Hey. Maybe I'll try to keep a journal on this tour; this being the "easy", one-band-only tour and air travel being generally less turbulent than bus travel, therefore more conducive to journalizing (although it's a fair piece more challenging to escape a plane fire than a bus fire).
Every January I resolve to lose weight. This year I'm shooting for something which might actually happen: write more stuff down, eg. cash expenditures (so poor Viv won't spend another tax-preparing week totally exasperated with me), this journal obviously, and the zillions of titles, lyrics, melodies, random concepts etc. which flit into my brain and desert it again after a short stay. To that end, the following film dialogue occupied my head at the same moment that I first occupied this airplane seat:
(Man enters hotel elevator, pushes 31st floor button; doors close. After a beat they re-open and a woman enters. Both specimens are attractive.)
Woman: Hello. (Punches button for 32nd floor.)
M (after the briefest of pauses): Sorry if this seems a bit forward, but would you care to come up to my room?
W (bemused): "A bit forward", you say. What you got in mind, Smooth Boy?
M: Well, I, I thought - if you were interested, that is, of course - I could make you have a bunch of orgasms, and...
W: Jesus! I...
W: No! I mean, what are you thinking? "A bit forward"...
M: I'm sorry. You don't enjoy orgasms, or...
W: Th-that's not really the issue, is it?
M: ...you're busy at the moment? That's not a problem - I'm here for a few days, so we could easily schedule it for later. But if you don't enjoy orgasms, then it's kind of moot.
W: Hold on. I don't believe this. Of course, I enjoy them, but, for God's sake, we've only just met!
M: (considers this, then speaks) I don't see the connection there.
W: OK, so you just constantly ask strange women if...
M: Oh, so that's the problem! No, no, of course not! Sheez, it's not like I do this all the time or anything. It's just that, maybe, no more than 4 or 5 times a week I'll see a woman who looks like she might enjoy having a bunch of orgasms, and...
W: God - OK - obviously, then, you consider yourself some sort of expert in the field, or...
M: Well, yeah. Of course. I'm really good at it, and stuff. I mean I wouldn't have brought it up otherwise. Why waste your time, right?
W: "Make you have a bunch of..." It's so, I don't know, clinical or something. You don't even specify a method, what am I to...
M: Well, YOU specify it of course, the object is for you to enjoy yourself obviously.
W: You're not planning to have an orgasm as well? Or a bunch?
M: (thoughtfully) I suppose that would really depend on the method you specified. I probably would at some point, to be honest, unless that's a problem. Is that a problem? That can be discussed, you know.
W: This is just too...I, I -
M: Listen, it's your call, obviously. I just figured I'd put it on the table, or whatever. If you're not into it, it's really not a problem.
W: That's terribly generous of you.
M: This is me. Nice talking to you. Take care, OK?
W: Yeah. Yeah, OK.
(Man exits elevator and keeps an eye on the mirror hanging on the wall opposite the bank of elevators. In the mirror he sees the woman's hand reach out and stop the elevator door just before it closes.)
M: (quietly pleased, smiling gently) Boop a doop...
Yes, it's sexist and awful and unenlightened, but if the lines were delivered properly and not at all lasciviously (I envision a "Gregory's Girl" approach) and it was well directed it could be pretty funny. OK, movie time is over.
On both of the flights we're taking to reach Bangkok (LA to Tokyo, Tokyo to Bangkok) I've been diving into CSNY's "Four Way Street", a significant album from my youth. I'm digging the acoustic disc especially. I think I remember hearing that Graham Nash lives not too far from Mr. Vai's new residence (or maybe it's Lyle Workman's new place - no, Lyle lives next to Keene Curtis, a/k/a Daddy Warbucks from "Annie". I always get Keene Curtis and Graham Nash mixed up). I'd like to go to Graham's place, wherever it is, tell him how much I enjoy this album, and how well his songs have stood the test of time, as well as the test of proximity to Neil Young's stuff on the same album. He probably doesn't hear that often enough.
Mixed media journalizing: As I write this paragraph I'm listening to "Emergency!" by Tony Williams Lifetime, and glancing at "Eraser" playing on the monitor in the back of the seat in front of me (the bits when Vanessa Williams is on screen tend to be the most effective at ensnaring my attention, although this here free-fall grab for the parachute is nearly as awesome - actually this whole scene is rocking pretty hard. Maybe this movie doesn't suck?)
I'm using my eye drops, ma! A few days ago I had six and a half ounces of glump scraped out of my left lower eyelid, a bi-annual event for me due to my inability to take care of myself like a responsible adult. Mom asked Viv on the phone "Why doesn't he just keep his eyes clean?" As with all my bad habits, not only is there no easy answer to that question, there's no answer at all. Another resolution in the offing perhaps? Nah. (Side benefit to diligent eye maintenance: I can now see Vanessa Williams better.)
Jeez, this movie is violent. "Ultra-Seltzer"? Major product placement opportunity squandered.
Viv and Jesse hung out with me and the Vai entourage during the hours of waiting at LAX yesterday morning. Jesse charmed the hell out of everyone as is her wont. I've recently gotten another couple of email messages asking why her picture's not on the MK Page. I've resisted the urge 'til now; shall I give in? Nah.
The song "Spectrum" on "Emergency!" is home to a spectacular Larry Young organ solo. Tony is Tony, which is to say godlike, and McLaughlin is in his cool early-70's pre-shred psycho-skronk-funk bag. Oh my God, nearly forgot - on the flight from LA to Tokyo, "The Dance Of Maya" was on the in-flight radio! I had seven and a half aneurysms when it came on.
I needed batteries and the ones at the LAX gift shop were priced $13.50 for two. But I needed batteries, so I got batteries - and they were mislabelled as it happened, actually they were $3.50, still steep but within the realm - so I bought another two, and had fun horrifying Steve and Pia with the incorrect price tag while waiting in line at the LAX Wolfgang Puck restaurant. While in line Steve also (hold on - this guy who's beating on Vanessa right now had better be killed before the end of the movie) apologized about the seating situation on the plane from LA to Tokyo: two seats became available in business class, and as there's three people in the band (other than Steve) these gifts were vouchsafed unto our tour manager and sound guy Gungi (who needs the extra room more than any of us for his horrendously gargantuan Scottish legs) and Rich Pike, Steve's assistant. However I expertly guilted Pike just prior to boarding and got not only the last white chocolate macadamia cookie from the batch given to us by voluptuous travel agent Melissa, but also about five hours in his plane seat, where I half-watched "Independence Day" and half-napped. For this Tokyo/Bangkok flight, Mangini and Bynoe are benefitting, but this flight's miles away from full occupancy so I'm rocking with stretching room here in Economy class.
Vanessa's tormentor has been annihilated. Basically, then, all is well.
We have to sit around forever at the Thailand airport, although Rich Pike's lost suitcase story helps to kill the time (email Richard at GKSMAIL@aol.com for the lost suitcase story), and he reads my "Orgasm" script and is inordinately fond of the line "Boop a doop". Our bags end up not being searched. Steve, Philip and Mike are utterly mobbed by autograph and photo seekers as we make our way through the airport lobby to the vans. I, looking nothing at all like a rock star, am roundly ignored. Keneally awareness among the Thai: looking a lot like zero thus far.
The hotel lobby is beautiful so naturally I expect a miserable room. Once Chris Varrin (production manager and lighting guy) shows me how to insert my key in the wall to make the electricity work (the first time I've encountered this charm-drenched procedure) I see the room, and I see that it's not at all bad. As I relax, admiring the quaint sobriety of the peach-colored couch, savoring the complimentary pound cake chunks, the largest insect in recorded history, a cross between a scarab and a chihuahua, scurries across the front of the couch. Attempts to alternately photograph and kill the beast are unsuccessful. A 3:30 AM walk through the lobby and a 4:30 call to room service merely forestall the inevitable: I'm going to have to rent a suit of armor and an Uzi in order to get any sleep tonight.
The couch upon which I glimpsed the beast.
The cry of the Consumerist American Swine: I'm truly sorry about the economic woes which Thailand currently suffers, but it sure does keep room service costs down. My 4:30 AM meal was possibly the best food I've ever consumed in a hotel room, for a grand total of 12 bucks American (plus the five I gave to the poor waiter who had to visit my room twice, the first time when my attempt to order the food via the phone served only to confuse him utterly). I know now what Nasi Goreng is (and I also finally understand that reference on Proctor & Bergman's "TV Or Not TV") and I know that I like it a great deal. While eating it (plus Thai sausage and peanuts, plus a wicked good ice cream crepe - I am evil) I watched "Cobb" on the tube, speaking of wicked and evil.
