Friday, December 26, 2008

The Dead Lego Project

The Dead Channel posse is a net-label based in the north of England (in Leeds, actually) which aims to serve as a vehicle for the transmission of electronic music that has little, or no, other outlet. They feel that lots of amazing music is never heard due to lack of such an appropriate outlet, and aim to provide one for as much quality electronic based music as they can.
Their releases can be downloaded for free in high quality MP3 format, and include full-colour artwork, as well as embedded art for MP3 players. The site is updated with new releases on a regular basis, and news can be found on their dead-channel blog.

Just a few days ago, Dead Channel released the sizzling Lego Project compilation, and they’ve released an array of other cool music over the past 12 months, all of it FREE.

Iffy Bizness forced a confession of sorts out of these people just before Christmas, and this is what they had to say:

How was the label set up, what was the underlying purpose, and does this initial inkling continue to be your modus operandi?

"Well, the label was set up by me (Chris Kubex) and my housemate, Ant (Orange). We’re both part of an electronic music collective here in Leeds, England, called Gonzo. Dead Channel was initially developed as a platform that Gonzo artists could use to share their music, and gain exposure from it. But the quality of unreleased music we began to be exposed to, not just within Gonzo, but from all over the world as people sent us demos, meant we ended up releasing stuff by artists from America, Greece and Japan, as well as from Leeds and the UK.

"The internet is the new frontier in terms of where people go to find new music. We’re happy continuing down the path of offering high quality, free electronic music releases, as it’s proved to be the most successful way we’ve found to get the music out there and get our artists noticed."

What are the perimeters of the label - if any?

"I guess, in musical terms, we tend to favour the outside edges of mainstream electronic music; not veering far enough into the experimental to seem pretentious, not veering far enough into the mainstream to be considered ordinary or boring. At least that’s what we try and do, but on an unconscious level. We get given or sent a lot of music, and we just release the music that strikes us as interesting.

"As far as design goes, the perimeters are slightly more rigid. We set out with a resolution to make the quality of the releases high, even though we were offering them for free. So all come with full-colour CD artwork (if you choose to burn your own) and embedded art for iPods and media players. The design aspect plays a big part in Dead Channel and indeed Gonzo, and we do tend to favour darker, more tech-orientated imagery. It also seems to suit a lot of our musical output. We do try and make sure however, that we don’t appear to be overly serious... that’s what releases like One for the Ladies are all about."

What actually is Dead Channel music?

"Well, I wouldn’t say that there is a Dead Channel ‘sound’ per se, but like I said above, we seem to sit on the outside edge of mainstream electronic music, between the experimental and the dance floor, veering occasionally like a drunken person... or something.

How would you assess the label’s progress in 2008?

"It’s been really good; we’ve definitely been surprised by the how Dead Channel has grown in its short life. The response from people has been really positive, and we’ve had help to spread the word of Dead Channel on an international level from artists such as Little Nobody, Dimomib, and Noisepsalm.

"We’ve also been happy to bring our local artists to a wider audience. People like Micoland, Prod, Sofaboy... I have to stop here because the list would get too long; we’ve been aware of the talent base here in Leeds for some time, now we’re just happy to share it with a wider audience."

Which artists do you work with, and how did you get involved with one another?

"Well the Gonzo collective all have different backgrounds and come from all over. Mostly, people met while at university, or after moving to Leeds from various other cities. The area of Leeds we all live in is quite bohemian, and conducive to spending life being creative, making music, putting on parties and getting by how we can. We all share this ethos, so naturally gravitated towards one another, finding a shared love of electronic music, art, drugs and debauchery.

"The main core of Leeds-based Gonzo artists connected with Dead Channel include myself (Kubex), Ant (Orange), Gwylo, Micoland and Naffdogg, but me and Ant take care of the general running of the label. We’ve also got artists from far and wide, such as: Dimomib (Greece), Noisepsalm (USA), Little Nobody (Japan) and Caulfield (London) to name a few."

