The Long Game

“Blogs are a great way to get free stuff.” I’ve heard that line a few times, in conferences, workshops and from other bloggers. Increasingly it defines the way a lot of people see blogging.

It’s not just bloggers. I’ve spoken to marketers and publicists who don’t understand why I would have a blog other than to fish for free stuff. When I try to talk about my big picture, why I’ve bothered to blog for so long and why I choose to focus on helping fellow creatives, rather than getting free crap, it’s as if I’m talking another language.

This is, of course, a very short sighted approach. Blogging is really just a subset of a much bigger and more fundamental digital revolution that is changing every field of work, or at least every field that depends on the sharing (or concealing) of information, the formation of ideas and the trading of good and services.

Blogging for free stuff is short-sighted; eventually readers will see the reviews are fuelled only by basic exchange, a free meal for a positive write-up, free web hosting for some glowing appraisals, a new shirt for a retweet. The credibility gap will catch bloggers out, unless of course, they give up before they get found out.

It’s probably not a coincidence the bloggers I admire, the ones who seem to consistently inspire me with their words and the way they handle themselves online, are playing the long game. They connect their activity online to long term hopes and dreams they have for themselves and those around them. These might be artistic endeavour, career, family, education, personal or spiritual growth. The specifics of the work don’t matter as much as the connection to the long game. They blog as a way to demonstrate their skill, experience and credibility.

Blogging was never just about the blog itself and certainly not about getting free stuff. Blogging was about being able to get your ideas and your work out into the world, without having to rely on pleasing institutional gatekeepers or having to overcome the massive financial and regulatory hurdles that existed in the old systems of publishing and distributing creative work. This once in a thousand year opportunity to take your career destiny into your own hands is worth a hell of a lot more than a free meal.

Birthday 2014

Today, in many small and unremarkable ways, I celebrated another birthday. Rather than fill the day with big celebrations, I elected to spend the day doing the things I love most, from meals with my family, to reading, making music, doing pilates, taking photos and even a long slow evening walk through the streets of Tokyo.

For the little self-portrait you see above I set up a single continuous light in my studio and used the timer on my iPhone 5s. The shot was made possible by the 645 app, which allowed me to tied down the iPhone’s ISO to 160, avoiding the harsh noise normally created as the iPhone’s autoISO tries to adapt to a low light environment. This meant the shot had the natural light falloff we associate with a normal camera. I then processed the image in the iPhone, using Snapseed and PS Elements.

The days are growing shorter here in Tokyo and the night are certainly cooler, which is a natural reminder that the year is drawing to a close, that we are being pulled into that season, which we fill with decorations, lights and gifts, but which we know is also a time of reckoning and reflection, of looking back over the year we have lived and deep into the eyes of those we love. Wherever you find yourself this autumn, I hope you can take the time and opportunity to enjoy this time of year. And, of course, thank you for reading this blog and following my work throughout 2014!

When To Listen To Criticism

Small Temple Hiroshima
Yesterday morning I was riding the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) back to Tokyo after a few wonderful days in Hiroshima. I packed light for the trip and was using my FujiFilm x100s for most of photos. I was looking forward to getting home and processing the images, especially from around the iconic A-Bomb sight and the picturesue island of Itsukushima

Trains have always been my favourite mode of transport and the Shinkansen Green Class, with comfortable reserved seats in whisper quiet cabins, only reinforces that feeling. I took the opportunity to catch up on a few days worth of blog feeds, when I stumbled on this article about the value, or potential lack thereof, we find in photographic image critiques.

An Equation For Measuring Criticism

Image critiques are commonplace in photography, from formal educational settings, to more casual online environments. They are really a subset of portfolio reviews, which are a staple of all visual art forms, where the artist submits their work for evaluation, often by an esteemed professional or educator. Of course, other arts have similar processes, from manuscript evaluations for authors, to listening parties for musicians (which used to be about hearing tracks before they were fully mixed, though these days might also refer to launch events instead).

All this sits within a bigger set of comments we call criticism. The world is full of critics, so every time we share an image, in person or online, we are prone to hearing someone’s opinion on it. Pretty soon we start asking ourselves, who should we listen to? For me, this little equation sums it up.