Let's say I finally got to sleep around 5:45 AM, with the Harmony Rockets (pseudonym for Mercury Rev) surging through my head (I prefer to sleep with headphones on, it distracts me from my raging tinnitus), radar detector aimed at the scorpion-derivate lurking somewhere behind the couch. Starting from 9:15 AM four attempts are made to rouse me from slumber, in this order: Pike on the phone, Mangini on the phone, housekeeping, housekeeping. The second housekeeping attempt gets me on my feet, but guilt keeps me there - it's 2:30 PM.
(Pike later recounted to me the text of our 9:15 phone conversation.
Richard: It's Richard. Are you awake?
Mike: The "Looks-Like-J" train has passed. It's outta here.
Richard: What? What do you mean?
Mike: You know, the thing, that goes, and looks like, you know...it's passed. It's gone now. [Richard said I sounded genuinely sad about that.]
Richard: It's gonna take me ten minutes to figure that out.)
The bathtub is more than accomodating of my girth. A blast of brown water from the tap provides momentary cause for concern but it soon fades to clear - at least 47% less terrifying than the rustwater of our North Hollywood apartment circa 1990-1994. Bynoe drops by the room around 3:30 to give me some blurred photos of the Vai/BFD leg - the one of Bynoe/Beller possess artistic value - and to make sure I know about the 8:30 PM lobby call for anyone who wishes to enjoy a refreshing beverage in a colorful nearby tavern. (Roger Bell's note proclaiming same had been thrust under my door but not yet perused. Roger is the guitar tech, a magnificent creature.)
Heading out into the world at last, in pursuit of local points of interest, I encounter Gungi on the ground floor and head straight back up to his room on the 24th floor in order to obtain my book of sorcery and fibs, ie. The Itinerary. He informs me that this very hotel is attached to a six-floor shopping structure. Terribly convenient for mallrat I. I trawl the ground floor of the mall and find nothing of immediate interest so I emerge into sunlight on the other end and walk past might-as-well-be-dead dogs and identically attired school girls and fierce looking young men who regard me with disdain and definitely want to kill me. Soon I am joined by the uninvited "Dr. Paul" - "professor" of "philosophy" at a local "university" - who has many polite and interested questions about my business in town and much advice about those much-vaunted local points of interest. He stops me from walking and tells me, with great earnestness, that I must bring silk and sapphire home to my lady, for Bangkok is the home of silk and sapphire. He leads me to directly to a place where, he claims, good food can be had in exchange for American currency (I still haven't changed my money, foolish I). When we arrive I find that it is, wooden cha know, a shop selling wads of silk and sapphire, and my guide is instantly swallowed by a back door, and I am abandoned. My case is then taken over by a friendly young lady behind a counter, and out of deference to her I browse the merchandise for 49.8 seconds before getting the fuck out.
I look for things to photograph. (Steve gave me a lovely camera for my birthday, backstage following the Irving Plaza show, and the addition of it to my arsenal still feels unnatural. My body and mind can only accomodate a set quantity of accoutrement at any given moment, and they reject anything they deem surplus to requirements [eg. three lost sets of gloves on the Vai/BFD tour, and I can't claim the bus fire as the culprit in any of those instances]. I am paranoid about my ability to retain the camera for the duration of this tour.) I find a nice juxtaposition of one of the elephant shrines which liberally dot the landscape and a Nike logo poised behind it. I have to stand in the middle of the street to get the shot and I receive several rewardingly murderous glances from nearby bus occupants for my efforts.
Heading back into the mall I find myself more receptive to its commercial charms - for one thing it smells good, unlike outside (although at one point during the walk I detected an odor which reminded me of my sister and brother-in-law's swimming pool in the late sixties, and made me nostalgic for my days as a single-digit human and my well-pre-teen crush on Susan Turner who lived a few houses down from my sister, and then the smell intensified into a bouilliabase of various unidentifiable objects plus shit, and the nostalgia receded). A video store in the mall features stacks of bootleg versions of the latest US movie sensations, and the muzak therein plays a version of "The Sound Of Silence" which consists only of chord changes, no melody. Meditate on THAT. I wander upstairs through wads of CD shops, clothing stores and restaurants which don't accept traveller's checks, including an intriguing joint named "1950". I still haven't eaten today. Chastened, I finally change my money on the top floor (they call somebody - possibly my hotel - so I attempt to explain how I'm registered under a pseudonym and all that; it doesn't seem to register but whatever, I get the money) and head back to "1950" for the kind of cultural melange which so encompassingly nourishes my big ol' greedy fuckin' soul:
A very young and talented quartet blasts out power ballads a couple of yards to my left. Four bucks brings a large pot of Carlsberg, enough to fill my mug three and a half times. This guy's keyboard rig sounds better than mine, especially my streamlined touring-in-Asia version of a rig (the Alesis QS-7 plus whatever piece of Crumar magic we can scare up in each town). Actually, adjust my praise for his rig - most of the keys are sequenced and/or on tape. Napkins are considered a bourgeois contrivance here in "1950" - instead they provide a wetnap, disguised as a convenience store Hostess apple pie, and after I struggle for seven minutes to open the package I finally succeed, only to find that it's doused with an appalling cologne. I set it to the side, planning to use it anyway at the completion of the meal, and a waitress takes it away, bringing no replacement. No worries; another vat of Carlsberg and all is bliss. The keyboardist is positioned behind a speaker stack, which makes it difficult to see what he is/isn't playing - but I've got my eye on you, you bastard. No one in the room, barring your humble narrator, is overweight. The band now plays "Let's Live For Today" by The Grass Roots, another massive cog in my childhood memory machine. No, I don't think there exists an underground Bangkok Grass Roots appreciation society; I heard a 90's electro-pop version of the tune a half-hour ago in one of the CD shops downstairs, and surely these sprouts' knowledge of the song was delivered via this rendition.
Posters on the wall of "1950" include Guns 'n' Roses (at least 5 different ones), Iron Maiden (2), Firehouse etc.- plus one each of Marilyn (Monroe, not Manson), Elvis and James Dean so that the Thai Truth-in-Advertising board don't barge in and change the name of the place to 1989. If this keyboardist is doing ANYTHING live it's completely inaudible. I feel better about my wizened rig. These guys are good though; I compare their crowd-pleasing ability to that of my early 80's bar band Graphic and I am humbled - and it's not modern technology doing the humbling. The band takes a break, and the keyboardist returns to pick out a melody along with the power ballad on the PA, and is not completely hopeless. Oops, key change - sorry, dude. Why am I such a snob?
I am drunk. The band, back from its break, launches into "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word". God, or somebody, wants me to weep right now.
A fake office and a fake kitchen.
I leave "1950" and wander through the mall. I am enchanted, after trudging through floors of crowded aisles overflowing with T-shirts and electronic devices, to find the home/office furnishings on the fifth floor: room after room of beautifully appointed, unoccupied fake living rooms and offices, strangely redolent of the "Carousel Of Progress" circa 60's. I'm a dead sucker for nostalgic revisitations of past evocations of the future; Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly" album expresses this obsession far more soulfully than I ever could.
On the way back to my room, waiting for the elevator to arrive, I realize that I am really drunk and really happy about it. I've been gone for hours so my room should have been made up; it hasn't been, but seconds after my arrival two maids scurry in apologetically. I stretch out on the couch, too contented to be concerned with the poisonous insect residing somewhere in this quadrant, and bliss out to Harmony Rockets while the maids hurriedly and efficiently beautify my room once again. Shortly thereafter Gungi arrives with 14.8 pounds of work visa papers requiring my Hancock, and I enjoy another half hour of Harmony Rockets-induced nirvana before it's time to convene in the lobby. Gungi taunts me for my long leather coat as it's warm outside. I respond "I really want to wear this coat right now and I'll thank you not to belittle me", specifically for the edification of Roger Bell who tends to really enjoy it when I say things like that (the desired effect is achieved). We pile into a van and drive to a bar. Much alcohol consumed. Details are blurry.
There's a 3:30 lobby call to go to the gig. Between switching channels watching nothing and checking out the "Who By Numbers" CD reissue I manage to postpone my exit from bed until 2:15. Little by little, scattered details of the previous evening come into focus: after stumbling back to the hotel, Pike, Bynoe and I convene in Pike's room, where I enjoy throwing mineral water hither and yon for reasons I currently can't fathom. Pike and I impose our patronage upon the 24-hour restaurant in the lobby, and I impose my musicianship upon the band contained therein. I'm charmed by the bassist's conception of blues changes, which can be summed up concisely as "change chords at will". Back in my own room, the one-two punch of a call to Viv plus yet more Harmony Rockets settles my head to the extent that I believe I was actually asleep by 4:00 AM.
