Interviews

Click on a name to read the interview:

  1. Roger Dahl — (cartoonist / author (Japan-related)) — 2015 March 19
  2. Matt Alt — (author (Japan-related)) — 2014 Sept 16
  3. Rachel Bolan — (rock musician) — 2014 March 06
  4. Bryan Maine — (author (Japan-related)) — 2012 Nov 19
  5. Alan Merrill — (musician) — 2011 July 19
  6. Lydia Criss — (author (and ex-wife of KISS drummer)) — 2010 May 23
  7. Jason McMaster — (musician) — 2010 April 21
  8. Earnest Mercer — (author (Japan-related)) — 2010 April 10
  9. Bruce Kulick — (musician (second interview)) — 2010 Feb 20
  10. Bob Gruen — (photographer (KISS-related)) — 2009 Dec 10
  11. Victor Stabin — (artist (KISS album cover)) — 2009 Nov 12
  12. Michael Doret — (artist (second interview)) — 2009 Aug 18
  13. Michael Doret — (artist (KISS album cover)) — 2009 Apr 22
  14. Jerry Yellin — (WW2 veteran (Japan-related)) — 2008 Sept 9
  15. Ken Alley — (author (Japan-related)) — 2008 Sept 7
  16. Bruce Kulick — (musician (former member of KISS)) — 2008 Sept 01
  17. Fred Bensi — (musician (KISS-related)) — 2008 July 20


  • ALAN MERRILL

    If you’re a fan of rock music, especially hard rock music, you’ve surely heard the song “I Love Rock And Roll“.
    This excellent rock anthem has been covered by numerous musicians ranging from Brittney Spears to L.A. Guns…but it’s probably the 1981 version by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, that peaked at #1 on the U.S. music charts, that you’re mostly aware of.

    You may even assume that “I Love Rock And Roll” is Joan Jett’s original song.

    You’d be wrong.

    The song was originally written and recorded by Alan Merrill and his band at the time “The Arrows” six years prior to Joan Jett’s remake.

    In addition to writing the rock classic “I Love Rock And Roll“, Alan Merrill was a celebrity in Japan, England and his native America.

    The Arrows(Alan Merrill, 2011).

    Here’s a short interview he did with me (via email) on 2011 July 19:

    1. Could you give us a self-introduction, please?My name is Alan Merrill, I was born in the Bronx, New York City on February 19th, 1951.

      I am a singer, songwriter and musician.

      Born the son of two jazz musicians, one a singer and one a sax/clarinet
      player, both well respected recording artists. They are still active in music.

      My parents divorced when I was 4 years old.

      I started my semi-pro music life at age 14 when Marian McPartland
      (my mother’s friend) introduced me to my first teenage band. I started earning
      money “playing” music only 6 months after learning my first guitar chord.
      By the time I was 15 I was a regular performer at the legendary “Cafe Wha?”
      in New York’s Greenwich Village.

    2. When and why did you come to Japan? How old were you?My first trip to Japan was in the summer of 1968.

      In 1965 my mother re-married, to an American journalist, her 2nd husband.
      He was the Vice president of UPI based in Tokyo.

      I stayed in New York to finish High School.

      My mother lived in Tokyo and I had an apartment in New York that she paid the rent for. I lived alone.

      In early 1968 my band broke up and I was looking for another musical situation.

      I auditioned for the Left Banke (“Walk Away Renee”) and was picked above 60 other applicants for the
      job as lead guitarist. I rehearsed with the band, learned their songs and after a month
      or so they told me that they were going to go on as a vocal trio with session players
      to do the album “Left Banke Too” (Smash records).
      They were not going to have a new guitarist. So I got the job, and lost the job.

      I was tired of New York as a result of this experience with the Left Banke and wanted a change,
      so I joined my mother in Tokyo.

      I was 17 years old when I arrived in Tokyo for the first time.

      It was summer, We went straight to Karuizawa for a holiday. After that we went back to
      Tokyo to our house in Sendagaya, not far from the station, about a five minute walk.

    3. How did you become a celebrity in Japan?It was an incremental process.

      The summer I arrived I went to a disco with my mother and step-father…Club Mugen, in Akasaka.

      There was live music there, so I saw there was a music scene. I think D’Swooners
      were playing that night at the club. A go-go dancer named Michi Nakao started to flirt with me.
      I was with my parents so it was awkward. She asked me to come back to the club the next night .
      I did, and we became lovers. She was instantly my steady girlfriend.

      I played music around town a little bit with my white Fender Telecaster. I guested with The Dynamites at a club
      in September 1968.
      Their substitute drummer Shiro Imai asked me if I’d like to do a residency at the Space Capsule
      club in Akasaka. I agreed. I did the two weeks at the club, arranged by The Dynamites manager Jimmy Oka.
      Just drums and guitar/vocal. A duo. But at the end of the two weeks I wasn’t paid, so I ended my relationship
      with Jimmy Oka and Shiro Imai.

      One night Michi was dancing at the Pasha Club in Akasaka in November of 1968. She called me from the
      club and told me that there was a band there, professional, who were looking for a guitarist who could sing.

      Their guitarist was being deported so they were looking for somebody new fast.

      It was The Lead, a band who had already made one album for RCA Victor and were signed to Victor Geino management.
      Mr. Ozawa was our manager.

      I immediately started to tour clubs, do TV, radio and I helped The Lead finish their 2nd album for RCA, “Sound Of Silence”
      singing 4 lead vocals and playing guitar and piano on that LP.

      Then the bass player was deported in 1969 and although I tried to keep it going, Victor Geino gave up on the group.

      On to the next phase-

      I went to Byblos, a poplar disco where I knew many musicians would go after work. I went to every table asking strangers if they knew of anyone looking for a guitar player who could sing.

      By luck or fate I talked to Yuya Uchida,
      who had seen me perform with The Lead at the club Florida in Kawasaki. He remembered me.

      Yuya asked me to be at TBS TV studios the next morning at 11 AM. He knew I did the Beatles song “Back In The USSR”
      with The Lead and asked me to perform it with his band The Flowers. I did, and it was a success on the TV show.

      Then the next day Yuya introduced me to Shin and Misa Watanabe. Misa had seen my TV performance and wanted to
      sign me to a management deal. I signed that day.
      The next day I was contractually signed by Watanabe Pro as the first male artist to Atlantic records Japan.

      Soon after that I was perfoming with The Tigers, The Tempters, The Spiders and The Golden Cups at the Western Carnival
      at the Nichigekki Theater.

      My backing band was The Funnies (who would later become The Rock Pilots).

      It was fun and it happened very fast.

      Watanabe Productions were very good at making people celebrities, so I was working with the “A team.” My manager
      was a young Yokichi OhSato, who is now the president of Amuse Inc.

      I became the first foreign rock star in Japan’s domestic market in history.

    4. How does celebrity life differ living in Tokyo from New York and London?It hard to say because I was different ages!

      In my young days in Japan the girls would scream at me and run after me
      in the street, asking for “sign” (autograph). I was a regular on the “Young 720” TV show and appeared on “Ji Kan Desuyo” as an actor plus I was on TV commercials for Nissan cars and Jun clothing.

      My face was well known in Japan, everywhere.

      I had several phases of my career in Japan from 1968-1974. I was with RCA Victor (with The Lead), Atlantic records (solo), Denon-Columbia (solo), and EMI (with Vodka Collins) as an artist.

      I left Japan because of a major pay dispute with my manager Mr. Fujita (Vodka Collins‘ manager) in ’74.

      In London I was a little older but still had teen girl fans and hit singles as lead singer of The Arrows from 1974-77.

