Goth Trad
Mutation Man

Ready for some Mad Rave? Laurent Fintoni talks in depth to one of Japan's hottest electronic music producers, Takeaki Maruyama

By Laurent Fintoni

 
‘A one-man army mutating the UK hardcore continuum in Japan’, says Kode9. A pretty accurate description of what Takeaki Maruyama aka Goth Trad has been up since he started making music about ten years ago. These mutations are nowhere more apparent than in his own creation: ‘Mad Rave’, an amalgamation of the musical styles and genres that have influenced him since he first discovered electronic music. From old techno, house and jungle to more recent influences like crunk, grime, drum'n'bass and 2-step, ‘Mad Rave’ is the logical culmination of over 20 years of collecting and listening to records and producing music.

While ‘Mad Rave’ has started to resonate with scenes worldwide in the last few years, from dubstep to drum'n'bass, breakcore to dub, it’s been a long journey already for Goth Trad. Since first dabbling in production back in the late 90s, he’s released three albums, appeared on many compilations and remix projects, and released another three albums as part of Rebel Familia, a collaboration project with legendary reggae bassist Takeshi ‘Heavy’ Akimoto.

He’s also toured Europe three times and has been playing regularly up and down Japan, solo and with Rebel Familia, for the best part of the last five years. His live work has only intensified since the release of his last album, and you’ll as easily find him playing at a drum'n'bass rave as you will a breakcore event, a reggae gig or his own monthly dubstep and grime night in Tokyo, Back To Chill. The diverse appeal of his music and live shows is reflected in the range of artists he’s played alongside in the last few years: The Mars Volta, Don Letts, The Bug, DJ Krush, Limewax, Toshinori Kondo, Mike Ladd, Bong Ra, Buck 65, Zinc, Doc Scott, Skream, Mala and Iration Steppas.
 
And so, with the increasing interest in his work outside of Japan, following his debut releases on UK labels Deep Medi Music and Skud Records earlier this year, it’s about time someone got some words from the man down on virtual paper. What follows is an unedited transcript of an interview conducted with Takeaki by Laurent Fintoni in May 2007. Parts of this interview have recently appeared in Japanzine (Japan) and Serie B Magazine (Spain), and the entire transcript is also available on Laurent's blog.
 
Having recently toured Japan with Kode9 and The Bug, Goth Trad is currently on his first major European tour. He will be playing the legendary DMZ night at Mass in Brixton, London, on 8 September.
 
Let’s start at the beginning then. How did you start making music?
When I was 19. Before that I never DJed or anything, just collected vinyl and CDs, I never even touched turntables. And at first I didn’t want to be a DJ, I wanted to make music. So I bought a sampler, mixing desk, an old Macintosh and Easy Vision! So at first I got my set up together, and I just started sampling. I wasn’t using drum machines or synthesizers, just samples from the vinyl I’d been buying. That was because in high school I had an older friend, about six years older than me, and he was making music and he was also just using a sampler. And he said to me ‘we can make all kinds of music with just samples’. So I bought a sampler to start with. I also got a cheap effecter and I started making beats. And the thing is my set up is the same now – it hasn’t changed. I’m still using mixing desk and old effectors… but now I use a laptop.
So when you started making beats, you said you were just sampling. Were you working with loops and layering stuff or…
No, I was just sampling hits. Kicks, snares, strings… nothing mixed. I was looking for just one sound, one sound to take. No loops. I collected tons of samples from my collection and just started making music with them. At that time I didn’t have much money so my masters were like old cassette tapes.
Recorded straight to cassette?
Yeah [laughs], and when I was 20 I had a group with DJ Baku; we started it together.
What was the name?
Anaphylaxin Shock. And we had lots of gigs and made lots of demos. All to cassette tapes. We copied them and passed them around.
What year was that?