What plans do you have for 2009?

We have some exiting releases that we’re planning on putting out in the early part of next year, including a new EP from Leeds legend—and former Rephlex artist—Headcleaner, a new album from Gonzo lynchpin, Gwylo, and new releases from some of our other established artists. We’ve also got some new compilations we’ll be working on, as well as introducing some brand new names over the coming months.

"We also have a new monthly Gonzo party happening in one of the most exiting clubs in Leeds from January, and there has been talk of possibly hosting a Dead Channel event sometime next year, bringing together the extended DC family. We have some exiting events planned for summer too... buts let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

"(Semi) regular updates on Dead Channel and Gonzo can be found by joining our Facebook group, or by visiting our blog."

Any special messages for all the kids reading this at home?

"Er... download our music? It’s cheaper than booze and fags. Hope this is OK; got a bit stuck on this last question!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

13 Years of IF? Records

Z-13.1: 13 Years of IF? Records, Vol. 1
Various Artists
(IF? Records - IF046)

It’s somehow appropriate that this new compilation from IF? starts off with a brand new track by current Melbourne electronic music enfant terrible, Pat Stormont, and it finishes on a track recorded in 1995 by Zen Paradox—the same city’s undoubted techno/electro elder statesman, and a man still amazingly relevant 13 years later.

Which is exactly how old IF? Records itself is this year; the baby that was also kick-started - again in Melbourne - in 1995, is now an unwieldy teenager.


Over the years, both in the studio and on the live stage, IF? has worked closely with fellow Melburnians Steve Law (Zen Paradox), Voiteck, TR-Storm, Little Nobody, David Haberfeld (Pura/Honeysmack), Artificial, FSOM, Q-Kontrol, Adam Raisbeck (Soulenoid/Sense), Guyver 3, Son Of Zev, Isnod, Nordcore, Blimp, David Thrussell (Snog/Black Lung), Beam Up, DJ Fodder, Kandyman, Amnesia, and Mute Freak, and more recently Pat Stormont, Bitch Shift, Cuznmatt, and Enclave.

Since relocating to Japan in 2001, we’ve also taken on board a wad of cool Japanese artists including Captain Funk (Sublime/Model Electronic), Toshiyuki Yasuda (Megadolly), Magnet Toy (Trope), Mumeishi (TTAK), Yamaoka (Holzplatten), Dick Drone, Admiral Anderision, Masaya Sasaki, Shin Nishimura (Plus Tokyo), Naotoxin, CHIZQ, and Alone Together.

Other international artists involved with IF? during the past 13 big ones (or set to in 2009) have included Si Begg, Tobias Schmidt, Dave Tarrida, Thomas Heckmann, Biochip C, Jammin’ Unit, Jason Leach (Subhead), Pnau, Cinnaman (Dirty House), DJ Hi-Shock, Pocket, Brixton, Tal, Steve Cobby (Fila Brazillia), Dr. Walker, Gene Farris, Paul Birken and Steve Stoll.

This time around, the intention was not so much to glorify the label’s 13 years (which probably wouldn’t have a hope of standing up to such glorification, anyway, given the slack way in which it’s been run over the years by this particular hack), but to continue what we’ve always tried to do: Showcase our current favourite artists (especially new ones) and musical directions, give diversity a healthy shake, and put the spotlight on our city of birth, Melbourne, along with our adoptive home in Japan—then the rest of the world as well.

The brilliant artwork is by IF? flyer artwork veteran and former Zebra mag cover designer, Haydn Dean, at Ennis & Perry.

Cheers to all the artists involved, and for god’s sake go check out their own music. These guys seriously rock.