But now it's 2:15 PM and I'm forcing myself to leave the bed. One bath later and I'm back in the lobby restaurant for a 3:00 breakfast (see lyrics to "Transmogrification of Chili (ennui)" for art/real-life correlation). The Vais are a few tables away; I wave and leave them to their meal, I've got some lyrics to write. The food arrives at 3:15, 15 minutes before we're scheduled to depart. Scarf, scribble, run to my room for my suit and I'm in the van at 3:45 next to a Mangini with subtle but perceptible wisps of smoke escaping from his ears. Bad me.
Being here makes me more sensitive to cliches with Asian sterotype at their core. Today's contestant is Gungi, who bellows "Chop! Chop!" as he herds us into the venue. Cringe.
The soundcheck of destiny - this, in addition to being the "one-band-only" tour, is also the "I wonder what my amp and second keyboard will be tonight" tour. Today it's a Marshall and a Roland D-50 respectively. We run "All About Eve", which we've never played live, and into which Steve wants me to insert an improv piano solo; I involuntarily lapse into Tommy Mars/"Yo Mama" free-time-midsection-before-Bozzio-re-enters mode, of which Steve heartily approves despite my misgivings.
Steve wants to insert each country's national anthem into "Twist And Shout" during the tour. Today I do not trust the star-struck lad who provided us with the melody of Thailand's anthem during soundcheck - his rhythm scheme seemed overly informed by awe. (During the performance of the anthem during the show, I opt to leave Steve to the melody [we're supposed to be playing it in octaves] rather than risk playing the song incorrectly. Rich says he saw one guy in the crowd with his hand on his heart during our rendition - if I had piped in with my contribution to the arrangement his hand might have found its way to a weapon instead.
A provider of comfort.
Before the show I photograph different aspects of the venue. A Charlie Parker poster in the foyer provides comfort. Mangini is loudly starving backstage and the provided "tuna sandwiches" (accurately described by Bynoe as "mayonnaise sandwiches with a few carrots", although mine sports sporadic lumps of tuna) do not satisfy. Finally, and I do not exaggerate, fifteen pizzas arrive. Proper. Doors take forever to open, and the opening act does not begin until five minutes before our own scheduled starting time. However, they only play for, and I do not exaggerate, fifteen minutes, about half of which is devoted to their rousing rendition of "Sunshine Of Your Love". So we don't start too late. We do play forever though. "Christmas Time Is Here", the Charlie Brown Christmas tune which was a fixture of the Nov./Dec. shows (and which Steve got the idea to perform after hearing me play it on a backstage piano - BFD actually did the song as a trio just before Christmas '95 at Bourbon Square), has been cut of course, but in its place is the "Vai Delay Solo/Yo Mama midsection Keneally Variations/All About Eve" which is a much longer setpiece, PLUS "Twist And Shout/Local National Anthem Please Don't Kill Us If We Play It Wrong Variation" later in the set. Even without "Liberty" in the encore this particular evening it's a two and a quarter hour show, and feels longer. What can we remove? What can a poor band do?
We're anxious to leave, so we're glad that there's only minimal autograph/photo-op activity following the show, although there is a large and barricaded pile of people which we must, regrettably, ignore as we make our way to the van. In the US it was never a problem to deal with post-show fans lingering near the tour bus, there are rarely more than 30 or so. Here we wouldn't have time to interact with all the waiting fans even if we were inclined to do so. Eager hands slam the windows as we drive through a throng, people are running alongside the van as we pick up speed - it's Vaimania. Two cabs filled with fans follow our van to the hotel, so there are more autographs on the front steps, plus a couple of women from a local magazine who want to interview me. My room is reasonably tidy so I consent to do the interview there. The one doing the talking is named Toey, and I apologize for not recalling the name of the one doing the sitting and looking around. Philip calls to let me know that it is essential for us to sit in with the lobby band, and I suggest to the interviewers that they head down there and I'll be along shortly. I lapse into a brief episode of sleepy post-gig solitude, then go to the bar where Gungi, Roger and a friend of Roger's are egging Philip on, who is beaming his way through a bouquet of funk classics, utterly at home. A friend of the band has brought his Paul Reed Smith guitar, festooned with Jamaican colors, and would like for me to play it. I get on the stage and use the guitar on "House Of The Rising Sun" and "Get Down On It" (during which Phil walks over to me, says "I'm playing Kool & The Gang with Mike Keneally" and walks away again), then sit down again and enjoy Philip grooving, grinning and shimmying like a madman. I jump back on stage when it becomes evident that "Hotel California" doesn't have enough backing vocalists. For the final verse and outchorus of "Get Ready" I'm handed a mic and a lyric sheet and am permitted to vocalize without leaving the confines of my seat in the audience. Toey is a little affronted that the band (all of whom are generous and lovely people) aren't aware of how magnificent I really am. I tell her that they don't need to know.
Back in my room I'm so desperate not to fall asleep ('though I do drowse through the end of "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway") that I allow "Beverly Hills Cop 3" to keep me up until 5:30 AM. Is there a name for this sickness? (It's not insomnia - if I actually wanted to go to sleep I could do so within minutes.) I know! Let's call it "idiocy".
Awaken before 9:00 AM to put my bags outside the door, listen to "Who By Numbers" all the way through for the first time, bathe, check out and wait in the lobby for the Vais, who've enlisted Mr. Mangini to help negotiate a lower price on the pricey piece of art they've purchased in the shopping center next door. (Mangini LOVES to haggle and is unfailingly successful at it - he's got the charm, or as he might say in his Bostonian way the CHOM.) Have a nice discussion in the van about art as an investment as we drive to the airport. A friend of Mike's spent $14,000 on a silver replica of the alien from "Alien" (it transpires that it was an original Giger, but for a second we were all freaking). My last 200 baht are spent on KFC at the airport for me and Pike. We have a nice discussion about when he first moved to LA and started coming to BFD shows, and I try to get him to explain me from his perspective. I really don't have a grasp on what people see and hear when they see and hear me. One time, baked out of gourd, I watched a BFD video and got very close to total detachment from the guy on screen. I liked what I saw a whole lot, but that was only one time, and I was really very thoroughly baked. Rich & I discuss my fleeting suicidal impulses. He says Jesse alone should be more than enough to keep me around, and I agree wholeheartedly; if it weren't for her I'd have been out of here in '94. Rich takes pains to make me aware of what I have to offer and what a loss it would be (he's such a nice guy), and I try to describe the pain of creation without sounding insufferably fucking pompous, and fail, of course.
My friend Rich.
Pike and I are bonding so it's nice that we're seated together on the plane to Taipei. This is the flight wherein we receive the rice crackers of destiny, with a package sporting the deathless phrase: "Digging into boring pie, getting out of boring time" with the words "boring pie" inexplicably highlighted. Magee throws food at us, one slimy glump of which almost hits the in-progress score for "Egg Zooming" (I write about four bars during the flight, which takes me two hours working out the harmonies - what I'd give for a laptop Synclavier). I yell "STOP" at the top of my lungs: effective. Later Magee will yell as well, when the plane, bound entirely in fog, slams impolitely to a landing - Richard hadn't realized we'd even begun our descent. Entertainment on the plane is not too diverting: a well-worn episode of "Mad About You", and a slam-bang installment of "Nash Bridges", don't dissuade me from my various tasks of journalizing, "Egg Zooming"-ing, and snoozing like a mofo.
The exit from the airport is expeditious in the extreme, as we are aided by our two charming promoter-provided translators, Jessie and Debbie. A reasonable phalanx of admirers at the airport, nothing too delay-inducing. I am again ignored - two for two. During the drive to the hotel Mangini is driven to a giggling fit when, in search of a term for an analog-digital hybrid recording medium, I propose "Anusol". Truly a "you had to be there" moment. Steve borrows Mangini's little dictation thingy and records Mangini's relentless gigglage, as well as a rendition of Taiwan's national anthem as sung by a knowledgable passenger whose name and occupation I never discover. Most of the ride is spent warbling TV themes and pop classics from the 60's and 70's. Revelation of the ride: Steve and I share a ferocious, heart-bursting adoration for the song "To Sir With Love".
Hey, look! It's a photo-op in the lobby.