1997, 1998. I was also working on solo stuff as Goth Trad at the time. I made lots of masters and demos too, and at first I gave some demos to DJ Kensei [influential Japanese DJ and producer, member of Indopepsychics and Kemuri Productions]. Three months after I first gave him some demos, I gave him some more and he called me and asked me to join a compilation called Si-Con, which was released as a 12 EP. That was my first release as Goth Trad, in 2000. I’d made that track when I was 20. In one year I made lots of music — so much. I could release an album or two just from those tracks.
Do you still have those tapes?
Oh yeah.
You could always release an anthology or something! [laughs]
That’d be funny. I’d like to do that sometime.
So did you ever play any instruments when you were younger?
I started playing the piano when I was five. Until I was 12, I just took lessons.
Did you like it?
No, I didn’t like it. But I listened to classical music again when I was in high school and I bought a few classic pieces and mastered them. I wanted to play some piano pieces, but just classical things, just that. At that time I wasn’t thinking about wanting to make music in the future or anything like that. For about eight years I had been taking lessons, and I thought it was a shame I couldn’t play the piano properly after all this time learning, so I took it up again to try it.
Do you think that now that you’re making music, that learning to play the piano back then was useful to your music making process now? You know, for things like keys, chords… stuff like that…
Yeah, it is for some things. My parents made me listen to lots of classical music when I was a kid. In my house we had lots of classical records and a turntable and when I was young I would sometimes just play the records and listen to them. I don’t know chords or stuff like that, but I know what sounds right. So I’m thankful to my parents for making me take those lessons.
You mentioned that you were buying records before you started making music. What kind of records were you buying?
I first heard dance music when I was nine or ten years old. My older brother listened to lots of foreign pop music, stuff like Madonna. So I started listening to Madonna and Paula Abdul when I was nine (laughs). And I heard Technotronic when I was ten, and I loved it! I thought ‘Techno? What is techno?’ [laughs] The sound was amazing to me, and the rapping. They were the best crew for me! [laughs]

And at the time the television in my house had foreign channels so I could watch the UK charts, club charts, stuff like that. So I checked all the UK stuff. I was around 11 at the time, and I would check the UK club charts and I’d be dancing! [laughs] And I thought to myself ‘what is that? Is it techno?’ I didn’t know, I couldn’t understand it, and my friends weren’t listening to this stuff — they weren’t interested in it — so I had to find out about it by myself. That’s how I discovered Kraftwerk. But I couldn’t buy Kraftwerk records because at the time, when I was 12, I lived in Yamaguchi. It’s out west in Honshu, and there weren’t any CDs or records of Kratfwerk in the shops. So I ordered them — I went to the shop and ordered the CDs. I bought two CDs, one of them was Numbers, and so I just started to really search for and look into what I understood as techno music. I kept watching the UK charts as well, and when I was 13 the number one in the charts was Nightmares on Wax. So I went and bought that as well; it was their first album, in 1991. I bought LFO stuff as well, lots of early bleep techno stuff. When I was 14 I bought The Prodigy’s album, and then just lots of stuff on the XL label.

But in Japan XL’s stuff was classified as disco music! At the time most dance music — club music — wasn’t available in Japanese shops, but the Prodigy and XL stuff was available in the disco sections! XL’s stuff was distributed by a pretty big Japanese company so it was easy to get it in Japan, even where I was. In shops you could buy the more mainstream stuff — the early trance stuff, but not a lot of the other dance music that was coming out of the UK and US. I was confused to be honest, but I liked what I heard. The more pop friendly stuff I didn’t really like, but the Prodigy I really liked. At the time I lived in Hiroshima but I still didn’t have anybody to talk to about this music. So I kept looking into it on my own.
Were you buying records by then?
I started buying records when I was 15. I bought lots of gabba stuff, some early jungle, techno, early Warp stuff and when I was in high school I just kept buying more records — Metalheadz, No-U-Turn, lots of the now classic stuff.
Did you have a turntable?