1 Pat Stormont - Badly Grounded
2 CHIZQ - Broccoli
3 Jammin’ Unit - Where Distinguished People Congregate (2008 Version)
4 DJ Hi-Shock - Dark Pop
5 Jason Leach - Decomposed (Little Nobody remix)
6 TR-Storm - Sulphur Burn
7 Little Nobody - Bonny Voyager (Veronica du Lac remix)
8 Son Of Zev - Flyboy
9 Pat Stormont - You’re A
10 Xtronik - Leal
11 Sebastian Bayne - Driving Sideways
12 Little Nobody - Metropolis How?
13 Bitch Shift - Wicked Pitch Of The West (Schlock Tactile remix)
14 Son Of Zev - Missing Parts (Ernst Borgnein und Wolfgang Klein’s Last Cadaver mix)
15 Zen Paradox - Tubetribe

You can find out more about our aging label over on Discogs.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Alone Together: The Beginning of Human

“We make techno music like we draw manga!”


We have a brand-spanking-new release knocking about this week, through our rambunctious label IF?, a digital download offering available exclusively via Addictech, and it’s from Japanese artist par excellence (as the French mutter), Alone Together.

Also known as Yuki Ota, he’s one of the truly innovative (nice) guys here in Tokyo, and even Toshiyuki Yasuda thinks Yuki’s unique and crazy. We consider his stuff wild, scattered, amazing, eccentric, and way way cool—precisely IF?’s cup o’ tea.

Yuki remains deceptively low-key about his occasionally madcap electronic sounds. “I am a broken piano player,” he says on his MySpace site. “I practice Broken Piano theory in Alone Together.”

Yuki also informs that he plays (and creates) pop music that’s not currently part of the Alone Together play-list, using his real name as the production alias.

Yuki’s debut Alone Together EP is titled The Beginning of Human, and you can check out the video (above), or samples of his tracks online @ the IF? d/download site

Iffy Bizness: Who or what is your No. 1 inspiration when you make music?
Yuki: “Computer technology.”

Some people compare your music with Si Begg, Toshiyuki Yasuda, Cassetteboy and Luke Vibert. Are they influences?
“I didn’t know them. But I searched for them on YouTube, MySpace... Their music is very individual and experimental. I like their music.”

What exactly would you call your own music?
“I call my music Broken Piano and Sound Collage.”

So how is it unique?
“This is a difficult question. I make the music that I want to listen to. I don’t make music when there has already been the music that I want to listen to in the world. There may be some kind of connection there.”

s your favourite Japanese action movie?
Battles Without Honor and Humanity, by director Kinji Fukasaku. Quite simply it’s a cool and clear movie, and Bunta Sugawara is wonderful.”

Do you like J-Pop or Enka music?
“I like some Japanese musicians—especially CHARA. I really love her music and a voice.”

Whos your favourite Japanese musician?
“CHARA (チャラ), Shibusa Shirazu Orchestra (渋さ知らズオーケストラ), and Kazuki Tomokawa (友川かずき).”

In a grand master bout between Godzilla and Mothra, who’d claim the golden glove?
“I’ve never watched any of those movies.”

Whats your favorite Japanese food?

Finally, why is it that Japanese techno and electronic music is so darned cool?
“In my opinion, the Japanese cannot sing like James Brown, and we’re poor at using the body—but we like to imagine. The sequencer gave us the means to express that imagination through music. And we make techno music like we draw manga!”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Robot crooner

Robo*Brazileira is my singing alias, a fictitious Brazilian robot,” Toshiyuki Yasuda patiently explains to the unenlightened. “For me, the robot is one view-point with which to see ourselves, as humans. To see us cautiously, I think I must have external eyes.”

Thus espouses one of Japan’s best electronic musicians, a man revered equally by Si Begg and Uwe Schmidt (Atom Heart, Señor Coconut)—and by me.

There’s a brand-spanking-new insight online:
Beatportal interview with Toshiuki Yasuda.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Toho Studios, Japan

OK, so you’ve seen the famous logo, and maybe you’ve been privy to essential Japanese classics cut in this monopolizing studio system.

