●I heard that you are good friends with the members of caveman.
I think it was around 2017 that I had an interview with Kaie Murakami which led to an introduction to Shohei Yasuda and Kentaro Emoto of Kabi, the sister restaurant of caveman. Up until then, my friends had been inviting me to go there because it’s a great place for people who like club music, but I never had the time to go and experience it. I basically live with music and of course, I like to eat! And Shohei and Kentaro, they’re both cooks and like music, so it was nice to meet people that I had things in common with, as that doesn’t happen very often. I don’t always go for the course menu at Kabi, but rather I would have some drinks at the bar on the second floor, attend their events, and Shohei and his friends would sometimes come to our club or we would go out for drinks at other restaurants together. Some of the staff at caveman used to work at Kabi, so we naturally started talking whenever I would go there.
●When was the first time you visited Kabutocho?
It was the opening party for K5. Sometime later, on Kabi’s day off, I came to caveman with Kaie and Shohei for an evening course.
●How often do you come to caveman?
When the state of emergency was declared, you could only eat in restaurants during lunchtime, so I came here a few times for lunch. And a couple of weeks ago I came to the bar for a drink and a course dinner, so I’ve been coming here quite often lately.
●Are there any other places to go in Kabutocho?
I usually go to Human Nature before going to caveman, as the person who did the interior design is a good friend of mine. I like to drink wine and eat SR’s Basque cheesecake! It’s delicious, isn’t it? It’s only available by pre-order, but it sells out quickly, so when I see it in the store, I just want to order it. I also like tea, so I go to Ao Bar as well. I went to the same university as Kai Tanaka. We went to school at different times, but we have a lot of mutual friends, and we often meet at Kabi. I also like the cakes at Ease! When I come to Kabutocho, I feel like I have to take the opportunity to visit several places, so I usually go to at least two.
●You have a lot of acquaintances in Kabutocho!
I meet a lot of people at bars, so I tend to talk to people without really thinking too much. Sometimes, mid-way through a conversation, I’ll realize that I actually know them!
●I get the impression that you go out a lot, but how do you spend your time these days?
I hadn’t really thought about having people over to my house before, but since last year or so, I’ve been having more people over. Then I’ll have a drink while I’m cooking. I like to eat and I like to cook, and surprisingly I can cook almost anything.
●Has your work style changed in the past year or two?
Since I can’t go outside very often, I decided to enrich my home life, so I built a studio-like space in my house. I spend most of my time making and listening to music, but the rest of my time is spent writing, reading books, watching movies; like half work and half hobby. But last year and this year were a little different, even though for both years we had states of emergency. This year, I’ve tried to challenge myself to do things I’ve never done before. And since October, I think the flow has changed once again.
●Your line of work has been impacted directly, I’m sure.
That’s true for DJ’ing at events. In the end, DJ’ing is my favorite form of expression, so I have to be flexible in order to keep doing it. If I got depressed every time an event that I was preparing for was canceled, I wouldn’t be able to continue. Although I am saddened by it, I have to get into the mindset of trying to convey music using a different approach. It’s meaningless to just go back to the way things were without updating and improving myself. I don’t want to get complacent with the way things are now, but I also want to be ready to transition to how things will be in the future.
●Have you started any new projects during the pandemic?
I’m involved in many fields that connect with music. I want to be more involved in other fields as well though. Like currently I’m working on music for film and supervising the music for a women’s basketball league.
●You seem to be well versed in a variety of cultures, but how did you choose to become a DJ in the first place?
I was in a band when I was in junior and high school. I used to go to Summersonic and Fuji Rock with the band members every year. And that’s when I saw DJs and realized that there was a completely different way to approach music. I also listened to a lot of radio, and that’s how I learned about DJ’ing and from there started thinking about doing it as a hobby. I didn’t feel like I could just buy a cheap guitar and start practicing, so I started by asking people in the mixing community or friends of friends to introduce me to DJs or looking for people who had equipment. Once I was taught how to operate the equipment, all I had to do was practice and learn on my own. I went to clubs where my favorite DJs were playing, listened to various music, and DJ’ed repeatedly.
●Was there a moment in your career when you had a breakthrough?
There are several, but I think the one that made me especially happy was when I was able to have a regular gig on the radio. It gave me more opportunities to be heard by all kinds of people, and I could do things that I couldn’t do going down the regular DJ path. I’ve been listening to J-WAVE ever since I was a student, and I was especially greatly influenced by the 15-minute program that Giles Peterson (*1) does. Japanese radio DJs basically talk a lot, but Giles Peterson’s style was to introduce the music while playing it, and I learned that there was such a thing as a radio DJ. Having my own music program on J-WAVE was a big deal. From there, I started to get involved with musicians other than DJs, and the scope of my friendships expanded. I wanted to spread dance music through different mediums and by mixing and introducing other genres. And because of that, I think I was able to enjoy music on a deeper level.