      This was on RAK-EMI records. We were produced by Mickie Most, a British music legend.

      The girls still screamed and we had our own weekly TV series “The Arrows Show.” I was the band’s front man.

      The Arrows broke up due to a musical disagreement with our label and the relationship ended acrimoniously.

      In 1978 I joined a more mature musical group, Runner, on Island records. No screaming girls, just serious music.

      In New York I played with the bands (Rick) Derringer and Meat Loaf and I made solo albums.

      Most of my time was spent touring and recording throughout the 1980s. In the 1990s I was in Tokyo a lot with Vodka Collins and recording solo albums in New York.

      Since the year 2000 I have been putting out solo albums. About one every year.

    5. You were a member of the bands “The Lead” and “Vodka Collins” in Tokyo and “The Arrows” in England. Which band did you enjoy being in the most?
      I preferred Vodka Collins in the early 1970s.

      I had complete musical freedom with that band to write and record whatever I wanted to.

      The band was a very tight unit. The late Hiroshi Oguchi at the top of his health was peaking as a drummer then, and Take Yokouchi,
      our bass player is an amazing musician.

      The Arrows was always a frustrating situation for me, musically speaking. We were very controlled and I think the band was not a good fit for the label.

      We were misunderstood there, I think.

      The Lead was basically a cover band, our albums were all covers of hits from the USA and UK.

      Fun but not artistically stimulating.

    6. Is it true that a Rolling Stones song gave you the inspiration to write the legendary song “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”?Well, I knew Mick Jagger back then, his best friend (John Philips) was my girlfriend’s father for example.

      I knew the people in his social circle, royalty, accountants, lawyers, film stars.

      (The Rolling Stones‘ song) “It’s Only Rock N Roll” as I interpreted it, was an apology to his upper class friends about the raunchy rock music he made.

      I wrote “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” as a quick response to that sentiment.

      The Arrows(“The Arrows”, Alan Merrill is on the left).

    7. The first time I heard the song “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” I was in junior high school. It was the Joan Jett & The Blackhearts version.Like many other people, I falsely assumed it was her original song. I didn’t know it was a remake of your song until many years later.

      Is it as frustrating as I imagine it would be to have people give the wrong person credit for a song you wrote and originally recorded?

      Of all the rock n roll artists in history I think (at least where (the song) “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” is concerned) Joan Jett
      is the least generous in acknowledging a song’s original artists.

      Her silence about The Arrows being the original artists has been strategic on her management’s part as a tactic to create the illusion that she wrote the song.

      It has worked because the rock press have been lazy with their research and have allowed this myth to continue.

      I still get paid, no matter what people think.

      My bad luck with my label in England not promoting The Arrows 1975 version of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” was ultimately Joan Jett’s good luck.

      The Arrows label didn’t think the song had hit potential, initially putting the song on a b-side.

      It was flipped to a-side status too late for it to be a hit. We only got one TV appearance with the song, and that energetic appearance got us our weekly TV series in 1976. The same TV series that Joan Jett saw us do the song on when she was in England with The Runaways. She bought our record and later recorded the song, twice…in 1979 (not a hit) and in 1981 (the corporate backed hit version).

      The internet and recent postings of The Arrows clips on Youtube have made it impossible for Joan Jett to avoid the truth, but she still tries to claim authorship by evading questions or discussing the song’s origins. It’s delusional.

      (Here is the original version of “I Love Rock And Roll” by The Arrows with Alan Merrill):http://www.youtube.com/8AT_Pbtyid0

    8. The song (“I Love Rock ‘N Roll”) is a monumental landmark in the world of rock music. And it has been covered by a large number of musicians (in addition to the most famous Joan Jett version).Artists such as Britney Spears, the metal band L.A. Guns and the Japanese hard rock band L’Arc-en-Ciel and many others have recorded versions of the song.

      Have you heard any of these remakes? What’s your opinion of them?

      Of course I’ve heard them. I have to approve each cover with my publisher before each cover is recorded.

      I like all the covers. They all are different and most of them are very good, some are great.

      I get paid for every cover and Joan Jett doesn’t. That’s the bottom line.

      I wrote the song and was the original artist. If the rock press don’t give me credit I still get paid.

      That’s what keeps me calm.

    9. Have you been back to Japan since you lived here in the ’60s / ’70s? Any plans to visit in the future?I was in Japan performing solo three times last year, 2010.

      January at Shibuya’s Duo Exchange. August at Club Crocodile and November at Club Sensation Yokohama.

      Vodka Collins had our first reunion in 1990 and we recorded three albums in the late 1990s (“Chemical Reaction”, “Pink Soup” and “Boy’s Life”) with full tours of Japan.

      Members were Hiroshi Kamayatsu, Masyoshi “Mabo” Kabe, Hiroshi Oguchi and myself.

      A best of Vodka Collins was released titled “Boys In The Band” on Polystar records in 2004. We released 5 albums in total.

      www.vodkacollins.net

    10. Do you have a message to your fans in Japan?My favorite country in the world is Japan.

      My love of Japan started in 1968 and is as strong as ever. So I am deeply saddened at the recent phenomenal trouble resulting from the disastrous earthquakes and tsunamis. But I know the Japanese people well. They will come back stronger than ever!

      I look forward to my next trip to Japan and will be happy to see my old friends and fans again!!

      Thank you!

      Alan Merrill

      www.alanmerrill.com

      www.the-aleecat.com


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  • LYDIA CRISS

    Lydia Criss is the former wife of the Peter Criss, the original drummer of the American rock band KISS.

    She was married to Peter Criss before and during the period of time in the 1970s when KISS was one of the most popular rock bands in the world.

    Lydia with Peter Criss (l) and Paul Stanley (r)(Lydia with Peter Criss (l) and Paul Stanley (r) in the ’70s.).Lydia Criss is also the author of hard-covered coffee-table book of KISS photographs and stories titled “Sealed With A KISS“.

    Cover of 'Sealed With A KISS' by Lydia Criss(Cover of ‘Sealed With A KISS’ by Lydia Criss.).Here’s a short interview she did with me (via email) on 2010 May 23:

    1. Could you give us a self-introduction, please?I was born in Brooklyn, New York in a family with four brothers. I was the only girl, so at an early age, I got used to having my own bodyguards.

      I always liked taking pictures, so for my 16th birthday I got a camera from my best friend Brenda. I took some of the early photos of KISS with my little Kodak Instamatic camera. After we went to Japan, I purchased my first 35 mm Nikon camera and started my career as a professional photographer.

      I live in New York City, where I have been living for the past 25 years.

    2. When and how did you meet Peter Criss?It was in the mid 1960’s when the British invasion had just hit America. I was just starting to go to dance clubs like the Cheetah in Manhattan with my girlfriends. We would go every weekend and on one particular weekend a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go to see her boyfriend’s band play in a local club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I said sure. I was introduced to everyone and the drummer in the band was Peter Criscuola (Peter Criss, original drummer of KISS). After talking in-between breaks, Peter asked me if I wanted to go to the beach with him and his friends the following day. I said yes and from then on we started dating. Three-and-a-half years later we got married.
    3. I believe you came to Japan with KISS when you were married to Peter Criss, is that correct? What was your impression of Japan in general and Tokyo in particular?Yes, I did go to Japan with KISS. It was our first time to the Far East and we were all impressed with Japan. Tokyo is great, but my favorite city was Kyoto with all the temples.
    4. Is there any interesting stories from KISS’ visits in Japan?Yes, on our second trip to Japan, Ace (Ace Frehley, guitarist of KISS) talked all of us into going shopping at this store in Tokyo that sold only Nazi regalia. Jeanette (wife of Ace Frehley) and I went with them, but we did our own souvenir shopping, while the guys, minus Gene, went to this Nazi store. They all came back with some sort of uniform pieces. They all went back to the hotel and decided to have me photograph all of them as Nazis. Just by coincidence Gene knocked on the door and Paul answered it dressed as a Nazi. Gene was in shock. After seeing Paul, he wouldn’t come into our room, and just shook his head and walked away furious.
    5. How many times have you been to Japan? When was the most recent visit?I’ve been to Japan only twice and both times with KISS. It was in 1977 & 1978.
    6. Do you still have any contact with Peter or any other present or past members of KISS?Currently no contact with Peter, or any of the original guys. The only KISS members that I do run into usually at KISS Expos are Bruce Kulick & Eric Singer. I am still in contact with their original manager Bill Aucoin.
    7. I noticed it says on your website that you work with Bob Gruen (I did an interview with him).What is that like? And can any of your photos be seen anywhere?