The value of criticism is determined by how much skin the critic has in the game, divided by how little ego is involved in giving the criticism. The best criticism comes from folks who are active in the field, who are doing or have done good work and who are not threatened by your potential success. The less talent, experience, insight or practical understanding the critic has, the more you should be cautious about listening to them. And, the more critic’s ego is challenged or in play, the more the value of the criticism is undermined.

Asking The Right Questions

Even before we discuss the value of image critiques, or any kind of intentional evaluation of our creative work, we have to get clear in our heads the kinds of people we need to have around us. This is something I wrote about in 7 Kinds Of People You Need In Your Creative Universe and it’s a theme I will expand upon in my upcoming book.

It’s tempting to seek lots of opinions. But, it’s hard to unhear bad advice. I firmly believe part of why I improved quickly in photography was because I put hard limits on how many people I allowed to really critique my images. A lifetime of music had taught me just how harmful criticism can be and how long it can take to recover from criticism that sometimes has little to do with the work we have created and more to do with the threatened ego of the critic.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not every opinion has equal value.

And, the truth is one really solid piece of criticism, from a knowledgeable, well informed practitioner, with no axe to grind or agenda to push, can help fuel your creativity for years, maybe decades to come.

Trust Your Sense Of The World

Next time you see criticism at work, maybe a live image critique, or something that’s happening online, in a forum or in response to an image posted on social media, just sit back and observe. Ask yourself, what are the critics saying about themselves, through the criticism they are giving. Are they trying to show off their knowledge (maybe using jargon like decisive moment, or rule of thirds)? Are they vying for the attention of the well known people in the group? Are they trying to sell something (maybe a course, or workshop)? Are they trying to say something about what they feel about photography, or art in general?

When I got into photography, I noticed something about the criticism my photos received. There was no doubt a lot of people knew a heck of a lot more than me about photography and especially about how cameras and photo processing software worked. It would have been foolish not to listen to those folks.

But, there was also a lot of relevant things I knew from art history, film studies, web and product design, even years of looking at album covers and fashion magazines that was informing my photos. 99% of the time the image critics, even the well known ones, were not picking up on those things, or didn’t know enough to engage in a conversation over them.

Criticism is a little messy, because it is a deeply human activity and we will get the most of image critiques, or any kind of creative evaluation, if we keep it as human as possible. That’s why anonymous critics are worthless as are critics who can’t stop talking in cliches or jargon. The best critics are really like the best people; they are willing to listen to your without feeling threatened and are prepared to speak to you honestly, from with the authentic centre of their experience.

When you find criticism like that – cherish it.

Tokyo International Film Festival

Tokyo Film Press Pass
Last week I had a lot of fun attending the Tokyo International Film Festival. This year the festival screened over 200 films, with a strong focus on World Cinema, emerging Asian directors and Japanese Animated films. I managed to catch 15 films, all of which I reviewed over on The Society For Film website.

The Photographic Why Of Cinema-Going

While I love watching films, there is a professional, creative side to my cinema going. A lot of the way I approach making photos is informed by ideas I’ve learnt from cinema. Photography books, magazines and websites certainly helped me learn how to operate a camera and how to develop photos in post-processing. But, most of the ideas I bring to my photography, what I’m trying to do in a photo, really come from cinema and fashion magazines (and to a lesser extent, comics and paintings).

That’s why film festivals are such a treat. Not only do we get to see lots of good films in a short space of time, we often see films from all around the world, in a variety of styles and from a range of artistic schools. Some of the 15 films I saw at this festival were shot like glossy Hollywood blockbusters, others in much more low key, almost classical styles. There was also plenty of new techniques, with two films especially (The Mighty Angel and Ruined Heart) featuring lost of point of view shots from handheld GoPro cameras.

The 15 Films Ranked

It’s hard to rank films that are so different. To be honest, all these movies have at least something appealing about them. I’d added some brief comments below, or follow the link for a full (mostly spoiler free) review.

15. Force Majeure – Intensely dark, Scandinavian family drama, as couple confronts their broken relationship while on a ski holiday.

14. Dhoom 3 – The latest instalment in a huge, gig budget Bollywood action franchise, saved by a compelling lead performance and some incredibly lush indoor scenes.

13. Late Spring – Winsome, beautifully shot and unapologetically romantic Korean drama about an artist, in the twilight of his creative career.

