Interview: Denki Groove’s Takkyu Ishino

An in-depth interview with a Japanese techno legend

As you may know, Takkyu Ishino’s starting point as a DJ and a solo artist is the group Denki Groove, which he formed with Pierre Taki. On the one hand, Denki Groove now appears on TV and radio variety shows, and Taki has won awards for his acting. On the other hand, the group occupies a position without equal as an underground music act. Denki Groove is a duo: Ishino sings and produces the sound, while Taki does vocals and… plays what we might call a “part” of some sort, in which he contributes a presence (you could probably compare him to the Happy Mondays’ Bez, but still, he’s his own performer). The group has reached a wide variety of audiences across the field of pop – they’ve headlined Fuji Rock alongside top bands from overseas, and also played to J-Pop festivals.

If we were to try to organize the current activities of Ishino and Denki Groove on paper, it would become totally chaotic, so let’s just leave it at that. Well, as background, it might help to say that during the 1980s in their home prefecture of Shizuoka (a place about halfway between Tokyo and Nagoya at the base of Mt. Fuji), Taki and Ishino were part of a band called ZIN-SÄY!, a pre-New Wave band. The members painted their heads white and recited nonsense lyrics, looking like they had materialized out of some Gag Manga.

In the early 1990s, before the techno scene was even established, he worked as an on-air personality for the late-night radio show All Night Nippon, where he became popular among young people for his inimitable wit (and slight eccentricities). Through its popularity, he was able to turn many of these young people on to music. Of course they might have found music anyway, but Ishino was the one who was there to show them the appeal of techno.

This is one reason why techno expanded to an audience outside of the cognoscenti of Japan’s underground nightlife. It is also a reason why the large-scale indoor party WIRE – which presented the somewhat rare opportunity to hear dance music at an event focused on DJs, not live bands – was such a success. I think that without Ishino’s talent for music, and without his personality, the Japanese techno scene would look quite different today. It certainly would not have developed on the same scale. One summer evening, I interviewed this icon – not just of the techno scene, mind you, but of an entire subculture – about his various careers.

Denki Groove – Niji

Let’s start off with your roots. You were born in 1967, so generationally this means that YMO was showing up on the charts just as you became a teenager. You were influenced by them, and then got into New Wave and electro pop.

YMO was the trigger, and then a lot of foreign electro pop acts were introduced here all at once. At that time, it was bands like Telex, or Kraftwerk. It was kinda like, “this is what’s happening overseas.” Then there were magazines; of course there was no internet at this time, but there were magazines that covered New Wave. Beyond that, all you could do was go to the store.

Checking the new in stock bin, I guess.

Right, but that’s really all you could do. I lived out in the sticks, so if a magazine wrote a review of something it would sometimes be gone by the time I got to the store. Then, you had to read the review and imagine it yourself – you’d have this fictional sound in your head for days.

Are there any records that you’ve now been able to listen to after so long? [laughs]

Oh yeah. But sometimes the imaginary sound was better! [laughs] Like, “If you really listen closely to this, it’s kinda boring.”

Haha, I see. So, during your junior high school days you listened to a lot of New Wave, then a lot of electro pop like The Pop Group. From that point on, it seems like electronic music has been a constant for you. What do you find most attractive about it?

I’d have to say German New Wave was really important to me. It was really clear that the German New Wave bands thought differently than the English synth pop groups, and they had a totally different way of using the equipment. They were not throwing synths into a rock group and calling it “electronic.” The equipment was deeply enmeshed in the band itself.

Der Plan – Hey Baby Hop

In a previous interview, you mentioned German groups like Die Krupps, D.A.F. and also the label Ata Tak and Der Plan. These are all bands that do not take the format of a rock group with one guy playing a keyboard.

