Green Banana spoke to the inimitable and effervescent Steve Deg of 'Orangey"
In full disclosure to readers, we first met at an Orangey gig at ‘What the Dickens’ in Ebisu, Tokyo about 23 years ago. It would be fair to say without you, Thomas Imposter Records probably would not exist.
Oh, nice of you to credit me with that. As I mentioned at the time, you impressed me with your astute musicological observations listening to my songs and listing possible influences. Bang on! Felt an affinity with you there and then.
How did Orangey first come about and what are your memories of the early years?
Well, initially a new colleague at my workplace, Rei (Japanese lady) and I started chatting at her welcome party and I discovered she was into British music including bands such as Japan and The Smiths and as a bonus played electric guitar. We had a relaxed session with some songs I wrote for the occasion. Later she introduced me to Akemi, from our workplace, who had played bass at school covering Ska, The Beatles and new wave sounds and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship as Bogart put it in Casablanca 'till he was told to take it out.
Early years. We're talking way back from '92. Had fun playing at venues around Tokyo. However, at that time, the audience were provided with seats so slightly at odds as our music was kind of dancey. Though they would show appreciation clapping at the end of the set rather than disturbing us with any response during it. Courteous.
Later started a monthly club featuring guest musicians, dancers, film showing and more and that being our own party, so to speak, may I speak, we got a more visceral reaction as the guests danced along with each other. Gave us confidence to feel that rapport. I felt an affinity with them, there and then. CALL-BACK!
Please introduce Orangey’s current link up.
Akemi, bass and vocals and manager providing kicks up the arse or assss when I don't have motivation to focus on coming gigs. Atsushi, on guitar and i-pad and more recently David on drums from Oz, short for Oz.
Would describing Orangey’s sound as the love child of Scritti Politti and Magazine be a fair description? Maybe you could explain it better?
The love child bit, just a rumour and I have the certificate to prove Green and Devoto as my imaginary parents.
When I started I got a boost from Kate Bush after hearing her first single and loads of songs I made had her quirky chord changes. Vocals slightly affected Opera-like. Think Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet and then try not to. touches of Bowie and also since playing with the band over here, got influenced by Elizabeth Frazer of Cocteau Twins. Albarn of Blur. And Burr of Saint Albarns. Guitar-wise, being active during the post-punk era in England, long solos were out. Rockism as Paul Morley of NME coined that indulgence. Having said tha.....I will say something else.
How did an arty farty suburban Bromley boy like you end up playing music in Tokyo?
I answered an advert for a composer who wanted to supplement his band with an American or European New Age guitarist. I got the job as I did not fit the bill. To put it another way, like Rei and Akemi with whom I formed Orangey, he loved British music so even before hearing whether or not I could play guitar or sing I got the job. After that did sessions on TV commercials (That was his main work as a composer) Then we made an album produced by Seigen Ono, who was YMO's engineer. That's a name-drop for anyone collecting their pension.
Do you prefer gigging or recording music?
I like both for different reasons. I guess the live shows gives us/you an immediate connection, sending out energy from the stage and receiving it back and vice versa. Recording. As of late, mainly been doing remixes though do enjoy recording when I am disciplined. I have loads of music I have recorded as instrumentals to go with the live musicians in the band, so I feel more like putting energy into remixes. Regarding our debut, that was thanks to Akemi in getting us into the studio and sorting out pressing and so on. An example of her previously mentioned arse-kicking.
You are a keen collaborator (in the music sense, not political). What collaboration projects have you enjoyed most?
It's funny you say not political. I am recalling now that way back in England I did a gig in the UK supporting CND (Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament) Also at a festival which was an Anti-Royal Wedding celebration. Later when in Hungary, was invited by a girlfriend's friend to join in a concert for 'Solidarity' (Polish union opposing the USSR state government.) At that time the audience of uni students were required to sit, though for different reasons as the ever-so-polite Japanese I spoke about earlier.
I digress. It's hard to pick one collaboration as a favourite. First time again back in England was when our band joined Test Department at a gig in a park. We were joined by a friend of a friend, Jim Moir, who read from his surreal writings and blew a conch. He later changed his name to Vic Reeves. After the show, a few years later, I need not add.
Over the last couple of years, been doing music and video with an old friend, sound engineer and we have made a few videos together for my songs and one we made together.
What was the first record you bought and how do you feel about that record now?
First one was a comedy album titled "Oh What A Carry On" featuring songs sung by the team who were in the " Carry On" films. For those who have no idea what they are, check out an archeology book. As for music, I loved Rocket Man by Elton John. My mum thought it better value to get the album " Honky Chateau" His powerful music and his co-writer of beautiful poetic lyrics got me hooked for most of the 70's. His music went downhill after he came out. No aspersions on his brave move to reveal his sexuality at a less enlightened time, yet, the music became camp and bland. Repression prior to that giving tension to the music?
Any projects in the pipeline?
Event coming up this October which we will attend and play a few songs.
Been working on material for podcasts and film/video. Plodding along.
Finally, what would you like for Christmas?
My two front teeth. Spike Milligan I believe
Thanks for talking to Green Banana, Steve!
Pleasure and thank you!