      Yes, I know that you did an interview with Bob Gruen. That was the first one that I read. I have known Bob since the “Dressed To Kill” album (he shot the cover).

      I got to know him better when he came to Japan with KISS both times in the 70’s.

      Believe it or not, I do not work with Bob doing photography, I take care of his finances, I am his bookkeeper.

      Since I am semiretired I have limited my photo taking. Most of my photos can be seen in my book “Sealed With A KISS“, which is available on my website.

      I recently sold some of my photos to a Canadian company that is doing a documentary on the band Rush.

      KISS has also used some of my photos in numerous publications of theirs, i.e., Tour books, Box sets, TV specials, DVD’s & KISStory.

    8. You wrote a book about your time with KISS (which was during their biggest heyday) titled “Sealed With A KISS”.I got a copy of it at a bookstore here in Tokyo and it’s very good.

      But has Peter or any other members of the band given you their opinion of it?

      No, I have not heard directly from the original band members themselves, but I did get an e-mail from Tommy Thayer (current lead guitarist of KISS) and he said I did a fantastic job, so I guess that means that Gene (Gene Simmons, bassist in KISS) liked it. Ace (Ace Frehley, original lead guitarist of KISS) also told a friend of mine that he loved it.

    9. Could you tell my site’s visitors a bit about your book?My book, “Sealed With A KISS“, is a coffee table book. It is 368 pages, weighs almost 5 lbs. (about 2.3 kg) and there are approximately 1,500 unseen photos from the time I met Peter till the time I finished the book in 2006.

      It is in three sections: the first (section) is “pre-KISS days”, the second is “the KISS years”, and the third is “post-KISS and my life after my divorce from Peter”.

      It is hard cover, full color and one of the best KISS books ever printed, if I do say so myself.

    10. Do you have a message for the KISS fans in Japan?The KISS fans in Japan are the best.

      I met a 16 year old girl back on my first visit to Japan and we hooked up again in Las Vegas when she came to visit America in 2003.

      The trips to Japan were my most memorable and I want to thank all the Japanese people for being so friendly and kind. We were treated like royalty.

      Domo Arigato!


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  • JASON McMASTER

    Jason McMaster is an American heavy metal singer from Texas. In fact, he was inducted into the Texas Rock ‘N Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998.

    He is probably most well-known as the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band “Dangerous Toys“, but he is also in the bands “Watchtower“, “Gahdzilla Motor Company“, “Broken Teeth“, “SSIK” (KISS tribute band), “Sad Wings” (Judas Priest tribute band), and more.

    Jason McMaster(Jason McMaster).

    Here’s a short interview he did with me (via email) on 2010 April 21:

    1. Could you give us a self-introduction, please?I am Jason McMaster.
    2. I first heard your music when I was a teenager in the ’80s and I saw an advertisement for the debut album of a new band called “Dangerous Toys”.I didn’t know anything about your band or that album but the band’s name and the album cover artwork told me that that would be a great metal album…which it is!

      How did the band name “Dangerous Toys” come about and who designed / painted the album cover?

      Dangerous Toys LP cover(“Dangerous Toys” LP artwork).

      I was singing in a technical thrash metal band called Watchtower between 1982 and 1988.
      In Oct. of 1987, I was contacted by then guitarist Tim Trembley, who played for a band called Onyxx. They had a singer they were unhappy with and Tim asked me to fill in for a while til they found a permanent replacement.
      I obliged, we knew we had better change the name of the band as well. Within 6 months of a name change, and a batch of about 7 songs, we were signed to Columbia/Sony Records by April of 1988.

      The record cover art was designed by none other than Tommy Pons. Tommy has been a friend of mine since 1984.

      (The official promotion video for the 1988 Dangerous Toys song “Teas’n Pleas’n” (with Jason McMaster on vocals)):

    3. I know you have been in a number of bands and tribute bands. But looking at your website, it looks like you’re juggling them all simultaneously…I noticed current tour dates for many of bands around the southern U.S.How many bands are you currently heading?

      I sing for Broken Teeth, Ignitor,and Dangerous Toys. I also front (vocals/guitar) for a Metallica tribute called “Killa Maul“, I play Rob Halford in a Judas Priest tribute called “Sad Wings“. I also play guitar for a Motorhead tribute called “Capricorn USA“.

    4. I’m a big fan of KISS and Judas Priest. I would love to hear music by “SSIK” and “Sad Wings”.Have you recorded any songs with either of these tribute bands?

      There are videos of live performances by both of these bands online.

      Of course, since these are established bands, we do not record and or release their songs. But, we have recorded songs just for fun, and some can be heard on the internet, solely for fun and or legitamately released tribute cds.

      (Jason McMaster singing the song “The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Prong Crown)” in the Judas Priest tribute band “Sad Wings”):

    5. Back in the “pre-internet” days, we used to learn about new rock bands from word-of-mouth and music magazines, and then we’d go to the “record store” to buy a new album.But today, from a consumer’s point-of-view, it’s much more convenient…I can hear new music and buy just one song if I’d like all in my living room.

      From an artist’s point-of-view though, is it easier or more difficult to promote and sell music these days?

      It’s harder, only because by making it easier to promote, it’s harder to sell, because of the flood of shitty bands taking up space.
      The easier you make something, the more people want to do it.

    6. I remember when Dangerous Toys came to Tokyo for the first time in 2001 or so.I would have imagined that Dangerous Toys music would have been very popular with Japanese hard rock fans in the ’80s / ’90s.

      Why did it take so long for Dangerous Toys to finally tour Japan?

      We were never invited or didn’t seem to sell enough records in Japan that made a promoter see the idea as important.

    7. What would you say are the differences between American and Japanese rock fans?Japanese rock fans are living your music. They believe in it’s power. It seems most American fans are very careful to only soak up whatever is only popular.
    8. When you came to Tokyo, were you able to do any sight-seeing?Anything in particular that you liked or were surprised by?

      Yes, we enjoyed the temples, and the interesting food. Shinjuku was very much like things we had seen in sci-fi movies and action films.

    9. Any plans to return to Tokyo?We would love to come back. We love it there.
    10. Do you have a message for the fans in Japan?I miss you, I wish I could spend more time playing shows there with all of my many projects. Please check out my new music by Broken Teeth and Ignitor

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  • EARNEST MERCER

    Earnest Mercer is an American man who lives in Florida (not far from where I grew up) and he has spent some time in Japan as a sailor in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War in the 1950s and again when the company he worked for sent him here in in the ’70s.

    Earnest Mercer(Earnest Mercer).