With the German bands, adding a synth to guitar, bass and drums sounded very strange, very freaky. Maybe you could say that the American and British New Wave or synth pop bands were more polished, or maybe even more emasculated... There were more commercially-oriented bands. Even so, the Germans had a unique sound, and it’s not like they were totally against selling music, they just had a clearly different kind of expression which was very fresh to me.

Soon after, as a junior high school student you yourself started to experiment with making music by overdubbing tapes.

That’s true, but at that time a Prophet-5 would have cost $15,000, and because there was no way to buy it out where I was, I had to do it a different way. I took some organ lessons when I was very young, so there was an electric organ in my house. I would mess around doing overdubs with the organ and a cassette. A friend of mine had a Casio keyboard (the VL-1 series) – of course it couldn’t produce any chords, but you could hear different tones. It’s used in the song “Da Da Da,” by Trio. Anyway, I would use that and make overdubs with it.

I heard you made quite a lot.

The trigger for doing things by myself was not so much YMO but Hovlakin [a group active between 1979-1983 in Kansai, which attracted a cult following for its preposterous lyrics and live performances]. It was like the members were in elementary school: they could barely play any instruments, their songs barely lasted a minute and they jumped from song to song. When I found out about them, I felt: “You don’t need a license to play music.” I took great heart from this.

So this was the point at which you said, “I’ll do things myself.”

Well, even if I’d wanted to do something like YMO, I couldn’t have done it.

By the way, before you started to like music – I guess we’re talking about elementary school here – what did you like?

Gundam. [laughs] I loved Gundam. When I was still a little brat, synthesizer music was starting to be felt as something futuristic. Perry & Kingsley were used in commercials and whatnot. I liked science fiction, and Star Wars, because of their futuristic images. If I think about it now, I guess it’s pretty hilarious. [laughs]

So, then you became a high school student, formed a band with a friend for a short while, and then you started ZIN-SÄY! – a band which has elements of the German New Wave sound, but in which you painted yourself white, Taki appeared as a feudal lord or Doraemon, and some other members of the band didn’t even have instruments, but danced around. Including the lyrics, the band’s existence itself could be taken simply as a nonsensical gag.

If I think about it now, I was pretty awkward at that time. I didn’t want to go out in a normal way. I had absolutely no intention of producing something ordinary. In order to do something extraordinary, all I could do was to create extraordinary conditions for myself.

You met Pierre Taki around the time that ZIN-SÄY! was being formed, and you’ve been with him for the next 30 years.

You know, at first he was an audience member. He came to go crazy at one of our shows. Perhaps he’s consistently done what he does because he has no musical side whatsoever; this is why he could respond to us so freely. He’s a master of the non-musical, a master non-player.

In a previous interview, you’ve said that towards the end, members of ZIN-SÄY! started to use instruments, the band began to arrange itself more carefully, and that this is when it started to get less interesting.

At the end, ZIN-SÄY! became a band. At that point, I had already started listening to hip hop, and I was really starting to think, “You don’t need to play instruments to make music.”

Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon – World Destruction

I guess this must be the late ’80s, but around this time were you starting to move from New Wave to hip-hop and dance music?

The biggest thing for me was “World Destruction,” by Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon. That was the point of contact for me, in terms of bringing together New Wave and hip hop. I was coming from the New Wave side, so it really made me aware of Bambaataa’s presence.

So, if we were to talk about the dance music of DJ culture, rather than New Wave dance music, is that also where you started?

Well, Run-DMC was also popular at the time. I wasn’t yet super into them, I think. In terms of hip-hop, I was blown away when I heard Public Enemy, like, “This is totally different.” It overturned everything I’d thought about pop music. I’m talking about their second album [1988’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back].

What about this album got to you?

It completely changed my impression of African-American music. In terms of a sensation, I realized for the first time that experimental sounds could be used for dance music. I felt the same thing with artists like Jeff Mills and UR, for example. Musically, my roots are in the experience of this sensation. Before that time I’d listened to stuff like electronic body music, but at that moment it sounded silly to me.

