KYOTO – What do you get when two Pennsylvanians meet in a Kyoto bar? A whole lot of music. An terrible lot, in reality.
Of the 2 Pennsylvanians in query, one is Kato David Hopkins, 65, a long-term Japanese resident of Japan who has taken Japanese citizenship. Kato, his spouse’s household identify, is an addition to his personal identify from when his citizenship was finalized.
Hopkins, a prolific file collector, has been overlaying the underground music scene in Kansai for almost 40 years.
Within the 1990s, Hopkins ran Public Tub Data with a good friend. He has additionally acted as an area hand for visiting bands corresponding to Fugazi, Mudhoney and Sonic Youth on their Japan excursions. Extra lately he switched from publishing music to publishing books about music below his personal imprint, Public Tub Press.
As soon as a month, Hopkins hauls a case of 45 rpm data — a tiny fraction of his huge assortment — from his house in Nara to Kyoto, the place he hosts Pleased Hour, a music and dialogue occasion at Pop! Pizza, an eatery and gig venue run by Daniel McNellie, the opposite Pennsylvanian on this story.
It’s a serendipitous pairing. McNellie, a musician, additionally runs Secret Mission Data, which points principally punk and energy pop releases, and his file assortment occupies half of 1 wall of the venue’s bar. Though Pop! Pizza has been open lower than a yr, it has performed host to veteran punks corresponding to The Outcasts and Duncan Reid, in addition to native acts corresponding to Good To Meet You, 50/50’s and Weekend Fan!
In brief, it’s the sort of place the place, had it been open in 1979 when he first arrived in Japan, Hopkins would have gravitated to and made himself at house.
Hopkins and McNellie solely found they each hail from town of Pittsburg after Hopkins performed his first set earlier this yr.
“We actually hit it off, speaking about our favourite native bars, pizza, beers and data outlets,” says McNellie.
Hopkins got here to Japan to keep away from writing his doctoral thesis. His thesis adviser had jumped ship to a different college, and some Japanese associates from college recommended Hopkins additionally leap ship — to Japan. So he took off, wound up in Kansai in 1979 on the age of 25, discovered a job educating English and bought busy gathering data and going to gigs.
“I’ve all the time collected data,” Kato says, including that his curiosity lay in “the stuff my associates didn’t have.”
Hopkins has by no means misplaced his curiosity about music on the fringes, however he’s additionally “small c” catholic in his tastes and inquisitiveness. At his month-to-month Pleased Hour gig — truly extra like three hours — the music spans a long time, genres and oceans.
At one current occasion, Hopkins coated enka singers Mina Aoe and Aki Yashiro, early American rockers The Sonics and Tommy James and the Shondells, a variety of feminine legends from Dusty Springfield to Evie Sands, and outliers like P. J. Proby and Nickie Lee, earlier than touchdown on Japanese pop star Mieko Hirota.
All of the data are chosen from Hopkins’ expansive assortment, which is saved close to his home.
At Pop! Pizza, whereas Hopkins lets the music play uninterrupted, it’s additionally the antithesis of Japan’s bleedingly hip “listening bars.” Positive, there’s listening happening, however there’s additionally loads of consuming and speaking — a church this isn’t!
Like anybody who’s severe a couple of interest, Hopkins needed to work on just a few various factors so as to progress. When he journeyed to Kansai in the summertime of 1986 for his second stint in Japan, this time for the lengthy haul, he set about discovering out the place indie bands and outliers had been enjoying. However, as he says, it took a very long time to seek out them.
“I didn’t learn Japanese, so I labored on that,” he says, with fun.
Now, almost 30 years on, many of the haunts that Hopkins frequented, primarily within the south of Osaka, have disappeared. One exception is Bears, which opened in 1986 and remains to be working, roughly unchanged.
Hopkins admits he was one thing of a curiosity again then, usually the one international visitor at gigs, however he was additionally curious and he may converse Japanese, so he parlayed his method into the scene.
“The very best place was Eggplant in Nishinari (Ward),” Hopkins says. “It was just about the one place that had hardcore punk in Osaka. The golf equipment had been hesitant to have the punks are available in and tear their place up.”
Primarily, Eggplant was a mishmash of rehearsal studios thrown collectively.
“Within the bigger studio they held dwell reveals,” says Hopkins, “and since that they had rehearsal studios they had been open all night time. … You possibly can go there anytime and there can be folks enjoying.
“I bought to be associates with lots of people from there and it modified my entire life — it decided the path of the remainder of my life.”
With the vary of music performed at Eggplant, all the pieces from psychedelic to onerous rock, Hopkins bought a education within the underground music scene.
Starting within the late ’80s he made an effort to push Japanese bands corresponding to Shonen Knife and Sekiri in the USA.
Hopkins accompanied Sekiri, an all-female punk band from Kyoto, on a tour of the U.S.
“They had been actual punk,” he says. “I imply they couldn’t play their devices.”
On the bar in Pop! Pizza, Hopkins delivers a primer on Sekiri, detailing its demise — the songwriter left the band after changing into pregnant — and its first launch, constituted of a tape recording of a rehearsal.
Hopkins delivers all this to not present that he is aware of all about an obscure Japanese punk band, however slightly to get to the punchline, the identify of a music from that launch which is each amusing and outdoors the parameters of what’s match to print right here.
Bounce ahead to 2014 and it’s no surprise that Hopkins determined to set about chronicling Japan’s indie scene in a e book. He settled on a interval from the late ’70s as much as the tip of Japan’s bubble financial system. Initially, he conceived the e book — known as “Dokkiri!” after a rock compilation album of the identical identify — as a down-the-rabbit-hole have a look at the underground scene in Kansai.
Nevertheless, associates inspired him to take a extra expansive view and in addition survey what was taking place in Tokyo.
“Tokyo folks have complained that (the e book) is just too Kansai-centric,” says Hopkins. “However, you understand, that’s simply what Tokyo folks do.”
No matter its limitations, “Dokkiri!”, which was printed by Public Tub Press, is each a wry and warts-and-all have a look at the egos, antics and influences of Japan’s punks and rockers. It’s a e book that arguably deserves a a lot wider viewers.
As for what’s subsequent, Hopkins is engaged on a e book in regards to the beginnings of Japan’s underground noise scene, with a concentrate on Kyoto. Many of the interviews are accomplished, and he now has to get down to truly writing it and never falling any additional delayed. Because the launch of “Dokkiri!,” Public Tub Press has additionally printed a handful of Japanese to English translations on topics corresponding to enka, Japanese folks music and the musings of ex-Boredoms member Seiichi Yamamoto.
Hopkins says he nonetheless listens to nearly something, though he has his limits.
“Music air pollution positively drives me loopy,” he says. “I can hardly stand to go to a shopping center as a result of there may be a lot music in every single place, and all of it’s boring. The older I get the extra I take heed to oddball jazz, avant-garde stuff.”
And with that, Hopkins gathers up his 10-kilogram case of data and fades into the night time to catch his prepare again to Nara.
Kato David Hopkins’ Pleased Hour is held at Pop! Pizza in Kyoto on the fourth Thursday of each month.