    Here’s a short interview he did with me (via email) on 2010 April 10:

    1. Could you please give a short self-introduction?I enlisted in the U. S. Navy at seventeen during the Korean Conflict, attended Naval Intelligence schools, and was stationed in Japan from 1951-1953. In 1975-1976, during an assignment with IBM, I lived in the small village of Wakabayashi near Tokyo. In 1983, I wrote an MBA thesis on the cultural and economic myths about Japan in the years after WWII.

      I earned a BS, MBA and was conferred an honorary Doctor of Business Administration. I have written and published five books: three of memoir genre, one how-to, and one novel. I?fve completed a manuscript on the making and redemption of a young Japanese prostitute set in the post WWII time frame.

    2. When did you come to Japan for the first time? What did you think of it?I arrived in Japan in September of 1951, just before the military occupation ended. My first impression was one of awe. I had never traveled out of the U. S. before and had no real concept of the vastly different culture I encountered. My awe turned to fascination after the initial shock. I learned quickly to appreciate the honesty and integrity of the Japanese people, and became very interested in their culture and language.
    3. How many times have you been to Japan?I?fve lost count, but my visits have exceeded six over the years.
    4. When was the most recent time you came here? How has it changed since your first visit?My last visit was in 2006. The changes occurring between visits have been a source of fascination, but comparing 21st century Japan to my first visit in 1951 is almost beyond belief. I?fve notice a significant change in the aggregate personality of the Japanese people as well, from humbleness after the first total defeat in the history of Japanese warfare, to radiating self-confidence today. I avoid the word ?gpride?h as I know the historical admonition held for that trait; still, the pride in the recovery and accomplishments since WWII is self-evident, if not expressed.
    5. You live in Florida, not far from where I grew up. I bet the area’s changed a lot since I lived there. When did you move there?I was born on a small farm in SE Alabama during the Great Depression. My parents, along with many friends and neighbors, migrated to Florida in 1935 to take advantage of the available citrus related jobs. The small town where I grew up has maintained a steady population growth of about six per annum. This relatively slow growth allowed associative changes to be adapted into the fabric of the social life of the citizens without turmoil. The greatest change came when the primary source of employment/income changed from citrus to tourism. Central Florida, including my hometown Auburndale, is appealing to both annual tourists and to northern retirees because of the mild winter weather and moderate cost of living.
    6. Japan and American culture are very different. What would you say are the strong points and the weak points of each?An old Japanese proverb calls for ?g?cthe nail that stands out must be hammered down?c.?h This philosophy has possibly stymied individual achievements in entrepreneurship in years past. The ancient bent on the preservation of harmony is a highly desirable trait, in my opinion. I believe the economic recovery of Japan after WWII is one of the greatest achievements in modern history, a phenomenon made possible by the hand in glove cooperation among banks, business entities, and government.

      The confrontational or adversarial nature of many Americans, from the western cowboys to the adversarial relationship between business and government, and on the political scene would get my vote for one of the weakest traits. On the other hand, the stress from childhood on individual reliance, (the ?gpioneer spirit?h) has contributed greatly to a long history of entrepreneurial achievements and huge gains in research and development across many areas.

    7. How much of the Japanese language did you learn while you were here? And did you study it at a school, or “self-study”?I learned a lot of Japanese ?gstreet-language?h during my military assignment by interacting directly with Japanese people. I carried pencil, paper and pocket dictionary everywhere I went and was not shy of using Japanese at every opportunity. One of my favorite phrases was, ?gTell me another way to say (it)?h In other words, if I didn?ft recognize words spoken by locals, I would ask for synonyms, and keep asking until I heard a familiar word. If the occasion permitted, I?fd take time to look up the word in my dictionary—after I learned kata kana. On my return to Japan in 1975, I sought the help of a private instructor and undertook the study of grammar and kanji. Unfortunately, the company I worked for transferred me before I could advance beyond the fourth grade level (according to government standards) in learning kanji. I?fve continued sporadic study of the language using a program called Rosetta Stone, sporadic because I also study Spanish using the same company.
    8. You have a number of books published. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors hoping to get their first book published?Unfortunately, my advice takes a negative slant. Writing a book is relatively easy (everybody has a book in their psyche) but finding a publisher is extremely difficult. There are around 15,000 books put on the market each month in the U. S., and only about two percent earn enough to cover expenses of the author and publisher. Fiction is particularly difficult to attract the attention of a reliable publishing house. Many authors turn to either self-publishing or so-called print-on-demand subsidy publishers. My advice to the new author is: write in the memoir genre (something he or she knows about) hire a professional editor, research all sources for agents or publishing houses interested in the non-fiction category.
    9. Your newest manuscript is “Japan-related”. Could you tell us about it?In the post-war years, many families having lost their breadwinners were living on the edge of poverty. Traditionally, Japanese women had received little or no training in industrial skills and as a consequence could not find jobs. These circumstances forced many young girls to turn to prostitution outside numerous American military bases. My latest novel is the biography of such a girl, (actually a composite of many girls) who at age seventeen entered the callous and sordid world of prostitution where she faced scorn from respectable Japanese, cruel treatment from her customers, venereal diseases, and a dismal future once she could no longer attract clients. When she met a young American sailor who treated her with kindness, she fell in love with him, and when he left for America, she couldn?ft bear to resume the life as a prostitute, and returned to her village to rebuild her former life. Her lover returns to find her after eight years and they are reunited until their blissful life is destroyed by a devastating earthquake and fire.
    10. Any closing comments / message for the readers of my site?I believe that the story of Matsuyama, Yoshiko will appeal to many readers of your site, particularly those who can identify with Japan as it was after WWII, or those who can vicariously suffer the travails of a young girl caught up in the unforgiving world of postwar prostitution. While the book is yet unavailable, I?fm hoping to find a suitable publishing house in the coming months. I would welcome comments or questions from any of your readers.

      +++++++++++++++Here are some of the many excellent photos that Mr. Earnest Mercer took while he was in Japan in the 1950’s and was kind enough to share with me:

      Kirin Beer truck, 1950s(“Kirin Beer” delivery truck).

      Temple in Kyoto, 1952(Temple in Kyoto, 1952).

      Train station in Yokohama, 1953(Train station in Yokohama, 1953).

      Earnest Mercer in Yokosuka, 1952(Earnest Mercer (far right) in the U.S. Navy in Yokosuka, Japan with another American sailor and a Japanese girl, 1952.).

       


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  • BRUCE KULICK

    Bruce Kulick, former guitarist for the American rock band KISS from 1984 – 1996, has a new album (titled “BK3“) out now and he just did a second interview with me (the first one is here).

    Album cover for Bruce Kulick's BK3 album(Album cover for Bruce Kulick’s “BK3” album).

    Here’s a short interview he did with me (via email) on 2010 February 20:

    1. Your new album “BK3” is excellent. How did the idea of having a collaboration of so many singers some about?It was very organic. Not originally the plan, but I always hoped Gene Simmons would appear. Once he committed and gave me Nick his son as well,
      I was well on my way to making sure the songs were best worked on. And that would mean some great singers to appear.
    2. The first single of the new album is titled “Hand Of The King”. I like this song alot.The lead vocalist of this song is Nick Simmons…son of Gene Simmons.

      Was this Nick’s professional debut as a singer?

      I believe so! He chose that song from a few I had left. He did a great job and the lyrics are VERY cool.

    3. Your tour schedule is pretty full of U.S. tour dates well into 2010.Any idea of when the Japan Tour will be?

      I do hope to visit Japan. I really love the Japanese culture and the fans.

    4. You’re also still doing KISS Expos. I met both you and Eric Singer at KISS Expos in Tokyo.Will you be doing any more Tokyo KISS Expos in the near future?

