As Saiichi’s manager, I am assisted by Chris, a fellow music professional. He was formerly with a now-closed independent London music store. Chris’ current role with Saiichi is tour manager.
Chris, like me, lives and breathes music, but he is more familiar with contemporary music than I am, and we have a lot of interesting musical discussions, swapping musical knowledge. I asked him to help update the introduction for Saiichi Sugiyama Band with younger generations in mind. He said:
Saiichi Sugiyama Band frames melodic and infectious tunes, written by the rock and blues guitarist and singer-songwriter, in a lush retro-modern arrangement and organic vintage sound.
Described as ‘bluesy-folky-Motown/rock’, their soulful music has a timeless quality that leads the way in today’s musical landscape as keepers of the flame that once burnt bright in the halcyon days of rock and soul music.
I like Chris’s summary. It is heartening to see that music lovers of a younger generation are “getting” Saiichi’s music, as the band is seen by more and more people. People ask him, “Where have you been?” Wherever Saiichi has been, I know where he is going, and it is to new places and new and bigger audiences.
Harley, a young, bearded wizard of soundboards who travels with Saiichi Sugiyama Band to engineer their live sound, describes it as “bluesy Motown” – apt enough for some of the songs. Saiichi counts Motown and classic soul as his formative influence when he was growing up.
At the other end of the spectrum, Chris spotted the tangible heritage from Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young and the Beatles that infuses some of Saiichi music. Saiichi admits that they were his first loves, as artists, in music.
Then there is the bloodline of Cream/Clapton and Free/Kossoff which is clearly in Saiichi’s DNA, and which bears fruit in the shape of his collaboration with Pete Brown and Andy Fraser, his teenage heroes back in his Tokyo days.
Even so, Saiichi Sugiyama Band is not a tribute band to any act or acts. Their own music is the real deal and unique.
If you say that the “Blues” is, above all, a feeling, then Saiichi shows it in his passion and his blues guitar work, but I would not confine Saiichi Sugiyama Band’s current music into any single genre such as “blues rock”.
That is even more so now as Mune is on board as his father’s producer/musical director ushering in “a lush retro-modern arrangement and organic vintage sound “ as Chris puts it. I know as an insider that the band is as much Mune’s as Saiichi’s and the former has a final say on any musical matters. So despite Saiichi’s history, the music of Saiichi Sugiyama Band has youthful sensibilities.
The cutting edge performance of Saiichi’s band is more understandable when you realise that the musicians in the band regularly work with household names such as Sir Tom Jones, Frank Ocean and the London Community Gospel Choir. These musicians are, therefore, more accustomed to TV and arena appearances than blues clubs, but one advantage of following bands like Saiichi’s while they are still playing those clubs is the intimacy of the performance. Catch them before they move on, and hopefully you’ll go with them. (Though knowing Saiichi, I expect he will always cherish playing intimate venues of his roots even if Saiichi Sugiyama Band moves on to greater things.)
There is a genius, a vibrant flowering of influences, going on with Saiichi and his band. It is yet to be widely shared, being captured in the band album that Mune is preparing, with infinite care, for release when it is ready. Though you can hear hints of it in the last two Mune-produced singles, Somewhere Down The Road (2017) and Melting Away, feat. the late Andy Fraser of Free.
As I finish writing this, I am thinking of the next tasks for Chris and I. Liaison with musicians over the band’s next live appearance at a festival in Devon, helping Saiichi with his separate acoustic show in an eclectic line up in Woking, and getting more such appearances. Tasks large and small, and as Saiichi sometime says, “making sure that the band members get to the destination on time in a good state to perform”. That is another story or stories, with missing passports, traffic jams and Dartford tunnel closures affecting other acts I know all too frequently. Chris and I are helping Saiichi to avoid these problems, but we need to do better on preventing accidental leaving of gear at venues!
Saiichi Sugiyama Management