Limitless curiosity: ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U’s bewildering blends will touch your heart and blow your mind

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You often use your sets to shine a light on Japanese electronic music. What are some common misconceptions Westerners have about the Japanese scene?

I’m not aware of what Western misconceptions are, I’m not even sure what the definition of Japanese electronic music is. For example, I can play the minimalist productions of Ryoji Ikeda or experimental techno from DJ Nobu and some tracks from Hikaru Utada, a pop singer/songwriter who also composes electronica. All of this is Japanese electronic music, but very different and none of it fits in the same bracket. When I’m playing, a western listener may think a track is from Carsten Nicolai if I play Ryoji Ikeda.

How does it feel to be able to travel and highlight the incredible music coming from Tokyo?

I’m pretty happy. I didn’t think I would go abroad as a DJ when I started. I got my first passport at age 37 for a Shanghai gig. Now I think DJing is my life’s work.

What do you think separates the Tokyo electronic scene apart from the rest of the world? Can you tell us about any new music/artists in the city that are getting you excited?

I don’t know much about the other cities in the world, but I feel less people come to clubs in Tokyo. So I always try to do the best to move somebody’s heart — that’s the way I’ve been trained. I’m taking notice of gato, a five-piece band. They make traditional “band music” as well as electronic elements of rave, trap, acid, etc. I saw their live performance recently and It was really good.

You’ve said before that your Zone Unknown parties in Osaka and Kobe have a special place in your heart. How does it feel to play in those cities? and how does the music/crowd differ there than in Tokyo?

Osaka is my hometown where I was born and lived until 2019. Kobe is the neighbouring city of Osaka. There are a few gigs in Osaka or Kobe in a year after COVID-19 pandemic, so I feel like coming back and go to see friends every time. Less people go to clubs in Osaka and Kobe, I was struggling to develop as a DJ when I lived in Osaka.

You’ve said that being diagnosed with cancer in 2016 was a big turning point in your life, how do you think your journey through treatment and recovery has changed your relationship with music?

I quit my daytime job in construction after [I was diagnosed] with the disease. I couldn’t continue working day and night and then at the weekend, sleeping three or four hours every night. Fortunately, my DJ fee was increasing at the time, so music got to be my work and it’s the best job for me. Music brings me many good things: new friends, good local foods, travelling around, and moving my heart.

To say you have an “eclectic taste” would be an understatement, Where do you think this ravenous love of music comes from? Have you always had such wide-ranging tastes?

I think it’s from limitless curiosity and an inquiring mind. I just love music, and at the same time I want to make progress as a DJ. My taste was just Japanese pop and rock when I was in elementary school. Then it started getting wider and wider. I started listening to hard rock, metal music in middle school, then alternative rock like Sonic Youth and electronic music like The Prodigy in high school. It’s still getting wider even now.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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