TORONTO – When Ryan Adams performs at Studio Coast on Dec. 9, it will mark his first ever headlining gig in Japan, after playing Fuji Rock twice — in 2005 with the Cardinals and 2015 with the Shining. On his third visit to the country, he’s hoping this one goes better than his first.
“The first time I don’t remember because we played Fuji Rock and in trying to get there I had a Meniere’s episode,” Adams says over the phone from his Los Angeles home, referring to his chronic illness. “So all of the winding, twisting roads we took to get up there made me so violently ill that by the time I played I couldn’t see straight. I was undiagnosed so I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
“And the last time I was (in Japan) I was only there for 24 hours,” he adds. “I played and then had to leave. So I’ve never actually had any real time to hang out there. I’m working, so it’s not like I was on holiday. But I will probably be doing interviews and then the gig, which is two or three hours of singing. And I try to get as much rest as possible so I don’t blow out my voice.”
Adams hopes to see more of the country when he returns.
“The little bit of time I have had in Japan it was beautiful,” he says. Though he isn’t entirely sure of his schedule yet. One thing he hopes there will be time for is some record shopping.
“I definitely want to try and find those unbelievable thrash bands that you can only get on vinyl there,” he says with excitement. “I can’t even tell you the blog searching it takes to get a hold of all that stuff. All of that Septic Death, skate-thrash stuff. There are so many one-time-pressing-only thrash records from that Pushead-Septic Death time, I don’t even know where to look to find it. But it feels like it will be an awesome, endless search.”
The one-off Tokyo gig occurs in advance of the singer-songwriter’s first new album in two years, and first since his highly publicized divorce from actress/singer Mandy Moore. Adams says that out of all the music he has made over the years, this was the hardest album to write.
“I started writing this record while I was going through a very public divorce, which is a humiliating and just a f—-ing horrible thing to go through no matter who you are,” he says. “To be me and to go through that the way that I did was destructive on a level that I can’t explain. So a lot of extra work went into keeping my chin up and remembering what I did and what I loved about who I was.”
At the time, Adams was simultaneously recording his faithful cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989, which proved to be both a commercial and critical success. But diving into the “alternate universe” that was 1989 also proved to be beneficial for his own work. That period helped him write “quite literally 80 songs, probably more” for his next solo album. By writing so many songs, he discovered that the most important thing for him was to “write out the bulls—- so I could get back to myself and say, ‘Cool. This is what is real, and this is what doesn’t need to be in there.'”
Part of the journey for him was to take his music to another place. Adams is no stranger to changing directions with his music. Occasionally, he dabbles in the punk rock and metal he grew up listening to, and for the new album, he reassessed the way he was playing guitar. He admitted to absorbing the works of AC/DC, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Electric Light Orchestra to change up his guitar-playing this time around.
“One of the main things I had to do was go, ‘I know why I’m using (the guitar). I’m using this in the same way I was at 17,’ ” he explains. ” ‘It makes noise and it feels right, and it’s a vehicle for me to transcend who I am and go some place.’ “
With a new band in tow, Adams seems excited about getting out there and playing his new songs. In fact, he plans to give his Japanese fans an exclusive and carefully curated set list that includes a performance of the yet-to-be-titled album in its entirety.
“(The new record) is the first stuff the new band and I have learned, so we’re playing it front to back,” he says. “The whole new record is playable front-to-back in a way that I think isn’t gonna bum anybody out.”
In addition to material from the last three records and the “creme de la creme of the older jams,” Adams feels his set list “makes for a 2½-hour set that’s gonna be wicked.”
Ryan Adams plays Shin Kiba Studio Coast on Dec. 9 (7 p.m. start; ¥7,500 in advance; 03-3499-6669). For more information, visit www.ynos.tv/hostessclub/schedule/20161209en.html or www.paxamrecords.com.