電気グルーヴ お花見ラップ (Denki Groove – Sakura Rap) 1990

Around that time, with your changing ideas about music, ZIN-SÄY! split up [in 1989] and you formed Denki Groove, which was clearly in favor of sampling and dance music.

We really liked Public Enemy, and we were really blown away by them, but we weren’t black. We thought it was something we weren’t going to try to do. The real force behind doing something as Denki Groove was Pop Will Eat Itself. They, too, were not sampling funk but the stuff they listened to, like Adam & the Ants. We were like, “ah, so you can do it that way.” As far as hip hop was concerned, we thought, “well, it’s difficult to make it if you don’t have a backstory, and go through the conventions of African-American music.” Pop Will Eat Itself was very different. Then there were groups like Bomb the Bass – these English groups influenced by American hip hop were central to us. Their sound still had some elements of rock, so it was all the easier to pick up. Also there was none of the throaty singing and macho feel of electronic body music.

The sound of acid house was totally different.

In terms of a generation, it wasn’t really about the lyrics and more about samples, or something like the interestingness of a group’s sound.

Around that time, through listening to these English groups I started listening to acid house – and Chicago house too. Chicago house went to England and got louder, as acid house, and I found out about Chicago house through this movement. Around that time, samplers had become widespread, so there was a tendency for people to think, “Hey, I can approach a natural sound even by bashing something out,” but the sound of acid house was totally different. How should I put it – they used the same cheap analog synths that they had when they were students, like they were trying to restore these synths to their former glory, or something. This is one reason why it was easy for me to get into the music.

In that sense, it seems like they, too, were probably also influenced by the way that German New Wave artists used synths.

I really felt like there was a direct connection.

Yet it also sounded entirely new.

Totally. The first time I heard acid house, you know, I was sort of like, “I just heard something I shouldn’t have heard.” I thought the same thing first time I heard The Residents, too, like, “I just fell into a jungle and by chance saw the ritual of some strange tribe.”

So, around the time that Denki Groove started, you did some rapping – in fact, the lyrics were pretty nonsensical, like ZIN-SÄY! First I’d like to ask, why did you rap?

There was the influence of Pop Will Eat Itself, and then there was hip-house, right? That actually had a big influence on me. At that time, even though our sound was maybe “clubby,” we were mostly performing on stages rather than in actual clubs. So, then, as a performer, it was like I had to figure out something to do, but it felt like it wasn’t right to sing lyrics. The words to the songs themselves didn’t have any particular meaning, or it wasn’t like I wanted to transmit anything in particular. That’s still the same today; I mean, if you’ve written something that’s really great, it would be quicker to hand over a piece of paper!

You’re saying it’s fine to enjoy it as sound.

Totally. So, you know, as a style, I thought that putting a rhythmic, rap-like vocal on top of the music would not disturb anything – it wouldn’t come off as awkwardly preachy. Of course it ends up disturbing things, though. [laughs] But hey. At the time I didn’t think so.

At the start of the 1990s, you still had not started to DJ, and in terms of your experience of dance music, we could say that you were only involved with it as a listener who was keeping up with different styles. In other words, you didn’t really have any physical experience of DJ culture, right? To put it conversely, what first made you aware of DJ culture?

Ah, that would have to be Manchester. After putting out a Denki Groove album [1989’s 662 BPM BY DG] on an indie label, we signed with Sony, and we recorded our first album [1991’s Flash Papa] in Manchester. At that time, the yen was very strong, so it was pretty common to record albums overseas, and they asked us: “New York or Manchester, which do you prefer?” It felt like it was no contest – we had to go to Manchester. We were supposed to work with Graham [Massey] from 808 State, but all of a sudden they started to really sell, so it wasn’t the time. The person who was coordinating our recording had some connections at the place where 808 State had recorded “Newbuild,” Spirit Studio. So we booked time there, and got a producer who was friends with 808 State, Tony Martin (of Hypnotone). There was a dude named Steve who was the tour manager for The Stone Roses. He had a really great time in Japan from when the Roses went there, so every night he took us out to all these places – saying “when people from Japan visit, I want to handle it.”

