The CEO of S2S, Kazunari Suzuki (more commonly known as Ken), passed away peacefully on 31 Jan 2010, aged 55. When I received the news, it took me a while before the news sink in, then I couldn’t quite control my grief.
This is a very personal post for me. I finally decided that I should post it.
Amongst other reasons, Ken is the major one which made me decide to sign with S2S. When I first met him, I didn’t know him of course. But during those brief moments of first few meetings, his honesty, sincerity, positivity, fairness (which I’d really never quite seen in the music industry) touched me. As time went by, I knew I was in the right ship, because he was a brilliant captain. After I joined the family, everyone in the music industry I met has nothing but positive things to say about him.
It wasn’t just his capabilities, but also his lack of air as a boss, and willingness to show himself as a mere human being which really impressed me. I don’t really like to talk about my love life (lack of), but I’d like to now, just to demonstrate how fun a person he was.
Close to 2 months after I joined the label in 2008, I was invited to a New Year Eve lunch with the staff. In one of the conversations, one of them asked how I celebrated Christmas eve. I said I hung out with some girlfriends. My very-new Jap boss Ken who was seated beside me, burst out laughing, then tried very hard to quickly contain it with his hand. At first I was bewildered. Everyone else was bewildered. Like, “what!? what was the joke!?” Nobody understood the joke.
After 3 seconds, I quickly clarified, “Oh no, I’m not a lesbian” (just in case he found it funny that he had signed on another lesbian singer. Don’t be offended, that was the wildest guess I could come up with in split second. I mean, I didn’t know him well, and I’ve zero ideas about Japanese humour). Then he shook his head and said in thick Japanese accent in between gasping laughs, “No no…. Hopefully next year……you will spend your Xmas….. better “. I got what he meant, and thinking it a Japanese-appropriate answer, replied sheepishly, “Yes yes, I will get a boyfriend next year “. <– on hindsight, my reply was uncalled for, because I really don’t think he cared for any; he just found it funny.
I couldn’t quite believe it. He actually laughed at me!
I can’t remember which month this was; this time round he got me an interview for a Japanese travel publication. As I had been mocked by him in Anecdote 1, I felt that I could let my guards down and be more ‘myself’. He personally went with me to the interview, mainly because the journalist was Japanese, and he could do some translation if necessary. The interview went very well with some help of translation; questions were mainly on my inspirations on song-writing, and music related issues. Then the journalist asked about my love life. When she knew I was single, she asked what kind of guy I like, well so, I replied blah blah blah. Ken, who was seated beside me all these while, looked at me with near disgust and commented, “Tsk. Very difficult“. Then I believe, he shook his head. Almost as if talking to a father-friend, I said (in front of the journalist), “Noooooo….it’s not!“. He said, “Difficult. You want this that.” Shook his head again. Luckily I did not need his translation for that part of the interview. (My standards are really not that high. Just too high for Ken).
As time went by, he was less a boss-figure and more a father-idol figure. His generosity, fairness to artists, kindness, sense of humour, and always on the ball attitude, fearlessness, and passion for living life, inspired me.
There are many other fond memories of him: When he spoke sprinkles of Mandarin to me… How nobody batted an eye when I performed with Aiza, well before the contract was signed… On one occasion he wanted me to sing at one of his Japanese friend’s wedding (we were very fairly paid), and he even came round to my band and I at the end of the performance to make sure we get to take some nice Japanese desserts home (each of us went home feeling really happy about the desserts more than anything else)… My last conversation with him at the Christmas party about Lisa Ono and music scene in Japan….and him spurring me to write more original songs… My best memory will be when he shared with me what S2S stands for. I wish he could have stayed on longer to see the success he envisioned for his artists, and S2S. I had really wanted to tell him, “I think your English has improved over the past year.” 🙂
My deepest condolences and sympathies to his lovely family… Here’s a song dedication to Ken for being a dream-weaver, and for everything positive he stands for. It’s my misfortune to not have a longer working relationship with him.
Wherever you may be
In that canopy of stars
I know that you are not so very far
Wherever life takes me
I will carry you
In every dream that comes true