Located in a surprisingly wealthy part of Setagaya, here in Tokyo, is the sprawling home of Toho Studios. Not only is Toho the largest and most famous film studio in Japan, but it’s the owner of one of the more internationally famous film logos, pretty much on par with MGM’s roaring lion, for those of us more inclined towards Asian cinema.

On location at the studio, you’ll discover a collection of sound-stages, outdoor arenas, Toho cattle-branded milkcrates that’d sell for a wad on eBay, and massive warehouses—plus a stream lined with gorgeous cherry blossom trees, all of it originally set up in 1936 by railroad and showbiz entrepeneur, Ichizo Kobayashi.

After pumping out propaganda films during World War 2, Toho overcame a brush with bankruptcy and disfavor with the American occupation forces to unleash a wad of critically successful and international regarded movies by Akira Kurosawa, such as this blog’s ongoing infatuation, Seven Samurai, a scene from which is now boldly embossed across the outer wall of the studio (see happy snap attached here).

It’s at least 10 meters high, and you can’t miss it when you visit.

In 1954, Toho also changed the science fiction world when they released the first Gojira movie—better known to you and me as Godzilla—and followed up with over two dozen sequels.

Toho’s star has waned in recent years, but the studio continues to produce movies in conjunction with Japanese TV companies like TBS.

One such collaboration has been the upcoming Masahiro Nakai/Yukie Nakama WW2 drama, 私は貝になりたい (Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai), a movie to be released in Japanese cinemas on Nov. 22nd, but which oddly keeps changing English titles, from I Want to be a Shellfish to, more recently, I Want to Return to the Family.

Toho is also a major distributor for smaller production houses, like Asmik House—the company that unleashed the Ringu movies—along with anime studios Production I.G and Studio Ghibli.

Wanna see more of these venerable premises? For an automated guided tour, head here:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

'Robota' is now out there, McDuff!


(IF? Records/Hypnotic Room)

Some covert obsessive-compulsive angles don't change, like the rather scatter-brained Little Nobody infatuation for things robotic (and rusty tin ones, to boot).

The name of the new Little Nobody EP is 'Robota', and for this one we shanghaied Japanese producer Toshiyuki Yasuda (one of Si Begg's favorite musicians, and who just finished working with Señor Coconut, a.k.a. Atom Heart) into the arrangement, to do gorgeous, robot-style vocoder vocals as Robo*Brazileira.

The resultant track, with accompanying remixes by Funk Gadget (that's me again, under another silly alias) and Dick Drone, was released today in the digital download terrain via IF? in conjunction with Hypnotic Room, on Beatport, etc, and it's just been remixed by Steve Stoll and Jammin' Unit, so look out for those wild versions early on in 2009.

In the meantime, the rather crazy original version here is already getting some club and radio airplay in Japan and over in the UK, as well as on 2SER in Sydney and 3PBS in Melbourne. More info and feedback from fellow DJ/proddies is online at Hypnotic Room here:

We also just got a review from those fellow misguided souls at Robot Société magazine, which we'll use here for a semblance of propaganda rather than ranting on ourselves:

"Welcome to the future, old school robotic style - think Underground Resistance lobbed back into the soundtrack for Forbidden Planet, tin-pot robots from the '50s let screw-loose within a 21st century tech/electro studio, thereby creating future-funk-breaks never before encountered this side of Isaac Asimov's id. While the humor and the playfulness are oh-so-gleeful, the technical virtuosity and depth of imagination, along with the canny understanding of an open-minded, carousing dance floor, are themselves superb."

So, what to expect?

Check out Hypnotic Room's site for freebie sample sounds, or head off to the YouTube & MySpace clips (blogged below) for a dose of Robota zaniness. Stylistically, the Andrez + Toshiyuki mix is waywardly and loudly barnstorming tech-breaks, while Funk Gadget goes more kitsch-mechanical, the sparser moments colliding with killer, machine-based wind-up frequencies. Dick Drone heads off in grander, more ethereal, clicky and glitchy territory.


