JAPANESE TOUR DIARY
Smugglers - Grant Lawrence (me, voice), David Carswell (guitar), Bryce Dunn (drums), Nick
Thomas (guitar), Beez (bass).
Queers - Joe Queer (voice, guitar), B-Face (bass), Hugh O'Neil (drums).
Supersnazz - Tomoko (bass), Kanako (guitar), Spike (voice), Esayo (drums).
Label representative - Chris Appelgren, Lookout Records spin doctor.
Tour manager/driver - Wes Smith.
Driver #2 - Andy.
JAPAN STUFF I LEARNED
Yes folks, those ne'er do well Smugglers actually managed to
somehow snuggle into the middle of what had to be the premium international rock'n'roll
tour of 1996: The Queers from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA in the top slot, us Smugglers
from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in the centre position and Tokyo, Japan's
Supersnazz rounding out the bill of bills on the tour of tours for a ten day trek to the
enchanting and mysterious land of Japan.
Here's what happened from the perspective and opinion of me,
Grant Lawrence, current member of said Smugglers....
Tues Dec 10/96: leaving Vancouver
Dave's dad picked us all up and away we went to the Vancouver international airport. We
were all bristling with excitement at our first trip west to the far east. Weird eh? My
only problem on this thrilling day was that I had a dirty, festering, scaley black scab
the size of a wooden nickel bubbling up right on my upper lip!!! DAMMIT!!! Yeah, some
lowly mama decided to ram the mic into my teeth at our Japanese Sayonara party two nights
earlier at the Mighty Niagara pub here in Vancouver. Alas, the wound was far from healed,
and by the time we had purchased two bottles of Silent Sammy in the Duty Free shop for the
flight, I was picking at it, and dabbing the blood with my coat sleeve. Would they let me
into a straight-up place like Japan sporting such a disgusting welt?
So at about 9:00AM we get onto the plane, a big ol' jet on
JAL airlines. Our flight attendant was a Japanese goddess who served us funny cakes and
sweets that made me spit them down the crack between the seat and the window once she
moved to the next row. The movie was the terrible "Dragonslayer" starring, um,
Dennis Quaid with a bizarre, slurred cockney accent who befriends a troubled dragon with
the voice of Sean Connery. It was awful, and we watched every second intently.
"Karate Kid" would have been much more appreciated.
Weds Dec 11: arriving in Tokyo
When we finally landed, get this... it was WEDNESDAY. Yep, Wednesday December 11,
2:00PM!!! POOF! Just like that, we had lost an entire day somewhere in a nine hour
flight... confused but happy to be on Japanese soil, we cruised through customs with the
skill of professional Smugglers and there we were. Japanese people were everywhere! We
were met by a huge throng of screaming teenage girls that were waving albums...
"Thriller," "Bad" and "Billy Jean." Yes folks, as the mob
parted like the Red Sea for our passing, we heard the news: Michael Jackson had just
arrived in Tokyo from his Malayasian ranch to visit Disneyland Japan... we didn't stick
around to greet him.
Soon we found the Queers who had, get this, flown from
Amsterdam after their European tour to Thailand for the weekend, then up to Japan. They
looked beat to say the least. Drummer Hugh was so tired he kind of resembled a punk rock
Ronald Reagan at first glance - all pink and deflated, with his black spikey hair hardened
over with a two-day crust. Luckily for us and them, we didn't have to play that night and
climbed into our two vans after meeting Wes, a fellow Canuck, the tour manager and Andy, a
yank, another driver. Two nice enough guys, we thought. So off we went for the six hour
drive to Nagoya for the first show the next night.
When we finally arrived at the shoebox Nagoya hotel, so began
the culture shock. The couple who owned the place spoke no English so they did a lot of
wild, violent gesturing. First, we were forced to take off our shoes and boots and leave
them at the door. Then we had to slip on these tiny, disgusting, dirty slippers and were
led up to the room (the old man actually led Dave by the hand up the stairs - sweet), a
bamboo thatched box with six futons stetched out onto the floor. We each got one quilt and
a beanbag to use as a pillow which actually hurt to use. Soon grampa was yapping at us
because, as he karate-chopped, we weren't to wear the slippers on the "bedroom"
floor. Annoying, but it made sense. Then the ancient one showed us the communal bathroom
at the end of the hall which was the introduction to the Japanese "toilet"... a
sink-looking thing sunk into the floor. Yes, readers, we were actually expected to squat
over this contraption to, uh, grow a stinky tail, if you know what I mean. I personally
refused and told the hotel couple so immediately. They were too busy screaming at me for
wearing the hall slippers into the bathroom - they even shit in a special pair of plastic
Thurs Dec. 12: Diamond Hall, Nagoya
Jetlag managed to spare most of us except for Dave and Chris Appelgren
who got up at the ripe old hour of 7:00AM and left, hand in hand, saying they were
"going around the corner for a cup of coffee." Little did we know that was the
last we would see of those guys for a long, long, scary-long time.