12. Ice Forest (La Foresta di Ghiaccio) – Tense and frosty thriller set in the Italian Alps.

11. The 50 Year Argument – Martin Scorsese’s documentary homage to The New York Review of Books.

10. Ruined Heart: Another Lovestory Between A Criminal & A Whore – An audacious visual poem from the underbelly of Manilla.

9. The Days Come (Les Jours Venus) – Fiction and reality merge in this French film about a director looking for his next project.

8. A Courtesan With Flowered Skin (Hanayoi dôchû) – Visually splendid Japanese period drama.

7. Parasyte (Kiseijû) – An exciting, fresh, Japanese take on the alien invasion via body-snatching idea.

6. River Road – Thoughtful and vivid ecological parable from Western China.

5. The Mighty Angel (Pod Mocnym Aniolem) – Dark and harrowing tale of a Polish writer struggling with alcoholism.

4. The Lesson (Urok) – A patient, brilliantly pieced together, many layered moral saga from Bulgaria.

3. Reality (Réalité) – A surreal, dark, very funny French take on Hollywood and the film industry.

2. Los Hongos – Carefully observed story of two young artists and their friendship on the streets in Colombia.

1. Melbourne – An Iranian couple face challenges on their last day before moving to a new country.

Apple, SoundCloud, Deezer and Stitcher In The News

To be honest, I haven’t been keeping up with the music industry news over recent months, having been head down on my book. But, there’s a few intresting bits of news this past week, which certainly have implications for those of us in the audio and project studio world.

A Rumble In The Podcast Jungle

Stitcher is not a name known to everyone, especially in Asia, but they have been doing very well in other markets, especially the US, with the number one podcast app on Android and the number two podcast app in iOS. They have also been very successful at making deals with car manufacturers (in car audio is one of biggest audiences for podcasts in the US, Australia & Europe).

Deezer, the aggressive upstart in the music streaming business has just acquired Stitcher, and with that 35 Million podcasts and talk shows (including my own The Society For Film). Deezer has aggressively chased growth in Europe and Asia and this may be part of their move into the US. It could mark a fascinating change for the music streaming business, which up to this point has been modelled on replacing the album and mixtape listening experience, but with this purchase, Deezer is poised to replace the radio experience, giving listeners a mix of talk and music.

Wither SoundCloud

I used to be a huge fan, an evangelist in fact, for SoundCloud, organising successful SoundCloud community events in Hong Kong and also Singapore. But, that was then and now it seems SoundCloud is struggling. In 2013, SoundCloud reported losses of 29.2 Million and the much-vauted new deals with rights owners and major labels, which would have generated new revenue streams for SoundCloud (and increased business clout), have stalled.

This all follows the news from earlier in the year, of SoundCloud’s short-lived courtship with Twitter.

Perhaps the most worrying thing, however, is the widespread disappointment with SoundCloud’s technological development. It staggers me that two and half years after we saw the launch of “The Next SoundCloud” significant parts of the music creator interface still revert to the old design and site infrastructure.

All this does saddens me. SoundCloud got so many things right at the beginning, about creating tools for sharing music and building community for music-makers. But, while SoundCloud still has a lot of users, because there will always be demand from those who want music without paying, it has literally been years since I talked to a musician who is excited about SoundCloud. Everyone is waiting for something else, something better, to come along.

Lastly, Some Apple And Yosemite News

Apple recently released their sharp looking new iteration of OS X, named Yosemite. It’s running on my office/photography Mac Mini and also my MacBook Pro but of course, not on my studio Mac Pro. I’m kind of in love with Yosemite, apart from the weird glitch where sound doesn’t always play through my LED Cinema Display. Yosemite is clean, visually impressive, fast and so far, crash-free. I’m liked the iCloud Drive and loving the call integration with the iPhone.

As for studio work, there’s mixed news on compatibility with Yosemite. Native Instruments have announced that their software validates, but they hardware is not yet compatible. There’s little news from Universal Audio yet about the Apollo interfaces and reported problems with the visual on their plugins. Most Apogee products are compatible, with the exception of the GiO and Symphony, with compatibility expected in December. Waves have announced their plugins are compatible, so too Toontrack, while almost all Iztope’s plugins, except Stutter Edit, which has issues. While Reason are saying “initial testing” hasn’t “revealed any problems” with Reason and Recycle, so we’ll count that as a qualified OK.