01. Robota (Andrez & Toshiyuki Mix)
02. Robota (Funk Gadget Remix)
03. Robota (Dick Drone Remix)

Something for all the disconcerted family!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jammin Masters

So, you’re a naff musician, and you honestly believe your next track is the one that’s going to break the bank and clamber through the charts, thence to send muzak mag editors and hack journos into a feeding frenzy, right? But who’re you going to call to do the all-essential mastering and tweaking and, better still, cut you a superb remix to go on the flipside of your metaphysical, best-selling record?

Ahh, that’s when you conjure up Berlin, Germany, and the studio of Jammin Masters, who promise to help with track preparation, sound-, dynamic- and stereo field processing, digital editing, restoration, sum & difference (M/S), stem- or separation mastering, and general laying-on of hands.

This isn’t just some mild-mannered, anonymous studio—this is the hall of (musical) justice, where musician Cem Oral is at play. I first met Cem in Sydney about 12 years ago, when I stuck an IF? sticker on his shoe. We’ve stayed mates since in spite of that, but it’s his own musical tinkering that continues to astound me.

Cem is the guy behind aliases like Jammin’ Unit and G 104, plus he worked as Air Liquide and Madonna 303 with Dr. Walker, Ultrahigh with Roger Cobernus (a.k.a. Kerosene), and as Cube 40 with his brother, Can (Khan Of Finland). With Cobernus, Cem also ran the utterly brilliant Pharma label in the 1990s.

So, yeah, this guy has history. He’s also one of the coolest, nicest lads to work with, and a great mate. He’s our captain of mastering prowess—the guy we call when we need a much-needed hand. And, better yet, he’s now offering Financial Crisis Rates’.

What more could you ask for?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Here's the original version of ROBOTA

Check out this video: Little Nobody feat. Robo*Brazileira - Robota

Big thanks again to Toshiyuki Yasuda, and the nice feedback from Steve Stoll, Jammin' Unit, etc! This one will be released online through IF? and Hypnotic Room, but first up through the latter, this coming 12th November.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

new LITTLE NOBODY hack video

Little Nobody feat. Robo*Brazileira - Robota (Funk Gadget remix)

This one will be in November 2008, through IF? Records and Hypnotic Room in Sydney—big thanks to Toshiyuki Yasuda (aka Robo*Brazilieira) for his yummy vocoder vocal work-out, and DJ Hi-Shock for running with the beastie.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Smoking ’em while you’ve got ’em

Yesterday, I got to be a gaijin extra in a TV drama for NHK (the Japanese equivalent of the BBC, or Australia's ABC).

It’s not like I was a wet-behind-the-ears extra—earlier this year I worked for 4 days on Watashi wa Kani ni Naritai, which focuses on the same time-frame (just after World War 2), so you could call me extra-battle-hardened, if you lack a decent quip that’s actually funny—which is precisely what I’m lacking as I write this crap blog.

Anyway, back to the point here, maybe I chose to delete certain parts of that previous experience, and romanticize the others?

If, by standing around for 15 hours in a chronically airless, perpetually artificially daylit, smoke-filled room that’s doing the dopplegänger thing for MacArthur’s GHQ in Tokyo, in 1945, it sounds like fun—then perhaps, indeed, it was just that. Hah.

The highlight was my promotion—no longer was I the gate-pushing PFC MP of that first picture; no, this time I was a pen-pushing GHQ lieutenant in a swanky new uniform.

And I did get to natter on about nonsensical subjects with Matt, my mate from that first shoot back in February (this time inexplicably forced to wear fancy red braces), and a new lad, Peter, fresh off the boat from the U.K.—who’s really a bonafide actor, set to be on stage doing the Bard thing in Ikebukuro next April.

Along with them and the 37 other hapless ring-ins, we were locked up, badgered, flattered, cajoled, encouraged—but fed no lunch, as that wasn’t included in NHK’s budget plans. Maybe I should’ve paid the NHK viewer fees after all.

