Name: Yuta Kiyono
Birthday: December 15 (happy birthday, Yuta!)
Hometown: Yokohama, Japan
Arrived in the Valley: September 15, 1995
Future Plans: Learn English and study at ASU
Current command of English: Shaky, but a hell of a lot better than my Japanese.
Current command of eight ball: Nippon's answer to Minnesota Fats. Yuta can make a pool ball tap-dance--if you beat this guy, it's only because he's setting you up.
Met this writer: Ruthlessly sharking me at pool in the chill-out area at the Kool-Aid rave at Party Gardens on November 17. Took me six games straight. Yuta threw the first four by a hair, then cleared the table after the break on the last two. Yuta smiles almost constantly, but he shows no mercy when there's a cue in his hand.
Knowledge of import and domestic music in Japan: Extensive, a serious student of popular music.
Favorite pop artist: David Bowie
Favorite genre: Jungle beat, a subgenre of techno.
Take on popular music tastes in Japan: "You have ten people my age. One listens to techno. Three listen to American or U.K. rock. Six listen to damn stupid Japanese rock."
Take on karaoke: I go out with friends in Japan to see a movie, and I play pool, then they always say 'Let's go karaoke,' and I go home. What's fun about karaoke? Now I see it is in America, and I go, 'Aieeeee.'"
Take on Hootie and the Blowfish: "Who?"
Why he favors techno over rock: "I like rock, but I am trying to move on. I can say I love rock 'n' roll, and try to go back to the '60s and '70s, but I don't want to."
Favorite Japanese DJ: DJ Force, who spins underground jungle beat at a club in Tokyo, a 45-minute train ride from Yokohama.
Least favorite Japanese techno club: Juliana Tokyo, a famous nightclub in Japan's largest city, with a $45 cover charge. "It is so stupid. They let girls in free, and they dance on the stage wearing little, and businessmen in suits stand up close to the stage and stare at them. Some of the girls write their numbers on their stomach. Stupid. Like here, there are lots of techno clubs, but most are not any good. They play old music, like The Works."
Report on drugs in the Japanese techno scene (paraphrased): The drug of choice is called "Trip." Ecstacy is too expensive (around $50 a hit). Yuta says trip is not LSD, speed or mescaline, but a synthetic compound that can't be found in the U.S. It costs about $10, lasts about three hours, and "makes everything louder."
Favorite Japanese rock band: Supergrass. "It costs $55 to see them in Japan. I saw them at Gibson's for $5, and I could not believe it. So lucky."
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Take on almost all other Japanese bands, including Shonen Knife and Pizzicato Five: "They make music that is not so good because they want to become famous in America. Every band in Japan wants to be famous in America, but they can't play American or U.K. kind of rock because American and U.K. bands are too good. So they do strange music to be different or something, but it's not real."
Report on the commercial status of American superstars in Japan: "Mariah Carey. Her last year's Christmas album is still so famous. Next is Michael Jackson, all of his records. Pearl Jam is not so big. R.E.M. is not so big. Nirvana and Green Day are in the middle."
Recommended Japanese imports: Anything by Keisuke Kuwata. Yuta and I had trouble communicating on this topic more than any other--best I can tell is that Kuwata is a quirky but highly emotive vocalist with a wild range, who sings in Japanese but uses American-style enunciation. He used to do pop songs about "boys and girls," Yuta says, but his latest album is highly political.
Final comments on the Japanese rave scene and associated trends: "It is getting bigger slowly." There are those who promote techno "in a very underground way," Yuta says, and there are those who put the music on commercials. The worst offender in the latter category is evidently a Midas-touch producer named Tetsuya Komuro, who was once the leader of an electronic-music group called Yellow Monkey Orchestra that was popular in Japan in the early '80s. Yuta says Komuro reemerged in 1993 as the producer of a band called Tokyo Rave Factory. The mere mention of that band's name is enough to make Yuta groan and bury his head in hishands--"so, so bad" is all he can bring himself to say on the matter. Two years ago,Yuta says, Tetsuya produced a single by a comedian called "Downtown" who had never stepped up to a mike before. The song was called "War, War, Tonight." As Yuta explains it, the comedian droned the words "War, War, Tonight" over cheesy jungle beats. The single was No.1 on the Japanese charts for 15 weeks, and induced Komuro to start using jungle beats on music he makesfor TV commercials, much to the chagrin of Yuta and DJs like Force. "Tetsuyasay 'Jungle is coming,' and so now it may be big," Yuta says. "But if he say 'Hiphop is coming,' everyone would follow him to hip-hop. He changes all their minds--they may begin to listen to jungle, but it's not real; and if music isn't real, it's nogood."--David Holthouse