bass player and technical wizard Toshi Ogawa left Japan in his mid-20s
in pursuit of his passion for rock ‘n’ roll. His swaggering bass is now
a fixture in The Professionals.
Phil Singleton finds out more.
today been, Toshi?
Toshi: I was working at the O2 Arena this morning, rigging the stage
It’s my other job, I’m more of a back line technician for other bands.
If I’m not busy or active in a band, I have to earn something!
I’m tour managing the bands. It’s really handy when I’m on the road, if
anything goes wrong I can just fix it on the spot.
you get into rock ‘n’ roll music out in Japan?
It’s the same as
you guys really, when you’re a kid at school. I would discover British
music or American music, or just rock ‘n’ roll in general. A friend
introduced me to bands, ‘have you heard of this?’ and so on, and
that’s how I got into it, I was about 12. The first band I got into was
Deep Purple, although I didn’t really get it at first. Then later on it
was Hanoi Rocks, then Guns N’ Roses who were a big thing for me. From
then it was kind of going backwards, and I discovered punk rock music;
Ramones, Pistols, Clash, and all that stuff. I read interviews with
bands in music magazines and they would say who they were influenced
form a band when you were in Japan?
Yeah, I was in a band, but it wasn’t really a punk band. It was more a
pure rock ‘n’ roll type band but it always had melody and harmonies
which I always loved. I really loved pop music because of the nice
melodies and you could sing along to it. I was playing in the band but
not really touring. Unfortunately, in Japan all the rock ‘n’ roll
music is played within the Japanese format, you have to fit into the
radio market, which wasn’t really a rock ‘n’ roll sound to my ears.
That’s when I started thinking ‘what if I could go to England to do the
quite a big move to make?!
Yes, people said 'are you sure?' Especially my parents, they said ‘what
are you talking about?!’ But the years went by and the passion was
getting more and more and more. I thought I should at least try it,
even if I fail and have to return to Japan.
age were you when you decided to make the trip?
I was 26. I
wish I could’ve been over here much earlier, but again, it could have
been the right time because by then I’d been in a band in Japan, and I
knew how to deal with people. Although I’m glad I did it at that age, I
sometimes still think, what if I’d done it when I was a bit younger,
and been a bit more reckless.
worked out for you though.
Yes, it did work out nicely for some
reason. I guess I met the right people at the right time.
straight for London?
Pretty much. I didn’t do any research on how to live in London, I
didn’t know about the visa. I was a Japanese citizen coming to the UK
on a holiday. I was allowed to be here for six months, so I thought
I’ve got six months and I can be in a band and do stuff, I’ll think
about the rest later. That was the attitude I had. Obviously it didn’t
work out like that at all. I didn’t speak English, in fact I’m still
struggling with speaking English, so therefore I needed to do
something. Back in the day there was the NME, Sounds and Loot. I’d
be looking at the adverts, ‘bass player wanted’, I’d call them up and
somehow managed to meet up, I don’t know how. I’d go round to
somebody’s house or studio and I just couldn’t talk and understand what
they were actually trying to say. That’s when I decided to go to
English school over here. And here’s another thing, some friends said
if you go to school you get a student visa and you can work, and then
you can stay more than six months. I thought ‘really? OK, in that case
it’s a win-win situation for me’, so that’s what I did.
My first band
over here was with my English teacher. It was heavily
influenced by Duran Duran, with all the backing tracks
going on, not really my kind of thing. But it was a first step into the
live scene over here and through that I met some rock ‘n’ roll people
and joined another band and the rest of it kind of happened just
through meeting people.
early 2000s you were in a band called
That was my first proper touring band over here. It was a pop, punk,
rock band. The singer was a chap called Alex Kane, he had a project
with Ginger Wildheart, Clam Abuse. We supported The Wildhearts and
through Ginger I met a young guy call Tommy Gleeson and formed a band
called The Ga Ga’s and later Slaves To Gravity. Ga Ga's and Slaves To
Gravity were both nominated at the Kerrang! awards and Slaves To
Gravity actually won. Ginger has been a big part of my music life.
The weird thing is, one of
the biggest reasons I moved over here was Ginger’s band, The
Wildhearts. I always wanted to play in a band like that and a few years
later I was actually in The Wildhearts for a little bit. It
was their big reunion tour and the bass player got kicked out
through the tour because of his addiction problems. I just stepped in
and finished the tour.
Weren’t you in another band with
Ah, the Ginger
side project. It was called Hey! Hello! (2013). It was a really nice
pop rock project. I played bass on the album and did the gigging
you get to know Paul Cook?
I was working in a guitar shop, and a guy called Stephen Parsons walked
in with Chris Spedding, they had a band called King Mob at that point.
