Supercozi: Producer Yukimi Yonezawa finds musical freedom in Bali

supercozi1-380x215One of a few Japanese women electronic music producers to make an international impact, Supercozi (Yukimi Yonezawa) says her new album Bioshifter—the title of which stands for “secret evolutionary process”—represents her growth over a decade as a solo artist. She shared the twisty techno pleasures of the disc and her thoughts on Japan as an outsider, from her home in Bali.

Why did you leave Japan?
The sense of stagnation I felt in Japan became unbearable by the end of 1999. I already had many travel experiences by then, so I was ready to build a new life outside of a familiar matrix.

How does having a career outside Japan compare to staying in the country?
The music industry changed dramatically after the internet became widely available. Where you are located is no longer the critical issue. I welcomed this sea change, because I spent 10 years in the Japanese major music industry, and it was like working in a factory. You have to squash your creativity to fit into the pathetic J-pop system in order to get a tie-up deal with a shampoo ad or something. Compared with this period, running my label outside Japan is like driving a spaceship on my own. It’s fantastic to have unlimited freedom to express myself, releasing whatever I want, and connecting with collaborators and listeners from all over the world.

When you return to Japan, what are your impressions?
There was a mass awakening after March 11 and Fukushima, until Abe’s regime started in 2012. All of a sudden, many ordinary citizens joined SNSs such as Facebook and started discussing nukes, clean energy, our constitution and democracy, forming a new network of grassroots activism all over Japan. Joining a peaceful rally became a normal way to express our concern. This was the biggest change I ever witnessed. But many now practice willful blindness. Sometimes I feel as if I’m witnessing a lemmings march by my own people.

Supercozi Bioshifter Cover

Your posts often criticize Japanese politics. Tell us how life abroad influences your perspective.
Fortunately, I had been always surrounded by people with the mindset of global citizens, no matter where they are from. Being able to exchange opinions on many issues with people of different nationalities inspired me to develop my point of view as a global citizen, too. And yes, I’m very concerned about the current trend of Japanese politics to drag Japan back to the mindset of the pre-war era.

How is life in Bali?
Bali has an ideal balance for me. First, Balinese Hindu culture and Balinese people’s charm remain strong. I fell in love with Bali in 1995, and am still amazed how they maintain their spiritual calmness despite the tsunami of globalization. Of course, there is a huge negative impact from overdevelopment, but Bali still has an unchanged charm if you go to the countryside. Second, Bali has a truly eclectic international expat community—so many creative individuals from all corners of the world. They mix dynamic thinking and an artistic approach in a peaceful lifestyle. I love being here.

There are still very few female DJs. Why do you think that is?
To be a professional DJ for the long term, you need an otaku mentality toward music. You’ve got to spend years developing the knowledge, and keep up-to-date. Looks like males are more equipped for digging into the long tale of the music industry for hours and hours than females. Also, there are technical skills involved to be able to deliver a good mix and adjust the sound to fit each venue. It’s a multitask job that requires wide knowledge and technological ability.

Give us some insight into the making of Bioshifter.
The album is a nice mix of chillout: Slow, sexy techno tunes, and slightly twisted electronica. I’ve got a few exciting featured vocalists, including Sophie Barker from Zero7 and MC Reason. I’m also working on a new album from Zen Lemonade—the unit with my husband Gus Till. It’s a full-on dance album, a mix of techno and progressive psytrance.

Tell us about your label, Hypo=espresso.
I founded it in Bali in 2005. We mainly release our own creations. So far we’ve released six albums. But I like this pace and Hypo is my life’s work. Sounds from Hypo will mature as we get older and absorb more things. It’s nice to have a personal platform like that. We just released an ambient compilation, Music For A Rainy Season, as a limited-edition CD, and it’s selling pretty well already.

For more info, check out www.supercozi.com or http://facebook.com/supercozi

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Padmasana II: Asia expats head back to the chillout room

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Almost a full generation since the first Western tripsters blissed out to sunrises on the Eastern beaches of Goa and Koh Phangan—and 13 years since their last album—Padmasana take up where they left off, providing the sonic downward glidepath for nights of electronic music and mind expansion. The duo of veteran Asia hands and occasional co-producers Gio Makyo and David Hikari (both at times Tokyo residents), with spiritual advisor S. Widi, expertly guide listeners on mood journeys via tracks such as “Transition” and “Vibration.” The musical references are as much to Indian ragas and Jamaican dub as they are a knowing wink to the 90s ambient house of The Orb or Subsurfing. The intriguing aspect of Padmasana 2.0 is that the music sounds good even without the presumed benefits of ecstasy or LSD. Is this because it brings the listener back to a certain time and place? Or because well-produced chillout music was always mind-expanding enough for it to stand alone?