      I hope so.. they are a great way to reach out to the fans. We have a great time at them.

    5. Have you heard the new Ace Frehley or KISS releases?Yes I like Anomaly… I think it has some very interesting styles from Ace that surprised me.
    6. Doug Fieger (of The Knack) sings lead vocals on the track “Dirty Girl” on your album.It was quite a shock when the news came out that he died a few days ago.

      So, I guess that song on your album is the last professional recording he did.

      Does that make it any more special to you now than the other songs on your album?

      I think it was his last… the song was always one of my favorites and I think he really sang it well. So sad to lose him.

    7. I heard that your girlfriend is Japanese? Is that correct?If so, you must have learned some of the Japanese language and cuisine.

      Do you have a favorite Japanese expression and/or Japanese food?

      I did date a Japanese woman for a few years. We are just friends now. I did experience more about the culture than most would, and for that I am grateful to her. My favorite Japanese food is a dish a very famous Japanese restaurant prepares with warm spinach and raw tuna (sushi) in a brown sauce that is to die for!

    8. When you’re in Japan, what are some of your favorite places to visit?
      Well I love the music shops! And I think the Department stores are all amazing. I do like the sites, and enjoy seeing the country side. But I am a city person being from NYC.
      And no one does NEON lights and excitement like the Japanese!
    9. Do you have any examples that demonstrate the difference between rock fans in Japan from America or other countries?In a way the Japanese fans are much more polite and shy. They give great gifts as well!
    10. Any comment for the Bruce Kulick fans in Japan?I hope to come to see you all this year, and of course you can now buy my CD directly from me on my website.

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  • BOB GRUEN

    Bob Gruen is a famous rock photographer.

    Since the 1970s he has taken photos of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and KISS.

    He took the photo of KISS in business suits that was used for their “Dressed To KIll” album covers.

    KISS Bob Gruen honored me with an interview on 10 December 2009:

    1. Could you please give us a short self-introduction?
      I live in New York City where I was born and I’ve been taking photos for rock bands all my life.Living with a rock band in the late 1960’s I got involved in the music scene when they got a record contract. I worked first for Ike and Tina Turner, then met John Lennon and Yoko Ono and Led Zeppelin. I developed a friendship with the New York Dolls which led me to get involved with the NY punk rock scene. I visited England in 1976 and met the Clash and Sex Pistols and my career has continued to grow since then.
    2. Your photos are great! How did you learn your craft?'I learned photography from my mother who developed and printed her own photos as a hobby. When I was growing up I took photos for the local newspaper and at the town dances and parties.
    3. I heard that you and John Lennon were friends. I’m a fan of his work.Do you have any interesting stories about him?

      'I have many interesting stories about John Lennon, too many to write here but you can read them in my book “John Lennon, the New York Years” which is published in a Japanese edition.

    4. Has the Internet and digital photography made your work easier? And does digital equipment produce the same quality photos as film?The digital process is different from film but I was never too concerned about the quality of the photo, I am interested in capturing the feeling and passions of the moment.

      '

    5. How did you get started in your career taking photos of so many celebrities?My life has been a series of one thing leading to another in a natural progression. I didn’t set out to meet celebrities but that’s what happened because I tried to meet everyone I could.
    6. You took the photo of KISS that is used on their 1975 album “Dressed To Kill”. Was the idea of the band wearing suits yours?'The idea behind the photo was a photo comic story for Creem magazine. The idea of them wearing suits was from Creem but two of the suits are mine because the band members didn’t have their own suits.
    7. You took another famous photo of KISS. The image of the band in Kimono standing in front of the Ryozen Kannon statue in Kyoto, Japan. 

      'Have you been to Japan any other times as well?

      I first came to Japan with Yoko Ono in 1974 for the One Step festival, then I was on trips with the New York Dolls, Bay City Rollers and KISS. On those tours I had such a good time that in 1980 I rented an apartment in Harajuku and spent most of a year there. I have been back many times since then.

    8. What was your impression of Japan?I like life in Japan very much. I think it is much more civilized than most of the world and I enjoy that Japanese have respect for artists, unlike the US. I feel very safe walking around in Japan and I love the food too.
    9. What types of photographs do you enjoy taking the most?I like to take photos of exciting things and capturing the excitement in the photo.
    10. Do you have any comments for rock fans / Bob Gruen fans in Japan?I think people should be free to express what they feel, and have fun doing it.

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  • VICTOR STABIN

    Victor Stabin is the artist who designed album cover for 1980 KISS release titled “Unmasked“.

    KISS 'Unmasked'He has also done work for big names such as the Heavy Metal magazine and the Japanese fishing gear company Shimano.

    Heavy Metal' 

    Shimano'Victor Stabin honored me with an interview on 12 November 2009:

    1. Could you please give us a short self-introduction?
      I do the work I do because it is hard, I need to be challenged by my efforts. I reference my work with deference to the 500 years of eastern and western art history that
      preceded me. The older I get the more personal the imagery, my next piece will always be my best. I like the Michaelangelo Buonarroti quote “I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish”.
    2. Your artwork is really amazing. From the comic book style (of the KISS album cover) to a kind of surrealistic to very realistic portraits (like photographs!) 

      'How would you describe your art style?

      I would describe my art style as “western with a dash of eastern design”.

      '

    3. In 1980, you designed the KISS album cover for their “Unmasked” album.How did the offer to paint a KISS album cover come about?

      I was approached my the agency representing KISS and asked to do an initial sketch. The sketch was well received and than proceeded to do the cover.

    4. How did the idea for that cover come about?The idea was given to me my the band , my job was to create the imagery.
    5. After the “Unmasked” album was released, did it lead to an increase in popularity in your work?The cover gave me recognition but did not lead to new work.   At the time I was working as an illustrator, KISS is such it’s own identity that the imagery did not attract other clients.

      It was surprising to find this out first hand.

    6. Where, besides the KISS album cover, might I have seen your work and not known it?I recently created nine stamps for the US Postal Service and you can always go to victorstabin.com.

      US Postal stamps'

    7. Have you ever had an exhibition of your work in Japan? Have you visited Japan at all?I would love to have my work exhibited in Japan, I have never been there and would absolutely love to go. I am hoping that next years marketing will lead to international travel.
    8. Do you receive alot of fan mail from Japan?I think this is my first fan mail from Japan, hopefully not the last.
    9. Have you listened to the KISSUnmasked” album? What’s your opinion? (That album, unfortunately, is one of KISS‘s least popular (except in Australia)).I have not listened to KISSUnmasked” since Jesus was in diapers.
    10. Do you have a message for the KISS fans / Victor Stabin fans in Japan?I have original posters from the album (KISSUnmasked“). These posters are NOT folded the way they came in the album originally , I picked them up from the printer myself , way back when.

      There are a few left – less than ten , they are signed by me and they sell for US$300 plus shipping. This price will increase as the number of prints I have lessens – get them while you can.


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  • MICHAEL DORET

    Michael Doret designed the album cover for the 1976 KISS album “Rock And Roll Over“, and he’s just designed his second KISS album cover…the soon-to-be-released “Sonic Boom” album.

    KISS logoMichael Doret honored me with a second interview on August 18, 2009 (the first one he did with me is here):

    1. In 1976, you designed the very popular cover for the KISS album “Rock And Roll Over“. It’s consider a legendary album cover, not only by KISS fans, but by rock music fans in general.Now, 32 years since “Rock And Roll Over“, and 11 years since KISS‘ most recent studio album, KISS has recorded a new studio album of all new songs and you were asked to design the cover for this new KISS album.

