David Sylvian was born in 1958 in Beckingham, Kent, UK as David Batt. In 1972 he founded the band Japan with his brother Steve (Jansen) and some friends from school: Mick Karn (real name Anthony Michelides), Richard Barbieri and Rob Dean. Although originally Mick Karn was supposed to be vocalist, an attack of nerves at the first gig (at Mick's sister's wedding) led David to take over even though he has always hated to be in the limelight. When you hear the first Japan albums it's hard to believe that that screeching youth is actually David Sylvian, the man with the most beautiful voice I've ever heard. During the Japan period, Sylvian met with Ryuichi Sakamoto. In 1982 they recorded the single Bamboo Music/Bamboo Houses. In 1984 they made the theme song to Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Forbidden Colours.

Japan split up in 1982, mostly due to conflicts between Sylvian and Karn. In 1991 they got together to record the album Rain Tree Crow, albeit not under the name of Japan.
After the break up Sylvian made various solo albums:

Even though the band Japan no longer exists, the individual members still make music and work together. Sylvian appears on Karn's Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters.

Sylvian has worked together with Holger Czukay, a German composer, with resulted in two albums: Plight and Premonition and Flux and Mutability. Both albums consist of long, slow (rather boring) soundscapes.
Another collaboration was with Robert Fripp, who already appeared on the album Gone to Earth. They made two albums, The First Day and Darshan, and went on tour.

Sylvian has also published three books, two with his lyrics (Trophies) and one with photography (Perspectives), and collaborated with several artists on dance performances and art projects.

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