Arrival at the Grand Formosa Regent: a scene. Photographers, staff, onlookers scurry. Four girls, each with a bouquet of flowers, present them to each band member. The girl entrusted with locating "Skeezitz" has trouble finding me, and spying my nom-de-plume on a large envelope in her hand, I chase her down and get my damn flowers. She apologizes for ten minutes. Photo-op in the lobby, then the bouquet girls lead us to our rooms and give us a little tour - "here's the bed, here's the TV" - granted, the room is bloody enormous. It's all a bit dizzying.
I find myself wishing that the Zappa band had come here in '88 - they'd have given us the deed to the hotel and the key to the city. Amy, my still-apologetic flower girl, continues the tour of my majestically appointed room; the bathroom alone is the size of some of the hotel rooms from the Vai/BFD tour. Little touches make things sweet: the four-door wardrobe, a bowl of fresh fruit, bon-bons atop the TV, impressively well-stocked mini-bar, full complement of beautification products by the sink - and I'm charmed by the packaging: the shampoo, conditioner, bath foam and body lotion come in four boxes which form a lovely little diorama when lined up properly.
The bottles themselves are models of elegant understatement: the shampoo says only "Shampoo". No "Manufactured expressly for Holiday Inn by Bob's Shampooiers", no excess typography of any kind. The "Led Zeppelin 4" of hair care products.
I think this is lovely.
I load down the tub with bath salts AND bath foam and sink into a sinfully warm, perfumed heaven; my personal paradise is made complete when I crack open the shampoo and find it to be a variation on Herbal Essence, the shampoo of my teen years. Suddenly I'm 14, standing in the shower in the house on Pebble Beach Drive in Santee, thumbnailing the peeling label, watching the green film clinging to the insides of the bottle. Sigh.
Phone call to Bynoe:
Mike: Are you DYING?
Philip: Wasn't it a few weeks ago we were staying where Jeffrey Dahmer ate a bunch of people?
Philip: This is deep.
Indeed it is.
Sony and Master Arts (the label and promoter respectively) are hosting a dinner for band and crew on the top floor. A nine-course meal, from which one single course - the shark's fin soup, f'rinstance - might set you back $100 at a five-star restaurant in the US. The middle of the table, which is round and huge, is an enormous, rotating lazy susan, or "energetic susan" as I dub it for it gets a good workout this evening: Mangini has a flash of brilliance and mounts Magee's video camera on it, then rotates the susan, achieving a long slow tracking shot of the entire assemblage. The foodly decadence of the occasion, combined with bottomless glasses of good beer, make a number of us very silly. A sizable group spends at least half an hour mired in a giggling fit, while Steve gamely tries to concentrate on talking biz with the honchos. (One thing in particular kills me; while we were in our van and Mike was giggling at my Anusol quip, the other van's occupants were being crippled by a classic Mageeism. Varrin asked Debbie how many people lived in Taiwan. Debbie, perhaps not knowing the question had been directed toward her, remained silent. Chris asked "Are you counting them one by one?" To which Magee responded, "Well, there's Chang the baker...") Most memorable culinary moment: as a substitute for spare ribs, Philip the non-red-meat-eating bass player is served a sea cucumber, aptly described by Matthew (a very highly-placed American at Sony Taiwan) as basically "a slug, with the consistency of a phlegm ball". Philip takes a bite which he cannot swallow and quickly leaves the room to dispense it somewhere. Which means that I have to try it, of course. Thank God for beer.
Philip and I are taken by Debbie to a street lined with pubs. We bypass the charms of "The K-9 Club", "Boston Cheers" and "Hollywood Baby" and settle on "The Farmhouse". Upstairs a band is playing and no seats are available; downstairs the only entertainment is billiards and there's loads of seating at the bar. I choke back a "banana" "daquiri" as Debbie charms us with tales of the parochial attitudes of the males of her acquaintance (they shun her because she's "too fashionable") and her professions of admiration for here "role model", Oprah Winfrey. Debbie's English and sense of humor are superb, and she has no idea how cool she is, making her all the cooler.
We leave the bar and walk about the surrounding area, highlighted by "My Market", rows of food vendors who ply their trade in the street until 3:00 AM. We close down shop much sooner than that; satisfied that "night life" has been duly tasted, we hail a cab and we're sealed in our rooms by 1:00 AM. The TV and mini-bar keep me awake until at least 5:00.
I'm up by 9:30, in the bath and out the door by 10:15 hoping to find food, but I find Philip instead, and he's even better than food. He, Mangini and promoter-supplied translator girl Jessie (who gets a call on her cel phone every 47 seconds) are going shopping, and along I tag. MM is looking for a silk dinner jacket, suave, simple and with a soupcon of hip, but not too dangerous, and Jessie's assignment is to locate an appropriate vendor for such an item. She chooses a 10-level shopping structure, kind of tatty but loaded with personality. I ensconce myself in a restaurant and have her order me some rice with beef nearby; it comes with numerous additional food things, many of which can be eaten. Meanwhile Bynoe relishes the prospect of buying a shirt and Magnini (shock of shocks!) haggles with the silk jacket vendor. I'm pleased to photograph a storefront sign reading "MOOK".
The excursion: successful on all fronts. We walk the streets, I photograph my three companions and a big bunch of rubble. Tower Records is here: frightening. I shouldn't be allowed near the jazz section with a Visa. I exit shuddering.
L to R: Mangini, Jessie, Bynoe.
There is ample time to write before leaving for soundcheck, and in my room I do so. Housekeeping wants in, and as in Bangkok I stretch out on the couch and go about my biz as the cleaning takes place, a pasttime I'm beginning to find curiously pleasant.
Laugh-filled ride to the venue. The rhythm section and I are still giddy from last night. I try to get a photo of the word "putzmeister" on a large yellow vehicle adjacent to the our van, but I'm certain that I don't. Mangini is kind enough to capture it on video - a great comfort to me.
The photo I got instead of "putzmeister."
Interesting venue. Big, with a lot of red chairs going way up high. Huge guy (a statue) in the lobby (he for whom the venue is named - of course I've forgotten the actual name, sorry) with a couple of unmoving guards who are taunted by a couple of local punks (I consider being angry at them, then the punks start practicing military locksteps so perhaps they are unmoving-guards-in-training who taunt while they still can). The unmoving ones slowly begin to move, eerie slow-motion unison honor guard gestures, like something out of an early They Might Be Giants video. Soon they're joined by a small phalanx of others like them and they walk militarily about the lobby while civilians photograph them or just stand and look.
Today's amp of destiny: a Marshall 800 series, with no effects loop which means unwanted noise all night since I can't regulate it with my volume pedal, and no second channel or boost function which means crafty manipulation of the amp gain control and the guitar volume knob on the fly. Hey, I relish a challenge. Today's synth 2 of destiny: of all things, a Roland JD-800, the same model I normally use with Steve (the one I normally use is in fact Steve's synth). The sounds in this one are actually real nice, richer sounding than the patches in Steve's. Weird thing: A-440 on this keyboard is nothing CLOSE to being in tune. I'll be master-tune-adjusting to Steve's guitar all night. Another challenge! Pile 'em on!
Sony and Master Arts people are all around; in the wings, in the dressing rooms, in the seats (applauding level checks!). We arrive at the venue pre-Steve (standard procedure, it's always at least an hour after our arrival that the guitar player makes his appearance) and tear through foil-covered plates of oily pasta and seasoned potatoes. I play "Montana" as a guitar check and Gungi compliments my "Pygmy Pony", taking me aback somewhat (hadn't known he was aware of the tune's existence). Steve arrives and we run "Eve" and a couple of other things. No national anthem for Taipei; Steve's been advised that it might offend - it all connects to the big guy in the lobby somehow. A photo session with some contest winners and transplanted Chicagoan turned Taiwan-TV rock show hostess "Samantha Party" goes smoothly.
During a pre-show huddle we try to work out ways to shorten the show. We figure we need to cut about 40 minutes. So we cut one song, "Greasy Kids' Stuff", and move "Blowfish" from its cradle near show's end further up in the running order to replace it. Well, that's two and a half minutes cut, but it forms a sharper angle at the outset and paves the way for a smoother finish; swapping the positions of "Kill The Guy" and "Twist and Shout" greases that runway further, though it opens several new cans of segue-related fish in the process and it will be a couple of shows before the new order sloughs its mystery and becomes one with us.
