The life of a musician is often documented; Tales of backstage parties and hard life on the road, signing record deals and messy breakups. However, whilst the artists themselves are under the spotlight, those who work behind the scenes, making the shows run smoothly, rarely get their voice heard.
Bridging the gap between the musical scenes of England and Japan, is the HOU Project. Run by Haruna Taira, the promotion community has barely touched ground here in the UK, yet is already bringing big names in the Japanese alternative scene to our shores, as well as sending up and coming British artists to Japan. We caught up with Haruna to find out what the HOU Project is all about.
Beard Rock: When I was young, I wanted to be a guitarist in a rock band. Kurt Cobain was my idol and I wanted to somehow follow in his footsteps. Did you ever have that “rock 'n' roll dream” and if so, what made you decide to pursue a career in booking bands, rather than being in one?
HOU Project: Basically, I have been a music listener, fan, or gig goer my entire life and still am. I tried learning the piano and singing in a chorus for Kyoto city, but when I had to practice for those, it never made me keen to be a performer, I just felt pressured. I realised that when I find new musicians or a movement amongst the new age of music, I was just as excited by their potential. I had previously worked at a local record store in my home town and during that time met number of musicians who I could get involved with. I feel I need to particularly mention a legendary Japanese band, called 54-71. They are crowned as great musicians by many of the musicians in current instrumental bands in Japan. I still think now they were the most important key that made me consider setting up live promotions. I'd say they used to be my “Kurt Cobain”, but currently, Battles and Shellac fill those shoes.
BR: Does the HOU Project have any aim in particular? Obviously there is the link between Japan and the UK...
HOU:The main purpose of HOU Project is, first we want keep our specialised range of music to instrumental, post hardcore or electronica influences. Secondly, I like to support musicians who have a DIY attitude. I often share those ideals with them whereas the larger promotion company will often focus on a contrary strategy. I believe independent promoters should take charge to support musicians more.
BR:The HOU Project's biggest achievement so far is undoubtedly the upcoming all-day event with Tokyo's jazz influenced rock quartet, toe headlining, their first show ever in the UK. Could you tell us more about that and why you chose toe in particular?
HOU: They were the original aim to reach for the HOU project in the UK. We had already worked with them in Japan quite a long time ago and we were connected by so many other musicians which are like a family. Actually, the toe all-dayer is not the biggest one so far. We held one in Kyoto that had gathered over 800 people.
BR: Aside from the musicians, the music industry is a predominantly male-led industry. Have you found any difficulties being a woman in such a working environment?
HOU: Only some people, who typically believe themselves as “proper” in the more commercial side the industry, have looked to underestimate us as DIY promoters, but as a female I have never felt any disadvantage when organising live promotions. In any case, I don't care about those attitudes, to be honest.
BR: What made you decide to work within the UK, rather than Japan? What do you see as advantages and disadvantages from being based in London?
HOU: I just felt there was no one left that we could hassle to book at the time in Japan, haha. We needed a break to see how the music scene would go there for a while. A disadvantage is that I too often miss seeing great bands which are still active in Japan, but we hope that we can bridge them between these two countries and bring them over here.
BR: What music do you like to listen to and how much influence does that have on who you book?
HOU:Honestly, I think I am losing the stimulation to go and see gigs or concerts compared to before. However, I am still keen to meet new musicians who excited me. Passionate musicians that are full of drive inspire me to continue promoting. When I'm at home, I often listen to Mouse On The Keys, or some standard Jazz to relax lately. In fact, Jazz has been my single most important genre all my life.
BR: Finally, what are HOU's plans for the future? Can you give us any scoop as to who the next big booking will be?
HOU:I would simply like to keep putting live promotions at the same time to open a music store and recording label hopefully. As for who is next there will be an announcement soon, you will have to wait and see...
HOU Project presents Toe... takes place on Sunday 23rd September 2012, at XOYO in London.
Posted: Sat 22 September 2012