Travel Soundtracks: Self-Reflection in Perpetual Motion


Last year I found myself on, I believe, 12 long-haul flights and 16 shorter flights. That’s pretty standard for me. There are those who do more and plenty who do less. One of the things I hear from the latter is “damn, that’s a lot.” I guess, but when you get used to it it’s not quite as daunting as it sounds.

There is a flow to it. A rhythm. Dealing with airports, planes, trains, hotels, even packing, there is a method to go about experiencing the journey or preparing for the journey which, when finally discovered, makes travel much easier. Routines, pastimes, and activities, are woven into a coping strategy. Listening to music, as for many others, is part of my strategy but it’s not just any music that will do. As I have discovered in conversation with other frequent travelers, there is a soundtrack that is better suited to given travel circumstances matching the personality listening to it. Playlists are carefully curated and artists sometimes agonizingly debated regarding appropriateness for situational harmony. I am one of the many frequent travelers who have learned that just hitting play on anything I may like is not conducive to improving the conditions. It’s not about distraction. It’s not about blunt entertainment. It’s about fitting the scenario. It’s about being useful. What keeps my pace? What calms my nerves?  What sharpens focus? What allows for patience? Continue reading


It is a long way down

It has been a while. I have tried to write on some of my observations about travel, music, and the stuff over which I tend to muse, but life has been going at a pace lately I am just not accustomed to. This is a good thing, though! Both academic and professional responsibilities have reached new levels of importance. The schedule I have kept to fulfill those responsibilities has been maybe the most challenging yet, but the rewards have been almost unimaginable. Having just completed likely the most exhausting week of my life managing a UK tour for the Japanese acts we were so lucky to work with, it is safe to say that my business partner and I have been on quite a high. After decades of uncertainty regarding where in the music business any modicum of satisfaction could be found, operating within a niche with previously untapped levels of dedication and emotional investment is the happiest I have ever been in my relationship to music, as a professional and as a fan. As an academic, my access to particular scenes of profound intellectual interest is also at an all time high and the first signs of true progress on the daunting road to a doctoral degree and the likelihood of a subsequent monograph are beginning to manifest. I feel like my work in those realms is of consequence, deeply appreciated, and personally gratifying. I owe it all to Japan. Continue reading

Home Sweet Home

I had never been concerned with “home.” Not beyond superficiality anyway. But lately I have been forced into thinking about the concept by a bombardment of holiday, travel, and domicile inspired references. “Did you go home to the States for the holidays?” “When are you coming home to London?” among other such statements. I had wanted to spend the holidays in Japan again as 2017 ended and 2018 began, but with recent events in my personal life turning things upside down, and American family and friends asking when I was going to visit “home,” a longing for the US increased while Japan took on a new emotional weight I didn’t feel I could yet carry, and didn’t yet dare try. So I decided to book a trip “home” to the US. But to someone like me, is that really home? A vagabond’s dilemma. What is “home” anyway?

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Leave it to Three Girls


As the tattoos on my right arm will attest, I love Mutant Monster. Not just because they are a great band, which they are, but because they are an important band. They are also three of my favorite people in the world. The trio operates on the fringes of the Japanese “girl’s band” movement; a broad sub-scene operating within and across myriad genre-cultures currently redefining what it means to make exceptional music in transgressive genres grown stale with western tropes of sociologically emphasized and exoticized femininity. A fringe operation befits their punk-rock ethos, and punk is not something that has ever really connected with me in a meaningful way.

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It’s not you, it’s me.


I hadn’t been to Norway in 3 years.  Last I was in the land of social democracy, black metal, and salmon trousers was in mid-2014 when I was finishing up my first MA degree and, after giving up my flat in London, lived in a variety of European locations. This included five weeks in Oslo. The capital was where I had always spent most of my time, the longest stint being three months in 2012 as I attended a short course at the University of Oslo. Seems a lifetime ago now.

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Let’s Try this Again

I know.

It’s been…forever. Actually, in 9 days it will have been one year since my last post. One year since Babymetal at the Tokyo Dome! Damn! It’s ok, I saw them in London twice at the O2 with RHCP and at Asakasa Blitz in Tokyo in a tropical downpour just this summer, so life has maintained it’s most important regulatory principles. But I have missed writing these entries as both personal and academic exercises allowing me a chance to spill part of what’s tumbling around this brain of mine thus clearing room and clarifying thought. I am disappointed in myself for not following through on my promise to keep this somewhat consistent, but I have a good excuse, I swear. Continue reading

Punk Bar and Soft Guitar in Tokyo

Every trip has them. The unexpected moments—the random and chance occurrences. A nap in a cathedral’s shadow in Paris. A perfect meal at a shopping mall in Fukuoka. The Utah capitol building at dusk in Salt Lake City.  They tend to be just as memorable as the larger experiences anchoring travel and exploration.  Though unexpected, they are something to look forward to because while you know they’ll happen, you just never know where or when they will occur or why it will affect you. No surprise, sometimes these moments for me are musical or music is at least at the root of them. My last trip to Japan was no exception. Her name was Mei. Continue reading