      How were you contacted again, after so many years, to do another KISS album?
      Well, it was very simple.Paul Stanley was producing the new album and KISS was on tour in South America in April. Paul wanted the sound of the new album to be reminiscent of the raw power that was evident in their early albums of the ’70s, and felt that the cover of “Rock and Roll Over” was iconic, and represented that time and that sound. So he telephoned me while they were on tour to ask if I’d be interested in trying to design another cover for them that might help to recapture that energy.

    2. What was your initial reaction to being requested to design another KISS album cover?
      #1: Happy and pleased that he remembered me, and had the confidence that I could do it again.#2: Very apprehensive that whatever I came up with would be compared (by everyone) to “Rock and Roll Over“. It would be very difficult for me to create another cover that could live up to a previous piece of art I had done that had become such a part of popular culture.
    3. Besides the KISS album covers and the New York Knicks logo that you designed, is there anywhere else that people might see your work in their everyday life and not realize you designed it?
      That’s not an easy question to answer.Certainly if you live in New York the Knicks logo is something you’d see everywhere, but elsewhere in the world, it wouldn’t be a part of your everyday life. I’ve done many covers for TIME Magazine and recently did a logo for Bette Midler’s Las Vegas show which has been very visible.

      But my most visible work, now seen globally, is the font design work which I do under the name “Alphabet Soup“. And the font that is being distributed and purchased more than any other is “Metroscript“. It’s quite likely that more people have seen typography set in Metroscript than any other work I’ve done. I’ve just released a new set of fonts called “Deliscript” which I think has the potential to be even more popular than Metroscript.

      If you’re looking for one example of my work that best encapsulates my vision, Deliscript may be it!

    4. After KISS‘ “Rock And Roll Over” album was released in 1976, did it lead to a big surge in work for you?
      No, not at all. It wasn’t really acknowledged as being an iconic cover until many years later.
    5. Do you own a copy of the “Rock And Roll Over” album? Do you listen to it? What’s your impression of the music?
      My turntable stopped working years ago, but I do have a CD copy of “RaRO” that was remastered about a dozen years ago. “Rock and Roll Over” was the epitome of the raw power and energy that KISS became known for, and in my opinion was the high point of their music from that time.I do have the Gold Record that KISS gave me…but that’s framed and under glass.

      By the way, did you know that most gold record awards were hardly ever made using the actual recording being awarded?

      (Tokyo Five: No, I didn’t.)

    6. When you design an album cover, do you listen to the music to get an idea what the cover should look like?
      No. Usually when I’m approached about doing a cover it’s either before, or while, a group is still in the recording studio. If I understand what a group wants to say with the cover, and have heard some of their previous recordings, I really don’t need to hear the new music.
    7. What can you tell us about the upcoming KISS album? The title? The sound? And the album cover artwork?
      By the time you receive this from me you will already know that the title is “Sonic Boom“. I cannot tell you anything about the sound because I haven’t heard one note from the album. As far as the album cover art is concerned you’ve probably already seen that, but just in case, here it is.Sonic Boom coverI hope people don’t try and compare it too much to “RaRO“. It was a very different problem designing the art for “Sonic Boom“.

      For one thing I had to design inside a 4 ¾” square as opposed to a 12″ square, which means I had to pack the same wallop into a much smaller container.

      For another, this is a different time, the world is a different place, and I’m a different person. Hopefully my design sensibilities have progressed and developed beyond where they were when I did “RaRO“. I think the new cover is a strong statement that tells the story the way the earlier one did.

      I would describe my design for “Sonic Boom” as “Rock and Roll Over” turned inside out.

    8. In these days of music downloads, today’s young people don’t buy albums like we used to when we were younger.Did you have any hesitations of putting your work on an album jacket where people might not even see it?
      I really don’t think that will be the case with this album. I think this will sell quite well…after all it’s KISS! It’s going to be a really great package containing two CDs and a DVD.The opportunity to work with these guys again was something I just couldn’t turn down.

      Lack of high visibility has never prevented me from working on anything…that’s not one of the criteria I use to evaluate a project. I don’t work on projects like this for the “glory” or the exposure. I’m a professional…I work on all kinds of projects, and I’m always up for a challenge.

    9. Did you use computer software to design the new album cover, or was it done “old-school” like the cover in 1976?
      This was done entirely on a Mac.In fact the images of the four group members could not have been achieved any other way. In 1976 I might have attempted to do those faces like that, but I would not have been able to achieve the look I created for them in this new cover.

      That was the result of putting the photographs through many different processes in both Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop (very complicated), until they looked exactly as I intended them.

    10. When can the fans in Japan expect another Michael Doret exhibit here in Japan? And have you heard if KISS is planning to tour the world for their new album?
      I’m not a spokesperson for KISS and I don’t know what their plans are. I’m sure if you watch their website, you’ll see when they announce their tour.As far as my work and a show in Japan are concerned, if someone there wanted to sponsor an exhibit, I’d be there in a heartbeat!

      We were there in ’86 as part of the American Pop Culture exhibit at La Foret Gallery in Tokyo, and loved every minute of it!


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  • MICHAEL DORET

    Michael Doret is an American artist who has done alot of famous work…including the New York Knicks basketball team’s logo and the 1976 “Rock And Roll Over” album cover for the band KISS.

    Rock And Roll Over(The ‘Rock And Roll Over’ album cover artwork).

    Here’s an excellent interview Michael Doret did with me (via email) on April 22, 2009:

    1. Could you give a self-introduction?I?fm a letterforms artist who works completely solo…always have, probably always will. My work almost exclusively revolves around lettering, and limited illustration with lettering integrated into the imagery. My work has run the gamut from record jackets (obviously) to posters to signage to advertising to postage stamps and everything in between. Now I do my work digitally, but I didn?ft always. I only started doing work digitally 14 years ago. I recently expanded the scope of my work to include font design.
    2. In the mid-1970’s, you designed the cover for KISS’s “Rock And Roll Over” album. How did you come up with that cool design?Just prior to getting this assignment a Japanese graphics magazine named 「アイデア」 (“Idea“) did a feature on my work. They had asked me to design a cover for the issue my article was to appear in, so I designed a very graphic cover that (to me!) was reminiscent of both Japanese art and very graphic American tin litho target games. To me it had the look of what I would describe as a Japanese shooting gallery. I really loved that piece, and Seibundo Shinkosa Publishing did a wonderful job printing it. When I got the assignment to do the RARO cover, my Idea cover was fresh in my mind, and I wanted to do something similar. It seemed appropriate that Kiss, with its ?gKabuki?h-style makeup should get a ?gJapanesey?h looking cover. The form that the design took evolved from the words ?g…Roll Over?h. It seemed obvious to me that it should be a rotating design. So it ended up being a kind of mandala (I guess that?fs not very Japanese). Anyway I felt it should be very bold, simple in style, and graphic. Fortunately for me the band agreed.

      Idea magazine(The 「アイデア」 (‘Idea‘) magazine cover artwork).

    3. Have you ever attended a KISS convention as a special guest?Nope.
    4. Have you seen any of the numerous tributes to your art on that album (including other bands copying the design for their albums, tattoos inspired by that album cover (the drummer of KISS, Peter Criss, himself has one), etc)?I?fve only seen a few crappy photos of a few tattoos. The only other thing like that I?fve seen was that recently some guy sent me some photos of a large three dimensional construction of the cover he made out of wood. It was actually extremely well done.

      If you?fve got some good photos could you send them to me?

      (Tokyo Five:I found a photo of one of the KISS-Online website…here).

