The impossible task
My mission, which was given directly to me by the leader of the band, Masa, was to help him get his dance remixes on the streets. He wanted to do a dance remix for a long time but the record company said no. The management company also refused him. They both did so with good reason. The dance music world is very unforgiving and also very cynical. It was highly unlikely that a J pop artist like Dreams Come True would be a big hit with the electronic music crowd. People who listen to house music, techno, drum and bass, and other types of electronic dance music typically despise super commercialized pop. The chances of Masa successfully getting his dance music played by DJ's was very slim. Masa did not want to hear that. He brought in his remixes to the studio and made me listen. Then he turned to me and said,“ what do you think ?”
It's terrible to say this now but I also had a deep rooted hatred for super commercialized pop music. I was young and ignorant. My head was full of ideas about what music should and shouldn't be. It wasn't until years later when I saw a woman crying in front of me during the concert that I realized how stupid I had been. But because of my prejudice against super pop, I really did not like the dance remixes. Of course, I could not tell him that and it was my chance to take on a project of my own so I had to make it work somehow. I also knew that I was not the authority of everything. It was highly possible that here, in Japan, there might have been many people who wanted to listen to remixes of Dreams Come True songs.
I told Masa that mixes were great and that his project was a great idea. That's when he put me in charge of everything. I was in charge of getting the remixes mastered. I was in charge of promoting them to DJs. I was in charge of getting them distributed because the label refused to take part in the dance remixes, I was responsible for the jacket design and for the actual pressing of the vinyl records. The dance remixes were only available on vinyl. It was exactly what I had asked for, a project that I could do which allowed me to learn the ends and outs of the music business. Through this project I learned all about mastering sessions and how record distribution works which companies to go to at that time how the record should be pressed and what things we should be concerned about when pressing them. I learned about printing and all of the things that go into jacket design, from concept to product completion. I also learned the ends and outs of promoting a record.
This was still in the late 90s and so we didn't have the Internet to rely on. Social media hadn't been invented yet. No one at the office would help me. They said, “You are working on this project by yourself. So do it by yourself!!” With the vast resources and influence of the company backing me the potential would have been endless. I would never know because they were determined to see me fail.
I found someone outside of the company who ran a dance music promotion business. It was small but the guy was hungry, which is what I needed. I worked with him to get introductions to record distributors and music writers. We also worked together to promote the remix by driving around to every nightclub in the city meeting the DJs face to face and handing each one a copy of the record. Not only did we drive around Tokyo, but I also flew to every major city in the country with a bag of records. All the effort paid off the cause I think we sold more than 10,000 copies of vinyl alone and Dreams come True's dance remixes were being played in clubs all across the country. It was quite an accomplishment and I did it without any help from my superiors who should have guided me through the process and helped.
Part of the reason why the first released worked was the novelty of the product. It was the first time that the band had released a dance remix. Unfortunately, the novelty wore off after the first record and the cynicism of the dance music industry returned. One day I was called to the Bahamas to personally talk to Masa about the project. I guess he didn't want to talk on the phone. So, I got on the plane and I went all the way to a place called Compass Point Studio. It's a beautiful recording studio in a resort like setting. Puff Daddy was recording in the studio next to ours. Unfortunately they didn't have any extra rooms so I had to stay in Masa’s room, which was the size of a Tokyo apartment. Sharing a room with your boss is not really the best way to spend your time in the Bahamas. I was extremely nervous. He wasn't exactly the friendliest guy during that time either. He was very much the boss and wanted everyone to feel it.
“So, what should we do for the next release of the remix?” he asked. Knowing the dance music crowd as well as I did I knew that his next move should be to have a well-established dance music artist do the remix for him . This was a way to maintain the respect of the dance music community while getting them used to hearing the sound of Dreams Come True remixes . I suggested that he commission a remix from someone of notoriety for the A-side and then put his own mix on the B-side. He stared at me blankly for what felt like forever. Then he suddenly said, “I thought you were special. You're just like all of the other record label executives I've talked to. I thought you would tell me something new or brilliant. I'm very disappointed.” That made staying in the same room with him even more awkward. We basically sat in silence for a long long time. I didn’t know how to respond.
The information I had given him was correct. That’s why the music executives at Virgin told him the same thing. It was the best chance he had of getting a foothold in the dance music scene. The problem was Masa wanted to be known for making dance music even though he did not have the experience or even the understand of the club scene. To make him happy, I had to backtrack and offer up another solution to allow him to be able to realize his dream. “Why don’t you choose two more songs to remix then. We sold over 10,000 of the first one on vinyl only. If we give them a crossover sound like Funk a Monster we may be able to get more traction.” Basically, I told him what he wanted to hear even though I knew that interest in their dance music had already started to fade once the novelty wore off. I got comments directly from the distributors and DJ's telling me as much. Still, I had to get it done because that was the mission that I had been given.
I took a stroll along the ocean and thought long and hard about how I was going to sell record that nobody wanted. In many ways I felt like Don Quixote. It was my chance and I had to make it work.