There is a buzz, however, around the MIDI over bluetooth feature in Yosemite, actually, in Yosemite and iOS, which presents a whole new realm of possibilities for low-latency wireless MIDI control. It’s still really days for this technology, but there is a fascinating post over at CreateDigitalMusic, which shows of the potential for both new products and also integrating existing MIDI devices wirelessly.

As a lover of clean studio aesthetics, I’m exciting to see what this new feature allows us to do. I’m always looking to minimise how many cables are visible in my studio and I’ve longed for years to be able to untether MIDI devices, like drum and keyboard controllers, so it is great to see new options becoming available here, including the prospect of controlling old school analog devices wirelessly with iOS interfaces!

People And Perspective

Once a day, during my writing breaks, I’ve been going through my Lightroom catalogue looking at old photos, especially the ones were had not made into my collections of 5 star images. It’s been fascinating to tease out some themes in my photography over the last few years.

There are a surprising number of photos dealing with people and perspective, what two planners and architects call the problem of human scale. having lived all my life in big, bustling cities, I’m fascinated by the way people move through urban spaces.

I made the image you see above on a sunny morning in Mexico. I wasn’t hiding behind bushes or around corners, like I saw some other photographers do that morning, but standing in plain sight, on the middle of wide sidewalk. All throughout Latin America you will find these kinds of imposing older town buildings that are like moments to national ambition.

A few days before I had the following photograph. Same region, same country, similar idea, similar mood, totally different architectural history.


About Me – Now With Extra Blogroll

Last night this site experienced some serious problems. I’ve been having the odd issue lately, with downtime and other bits of erratic behaviour, but last night the site was really stuck and I was locked out, unable to login and make any changes (the white screen of death, for fellow WordPress users).

Thankfully the problems are now on their way to being resolved and after doing some maintenance, I decided to have a little play with this site’s About Me page.

The About Me is something most bloggers treat as an after-thought. But, on this (and every other site I’ve worked on) the About pages generate a serious amount of traffic. Readers want to know who they are engaging with, especially if they like what they read!

One very retro feature is the addition of a blogroll. I still remember when I removed the blogroll from this site back in 2011. But, like many of you, I’m keen to try and make the internet more civil and personable and maybe bringing back blogrolls is a good way to do this. I’ve only added a few names and I’ll add some more soon.

Finally, I included a few words on what I believe. I never got into blogging to make money. Rather, I was drawn to the freedom this platform gave us to express ideas that were suppressed, either because we didn’t have enough money, enough connections, the right skin colour or the right beliefs to get into print or onto the airwaves.

“I believe in truth, beauty and compassion. There are so many actions, big and small, that we can take to easy the burden of life for ourselves and those around us.

I believe in creativity. I love to see people make choices, work hard and create amazing things. We are lifted, not diminished, by other people’s success.

I believe the world is mysterious and rational. Too many of the either/or choices we face are excuses for not embracing the richness, complexity and ambiguity of life.”

10 Years Of Blogging

Delhi Garden Home

On this day in 2004 I started this blog. I had blogged on and off since 2001, but October 19 2004 was the start of an uniterupped, WordPress-supported journey, across four cities, 1,892 blogposts and goodness knows how many comments, emails, tweets, shares and other interactions.

On my first blogpost I stated my intention to write about “… art, film, photography, music as well as daily life” and in my first month the topics I wrote mostly about music and golf, interspersed with articles and links about religion and current affairs.

Knowing at the start of 2014 that this anniversary was coming inspired my book, which started its life as a collection of blogposts about creativity, but quickly became something much bigger. I’ll be sharing some more information about that soon. But, for now, I wanted to share ten of the best blogposts from the last 10 years, which reflect a little of the range of topics I’ve discussed here.

I Want Less Choice And I Want It Now (2005) – on consumerism, marketing and decision-making. A lot of my earlier blogposts were shorter, like this.

It Takes Courage (2005) - asking whether, in debates about refugees, we could be a little more honest about the role of migration in the history of religion and modern societies.

11 Links For A Sunday (2006) – this isn’t a remarkable blogpost, except for the fact that this was one of the ways we used to share links in the pre-Social Media Days. Pumping links out through Twitter or Facebook is easier, but less permanent, especially since the half-life of so many tweets and shares is so short these days.

