Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat: the published tome!

One hefty element of happiness is... getting the printed/published version of your novel for the first time in your mitts!!!

They're here - and as I'm prone to exclaim at moments like this... ZOUNDS!!!!

Talk about insanely cool timing, since we're doing the Tokyo launch party for the novel tonight at the Pink Cow in Shibuya (see post below). Up to this point we were thinking it'd be a paperless affair (weird for a book launch party, I know), but the gods - whomsoever they may be, and regardless of whether or not the blighters actually exist - have been kind.

The biggest ever possible thanks to Kristopher, Bob and everyone else at Another Sky Press for their tireless work, belief and madly cool assistance on this beastie - it's their baby as much as is mine. And cheers to family and mates for all their support and encouragement over the years it took to finish off the yarn.

Here's the back cover, with the barcode - and we even have a darn-tootin' ISBN number! x

I think I'm still a little bit in shock, really - so I'll stop gabbling here and sit down with a strong coffee to pore over one of the copies I have beside me.

If you're interested in checking out more about the novel, head on over to the Tobacco-Stained Another Sky site (just click the highlighted bit).

WOW. Bliss.

Tobacco-Stained Party, Tokyo 東京 25/3

These are strange times here, for all too obvious reasons - and sometimes it feels like we’re collectively treading water awaiting the next Big Thing to transpire. Meanwhile the reactors still belch scary looking clouds and we get shaken by dozens of aftershocks everyday.

I know this cuts a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but a high percentage of events and parties have been cancelled here in Tokyo, and attendance is lower than usual at the places that're still open.

A lot of the DJ/producers I know are spending most of their time at home, creating tunes – or putting together worthy benefit compilations, like the ones coming out through Shin Nishimura’s Plus Tokyo label and another called Kibou that’s being put together by Japanophile DJ Hi-Shock through his Elektrax label – which features contributions from a wad of Japan’s finest techno bods.

It’s been mad timing for my new novel to come out; teaches me to write a yarn that’s been described as “post-apocalyptic noir.”

I’m supposed to have the Tokyo book launch this Friday 25th March (in other words tomorrow) at the Pink Cow in Shibuya, but the postal service is all screwed up so there's a big chance I won’t be getting the books themselves in time from the U.S. - not through lack of trying by Kristopher and Christine @ Another Sky Press, but, as I say, our timing has been out-of-whack with nature.

I'm still praying to an empty mead hall of Norse gods that UPS will be able to get the books out of Japanese customs - where they've been since Monday - and here into my lap in time. Hell, if not for the party itself, I just want to hold and stroke the beastie that's taken so much time of my life to complete!

Anyway, after much soul-searching, mood-swings, flip-flopping and so on, we’re doing the launch party, regardless of earthquakes and/or radiation levels.

All this extra added stuff does give us nice fodder for silly quips about glowing in the dark at the party (and therefore no need for lighting, boom-boom), plus going tree-friendly “green” at a book launch. Etcetera, ad infinitum. And so on.

Anyway, that brings me to the bloody brilliant DJ line-up, which includes:

Ko Kimura, DJ Wada, Jin Hiyama, Cut Bit Motorz, Eri Makino, Toshiyuki Yasuda, Devin Wine, Little Nobody and Paul McQuade. Oh yeah, and me. We had Shin Nishimura on board initially, but he's understandably taken his young family out of this city.

Proceedings kick off from 6:00pm sharp, and if we get enough people we'll probably go all night. Whether we do or not is a matter for conjecture.

Entry is a measly ¥500 coin on the door, which equates to about US$6.10 - in keeping with our age-old IF? Records idea of keeping event prices cheap. Dunno why - we never, ever make any money out of these things, but at least we get a nice warm feeling about our frugal ideals.

In case you haven't read elsewhere in this blog, the novel itself is called Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and is being published by U.S. label Another Sky Press.

The book will be out in stores by 31 March 2011.

