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Herb Sundays 21: Katoman
A syrupy and ecstatic push from the legendary Tokyo music man (label/booking/promoter/DJ) and bartender.
“If I had to define my time spent in Tokyo, two places come to mind: beatcafe, and Sumire- a multi-level, cacophonous, smoke-filled izakaya in Dogenzaka. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve been accompanied by my dear friend Oshi Kuni (Plancha), and on one memorable occasion, Katoman joined us.
It’s hard to imagine finding anything beyond the brightly lit chaos in the “Times Square of Tokyo” known as Shibuya City. The towering neon and screens are enough to send most into a sensory overload, it’s past the bustling center, down in the Dogenzaka Maruyama-cho area, that a dive bar called beatcafe has become a hotspot for the city’s creative class.
Over chicken skin, tsukune, shishito pepper, and copious amounts of beer, I wanted to know how it came to be that nearly every musician in the world stumbles into his bar. And over the next two or so hours, he detailed the mind-boggling catalog of bands & artists he’d worked with over the years as a record label & tour manager, and how these people started this pilgrimage, playing a show far away from home, shuffling down the precarious steps to say hello to their friend.
Every time I’ve visited Tokyo, beatafe is the first and last stop. It’s a privilege to take part in that tradition.”
-Rory O’Connor (aka Nitemoves)
Katoman was sort of a mystery to me, to be honest. I didn’t know his backstory apart from beatcafe, but I recognized a true lifer. He’s run his Dotlinecircle label/booking/press company since the early 90’s and has helped over 100 bands/acts since (there’s even a Japanese-only bonus track on Battles’ debut called “Katoman”). I also wanted to time travel a bit with this playlist. I feel a wanderlust right now and this maybe helps/exacerbates it. The mix, at the risk of being obvious, is just as Rory says, a walk down the stairs into the familiar but elevated: Hosono, Arthur Russell, Musical Youth, a Chinese pop cover of The Sundays by Faye Wong. It’s the dream jukebox.
His Herb credentials are solid, as he’s also the propagator of “Cheesewave”, which is a genre he defines as “the greatest music ever, produced between 1979 and 1986.” I don’t disagree on most days. His love of the sincere but ersatz is admirable and very much in line with Herbian philosophy: “First off: there is no irony, no guilty pleasure involved when I talk about cheesy music. It stands for respect and simple fun.”
In trying to better understand the great man, I asked Katoman for his bio and his Koki Yoshihara delivered:
“No one title clearly defines who Katoman is and what he does. One may know him as the person behind the bar counter at beatcafe located in the heart of Shibuya but others may know him as radio personnel or a record label manager. After several words with Katoman, you’ll realize his bottomless musical knowledge which has established him as a respective individual whose influence expands beyond both musical and cultural borders. From an early age, Katoman’s keen ability to catch “the latest music” before it becomes the latest music has given exposure to bands such as Battles, The Locust, The Album Leaf, Nisennenmondai, and The Mars Volta to a wider audience which has placed him in a unique lane of his own. The ambiguous genre “Cheesewave” fabricated by Katoman sparked the curiosity of avid music lovers in various countries. One stop at beatcafe is enough to hold a grasp of the enriching depth Katoman brings to the table. Without him, it’s no doubt Tokyo’s, moreover, Japan’s music scene would.”