Yeah, but just for listening, not for DJing. I was buying house music too. I didn’t listen to hip hop though; I loved instrumental music and I didn’t like rapping or vocals very much.
Did you listen to any instrumental hip hop in that period though, even just stuff from Japan like Krush?
I listened to DJ Krush, and in high school I was also buying stuff from the WordSound label. I was listening to some instrumental hip hop stuff, dubby stuff.
Actually now that you mention that, there are a lot of dub influences in your music, so how did you discover dub?
Basically through the Wordsound compilation…
Crooklyn Dub Consortium Volume 2?
Yeah. When I heard that compilation, that’s what made me want to make music. That compilation was amazing to me; the way it looked was the first thing that got me. The cover, with the guy on it…
Holding a bass?
It looked like he was holding a gun! And the sound was very heavy but beautiful, it had lots of space. I wasn’t bored listening to it. It was also minimal and it had lots of elements of things I’d been checking out before. So I thought if I can make music like this… wicked! That’s what I want to do! [laughs]
So, looking back now on the music you made back then, when you were 19/20, what would you say that music sounded like? How would you describe it?
I’d say it’s similar to what I’m doing now. I don’t think the style is different. When I was in high school I was just listening to music, but I sometimes thought about how the music was made. I thought about the parts, like how the beat was, the rhythm of it. But at the time I didn’t have any plans of making music. I just thought about how it was made. After the beat I would think about the bassline, but I didn’t know why I thought that. But I liked thinking about music, how it was constructed.
Like building blocks?
Yeah, totally.
So when you started making music, did you think of it like that?
Yeah, I did think about it in terms of building blocks at times.
You said your first release was through DJ Kensei on that Si-Con compilation, but I first heard of you through the project you did with Baku, Saidrum and Bleeder — the remix project. How did it happen? Because it was in like 1999, 2000 wasn’t it?
2000. That label was basically like a major label, in terms of sound. The A&R of the label was interested in Baku, Saidrum, Bleeder and myself, and the idea was that we, Saidrum, Bleeder and me, would be the track makers and Baku would be like the remixer, doing the remixes in his own style.
So you all made one track each for Baku to remix?
Two tracks, and then Baku took the tracks and remixed them on his turntables, with scratching. It was just a one off project though.
Was it popular in Japan?
Yeah, it did quite well. It was my second official release.
For me that release really stands out because it blew me away when I first heard it. It’s how I discovered you and Baku, but it’s also the way in which you guys were doing stuff which people in the US and Europe started doing like three years later. It was ahead of its time but no one really got to hear it outside of Japan. So after that, it would be around 2001/2002 or so, that’s when you formed Rebel Familia?
Yeah.
Before your first album?
Yeah, before the first album.
Tell me about the first album…
By the time I did this project with Baku, I’d already made another bunch of tracks and the A&R of a Japanese label approached me and told me he wanted to release my album. So he said he’d give me 20,000 Yen to release it… no, hold on… 200,000 Yen… [discussion ensues as we try to figure out how much ni hyaku man yen is]… so yeah, 2 million yen, he offered me 2 million yen.
Shit…
I was supposed to be the first artist on the label, and I was only 20 years old. But I didn’t like to talk about money. I wanted to release on foreign labels! So I talked with him, and I asked if I could release my second album on another label if I released my first one with him. But he said that wouldn’t be possible.
Two album deal basically.
Yeah, he said he was putting a lot of money on the table and so he wanted two or three albums at least. I was young at the time and so I refused (laughs).
That’s a lot of balls mate, turning down that much money!
[laughs] I was only 20 though and two years later I released my first album anyways.
Which label was that?
East Works — a pretty big jazz label in Japan, with major artists and singers.
Were you happy with the deal?