For tomorrow's launch I was s'posed to do a reading from the novel, a Q&A about it all, and book signings/sales - but the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, and the subsequent nuclear reactor problems, threw a few spanners into the works. The bigger picture is so much more important than personal extravaganzas like this - so we've decided that we'll do it as just a way in which to unwind from 24/7 news and the stress of the past 12 days, to relax, chill and listen to good music.

Besides, I never was quite so comfortable about doing the wanky reading thing - it's just not me. At worst I'd misrepresent the novel with a wayward monologue.

Here's a bit of guff about the DJ/musicians involved at the launch, who are way cool cats I really admire here in Tokyo, and deserving of kudos above and beyond what I do - please take the time to check them all out for their superb electronic muzak, live set-ups, and skills behind the decks/CD-Js:

DJ WADA is one half of Co-Fusion, one of Tokyo's top DJs, and released through Sublime, Elektrax, IF? & Pro-Jex

KO KIMURA is one of the preeminent DJs in Japan, a superlative veteran behind the decks who continues to push the perimetres of electronic music.

JIN HIYAMA is not only Go Hiyama's brother, but an excellent painter, designer and DJ/producer himself, with a recent EP out through Blank Records.

CUT BIT MOTORZ is the current Japanese electronic enfant terrible, breaking through in 2010 with releases through IF? and Elektrax.

TOSHIYUKI YASUDA has worked with Señor Coconut (aka Uwe Schmidt from Atom Heart) and Chicks On Speed as well as with me, and runs the way cool Megadolly imprint.

ERI MAKINO is one of Tokyo's best leftfield purveyors of electronica and acoustics, having released through A Chain Brick Yard and Emilii Records.

DEVIN WINE has performed as a guitarist, bass-player and vocalist in various bands around Tokyo, and makes electronic music as Admiral Anderision.

is perhaps Tokyo's best-kept secret - till now, wethinks. Heck, we don't even have a website to connect to, but this is one very cool Scottish import.

Let's hit it tomorrow, mates.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan Quakes


Unless you’ve had your head buried deep inside some sandbox in a place a million miles from the nearest social network or wireless connection, you’d already know precisely what I’m leading into if you bothered to note the headline tag to this post.

So let's get straight into it.

On Friday March 11th, at around 2:45pm local time, the east coast of Japan was hit by an earthquake that tipped the scale at around 8.9 – 9.0 on the Charles Richter magnitude charts.

I’ve since learned that we survived the fourth or fifth biggest earthquake in recorded history, and the worst ever in Japan – which is one of the world's most seismically active places.

But Tokyo was lucky compared with other places in this country just north of our city, like Miyagi Prefecture.

Straight after the earthquake there were tsunami waves of up to ten metres (33 feet) that struck the Pacific coast north of Tokyo, ploughing inland up to a dozen kilometres – sweeping away the towns and cities along the way.

The footage has been so surreal: That tsunami rapidly filling the streets of the city of Kesennuma as people watched (and filmed) from atop hills; cars and air-conditioning units bobbing and floating by, followed by houses that started moving and weaving between overturned boats; the aftermath with ships and trucks on top of highways and houses. It was like looking at The Day After Tomorrow rolled up into Dante's Inferno.

But the sad truth is that it isn’t surreal at all. This is no dream. It’s been neither fiction nor the unrealistic segment of a disaster movie – it's cold, hard reality.

Somewhere around 10,000 people have been killed, though no-one knows the true extent of the fatalities even now – at the time of writing this – seven days after that initial disaster. Our thoughts go out to all the people affected.

But I say “initial” disaster, because we’ve since suffered aftershocks numbering in the hundreds and varying in intensity depending on the area. The other night night in Shizuoka, near Mt. Fuji, there was another earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4.

I got woken up by an aftershock at 5:00am yesterday morning - rattling doors and shaking bed. When we went to the supermarket almost half the shelves were empty as people are stocking up in case of another emergency.

