The day I was asked to join the band
I was unemployed for exactly one month after the spectacular disintegration of Groove Kitchen. I had two kids to feed and I had no idea what I was going to do. I did not, under any circumstances, want to go backwards. I had to keep moving forward. The collapse of groove kitchen was not just a loss of a job, it was the end of a spectacular life. Despite having to work with a very difficult person, I loved the life. I was deep in it and neck high in creative expression. Music was a language that everyone spoke and I could understand it just as well as the next guy. I didn't have instruments to play but I spoke through poetry and turned that into music. It connected so well with everyone in the underground scene that I could go to almost any club in the city and never have to pay to get in or to have drinks. Everyone knew who I was and despite my colleague’s efforts to undermine me, I was quite well liked and respected.
It's very difficult to go from being special back to being an ordinary person. I don't mean that with any sort of pretension. I am simply communicating to you how it felt. I was living in the world between worlds. It was like existing in a quasi-dimensional state. I did not have to be bound by the nine to five rule of survival. Going to parties was my job. Meeting celebrities and legendary people was my job. I was part of a small community that forged the cultural future of the country. That meant more to me than I could ever describe in the flimsy words I'm sketching for you here on this hastily written report. Losing my job at Groove Kitchen made me feel depressed because I believed that I had nowhere to go but backward. Although I had several connections in the industry, they did not hold up when it came time to get a job. It's almost impossible for as a foreigner to shift into the next thing because the opportunities that exist for foreigners were very slim. At the time I thought I had it stayed long enough and it was time to go home. The only problem with home was that I would also have to go back to the ghetto before I could get my footing and rise out of it again. That was another kind of going backwards that I did not want.
My friend Ed Thompson used to come around and try to help me build a professional profile for as a way to market myself beyond what I was doing at the time. It was hard to fathom then because I was in my late 20s and early 30s. I was still just trying to figure out how to get by in a country where I had a small grasp on the language and had only my cunning and charisma just to get by. At the time, my mental capacity wasn't large enough to see that bigger picture because I couldn't understand how I could overcome these limitations. I also had no idea what I was doing. I was flying topsy turvy like a drunk pilot.
I've learned since then that my fears and perceived limitations were a figment of my imagination. I created them and once I did, they became as real as anything else. It was only through the shifting of my perception and through perseverance to keep on pushing through that I was able to achieve almost anything. I said “almost” because some things are impossible no matter how hard I work. At my current age, for example, I'll never be a brain surgeon, an architect, a ballet dancer, or a classical pianist. However, I also never have to go backwards. I'm free and clear to move forward, always forward.
While I was wallowing in my misery I got a phone call from Masato Nakamura. He needed some help with English lyrics that he was writing. He always admired my ability as a poet. Whenever I helped he also paid, so I was more than happy to drop by and lend a hand when I could. I had and still have a deep respect for how he kept everything going. His business was solid as a rock, even if it had a few bumps and shakes along the way. I do have to be honest and say I didn't agree with all of his methods. He was very Machiavellian about a lot of things that he did, but I can see that it got the job done and he was able to take care of his business. I also have two show mad respect to the fact that he took care of me. To this day, I still do not know why, but he seemed to feel compelled to take me under his wing. On the day that dropped by his place to help with lyrics he asked what I had been doing for the last month. I made it a point of professional pride to never ask him for anything that was not directly related to my ability to perform my job at his company. This was because I knew that a person of his stature was always being bombarded by people who wanted something. I had no choice but to break that code. I told him things were rough and that honestly I needed a job. I assumed he would send me to another music company that needed someone in the international office or at least hook me up with some narration work or radio program or something. He asked me to give him a week to respond.
At that time, I was good friends with his younger brother Tatsuya, who's also a very talented musician. Just like Masa, he also played the bass. I think he really looked up to his brother, almost like a father figure and tried his best to impress him. I don't know if Masa ever told him how much he loved him or admired him. That wasn't his style back then. He was always a hard ass who pushed people to their limits. Tatsuya was mesmerized by the sound of my voice and how it flowed with the music that he created. We recorded a lot of songs together and even did handful of live performances. I never knew at the time, but Masa and Miwa sometimes slipped in the back and watched incognito with their dark sunglasses on and hats pulled way down so nobody knew who they were. I don’t know how many shows they saw but they it was a few.
True to his word, Masa call me up and asked me to come over. I got on the train and went to his house. One of the staff served me lunch and something exquisite to drink. After lunch, Masa ask me if I would be interested in going on tour with the band. I was dumbfounded because it wasn't what I expected at all. I told him that I didn't think I was worthy enough because I was not a trained musician and I was definitely not from the world of pop music. That's when he looked at me and said, “I have seen you perform. You have something that nobody else has and I want that in my show. Don't worry about all that other stuff you talking about. I know you can do this. I've seen you do it.”
For eight more years, I got to be special again.