The rest of us got up a while later and went for our
breakfast meeting with Wes to discuss the tour. The dining of choice? Um, Denny's. We
weren't quite ready to dive in just yet... let's just say the non-toilet thing shook our
confidence a bit. But wait! Gone were the grilled cheese and 'Moon Over My Hammies' to be
replaced with wonton, udon, and ramen. Tasty! The meeting came and went and still no Dave
We spent the day wandering around Nagoya going into arcades
and porn shops (one had a section of video tapes specific to those of the 'diarrhea
fetish'... like pictures of women spraying diarrhea from their respective cornholes into
guy's faces that sported goofy 'shit-eating' grins... I'M NOT KIDDING!). Still no sign of
Dave and Chris. It was getting on into the afternoon and we were starting to get quite
Soon it was time to meet up at the hotel and head to the
club. When we made it back, Supersnazz were waiting at the hotel and it was great to see
them again. It had been about two years since we last played with them in Seattle and
Vancouver. We loaded up the vans and away we went to the Diamond Hall - without Dave or
The place was an enormous venue, one that at the outset all
three bands were worried about filling. In Japanese standards, Nagoya is a small town and
an apparently small scene, and this venue held 2,500 people!!
I had decided that at 7:30PM, if Dave and Chris didn't show,
I would call the cops. Finally, at 7:00PM, a full 12 hours since we last saw them and only
one hour before the Smugglers showtime, an exhausted and thoroughly freaked-out Dave and
Chris stumbled in the doorway. Seems that when they left the hotel, they decide to go
right around the block, but never came back to the hotel. They walked and walked, always
thinking they were getting closer, but they never found it. They didn't know the name of
the hotel or the name of the club. Nagoya being a small town, English was even less
understood than in Tokyo or Osaka, so the cab drivers, pedestrians, bus drivers and cops
couldn't help them. All the signs were in Japanese characters. After nearly 10 hours of
walking aimlessly, they stumbled across Nagoya station where they found an international
phone with little American and Canadian flags beside the buttons. They called both Lookout
and Mint Records and eventually, somehow found the cel phone number to Wes, and Wes led
them back on the subway to the club, 12 hours and, as we figured out later on a map, 20
miles later. Geezloufuckinweez! First crisis over.
The show that night was fun but weird, being the first show
over there and all. The audience seemed slightly timid and withdrawn. As we feared, we
didn't fill the hall, nowhere near in fact, which was not the best way to kick things off,
but we were optimistic.
Fri Dec 13: night off - Tokyo
Yep, second night of the tour, first night off, Friday night. Go figure. Oh well, we made
the best of it. We did the drive up the Topeii freeway from Nagoya in about five hours and
pulled into downtown Tokyo to find our hotel. Tokyo seems to be endless sprawling arteries
of tiny, narrow, weaving side streets with large viens of main thoroughfares cutting
through them, all stemming out of large squares and centres every so often. No grid system
exists here, hence how easy it is to get lost, let alone the language barrier. We drove in
on one of these main viens and soon turned off into a lane onto one of the most incredible
scenes we had ever witnessed, straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Our van crawled down
a thin alley that was packed with people, lined with miniature bars, restaurants, clubs,
sushi and noodle counters, the street made even narrower by piles of crates and barrels
stacked up between doorways. Glowing red lanterns with Japanese characters hung from each
bar or restaurant, brushing against the van as we passed. Soon we were stuck on a sharp
corner trying to get to the hotel. There were pedestrians, bikes, scooters and mini-cars
surrounding us all trying to get by every which way but loose. The van crunched up along
side of one of the ever-present vending machines, we hit an old man on a bike, a pile of
wooden boxes came crashing down onto the side of the van, people tried to help wedge us
out, and we waved. They waved back. Communication!
