Exclusive | Primal Fear In Japan- a report
by Dutch bassist Alex Jansen
2023 was a pretty amazing year. I played a lot of shows, a lot with my AC/DC tribute band Big Balls Stuttgart, then the big surprise was being able to play with some of my childhood heroes during the Rock Meets Classic Tour. Two weeks later I jumped on the Hardline train and a few weeks later it was time for Primal Fear in Spain. Followed by a European tour with Primal Fear and a Latin American tour with Primal Fear.
I recharged my batteries between Christmas and New Year’s Eve on a short holiday in Egypt.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
I was supposed to play a show in Switzerland in January but unfortunately that one got cancelled. Now I am here sitting in an airport again. I left this morning 9 o clock with Markus Herzog my friend and driver, he is a pretty good drummer too. I made a quick stop at the storage of Primal Fear to pick up some gear. We then gathered and went to the airport Stuttgart to jump on a carbon eagle towards Istanbul. We have a layover, a bit too long but we manage it. This is where I write my first sentences for you.
We will continue our trip to Japan. My first trip to Japan. A very tight schedule. Arriving Monday night. Tuesday we will have our first show in Tokyo. We are in Istanbul with the band although Michael [Ehré] is still in his hotel taking a good sleep after his travel and two shows with the Unity. We have the sound engineer Aaron with us and he is also doing duty as Tour manager. Our techs Neil and Armando are flying different so we will meet them in the hotel in Tokyo.
TOKYO, HERE WE ARE
After 11 hours of flying we made it to Japan. We met Michael at the airport in Istanbul just before we were heading to the gate. Then the metal commando was off to Japan. The flight was easy. We had enough space and the food was good, cabin crew was very nice. Touch down in Tokyo, the city I know from many movies, the city where so many great live records were recorded. My first time in Japan and hopefully (like with South America and the USA) not my last time.
I remember when Mat called me last year when he was planning these shows. ,,Hey Jansen, have you been to Japan?”, well no… now I am here and entering the country was easy, immigration was done in a few minutes. First thing that I noticed was how structured everything goes. No one is pushing his way through and everyone is very polite. We seem to miss that in a lot of countries nowadays (I might be guilty of that too).
We were picked up and spent 30 minutes driving to our Hotel. Of course there were some fans waiting at the airport and we took the time for them despite being tired. Upon arriving at our hotel we were greeted by fans too. Two fellas from Thailand, 8 hour flights to meet Primal Fear and see the show. Fabulous! I freshened up and then went with the gang to Sweeetrock which is a rock bar and we got to meet Aki. Small place but with a lot of history, with Primal Fear but also Andy Taylor from Duran Duran has been there as well as my buddy Tabbie from Midnite City.
I spend time with Ralf and Alex Beyrodt walking to the center, I crossed the Shibuya crossing, yep the one from the movies, where you cross with a zillion people at the same time crossing. Spend the night sleeping and the morning I did the same with Tom. We decided to have lunch at a small restaurant, I don’t know what I ordered but it looked tasty on the picture and it tasted absolutely great. I am getting better with eating with chopsticks too.
2:00 pm: it was time to head to the venue. It was a short ride, like 20 minutes. Once we arrived at the venue we hit the stage to check the gear. It is amazing how everything is arranged here. I have my Ashdown 810 cab and an Ashdown ABM head. It is set up exactly how I have it in Europe. It took a bit of time before we could really start the sound check. Michael had to check his drums and set them up with the crew. We also had to check some stuff and set up our sounds and stuff.
The soundcheck was a bit longer as we hadn’t played for 3 months. So we wanted to make sure and get over some tracks. Soon we were set and ready to go. Shows in Japan start early so we went to the dressing room, got some refreshments and in a blink of an eye it was time to get dressed for the show.
7:00 pm sharp the intro runs and we are off. 1 show in Japan, first time for me in Japan. What can I say, the audience welcomed us with open arms. They were loud but when Ralf makes his announcements it is quiet so people can hear what he is saying. Time went by so fast before I knew it we were starting the intro for the encore. It is true, time flies when you are having fun. Some things don’t change so after the show we get some food, get dressed in our normal clothes and in a flash we are in the shuttle on our way to the hotel.
We have to bring our luggage down to the lobby at 10:30 pm as it will go with the truck to Nagoya. I bring down my luggage and then I go with some of the fellas to Sweeetrock again. There are some friends and fans and we take some pics, sign stuff and enjoy our time there. Around midnight I go back with Aaron our FOH-engineer and I hit the bed. It didn’t take long to fall asleep because all the impressions I got from the day and show.