The film’s title is Shirasu Jiro, and it stars a couple of actors from a swag of favorite Japanese flicks: Miki Nakatani, from Tetsuya Nakashima’s Memories of Matsuko and Ringu, and Yusuke Iseya, from Casshern and Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django—as well as the voice of Kimura in Tekkonkinkreet.

While Nakatani was MIA, Iseya was on the set and turned out to be a very cool, charming individual who responded to the nobodies around him and had a superb voice far more impressive than you’d picture emerging from the tonsil area for a man his age (he’s 32). Coming from someone who waxes obsessive about cinematic vocal cords (George Sanders, Basil Rathbone, and Vincent Price are among my iPod’s aural highlights), I figure that's saying something.

And going by the shots we glimpsed in between standing, smoking like chimneys, grumbling, swapping barbs on pumpkinite, singing ‘Greensleeves’, and paper-shuffling, it looks sweet.

There’s no beating a smoke-engulfed, cavernous hall, with ’40s-clad people and typewriters, to capture that Blade Runner-cum-noir feel for the big picture.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kiichi Nakai in 'Samurai Gangsters'

At the bustling Tokyo International Film Festival today, I got to snatch a vacant seat—which was kind of easy, 'cos strangely very few people were actually there—at the screening of the new vehicle for Kiichi Nakai.

The guy is one of the favored actors of this el drabbo blog. Long(ish) story why I have such an ongoing affection for the guy: think a touching dramatic turn in Yojiro Takita's Mibu gishi den (When The Last Sword Is Drawn, 2003), and a side-splitting twist as a cowardly samurai boss with ill-fated fame in his tea-leaves (something to do with a bunch of 47 ronin), in the 'Samurai Cellular' episode of Tales of the Unusual (2000).

He also kicked arse as the most compelling ninja perhaps ever on screen in the flawed, but passably brilliant, Fukuro no shiro (Owl's Castle, 1999).

Anyway, Nakai's new movie is titled Jirocho Sangokushi ( Samurai Gangsters), and relates the tale—surprise, surprise—of a bunch of kind-hearted yakuza headed by Nakai's steely, yet compassionate title character, Jirocho. Think jidaigeki comedy/drama, with moments both hilarious and tear-threatening. Nakai doesn't disappoint, and neither does another fave, journeyman actor Ittoku Kishibe (Zatoichi).

While nowhere near the territory of Owl's Castle, with plot-holes and moments bordering on mundane and directionless, overall I loved the beast. There are some wild action set-pieces, and the vamping, Elvis-looking main villain is a complete hoot; it's a damn shame he wasn't utilized more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ein Kleiner Schelm interview

Here it is, up on Beatportal—our German teutonic techno bud, Mexican wrestling masks and all:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mamoru Oshii helms KILL

This one's having a hack at the unsuspecting at the Tokyo International Film Festival this week, and had its world premiere on Sunday night at same:

Kiru ~ KILL.

Simple title, and pretty uncomplicated, if unusual, premise: A live-action, 4-story omnibus romp that's themed around swordfight scenes and classic slice'n'dice katana blade moments that've been set up as if they were the climax of longer dramas.

Directors: this rubbishy blog's long-time favourite, Mamoru Oshii, plus Kenta Fukasaku, Takanori Tsujimoto, Minoru Tahara; Cast: Yoko Fujita, Rinko Kikuchi, Takuya Mizoguchi. In other words, ambrosial.

Take that, Roget. I looked this one up in my trusty, online

By the way, before I completely forget—you can snap into the Kill preview right here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

National Film Center, Tokyo

Located right next door to Ginza, just a minute from Kyōbashi Station, is one of the more obscure gems in this treasure-trove of a city.

The National Film Center is an integral part of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and the whole building here—first developed in 1970, then entirely rebuilt in 1995, to a design by architect Yoshinobu Ashihara, who built the nearby Sony Building—is a shrine to all things cinematic.