Sounds like an unexpected but ideal guide.

Of course we went to The Haçienda and places like that. Happy Mondays were on tour, and their final performance was a triumphant homecoming at G-MEX, the equivalent of the Tokyo Dome, so we saw that from right up close. Also, a lot of the club music was broadcast on pirate radio. Up until that point we’d listened to groups like Pop Will Eat Itself, which were more like live bands, but we shifted towards a more club music sound. That was a really important experience.

In the early 1990s, it seems like groups took lyrics from recent songs, radio and late-night television programs and sampled them in a humorous way. These samples, rather than the sound, were at the forefront of what they were doing, no?

That was a way to sell a name, so I didn’t really bother. Though actually, I thought that could be a perfectly fine starting place. Later it got really annoying when that’s all people wanted. At the time, it seemed like it made sense to use the tools of the day.

Something at the surface level gets picked up first.

Yes, yes.

To be honest, I really had no idea what a DJ actually did.

So, on a personal level you took a turn towards dance music – towards European techno, and the dance culture of house in particular. While Denki Groove became legitimately famous in Japan, in 1993 you started to DJ on your own. What prompted this?

Let me see. In 1992, I went to London a lot, for fun. There was a club there called Knowledge, where a guy named Colin Faver played. After Manchester, this was a really important place as far as my experience of DJ culture. It had a huge impact on me. To be honest, before that I really had no idea what a DJ actually did. What Colin Faver was doing had nothing to do with my previous concept of the DJ – even though, if I think about it now, the BPM of the stuff he was playing was really fast. That was shocking. I thought, well, I want to do this too. Like, “it’s only selecting songs, but it’s more than that.”

You’re saying that the Manchester experience was in some ways an extension of rock, while the experience of London in 1992 was more about DJ culture.

Yeah, totally. I mean, hey, Manchester at that time was a combination of rock and dance, or, you know, Balearic. When I was going out in London, there was already no rock sort of feeling.

So you probably went after 12-inches with even more dedication.

Oh, for sure.

I read in an interview that as you were starting to DJ, Fumiya Tanaka suggested it to you.

Yes, like “why not give it a shot?” Around that time there was also K.U.D.O. from Yellow, and there were parties connected to the trance scene. I started going to a lot of different things.

I wasn’t experiencing all this in real time, but do you mean events like Twilight?

Yeah, Geoid and so on.

In terms of chronology, it feels like the time just before German trance became popular in Tokyo.


Denki Groove – N.O

After that, you took your overpowering interest in techno and German trance and let it directly influence the activity of Denki Groove. I’m talking specifically about 1993’s Vitamin, which I think you could say develops an acid house revivalist sound as pop. My impression is that this isn’t because you wanted to make this sound more popular, but just simply because you liked it so much.

Yeah, it wasn’t my aim to make it more widespread. But still, in some respects it seemed pointless to try to conceal my own way of enjoying things. I mean, I definitely do not feel any kind of responsibility in that way. To put it another way, I couldn’t do things with that feeling alone.

It seems like Denki Groove was a way to say, “this is the sound that I think is the most interesting right now.”

Yes, yes.

I’m guessing that techno clubs of the early 1990s were mostly just for those in the know, but at what point did it feel like things came together as a scene?

That would have to be the opening of Liquidroom in Shinjuku [in 1994]. Maybe it was because there hadn’t been any so-called “clubs” before, or because it was a place where rock fans could also feel comfortable, but in any case it had a really big presence. It was really broad, both in terms of the artists that it booked, and also in terms of the capacity of the space itself. [It could fit around 1000 people.] They put on a bill with Underworld and Drum Club; this would have been almost unthinkable in those days, given the lack of space. So it was really important for this club to show up. This is when the scene started to expand beyond just people who were clued in. There just hadn’t been anything as big before.

