After more than 30 years working in TV and radio in Japan and actually being in the music business since 1978 (37 years as of 2015) and working with so many producers that I can’t count (nor remember) them all, I’d like to give a nod to the best ones I’ve worked with. There are five producers who I think were the best and they have really influenced me.
Mostly though, today, I want to talk about a producer who I think, for me, is the best producer I have ever met in Japan. His name is Motoyoshi Tai.
Why is he the best producer? Well, all five of these guys I know and who have inspired me make great productions; Mr. Tai has an extra “Sixth Sense” about him. What I mean to say is that he seems to never get mad! He has taught me patience! And for an obsessive guy like me, patience is important!
The other 4 producers who really impressed me over these nearly 40 years are; Mr. Mizuno, Mr. Shinya Ohta, Mr. Atsushi Uchino, Mr. Kimitoshi Takeyama. I wrote a bit about Mr. Mizuno below. Mr. Ohta, Mr. Uchino and Mr. Takeyama have impressed me because the productions they make are top quality and I really respect and trust them; everybody does. And are the most honest producers I have ever met… Trust me, there are LOTS of dishonest producers!
Trust is something that take a long time to get, but just one action to destroy. Those three guys are so honest, it is their sales and charm point. People will follow them. They all taught me well.
Mr. Tai is an extremely honest guy too but, for me, his advantage is completely different and on a more cerebral level. He is a different sort of producer. He has taught me the most useful thing of all, I’d say. I already know that being honest all the time matters. Mr. Tai was most impressive to me not because of anything in particular of what he does or says, but because of what he doesn’t do or say; Mr. Tai is sort of like a “Zen Buddhist producer.” He never seems to get upset and is always patient and calm and in a good mood; yet even when people screw things up, he gets the job done and done well. He is such a nice guy that it seems it is impossible to get mad at him. The guy NEVER gets upset, it seems.
This is why he has impressed me so much.
Let me explain:
I have been working on a program that is the “Set Program” with the smash hit animation of the summer of 2015 in Japan: Ninja Slayer from Animation. That program is called “The TV Show.”
To explain what the TV show is; Every week on the Ninja Slayer from Animation program, the famous Japanese rock band, the Boom Satellites, performs the opening theme. Also, for every week’s ending theme, a different, cool, underground Japanese band performs the ending song.
The TV Show is sort of a “Making of Ninja Slayer from Animation” program: We interview the gang who actually make Ninja Slayer from Animation and we also interview the artists who perform the ending themes.
The TV Show’s concept was like this: “Imagine if Monty Python hosted a musical artist interview show.” The show was wacky and had several corners inside to add to the “Monty Pythonish mood.” We are proud to say that our show is a smash hit and we had over 10 million viewers in the first 5 months.
The TV Show concept was created by me and Ken Nishikawa. Actually, Ken does all the hevy work, I sleep on the sofa during editing. Of course, both Ken and I come up with all the ideas for the show.
During these six months of shooting and producing the show, there’s been so many scheduling mistakes and problems. Mr. Tai is in the middle. He has to coordinate between the Ninja Slayer from Animation folks, a record label, a publishing company and me. And I am really stubborn when it comes to work.
There have been many times when I was upset about scheduling changes and demands from other parties concerning our show that I was pulling my hair out. Sometimes I would get upset and call Mr. Tai. But, no matter what happened, Mr. Tai would always calmly talk to me and clam me down and tell me that he’s discuss it with other people.
I often think he didn’t discuss it with anyone else because it seemed, in many cases, nothing would change.
This sort of thing happened repeatedly; I’d get mad, call up Mr. Tai. He’d calm me down and then we’d repeat the process again in a few weeks.
I have lots of other projects going on now, besides the TV Show, and all sorts of ridiculous things are happening all the time. I get absurd complaints from people that make no sense at all. The worst ones are from people who contradict themselves, but they don’t seem to realize they are doing so.
One day, when I was really frustrated with idiotic nonsensical complaints (totally lacking in business common sense) from people I work with, I wanted to scream. Then it dawned upon me; I thought, “How would Mr. Tai handle this?”
Why, he’d handle it with a smile and kind words and he’s not get bent outta shape. He’d say he’d try to do something about it and would ask other team members or staff what to do.
But, and this is the most important part; Mr. Tai would always calm the other people down who were complaining and that’s the key! Calming upset people down is an art form! Maybe Mr. Tai became this way because he has become legendary in working with many of Japan’s most famous artists and musicians, in movies and music for years! And we all know how difficult famous rock musicians can be! (Here is Mr. Tai’s Wiki page – sorry in Japanese only: https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%94%B0%E4%BA%95%E5%9F%BA%E8%89%AF)
Getting mad or getting into an argument, no matter how ridiculous the other side is, won’t help anybody; especially in Japan!
Mr. Tai is a great producer. It’s not because he makes stuff like Steven Spielberg (maybe someday he will) but it’s because he has shown me the way to not go crazy in this business working with Prima Donnas and selfish crazy people.
Ultimately, Mr. Tai has taught me patience. He has taught me to not sweat the little things… Because, trust me, for a producer, there are millions of little things going on all the time. Mr. Tai has taught me to stay focused on the big picture.
And, for that, that is why I think Motoyoshi Tai is the best producer I have ever met.
*There was one more producer who really impressed me who I worked with about 27 years ago in the mid-eighties. His name Mizuno Kiyoshi. He was a “Take no prisoners” kind of guy. He once taught me that a good producer will do anything to get his hands on what he wants.
We sat in a coffee shop and he pointed to an ashtray and said to me: “Mike! If you wanted that ashtray and I told you that I would give it to you if you got down on your hands and knees and begged me. Would you do it?”
As a brash and foolish young man, I said, “No!”
Mizuno san replied, “Then you will never make a good producer. A good producer will do anything to get what he wants. A good producer would get on his hands and knees and beg. Because a few seconds of shame and embarrassment, means nothing when you get what you want in your hands and you have that forever.”
I know many people would find this sort of thinking distasteful. But this was, I think, the way producers used to be.
I have never forgotten that lesson. I have gotten many good jobs for my company talent because I would get on my knees and beg.
I’ve done it dozens of times. And everytime I did, the decision maker on the other side I was pleading with would say, “OK! OK! Get off your knees! We’ll do it.”
You might think I jest, but I don’t. People who know me well, know this is no exaggeration.
Mr. Mizuno was an old fashioned style producer: No nonsense, but I think if you weren’t careful and watched what you were doing, he would run over you like a truck. He taught me to be very careful.
Hey! We’re making a “Japanese Rock N Roll Ghost Story” Movie. The Crowdfunding campaign ends on Sept. 29, 2015. Please check out the trailer (with full English subtitles!) at the very top of this link: https://www.makuake.com/en/project/rock
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