|Playing favourites: Kenji Takimi
RA sits down with one of Japan's most respected selectors.
Ask around in Japan about house and disco, and you won't get too far without the name Kenji Takimi coming up. There are a number of reasons for this: His label, Crue-L Records, has been at the forefront of alternative Japanese music since the early '90s, presenting acts like Cornelius and Buffalo Daughter alongside work from dance favourites Theo Parrish and DJ Harvey. The label has also been home to his own music: Takimi's projects include Crue-l Grand Orchestra, Luger-Ego and Being Borings, the latter of which was responsible for one of last year's under-the-radar gems in Love House of Love. (You can hear some of it on his label's recent collection, Crue-L Café.)
DJing, though, might just be Takimi's first love. His career has taken him around the world to festivals like Electric Elephant and putting together celebrated guest mixes on Beats In Space. As such, we decided to venture into his studio to chat about some of the records that have touched him through his long career behind the decks.
Alien Sex Fiend
Ignore the Machine (Special Electrode Mix)
If I had to choose one New Wave record, it would be this one. The original was released in 1983, but this version was released two years later. Alien Sex Fiend used drum machines, keyboards, vocalists and all these other instruments that made the band a really unique set-up, and the tape edit that Sanny X did was great—kinda like the Latin Rascals—a really interesting New Wave dance track. I can't really play this track now, but when I listen to it occasionally I'm always amazed by it. It's got elements of acid house, house, electro and it also has a roughness that makes it sound like a tape mix, which was important for me. I feel like this track has actually had a big influence on my life.
What kind of influence?
The meaning of the title, for one! [laughs]
The End of the World
Brilliant was a group formed by Youth, who was a member of Killing Joke, and Ben Watkins, AKA Juno Reactor. After they joined a major label they were joined by Jimmy Cauty who created the KLF later on.
Although their first record sleeves had images of Greek gods and Dante's Divine Comedy, I didn't get why they suddenly switched to just putting their logo and some pop artwork on the sleeve. But it piqued my interest, so I bought all of their records. At that point, it was called "New Wave funk," and to be honest you couldn't really dance to it. [laughs]
Out of Brilliant's many releases, why did you choose this one?
I started to listen to their lyrics differently around 2000, and I began to play them at the end of parties. This particular track is a really cheesy country cover, produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman, which is part of why it's such a miraculous song. I mean, Jimmy Cauty released "Chill Out" with the KLF just four years after that. And with Ben Watkins, it was kind of a super group. Now the band probably doesn't want to see this record's jacket. [laughs] But I think it's still really cool. At the time, it was just after punk and just before rave, and I was really interested by the UK New Wave scene that was really into fashion and magazines like The Face and i-D.
Lack of Love
This has become a classic acid house track. Just a bit before "Lack of Love" came out in 1988, I first heard house music on a compilation called The House Sound of Chicago, and the first thing I thought was, "Oh, this is Alien Sex Fiend, but without a vocal." At that time I was listening to other house music tracks, like the single by Fine Young Cannibals under his different moniker—2 Men A Drum Machine and A Trumpet—or Style Council's "Promised Land" and the Blow Monkeys' "Choice?" Those two singles made me realize you could take house music as soul music. The distance between the two genres [wasn't so big] thanks to those two records.
"Lack of Love" is a great vocal track as well as a great acid house song, isn't it?
Yeah. It also has a good bassline, one that I'll always remember. Like, Mr. Fingers' "Can You Feel It?" is obviously a classic, but for me the version with Martin Luther King's speech sample in it left way too strong an impression on me; it's message is too strong. This 12-inch was released on a UK label, maybe that's why it stuck with me. The bassline in "Lack of Love" is so visceral, it's amazing. I think it's one of the best dance basslines ever.
My Bloody Valentine
Glider EP Remixes
I thought about choosing "To Here Knows When," but I thought in terms of dance music one of Andrew Weatherall's mixes would be appropriate, so I chose this. Back then—and even now too—what was great about Weatherall was that he sampled records that were out almost at the same time as his and blended them so nicely. [laughs] This remix uses Westbam's "Alarm Clock," for example, as well as The Grid's "Floatation (Sonic Swing Mix)" and The Stone Roses' "Waterfall" which he sampled and put into the remix as soon as it was released. It has kind of a wild and rough feeling. I think it really captures the real essence of DJ music.
On the Nest
In the four years between My Bloody Valentine and DJ Harvey's Black Cock there was a lot going on your musical style. What kind of changes were there?
After the "second summer of love," there was a part of the Japanese scene in '91 and '92 where high-tension trance, techno and progressive house were all strictly divided. At the time, I got that they were separate and I was buying secondhand soul and dance records. Then I remember standing in front of the enormous stock of some secondhand record store in the UK and realizing, "Wow, there's something here that I don't know!" It was a shock, and I suddenly felt quite humble. But now this is one of the records that I play the most. I think Gat Décor and Lamont Dozier are two more that I also found surprising around that time.
What do you like so much about Black Cock?
I thought their first release, "Disco Adjustments," was pretty cool as a disco edit, but it was their second release, On The Nest, which attracted me by the way these undulating sounds are kind of messily melted together. There's a percussion-only track and a disco edit, and I didn't know that the original was "Vinegar Stroke," a reworking of Kikroko's "Life Is a Jungle." I thought it sounded like acid house. I really liked the fact that this completely different track had been put in with the other three, as well as the roughness of the edit.