Denki Groove – Mujina

So, in 1994 Denki Groove released the album DRAGON, an album that’s similar to Vitamin in the way that it was driven by your DJ sensibilities. Later albums were a bit different, though.

You could say there’s a natural flow there. But, in my mind there was always a clear separation. I’d never play out a song that Denki Groove had released as a pop single.

Before you were talking about how people were clamoring for these humorous elements in electronic music, and I guess in the same way you could think, “hey, we might regret this later.”

Well, we were young, I guess. If I were to think about it now, I think either way would have been OK.

Takkyu Ishino – 石野卓球 (Dove Loves Dub)

In 1995, you released a solo album on Sony, Dove Loves Dub. Taking into account your DJing, your solo activity grew more energetic. You also started the Mix-Up series, in which you started off releasing your own mix, and continued with mixes by Jeff Mills, Ken Ishii, Fumiya Tanaka, Derrick May – the series was very well-received, of course.

At first, there was a guy at Sony, Hiroishi, and I went to him to ask, “How about doing a licensing deal with some foreign techno labels?” He went out and signed contracts with some labels, and really made a huge push for techno – he created a unit within Sony. “Mix-Up” was one of the things to come out of this. The labels he signed were Warp, R&S, Rising High and so on – pretty impressive if you think about it now. Around the same time, the Denki Groove single “Niji” was released in Germany by MFS [in 1994], and I had the chance to DJ in Berlin as part of the promotion. I’d say that experience was a big turning point for me.

You were accepted at the holy ground, as it were.

As for being “accepted”… I mean, I went there for promotion, so I think it’s a little different. But I approached it like I had gone there entirely to have fun, and my thinking shifted in that direction.

So, you’re talking about your motivation, and the relationships you formed there?

Yes, yes.

Takkyu Ishino – Digibell

After that, your bookings abroad increased, and in 1998 you played at Love Parade. You spend a fairly long period living in Berlin, and produced your second solo album Berlin Trax there as well.

I just thought, “All I want is to be in Berlin.” [laughs] But DJ bookings are only on the weekends, so I had to figure out how to spend my weekdays, and I thought, “well, why not record an album.” Now you can do everything on a single computer, but back then it wasn’t like that, you needed a studio. That’s why I was going abroad a lot in those days, maybe three or four months a year. Spring and fall. No, maybe it was more, like two months in spring and three months in fall.

You spent half a year in Berlin. Is there anything left over from this time that’s still, as it were, alive and kicking? Of course there must be your relationships.

Oh, I think there’s quite a lot… how can I put it? But, you know, the way of being a DJ is much different now. The importance of DJing at clubs has grown so much. Before, it was not possible to be a full-time DJ. Things started to change slowly from about the time that I was there.

At that time, Denki Groove was your main thing, and DJing or solo stuff was kind of on the side, in other words.

I think the relative importance of those things started to switch right around that time.

In 2000, Denki Groove released the album Voxxx, and then went on hiatus. Was this related in some way to the switch you describe between the importance of your two kinds of activities?

Well, yeah, there was that, but that album was really difficult to make – members had been quitting. It was a point of crisis, really. At the same time, in this period my personal activities had taken off, so it was difficult to do both things at the same time.

I’m jumping around a bit, but in 1999 you started WIRE [a yearly rave]. What prompted this?

I wanted to call out May Day, because the difference in scale between the German and Japanese techno scene was so overpoweringly huge. At the end of the 1990s, techno had to some degree been accepted in Japan, but it was still basically only something that you would hear on CD. There were some clubs, but there was no place to go for a large-scale indoor rave. Even if there was something outdoors, that was kind of approaching trance, you know. The scene in Japan was comparatively small, but I thought that there were enough people that it would be good to have that sort of party – and that it was necessary to have it. I had the connection to Berlin, so I thought, “It should be possible to put something together.” That was the trigger.