※1 Giles Peterson
Radio and club DJ, label owner, journalist
●As your friendships expanded, did your way of thinking also expand?
As a DJ in a club, the genre or tension of music I’m able to play can be quite limited. I aim for something that will make people want to concentrate and keep dancing, but outside of the club, I usually listen to a variety of music regardless of genre or tension. DJs are still not as well known as bands and rappers in Japan. I’m always conscious of how I can contribute to the scene as a DJ, like mixing various music without barriers. DJs can be recognized, or create events that around the world with other DJs and people trying to get into DJ’ing. And of course, I’m trying to improve my own skills. The content is still the same, but I’ve started to think about how to change the way I look at things in a more multifaceted way.
●Do you approach people overseas as well?
About three years ago the video of my appearance at Boiler Room Tokyo went viral, so I was getting a lot more invitations to perform overseas. In the past, I would make the first contact, so I was happy to be invited by others. Recently, I’ve been approaching people regardless of whether they are from overseas or outside of Tokyo. I follow them on Instagram, and when I write a song, I send them the soundtrack, or I tag them in my stories and share the soundtracks I’ve recently listened to. People from all walks of life, famous and unknown, are happy to connect with me. This year, I’ve been trying to do that a lot, especially since we can’t travel and communicate with people face-to-face.
●What do you have in mind for the future?
I’m open to pretty much anything. Recently, I worked on the music for the W-League (*2). I think women’s basketball got a lot of attention during the Olympics, but the W-League hasn’t really taken off yet. But in terms of world rankings, it’s stronger than men’s basketball. I was on the basketball team at school and I still play basketball with my friends sometimes. But now I’m more into watching basketball games, so it made me wonder if I could help in some way through music.
Japanese Women’s Basketball League
●What made you want to change the music of the W-League?
If you watch the NBA, you’ll see that basketball is a sport that has a strong connection to culture, and it’s a very entertaining sport. I thought it was a shame that this aspect of the sport was missing in Japan and that only the sports aspect was being communicated. I thought it would be a shame if we couldn’t make women’s basketball more attractive as a sport and make it more exciting from various angles so that the number of fans would continue to increase. So first of all, I thought it would be more worthwhile to go to the venue if the players could get excited and the music fans could enjoy it too. I’m even happier when kids playing basketball learn about the music that goes along with the sport. The music selection for the Olympics was different for each venue, which I thought was cool. I was reminded of the importance of music when I heard loud techno music being played all the time at the climbing events.
●So you watch sports from a music perspective as well. For example, when you come to a restaurant to eat, do you notice the music?
Yeah, I pay close attention to it. Music, like interior decoration and scent, is something that creates a space, so when I see that kind of attention to detail, I like it. It’s not about what genre is playing, or whether I like it or not. It’s about whether the music is chosen according to the concept. However, this is something that can be done through the accumulation of experience, so if a person hasn’t had that particular experience that information will go over their head. With music, the more you experience it, the more you can enjoy it. I think it’s the same as cooking: you can either try something you’ve never eaten before and hate it, or you can try it for the first time and be surprised and start to enjoy it. When I was a child, I didn’t know how delicious coriander was, but as I grew older and ate it more often, I started to like it more and more. I think it is interesting in every field that the way we feel changes depending on our experience, and it still arouses my curiosity now that I am an adult.
●Does going out into the city itself also increase your experience?
Going to different cities and exploring is a great way to encounter many new things. Combinations you’ve never eaten before, experiences you’ve never had, interesting people you meet for the first time. It’s fun to encounter things you never knew existed. But I think this is also something that can be done at home. You may be able to change your perspective more quickly overseas, but even in Japan, there is no limit to the number of new cities and new encounters you can have.
●Is there a common denominator in the cities you like, whether overseas or in Japan?
Overseas, I like Stockholm. The buildings are a bit bigger, the streets are wider, and there’s a sense of comfort. Kabutocho also has large buildings and a sense of dignity, which is nice. But the streets are narrow, so it feels like a suburb of Paris. I would love to have a party in Kabutocho.
●Lastly, what kind of town is Kabutocho for you?
I think it’s the perfect new playground for those of us who have grown up a bit. I was brought here by a friend, and now I’m bringing my new friends here. It’s nice to feel that there’s an atmosphere here that is shared between those of us who used to go to Shinjuku and Shibuya. And people who have that kind of awareness gather in Kabutocho. It’s a town that makes you think that there will be something different from the past.
DJ and beat maker based in Tokyo.
In 2016, his performance at BOILER ROOM TOKYO recorded about 500,000 views on Youtube.
In addition to appearing at big festivals and clubs in Japan and abroad as a DJ, he has provided DJ mixes for radio stations around the world and has provided music for a wide range of fields, including maison brand collections and commercials.
He also presides over “Tokyo Community Radio,” a video stream radio station that aims to provide a place for DJs from around the world to interact.
Text : Momoko Suzuki
Photo : Naoto Date
Interview : Momoko Suzuki