You hadn't heard of Harvey at that point, had you?
Because he'd come to Japan I'd heard of his name, but I hadn't connected him to Black Cock. I wanted to feature Black Cock as a remixer for my Crue-l Grand Orchestra project. And in '95 I got someone to introduce me to Black Cock and then I found out that was Harvey.
And the result of that was the "Time Moves On" remix by Harvey on the '96 album The Remixes.
Yeah. I had imagined the Black Cock production would be kind of rough, but he came up with a really tight remix. [laughs] At the time he was struggling with his own production rather than edits, and I think that he accepted the offer because of that.
You've known each other for a long time. What do you think you have in common?
Just like with Weatherall, you can tell by his sound that he isn't just a normal dance DJ. A good DJ can make old or uncool music sound fresh and cool. I have always been attracted by DJs like that, so in that way he is sort of my mentor. When I visited his house in Camden around 1996, I saw his Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin records right in front of his equipment room. And I was like, "Oh, I see!" I finally got where he was coming from. Before getting to know dance music well, I'd listened to various kinds of music, and I now weave that into a house music BPM and structure. This record told me that there are other people like me all over the world.
I've liked Sound Stream ever since he started editing records. His stuff has had a huge impact on me, and it's very useful for my sets. I think I've always got something of his in my bag. The way he slots the cuts together, the beat and the pauses and the way he handles his equipment—it's just amazing. The way he arrived on the scene was similar to the way Tiger & Woods and House Mannequin did in Germany.
You've done a lot of edits under different names. What makes a good edit for you?
Uncovering things people haven't heard before, songs that DJs can use. Also, more than merely changing the sound, bending the axes and making something completely new. Going beyond the boundaries. That goes for DJ sets and production too.
There's been tons of edits since 2000, hasn't there?
I think one thing is that they're easy to make—I think many of them are actually remixes, not edits, where people have been a bit lazy and not gone the extra mile with them. It's rare that you encounter pieces where you can get a sense of the kind of mood the DJ was in when he was making it. Like Tiger & Woods, who put more emphasis on an interesting production than the brilliance of the song. It comes down to which one you want to focus on. But I think either approach is fine.
Café de Flore
I've always been drawn to music with a strong French flavor that is also a dance record, and "Café de Flore" is the epitome of that. It's completely timeless and the remix is also great. I used to go to France a lot to record for my own label in the '90s and I bought tons of records, even just for their sleeves! I've been playing some of the ones that got buried in that pile for years… The chord progression, the melody and the way the chorus is laid into it, really brings out this clear Gallic sound.
It really embraces the Frenchness without being afraid of it, I think.
You could say this about soul music too, but I think that France has had a lot of times when a huge number of first-class musicians were recording music. The stuff that French musicians were producing in the '60s and '70s was amazing. You have to mention Francois de Roubaix, for example. It was when I recalled his style that I came up with this [Doctor Rockit] as one of my choices.
There's even some samples recorded at the Café de Flore in this mix, isn't there?
Yeah. Although he wanted to try and create this illusionary Paris with this record, you can really get a sense of the actual atmosphere at the café when you listen to it.
For the People, By the People
The last track is by James Baron, a member of Crazy P, for his solo project.
This is like the grandaddy of all the middle tempo boogie tracks that have been released recently by people like Mark E. The message is really good, and whenever I play this at the end of a party, just a little slowed down, it keeps the mood going. It's great. Usually after about five years of not playing a track I go back to it, and so I've come to play this record again.
It's 24 years since you first started DJing. I guess you periodically go back to the tracks that you've bought and played throughout that time.
It's more than that. Even the records I bought before I started DJing and the ones that I bought afterwards just to listen to, without the intention of playing them in sets...they're all important to me. I mean, obviously DJs have a tendency to judge music on whether or not you can use it, but before I started listening to dance music I just listened to music for enjoyment. I've also always found it interesting to listen to other styles of music as if they were dance music.
Although I think it's an important skill for today's major DJs to be able to play hit songs well, with good timing, I'm also always trying to show that some songs people have never heard are great too. I really think it's pretty difficult to strike a balance between those two things these days. There are some DJs who kind of create a pattern when they play, and others that try to draw a picture, and amongst minimal and progressive DJs since the '00s there's been a big tendency to be the former. I think I'm more the kind of DJ to try and draw a picture when I play.
I think it's good to play stuff people haven't discovered, which is why there is a positive aspect of archives on the internet such as Discogs. But, on the other hand, it sort of makes it less enjoyable to dig out unknown records because everyone can look them up so easily.
I agree. You can find entire discographies at the click of a finger and they will recommend you other similar stuff to that. But, to be honest, I don't want to actually listen to all of it and I would prefer to come across stuff spontaneously instead.
Maybe we're getting machines to give us too much information. On the other hand, although it's getting harder to play records that people haven't heard of, there's still music that will never be archived, and the people who are into that stuff intend to avoid archiving it. There's lots of that kind of music, really good stuff. The point is that you find it either by exploring yourself or through someone you know.
Translation / Sophie KnightPublished / Thursday, 19 April 2012
Photo credits / Naoko Maeda