Japan formed in 1974 with original members David Sylvian (vocals, guitar), Mick Karn (bass guitar, saxophone), Richard Barbieri (keyboards), Rob Dean (guitar), and Steve Jansen (percussion). Dean left the band before the recording of Japan’s final album, Tin Drum.
Japan began playing glam rock, influenced by David Bowie, The New York Dolls and motown. Japan debuted on record with 1978’s Adolescent Sex and subsequently Obscure Alternatives, which both sold well in the nation of Japan, though nowhere else.
Their third album, 1979’s Quiet Life, heralded a change in musical style from the earlier largely guitar based music to a more electronic sound, with more emphasis on Barbieri’s synthesisers, Sylvian’s svelte baritone style of singing, Karn’s distinctive fretless bass sound, and Steve Jansen’s odd-timbred percussion work.
Their following two albums, Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980) and Tin Drum (1981) continued to expand their audience as the band refined its new sound and unintentionally became part of the early 1980s new romantic movement. But Tin Drum ended up being their final album as personality conflicts tore the band apart. Nevertheless, the album’s unconventional single “Ghosts” reached #5 on the UK pop charts.
They split after a farewell tour in 1982.
Most of the original members of the band went on to work on other projects.