For many visiting musicians, a Japanese tour consists of a brief, meticulously coordinated onslaught of gigs, interviews and in-store appearances, possibly capped by a karaoke session with the record label’s PR team. Few get to spend six weeks schlepping around the country on an old city bus, as Egyptology’s Olivier Lamm and Stephane Laporte did in 2005.
“We played everywhere in Japan, from Tokyo to some really weird remote towns like Beppu, or some island called Awaji-shima,” says Lamm, talking via Skype from his home in Paris. “It was half regular gigs, half playing electronic music in the streets . . . making noise with the sound of the street in real time, with computers.”
Back then, he and Laporte were still pursuing separate careers as solo electronica artists, but when they return to Japan this month, they’ll be performing together for a change. After years of sharing tour buses and releasing albums on the same record label, the pair began to collaborate in earnest in 2009, pooling their collections of vintage synthesizers to create cosmic, retro-futurist instrumentals under the name Egyptology.
“There’s a lot of nostalgia involved, I guess,” says Lamm, citing inspirations such as film composers Vangelis and Francois de Roubaix, and stadium-rocking synthesizer hero Jean Michel Jarre. Like many children growing up in Western Europe during the ’70s and early ’80s, he and Laporte were stealthily indoctrinated in electronic music via its use in children’s TV shows, radio broadcasts and films.
“Most of the people from our generation were exposed to this music when we were kids,” he says, “so this all came back very naturally (when we played together).” Listeners to Egyptology’s 2012 debut, “The Skies,” could be forgiven for assuming it had been recorded at least three decades earlier.
Accustomed to performing shows with a live drummer in France, Lamm and Laporte have recruited former Boredoms tub-thumper Muneomi Senju for their Japan gigs, while noise scene veteran Masaya Nakahara also joins them for their Tokyo date. Lamm says the ad hoc group will have a day to rehearse beforehand, but there’s an additional complication: unwilling to fly internationally with their antique synthesizers, Egyptology will be playing on borrowed gear.
Given that they’re coming to the land of Roland, Korg and Yamaha, finding the requisite instruments apparently wasn’t a problem; whether they all actually function properly is another question, mind you.
“When we arrive at the hotel, we have to try all the synths on the spot, just after we get from airport, and see if they’re working,” Lamm says.
Yet he doesn’t seem concerned about any potential snafus. “That’s the thing with old vintage instruments,” he continues. “Even if they don’t work properly, they always do interesting stuff. That’s the idea of Egyptology.”
The duo’s Tokyo show has additional symbolic value: It’s being billed as an informal passing of the baton between the host city of last year’s Red Bull Music Academy and the event’s next destination, Paris. In the spirit of international exchange, Lamm and Laporte were invited to pick the support bill themselves, and chose acts including laptop-pop savant Oorutaichi and veteran electronica producer Aoki Takamasa, a former Paris resident himself.
According to Lamm, the French capital has much to offer for participants in this year’s RBMA, which kicks off in late October.
“There’s been an amazing revival for electronic music — techno music, mostly — in the last few years,” he says of the Parisian club scene.
“Mostly by people who are way younger than we are,” he adds.
Egyptology plays SuperDeluxe in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Feb. 14 (7:30 p.m. start; ¥2,300 in advance; 03-5412-0515) and Metro in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, on Feb. 16 (8 p.m. start; ¥2,000 in advance; 075-752-4765). For more information, visit www.clappingmusic.com/artistes/egypotology.