biography - 21.03.2009 12:00

Read the story of TOKYO SKA PARADISE ORCHESTRA, one of the most successful live bands in the history of modern Japanese music.

TOKYO SKA PARADISE ORCHESTRA began activities in 1985. Their first concerts were street performances, which were soon followed by small club venue events. It was only a short period of time before the sharp-suited band started to attract the interest of fans in the Tokyo music scene. Their first self titled, 12" vinyl-only album was released in 1990. Through numerous live performances and tours the band began to build up a devoted and highly enthusiastic fanbase. Their explosive growth in popularity led to their signing to Sony Records and the release of their first single MONSTER ROCK. The single was soon followed by their debut major label album Skapara Toujou.

"Skapara" (as fans affectionately call the band) were fast becoming a phenomenal success story. Their epic energetic live performances and popular "ska-ed up" covers of popular tunes caused the band to become highly popular in a very short period of time. So much so that a few months after their major label debut they performed their biggest concert to date at the famous Nippon Budokan in front of over 10,000 fans. However, the band were only starting on their journey and they decided to expand their horizons by touring outside of Japan, the first of many overseas performances. The band continued to make regular releases after, including their first live video Skapara Video.

Following this initial boom period there were a number of lineup changes in the band, including the departure of band founder and leader, Asa-Chang who chose to pursue alternative musical projects. This however did little to slow the band down as their live performance schedule was always full, but their sell out shows for some reason did not translate into good record sales much to the disappointment of their record label. A much bigger problem loomed as their frontman and singer Cleanhead Gimura became ill with brain cancer and passed away in 1995. It was during the same year though that the band worked with famous actor/singer Akira Kobayashi to produce the first of several collaboration releases. Later collaborations saw the band working with acts including Sheena Ringo, Puffy and KinKi Kids.

The year 2000 proved to be a turning point for TOKYO SKA PARADISE ORCHESTRA as they decided to start releasing albums overseas. They had parted ways with Sony in 1997, (even though a best album which documented their years with the label was released in 2002) before moving to Avex Tracks and finally Cutting Edge where they are still signed.

The album FULL-TENSION BEATERS was released in Europe and was proceeded by a tour through five European countries on an intense schedule that featured eleven concerts in just twelve days. On their return to Japan there were more tours, and in 2002 a return to their earlier massive concert events which included a performance at the famous Fuji Rock Festival and a sell out 15,000 seat show at the Yokohama Arena.

The following year, their album HIGH NUMBERS ranked second on the Oricon chart, which brought the long awaited balance between their sell out live shows and record sales. More touring followed throughout Europe in 2003 including a number of festivals before their first US appearances in the summer of 2004. TOKYO SKA PARADISE ORCHESTRA became the first non-US band to perform at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, which was remarkable for a band who were performing their first ever tour of the States at the time.

Steady releases on various formats continued to be produced regularly including various side-project productions including Soundtrack releases in addition to more live shows which saw the band touring nationwide throughout Japan. More overseas successes were realised in the form of their longest tour ever; including shows in various European countries and Vietnam during the summer of 2005.

In 2007, the band's first documentary film SMILE which was directed by Koichi Makino was released. In addition to their Wild Peace Final concert event which featured footage from their domestic sell out tour "Wild Peace" in which they played to their biggest ever Japanese audiences.

The band faced a setback when their alto saxophonist Hiyamuta Tatsuyuki announced that he was leaving the band during the summer of 2008. He had previously suffered injuries in a car crash in 2006, but after trying hard to manage both playing and recovering, he finally made the decision to concentrate fully on his rehabilitation instead.

A new album entitled Paradise Blue is set for release in April 2009 which will no doubt be followed by a highly anticipated series of incredible live shows that have made TOKYO SKA PARADISE ORCHESTRA into one of the most successful live bands in the history of modern Japanese music.
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