Monday, July 18, 2011

RIP - that is: Rock In Paradise! - TAIJI

TAIJI - together with SHU, just after TAIJI had rejoined Cloud Nine - was my first ever JRocker interview.

Not my first JRock writing, of course, but my first interview, and at that with someone I had been a huge fan of, him and all of X, way back when when I first came to Japan in the late 80ies.

The interview was in one of the dressing rooms of Meguro Rokumeikan - one of the great old livehouses in Tokyo - where Cloud Nine played in a multi bands event, their manager coming up to street level to meet us, after we called her.

It was November, but a very sunny day, as Tokyo winters often are.

I was perfectly fine until we started descending the stairs; then, with each step, my carefully planned out interview, the list of questions, everything, seemed to fade from my mind, even while the manager told me they were surprised - and pleased about - the overseas interview request, and, "oh yes, TAIJI said to tell you you can ask anything you like, about X, too." (At times, he has refused to talk about X.)

I don't actually remember how we got through the initial introductions but eventually, the four of us sat down in an improvised circle, me asking if it was okay to use a recorder, them saying yes, then, just before that was switched on, saying, "I'm sorry, I'm so nervous. It's not the first interview I've ever done - well, it's the first MUSIC interview for me - but it's the first interview I've ever done with someone I've been a fan of."

Then to SHU, apologizing, "That is, of TAIJI, way back when in X."

TAIJI, at that, laughed a little.

Gave me a smile and said something like, "I haven't done an interview in ages; you can't be more nervous than I am."

And, "please, relax, or I won't be able to, either!"

Which was so typically TAIJI.

So much more concerned about others than himself. Gentle, caring.

Actually, rather quiet. Most of the talking he left to SHU, who, whenever talking about TAIJI, sounded like his biggest fanboy. Despite being a very accomplished musician himself.

Though TAIJI also becoming very animated when talking about his music, that music was his life.

Our talk about X I won't ever forget.

Nor that he was one of the sweetest, gentlest people I've ever met.

Two other things, one, that after we finished the interview, he started to tap out a song on his bass; when I asked him if it was okay to keep on recording just for us, he looked up at me from that bass, thinking a moment, then saying, "as long as you don't make it public."

The other, some time later during the song, he dropped his pick, which landed just in front of my shoes. So of course I picked it up, handed it back to him, though, I suppose my body language showed I was handing it back reluctantly.

He looked at the pick, looked at me, said, "keep it if you want."

And, when I was about to - for form's sake - say no, "really, if you want, keep it."

So I did.

I have it still. I have the recording of that tapped out song, still, too.

As I have the memory of that very gentle man, Taiji Sawada, that actually doesn't figure at all with someone picking a fight, inside an airplane or anywhere. I wish I knew more of what really happened, though I suppose it won't matter, as the result won't change.

That someone who has been one of the greatest people in Japanese Rock, someone who has influenced not only musicians, but "just normal people" as well by giving them courage by example, is gone.

I'm not sure I believe there is an afterlife, but if there is, there is just one thing I want to say:

RIP - that is: Rock In Paradise! - TAIJI

Note: The picture above was taken at the interview. It was also posted with the original interview at JRock Revolution, but according to Japanese copyright law, copyright is Rika's, therefore, we decided to republish it. Also, the live ticket picture has been edited to hide private information.

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