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Friday, July 16, 2010

Former band members unite to help cancer-stricken Karn


Special to The Japan Times

It was a piece of news that passed unnoticed by much of the music world, but for fans of 1980s music, and in particular for a small group of Japanese musicians, the news that former Japan bass player Mick Karn was suffering from cancer came as a terrible shock.

News photo
For a good cause: Masahide Sakuma, Vivian Hsu and Masami Tsuchiya gather in Tokyo to record a CD to help their friend and former band mate, Mick Karn, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer.

As a result, some of Karn's former bandmates are getting together to record two songs, hopefully for a September release, to raise money for Karn and his family.

Music producer Masahide Sakuma, formerly of Tokyo new-wave pioneers Plastics, and guitarist Masami Tsuchiya, perhaps most famous for his band Ippu-Do and the song "Sumire September Love," both played with Karn 10 years ago in the band The d.e.p., or doggy eels project.

"Dogs and eels are such a strange combination," explains Sakuma. "The band is kind of like that. Putting Vivian (Hsu), Mick Karn, Gota (Yashiki) and all of us in a band together is such a strange combination."

Now they have gathered at a Tokyo studio with The d.e.p.'s other members, Simply Red drummer Yashiki and Taiwanese-born model Hsu, only recently returned to Japan after seven years' absence, where they are recording the tracks. July 7 is the only day that Hsu's hectic schedule allows for recording, so she is bouncing energetically between control room and recording booth, no signs of her power ebbing, while all around her a gaggle of management staffers flock about in varying degrees of exhaustion.

This unflagging energy is not confined to the group's youngest member though. It's about 1 a.m. by the time perfectionist Sakuma has a rough mix he is satisfied with, and within minutes, he has reappeared, bright eyed and bushy tailed with a bag full of beer and wine that he starts distributing to all those present.

"(Gota and I were) in Shizuoka with Plastics when I heard the news about (Karn)," says Sakuma. "I was really shocked, and when I told Gota, he then called Masami. We met a couple of days later and knew we had to get the band back together."

"The band started when someone asked me to produce Vivian's solo material," recalls Sakuma of the band's initial formation. "And when I met her, I got the idea, 'Let's start a band.' Then I started to think about members, and I thought, 'It must be Mick Karn, must be Gota, must be Masami.' "

In fact, Karn, Tsuchiya, Sakuma and Yashiki's lives and careers had been intersecting regularly for many years prior to the band. Sakuma and Karn had already worked together a couple of years previously on new-wave supergroup NiNa, which also featured Yuki Isoya of Judy and Mary and Kate Pierson of The B-52's; and back in the 1980s, Tsuchiya had briefly been Japan's only ever Japanese member.

"It was on the last Japan world tour in 1982," explains Tsuchiya, "and after that me and Mick played together almost every year." Adds Sakuma, "Masami started out writing songs as soon as he heard the news," before Tsuchiya concludes, "I just want to say to him, 'I'll always stand by you.' "

The Mick Karn Cancer Appeal can be found at www.mickkarn.net

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