Yeah, and that’s when I started experimenting with noise music, really hard, dark stuff. When I was in high school I listened to some breakcore and digital hardcore, so that was an influence. The second half of the album is all improvisation and the reason why I started making noise in the first place. I wanted to do live music, I wanted to be able to play my music out live, with no sequencer. Real time sampling, effecting… and so that’s how I started making my own effecters and also some instruments.
Like that spring I’ve seen you use?
Yeah, that one.
How long did it take you to make those?
Once I figured out if the schematics were correct it was easy. Two or three days basically.
What happened the first time you used them?
At first I made some simple effecters, like a distortion unit. It was quite easy but not really interesting. It was just a simple distortion unit, so I wanted to make some more interesting, experimental machines like a ring modulator, stuff like that.
What’s the best one you’ve made?
Ring modulator definitely. The schematic for it is the same as… I forget the name, but it’s an expensive ring modulator, and I basically just copied the schematics! [laughs] And I’d go to Akihabara and buy all the parts I needed.
Did you know about electronics then or teach yourself?
I studied it. But I couldn’t understand it perfectly, so I tried anyways.
Are you still making machines these days or have you stopped?
I’ve stopped. The last one I made was about three years ago or so.
Do you still use them today?
Sometimes, just for sampling to get a different sound on something.
So you used those machines, along with the mixing desk and sampler, to play out after you made the first album?
Yeah, that was what I used for my shows, the same as my studio set up basically. And the second album was just completely noise music. At the time I was using a program that was kind of like SuperCollider; it was like a human interface music program. I used it with two laptops, the mixing desk and the effects unit. The program is really interesting stuff; it’s just a program to change the numbers and generally fuck with audio. I controlled it live alongside the effects, instruments and mixing desk, mixing it all at the same time so it was pretty full on, really involving. And that’s also how I recorded the second album.
All real time?
Yeah, I recorded the second album like that, with no sequencing. All recorded live, I can’t remember how many takes, but there was only one tune where I cut up the parts of it in a wave editor. I made about three minutes of cut up noise like that and I played it and mixed it again adding on top of it.
So was it between the first and second albums that you did those gigs in France?
Yeah.
How did that happen? Because you played Batofar and the Zenith, and the Zenith is a massive venue, kind of like the Parisian equivalent of Brixton Academy or something even bigger — it’s a really well known venue.
I played Batofar before the first album and the Zenith before the second album. It was someone who worked on the Batofar programming, and she hooked up the gig in Paris because they also did work with artists and promoters in Tokyo. And when she stopped working at Batofar she put together an association called Infamous and they were the ones who put the party on at the Zenith.
How was it playing Zenith?
Wicked, I played some beats and noise stuff too. The other artists there also played noise, it was a pretty crazy show.
What year was that then?
2003.
OK, so before we talk about the third album, let’s talk about Rebel Familia. When did you guys come together? Was it after the first album then?
Actually no it was before, one month before.
How did you meet Takeshi [Takeshi ‘Heavy’ Akimoto – bassist for the legendary Dry & Heavy Japanese reggae band]?
After the release I did with Baku, the remix project, I had a solo gig as Goth Trad at the same party where Dry & Heavy were playing with DJ Baku. So I was the opening act that night, and Takeshi saw me. Six months later… no, one year later, a friend of his spoke to me and said Takeshi wanted to talk to me. So we met and chatted and he said he wanted to do a studio session with me, which we did. I played him a bunch of music I’d been making and he played bass, we jammed…
And so Rebel Familia started from that?
Yeah, pretty much. In the studio we work the same way we did that day. I’m always making beats at first and he’ll come over and play bass. And then I add melodies on top. Sometimes we’ll play for three hours and just record everything, and then play it all back and we’ll choose the best parts. He always chooses the bass though! After that I copy his bass to the beat I’ve chosen and sequence it.
