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 Shawn Despres

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Shawn Despres
Shawn Despres has been contributing to the Japan Times’ music page since 2005, and he has a passion for writing about the independent music scene in East Asia. He spent several years living in Yokohama and currently resides in Seoul.
For Shawn Despres's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Feb 3, 2015
Don Matsuo to take solo experiences into Zoobombs' new act
In September 2013, weeks away from celebrating their 20th anniversary, Tokyo rock act Zoobombs announced they were disbanding. The group's leader, guitarist and vocalist Don Matsuo, and his wife, Zoobombs' keyboardist Matta, went on to form a new group called The Randolf. However, that project was short-lived and Matsuo instead spent much of last year gigging in support of his solo material.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Dec 16, 2014
Rock, J-pop and dance: Albums we liked in 2014
The year-end album charts in Japan have a tendency to prop up the same acts year after year: Exile, anything that ends in a "48," and almost every group from the Johnny & Associates stable of boy bands. Writers at The Japan Times, however, spent the year looking past the charts to find a few gems lurking in the underground of the country's music scene. Here are some of their favorite albums from 2014.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Nov 25, 2014
Bo Ningen teams up with Savages for Dadaist jam
For many music fans, getting up early at multiday music outings is no easy task. But the few thousand folks who mustered the energy to get to the Red Marquee stage for the start of Fuji Rock 2013's final day were treated to one of that summer's festival highlights, Bo Ningen.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Nov 11, 2014
Ogre You Asshole's 'Papercraft' marks end of a conceptual trilogy
When it came time to make a fourth full-length, 2011's "Homely," Nagano rock act Ogre You Asshole was ready for a change.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Sep 30, 2014
Turtle Island's bringing the whole gang to Asagiri Jam
Organized each fall by Fuji Rock promoter Smash, Asagiri Jam is a much more laidback affair than its famed older sister. It features two stages and the music wraps up early each night. And while Fuji Rock has some 200 plus bands, Asagiri Jam only invites two dozen, which means a lot less running around for everyone.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Sep 2, 2014
Startline hopes to tap into Japan's punk love
In the 2000s, Gumx was one of South Korea's top-tier punk acts. With that band on indefinite hiatus, though, Gumx drummer Gun Choi is now looking to achieve similar success with Startline, a punk trio he formed in March of last year.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 24, 2014
Manic Sheep, Wedance represent overseas indie at Fuji Rock Festival
Since 2001, Fuji Rock's Rookie a Go-Go stage has spotlighted indie talents not quite ready for the festival's larger areas. Acts apply to play — this year 1,300 bands vied for 15 slots — and with the exception of Taiwan's Go Chic in 2010, all the past performers have been locals. But this summer sees Rookie a Go-Go again adding a dash of international flavor, with Taiwan's Manic Sheep and South Korea's Wedance earning invitations.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jun 3, 2014
Kenta Koie and Crossfaith earn some rock cred overseas
In February, Osaka electro-infused metalcore act Crossfaith toured Britain with Limp Bizkit. Sharing stages and hanging out with the 1990s rap-metal act and its celebrity frontman Fred Durst reinforced the importance of not letting success go to their heads.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Mar 27, 2014
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes to show a feminine side at Punkspring
Punk rock's best-known cover band, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, will be previewing material from their upcoming "Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!" album at this weekend's Punkspring festival.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Oct 9, 2013
BBQ Chickens keep new album 'Broken Bubbles' short and sweet
When making music, Tokyo punk/metal hybrid act BBQ Chickens like to keep things short. The quartet have yet to craft a song that lasts two minutes. A handful of their cuts don't even break the 10-second mark.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Sep 4, 2013
Rock group Zoobombs announce split, prepare for sudden farewell tour
This month marks the 20th anniversary of Tokyo rock 'n' roll act Zoobombs. It also marks their demise as the group has announced they will part ways at the end of September.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 24, 2013
Supergroup Muddy Apes get album out just in time to rock Fuji
From the beginning, rock act Muddy Apes set a lofty goal for themselves.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Feb 21, 2013
Creative-content agency helps Korean music abroad
Regardless of whether you are a bigger-name draw or a smaller, emerging band, planning — and more importantly financing — international gigs is no easy task. But since last year, things have gotten a bit easier for Korean acts touring abroad.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Feb 7, 2013
Hotel Mexico's pop aims at the heart
It's tough to figure out where to take your band when you get some buzz in the media right out the gate. After getting noticed for its fuzzed-out pop jams from highly regarded online music outlets such as Pitchfork, Noisey and Gorilla vs. Bear, Kyoto's Hotel Mexico knew early on that it would need to play overseas. Finally, last summer the group made its first foray abroad with a pair of gigs in New York City.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Feb 7, 2013
ZZZ's hone skills abroad and have some chance encounters
The highlight of 2012 for experimental postpunk trio ZZZ's was meeting Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore in Miami. It turns out the feeling was mutual. American record label Matador Records posted their artists' and employees' favorite things from the past 12 months online recently and Hyogo Prefecture's ZZZ's (pronounced "zee zee zees") were No. 1 on Moore's list.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Nov 1, 2012
Chatmonchy "Henshin"
Since making their major label debut in 2005, Chatmonchy has established itself as one of the country's most popular female rock bands. As a trio, they released several chart-topping discs and sold out gigs at the iconic Nippon Budokan. In 2010, the band played its first American shows with Spin Magazine and MTV Iggy labeling their South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival appearance as a "must see." In the fall of 2011, drummer Kumiko Takahashi split from the group. The remaining members chose not to replace her and "Henshin" ("Transformation") is the band's first album as a duo.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Aug 30, 2012
Fact welcomes a new face to the fold
In September, Fact will embark on a monthlong Japan trek in support of their fourth full-length effort, January's "Burundanga." The gigs will be the Chiba posthardcore act's first domestic concerts since performing last December at the popular annual Countdown Japan yearend music festival. They will also be Fact's first local shows with their newest member, British guitarist Adam Graham.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Aug 23, 2012
Crying Nut and Yellow Monsters
As K-pop continues its rise in stature, South Korea's small but prolific indie scenes are beginning to gain some recognition abroad as well.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 19, 2012
Fuji Rock embraces Kilimanjaro blend
It may be tough to tell from both acts' music and sense of style, but without the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Saitama funk sextet Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro would be a very different band.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jun 28, 2012
Mudy on the Sakuban "Zyacalanda"
Nagoya five-piece instrumental rock band Mudy on the Sakuban's "Zyacalanda" EP is their fifth release in as many years. The eight-track effort was produced by Yoshimitsu Taki, the guitarist for local emo/post-hardcore act 9mm Parabellum Bullet. Impressed with Mudy on the Sakuban's output on the EP, Taki joined the group as a temporary sixth member for their "Zyacalanda" June release gigs in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.

Longform

At the Akan International Crane Center, just north of the city of Kushiro proper, visitors can see the majestic red-crowned crane — a symbol of Hokkaido.
Faces of the north: A Hokkaido town grapples with depopulation