Rock in Opposition: European fest explores prog-rock’s potential in Japan

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The original Rock in Opposition (RIO) took place on March 12, 1978 in London, England. It brought together European prog-rock bands united by their common unmarketability to major record labels, including such acts as England’s Henry Cow, Italy’s Stormy Six and Belgium’s Univers Zero.

Over 35 years later, the fest finally sets foot in Japan, chaired by Akiko Nagai. Head of Disk Union’s progressive rock section for seven years, Nagai also helms the Tutinoko label, on which some of the RIO musicians have released albums. Nagai sat with Metropolis to discuss how it all came about.

How did Rock in Opposition come to Japan?

It grew out of the first tour by RIO headliners Univers Zero. The core group of people behind the festival were involved in producing the tour. Then our release of the documentary DVD About Rock in Opposition sold well, showing there is a demand for this sort of event in Japan. We then negotiated with French RIO festival directors Michel Besset and Chris Cutler for the rights to the name. As it turned out, the name “Rock in Opposition” was already in the public domain. We then linked up with Smash West and the Tokyo Arts Council to put it together.

What are your hopes for Tokyo’s first Rock in Opposition?

We want to share the history of Rock in Opposition with many people—not only prog-rock fans but all people with open ears. We also want to bring together the worldwide rock scene with the Tokyo scene, in hopes that something new will emerge, and that it will provide a platform for avant-garde music in Japan. RIO is expensive to put on, and the tickets aren’t cheap, but we hope that if it’s successful one day we can put on a free concert.

What is the audience like for progressive rock in Japan?

Japan’s prog-rock market is large. Bands can fill large halls here. But there are a lot of young bands that borrow prog-rock’s forms, rhythm changes and instrumentation, but aren’t really progressive rock in the true sense of the term. We don’t want to host a nostalgia-fest. The artists on our lineup are forward-thinking—“progressive” in the true sense of the word. The music may be difficult, but we hope our audience will rise to the challenge.

Nov 15-16, 3pm, ¥14,000. Tsutaya O-East. Nearest station: Shibuya. Tel: 03-5458-4681.

www.rockinopposition-japan.com/index_en.html

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