After two hours of crawling through a two to three block
space, we finally made it to the tiny hotel. More of the same slipper schtick here, except
in Tokyo the hotels have beer and whiskey machines in the lobby and coin-operated non-stop
Japanese porn on the TV in the rooms. Dave's only question to the non-English speaking
owner was, "Is there a change machine in the lobby?"
That night Nick and I pub-crawled the neighborhood, ending up
in a miniscule five-stool bar where the owner broke out the Canadian whiskey once he
figured out where we were from. Nick got so tanked he joined a 60-something old bitty in a
karaoke version of "Tennessee Waltz," both parties singing in broken English.
Nick hit it off so well with this ol' gal that by the end of the night the two of them
were basically necking. Nick later passed out in the hallway of the hotel, half-undressed,
a mixture of lipstick and toothpaste smeared all over his smiling face.
Sat Dec 14: Club Milk, Tokyo
We spent the day exploring the fascinating miniature neighbourhood our hotel was in and
then loaded up the vans and headed to Club Milk, known as the "hottest night club in
all Tokyo." Whoo! We were told by Wes that Milk's theme was "sex and
rock'n'roll" and since we're a rock'n'roll band that base was covered, and we all
read quite a bit about having sex, so it was aces high tonight!
Wes also told us that Milk has a very famous three-story neon
sign that can been seen for blocks and to get our cameras ready. Upon arrival, we
discovered a huge tarpaulin and scaffolding covering this 'great' sign. A staff member who
helped us load in explained... remember that goofy cult that blew up the Japanese subway
last year? Well, apparently these dudes used to have an office or clubhouse or something
right above Milk, so the cult's arch rivals FIREBOMBED the building not two days EARLIER
and Milk NEVER closed!!! A week earlier someone walked into the club and poured gasoline
out their pantlegs all over the packed club and when they found an exit, turned around and
threw a match. That didn't close the club either, and here we were, shaking with fear of,
To relax, a Japanese friend took us to the shopping square of
Shibuya. Okay, Shibuya makes Times Square in New York City look like Tombstone Arizona on
Sunday morning. I mean this place was PACKED!!! Twenty-story high TV screens, huge neon
signs of every Japanese mega-corp imaginable, massive 3-D images projected onto buildings,
and huges hordes of people moving in every direction at once. It was nerve-racking to say
the least, so after a few arcades, some porn shops and a bite to eat, we headed back to
the terrorist-target to relax before showtime.
Once the show finally got underway it was insane and way-made
up for Nagoya's underachievement. Six hundred people showed up, packing all three bizarre
levels of this crazy nightspot. When we played it was mayhem, with kids shocking us by
singing along to songs on "Selling The Sizzle." When the Queers eventually got
on it made our rabid crowd look like a church social. Holy shit, did those kids freak!!!
And is "Queers songs" a course in the local education system? These little shits
knew EVERY WORD! Freaky.
The club itself had all sorts of weird rooms, nooks and
crannies where people could hang out, pair off and you know, bang-bang lulu, if you know
what I mean, which was totally encouraged by the club... one was called the "Pink
Room" where the walls, floor and ceiling were covered in pink shag fun-fur, except
where pictures hung depicting transexuals with their dicks in vices and their tits getting
sliced off. Yummy. There were people fooling around and going at it in here throughout the
night. There was a huge display of dildos in a fish tank that was a popular Smugglers
hang-out, as well as a vibrating socket that men can insert their dicks into and jizz in.
There was the kitchen-bar, an old restaurant kitchen where Milk converted the dishpit into
a spanish fly-hiball bar. Everywhere you looked there were fishtanks with sex toys as
ornaments and TVs either showing hardcore porn or kid's movies... as the hours rolled on
(the club closed at 7:00AM and the Queers were done by 2:00AM) the crowd got drunker, a
paired off with local sex freaks and those who struck out had to watch out for the
ridiculously numerous amount of people bent over in the halls, stairs and booths puking
their guts out in the wee hours. I guess cocaine and Spanish Fly is a nasty mix!
When the Tokyo dawn broke and we finally headed back to our
new hotel, we were in for culture shock #467. Our hotel room resembled a cross between a
laundromat's wall of clothes dryers, a dog kennel, and a morgue. Both the Queers and
Smugglers were placed in a long corridor of beds in cubicles built perpendicularly into
the wall in tiny compartments. Shocked and drunk as we were, we all scrambled into these
fucking tubular coffins and crashed for the night.