Interview in Wax Poetics Magazine Japan #27
READ INTERVIEW (Japanese)
interview by Danny Masao (Wax Poetics Japan)
1. Let’s start with your background in music. Could you tell us a little about when you first started doing music? Who were your early influences?
I started djing around 1996, and my influences at that time were a lot of other DJ’s, including The Beat Junkies, the Skratch Piklz, and the X-Ecutioners. I really strived to be a good battle DJ, and turntablist, but I was always a few steps behind really good DJ’s i used to battle with, so I decided to focus on production since I was already recording music on my own, and dabbling a little in making beats. And slowly but surely it evolved into what i do today. And of course I took influences from a lot of the music and producers I grew up listening to. ATCQ, De La Soul, Dilla, Sound Providers, Premier, Pete Rock, etc.
2. Your first full-length, “In With Time” and your second album with Question, “Study Guide” was first released in Japan. How did that go down and what was the feedback like for these albums? Do you feel Japan has a deeper connection with the smooth, jazzy side of hiphop than America?
A few years back I was able to release a few projects with a Japanese label that approached me. One of the projects was In With Time. When me and Question finished Study Guide, we had the help of our friend, DJ Tonk and his label Milkdipper to release the album.
Definitely Japan has a strong connection with the jazzy side of hip hop, and I think that’s helped me release a lot of my music with Japan, and I believe America’s early jazz driven hip hop has greatly influenced the sound of Japan’s hip hop sound.
3. Let’s talk about “Midway.” This was originally released in 2010, and it’s being re-released in Japan as a special edition with bonus tracks. How did this re-release come about? Are these bonus tracks cuts that didn’t make the album originally, or songs you produced after releasing the original in 2010?
Midway was a collection of beats that I made in 2008 up to it’s release in 2010. It was my first release with Mellow Orange. We actually released a different version with a Japanese label for Japan in 2010. So there’s a few different songs included in both the Japan version, and the original release. We made a double CD release for Midway through Mellow Orange, which included bonus tracks, and the instrumentals from my first album, In With Time.
4. What kind of an album is “Midway,” to you?
Midway was a collection of instrumentals that I felt best represented me as a producer. I wanted it to show a little bit of my diversity, so i tried to incorporate tracks with different vibes.
5. While your first album In With Time featured several vocalists, Midway was completely instrumental. Do you feel your tracks work better as instrumentals?
It’s a lot easier to put an album together if you’re the sole artist involved. When working with a handful of artists, it could be a lengthy process finishing songs, because different artists work at different speeds. Although putting out instrumental projects is fun and less time consuming, I still really enjoy working and vibing with artists.
6. Your earlier work is more jazz sample based, and your recent work feature more synths and instrumentation. In your mind, how has your music style changed over the years? What caused the evolution?
Before, my setup was basically a computer, a sampler, and a turntable. As time went by, my setup grew to more instruments, synths, and other misc gear. So as my studio got bigger, and i started learning new things, it helped my sound evolve more. Other than the equipment itself, other people’s music around me also influenced my sound throughout the years.
7. You recently released your latest album, “Fiberglass Kisses” (Amazing album btw). Did you do anything differently on this album compared to “Midway?”
You’ve definitely evolved more as a producer since Midway.
I wanted Fiberglass Kisses to have a central theme and sound. Midway was all over the place (which i wanted). I wanted to mix hip hop with a little of the “future” sound, but with more soul. And since it was a “Love” album, I got a handful of singers to help me with the overall vibe.
8. You’ve also released quite a few free tracks and EPs. You are very generous with your music. Do you feel this is something an artist needs to do in order to stay in the game?
I have a lot of music in the vault, that’s just sitting there. I want to share a lot of it. So that’s why I post up a lot of free stuff. Sometimes I think to myself, “maybe I should’ve saved that track for something else.” but I just end up giving it away for free. Which is okay because I know i can just make something else.