    5. How were you chosen to design the KISS album cover?
      I had been working for Howard Marks Advertising with an Art Director named Dennis Woloch. The projects I had been working on with him had nothing to do with Kiss. Then I guess Howard Marks Adv. got Aucoin Management as a client, and the assignment to do many of the subsequent covers for Kiss. Dennis and I got along quite well (we are actually still in contact), so he called me in to discuss this cover and meet with the band. I told them I had a good idea what I?fd do, and they gave me the assignment.
    6. Are you a fan of KISS’s music? Have you seen their live show?I did attend one live show in New York at the time.

      Your question about whether or not I?fm a fan of Kiss?f music is really not relevant to the story of this cover. I?fm a professional designer. I work for many different clients in many different walks of life from old to young, from conservative to those who are way ?gout there?h. I pride myself on my ability to solve design problems in a way that excites the client but also in a way that I can be proud of. To be able to do both successfully is not an easy task. Whether or not I was a Kiss fan would not have affected the outcome of this art?either way it would have come out looking the way it does.

    7. Was the art that is on the album cover your first design for the album or were there different versions? Did the artwork have to be approved by the band personally?This was the one and only design I did for this cover. When I know what I want to do for any given project I usually go full steam ahead. I was very excited about what I came up with, and I think that the band felt the same way. This was before computers, so my sketch or ?gcomp?h was a small simulation of what I wanted the cover to look like, and was done with colored pencils. There were only a few minor changes that Gene and Paul asked for both involving details in their faces. So the actual cover was approved by the band and the small changes on the faces notwithstanding was virtually unchanged from my sketch.
    8. Do you have any amusing KISS-related stories?Sorry, no. They didn?ft hang out with me.
    9. Is there anywhere else that your artwork can be seen?Well not knowing where you did see my work, I?fll have to list a few places? Here goes:

      My blog

      My main website

      My font design work

      Here’s where I sell posters and stuff

      Another portfolio site

      Another portfolio site

      An interview w/ me

      My rep in Germany

    10. Have you ever been to Japan? Do you have a message for KISS fans / Michael Doret fans in Japan?Yes, I visited Japan in 1986 with a group of artists. We were having an exhibition in Tokyo at La Foret gallery called ?gAmerican Pop Culture?h or something like that. I?fm not aware of having any fans in Japan. I do remember that after Rock And Roll Over was released a group of Japanese came by my studio in NYC with covers for me to sign. It was quite unexpected and hilarious. I?fm in Hollywood now…a lot closer to Japan than I was before, so if there are any fans out there who want to come by the studio to get their covers signed, they?fre more than welcome!

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  • JERRY YELLIN

    Jerry Yellin fought against Japan during World War 2. From the war until the mid-1980’s, he had a deep hatred for Japan.

    A business trip to Japan and then his son’s emigration to Japan and marriage to a Japanese woman changed his attitude towards Japan, the Japanese people and war in general.

    Jerry Yellin, 1940s(Here’s a picture of Jerry Yellin during WW2).

    Here’s an excellent interview Jerry Yellin did with me (via email) on September 9, 2008:

    1. Could you give a self-introduction?My name is Jerry Yellin, I am nearly 85 years old, married for 59 years, father of 4 sons and have 6 grandchildren.

      I was in the real estate/banking/consulting world until I was 70 at which time I helped found an Internet provider and telephone company in rural Iowa. I live in Vero Beach Florida with my wife Helene.

    2. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, where were you and what was your reaction when you heard the news?I was walking into a corner store to purchase the Sunday paper in Hillside, New Jersey. Everyone was crowded around a small radio listening to the description of the bombing of Peal Harbor by the Japanese. I was only 2 months from my 18th birthday and was aware of the negotiations between Japan and America and never had any thoughts about going to war.

      This was a complete surprise and was viewed as an outrage by everyone I knew.

      How could any civilized people attack another country without provocation?

    3. When you joined the Army Air Corps, did you ask to fight in the Pacific War against Japan?I enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet in waiting on my 18th birthday (Feb. 15, 1942) only wanting to fight the Japanese.

      They had attacked my country.

      Even though Hitler declared war against America eight days after Pearl Harbor, I saw Japan as my enemy.

      Being in the military does not give you any options about where you will serve, you go where ordered.

      I got my wish though and was sent to the Pacific theater.

    4. What was your feelings about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?I watched hundreds of B-29?fs drop hundreds of thousands of pounds of bombs on Japanese cities killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese people.

      It never bothered me.

      I was over Tokyo on August 6, 1945 and heard about the atomic bomb when I returned to Iwo Jima. It was nearing the end of the war and we all wanted to go home, alive. So the dropping of one bomb from one bomber and doing the same amount of damage as thousands of bombs from hundreds of bombers was just a better way of fighting the war and was then and still is now, OK.

      It saved my life, the lives of many of my fellow flyers, stopped us from invading Japan in October at a tremendous cost of American lives.

      It also created a tremendous feeling of anti-war sentiments in my life. The pure purpose of war, in my opinion, is to kill. The Pure Purpose of Life is, also in my opinion, to connect to all Humanity.

    5. What caused you to stop feeling hatred toward Japan?I went to Japan in 1983, reluctantly, on business. While there I discovered that the Japanese that I saw were not the Japanese I fought against or was told about. I liked the people, the customs, the food and I realized that we are all the same.

      Read my book, “Of War and Weddings“, available at Amazon.com. (Available here: in English or 日本語.)

    6. Why did your son, Robert, move to Japan? And what was your initial reaction?My wife thought Robert would like Japan so we gave him a trip for his college graduation present in the spring of 1984.

      We were visiting him in 1987 and met his future wife. When he said he was going to get married I was shocked, it had never occurred to me. I saw the faces of the sixteen young fighter pilots I flew with who were killed and wondered what they died for, how they would feel.

      But I also realized that it was my war, not Robert?fs and that he had a life to live on his own so I accepted his decision with difficulty but in totality.

    7. Your son has a Japanese wife and three children (just as I do). Do you visit them in Japan often? Do they visit America?We have been to Japan more than 20 times since Robert and Takako got married. They have been to America with their three children once, on our 50th wedding anniversary in 1999.
    8. Your son’s Japanese father-in-law was also a soldier in WW2, and had a hatred for America. Was it difficult for you and him to reconcile?We met just a day or two before the wedding after exchanging a few letters. He and his wife had accepted his daughter’s marriage, very reluctantly at first and so did my wife and I.

      The meetings have been meaningful but frustrating ever since because of the language restraints. But the feeling of kinship, respect and family are there deeply and from the heart in both directions.

    9. What are your impression of today’s Japan versus the Japan of sixty years ago?I have seen incredible negative changes in Japan since I went there for the first time in 1983, 25 years ago. I see a change in the respect younger people seem to have for customs and authority. It seems the worst influence comes from the adaptation of American fast food chains and leaning towards our culture. I think America is out of control and Japan is not far behind.
    10. Could you tell us about your books and any other projects that you have going on?I wrote a book Of War and Weddings in 1988 about my life changes brought about by Robert?fs wedding.

      It led me to a deeper understanding of myself, my country and our place in the world. Because I was a ?gwriter?h I have been invited to speak to schools across America and in several cities in Japan including Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Mishima and Numazu. Those experiences have broadened my life tremendously.

      In 2006, I participated in a Japanese Memorial ceremony for 23 American B-29 crewmen who were killed over Shizuoka on June 20, 1945.

      The ceremony was first conducted by the Japanese man, Fukumatsu Itoh who buried the Americans and has been carried on since 1972 by Dr. Hiroya Sugano. I was overwhelmed by the significance of this event and saddened that it is a ceremony that is not well known.

