The Insider: Hiroshi Asada

Brief Interviews With Important People

Hiroshi Asada
Hiroshi Asada (Photo By Andy Langer)

Thursday, March 14

Who: Hiroshi Asada

Why He's Important: Under the banner of South by Southwest Asia, Hirosho Asada is the festival's Japanese connection. In the Sixties, he fronted a popular Kingston Trio-like folk outfit and followed it up with directorial work in Tokyo cinema. In 1975, he founded Tom's Cabin Production, the first company to invite foreign artists like Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and the Talking Heads to Japan for concerts. He later turned his attention to managing Japanese artists, including the Pizzicato Five, who signed with Matador after being seen on one of Asada's popular Japanese-heavy "Psycho Night" bills at the New Music Seminar. Six years ago, SXSW asked him to organize and present its ongoing series of "Japan Night" showcases.

What is Japanese Music: "American people don't know a lot about the Japanese music scene. They may think it's about old Sixties-style pop or techno, but we have so much different music in Japan now. What we call 'J-Pop' -- Japanese pop like your Backstreet Boys -- is very popular. Hip-hop is also getting quite popular. But it's difficult to present here, because it's so lyric-based and there's an obvious language barrier. The artists we present here are mostly rock & roll. The first night of "Psycho Night" at NMS, we did the Boredoms. That's unique music for American people. And Lolita -- a girl punk group -- is different enough that I didn't know what to expect from American crowds when I first brought them to Austin. And they loved it. I try to bring what's different than the American pop people are used to."

The Myth of the Quiet Attentive Japanese Crowd: "That's an outdated notion. For hardcore bands they jump up and down. Your audiences don't surprise our bands."

SXSW 2002 Memories: "I love blues and roots music and on Wednesday, I heard Asleep at the Wheel at the Austin Music Awards and I saw Johnny Gimble, one of the best players of the Bob Wills band. And I saw Jimmie Vaughan. That kind of stuff never happens in Japan. We might get a date with Asleep at the Wheel, but there's no guests -- it's not like Jimmie Vaughan is going to walk onstage."

SXSW Cuisine: "I like barbecue and Mexican, but sometimes, I need something else. Recently, I found a little Vietnamese noodle shop on Sixth and a couple of other inexpensive Japanese restaurants. Your Japanese food is so-so. But I need it. Sometimes I'm tired of eating greasy food."

What "Japan Night" Bands Learn: "Japanese artists are very spoiled. They travel by train and have roadies driving the vans. They come here and see band members acting as their own roadies and it's a good lesson. It can humble them. A lot of artists report back that they're surprised how hard American musicians work. The Japanese bands don't drive out on 50-date tours.

The Next Step: "I'd like to bring an American band to Japan to tour and then bring the Japanese band back here with them. An exchange program will let both sides experience each other's countries and share audiences."

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