Metropolis, Jan 7, 2014

Richie Hawtin: Japan’s evolving love affair with Plastikman

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Metropolis tracked down pivotal Canadian DJ and producer Richie Hawtin aka Plastikman to hear about his evolving relationship with Shibuya superclub Womb’s annual big room extravaganza and get his take on the state of electronic dance music two decades after he emerged from the Detroit techno scene.

How did you first become involved with Womb Adventure?

I’ve been very close to the Womb gang for many years now. Six years ago they started to talk about doing a larger event, and all of Womb’s international DJ partners encouraged them as we’ve always felt there was a place for a special one-off event for techno and house in the Tokyo area. Of course there are and have been other large-scale electronic music parties in Japan, but Womb, with so many direct contacts to the international DJ community, was in a great position to offer a new type of lineup, and therefore a new type of event.

How has the relationship evolved?

My relationship with Womb has come full circle, starting as a business partnership when they first booked me as a DJ, then developing into a close-knit friendship with some of the core Womb team, and now again, uniting that friendship with unified business and creative ideas to bring my own special shows to Womb Adventure (ie. Contakt, Plastikman Live, Enter, etc).

What have been some of the high points so far?

Hahahah… they are nearly all highlights! Of course, presenting Plastikman Live at Womb Adventure was an absolute killer experience, but the most heartfelt gig was just after the tsunami when we came to do a Minus Hearts Japan benefit gig. We all wore our hearts on our chests and played music together bringing help, happiness and warmth to our Japanese fans.

Tell us about your plans for this year’s Womb Adventure and the development of your Enter showcase.

The Enter events are a marriage of high technology production values and the best possible DJs and music that electronic music has to offer. This year we’ll be combining favorite performers—like myself, Gaiser and Josh Wink—with some of the most interesting up-and-comers, including Recondite and Bella Sarris. Along with the performers, I’ll be bringing my entire audio, visual and lighting team in order to create the perfect synchronization between all the elements you need for a great experience.

When we first spoke a decade ago, you were experimenting with virtual DJ gear. Tell us about your continuing relationship with technology.

A decade ago I was one of two people touring the world with virtual DJ technology (i.e. the ability to play and mix digital music files). Now there’s hundreds of thousands of people adding to the tradition of DJing and mixing music together. Today it’s common for a DJ to mix with turntables, CD players and digital controllers separately, or even in combination. The past ten years have been a truly exciting revolution, and to be part of that from the beginning has been one of the most satisfying parts of my career—to really see and be part of a technological revolution that has changed the way we play and even listen to music.

Electronic music is being repackaged as EDM. How does this look to you as an early exponent?

There’s always been a form of more commercial or popular electronic music. The music that I create, produce and play has maintained a certain position within the greater world of electronic music—a position that has allowed it to flow freely in creativity and continue to develop. The more visible commercial level has always been there, it’s a product of what we do… and whether they call it new beat, trance or now EDM, that component will always be there.

You are a frequent visitor to Japan. What is your perception of the current club scene in Japan relative to the world?

Japan actually seems to be somewhat resilient to the more commercial forms of EDM, which is exciting. The scene in Japan seems to be slowly moving towards a more “unique” sound of electronic music rather than a more homogenized EDM sound. That’s great!

Why do you think music came to be?

Music exists for many reasons: for transmitting messages, emotions and creating and sustaining memories.

Tell us one thing we don’t know about Richie Hawtin that will help people understand what drives you to be a DJ and electronic music producer.

Swimming allows me to continue to have the focus for renewed evolution.

Metropolis, Dec 6, 2013

DJ Emma: Up close with Tokyo’s hardiest house DJ

Going back to the heady early days of Tokyo’s house music scene and fantabulous clubs like Gold, DJ Emma was there. Two decades on and he’s still there, behind the decks at Tokyo’s biggest discotheques, ministering the gospel of classic house music to the faithful. Metropolis tracked Emma down for a quick Q&A on the occasion of his latest dance remix album for Daikanyama club Air.

Metropolis, Sep 5, 2013

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