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The Waterboys return to Japan with a ‘Modern’ take on America

The Waterboys at the Fuji Rock Festival
The Waterboys at the Fuji Rock Festival in 2014 (Fujirock Express)
TOKYO (TR) – The most recent visit to Japan for Mike Scott, the founding member of the Waterboys, was a quick stop for last year’s Fuji Rock Festival.

“We had just about enough time to go off to Tokyo one night,” said Scott (@mickpuck), the band’s Scottish singer and song writer, in a recent interview by phone from Melbourne, “and I remember the long drive into the mountains for the festival, how beautiful the location of the festival was, and how hot it was, and how my clothes were so wet after the concert was finished.”

Now in their fourth decade of making music, the Waterboys will bring their mix of Celtic folk and blues rock to Japan again next week. This visit promises to be just as quick as the last: a single show in Tokyo in support of “Modern Blues,” a release recorded in Nashville that pays tribute to poetry and music of a bygone era in the U.S.

“I knew I wanted an American feeling in the record,” said Scott, 56, of the band’s 11th studio album, which was released in January, “and I wanted to play with American musicians. And I wanted to work in a studio where we could set up and play all together, including vocals, so I could get an exciting, ‘performance feeling’ on the record. I didn’t want a sterile, overdubbed feeling.”

And Nashville fit the bill.

“Nashville still has its full complement of world-class studios,” he said. “And they don’t cost a lot to rent because there’s such competition between them. So it was quite an easy choice for me to make.”

The musicians on the record include bass player David Hood, a founding member of The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section in Alabama, and keyboard player “Brother” Paul Brown from Memphis.

“Those two guys play on every note of the record,” said Scott. “I think they were very responsible for the sound.”

As far as style, the album shifts between rock and country. “Destinies Entwined” is heavy on guitar and fiddle while “I Can See Elvis” is an easy-going country number.

But “Modern Blues” is also something of a self discovery for Scott. The closing track, “Long Strange Golden Road,” begins with a reading from Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” which is a personal favorite.

“So many people from Britain were inspired by ‘On The Road,’ Scott said. “I think David Bowie’s life was changed by that book.”

'Modern Blues'
‘Modern Blues’
After forming in 1983, the Waterboys achieved notoriety over the next decade with pop singles like “Fisherman’s Blues” and “Whole of the Moon.” The band broke up in 1993, following the release of “Dream Harder.” Scott then embarked on a solo career in which he visited Japan twice.

“I always enjoyed my connection with the (Japanese) fans, when I would meet them after the show, and talk to them,” he said. “They’d give me beautiful little gifts. I remember one lady gave me a beautiful shirt. She had noticed that I like striped shirts. So she bought me a striped shirt, and that was fantastic. And I wore it for a couple years afterwards.”

The Waterboys reformed with the release of “A Rock in the Weary Land” in 2000. During this second incarnation of the band, “Modern Blues” has proved to be the most successful, having peaked at number 14 on the U.K. album chart. Scott, however, feels the band has more to offer.  

“I’m not satisfied with where we are,” he said. “I’d like us to be reaching a lot more people. I’ve always felt that. It has always been my driving hunger — to reach more people.”

Note: The Waterboys play at Club Quattro in Shibuya, Tokyo on April 6.