The audience is plainly ready to be entertained and their enthusiasm is unflagging, which also helps the pace of the show, unquestionably superior to Bangkok's. Steve runs out among the crowd during "Answers", a gesture which, when employed in the US, elicits delighted expressions and hearty slaps to Steve's back as he darts past. In Taipei, it is as if Steve has (as Mangini's beyond-perfect description would have it) "kicked over a beehive". Steve retreats to the shadows momentarily to give the bees some time to reflect on what the appropriate behavior might be for this situation. A second attempt brings the same reaction as the first, and a wiser Steve returns to his rightful perch atop the stage. The boy who comes up onstage during the conducting seems to be fulfilling a life-long fantasy. Most participants in this exercise (in which an audience member, or "punter" as those lively Brits like to say, is invited to "conduct" the band and we provide sounds which correspond to their gestures - Zappa homage) meekly dart the air with fingers while wearing embarrassed grins, or they do nothing at all, seemingly unwilling to entertain the possibility that this group of accomplished musos is not only able, but extremely willing to give voice to the punter's whim. The boy from Taipei, up onstage in view of the crowd (most participants do their thing from the audience, which means most of the crowd can't see what they're kind of doing), executes a series of Townshendian windmills, and ends with an enormous leap in the air, signalling the final downbeat with his landing. The audience goes, really, wild. It would not have surprised me to learn that the lad had achieved orgasm in the process.
The post-show industry hang is warm and filled with smile. A deputy managing director of Sony Taiwan wants to hear some Keneally music. Debbie has many kind things to say of my performance; she is a sweetheart. Back at the hotel I want a half-hour of solitude before the evening's revelry, and I have it.
Air Supply are also staying at this hotel, and their drummer Chris hits up Bynoe and I for companionship, accompanying us plus Debbie to a club called Kiss Lounge. Therein resides New Religion, possibly the most accomplished and engaging cover band I've ever witnessed (they also have original material), switching off instruments and lead vocal duties and styles (from Coolio to Presley in the blink of an eye) effortlessly and whipping the crowd into a frenzy. We hang out in their dressing room during a lengthy break and they are very nice to us. They're procuring distribution for their first album, and will be the house band at Kiss Lounge until the end of March - if you're in Taipei, stop in and tell them I said hi.
Hey, look! It's New Religion.
I have a bizarre night tonight - I simply refuse to allow myself to fall asleep at all. I watch "Harry And Tonto" and the original "Incredible Hulk" TV-movie (not bad!) and order room service and take a bath, and finally I sleep from 8:00 to 9:30 AM, at which time we have to check out and go to the airport. It's inexcusable. I'm fully zombified.
All they have to eat at the airport are those spongy white bun things. I order one with cabbage and vegetables, and it is filled with pork. Happy breakfast! Go to Gate 17 and discover that my CD player is gone. I hadn't gone to use it for two days - very rare for me - and it seems I left it at the hotel in Bangkok (with "Who By Numbers" still inside). Maybe Sony in Tokyo will cut me a deal on a new one. I can't even phone the hotel to see whether or not they've got it because Taiwan is blocking all calls to Thailand for some no doubt politically sound reason. Fuck.
The flight is full and a four-seat row consists of, L to R, Mangini, me, Magee and Varrin. Magee and I are both bulky and should not be forced to sit so close to one another, but forced are we. I prove to myself that I'm not completely android by nodding off, but am conscious for some portion of Mangini's ordeal with the 3'10" Taiwanese octagenarian in the seat behind him: every time he tries to tilt his seat back, she reaches around and hits him on the shoulder. At first it was just a couple of slaps so Mike puts on his sunglasses and puts his hair in a bun and gives her some funny looks which make her smile. But when attempts one last time to recline, she raps him hard, eight times in quick succession, trash-talking him all the while. Mike can only giggle at the absurdity of it and he concedes defeat, terming it "a 7th round knockout".
The plane hits turbulence and drops rapidly, prompting a loud "...the FUCK!" from Magee, who's wearing headphones and doesn't know how loud he is. At the end of the flight, Mangini tries his new trick, saying "Booooh!" before the plane itself says "Booooh!" to signal that it's OK to get up and scour the overhead compartments, and seeing how many people fall for Mangini's fakery. Gungi gets reeled in this time - score!! Then Mangini parks himself in the aisle in front of the old lady and just stands there, impeding her progress towards the exit. She must be restrained by a traveling companion from attacking him.
Aki is our handler for the entirety of our Japanese tour and he shepherds us through and out of Narita Airport with ruthless efficiency. All of us, that is, except for Steve and Pia, who got in the wrong line and are dealing with the slowest little old lady immigration officer in Japan, sorely testing Steve's Zen-like calm. Phil, Mike and I sit outside in a van waiting for all the people and gear to be gathered. Mike amuses himself and us by concealing himself from view and shrieking unintelligible noises at passersby, eg. "FNAAAH!!!" Some girls walk by and Mike opens the side door to annoy them, and the blonde says "Michael MANGINI??!!" They'd met in Vancouver several years ago, although it takes Mike a few minutes a few minutes to come to that conclusion (the tip-offs were her accent and usage of the word "wicked") - until that revelation Mike has trouble remembering where they'd met, which leaves him a bit shaken.
The van ride from Narita to the Capitol Tokyu Hotel is endless. It's enlivened by Mangini's Chick Corea Verve compilation CD, prompting all kinds of Corea/RTF nostalgia in Vai and I (we seem to have listened to exactly the same albums during our formative periods), but poor Pia is desperate for the ride to end. One word, one goal, is foremost in the group mind: noodles. We can't wait to get to the hotel and take to the street and find a real Japanese noodle house and sit and eat noodles in it.
Nice reception for us in the hotel lobby, with representatives from Sony and our promoter, Mr. Udo (a legendary figure - his John Smothers-mangled name was immortalized in FZ's "Dong Work For Yuda"). Mangini had remembered from an Extreme tour that this hotel was especially fine, and had us all convinced that it would be nicer than our Taipei hotel, but nah. Taipei was absurd; Pia says she'd never stayed in a nicer place during any of Steve's past tours - we're talking David Lee Roth and Whitesnake here, remember.
I open my luggage and find my CD player. Call off the artillery. Then I watch some spectacularly odd Kabuki theatre.
The streets are hit - Me, Steve, Pia, Mangini, Philip, Roger and Magee. Both Varrin and Pike are very ill, Pike especially worryingly so (his condition will improve slowly but steadily over the next few days) - the Taipei dinner disagreed with them violently. Those of us who make the trip are giddy, happy, laughing, joking and having fun. I believe that Magee is the first to notice that the man silhouetted on the street signs and walk/don't walk signs bears a certain resemblance to yours truly, so an eye is kept out for further Keneally appearances and variations.
Mangini knows exactly which street to turn down in order find exactly the sort of noodle-dispensing establishment we crave, preferrably with plastic replicas of the food but with photos at the very least, so that all you have to do to order is point and say "That". But Roger wants to walk a little further before turning, and Mike agrees, although the inflection in his voice as he is agreeing quite plainly says "you're WRONG and I HATE the idea that you're having right now and forcing us to implement". A restaurant which looks "nice" meets Steve's approval and we file in. The language gap is extreme, but all the gesturing and loud slow talking lead to one inescapable conclusion - no noodles here (except for a smattering of fried ones). Mangini is quietly distraught, but we forsake him and go ahead and order anyway. Steve and Pia have a note, translated into Japanese by the Capitol Tokyu concierge, explaining what they cannot eat (meat, fish, eggs etc.) as well as what they like (tofu, vegetables etc. although Steve forgot to mention noodles to the concierge so it's missing from the note). The food, when it finally arrives, is perfectly fine. Magee admits failure with the chopsticks and asks for silverware (his facility with the sticks grows admirably as the tour progresses. Magee is responsible, every show day, for one of the highlights of soundcheck: when he does a drum check, he executes the pedestrian rhythms one would expect from a novice drummer, timid fills, uncountable time singatures and all - then suddenly launches into a hair-raising torrent of machine-gun-precise double-bass-drum dementia. This lad's got some serious feet on him). For my first meal in Tokyo I get sushi - not exactly adventurous, but dependably delicious, as are two beers. Phil still hasn't received his final thing of food, some sort of salmon-related dish, when the rest of us decide to leave, but he absolves us from guilt and we're on our way. Later he will describe the morsel for which he waited so patiently as miserably small, served on a "saucer napkin", and hurled by the waitress onto the table in front of him in a most unappetizing way.
Roger and Magee return to the hotel, and Steve, Pia, Michael and I continue to wander in a state of unmediated glee. Jokes are flying a mile a minute and we're all just so damn happy. I'm reminded yet again of how much I've grown to love these people in such a short time. I wasn't particularly looking forward to this leg of the tour - I loved being home after the Vai/BFD tour. Jesse is such a complete person, expressing herself rampantly all the time, and she's so adorable and so much fun to be with. I surely had a lovely time with Viv as well; and the three days I spent working on my next album were so productive and fun that I wished I could just keep working 'til the thing was done. I was also fully aware that the lack of BFD on this bill meant I wouldn't be getting my musical rocks off to the extent that I had on the last tour. So I entered this phase of my Vai experience with an arrow bag of sharp misgivings. Well, you know this paragraph is headed for a happy ending, so I'll cut to the chase: I'm a lot happier than I thought I'd be.