The bass player was Glen Matlock who was leaving the band, so they
needed a bass player. I went to the audition with Stephen and I got the
gig (January 2012). Unfortunately, King Mob didn’t last long, Stephen
and Chris Spedding decided to reform a band called The Sharks and I got
a phone call to ask if I was interested. Of course I am! I went to the
studio, and there was Paul Cook! I thought ‘wow’! That was where I met
Paul. I didn’t know who the drummer was when I joined The Sharks. We
did the album together (Killers of the Deep) and a bit of touring.
Towards the end of the tour Paul decided to do The Professionals again.
As you know, they did some gigs with the originals, McVeigh and Myers.
When they decided to do the comeback album What in the World, I got a
phone call from Paul to ask if I could help them out. Myers was playing
bass but not learning the songs quickly enough to demo them, that’s why
called me to ask if I could play some bass for them on their demos. We
played some songs together, then all of a sudden went into the
studio; one weekend, three songs done, another weekend another three
down, then all of a sudden a whole album worth of songs are done with
me playing bass. Myers did do bass on some songs. He was still in the
band so they wanted to have his mark on the album, so I don’t really
know which songs they used my bass on, but definitely some of my songs
are there. I guess Paul enjoyed playing with me as a rhythm section;
I’m easy-going and I do the homework and remember how the songs go,
sometimes I can give Paul the cue!
When the album was done, they wanted to go on tour and they didn’t have
a regular tech so I got a phone call again to ask if I would do tech
and driving. That’s how I got into the gigging side of The
Professionals. After a few tours, Paul Myers' health problems became
serious and he couldn’t really go out on the road. I got asked if I was
interested in doing the gigging and touring with them. Obviously I said
always been the bass that you’ve played?
I only do the four strings. I started off with guitar but the six
strings are a bit too much for me! C chord, that’s fine; D chord,
fine; E, that’s ok; F, nah fuck that! When I used to watch MTV, I don’t
know why, but I was always drawn towards the bass player. To my eyes,
the bass player is much cooler than the guitar player. Or the bass
wearer is much cooler! The look on stage is as important. Some people
don’t give a fuck about how they look on stage or what to wear, but my
biggest influence is Dee Dee Ramone; a long strap, bass down to the
knees, jumping around. That’s the bass player’s image, to me anyway.
certainly bring a lot of on-stage energy and style to The
Well, Tom is the singer so he can’t really move around
because he’s stuck with the mic, and when I joined, Chris McCormack was
the guitar player and he doesn’t really do much on stage. Therefore, I
have to do something! Also, I can’t be just standing there not doing
anything, I just try and use the space and enjoy myself. When you go
and see a gig and the band is static, it’s a bit boring. I don’t want
to think that The Professionals, or any band that I am in, is boring to
think you’ll do some song-writing with the band, or is
that all really down to Tom and Paul?
Every time I get some ideas I record it and send it to Tom and Cookie
but they’ve already got enough songs. For the future record I may have
some ideas there. In The Professionals version 2 they are the main
songwriters and they obviously know how The Professional songs should
sound, but let’s see.
involved in any other bands at the
No, just The Professionals. If any other opportunities come along I
might say yes to it.
Covid, my regular work was as a back line technician at Matt
Snowball, a London based gear and van hiring company. Lots of people
from America or Europe who come into the UK to do a gig, hire their
from that place. They obviously need someone to look after the gear,
and that was my regular job.
that involve lots of travelling with
Yeah. Or just a random venue in London for a one-off gig,
stuff like that. For the past five or six years I’ve been teching for
American band Ugly Kid Joe. That became my regular teching band.
guessing you’ve done quite a lot of driving then, and you have to stay
Tell me about it! Teching and driving. Even with my own bands
back in the day. The Ga Ga’s and Slaves to Gravity couldn’t afford a
tech or a driver so everyone had to take it in turns. I don’t drink, I
wish I could though! Unfortunately, I’m allergic to alcohol, so I
That’s good for everybody else but me!
long have you now lived in the UK and do you miss Japan?
I moved over here in 1999.
After spending 10 years in this country I got a residence permit. So
I’m over here just working, gigging, and touring, and all that. It took
a long time but it was worth it.
After 23 years in this country
I am still
struggling with the language. The whole grammar is completely
different, the pronunciations and some sounds that you guys have, we
don’t have in Japan. Sometimes I need to know how to spell the word to
pronounce it properly.
My hometown is in the main island, a place
called Chiba, about half an hour on the train from Tokyo. My family is
still there but I have spent half of my life over here so I’m half
Japanese and half British! Someone said I can’t live in Japan anymore
because I speak too British! So are my mannerisms. I don’t really see
me being in Japan
at the moment. Work wise, music wise, it’s all based in this country
and I can’t leave them behind. I guess I enjoy being here.
are delighted to have you in the UK, Toshi. Many thanks for the
24th February 2022
Tour with SLF 10 March - 26 March 2022
and photographs ©Phil
Singleton / cookandjones.co.uk / www.sex-pistols.net 2022
All rights reserved. Not
reproduced without permission.
The Sex Pistols / Kick Down The Doors ©Phil Singleton /
cookandjones.co.uk / www.sex-pistols.net 2022