Thus begins Gene Kondusky as the noble son, appearing at Cork Heads in Tsukuba on February 12th. And despite the language barrier his songs, at least, do speak to the Japanese.
Gene began playing in Japan in concert venues in his then home of Iwaki in 2005 while teaching on the JET program.
Renamed and energized after working for the Japanese government, on his first solo tour the noble son has played tour dates in Tokyo, Tochigi, Fukushima, Miyagi and Niigata.
The prevailing sound has been an intimate, sometimes experimental, warm acoustic, often compared with the American Jack Johnson.
But born in Toronto, there is no mistaking – the noble son has a Canadian soul. We spoke together after his recent concert in Utsunomiya.
What about your music retains its Canadian influence after so much time in Japan?
I think that in Canada, there is a strict individualism about the music scene. There are many independent labels, independent groups, and independent music-seekers. I think that part of that independence is a large population of solo artists. I think that whereas in most countries or scenes, you might see solo acts arise from the ashes of a group, in Canada there is a trend to start on your own, and then possibly become part of a group later. I think broken social scene is a great example, but there are tons more as well.
So to relate it back to me, I think that the “I’m gonna do this on my own one way or another” spirit puts me in a Canadian context.
Does the writing or the music come first in your artistic process?
Both. Sometimes, I’ll think of a lyric line, and try to build a song around it. sometimes - and to be honest, this is more often the case - I’ll have a song idea floating around for weeks or months until one day lyrics fit on top of it. But it's often disjointed - a piece of a song, be it lyrics or music, comes to me at one point, and it's not another little while before the next piece comes.
Does it concern you when you're writing in Japan that your audiences often don’t understand your lyrics?
Not too much. I don't think that an audience experiences lyrics as much as they do the entire performance. I do kind of wish that everyone knew everything I was saying, but I don't mind all that much the way it is now. Although I do wish my Japanese was better! I’m working on a song in Japanese now, but I’m not sure it'll ever get off the ground because of my poor ability to speak the language.
What is it like to play to Japanese audiences, in general?
I really love Japanese stages. I’ve never played in such consistently professional, well-managed, well-equipped facilities. Everywhere has been really, really positive. The audiences are always really great too, but I think it's kind of odd that they will save their applause until I say 'arigatou'. I’ve met a lot of people who were reserved during the performance, but who have come to me afterwards to say that they really enjoyed it. I guess it's just really important to be polite here - even as an audience member.
This is your first tour, right?
And you've made all club-bookings and arrangements yourself? What’s that been like, operating in a foreign language and culture?
Not as difficult as I had thought it would be. It seems that between my broken Japanese and the booking managers' broken English, there's enough communication to make things work. It would've been nice to have had access to those kinds of lists that there are in Canada - venue lists, booking people and so on. Here, I had to do it raw; mainly googling again and again until something came up. It was much easier to book things in Tsukuba though - Martin at Cork Heads been really easy to exchange information with, and obviously, because he speaks English, there's no ambiguity about anything.
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