This morning I woke up and skipped breakfast as it wasn’t that great. Hotel has a reconstruction and that is why the breakfast situation is not that great. I took some candy from the catering though. Some sandwiches too so I am set for the morning. 10:30 am sharp we are off to the train station and there I get another thing to cross of my bucket list. Bullet train or as it is called Shinkansen. Again it is amazing how structured everything is. People waiting in line and very relaxed.
So here I am sitting on my way to Nagoya writing you these lines. Not on an airplane this time but on a bullet train going over 300 km/h. We just passed Mount Fuji but unfortunately it is playing hide and seek today. It is a beautiful weather but around Mount Fuji there are clouds so the pics are not that great. I have to mention here that each time when the conductor passes us and exits the wagon, they turn around and take a bow to excuse themselves for disturbing the people. I don’t mind being disturbed by being passed by someone doing his job but this is very impressing.
Arrived in Nagoya after a great ride in the bullet train, we had a short time in the hotel to freshen up. Michael looked a bit pale and he said he had a bit of pain in his stomach, thinking he maybe tore a muscle or something. I got him some meds and then we went to the club. The club is in the same building as the hotel. The guys told me that the last time they played here they had to go through a shoe shop to get to the dressing room. This changed. The club and hotel are situated in a shopping mall on the 8th floor of the building. You don’t see that too often right. Dressing room with a view over the city.
We did a soundcheck and were done pretty quick as we are back in the vibe we have. Showtime 7:00 pm, just before the show Michael said he is doing a bit better. Intro rolls, show is on. We had a great vibe on stage and the show went by very quickly. People were smiling and singing with us and the atmosphere was awesome. During the show I looked at Michael and asked him how he was. He said he was okay. When the show was over we get to the dressing room and change clothes and get ready to go to the hotel. Michael was already gone; I guess it is because of his pain.
We drop our stuff in the rooms and go downstairs to have diner. We are heading for a chicken wing restaurant; Nagoya is famous for this. It is a 10-minute walk to get there and we have a separate room to eat. We get a selection of all kinds of food. Michael stayed in his room as he wanted to sleep. As we got the wings with the hottest pepper they have, Tom got a phone call. It is Michael… He doesn’t feel too good. We all decide to go back to the hotel.
Yum, I and our Japanese Tom from the production company go to Michael. The rest goes to their room, it doesn’t make sense that we all go to see Michael, in the end we are many people. Aaron stays in touch with Yumi and Tom. They call a doctor and later that night they drive Michael to a hospital. The doctor decides to keep Michael and wants to do more tests in the morning. This is bad news…
During the night, no one really sleeps and we get an update from Aaron. The possibility of Michael playing tonight seems far away. Imagine the fella traveled with us being in pain from Tokyo, did the sound check, did the show and played like a king. He must have had pain and didn’t show. This morning we gathered in the lobby. Ralf has been in contact with Mat all night about this. This morning we got the news that it could be needed that Michael needs to be operated.
Flying home tomorrow could be possible maybe… a big maybe. It is a long flight and a layover in Istanbul before he flies to Hamburg. That part he would fly alone, I don’t want to think about what can happen. Being alone and in pain. If they have to operate…it could take one week before he can go home… far away in a country with a language you don’t speak.
WHAT TO DO?
In the meantime, we are talking what to do for tonight’s show. I feel bad for Michael and the situation he is in; I feel bad for the fans if we have to cancel. So we discuss what we will do. Acoustic, do we look for a drummer that can help out. In such a short time… is that possible? We don’t know. So I am sitting here writing these words on the 11th floor not knowing what is going to happen. One thing is sure, we are leaving for Osaka, the back line is there. The stage will be set up full production and we will go there. Leaving Michael behind. It breaks my heart. We are a family, we go through highs and lows. Normally no one gets left behind. The whole situation brings us down. There is nothing we can do but roll on.
We were picked up at the hotel and then took a short ride to the train station. There we were greeted by a fan I noticed last night. He was smiling the whole show and now he made his way to the train station and was waiting for autographs and pictures still with the big smile he had last night.
We just arrived in Osaka, we were again greeted by a lot of fans. They are still unaware of the fact that Michael isn’t here tonight. We have found a drummer that is willing to take this stress and effort to fill these huge shoes. We just discussed what set list we are going to do and then he can prepare the songs. This will be a blind flight for all of us.
I am writing you this in the airplane from Osaka to Istanbul. We just left and are still climbing to reach cruise altitude. So how did it end last night? Well… when we arrived at the club most of the production was set up already by the Japanese crew. We traveled with our Japanese Tom, Yumi stayed in Nagoya with Michael. Our own crew directly started taking care of their stuff and we took a small rest and a small bite in the dressing room.
Still not sure what will be the plan for the night we are introduced to Sho. We got in contact with some people from Japan and Sho was recommended to Alex Beyrodt who took care of the situation and tried his contacts and those contacts brought us Sho. Sho plays in the Japanese band Umbrella. So please check them out and leave them a like or a thumbs up.