OK, it makes sense then, because when I saw you last week, it was the first time I saw Rebel Familia live and I was really impressed by how you guys blend together elements of dub and reggae with electronic music. It’s like you’re doing all this live effecting, dubbing, and he’s playing this really warm bass, all on top of beats which don’t really sound like dub for the most part. So you’ve got this weird mix of the warm, dub bassline, the space of the music and the effects, and more harsh and aggressive electronic sounds and beats going between rhythms and styles. It works though, really well.
The dub we do is different ‘dub’ for me. Different to what other people are doing. What I mean when I say ‘dub’ is not just the technique of making music, I think of ‘dub’ as a musical freedom. For me when I play ‘dub’ I need to change the beat constantly, I want to change the beat and the groove of the track. Not just effect it. So you get those weird drum patterns and sounds. I use the faders and send channels in different ways: cut the beats up, take out parts of it, increase the kick, double the snares, stuff like that. And thing is I never really heard dub before. Not proper Jamaican dub anyways.
When did you first hear more classic dub tracks then?
After I met Takeshi. And the thing is even then we didn’t change the sound we’d started working on. We’ve never changed it.
It’s funny you say that, because you mentioned the Wordsound stuff before, and I when I saw your show last week, the first part of it, where you play more dub inspired beats, slower tempo stuff, before you go into the stuff that’s at a faster bpm, that part of the show actually reminded me of WordSound and those albums, and how they combined electronic music and dub. The other thing with Rebel Familia is that you’ve always had quite a lot of featurings on the albums: Ragga Twins, Boss the MC... On the last one you’ve got Max Romeo and Arie Up. How did those hook ups happen?
After making a track we always think about who might be the best vocalist for it and take it from there. I’ve known the Ragga Twins for a long time, and I also knew of Max Romeo because when I was younger I’d bought the Prodigy albums that sample him. So I knew him and Takeshi liked him a lot as well, so that’s how we hooked up with him, same with Arie Up. Takeshi’s nine years older than me, so he’s from a different musical generation than me, but I know about the music from his generation. The funny thing is Takeshi doesn’t listen to any other music. Only reggae! [laughs] That’s it!
So how did the more eclectic tracks you guys have made happen? As we were saying, the Rebel Familia sound is pretty varied, and you’ve got some pretty full on tracks, straight up junglism stuff.
I always pass music to him, stuff that I think he should listen to. I basically pass him the music I like, and he always likes it. Like old school techno and stuff like that.
You’ve been doing Rebel Familia for about five years now…
Six years.
And at the same time you’ve been working on your own, so do you find that it’s a good balance for you, being able to work on your own but also work with someone else as part of a group?
In the past I’ve found it hard to make beats for Rebel Familia because of the low bass — it makes it more difficult to find the right tempo that will work well with it. And Takeshi’s always played with a drummer, so it’s been a challenge to adapt to that, for me and him. I’ve found it difficult because the bpm is always moving, and at first he also found it difficult. So I try to make easy beats, simple stuff but still interesting, I’ve got to keep it interesting. But I need to keep the beat, I need to keep it looped, so I try to make some interesting loops, stuff that’s not too simple. And at the same time stuff that isn’t too difficult for him to play to either. It’s become easier now that we’ve worked together for a long time. I understand what kind of beats are easy for him now, good for him to play reggae bass to.
Thing is whenever we play out, in a club or live venue, I’m also doing our sound engineering. I always prepare the PA system — I set up all the levels, everything, so I know it’ll sound as good as possible, because low bass can be difficult to work with on a system, and we need to have a good reggae sound when we play out. But sometimes you have a bad system, so if we play on a system like that I understand what sound is best because we can’t have that really deep, low bass. That’s when we do some stuff that is a bit more harsh sounding.
OK, so moving back to your solo work. 2005 was a busy year for you — not only did you release your second album, you also released your third album in the same year. And in between those two releases you came up with the idea/concept for Mad Rave. How did that happen?