We happen across PRECISELY the kind of noodle house to which Mangini was prepared to steer us in the first place, and we know at that moment that there exists no law, person or guilt impulse which can or should stop us from entering this establishment and eating a second dinner. And this we do. And we are ever more joyful. And we return to the street to make more silly jokes (I see a sign reading "JCB Cards" and say "look, we can get Jimmy Carl Black cards here" which cracks Steve up - "that's so OUT" - and I make a Han Solo masturbation joke which Mangini knew I was going to say but which makes everyone laugh anyway) and just have such a damn fuckin' happy time walking back to the hotel in preparation for the next destination: The Lexington Queen (aka The Lex), a legendary bar which is always populated by whichever models and touring rock acts (both sorts of people get in free) are working in the area. While there, fun is had and whiskey imbibed in no small quantity. Steve and Pia hang for a bit but leave before it gets too crowded, a condition which eventually forces me out into the night for an air break. The bar is no more than three blocks from the Roppongi Hotel Ibis, site of my most contentious bouts with despair during the 1995 "Dust Speck" promo jaunt. Entering the hotel my emotions are conflicting...there's contentment mixed with smugness stemming from my currently improved condition, but also a distinct small terror, shock at how close I came to offing myself in this place. I exit.
I hit up the bookstore which provided succor in '95 and buy "Crash". Upon my return to The Lex Gungi is horrified that I would bring something as inappropriate as a BOOK into such a place, although the subject matter edifies his somewhat (eventually he'll borrow it from me). I sit amidst the revelry and read silently, feeling like Thunes at a Z rehearsal. At 1:00 AM, over Gungi's protestations, I return to the hotel, intending to write. Instead I become entranced by the radio installed in the bedside lamp table. The station on the far right is the most rewarding. I've had some remarkable luck with hotel radios in my day, especially in the middle of the night - I remember the otherwordly organ music which thrilled my soul in Paris in '88, and the one transcendent moment from Japan '95, when flute music from one station and vocal music from another were accidentally layered on an adjacent frequency, forming a music of astounding logic and impossible loveliness. I'm so grateful to have had these experiences with late-night radio in hotels in far-flung lands; they have been unique and beautiful episodes of my life.
In the daylight I drowse and let the radio infect my dreams. There's some amazing sax-led stuff, and another batch of very modern music using a soprano voice to great effect. Finally I peel myself off of the bed, bathe and obtain per diem from Gungi. My attempt to change money from Taiwan last night was a failure. Taiwan won't let me phone Thailand, and now Japan won't change my Taiwanese money. Can't we all just get along?
I cab it to Wave, the Roppongi record store which also offered comfort in '95. I nearly spend about $100 on a variety of CD's representing a variety of Coltrane's performances at the Village Vanguard, but resist, rationalizing that one day Impulse! in the US will get their shit together and stick the whole lot in a box, remastered and cheaper than these. Maybe. Sony Japan has just released a beautiful series of Miles CD reissues in accurately reproduced tiny album covers (I die over that sort of thing) but I rationalize against THAT purchase by imagining myself encountering a benevolent Sony exec during the tour and begging him for them. I thus don't spend about $200 and exit another record store shuddering, but not before seeing a nice display of MSI "Half Alive In Hollywood"s poised between Marilyn Manson and the "Evita" soundtrack. (Oh, hey, it turns out that MSI DIDN'T print all the dialogue from the live album in their insert, just the lyrics, primarily for space reasons. So the "Half Alive - All The Words" portion of this website contains a whole lot of text which is, in fact, unique to this page. Rejoice, MK Page regulars!)
After stopping at Johnny Rockets for a cheeboiguh and a spot of journalizing, it's time to return to the hotel and then to occupy a van hurtling inexorably towards Kawasaki, site of our debut Japanese performance. A member of our touring unit bemoans his inability to connect with any of the models the previous evening. He fell in love with a stunning 18-year old in a white hat named Mary. He tells of going home and falling asleep while hugging his pillow. Steve's response: "You're breaking my fucking heart".
Arrive at the gig and joy of joys! All of our regular gear is here, and shall be for the entirety of our Japanese residence. I eat half a tuna sandwich (consisting of bread, and tuna!) and grab one of those skinny Coke cans (when really cold, the best tasting Coca-Cola in the world is contained in these skinny Japanese cans) and become reacquainted with my world.
There's also an acoustic-electric upon which I'm to play "All About Eve". It's not a good guitar, but we run the tune and it sounds nice, it's a good texture. We give "San San Nana Byoushi" (bonus track from the Japanese "Alien Love Secrets") a shot as well - not ready yet. We'll return to it another time.
During soundcheck a copy of the brand new tour book is brought to the stage, over Gungi's objections ("Put that down! We don't have time!" He's right - doors are 20 minutes late) and to Mangini's delighted cries of "'Smell The Glove' has arrived!" The photo of himself which Roger had asked be burned is, of course, included, which makes what has already been a marvelous day for our Rog even more special. A member of our touring unit is taken aback by the inclusion in the book of his ass (Pia chastens Steve for including it without obtaining the ass's owner's compliance), Mangini is plainly miffed by the complete absence of his own ass (seeing as how he's more than pleased to reveal it given any opportunity to do so), and I'm just pleased that my photo of Mangini at the wheel of our G3 tour bus (John the driver had to piss and Mike took over for a few minutes, giggling madly) is included and turned out so well (although I'm not credited for the photo), that there aren't any typos in my webpage address, and that the profile I wrote about Steve has been printed absolutely verbatim. (The profile is as follows, to best of my recollection [I don't have the tour book handy at the moment]:
"Male since birth, Steve has a reputation for perfectionism which is surpassed only by his ability to fill every available inch of a tour bus with health food in fifteen minutes or less.
Hobbies include riding his bike to the gym, being at the gym, riding his bike back from the gym and soundchecking until five minutes before doors.
Some of Steve's more starstruck admirers, many of whom believe him to be a visitor from another galaxy, might be surprised by the down-to-earth nature of Steve's sense of humor - just ask Rich Pike what Steve gave him for Christmas last year.
Mr. Vai is also a guitarist of some renown.")
I wouldn't say that I'm thrilled with the photos of me in the tour book, but how in hell could I be - they're photos of me. There aren't enough tour books for the band yet, but we do each receive a copy of Young Guitar's "Steve Vai 100%" special issue, as much a tribute to the obsessive devotion to completism which is a hallmark of the Japanese guitar journalism industry as it is a tribute to Steven.
I scramble some eggs in the catering room while discussing eggs with Pia. I sit and eat the eggs I scrambled along with some toast (the Dave Gregory breakfast combo) about five minutes before our scheduled start time, which is 6:30 PM. It's hard to work up a real frenzy about performing at this early hour.
The audience is far less interested in working up a frenzy. Holy cow. My solo performance at the Tokyo record shop in 1995 elicited a louder response, and there were less than 40 people there. But even the dead crowd is not as disheartening as me completing my little Keneally moment prior to "Eve" (I'm starting to steer the "moment" away from "Yo Mama" land, stretching out harmonically and playing guitar as well as piano), walking over to the acoustic guitar on its stand-alone stand, strumming the downbeat to "Eve" and hearing it through the side fills, TREMENDOUSLY out of tune - not even in this hemisphere. I should stop the song but I don't. I wait for Steve to stop the song but he doesn't. It's total nightmare time, equivalent to forgetting your locker number, your class schedule, the dialogue of the play you're in and your pants all in one dream. We say good night at the end of the show and the audience applauds and cheers for a few seconds, then fall completely silent before all of us have even left the stage. Eventually they get a polite little unison clapping thing going, but we make them wait for an encore for much longer than usual. Certainly Japanese audiences are famously reserved, but this is absurd - Steve's never experienced anything like it. We played well, not the best show imaginable, but more than respectable. It leaves us all uneasy and frustrated. As I change out of my stage clothes I think how wonderful it would be to be totally honest with such a crowd: "Thanks for being the least responsive audience ever! WE! DISLIKE! YOU!!!"