It’s Not About The A-List, Or About Hierachies (2006) When Praising Your Kids Can Be Harmful- blogging was very different in 2006 and most bloggers were not professionals or trying to monetise their work. But, the obsession with numbers and online celebrity was bubbling away.

When Praising Your Kids Can Be Harmful (2007) – I’ve shied away from writing about parenting, but looking back, some of my favourite articles (and the ones that got most noticed), were about child-raising issues. This one still fascinates me, because the current research seems to be so opposed to the way most parents I know see this issue.

What Do People Really Think Of Stay At Home Dads – Or Why Women Are Using The Playground To Kill Feminism (2008) – one of my most viewed blogposts, this article helped me land a writing gig with The South China Morning Post. I’ve also had a lot of very moving, authentic email exchanges with other fathers about this topic, all of whom agree with the theme.

Stealth Photography And Other Urban Problems (2011) – when I wrote this article, about street-photography, it got very little attention. I can remember feeling a little frustrated by that. However, in the last year and a bit, it has generated a steady flow of traffic and social media comments from fellow photographers.

7 Kinds Of People You Need In Your Creative Universe (2011) – the most read article in the history of this blog is, not surprisingly, one of the most helpful as well. I really set out to “open the kimono” with this one, revealing some of the deepest insights I have from my years of work, about how to structure our personal and professional networks.

Fuji X-Pro1 InfraRed (2012) – this blogpost generated a wild, unexpected spike in traffic. It just goes to show that a simple, actionable insight about a recently piece of technology will always attract viewers. If my goal was simply to get more readers, I’d write these kind of articles a lot more often (or exclusively).

Multi-Output With Logic Pro And EZdrummer2 (2014) – one of the most popular music articles of recent years, this simple tutorial is also a reminder than I don’t really share enough insights from my studio work on the blog. In fact, when I look back over my blogposts I really feel like I should have done a better job of sharing my music here, both the songs I’ve written and recorded and also the things I’ve learnt in the studio.

Finally, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the people who have read this blog. First, the haters who’ve accused me of being everything from a CIA-sponsored agitator, to an abusive parent and every derivation of a swear-word in-between (maybe I shouldn’t have deleted all the abusive comments, they would be so fun to read now). And, second, all the other more sae folks like yourself, who have made the time to read my (often misspelt) attempts at explaining various ideas, experiences and emotions over the last ten years. Here’s to the future!

Final Edit

As of today, the book is in final edit mode. I’m giving it one more critical rewrite before sending it off to my editor. For the process, I’ve written up a simple set of rules, which sum up the key parts of the final edit stage.

Final Edit Rules

Punctuation, matters. Getting all the little things right, not just commas, semi-colons and full stops, but also spaces and paragraph markers will not only help readers understand the text, it will also speed up the final formatting process as well. And, yes, I’m paying attention to my en and em dashes as well!

Relentlessly style everything. What became clear as I assembled the first draft of the book was exactly how much my writing style has evolved over the last ten years. What became clear as I rewrote the whole first draft was how limited my style still was. I love crafting words and phrases, but doing it over a whole manuscript takes endurance. Cleaning up the prose while adding variation and subtelty is essential at this stage.

Snark-less. The early drafts of the book, when I was adapting the old blogposts, had a fair bit attitude about them. I was, perhaps, having an argument with myself, or with some folks who had taken issue with my ideas and approach to work in the past, or maybe it was a few too many wine-fuelled nights of writing on those cold Adelaide nights. Whatever it was, I don’t make room for snark or ranting in my life normally, so I don’t want it appearing in this book either.

Replace boasting with vulnerability. There’s always a certain amount of self-vaildation that goes into many blogposts. It’s in the nature of serialised, personal writing. But, when you start compiling blogposts and reading them like a piece of longer pice of prose, it can feel uncomfortably boastful, even arrogant. it’s something I’ve noticed a few times when bloggers try their hand at long form writing. My solution, which is more in keeping with the tone of the book, is to replace boasts with vulnerability, to reflect struggles, uncertainties and doubts more clearly, which makes more humbler and more hospitable prose.

Convert adjectives into examples. I’m far too inclined to write phrases like “solitude is a great way to feel inspired,” which is true, but also vague to the point of absolute meaninglessness. What does solitude feel like, when does it intersect with inspiration and how would someone who has never met me and only has the text i’ve written to guide them, be able to identify when the two are intersecting in their lives?