I didn’t want to be a “sleeper” artist, where I would only be releasing something every few months or years. I know there’s a lot of younger listeners that can’t really afford to spend a lot of money on music, so I try to give free music as much as possible. Even though I release free music, I encourage everyone to purchase music when I have it for sale.
9. You’ve released a few digital-only releases also. What are your thoughts on releasing music exclusively as a digital release versus releasing music on physical format?
Honestly, it’s just easier. ha.
When you’re trying to release projects on a physical format, it can take maybe a month or 2 to even receive the finish product in your hand. When you release a project digitally, it takes only a few days. For me, I like to take my time on projects that I have really invested in, so I’m willing to wait for the physical CD or vinyl for release. Also, I just flat out like having a physical copy of music. Nowadays, anyone can release something digitally, but I feel if you’re truly serious about your music, you’ll release vinyl, or CDs at least.
10. While we’re on the subject, let’s discuss vinyl in particular. You and Question have a Podcast series where you guys mix using only vinyl records. At Wax Poetics we celebrate the analogue aesthetics of listening to music on vinyl. Do you still buy vinyl regularly? How important is keeping the vinyl culture alive for you?
I still enjoy collecting and playing vinyl. I’m not as active as my man Question, but it’s something I’ll never stop doing.
There has been a big boom in the vinyl collecting culture in the past few years. Not entirely sure what sparked it, but a lot of young kids to adults are really into it now. It’s really good seeing people get into it, or start to continue where they left off. Hopefully they’re collecting vinyl because they love music, and not just because it’s a fad.
11. Tell us a little about your production method. I’ve seen your videos on YouTube, you obviously are a multi-instrumentalist. How much of your music these days is sample-based, and how much of it is instrumentation? Do you ever make sample-free tracks? How has your production style changed over the years?
I really try to balance it all. Some days I really want to sample, and other days I want to create something completely original. Over the years, i’ve just tried my hands at a number of instruments and experimenting with new sounds, with some working out well more than others, and just incorporating those sounds and techniques into my production which help me create the music that i want, and importantly, music that i enjoy creating.
12. You recently gained some attention after Joey Badass rapped over your track “Waves,” and when he performed that song on Jimmy Fallon, The Roots performed your beat. What was your reaction to the whole thing? Have you heard from Joey Badass since then?
I actually got an message from Joey’s manager the day of the performance, and caught it on TV that same night. It’s pretty surreal having the legendary Roots perform a song I produced. I’ve always been a big fan of The Roots, and to have a band of that caliber and talent play your music is unbelievable.
13. Last year, you toured in Japan with Ohmega Watts (great show btw!). What was that like? Did you feel the crowd in Japan was different than the crowd in America, or the West Coast?
That was my first time in Japan, as a performer and traveller, so I was extremely excited. I really enjoyed my stay in Japan, although, the Summer in Japan in no joke. It was so hot and humid, but other than that, it was great.
Our first show in Tokyo was great because it was a handful of different people from all over the world, not just from Japan. So the crowd was really nice. and there’s definitely a different vibe from Japan and U.S. Sometimes I feel it might be just a language barrier when we were performing, so it was a good thing we had our label head, Yusai, with us to translate. ha.
14. What artists are you checking for these days? What artists would you like to collaborate? You’ve mentioned in past interviews that you are a fan of Jazzy Sport. What Japanese artist are you especially into right now?
I listen to a lot of artists here and there. I’d just like to work with artists that have the similar outlook on music as me, and artists that share the same vibe, regardless of stature.
I’ve always been a fan of the Jazzy Sport camp. They’ve continually put out quality music which I always enjoy listening to, and other than the Jazzy Sport artists, I also like Mabanua and the guys from Ovall and Origami Productions. I like Kan Sano, DJ Kentaro, Krush, Nujabes, and a handful of other artists.
15. Can you give us a little hint on what projects we can expect in the future?
Hopefully another Japan tour?
At the moment, I’ve just been working on some misc stuff, and hopefully a project or full length album will come out of it. And just helping with other Mellow Orange projects that we have geared up for release.
Oh we’ll definitely be back for another Japan tour.
Thanks again! peace!