Sho didn’t speak too much Englisch so Tom translated and we discussed what songs he knew. We decided to play the first 3 songs of the set list to see how it goes. The three songs went pretty well. Strange of course not having Michael behind the kit. So we played ,,Chain Breaker”, ,,Rollercoaster” and ,,World On Fire”. Then we discussed what songs to play more. Some songs we couldn’t play because there simply wasn’t enough time to learn them all. We skipped six songs unfortunately for the fans. Sho went in a separate room to write out the drum parts of the set we were going to play. This took him time of course, we gave him some live versions from South America and Greece. The writing took longer than we thought and we had to postpone the opening of the club even for that.
PRIMAL FEAR ROLLERCOASTER
In the meantime, the promoter announced on X and internet and in front of the club that we had a situation that Michael had to go to the hospital and wouldn’t be able to play. The fans could opt 2 things. Give the ticket back and get their money back or stay and see what rollercoaster was going to happen. We opted also for an acoustic show but Sho was confident that he could play the songs and we would rock.
We also agreed with the promoter that we were going to do a signing session. Not a session for 20 or 30 minutes, no we were going to stay for everyone. In the end less than 10 people gave their ticket back. We were very thankful for this as it was a surprise for everyone what to expect from the evening. Canceling was the last thing we wanted to do, it would have been the easiest way but also a letdown and we didn’t want that.
So, although we had to open the doors later we went on stage at half past 7 pm. The intro runs and surprisingly we are on our way. Okay the first song was too fast, the second one too slow. After the show Sho told us he had no click and monitor so it was more a technical problem then anything else. We helped him through the songs. Then ,,World On Fire” came and that went way better. We went through the set and played for almost 70 minutes.
Sho was treated by the audience and welcomed, he did a great job. Imagine having less than 4 hours to prepare and learn songs you don’t know and get on a stage in front of a full club. Hats off for that! After the show we thanked Sho and we took a small break to change our clothes and dry up a bit.
Signing session starts and for real but all people stayed. So here we go, we sign set lists, CDs, shirts, white papers, cellphones, wallets, tickets… we signed it all. Everyone got a pick of mine, it was the least we could do and almost everyone was ahoy to have stayed and watched the show and have a little time with us. There were 2 German guys in the audience, one student and a guy form the hometown of Tom Naumann, it is a small world. After 1,5 hours we were done with the signing session and we went to have diner in our dressing room. We then went to the hotel, brought up the stuff to the rooms and shortly after we went downstairs.
We hit the streets of Osaka and visit the famous rock bar Rock Rock, everybody has been here, Iron Maiden, Volbeat, Metallica and so on and so on. We took pics with the owner and left some picks there too. Awesome being displayed next to Pantera and so on. We met the German student again and we had a nice chat with him, we chatted with some other people and had great fun. 3:00 am we went back to the hotel and slept like a rose.
I had breakfast with Tom and went back to bed, for lunch I went with Ralf and Aaron and Alex. With Alex I took a stroll through the city before going back to pack the last of the stuff. Lobby call was at 6:00 pm and Michael arrived just before. He was doing a bit better but not very good. The ride to the airport was 45 minutes and check in went very fast. Security went fast too and I went with Michael to the gate and kept him company. Just to be sure that we can help him when necessary.
THE JOURNEY HOME
Neil and Armando have left this morning already and now it’s us. First we fly to Istanbul and from there Michael will fly alone to Bremen and we will fly to Stuttgart. But now I will close my eyes a bit and sleep on the plane.
We had a smooth flight to Istanbul, 13 hours and we all slept and as soon as we arrived in Istanbul we split up in 2. Michael going to Bremen and we are going to Stuttgart. Michael looked better and each time I checked on the plane he was sleeping a bit. He will go to the hospital anyway. We are descending for Stuttgart now (yes writing this in the plane).
Upon arriving I will be picked up by Markus Herzog again and we will drop some stuff off at the Primal Fear storage. Then I will go home and take care of my stuff and get some rest. Short trip to Japan and 3 shows and not so much sleep is not so easy.
We will contact Michael to be sure how his flight went and what the German doctors said. We still have so many cool adventures coming up soon and later this year.
Arrived at home safe and sound, Michael went to the hospital directly from the airport after arriving in Germany. He got operated as soon as he got there. He wrote us last night he is doing good and will recover now.
You see, it looks like we live a glamorous life, in the meantime it is not that easy. Jet lagged playing shows and more traveling in between, having to adjust a show because something unexpected happens and then travel home for the next jet lag. Why we do this? We love playing music and meeting new people and see old friends.
Three weeks to go before the next diary will come for the U.D.O. / Primal Fear tour!
All photos provided by Alex Jansen