Tie the middles together. As an essayist, I’ve got a sense for crafting an argument including the way beginnings and ends tie together. But, a book raises a lot of different kinds of questions. Especially how the middle of each chapter relates to other chapters and especially, how ideas that need to pop up in more than one place connect together. I’m on the look out for ideas, phrases and arguments that feel loosely connected or have been repeated too often.

If in doubt, delete. This is my key mantra for any kind of final editing. If it’s not clear how a word, phrase, sentence or paragraph contributes to the great whole, just delete it. This seldom proves to be a mistake.

Exercising Unused Muscles

Trying to turn a stack of blog posts into a book has been a fascinating experience. The thought-processes and work practices involved in writing a 50,000 word book are so very different from those required for pushing out 700 word blogposts. It feels like using a whole different set of thinking muscles.

Of course, I was a writer a long time before I became a blogger. But, my previous published work was almost all academically inclined. This time, I am streamlining and simplifying my writing style a lot. Not dumbing-down, just simplifying.

All that said, I’m really thankful for the time to put in the hard work on this book. I’m excited by it, especially the feedback I’ve had from those who’ve read the early drafts. Next week I’ll be making some announcements about the availability of the book.

5 Of The Best From This Year’s iTunes Festival

The iTunes Festival has become an annual ritual in my home. 30 nights of great live music, pop, rock, country, jazz and classical, broadcast live from London and available (for a limited time) to stream, either via iTunes or Apple TV. Run through a home theatre system, it’s the perfect background music for autumn.

It’s hard to choose the best performances, because there are so many stars, so many great rising artists and so many different styles of music to choose from. But, here’s my picks for the most memorable shows this year (all links will open in iTunes).

5. Elbow

I’ll admit only having a passing familiarity with Elbow before watching their iTunes Festival set, which is my mistake, because this much loved UK band are purveyors of some wonderfully engaging, emotive music. This is a band that’s firing on all cylinders, from songwriting, to arrangements, to performance. Remarkable.

4. Jessie Ware

There are hints of early 90s electro-pop all through Jessie Ware’s music, but very crisp, almost effortless vocal delivery and the timbre of her song’s arrangements keep things sounding fresh and lively. This set doesn’t try to overwhelm or blow the listener away, instead there is a kind of warm invitation to a collection of very listenable songs. Perhaps the coolest of all the iTunes performances this year.

3. Ryan Adams

I’m far from the only one to say Ryan Adams is the greatest songwriter of his generation. In recent years Adams has started to move away from his Alt Country roots and his latest album, songs from which feature heavily in this performance, has more than a passing connection to 70s classic rock. Not that any of this holds Adams back. Despite some concerns about his voice, he gives us a deep, sensitive and vulnerable performance here, creating a simple, yet rich sonic world for his acutely observed lyrics.

2. Mary J. Blige

A true superstar in every way, Mary J. Blige managed to be both tough and vulnerable in this sharp, tightly arranged set. Blige’s voice is not just powerful, it manages to evoke two or more emotions at the same time as she moves through a range of her best known material. Blige manages to be fresh and old school at the same time and very stage presence is as magnetic as ever. This is electrifying, “can’t take your eyes off it” stuff.

1. Gregory Porter

It’s fair to say Gregory Porter’s rise in the jazz world has been spectacular. Releasing his first solo album at age 39, you could say Porter was a late bloomer. But, he benefits from being both a fresh face in the music scene and also an artist who has a real command and maturity to his voice. And, what a voice that is. Porter is our generation’s Nat King Cole and Marvin Gaye, rolled into one, with an effortless ability to cross from jazz to soul music and some remarkable, socially aware original compositions to showcase his range and marvellous timbre of his voice. An extraordinary artist who gives us here, a truly memorable performance.

Bonus – First Aid Kit

Every year there is at least one break out performance from a support act that really shines and hints at better things to come from that artist. In Previous years Jessie J and The Lumineers filled this slot and this year there were a few contenders, including Kiesza, Nick Mulvey, Jenny Lewis, Foy Vance, Wolf Alice and Foxes. But, it was First Aid Kit, an Alt Country duo of sisters from Sweden that really won me over. Apparently they toured Japan during the summer, while I was travelling and I can only hope they come back here soon!