Stephen Taylor / Special to The Daily Yomiuri
|Taka Hirose in Holloway, London, on 16th August 2010|
LONDON--When Taka Hirose left Japan to study in London nearly two decades ago, earning a living as a member of one of Britain's most successful indie bands could not have been further from his thoughts.
"When I came to London I never, ever imagined I would be a musician, so life is strange, isn't it?" the Feeder bassist said in an interview for The Daily Yomiuri during a break from rehearsals in north London for the group's upcoming tour of Japan, which opens in Fukuoka on Saturday.
Hirose's strange journey began in the early 1990s, when he placed an ad in a local newspaper that was answered by a couple of Welshmen--singer/guitarist Grant Nicholas and drummer Jon Lee--who asked him to join their new band, Feeder. Four years after its 1997 debut album, the group's Echo Park album exposed the three-piece to a wider rock audience.
The tragic suicide of Lee in January 2002 left Feeder effectively in the hands of Hirose and Nicholas. Lee's replacement, Mark Richardson, left last year, with new sticks man Karl Brazil joining in time to record the band's latest album, Renegades.
The record's release at the end of June was preceded by a Tokyo showcase that drew heavily from the new album. Hirose was pleased with the reaction to the new material.
"From this album, 'Call Out' was more popular than 'Renegades' when we played at Daikanyama Unit, but there's a song called 'Down By The River,'...that song is very popular both in Japan and here," he noted.
The gig in Tokyo ended with "Just a Day," a crowd pleaser that first emerged as a bonus track on the Japanese release of Echo Park in April 2001--seven months before it's British release--which may explain why the song generates such mayhem among audiences in Japan, as captured on a video that appears on the Feederweb channel on YouTube. Hirose recalled the moment well.
"I suggested to the other guys, 'Why don't we invite the audience on stage for the last song? They're really well-behaved kids, it should be good fun.' I said [to the audience], 'If you want to, come on stage,' so gradually more and more came, and when I said, 'That's enough,' more and more came and we ended up with a lot of people on stage. It was quite good fun," he said with a laugh. The song's official promotional video, in which another group of fans play a hilarious starring role, is also well worth viewing
With its throbbing rhythms, Renegades is a powerful and uncompromising return to basics that might surprise any listeners who prefer the mellow sound of Feeder that marked 2005's Pushing The Senses, though it seems that the tracks that didn't make the cut for Renegades might well make it onto a new album early next year.
"We won't call it 'Renegades 2.' It'll be more of a mix, because there are quite a few good acoustic songs, more mid-tempo, epic songs," Hirose said.
After almost 20 years away from Japan, Hirose has never forgotten his Asian roots, with Feeder joining Eric Clapton on stage at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium six years ago for a benefit concert to help the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
"We just said, 'We can do it because it's Wales and it's the tsunami.' I saw the TV and it was terrible and it's the Far East--I feel part of it, " he said, adding that the group's work for the War Child charity has provided him with the chance to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We went to Kinshasa and saw what life was like over there for the orphans and the shelters. We went to a little village and, wow, what a hard life. We did [some] charity gigs for them and hope that they spent the money well," he said.
Having recently turned 43, Hirose seems happy with life in Britain, though, like many expatriates, he admits to missing some things about his home country.
"When I go back to Japan, I really enjoy it, but when I stay there for a while I realize why I left there--I can see the good and bad side of both countries. I've got kids here and sometimes I imagine I want to go back to Japan one day, but sometimes I'm not sure. It depends on what I do. If I can play music, I'm happy wherever I go," he said.
Feeder will play at Drum Be-1 in Fukuoka at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, (092) 714-0159; Big Cat in Osaka at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13, (06) 6535-5569; Club Quattro in Nagoya at 7 p.m. on Sept. 14, (052) 264-8211; O-East in Shibuya, Tokyo, at 7 p.m. on Sept. 16, (03) 3444-6751; Junk Box in Sendai at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 18, (022) 256-1000 and Unit in Daikanyama, Tokyo, at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 19, (03) 3444-675. For more information, visit http://smash-jpn.com/band/2010/09_feeder/index.php.
(Sep. 10, 2010)