From 2003 to 2004 I started listening to BBC radio shows more, listening to UK garage, drum'n'bass, dancehall. I didn’t really know anything about 2-step or UK garage, but when I listened to it I liked it. 2-step and UK garage really reminded me of early rave music, of The Prodigy, of the sounds I listened to when I was young basically. And then in 2004 grime really started to come out more, and I was really interested.
What interested you about it, the vocals or the beats?
Both. A few years before, in 2002/2003 I started listening to more southern hip hop, like the crunk stuff that was coming out at the time. I was listening to that and then I started hearing grime. They both had this half-step element, but with double the bpm, which I really liked. And on my first solo and the first Rebel Familia albums there were some beats which had this half-step feel to it. Because I’ve always wanted to try and get that in some of my tracks, it’s something I’ve always really liked. And so grime surprised me – the sound is cheap but massive. It was music like I’d never heard.
Yeah, I don’t think anyone had ever heard music like that.
So Mad Rave was me taking all these influences and putting them into one – crunk, grime, 2-step, jungle, early techno and the old school stuff I used to listen to as a kid. For the third album, Mad Raver’s Dancefloor, I’d made some of the tracks as early as 2003, so it was done over a period of about two years, while I was doing other stuff.
That’s interesting, because for me that album just sounds like a condensation of over ten years of electronic dance music into ten tracks. And on top of that each track is distinctly different to its ‘inspiration’, full of sounds and mutations that make them more than just a rehashing of styles. It’s got an incredible feel to it because nothing sounds out of place. As you said you took all these influences, and you can tell listening to it that there’s a common thread running throughout the album, that links all these different tracks together. You’ve got acid house, grime, crunk, house, jungle on there but it all sounds distinct, and fresh. And I remember Back To Chill really blew me away when I first heard it, in 2005, because it sounded like something that could have been made in London, but also had elements to it that were so refreshing, like the intro and your use of the gunshots. I remember thinking that it would sound ridiculous with MCs over it.
I was thinking about grime when I made that track, that’s what was on my mind. I just wanted to make instrumental grime, and I didn’t even know what dubstep was at the time anyways. I finished the second album in 2004 and straight away I started putting the third album together. So I made Back To Chill in 2004/2005, at the time when I was listening to grime and all this other music I’d never really heard before.
So you released the album in November 2005 in Japan, and it’s taken about two years to actually get tracks from the album, like Back To Chill, out of the country and on to UK labels and proper international distribution. And you worked hard in those two years to push that new sound, you did two international tours and came to the UK each time. And now your sound has become really popular within the dubstep scene. So how did you find out about dubstep? Because when I first met you in 2005, I remember you were looking for grime and other stuff in London, but that was still at a time when dubstep hadn’t blown up yet, when a lot of people still weren’t aware of it.
It would have been early 2006, once I’d come back to Japan. At that point I started to understand the differences and common points between dubstep and grime. Before I never knew what the differences were, because I never really heard the word dubstep or thought of it as something different from grime.
So I bought some tracks and that year I also started talking to some people involved in the scene on MySpace. In May I set up my MySpace page, and through that I ended up starting the ‘Back To Chill’ night, in September 2006. On MySpace I was talking to people like Luke Envoy and some other people were emailing me, and it just kind of kept on going from there. People were becoming more interested in what I was doing.
And in September that year you came back to the UK. You were supposed to go to Texas after a few days in London and instead you stayed because the gig was cancelled and you ended up going to FWD>> at Plastic People.
And that’s where I met Mala.
You must be happy that gig in Texas got cancelled!
Haha. [laughs] Yeah, in a way I am.
What did you think of FWD>>?
FWD>> was good, the sound was excellent. The experience was similar to what I expected I guess, and it was a wicked night.
So you met Mala that night and that week as well while you were in London you were speaking to Matt Hyponik.
Yeah I met Matt that year in London and we were talking about releasing my stuff on his new labels. He was really into the stuff he’d heard and the new tracks I had. And with Mala I just gave him a CD when we met at FWD>>, and the next day he had a show and he invited me. It was a Soul Jazz party. And he gave me some vinyl that night and we kept in touch by email after that. That’s when we started talking about arranging his Japan tour.