By the mid-2000s, WIRE was an established event, and the techno scene itself had become fairly diverse. I imagine that it was not your idea to lead the techno scene, but you have certainly become able to connect with it very freely.

Me? Let me tell you something. As the years go on, I feel like I don’t have to be as attentive to every little thing. I’m taking on less. From the start, looking at the people who played at WIRE, I thought that I wanted to just be “one of them.” I think it’s good things have become like that for me.

Up until 2004, you released some solo productions, and while these productions were not pop songs, they were also not “pure dance tracks,” either; you found your own unique balance. The sound was completely techno, but you also found a difficult sort of distance. They were different from Denki Groove, too.

One reason for this is that I was no longer on a major label. That’s not to say that I couldn’t push these things forward on a major label. A major release, and the promotion that comes with it, is totally worth doing, and there are things that you can only do with that backing. But, for example, a club track does not need to be put out by a major; it’s better if it’s not done that way. It’s annoying to have to push an underground track that you just tossed off. This is still the same today, and something like the balance of music is visible here; you can see the division of roles.

Berlin Trax is the only of your recordings where I feel like it was purely a DJ recording. Was that perhaps because of your response to the city of Berlin itself, and also the fact that DJing was just starting to become central to your activity?

There was definitely that kind of feeling, and I thought that if I was going to continue to DJ, there was no need to do it from within the setting of a major label. There’s also the fact that I really like to jump around and try new things. It would be difficult for me to keep that kind of sensibility operating only in that way.

Wouldn’t it be fair to say that, in all of your activity, there’s always been a kind of humor there? For example in the title of your records, or of course in their covers. Isn’t this something that’s present in all of your work?

If we talk about “humor,” we’re not talking about something tacked on for show, as it were. That can sometimes be foul. There’s probably no relationship between my own personal work and a kind of humor that’s trying really hard in this way – although, hmm, in Denki Groove there were more than a few things that were like this. I mean, you try to stay silent but they just kind ooze out. I’m fundamentally a prankster so there was no way around it. [laughs]

Haha, I see. Last year the magazine Idea devoted an entire issue to Denki Groove, with a particular focus on the design of the record covers. Reading the interview with you, it sounds like you came up with most of the concepts. When it came time to physically make the product, were you keenly interested?

You know, I think if there’s nothing somewhat fetishistic about a record or a CD, I probably won’t buy it. As a customer, I know how satisfying it can be to buy a record. When I was on the other side of things, I wanted to produce the covers while taking this perspective into account.

What appeals to you about this product design-like activity?

You mean in terms of the artwork? Ah, there’s so much… Take, our first, you know, wooden box set. I couldn’t do that one, for financial reasons, but to hold that in your hands gives you such a happy feeling. Then, cutaway jackets and stuff like that, I think it’s great. If we’re going to produce something physical, material, then I want to make sure it’s good.

I’m fundamentally a prankster.

So, even though you listen to all kinds of music, your output has been entirely electronic. Why did it have to be that way? Is there something particularly attractive about electronic music?

Hmm, maybe because of the fact that everything can be changed… Or because it changes depending on the way that it’s received, because there is no way to define it, and say, “it’s like this.” I think everyone who likes electronic music understands this. There is a freedom to the way it can be received, and that freedom also extends to the side of the artist. Even if the artist thinks about their music in one way, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it will be understood – but, again, this quality is part of electronic music’s appeal. For example, if I think that an artist represents things in one way, they might actually be thinking in a completely opposite way. [laughs] But, you know, even if I’m completely off, to the extent that I’m enjoying the music I’m still “correct.” Even if I’m wrong, so to speak, it’s still fun, so there’s no mistake.

Whether it’s New Wave, techno or leftfield, there is always something constant about electronic music.