It’s dedicated to the preservation and research of cinema, is a full member of the French-sounding Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film (probably because the société is French—it was set up in Paris in 1938), and this year there are retrospectives of local auteur Masahiro Makino (2008 is the centenary year of his birth), along with prolific French writer/director, Jean Renoir.

Also expect screenings of silent movies from the 1920s, by Teinosuke Kinugasa, through to more obscure classic Japanese cinema like Nigorie (1953), directed by Tadashi Imai—starring the sublime Chikage Awashima.

In addition, the 7th floor permanent exhibition includes books, posters, memorabilia and periodicals on cinema, in particular Japanese.

The collection includes 30,000 films, 20,000 books, 30,000 scripts, 42,000 posters and 372,000 still photos. They say that in their promo material—match those figures if you can. I’m still counting my personal collection.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SI BEGG on digital download guff

“For me, it’s about the music first… I don’t care if it’s on wax cylinder, taped off the radio, a gatefold-vinyl, or flac download. A tune is a tune, is a tune.”

At last count, Si Begg had at least 50 available digital download releases on Beatport alone, plus a wad over on this blog’s favourite digital downloader, Addictech.

Si Begg is the guy, Ken Ishii once told me, that was up there with the best producers on the planet, the man who has released mesmerizing records under multiple other aliases like S.I. Futures, Buckfunk 3000, Lenny Logan, Cabbage Boy, and Dr. Nowhere versus The Maverick DJ, for labels such as NovaMute, Tresor, Ninja Tune, Scandinavia, Language, Trope, and his own Mosquito and Noodles imprints.

Back in 2001, he released The Complete Death of Cool. In my book, it was the album of the year as much for its hilariously eclectic, musically brilliant content, as for the sardonic title. It came as no surprise then that when I interviewed him straight after the record came out, he told me a lot of producers took themselves way too seriously.

Given his extensive experience with vinyl and CD releases of his own music (check out his entry on Discogs, and you’ll likely be bamboozled), plus his work with his labels, it’s downright essential to get his take on the digital download phenomenon.

“For me, it’s about the music first… I don’t care if it’s on wax cylinder, taped off the radio, a gatefold-vinyl, or FLAC download. A tune is a tune, is a tune. Of course, packaging and design do have a role to play, but it’s about the music first.”

There are, however, downsides, he suggests. “There are now so many releases to wade through, it can be hard work. 12-inches were a nice design ‘object’, and I still believe vinyl played on a decent system sounds better.”

The upsides?

“It has massively democratized parts of the music business, especially in the dance and electronica fields,” he assessed. “We’re getting closer to a more level playing field, where major labels don’t call the shots so much – in theory, a small label on Beatport has just as much chance as a major to get noticed and shift units.”

He’s on a roll with this theme. “You can release multiple versions of the same track for barely any extra cost, which leaves far more room for experimentation—why not stick up that weird track you thought was too ‘out there’ for the vinyl release?

“Even if it only sells 10 copies, it doesn’t matter. It’s easier to get stuff worldwide, with no high costs for the punters buying imports, and also far easier to get hold of the releases you want, rather than having to deal with anal or elitist record shops, and so on.”

On a final note, he echoes the sentiments a lot of like-minded peers are floating right now.

“I find that most people who are anti-download fall into two camps: Greedy people who think it makes the music easier to share, therefore will cut back on their profits – do you want people to hear your music? Or make money? – and the elitist types who liked the fact that they were one of only 800 people who had that rare Juan Atkins release on Metroplex, and enjoyed being part of a select ‘club’ of other anal types, and hate the idea that now just about anyone can download those rare tracks for a quid or so.”

The rest of this interview is stuck up on Beatportal here: Firesider with Si Begg. And the lad did a lovely remix of my Little Nobody track, We Call It Crack House, which you can check out by double-clickin’ here—sneaky propaganda bombadier beetle #22.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Izakaya Culture

A gift to the fine art of wining, dining, and partaking of vast amounts of beer—without ever quite letting you feel like an alcoholic.

