The Latin-ska-hip-hop band Zoo comes from Valencia, Spain, and though it’s their first time at Fuji Rock, several Zoo band members have played the festival before. The bands Obrint Pas and La Grossa Sorda are well remembered for rocking the damn house with wild Spanish horn-fueled punk at both the White Stage and super fun late-night parties at the Crystal Palace Tent. Zoo is a contemporary evolution of these sounds. Imagine a merging a ska band with, hip hop MCs, and a raging Barcelona dance club, and that’s pretty much what you get with Zoo. When they play in Europe, it’s a giant Latin house party and audiences are in the thousands. Now they’re coming to Fuji Rock 2019 for sets at the White Stage and Crystal Palace, and also to the Tokyo Wednesday night pre-event on July 24, Radical Music Network. We caught up with band leader and MC Panxo for an email interview to learn a bit more about the band. From the sounds of it, the message is: Fujirockers! Put your hands up! And get ready to dance!
Italian group Banda Bassotti have been likened to the Clash for mixing ska, punk and a fight for social equality, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. They also rock the house in a very major way, so expect them to whip the crowd into a frenzy when they play on Fuji Rock’s White Stage on Sunday, July 28. This is Banda Bassotti’s third visit to Fuji Rock, though the last time they were were here was 14 years ago in 2005. A lot has happened since then: In 2006 the group released a song called “Fuji Rock” on their album Vecchi Cani Bastardi. Last year, founding member and vocalist Angelo Conti passed away, with tributes stretching from Rome to Japan. We caught up with the band’s manager Luca Fornasier to talk about Banda Bassotti, two decades of coming to Japan, and his own upcoming DJ sets as Goldfinger Selecta at both Fuji Rock and at the Tokyo pre-fest party, Radical Music Network.
The Waterboys appeared at Fuji Rock in 2014 for the first time, and will be returning to Naeba this year. The UK band was formed in 1983, centered on Mike Scott. Mike has been known as one of the UK’s greatest songwriters for over 40 years, with many other artists covering his songs; for example “The Whole Of The Moon” covered by Prince. We got an opportunity to interview Mike during his recent stay in Japan. He talks about his previous appearance at Fuji Rock and looks ahead to this year’s festival appearance.
Imagine bypassing railway stations and boarding your very own private vehicle for Fuji Rock. Enjoy the comfort of cup holders, electric outlets, air-con, and bunk beds. Keep your beverages chilled and your rucksack tucked away. Best of all, when it rains, you will be 100% watertight.
As for the amenity that many ask about, “only use it in an emergency” is what the rental lot attendant instructed before we headed off down the highway.
Starting last year, with the addition of Craft Beer Market at Fuji Rock, bringing along 4 booths of the country’s top brewers and importers, (concurrently offering a total of around 20 different craft beers at one time) the standard for quality beer at the festival was substantially raised. This was great news for beer fans all throughout Naeba. READ MORE
“Big Willie” McNeil is a long-time friend of Fuji Rock, playing just about as along as the Palace of Wonder has existed, also inhabiting new stages like Cafe de Paris. You could say these places were built for him and his love of burlesque, one of the first forms of musical theater. We had the good fortune to catch up with Willie as he was packing up feather boas for the flight over.
1. Tell me the truth Willie, do the burlesque girls look as good in the morning without the makeup?
It’s amazing what make up, push up bra’s, dancers fishnet tights and heels can do. False advertising actually! But they do call it make up… One time I did a big show in Chicago with around 20 dancers and the next morning on the flight home when everyone was in their sweats and tennis shoes, I didn’t even recognize some of the dancers who I didn’t know well!
2. What can we expect from you at Fuji this year?
A special international show! I have two Cuban musicians, an Italian guitarist, my Argentinian dancer Carolina plus for the special ‘G&G Orchestra’ show Elvis and two background singers. We’ll play Cuban and American music.