And yesterday my daughter and wife flew down south to join the in-laws in Fukuoka.

It makes me far happier to know they're safe(r) - especially since there are the melting-down nuclear reactors at Fukushima, 170 miles north of Tokyo.

These babies were initially damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, and are currently out-of-control, spewing forth radioactive particles that are being felt as far south as, well, here in Tokyo.

OK, so I've seen my fair share of Japanese disaster flicks; in fact in my time I’ve been a fair bit of a fan.

I loved Godzilla movies when I was a kid – the way in which he walloped little balsa-wood versions of Tokyo and Osaka – and I still DJ out the awesome theme song to 1961 monster flick Mothra, written by Yuji Koseki and sung by The Peanuts.

But this past week has been a little too close to home, and I say that not just because I currently live in Tokyo. The quakes and shakes this time were real, not cheap FX on celluloid with high-definition surround sound.

It’s eerily like the plot in Sakyo Komatsu’s novel Nihon Chinbotsu (Japan Sinks) – I saw both the spin-off movies made in 1973 and 2006 – but defies the page or the artificial image of a viewfinder.

Real people have died, and thousands of other bona fide human beings have lost loved ones and friends. They’re destitute, lacking basic provisions, and braving up to zero-degree temperatures up north.

This is going to take a long time to clean up and forget.

And while the Japanese people here have been astoundingly resolute – not here the looting and general mayhem on the streets you see in other lesser disasters elsewhere in the world – it's a mind-numbing situation and an emotionally debilitating one to see this country and these people go through all of this.

In the meantime the best thing to do as hang onto the coattails of a sense of humour about it all – and gaze somewhat wistfully at the Japanese kanji "kibou", which means “hope”.

Which brings me full circle to some untimely, self-indulgent navel-gazing... but I guess that's what blogs are all about, especially ones like this which have only a couple of entries anyway.

Amidst all this madness I'm releasing my novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, which is coming out through Another Sky Press in the U.S. on 31 March.

As previously mentioned here it's a sci-fi/noir tome that's set in Melbourne, Australia, but mostly rewritten here in Tokyo and heavily influenced by my 10 years in Japan.

I'm going to stop with the hype right now. It tastes wrong. If you're interested at all in checking out the novel, fantastic - thank you. If not, that's cool too - but please think in some way about how, in whatever small or seemingly inconsequential way, you can assist Japan. It all helps.

Rant out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

On the Printing Press

Well, the novel is done.

After a couple of years of slugging it out, nutting it out, pulling ideas from our collective buttocks, head-butting grammatical rules, ditching my beloved semi-colons and ironing out my wayward non-standard dialogue tags, it's done. Big, big thanks to Kristopher, Bob, Christine, Justin and everyone else at Another Sky Press, along with Scott Campbell on art duties.

The next announcement on this blog will be the one that it's now available; we're just awaiting the test-pressing of the finished tome, but in the meantime if you're curious you can check out more and/or pre-order here.

Strangely enough I haven't had a chance to enjoy this moment - I've been sick as a dog since the very next day after we wrapped the project, with some weird virus/flu/bronchitis collaboration that's completely knocked me out and I've been woozie for a week and sleeping most days. Here's a picture, left, of what the über-bug might (or might not) look like up close and personal.

I like the star on it. Looks like Captain America's shield.

I know I pushed myself way too hard over the past couple of weeks (or should that read years?) with the novel, plus I had a huge story on sake that I was writing at the same time, a swag of techno industry interviews I'd stupidly committed myself to doing, an anime subtitles project, plus some music EP/album stuff... so this is prob'ly just desserts.

Likely my body is saying sod off.

Oh yeah, and I had an odd, rather feverish dream last night that a talking octopus was my pet, it called me "papa", and was otherwise downright cool. I made it a house in my kitchen blender (sans blades, of course!), and I don't think I can eat octopus sushi again for a bit.