Richard Barbieri - A drifting Japanese
This interview with Richard was conducted in Sweden when he was working with the group Lustans Lakejers. The group were recording the album "En plats i solen". When released outside Sweden the band called themselves Vanity Fair, the album title "A Place In The Sun". Mick also played on the album and Nigel Walker mixed it. If anyone has a copy of the album for sale I would be very interested. Thanks to Peter Isgren for translating this article and for scanning the pictures.
The Polarstudio, a bright
summer night at the end of July. The studio is
the Polarstudio is also Lustans Lakejer and Richard Barbieri from the
It's very important to have a producer with the same approach to the
Barbieri smiles shyly, and says: I've tried to work with the
arrangements quite much. Most of this have gone well but it have mainly
been the bands own ideas that I have helped them to fulfil. I find the
first two albums quite poorly arranged. Especially the first that I
couldn't even listen through. It was terrible. I can't understand why
everybody says it's the groups best album. Here the conversation drifts
in on the eternal discussion on "synthrock". I tell Richard Barbieri
that both Lustans Lakejer and Japan is defined as
Johan Kinde starts to explain how quickly the Swedish press tends to generalise and categorise. He says that the press is divided into two camps, one that accept the synthesizer and are able to see the difference in how bands use it and one that rejects this new musical tool, altogether. They deem it cold and inhuman and turn their backs as soon as they hear a synthesizer.
Richard Barbieri looks slightly surprised when he hears this. Is Swedish press really that prejudiced? You have to judge the music individually and not based on what instruments are used. There obviously are two reasons for making music. One is because you enjoy playing like most rock groups today. The other is because you want to educate your own and others senses and as we tried with "Tin Drum" use traditional music and try to revive it. Our influences on "Tin Drum" is mainly traditional Japanese music. And then there is the kind of music that obviously try to fulfil some need of toughness with the musicians and the audience, for example heavy metal music. It's the worst kind of music I think. I've never managed to listen to it. Totally pointless.
You can see the disgust in Richard Barbieri's face when he speaks of this genre. But I can't help myself for asking if not also this kind of music has the right to exist like all other music. Why should that image be any worse than the beautiful makeup and glamour image?
Richard Barbieri seems to be the kind of rock star that's been through
all the phases and nowadays only uses his influence in the business to
do what he likes best. It's only then the new ideas can be fulfilled,
before this stage the whole production is focused on sales. But the
future for Japan seem a little
There are no plans for a new album and most of the band is involved in
How about Richard Barbieri's own plans for the future?
Well, I haven't really made my mind up yet, but I'd love to work on a record of my own. I will also make some movie scores. At the moment Japan is on a long tour, though, and Stockholm was visited 1st October.
What Lustans Lakejer will do now is quite obvious, if their album does well in England they will focus on an international career.
I would like to start singing in English, says Johan Kinde, and I hope the Swedish audience will accept this. If it goes really well I wouldn't mind moving to London which is the world metropolis of this business.
Richard Barbieri gets a message that he has a call from Tokyo. It turns out that it was David Sylvian who called to find out how things were going with "the Swedish group". While he talks to Sylvian we go in to the studio to listen to a few tracks.
Lustans Lakejer has certainly developed even if especially the singing at times sound almost to similar to Japan. But it all sounds very exiting and I look forward to hearing the final mix of the album.
The meeting is over, we go out and feel the warm summer air of inner city Stockholm. Behind us we leave a group that is only in the beginning of their career and a man who have seen through all the tricks of the business without getting stuck in any traps.
Text and photo: Christer Sturmark. Previously published in the magazine Heatwave, Summer 1982.
Translation: Peter Isgren
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