3. Any acts you looking forward to?
- July 17, 2018 ● Interviews
Vinyl mania has long been part of the Fuji Rock culture, including musicians, DJs, fans and the festival production team. Now that passion manifests as the Blue Galaxy Stage, an expansive circus tent powered by two turntables and a roster of DJs with truly immense collections of rare ska, reggae, world music, Japanese garage, and all manner of vinyl rarities. The man powering the Blue Galaxy is Jim West, a British vinyl nut who’s been coming to Fuji Rock for 20 years. He will DJ four and a half hours each evening of the festival (though only three hours on Sunday). Now a full-fledged festival area, the vinyl stage is in reality Jim’s baby. In 2011, he launched the Fuji Rock’s first vinyl-only DJ stage, Jim’s Vinyl Nasium as an experiment in the World Food Court. Over the following years, the Vinyl Nasium got better and better. After the 2016 Fuji Rock, the organizers couldn’t help but make it into a proper area, so in 2017, they expanded it to become the Blue Galaxy Tent. This year, guest DJs will include Sim Cas, the Cumbia Kid (aka Jason Mayall), Caribbean Dandy, Astro Black (US), DZ (Basque Countries), Koichi Hanafusa (Fujirockers.org), King Nabe and the Club Ska All-Stars and several others. Yet for the meat of each evening, it will be powered by Jim West and his fellow vinyl maniac Salam Unagami. To learn more of the backstory for this unique DJ stage, we caught up with Jim for a quick Q&A interview.
Sometimes a solo musician’s artistic evolution can progress in surprising ways. Tanizawa Tomofumi debuted as a pop singer-songwriter with good, quirky production and unique songwriting. After making a splash and a paycheck off of penning the opening theme for popular anime Kimi Ni Todoke, he spent a year traveling the world. The whole world. All the way to Antarctica and back. He returned significantly more psychedelically cosmic and with a lot of new world-music influences to add into what was already a super-strong pop sensibility. The result is some of the most sonically and artistically unique music to come out of any ‘singer-songwriter’ you could hope to find.
Esne Beltza is a large ensemble from the Basque Countries, the mountainous region that rests in the north of Spain and the south of France. Basque is one of the most ancient languages in Europe, predating the arrival of Latin and the Romans and having no relation to other contemporary European languages. People have spoken Basque – or Euskal, as the Basque people call their own country and language – in Spain’s mountains for literally thousands of years. So tradition runs deep, and Esne Betlza proudly accepts it, mixing traditional melodies and lyrics of modern Basque poetry with Latin rhythms, punk rock energy and various modern styles: hip hop, reggae, soul, rock, folk and Cumbia. In their own words, their music represents “the journey from the small Basque Country to the large world.”
This year, Esne Beltza will play several times at Fuji Rock, including sets on the White Stage and Crystal Palace Tent, a DJ set by band member DZ at the Blue Galaxy Tent, and also a pre-Fuji Rock warmup party at the Radical Music Network on July 25 at Club Asia in Tokyo.
Every year, Fuji Rock hosts at least one of those crazy Latin bands that play high-energy music makes you dance so hard your legs ache for the rest of the weekend. Their presence is almost always due to the work of Shogo Komiyama, head of the Japonicus, a music promoter who for nearly two decades has been bringing “mestizo” artists –– musicians mixing Latin, Caribbean and international influences –– from the Iberian peninsula, southern Europe and the Americas to Japan. This year, Shogo’s arranging much of the Friday night line-up at the Crystal Palace Tent, will host the Basque Country rockers Esne Beltza on the White Stage, and has set up a bunch of great vinyl DJs for the Blue Galaxy Tent on Saturday night.
Shogo’s also organizing the only Fuji Rock pre-party, his own Radical Music Network party on Wednesday, July 25 at Club Asia in Shibuya. It goes from 6:30pm to midnight and will feature members of Fishbone as part of an all-star mestizo lineup. (Quick note: anyone with a non-Japanese passport gets a JPY 500 discount on the door admission price. So if you’re getting to Tokyo early, check it out!)
To get the inside scoop on all the mestizo music action on and around Fuji Rock weekend, we caught up with Shogo for a quick preview of the Latin, ska and other music coming to Fuji Rock this year.