The rise and fall of the Kitchen

We're at the point in this life chronicle where the president of the company's best friend's son had returned to Japan looking for work. He wanted to promote dance music, which was something that I had been asking to do for at least a year or so. Back then, there was a massive DJ boom and dance music was hot. It was also a market that we had not tapped into, so it would have provided the company with a new direction. No matter how much I asked, they would never let me do it until this kid had returned to Japan from Canada. “If you are able to work with him you can do your dance music project.” I didn't care who the kid was or what he wanted to do. I was willing to work with him because it was an opportunity for me to explore my own thing. So, I taught him everything I knew about the scene at the time. I introduced him to all of my contacts and helped him establish himself so that we could work together. He was obsessed with a DJ and MC that he had seen once in Canada and was convinced that Canadian dance music would be able to take root in Japan and flourish. There was actually not much of a market for it, nor was there much interest in the DJ who this kid wanted to promote. The MC and the DJ, however, were very cool people with amazing talent but there was something that the new kid did not understand. In order for our project to work we had to operate within the parameters of the system.

Back then, there were dance music artists of notoriety who became famous in this country because of all of the promotion and work that they had done outside of Japan. Anyone who would gain fame here had to have gained it outside of the country first. Except for native born Japanese musicians, there's never been a case where someone has started out here and gained fame as a foreign artist in any genre. There are a few exceptions in the world of pop music but only one in dance music, a DJ who spun for Julian Tokyo and its spin-off company, Velfarre. i don’t remember the guy’s name but he was back by people who had money to spend on the radio and TV ads needed to turn him into a pop star.

So, the kid was already fighting a losing battle, one that was impossible to win because there was no media support, no prior history or career known to Japanese people, the DJ and MC themselves were young, and performing in a genre called drum and bass, which was already on its way out in Japan. It did have a huge following thanks to a gatekeeper named Mr. Kamba. He understood how the system worked and made a career out of booking well known drum and bass DJs and MCs from the UK in his regular night called Drum and Bass sessions, which was wildly popular. Mr. Kamba had no interest in booking the Canadian DJs in his event. He understood what the new kid didn't. The Canadians would not bring paying customers and it was nearly impossible to build someone up from scratch without an enormous amount of financial resources and deep connections within the media.

Our company, Groove Kitchen had a time limit. As long as we could keep making money to pay our own salaries, we could keep the doors open for business. Back then, I could barely speak Japanese. I knew enough to have casual conversations in a bar but not nearly enough to be able to argue my case for particular plan or course of action. I needed a voice. Almost no one in the company spoke English, except the two people who were assigned to be my partners. They were the new kid and an amazing woman by the name of Yumi. Our job was to produce events, book artists and create tours. The new kid had lots of charisma. The people saw him as one of their own and so they accepted him. I was the good at creating new ideas, working with artists’ managers and planning projects. Yumi was a great coordinator and amazing at PR.

The three of us should have been a well-oiled machine with me making connections outside of Japan, the kid building connection inside Japan, and Yumi coordinating the PR and logistics. However, the new kid was arrogant and greedy. He wanted to be in control of everything and saw me as someone who stood in the way of that. Here's a perfect example for you. Once we were given an offer to run a nightclub in the city. It would have been a huge asset for us to have our own venue where we could promote and book whatever artists we chose. Instead of working together on the project as a team, the new kid came to me and said, “This is mine. I'm doing this and don't you fucking touch it.” So, I stopped giving him suggestions on how to pitch the idea and he failed to close the deal.

Another thing we often fought about was his dishonesty with some of the local artists we were working with. He always tried to find ways to cut corners or get out of paying people. I am the kind of person who believes that even if it means going in the red, we have to honor our agreements. The new kid did not share that idea. When I called him on it, he became angry like a little child being told to clean his room or do his homework.

In order to destabilize my position within the scene, he began to go out out and whispered in the dark, telling half-truths and sometimes straight out lies. He believed that by discrediting I would no longer be able to work and he would be the only one left. Yumi was the one who told me about his behavior when had started asking her if the lies they had told had been true. She suggested that I do something about it but I knew it would be a matter of time before his deceit would come back to harm him.

Eventually Yumi and I started to ignore the kid and work on our own project, which we called Nuphoria. The word was born from the combination of new and euphoria. It was meant to be our newfound happiness. For a couple of years we were very successful because we had found the perfect venue and was able to create something magical with it. It lasted until the venue closed due to the lease not being renewed. We tried to move to a different spot but it never quite had the same magic.

The new kid, whose name I am purposely leaving out of the story, began to grow increasingly out of control. He refused to help us with anything and increased his campaign to spread falsehoods and lies in order to sabotage whatever Yumi and I were working on. He was upset because we we're not shouting the gospel of Canadian drum and bass. We tried but no one was interested. We had a business to keep afloat and so we moved on without him.

Unfortunately. the vice president of our parent company, who was supposed to oversee us, was totally useless. He never gave us guidance or assistance of any kind. He just sat in the office and read his novels and waited for us to report. He was also a very short sighted person who did not understand anything about the industry that he was working in. He had somehow gotten by on the backs of others and through pure luck. When we needed him the most to help us move the business forward, he was utterly ineffective.

Groove Kitchen finally came crashing down when the new kid and I had a fight in the office. It happened during a planning meeting. As always, I suggested that we each focus on our strengths so that we could make things work but the new kid didn't want to hear it. He suddenly started yelling and stood up in a fight pose. Out of reflex, I stood too. We were chest to chest when he headbutted me. I grabbed him by the shirt and dragged him across the desks. I was surprised at how poised and aware I was throughout this process. I wanted to establish the fact that I was not going to take his crap, but I did not want to hurt him. As I was flinging him around like a rag doll, I was careful to mind the corners of the desks and not to damage computers and other precious equipment. Yumi climbed on top of a table and screamed. The poor girl really didn't know what to do.

After everything had settled down she decided to go to the vice president and tell him everything. She told him how the new kid was constantly causing trouble, spreading rumors and lies. She told him how he was uncooperative and growing more out of control day by day. She even told him that he was the one who started the fight. Her hope was that the new kid would be fired. Instead, we all got fired. “If you can’t work together then it’s over for all of you.” That was the end of Groove Kitchen.

About a year or two after, I ran into the new kid at Fuji Rock festival, where we were both working as interpreters. My Japanese had improved by then, Ironically, the Fuji Rock gig was a job that I set up for the new kid before everything went to shit. it was the perfect place to keep our fingers on the pulse of what was going on. On the day I saw him, he came to apologize for the way he had behaved all those years and he recognized the fact that our project did not succeed because of his bad attitude. I have never wanted to punch someone in the face so hard in all of my life. He really had ruined everything.

Later, I found out from someone that the reason why he was acting like such a dick all the time was because when he was hired, the president had secretly made a promise to him. The kid was supposed to learn everything he could from me, tap into my connections and resources, and eventually take over the entire thing. When I heard that, my heart broke into pieces because it felt like a great betrayal. The mystery was solved though. They had created that monster.

Shortly after I saw the kid at Fuji Rock Festival, he got arrested for dealing drugs. He went away for a short while then worked as a bartender when he got out. I have no idea where he is now but I hope he has grown to be a better man than he was back then.

The photo is of Motoharu Fukuda, he was a sax player for Soil and Pimp Sessions, a band who made their major debut thanks to NUPHORIA.

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