The Happy Band of Japan will go on for years. We've no plans to quit and become landscape gardeners or anything like that.
This month we caught up with Dan, from the The Happy Band of Japan, who make sensationally skewed pop. Here's what he had to say.
IN: To start with, you could tell us about how the Happy Band came together. Indeed, what is the happy Band of Japan?
D: It started with the name and the rest came after. It's been me writing and recording for three years with anyone whose might be available. Releasing some cdrs and stuff. The first CDR was called the Occidental Confusionist. Now it's a full band with five members. From England, Italy and Canada. No one from Japan I'm afraid.
IN: Given your extensive musical tastes, why do I feel that sunny, slightly wistful pop is the medium most important to you?
D: Slightly wistful? We're not into "slightlys". I'd rather people thought the music was heavily wistful...Does it suggest we're lightweight? I hope not. This music is made to touch you deeply. In a warm, melancholic but eternal kind of way. Besides I can't do anything else. The Happy Band of Japan will go on for years. We've no plans to quit and become landscape gardeners or anything like that. As for sunny... The sun is important. The best gods are always sun gods. There is a sun worshipping element to this music. And pop is just good music. All the best music is pop. Faust were pop. There's no real difference between Abba, Can and Missy Elliot.
Pop is the just good stuff with no authenticity hang-ups. Its tricky. In years to come when Time Team (British archaeology programme – do you know it?) start digging up music they'll find us and under all the weirdness they'll find a series of small pop walls. We can't help it. Its what comes out. Sometimes we use white noise or cheap drum machines or feedback or recordings of lions but it always comes out pop. Which is cool. I'm way more pop than rock. Rock is boring. Rock is pleasant noise. Radiohead are boring to me. Pop is more kacky and annoying. Anyway, personally speaking I was brought up on Alan Parsons Project and the Eurythmics as much as Beatles, and the cool shit like VU, My Bloody Valentine, Sun Ra, Miles Davis and whatever else came later. We have a soft rock heart.
IN: Amongst those influences I see David Axelrod and Julian H Cope; why those two in particular?
D: David Axelrod because I have one of his albums and its just beautifully arranged but somehow groggy around the edges. I love that 70s orchestral funk sound. The Love Unlimited Orchestra are just incredible. It's like MBV or Boredoms or Animal Collective or good house records. Just huge rushes of sound.
Julian Cope's the other end of the spectrum I guess. When I was 10 I bought Peggy Suicide. I don't know why. I'd started getting the NME. It blew me away. I remember playing it to a friend during my first week at secondary school and they had no idea. Two years earlier it was all BMXs and maybe acid rocknroll was a bit much for some 11 year olds. I started early. I still really like Julian Cope. His writing got me into Krautrock and stuff. I stand by him. He has integrity. There's a few of those folk I like. Robyn Hitchcock, Robert Wyatt, Kate Bush. Proper English weirdos. Really cool songs too.
Julian Cope is also interested in the whole Gnostic process which I'm fascinated by from a creative perspective. Mythology – Joseph Campbell, the White Goddess, all that. It all creeps into the music some way or other.
IN: Does living in Barcelona (which I'm sure is a kind of ecclectic's heaven) help with the creative process?
D: Yes - its cheap and full of energy. And it has the sun of course. I feel way more English here though. It kinda sharpens your identity. Also you can be here and say 'I make music' without people thinking you're only a step up from eating babies. That can happen in England.
IN: What is it about the Japanese musical tradition that interests you?
D: Dunno! The name was a coincidence. We're English and Japan's one of the few exotic places left in the world. Having said that we love Boredoms, japanese punk and the Flower Travellin Band. Me and Trish also love Spirited Away and those Mirayaki animations... the music is very beautiful.
IN: Any nice recipes?
D: Apart for the one for slightly wistful pop, don't ask me. James, our drummer, makes ace sushi and Luca, the guitar player, is Italian so I'll ask them and pass on some tips.
Words: Richard Foster