself but only kuriko's vocals were being recorded. it took several hours to record many tracks and layers for this one 4-minute song. longer than i expected. but a satisying result.

to this very day yuki refers to those type of clothes hanging things as UFOs. and kuriko's apartment was a cool place to record in. i have always liked having kuriko's breathing fully audible on the master. you can hear six or seven kuriko's breathing and singing.  the yoyogi studio was different of course. on the vocal tracks on tokyo rose MD master i can hear buses and bicycle bells from the street outside and bass signals from the studios below and above us. recording there in comparison to kuriko's place was just superficially dreadful. on a quiet day you could get good sounds at studio keyboard though. it was close to the school too and that made it really cool. we did actually record a lot of songs there. about twenty songs. gradually it will all be made public. kuriko recorded some classic songs. her sudden appearance turned on many lights and we did some fantastic work. gradually  and eventually people will get to know more about the magic of kurikokaleidoscope and get to hear more and more of it. you see, work doesn't have to be commercial and air head successful like to be good. there are thousands that would sometimes agree precisely with that point. meanwhile, getting together and working on the songs with kuriko created so many exciting and memorable times. only moments after first meeting we both expected it to be something like kind of what it was or almost was, a thrilling and euphoric time.




© Marcus Stavely-Alexander 2016.


 

 
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