You also knew The Bug before that, didn’t you? Because I remember when we did that night together in London last year, he came down to see you. When did you meet him?
I met him in 2005, during his Pressure tour in Tokyo. He was telling me about Kode9 when I met him actually.
Did you know about his stuff before?
Yeah I knew about God, Techno Animal, Curse of The Golden Vampire. I liked some of his stuff already before I saw him. I’d been a fan for a long time. When I was in high school, I was already a fan! [laughs]
So how does it feel to finally have releases on UK labels? You were saying when that guy offered you a record deal back when you were 20 years old, that you wanted to hold out because you had dreams of releasing on UK labels. And now it’s finally happened, nearly six years later. You’ve got two releases this year, more coming, interest from all sorts of labels and people. Is it a bit like a dream come true?
I don’t think it’s a dream come true so much. It’s great, but I think that now it means I have to work more – not just on dubstep, but just making music, any kind of music, which is what I love. Having my name known outside of Japan is great though — that’s amazing. I’m really happy I didn’t sign that record deal back when I was 20, because I don’t think it was a good deal looking back on it. I don’t have any regrets! [laughs]
When we were talking a few months ago you mentioned how you were managing yourself at the moment, for your solo stuff. You’ve got releases on the Pop Group label out here (including the last album), and you work with them, but you still manage the majority of your solo work, your solo and Rebel Familia tours, live dates, some releases, licensing etc… Now you’ve got even more interest from outside of Japan as well as in Japan, do you still think that managing yourself is the best idea? Or do you feel that maybe having a manager would be a good idea because then you’ve got more time to concentrate on making music?
I still think doing it myself is best for the moment. It’s very difficult and it takes a lot of time, but I can see all of what I do; I can control everything and I like that. I like knowing what’s happening with what I do — releases, dates etc…
Now a lot of people know you for your dubstep productions, but as you’ve said before, you’ve always been interested in just making music, any kind of music. That’s apparent in your last album and also in your live shows — when you play live you don’t play just one style; you blend styles together like you did on the album. And this year you’ve also done some production for Rumi (Japanese female artist). Did you enjoy that?
Yeah, it was wicked. The tunes on that album are from my back catalogue basically. We met up and she chose some beats and I finished them up. I’ve always made many styles of music like we’ve been saying. I can never just concentrate on one thing, I’m always experimenting. Sometimes it’s more bouncy, pop-sounding stuff like what’s on her album. I like doing stuff like that, it’s fun. And I’m doing some shows with her this month. It should be good.
Another thing you mentioned to me a few months ago was the soundtrack work you were doing. Is that still going on?
I’ve finished that now. It was for a movie about young people; I don’t know how to explain the story, but I made music for crowd scenes and scenes at a fashion show. I never did that kind of stuff before but it was really good. So now I’m going to continue doing soundtracks; at the moment I’m doing some work on short movies. It’s a project I started last year with a friend and it’s running for one year. Three shorts a month, 30 seconds each, and I’m soundtracking all of them. The music is different for each short – sometimes noise, sometimes techno, dub stuff. The idea is to have 34 short movies made in one year and keep the project going for three years so we have 100 movies made.
So who are you doing this with?
He’s a very interesting character. He’s a dancer and he works with Adidas. He’s produced some of their shows, fashion shows, and he also works on dance shows. He makes the movies and I soundtrack them.
Are you guys thinking about a release for this project?
We might release it in two years when it’s finished. We’ve got to keep going at the moment to finish it because we think the idea of collecting 100 movies before releasing anything is the best idea. We don’t want to just do 50 or less than that. So we’re sticking to that idea for now and we’ll think about the release once it’s finished. It’s a long running project. Someday these movies will be seen and heard! [laughs]
Going back to what you were saying about your set up earlier, you’ve now started using Ableton on the laptop — so has that changed how you make music?
