Japan's Must-Read Magazine


Neither fat nor blue – John Janzen is a man, however, and a nice one, too.

Note to all prospective musicians: things will happen if you enter Japanzine‘s "Gaijin Sounds" competition. Of course, the chance has passed for 2008, but one of the entrants lucky enough to be selected is rather chuffed with his showing.

"Since we were picked, the counts have gone up on our MySpace page, we’re getting orders for our CD on iTunes, and I’m receiving emails from many interested people," explains John Janzen, frontman for Nagoya-based Fatblueman. He’s clearly happy for his track ‘Couldn’t Get The Girl’ to have made the cut. And it’s not about world domination. Well, not just yet, anyway.

The conversation moves to the ridiculous explosion of Leslie Feist after a fortunate marketing decision saw her track ‘1,2,3,4’ forever etched in peoples’ minds as that iPod song. "She was just so, so lucky, y’ know?" says John parochially of his fellow Canadian. We share a mutual appreciation of the booming Canadian indie scene, it seems, but he cringes when I tell him how great the recent Arcade Fire show was. "I really have to stop being so stubborn and just listen when people tell me that I need to check out a band," he says in a mock-upset manner.

John is disarmingly affable and entirely modest when it comes to discussing his own music. When I remark on just how clean and well-recorded Fatblueman’s album Back to Winnepeg sounds for a local band, he isn’t afraid to tell me exactly how it was recorded.

"Garageband (the Mac recording software) is great, but we were limited by the drum tracks. Fatblueman didn’t have a drummer at that stage, and we had to rely on using drum loops, so there aren’t any fills on that album," he informs me. Not that I had really noticed, considering the other impressive instrumentation going on in many of the tracks. Was that a violin on track 3? Yes, and from a classical trained violinist at that.

The great thing about Fatblueman is that it’s a collective made up of people with all manner of musical ability and experience, just looking to make some catchy alt.country tunes (whatever you do, don’t call it country, warns John). The album sounds like it’s made by people who get along well and enjoy what they do, because that’s what it is.

Since its inception in Nagoya, the band have performed in many local venues, however John’s perfect live-spot is in-front of the fountain in Sakae’s Central Park; "That way you know the audience watching are there because they really want to be." Beware, drunkards in bars – you may be unintentionally killing the local live scene.

So, where to now for Fatblueman? Getting back to our discussion on Arcade Fire, John starts excitably talking about expanding the Fatblueman lineup to include many more musical bods on stage, just like Win Butler and his backing orchestra. How many are we talking? "Like Polyphonic Spree proportions! We’ll make a mini rock opera, except it’ll be a folk opera," says John. Fatblueman: the Folk Opera. Coming soon to a concert hall near you, perhaps? The world may be out of reach, but Fatblueman seem more than content with the attention they’ve received lately.

You can grab a copy of Fatblueman’s CD Back to Winnipeg from www.cdbaby.com, or search the iTunes store. From there, downloading is simply a click away. The band is also performing at Shooters in June – check the Shooters homepage for more info (www.shooters-nagoya.com). There’s also www.fatblueman.net for all other FBM-related ventures.