      I have just completed a book written as fiction but based on fact called “The Blackened Canteen”. It will be available at the end of September from Amazon.com.

      Facts and a three-minute video can be seen on my website jerryyellin.com on or about September 15 (2008).

      Hopefully the book (“The Blackened Canteen“) will be translated and published in Japan just as my first book (“Of War and Weddings“) was.

      Jerry Yellin, 2006(Here’s a picture of Jerry Yellin in 2006 at the memorial ceremony in Japan honoring the American pilots killed over Japan during WW2).


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  • KEN ALLEY

    Ken Alley recently acquired over 1000 pages of letters written by Elizabeth Ryan to her family in America while she was in post-WW2 Japan.

    She was an American who worked for the Inspector General of the U.S. Occupation in ?_?? (Kobe, Japan) for just over a year in the late 1940’s.

    letter from 'Betts(Here’s a picture of one of Elizabeth Ryan’s handwritten letters).

    Here’s a short interview he did with me (via email) on September 7, 2008:

    1. Could you give a short self-introduction?I am a 57-yr-old semi retired chiropractor/writer/bookseller.
    2. How did you come upon the letters by Elizabeth Ryan?I advertise in regional newspapers for old books and a woman who lives about 60 miles (96 km) from here called and said her brother-in-law (Lt Col Judson Smith of Lincoln, Nebraska) had died and they wanted to clean out his house and sell it.

      She wanted to “donate” his books to me and anything else I wanted of his military years.

      Lt Smith’s wife (Mary) and Elizabeth were the best of friends in Chicago and in 1946 applied for jobs with the U.S. Army in Occupied Japan and got them.

      They were “roomies” in Kobe and befriended Lt Smith while there. He could get them in anywhere they wanted to go and he liked having two American ladies on his arm.

      When Elizabeth died in 1975 her family gave the letters (and photo album and scrapbook) to Mary.

      Then everybody else died and they ended up with me when all of Lt Smith’s things were being dispersed of.

    3. From what year until what year was she in Japan?Jan 1947 – July 1948.
    4. Will these letters be published in book form? (If so, what will the title and release date be?)I am presently looking for a publisher but that is the hard part.

      (CALL ME IF YOU’RE INTERESTED! ((US country code – 1) 402-362-1244).

      Elizabeth went by “Betty”, and signed all her letters, “Love, Betts“. And that’s the title. (Sub title: “Letters Home From Occupied Japan.”

    5. To whom were her letters addressed?To family back home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA).
    6. From her letters, what would you say her impression of post-WW2 Japan was?Devastation mixed with eagerness to please people.
    7. Do you know whether or not Elizabeth Ryan had ever returned to Japan to see it after it was rebuilt from the war damage?Elizabeth did not return. Lt & Mrs. Smith did another tour in Japan.
    8. Could you share an interesting quote from one of her letters?It’s really windy in Kobe today, and not from anything I eat, either!
    9. Have you ever been to Japan?No, I have not. But, if I ever get the chance, by golly, I’m going.
    10. Any comments for the visitors to my site?I have high hopes of publishing these letters. They’re a whole new look at Occupied Japan from a young, female civilian from the States.

      By the way, there should be a total of five articles regarding these letters in the Japan Times (newspaper). Three are already on-line (as of 2008/9/7). (here, here and here.)


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  • BRUCE KULICK

    Bruce Kulick was the guitarist for the American rock band KISS from 1984 – 1996. He was with the band for most of their no make-up period, so he’s one of the two people who have been in the KISS line-up but never wore the signature KISS kabuki-style make-up.

    Since 1996, after getting out of KISS, he has played in Union the Eric Singer Project (ESP) (with KISS drummer, Eric Singer), and Grand Funk Railroad.

    At KISS Expo, Tokyo(Here’s a picture that I took of Bruce Kulick with Union at the KISS Expo in Tokyo a couple years ago. Pictured (left to right) are James Hunting, John Corabi, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer (filling in for Brent Fitz)).

    KISS circa 1990

    (Here’s KISS circa 1990. Pictured (left to right) Paul Stanley, the late Eric Carr, Bruce Kulick, Gene Simmons).

    Here’s a short interview he did with me (via email) on September 1, 2008:

    1. When was the first time you came to Japan? When was the most recent? How many times have you been here?First time would of been with KISS. I can’t remember what year. But I went a few times with KISS, went with for work with ESP guitars a few times without KISS, and I went with UNION, and ESP (Eric Singer Project) a few times most recently early this year.
    2. What are your impressions of Tokyo? What are your favorite places to visit / things to do in this city?I really love Japan and Tokyo is very fascinating. The lights, the energy, the people, the food, and how much electricity is in the air. I love shopping and eating the food and meeting the people of Japan.
    3. Anything you weren’t impressed with in Tokyo?Traffic…but we have that in LA of course.. and the Narita Airport is too far from the city!
    4. Are there’s any particular Japanese food and / or restaurants that you like?I love the Udon places, the ¥140 Sushi shops, and even the shops that sell American style food. The restaurants are all perfection.
    5. I have seen you and Eric Singer at “KISS Expos” in Tokyo. It was a pleasure to speak with you. Are these types of events much different in Japan compared with other countries?Well, they are very well organized. I really enjoy doing those events.
    6. I have the “ESP: Live In Japan” CD (as well as other ESP, Union, and KISS CDs). Is that CD a Japan-only release?No, it is not. It can be ordered from Kissshop.com
    7. What is the “Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp”? Are you still involved with that?I have done quite a few of them, but this summer I was busy with Grand Funk so I couldn’t do the one day camp tour. I have done some corporate events for them as well. They are great ways to meet people who love music and to jam and network with other counselors and celebrities.
    8. Any plans to bring the “Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp” to Japan?Not at this time.
    9. Do you know when you’ll be in Tokyo again next?No real plans yet.
    10. Any comments for the visitors to my site?I hope they can read my website.. even though it is in English. I don’t think I have it translated… or properly. But I want to thank all my fans in Japan, they are very good to me! I hope they can check out the merch on site. I only get a few orders to Japan, but it is not difficult to send products there.

      www.kulick.net


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  • FRED BENSI

    Fred Bensi plays Gene Simmons in the KISS tribute band, “Dynasty” that used to be based in Japan.

    Fred Bensi as Gene SimmonsHere’s a short interview he did with me (via email) on July 20, 2008:

    1. Could you give a short self-introduction?Fred 45 YO,Pro bassist since ’83 .
    2. When did you come to Japan? Why?1991, I was performing in a band in Hokkaido for a 1 year contract .
    3. Where’s are you currently residing?Tahiti in French Polynesia.
    4. I saw on your website that you’ve worked with many Japanese musicans? Who was you favorite?Hide from (the Japanese band) “X Japan“.
    5. Is your KISS copy band, DYNASTY, still together touring?few times a year,we’re less active than back in the 90’s but still around.
    6. How did you become the “only official Mercury Records Kiss tribute band in Japan”?I asked them and they said yes.
    7. How well can you speak / read Japanese? How did you learn? I speak fluently and read most of it but I’m limited still with Kanjis.

      My wife taught me everything,she’s from Osaka.

    8. What do you like most about Japan?The peacefull atmosphere’s and the clean public areas.
    9. Least?The old fashion Japanese salary-man spirit.
    10. Any comments for the visitors to my site?Japan is the coolest place on earth if you use your differences accordingly, don’t try to enter the system,if you do you’ll miss all the fun.Be the obvious,your gaijinness* is your best asset.

      (* Gaijin, written 「外人」, (short for 「外国人」 (gaikokujin)) means “foreigner”).


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