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Jon Wilks Posts

Tenniscoats: “They literally play themselves to sleep”

Back in 2008, I flew to Tokyo to meet Saya, the mercurial vocalist with Tenniscoats. We initially made contact in conjunction with our 4th Tada Sampler, and – truth be told – I’d become something of a Tenniscoats junkie in the interim. Though she’d been delightful in our email correspondence, I found myself vaguely nervous about meeting her in person.

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Visiting Kamikochi

During a brief stopover in Kyushu in the early 1990s, British broadcaster and former Monty Python, Michael Palin, stopped in at Huis Ten Bosch, a faithful recreation of a Dutch town, replete with gouda, tulips, windmills and a clock tower built out of bricks shipped from Holland. Not sure what to make of it all, he dubbed it ’cultural karaoke’ and quickly moved on. It’s a phrase that I’ve had reason to recall many times during the decade I spent in Japan, albeit never before when discussing a mountain range.

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The Tim Robbins interview

My interview with Tim Robbins was always going to be a peculiar one. The actor-turned singer was in Japan for a week of concerts at the Blue Note Tokyo, supporting his 2010 album Tim Robbins & The Rogues Gallery Band, but I was warned beforehand not to mention any of his movies – a tough ask considering that the Oscar winner has been part of the Hollywood furniture for more than two decades – and it was politely suggested that he’d only want to talk about his music. No Susan Sarandon, then. I duly set about studying the man’s only album, and the music that might have inspired it.

I needn’t have been so meticulous. Tim Robbins is a walking encyclopaedia of musical minutiae (seriously, next time you find yourself in a lift with him, ask him about punk, folk, lo-fi…you get the impression he commits it all to memory like words from a script). And so I sat with him for 30 learned minutes, bouncing between family memories (his father was an admired folk singer) and his experiences of fame (‘It’s all in your head’), hearing about how he won’t be ‘going Indonesian’ on his next album, and the Robbins secret to ‘living free’. A wide-ranging interview, then, to say the least, and possibly his first since 1994 (I’m kinda proud to say) not to use the word ‘Shawkshank’…

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The Joe Odagiri interview

The closing ceremony of the Middle East Film Festival is a glam affair, starry as the desert sky. But as the cameras flash across the red carpet, capturing Orlando Bloom and Eva Mendes in the way in which they’ve become accustomed, one figure stands aside, happy to go unnoticed. His name is Joe Odagiri, and in his native Japan, he can’t step out of the front door without being splashed across the tabloids.

‘It’s amazing, isn’t it,’ says the actor, watching his current co-star Maggie Q lap up the photographers’ attention. ‘They’re pretty bad in Japan, the paparazzi – I guess they’re the same everywhere. But all this,’ he says, gesturing to the scene around him, unused to observing it from the sidelines, ‘It’s really amazing.’ He goes on to explain that his time at the festival has largely been his own, again something of a reprieve for someone in the Japanese limelight where celebrities are expected to have several strings to their bow. Since arriving in Abu Dhabi, he’s only had one interview request – with yours truly.

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Graham Coxon: ‘This isn’t a folky album’

I interviewed Graham Coxon, a huge hero of mine, for Time Out in 2009. At the time, Graham was promoting The Spinning Top, an album that owed a lot to late 1960s folk troubadours such as Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. I remember it as a tough interview. I rarely get starstruck. Maybe chatting with the man I’d seen so many times in concert through me a bit. If he’s ever up for a repeat performance, I’d be game!

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