Ken South Rock
You both met in New York City. How did that come about?
I met Ken for the first time in Brooklyn NYC, at Goodbye Blue Mondays which is a venue that I built and live above. I came down from my apartment to go to the store and the sound man that night was outside smoking a cigarette. When he saw me he said "Adam you have to come in here and see this guy on stage, he is crazy", so i went inside and saw Ken playing solo. There were only 3 people in the venue. Ken was playing like he was in front of 3000 people. He had so much energy and control, I was instantly amazed. His songs were very interesting to me because they were not generic; he seemed to have his own style of songwriting. I instantly knew I wanted to play with him. When he finished his last song I went up to him and thanked him for his performance, and asked if he would like to come up to my apartment and jam. I live in Bushwick Brooklyn. It's kind of a ghetto so you can be as loud as you want and play music in your house. I realized that Ken only spoke a little English, and he seemed to be very afraid of me. He later told me he thought I was going to mug him. I kind of dragged him up to my apartment. When I opened the door to my place he saw drums and amps and knew I was a musician and not going to kill him. I told him to plug his guitar in to a big amp and I sat behind the drums and we started jamming. We instantly became musical partners. I told him to come back to my house again. The next day he called me on the phone but we couldn't understand each other. He showed up at my door the next day and we went over all his songs and wrote 2 new songs together. He asked me if I could sing, so i tried for the first time and it felt great. He opened up a whole new door for me musically. We spent the rest of his stay in NYC playing live shows and open-mic's. He went back to Japan in January of 2011, and invited me to tour Japan in March of 2011.
Adam, what were you doing before you joined Ken? Former bands? Did you have any inkling that you might end up in the rock band based on the other side of the world?
I have always played music with my family. My father is David Amram. He is a renowned jazz and classical musician and composer. I have been in his band since I was a baby. I was also in a rock & roll band called the New York Howl and have toured around the U.K., Scotland and America with them. That band came to a dramatic ending in early 2010. I was in bands in NYC after but nothing was serious. I really wanted to tour and devote my life to music. I had no idea what I was going to do next until I met Ken. Ken was in a very famous band in Japan called Chuburari, and they also had a dramatic ending so he came to NYC to tour solo.
Were your preconceptions of each other's live music scenes accurate (Adam of Japan's and Ken of NYC's)
Adam: Yes they were somewhat accurate, I thought Ken's Music scene in Japan was going to be full of variety.
Ken: Yes! I knew Adam was into all types of music and if his scene is real but I was surprised at how crazy Americans are, they love to dance and stage dive!
You're currently touring your new album 'Volcano' around Japan before coming to tour Taiwan. How's that going?
It's been great! This is our 3rd tour of Japan from Tokyo to Kagoshima and all the cities in between. We are starting to build a good fan base! We are a DIY band and our hard work has been paying off!
Your first tour of Japan began days before the earthquake/tsunami. What happened to the tour then?
The first show of the tour was the day of the earthquake, we were in Kamisuwa at club Doors. While we were sound-checking the building started to shake. Earthquakes are a normal occurrence in Japan so at first no one thought anything of it, but then the building started to really shake violently and everyone in the building started to scream in Japanese to run outside. When we stepped on the street outside the club the earth was rumbling underneath us so heavy that it was hard to stand, and the sounds of the buildings shaking is hard to explain in words. I am not sure how long the earthquake lasted - time slowed down. When the earthquake finally came to a halt, everyone on the street looked around at each other. No one was hurt and there seemed to be no damage done to any of the buildings. We went back into the club and finished sound-check. After sound-check I went on my computer and saw that I received many messages from America asking if I was ok. This is when I realized how serious it was. My close friend in America sent me a live-stream video of the tsunami, and I called for Ken to come watch. We saw on the live-stream the waves crashing into the land. Kamisuwa is high in the mountains so I knew we were safe. While we were watching the live-stream, Ken looked at me and said that the people were safe because the Japanese are sea people and knew to get away. He was in denial of the situation and so was I. I turned my computer off and we played the show that night. The next morning we went on a train to the next city. None of the clubs canceled the shows. As the days went by the reality of how horrible the tsunami was started to sink in and the death toll was rising day by day. Then the news of the nuclear power plant exploding was getting worse. Day 3 after the quake is when I made a choice to stay and continue playing. Me and Ken have very little money so we could not donate to the relief funds, and we both felt that our music was the only thing we could give. The Japanese people who came to our show could forget just for a second about what was happening, we were helping in some way. Every night we prayed on stage for the dead and their families. My family and friends in America were freaked out and did not understand why I was not coming home. We both believe that in times of chaos music can help heal, so it was our job to finish the tour and play. I am very glad to this day I completed the tour and gave every show my all, even though I was scared. I still have dreams about it.
Do you share common musical influences with each other? If so, which bands?
Original music that is played from the heart! We both love and are influence by Jimi Hendrix most of all! Because when he arrived on the scene in the 60s he was abnormal and real! Now we love to see underground music.
With you in the band now Adam, how much are you contributing to the song-writing efforts?
I write 50% of a song and Ken writes 50% of it. We love to have it mixed, half Japanese half English. I love to write songs now, thanks to Ken for inspiring me and opening up a whole new door for me.
What's happening after Taiwan? More touring? Recording again?
Ken is in the middle of applying for a 3 year music visa to live in America. If all goes well he will be in America in November. We have a new booking agent in NYC and will go on tour around the states in January, February and March down to SXSW. Then we will be back in Japan to tour in April, and hopefully if all goes well, Taiwan we will be back at the end of April. Then we plan to make our second album in Brooklyn in May.
Your shows are loud and crazy. Are you like that when you're not on stage?
No, I am kind of a shy person. When I am on-stage I get the chance to act the way I always wanted to off-stage. Music give me self confidence. I am not loud, and afraid to dance! Ken is very reserved and is also not a loud person, but he can dance his ass off!
What would be your ultimate audience reaction to your Taiwan performances?
Hopefully to connect to them, and have them freak out with us! Dance and go crazy, we believe music has no borders and is a language everyone can understand! We want them to feel our energy! And we want to feel their energy!
Ken South Rock are playing a number of shows around Taiwan;
BeastieRock in Taipei on Saturday 25 August 2012
Brickyard in Kaohsiung on Monday 27 August 2012
TCRC in Tainan on Wednesday 29 August 2012
TieHua in Taidong on Thursday 30 August 2012
Underworld, then Revolver in Taipei on Friday 31 August 2012 (2 SHOWS!)
Pipe Livehouse in Taipei on Saturday 1 September 2012
Shelter in Taipei on Sunday 2 September 2012