The first three tunes were recorded for use in TV promo material and we pile into a small dressing room to watch and hear. Gungi was unable to monitor the sound feed to the video master, and there's nothing but guitar on it. He assures us that it doesn't sound that way in the house but we have a good time complaining. The video is not approved for use. Steve asks "What do they want to use this tape for?" and Mangini, just before leaving the room, exclaims "Kindling!" leaving the rest of the band in hysterics and the Japanese crew and TV reps in confusion.
Noodles! Post-show dinner in the dressing room is noodle heaven. Steve's got these huge, yeasty things in his bowl - earthworms. I lose nerve and don't eat quail eggs, although I'm callous enough to impale one on a chopstick. Many Sapporos are consumed happily, and many more are brought with us in an MTV bag which once contained an MTV shirt which had been given to Steve (I inherit the shirt as well as the bag). At the end of the alley in which our van is parked is a group of autograph seekers, small enough to be dealt with safely, so the four of us walk down to greet them. A mini-riot ensues with people shoving past each other and guards leaping in to restrain them. It's a more passionate response than the entire audience had given us inside the venue. Amazing. Once they calm down they're nice and manageable, although the guards' supervision remains rough and unyielding - perhaps they understand the fans' mindset better than we, or perhaps the guards are assholes. In the van we talk about Kevin Spacey's impersonation of Christopher Walken on "Saturday Night Live", "Se7en" and other totems of pop culture.
Sapporos and potato chips are brought to Mangini's room where Mike, Philip and I convene after packing and putting our bags in the hallway for pickup. We ridicule whoever we see on the TV and watch a gimmicky, high-tech BBC documentary about modern warfare technology, somehow both repellent and seductive (the desired effect?). I retire to my room but not before instructing Mangini to phone me the moment he discovers whether or not the Super Bowl is airing here, a topic much on many minds among us. I read a couple of "Crash" chapters and it exerts an influence on the brief journal entry I then execute (see "Day 5", the section about the pre-show huddle, Steve's journey into the audience and the onstage conducting participant). Then I clamp on the headphones, feed my head with Cannonball and Miles' "Something Else" and all is bliss, all is bliss.
Thank you Michael - the diminutive drummer awakens me at 8:30 AM, just after kickoff. Early Monday morning in Tokyo and I'm watching the Super Bowl, live. A big, terrible American breakfast is delivered to my room and I devour every atom of it. The Packers are the only team I have any chemical inclination toward boostering, thanks to my need to ingratiate myself with Rene Kaprielian in fourth grade, so a part of my DNA is very pleased with the game's outcome (even though Bostonians Magee and Mangini experience deep depression).
The game ends two minutes after we're supposed to be in a car driving to the bullet train station, and I haven't even checked out yet - bad I - so I hie myself hastily downward, the biz is done and before you can say "oolong" we're on the bullet train hurtling Nagoya-ward. Get a couple of journal pages done and eat finger sandwiches while Steve and Mike scrutinize the new Nuno album (big thumbs up from both. I look forward to hearing it; that guy's got a lot of music in him, and it's no accident that "Confessions" is Dweezil's best album).
Three black cars which look exactly like the ones which brought us to the Tokyo station pick us up at the Nagoya station - a miracle of physics. The Nagoya Hilton is yet another lovely establishment. Most of our party descend upon the pastry cart in the lobby, but I need to head straight up to my room - only 45 minutes until it's time to leave for the venue and if I don't take a bath right now it could be considered just cause for dismissal.
At the gig we are led up three flights of stairs to our dressing room, and I have nightmare flashbacks to G3, where the venues often featured many flights of stairs, no (or broken) elevators, and a Vai dressing room invariably at the very top (third-billed y'see). But it turns out that there is a working elevator, it just hadn't been located at the time of our arrival. Bliss. Our dressing room has nice furniture and Mangini instantly seeks and finds the comf of the couch. There's a TV which bellows a rainbow stream of non-stop Japanimation, and there's another cooler of Sapporo (now there's a welcome trend). Catering room is down the hall, with the same corroded beverage cooler and tuna-centered pre-soundcheck vittles as last night, so it appears that we are being followed.
Another nice red-seat venue, and a lengthy soundcheck. I get into the keyboards and play a bunch of Steely Dan songs, Bynoe knows a lot of the changes and provides them, Mangini provides amusement as he attempts to provide grooves for songs he's clearly never heard before. Some Sony types watch from the wings and assist us in learning the national anthem. Run "Eve" again (and tonight Roger will be all about tuning the acoustic at the last possible minute and sparing me another duty-dance with death). Mangini is keyed up about his click, about the order of business in soundcheck, about the wishes of others wreaking EQ havoc with his headphone-monitor mix - these things, plus a couple of very unwelcome blasts of ADAT output from the wedges, and another failed attempt at "San San" (we need more time to phrase the percussion responses properly) result in what had formerly been a pretty relaxed soundcheck turning frenetic and tense. But all is sweetness and light back in the dressing room, and Steve and I discover another common cornerstone in the foundation of our musical/emotional psyches: "Where Is Love" from the musical "Oliver!" affects us the same way "To Sir With Love" does. (We're also both "West Side Story" fanatics - I tell Steve that considering how much we love certain show tunes we really ought to be gay.)
Turns out to be a beautiful show tonight (despite another 6:30 start time) and the audience responds very beautifully. Eeep - maybe it WAS us last night. I run a little farther with my "moment" tonight, far enough that I check in with Steve during the drum solo to see if he appreciates the direction it's taking - he loves it. Sound and playing are really solid, there's another great conducting piece with another highly spirited audience participant, fun "Crossroads" duel, very tight "Attitude Song", and a group of fans with a "What's the Secret Word For Tonight?" sign. Steve responds with a talking wah-wah guitar phrase that he returns to throughout the evening (I have to play it back to him during the duel), but doesn't reveal 'til the end of the show that he's playing/saying "I love you, Japan. Thank you". The only troubling moment is another botched anthem, in which I once again decline to take part. We've got to nail down that part of the show.
Italian food in catering and it's GOOD. I have plenty of lasagna and Sapporo and make me some garlic bread, and it's GOOD. The "vegetarian" dishes aren't, and the caterer gets a stern talking to from Steve, but there's plenty of rabbit food for him to graze, and he regales us with tales of his buffed-out football-playing teen years - he weighed 190 and once drank a case of beer and ate 17 hot dogs at a picnic. Go Steven!
Earlier in the day Roger had brought me outside to meet a couple of Keneally enthusiasts who'd been waiting all day to meet me, but when we got there they were gone (there were another couple of Keneally enthusiasts in their place, though, and I tell them about "Half Alive" being out - I hope they enjoy Lithuanian cleaning woman laments or whatever the hell it was that wound up on Disc One). Roger locates the original pair of enthusiasts after the show and I'm dispatched to greet them. They are Hiroshi and Midori Ohta, and a pair of kind and lovely people they are indeed. Hiroshi is a guitarist who wishes to play with me someday, and gives me a tape. Haven't had time to listen, but I will.
Mr. and Mrs. Ohta.
Four black cars return us to the hotel, me with another bag full of Sapporos. I'm in a car with Mangini and Bynoe, and at a stop light a group of fans runs out into the street to meet us, and nearly get hit by a bus - Mangini's "YOU'RE GONNA DIE!!" is hair-raising and magnificent. Very giddy car ride. We're a big bunch of kids.
10:30 bags, then it's Mangini's room to watch a tape of the Super Bowl (Gungi, Roger and Magee hadn't seen it when it aired), drink a lot and talk and laugh way too loudly. Afterwards in my room I do a lot of writing, then find I'm again unable to sleep. Eventually I nod off about 8:00 AM.
My alarm, which is set for 10:15, either doesn't go off or I sleep through it, and I'm awakened by a call from Gungi at 12:15 gently informing me that if I'm not in a car within five minutes I'll miss the bullet train. So I'm in a car within five minutes and then I'm on a bullet train to Osaka, eating sushi and rice and taking photos and regaling the assembled with my little talking picture frame of Jesse and relearning long division.
I like Osaka a lot. It is exciting and metropolitan and busy but still clean and beautiful. Yet another luxurious hotel. I watch Mangini enter his room, then call him up using a tiny female Japanese voice:
MK (as Japanese woman): Y-yes, sir. We, we hope you enjoy hotel.
MM: (confused silence, then speaks) Thank you.
MK (as himself): You're welcome. Are you gonna go out now?
MM: That was good. That was VERY GOOD.
He, Roger and Magee are leaving right away for a McDonald's across the street. I have some tasks to accomplish, but I'll attempt to meet them. After bathing and bringing my suits to Rich Pike (it's he who draws my attention to the sports stadium visible from the window - it's filled with houses. He provides the perfect quote: "We need to put these people somewhere, so you boys will have to play somewhere else!"), I meet my three amigos just on their way out of Mickey D's.
