Geared up and well oiled, Machina just gave Japanese audiences a much needed tune-up! A few weeks I wrote a brief article about these hard rockin’ rebels from the good ol’ US of A, and while they were rolling through Nagoya, I got a chance to sit down with guitarist John Lecompt, singer Phil Taylor, drummer Rocky Gray, and bassist Thad Able to find out what they think about our island of the rising sun. These rock n’ roll veterans were essential components of the hugely successful Evanescence and Future Leaders of the World, so they’ve been around and they seen the sights. Now, they’re gonna give us the straight dope on the good, bad, ugly, and crazy that they’ve found here in Japan!
NAGMAG: So, how many times have you been to Japan?
Thad Ables (TA): I’ve been to Japan four times. I came over and toured as the guitar tech for Evanescence.
John Lecompt (JL): Yeah, Rocky and I came then, too.
Phil Taylor (PT): This is my first time!
NAGMAG: Whoa! Excellent! Newbie in our midst!! So, let’s start with Phil for the next question. What’s you’re favorite city in Tokyo?
PT: Well, I haven’t been to Osaka yet, but Tokyo was cool. A little too busy for me. It’s like I was told. It’s the New York of Japan. I did have one kinda scary experience when I was out on the street talking on my cell phone. All of a sudden, these cops came out of nowhere and started questioning me, and searching my pockets, and I don’t speak any Japanese, so it was pretty stressful. I was clean, so there were no problems, but wow… Anyway, on a positive note, I really like how clean Japan is. And, everyone is more polite than back home. It’s a peaceful place.
NAGMAG: Yeah, that is true. Wow! That sucks about the cops. Yeah, there’s a bit of profiling here when it comes to foreigners with tattoos. I’m sorry to hear that. How about you guys? Favorite city in Japan?
Rocky Gray (RG): Well, this is my fourth time, and I guess I’d have to say Tokyo. I think when I think of Japan, most of the time my image is Tokyo. But, as far as a favorite place… I’m not really a big sightseer. I pretty much like to know where to get food, where’s the hotel, where’s the venue; that sort of thing. *laughs*
TA: I gotta say Sendai. The second time we came over here we did a tour all the way from Sapporo down to Osaka. When we finished in Sendai, which was the second stop, the band went on ahead to Tokyo and the crew stayed behind. So, I got a chance to really just walk around and explore by myself. All night long, I just walked around by myself; turning every corner, seeing what’s around the next bend. Ya know, just not having any real destination. I loved it. It became a very personal memory to me. I was really really very sad to hear that it was all lost in the Tsunami.
NAGMAG: Yeah, that was difficult for a lot of people… That’s really great that you got to have such a great experience before all that transpired. John, how about you? Favorite place in Japan?
JL: I don’t know… That’s hard to say, man. I don’t suppose I have a favorite… Well, Osaka was the first city that we’d ever gone to, so that was like my introduction to Japan. I really like it. It’s gotta a special something about it because it seems much more traditional. I like that it’s got that old school traditional vibe to it. But, still I don’t know… I just really like the Japanese culture.
NAGMAG: Very cool. Alright, next question. Japanese cuisine; can you handle it? Any food here that you love or hate?
RG: I like rice.
NAGMAG: Well, you’ve come to the right place! Any thing else?
RG: Well, a like beef on the rice… Fried rice… Shrimp fried rice… Keep it simple, man. Keep it simple. *More laughs*
PT: I love Japanese food!! I’m a big fan of sushi. I go out and eat sushi a lot in New Orleans. Of course there have been a few surprises when buying stuff at convenience stores; weird flavors that I couldn’t get past and such. But overall I’m a big fan of Japanese food; it’s amazing. Any place that takes pride in their seafood is a place that I can enjoy.
JL: Ah, it just depends for me, man. I grew up in Arkansas, so everything is deep fried. That’s just the way it is. So, when I got here my pallet wasn’t that eclectic, so to speak. But, when the reality it me in that face that I’m gonna get to go see the world, I decided that I would make it a point to try some of this stuff; for better or for worse. But, as for Japanese food, I know it’s healthy and all, but me, I’m a flavor guy. And texture is a big thing for me too. If something doesn’t taste right, or there’s a tentacle or something in it, or if it’s movin’ around on my plate, then I’m gonna trip out, man. *Laughs*
TA: I like eel! I usually get that when we go out for sushi. Most of the time, we’re taken out by promoters, so they just order for us. I don’t usually know the name of what I’m eating, but I usually like it. Actually, I’ve never eaten anything here that I didn’t like.
TA: I think the fans hear treasure the music more. A lot of times, American audiences seem to take what they have for granted. Not everyone, of course. But, here that’s not the case. Everyone is just so enthused! And, to me, that matters a lot. When you can feed off the crowds enthusiasm, it helps you play better. And then meeting fans after shows is just great. Everyone is so respectful. It makes ya feel so honored.
PT: I think the crowds here are frickin’ amazing! I feel like Japanese fans are, per capita, more enthusiastic, more attentive, and more appreciative toward our music. They seem to really respect that people put time into their work, ya know. And that the kind of reaction you want when you put yourself out there. I feel really re-energized by the Japanese audiences. So, yeah, it’s been really positive.
RG: Yeah, it’s pretty different here. They’re like super fans, ya know; like really legit fans. I think America is a little spoiled, because they always have bands all the time. So, over there, it’s just like “whatever”. But, it seems like when an American band comes through here, the Japanese are just like “awesome”! Yeah, they really appreciate the hard work, time, and effort that it takes to do this. They make the twelve-hour flight worth it.
JL: Japanese crowds are the only crowds in the world that really stand out to me. I’ve seen it vary. Back in the Evanescence days, we’d come out and the curtain would be drawn, and it’d be so quiet that I’d start wondering if anyone had bought tickets the show. But, as soon as that curtain would open it would just be a deafening roar of cheering fans all going crazy, and then they’s stop… They’d just quiet and attentively wait for the song to start. It was just so polite. It’s just totally different here, man.
PT: Yes! 100% Yes!! We’ve got our CD in Tower Records here, and Grind House magazine has been pumping us up and even got us into regular radio rotation. So, you can bet we’ll be doing all we can to get back over here. Japan’s just got a great vibe! We love it!
NAGMAG: Sweet! Well, we’ll be eagerly awaiting your return!! Thank you, guys!! It’s been a pleasure!! Good luck in Osaka, and safe travels back to the states!!
Interview by Tom Fallon