Japan is widely known for being one of the world’s centers for music, however this site does not focus too much on their bands. Though not as popular in the United States, bands from Japan have some of the most devoted fans you may ever see. One of Japan’s most influential bands happens to be a ska band by the name of Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. This 9-piece band has been around over 25 years and are gearing up to release their 19th studio album, Ska Me Forever, on February 10th through Nacional Records.
TSPO are known for their energetic and exciting live performances and continue to bring their shows to the whole world. With the release of Ska Me Forever, the band proves that they are nothing to be messed with and will not stop for a long time. The album blends a large variety of genres, including punk, rock, classical, and jazz, and mix it all up into their signature ska sound, proving why they are one of the leading international ska bands around today. With a whopping 18 tracks, this album is filled with guest appearances from some of Japan’s leading punk bands such as Asian Kung-Fu Generation and 10-FEET, as well as including covers of well known pieces such as Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” and the classic Mexican folk song “Cielito Lindo.”
Dying Scene was lucky to have baritone saxophone player (and original member) Atsushi Yanaka answer a few questions regarding their upcoming release, touring, and more. Check out the full exclusive interview below.
Dying Scene (Shawn-Ray Dalinsky): This is your 25th anniversary. How does it feel being a band for so long?
Atsushi Yanaka: When we first started, we did not think we would last this long. Ska music was not that big. Also, keeping a band with so many members like us is not an easy task to begin with. We feel that without the support we got from our fans, we could not have continued for this long.
Did you ever expect to have released 19 albums, more than most artists can dream of releasing?
It’s almost like we did not even realize we had released 19 albums. We release 1 album a year. Every time, we are under a lot of self induced pressure feeling that we have to record something better than the last one. Otherwise, we feel it’s not worth making a new album. We feel blessed that we are able to release an album every year .
You recently released a music video for the lead single “Wake Up!” which features Asian Kung-Fu Generation, one of Japan’s biggest bands. What was it like working with them?
It’s a crazy idea to add 4 more musicians to an already big band like Tokyo Ska! 3 guitars, 2 basses and twin drums. We weren’t sure if we can put it all together but we feel that we were able to fuse TSPO and Asian Kung-Fu Generation very well.
You’ve worked with a large range of artists throughout the years. Who have been your favorites to work with? Who would you love to work with?
It is difficult to say who is our favorite. Everyone was great and inspiring to us. We hope to be able to collaborate more with international artists in the future.
This album is such a diverse album in terms of sound and genre. Compared with your past releases, how is this album different in terms of sound and writing?
This is the album we spent more more than ever on. We wanted to try a TSPO approach with rock to dub and more. Everything we could think about we wanted to try.
You have several ska covers on the new album, including a version of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9.” Where’d the idea to do this come from?
We wanted to celebrate our 25th anniversary with all of our fans who had been supporting us and have some fun doing it. Symphony No.9 is so widely known. People around the world can enjoy it.
Any international touring plans, especially in the United States? Bands from Japan seem to leave us alone touring-wise.
We are planning to do a tour in Europe this year. It’s been a while since we were there. We are looking forward to that. US, we would love to do shows again. We enjoyed performing in front of US audience very much and we are working on that. Also, hope to go back to Mexico and more to South American cities.
Are you satisfied with the reception you’ve gotten so far in the United States or do you wish you’d break out more here?
We are happy and we would like to spread our music more! We hope to do more shows in US. We had great shows and audience last year when we toured the US and with the release of this new album with a US label, we hope to do even more.
Is there anything you would like to tell the readers, who may not have known who you are until now?
Ska music makes you dance without knowing what ska music is. You can enjoy our music without really knowing our music. We want you to listen to our music and dance to it!
What can your fans expect from you in the future? At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if another new album is in the works already.
Last year, we were blessed to do shows in many counties and celebrated our 25th anniversary. We hope to do more shows outside of Japan this year and beyond! See you again soon!
1. Peddlers 2014
2. One Way Punk
4. Senkou (Feat. 10-FEET)
5. Damned (Feat. FPM)
6. Sunny Blues / 7 Inch
7. Cielito Lindo
8. Nagareyuku Sekai No Nakade (Feat. MONGOL800)
9. For the Goal
11. Wake Up! (Feat. Asian Kung-Fu Generation)
13. Tennessee Waltz
14. Ode an Die Freude / Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9
15. All Good Ska Is One
16. Down Beat Stomp
17. Ska Me Crazy
18. Storm Rider