Not really. I’m still just primarily sampling as the source for most of the music. I sequence some tracks in Ableton but I don’t use soft synths or drum machines very much. Not even outboard ones either, though sometimes I might use one just to get a sound out of it I can sample and use. Actually I do use the Simpler synth in Ableton; I find it useful to get some sounds and ideas going. But yeah, essentially my way of making music hasn’t really changed since I started. I use samples as my main source of sounds and I play a lot of stuff live and record it, and then sometimes I’ll sequence some stuff as well. I’ve found that it’s the best way for me to make music. I love it.
Earlier on you mentioned never wanting to become a DJ, and you always generally play live with your set up as you said, but these days you do DJ quite a bit — more than you ever have before. What made you switch?
I started DJing because I was thinking ‘how has dubstep spread?’ and the answer is simple: you have to be a DJ [laughs].
So what year did you start DJing?
2006. [laughs]
Haha, that’s well funny.
I didn’t have decks until last year. I only had one deck.
Actually I remember now, when we played together last year you were using Traktor on the laptop.
I bought another deck when I came back from the UK! [laughs]
There’s a lot of similarities between your live sets and DJ sets actually. You’re always playing with the EQs, effecting the music; you play really quickly as well, and that reminds me a lot of the energy in your live sets.
I like DJing now. I feel like I have to be a DJ as well for the younger generation coming up. If they ask me ‘why did you get that tune?’ I can tell them that it’s because I make music and so I swap it with other producers. Some younger guys might wonder why I have a dubplate and it’s because I make music. A lot of Japanese DJs don’t make music, but I think the younger generation, the young DJs should start making music. I think in the future DJing will become more linked with music making; we’ll start seeing less people being only DJs. So if younger guys start making music, maybe they’ll have a chance to get releases but also start DJing and get out there.
In Europe you have a lot more producers who also DJ, and that link between making music and playing it, being a selector, has always been there. That’s a recurring idea across a lot of scenes — when I’ve talked to people, that’s always something that comes up, even though some people think it’s not always a good thing. There’s a long history of that in mixes too, with people being creative with the music — not just playing records one after the other.
The evolution of DJ culture in Japan was different to the UK and so today you end up with a lot of DJs who don’t produce and I hope that will change; I’d like to help change that because I think it’s important.
[at this point the computer dies, so we wrap up the interview]

OK, so looking at the future now, what do you want from the coming year?
I want to release a new album. I want to make the BTC nights bigger – I want to bring more people to the dance. I’ve got ideas for that. We’re thinking of maybe starting a label linked to the night, and put out some releases to help promote it and bring people to it. Ske and 100Mado are not only talented DJs, they’re also talented producers, so we’ve got a lot of potential there already.
Have you already started working on the next album?
Yeah, there’s gonna be some dubstep stuff on there, some half-step, and it’ll be 100% Mad Rave! [laughs] Like I said, I’m constantly making tracks, so I’ve got more to choose from when it comes to putting the album together.
Nice. Alright, before we finish, can you give me three essential records for you?
Ummm… The Prodigy Experience, Techno Animal Radio Hades and Wordsound’s Certified Dope Vol 2 compilation.
And what’s the best thing about Japan?
We have four seasons, and so we can feel many things. And there are many things in this city. For me sometimes there is chaos and sometimes there is inspiration.
Laurent Fintoni currently lives in Tokyo, where he runs the online turntable resource Spin Science, presents the regular online show Turntable Radio, and blogs at Saw You On The Flipside. He also DJs under the name Kper.
 
 Goth Trad’s Back To Chill EP on Skud Beats and Cut End b/w Flags on Deep Medi Musik are out now. Back To Chill is held on the first thursday of the month at Tokyo’s Saloon nightclub (in the basement of Unit).
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