Of course this changes with each generation, you know. Although hey, maybe it’s essentially always the same. I mean, my first impression of acid house was, like you said: “I just saw something gnarly.” This was definitely because it had no defined form. If you think about a rock band, you can call up an image of a rock band playing music in your head, no? But that’s not possible with electronic music, and I think that’s why I liked it so much. Then with Chicago house, it’s like you can’t tell if they’re totally serious, or just fucking with you.

That’s why it’s the scariest.

Yes, yes.

Denki Groove – Superstar

So, if we were to talk about your activity in recent years, you’ve cemented your place as the top techno DJ in Japan, while at the same time, in 2008 Denki Groove came back from hiatus and released the album J-POP. At long last, it seems like you’ve been able to balance your solo activities while still participating in Denki Groove.

Yeah, I think you could say so. There have been times when I’ll be in Europe, and really stretch out my time there, but then come back to Japan and do things with Denki Groove for a short period of time. That can be difficult, because I have the feeling that I have to really dive into Denki Groove if it’s going to work. I do have that time, though.

While you’ve been busy with your DJ career, Pierre Taki has also had a solo career of his own, as an actor and entertainer – he has a role on a TV drama, and he’s won awards for his acting work. So he’s working in a different field, but even so, he continues to sing nonsensical lyrics for Denki Groove, and the two of you continue to work as a perhaps overly unique unit.

Just as I thought, he’s not a musician after all.

From long before.

Not just from long before – now, too! [laughs] That’s why he can’t be compared to other people in his kind of role. But I think that this quality – the difficulty of finding a comparison for him – is his strength. He understands his different roles. Someone could say, “this not a musical group,” and that might bother some people, but not him.

There’s not that kind of definition, you mean.

Even apart from the clarity with which he carries out his roles in the group, and apart from all the different work that he does, what he brings to Denki Groove is totally organized, so it’s very easy to work with him.

From J-POP on, it seems you’ve moved away from pop.

Before, you know, my own DJing could feed into Denki Groove. Now it’s not like that: things I feel, experience, or think about unconsciously can bleed into it. It’s simpler to do it this way.

By the way, even if the way that you use words in Denki Groove has changed, the humor remains unchanged. When influenced you in this way?

It would have to be the manga of Akatsuka [Fujio Akatsuka, 1935-2008, a manga artist who, in the 1960s and ’70s, published a highly influential series of Gag Manga in magazines. He was known for his surreal, nonsensical gags.] He’s been translated but still nobody knows him abroad. [laughs] There’s something Holger Hiller said: “If you layer enough clichés on top of each other, a super-cliché that lies beneath the words will appear.” I really love this – it’s not about transmitting anything deep, but I think it relates to what I was talking about earlier with the idea of representing things through electronic sounds. Akatsuka drew Gag Manga, but depending on how you look at his work, it could become very scary, right? Like, “what if this kind of person was actually near me!” I think there’s a relationship there, and I was definitely influenced by this, because when I was in elementary school I basically wanted to become a manga artist.

Are you still writing songs of your own, for solo projects?

Ah, just recently not at all. [laughs] I just renovated my studio.

Is DJing still fun for you?

Of course. But if it were to become fundamentally boring I think I would stop.

Do you think you’ll eventually get tired?

Hmm, I dunno, I can’t even say myself.

If we were to sum up your activity as a DJ and solo artist, we could say that at the beginning of the 1990s you encountered dance music, in the mid-1990s you immersed yourself in DJ culture, and recently you have turned towards a broad engagement with the scene.

Yes, but your last point is not really a “turn,” in other words it’s not like my activities changed all of a sudden; I’ve just been alive for a while. I think this happens to everyone. “A middle-aged dude totally changes all of a sudden,” you know, it’s totally common. A serious salaryman all of a sudden remembers the red-light district. [laughs] I think it’s a bit different in my case. But hey, the first two things you mentioned were really, really important. My activity today is definitely an extension of those experiences.

By Yusuke Kawamura on October 21, 2014

On a different note