Having consumed their glorious burgers they're now on the lookout for bootleg shops. We find a swingin' little CD boutique very nearby, mostly legit releases but with a decent smattering of boots (they've got "Apocrypha" for $45 US). Roger gets bored with the place and bolts. Magee, Mangini and I move on to a fully legit CD shop. Whilst I happily peruse, Magee knocks over a CD display, feels uncomfortable and exits ("I'm on the lam", he says later). I see things which I want want want: the Miles Master Sound reissues, the Rundgren complete Bearsville box with bonus Radio Show CD, a weird London Records progressive rock compilation with four Zappa tunes on it, all titles in Japanese - I ask a girl who works here to translate the titles and they're all names of classical composers. Huh?
Alone, I wander about "The City", a large shopping mall.
And the winner for best-ever name of a restaurant is...
Eat at a Subway (the Spicy Italian sandwich is a comfortingly universal proposition. Distinctions from US version: falls apart more easily, and the cheese has flavor). As I enter they're playing "Eleanor" by Toto - always liked that song. Now they're playing some horrifying wimped 80's/90's cover of "Born To Be Wild". I hope the composer royalties generated are obscene - it'd be the only positive result of this travesty. Check out a bookstore, lust after a big blue box of beautifully bound books of Peanuts cartoons, fifteen volumes in all. I want want want.
Wander about the city (lack of quotation marks intentional) and find the endless streets of shops where cars may not tread. Walking streets are cool and fun. Take many pictures, and lo, it begins to rain. Homesick.
I run out of film, and duck into a convenience store and find not only film but also Philip, and together we return to the hotel.
In my room I find the all-Beatles station on the bedside radio - see what I mean about my luck in this regard? They play a block of songs from one particular album, and just when you think they're proceeding chronologically they make a huge leap through time and play another block from another album then leap back again. When first I listen they're presenting a melange of the White Album and "Revolver", an unwitting tribute to the day when, at age 8, I received both albums and my life became a whole lot richer.
I also discover that my toilet isn't working (fortunately my commitment prior to this discovery had not been substantial, thanks so much for your concern) and I summon a fellow to repair it.
I write a little, listen to the Beatles and doze until Mangini phones. Time to eat. 3M (that's me, Magee and Mangini) walk across the street to the 551 Horai restaurant (their slogan: "Have good eats of real taste") and I have the Japanese variation on moo shu beef, meaning there's a big egg on top, and two Asahi dark beers. The other 2M see a grown man in a schoolgirl's uniform behind me, but he leaves the room before I can get to my camera.
Aki had tipped off the guys to the location of a really good bootleg shop, but once there I find that the boots don't interest me much - however they've got the limited-edition Costello/Nieve 5-CD EP box, which I hadn't been able to hunt down in the states. The proprietor gives me a very sweet deal, but he gives Mangini a Black Sabbath boot for free 'cause he's an Extreme fan. Bastard.
I have made my first CD purchase of the tour, and thus have crossed into the danger zone.
As we return to the hotel Magee points out another CD store they'd visited earlier. Hi Flame, my name's Moth - but God or Fate or something needed for me to visit tihs particular store: the Miles Davis Italian 4-CD 1970-1973 live box, which I'd bought in Boulder during the Vai/BFD tour and which burned to nothingness on the bus then next day without my having heard a note of it and which I thought I'd never ever find again, I find again. And buy again. I also nab a Bird disc and a Prince boot, and a look of sad dismay from the counter guy when I present my Visa - not here, bud. As I shell out the cash I understand the lesson being presented to me - if I really want this stuff I must be willing to part with hard cash on the spot, or else I don't really want it. I do, and I do.
There's a 10:00 PM lobby call for fun-having, and I, Mike, Phil, Magee, Roger and Varrin, along with a contingent of locals, walk a few blocks to Rock Rock, a little bar which acts as a haven for American rockers. 70's/80's hard rock/metal are the standard audio fare (the DJ is a transplanted American himself) and the walls are festooned with album covers and autographed gear. The Kiss merchandise shrine is formidable, the drinks flowing, the music loud and by the time "School's Out" pours out of the speakers I'm singing at the top of my lungs. The bartender likes to jump out into the middle of the room and scream along with the tunes. An extremely pleasant club.
L to R: Don't know, don't know, Me, Aki, Magee, the shrine of Kiss.
Mangini and I walk back to the hotel and my legs are killing me by the time we arrive. We are exhausted.
And so commences another evening of me refusing to sleep. I write, listen to live Miles, meditate on Beatles radio and can never accomplish more than 5 or 10 minutes of light dozing.
Finally at 7:00 AM I take a long, warm bath and I'm asleep at 8:00, sleep through the alarm clock, am awakened at 1:40 PM by Rich Pike reminding me that I have a magazine interview in 20 minutes. This has to stop. I'm being a big old jerk with my schedule, I'm going to make myself sick and I'm tired all day long and it's stupid. And now for the good things about staying up all night: ain't none.
At 2:00 I'm in room 3320 for a co-interview with Steve, conducted for publication in Player Magazine. The interviewer is named Yoshiko, with whom I have some history - she interviewed me in LA two years ago while I was promoting "Dust Speck". It's nice to see her again, and I answer a few questions solo before Steve shows up, at which point a rollicking interview ensues. OK, maybe it doesn't rollick, but it's a fine and fun interview. A few photos are snapped (the first posed shots of the two of us together, I believe) and then Steve's off for a 3:15 phoner with Auckland, and I'm to "The City" to purchase and absorb a hot dog croissant device before being in the lobby at 3:30 to get in a car to go to the gig. This day's going awful damn fast, wonder why.
Arrive at the Festival Hall, where "Pangaea" and "Agharta" were recorded (both in one day). Was "Black Napkins" recorded here? Don't know. I'm feeling strong FZ vibes in any case and I have no choice but to play a few bars of "Napkins", one of the three off-linits Zappa tunes - sorry Frank. Tell Roger that "Napkins" was recorded in Osaka, possibly in this room, and he says he has chills. I photograph the dressing room just in case. During soundcheck we finally nail "San San Nana Byoushi" - it will receive its tour debut this evening.
A very fine show it turns out to be. The acoustic is in tune (if awfully tinny in the monitors), we nail the national anthem (!), the audience is great and "San San" goes over REALLY well. I seize up a little during the Keneally Moment when my grandiose ambitions get the better of me. I need to kick back and let it happen. There's a nice bit in "Little Alligator" when Steve and I unexpectedly trade licks for awhile to give the audience a little more time to clap to the groove. There's also an exciting section during "For The Love Of God" when my sitar strap pops off of the strap bolt, and I signal Roger to come and pop it back on again. Roger comes over and looks at the sitar and comes to the conclusion that the strap bolt itself has popped off and is now lost, and he runs to get the stand upon which the "Eve" acoustic guitar had earlier been perched (it's actually a snare stand which Roger has cunningly re-designed). Meanwhile I'm struggling to keep the ostinato going by putting my foot on Steve's monitor, kneeling on the floor etc. While I'm still playing Rog guides the sitar into the stand; once it is perched I look down and see that the strap bolt was there along. What confused Rog was the bolt's placement. The sitar I use in the US has its strap bolt in the standard area, but this Japanese model stashes the bolt in the back. Rog feels a bit silly about this. I get a hearty laugh out of it meself.
Aki & Rog.
Backstage, the Rock Rock DJ pays his respects, and Kaz from Sobbat gives me an extraoridarily bitchin' chorus/vibrato pedal (you will hear it on the next album). After a change and a bath at the hotel it's time to be receive as a conquering heroes in the local Hard Rock Cafe. Steve gives them a guitar and Rich drinks three milk shakes. Steve and I sit together and we have a great time - excepting Marc Bonilla I've never felt so at ease with any of my past bandleaders. It's enjoyable watching people stare at Steve while he eats.
L to R: Philip, Roger, Pia, Varrin, Me, Steve, Mangini, Pike, Magee. Photographer: Gungi.
After dinner we become cardboard figures for patrons to have their photos taken with - it's fun.
Back at the hotel I write for a bit, and get to sleep by 3:00 AM! Score!!
TO BE CONTINUED VERY, VERY MUCH still to come: the rest of Japan, the nightmare three-day Hard Rock Cafe tour of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, the wonders of wondrous Australia, a brief stay in New Zealand, and a Korean hotel lobby full of promoters and record company people screaming at each other. Join us, won't you?
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