I love your standard
izakaya; they're one of the Japanese gifts to the fine art of wining, dining, and partaking of vast amounts of beer—without ever quite letting you feel like an alcoholic.

The food is sensational, and it runs the
gamut between hideously healthy (sashimi, for example, which is the stand-out for me) to frighteningly fatty (my favourite of these latter treasures being a standard dish at most izakayas: ika.

Think glorious, full-cholesterol Kewpie mayonnaise swamped over oily, fried squid. Yum).

Then there are the dips into daring: basashi (raw horse meat) and shishamo (grilled smelts that are stuffed with roe and that you eat whole, head and tail and all, with a smidgeon of that ethereal mayonnaise I mentioned). For the even more adventurous, think raw octopus mixed with wasabi, and you might be lucky enough to stumble across inago—grasshoppers cooked in miso.

Izakayas are located everywhere all over Japan, from smaller towns to the metropolises like Tokyo and Osaka (where they’re basically on every corner, downstairs in basements, hidden up alleyways, and up above you on the 5th to 17th floor of towering buildings.

While the wet-towels (oshibori) at the beginning of proceedings serves to wipe away the grime of a hard day’s whatever and the grit of Tokyo pollution, the service from the hyperactive, eternally smiling staff is awe-inspiring stuff.

Even better, if you don’t speak the local lingo or get the gist of kanji, there're picture menus (the ones for the larger establishments are often fold-out contraptions in excess of one square metre) to get you through the experience, and they even rate the calories included in each dish and drink.

I could go on and on. I worship at these places, and I'd speak in tongues to demonstrate this devotion, if I just knew how. Frustratio iracundia.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008



Ever feel like you've been thrust into a '60s revisionist version of WW2?

Not so much Catch-22. I'm thinking instead of 1965's The Battle of the Bulge, helmed by regular Disney director Ken Annakin, starring journeymen soldier actors Henry Fonda and Robert Shaw.

Far be it for me to tart up the battle itself, but I'd like to draw your attention to a subplot in that movie. It was one that related to the real-life, dueling-scar bearing German Waffen-SS commando, Otto Skorzeny, who assembled a unit of English-speaking German soldiers, dressed them up in American and British uniforms and dog tags snatched from corpses and POWs, and operated behind ememy lines (here read our side) to misdirect traffic and generally cause disruptions aplenty.

Operation Greif was nicknamed the Trojan Horse Brigade, as the Allies mistakenly believed Skorzeny & Co. were planning to kidnap or kill their commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The general was subsequently assigned a look-alike in Paris, while thousands of American MPs were waylaid from more important chores, and put to work instead trying to hunt down Skorzeny’s men.

The American MP bit is vaguely ironic, because this February, I got tapped on the shoulder to play an extra in a Japanese movie set just after WW2—as an American MP.

And I'm Australian.

None of the other 12 gaijin roped into the movie to play American MPs were from the USA, either. Russian, sure. French, German, Brazilian, British, another Australian. The closest we got was one Canadian.

Which brings me to the Battle of the Bulge reference.

Weird as it may have been to see so many people wearing WW2-era American GI and MP uniforms, more surreal was the fact that the majority of these "soldiers" didn't speak English without a heavy accent, and they preferred rattling on in Russian, French and—yes—German between takes.

It was like those phony enemy infiltrators from the Bulge all over again.

Oh yeah, but we each had tags to prove our international flavor. These read "Gaikokujin", which is basically another reference to gaijin, or foreigners—as if it wasn’t already obvious that we (collectively) stood out on the set like sore thumbs or dismembered left feet, with our white helmets, wooden truncheons, faux M1 Carbines, and menacing scowls.

One of the reasons for these scowls was the cold weather; another the god-awful coffee on offer. A third was the title of the movie itself. It's one that a lot of people here seem to have trouble translating into English: 私は貝になりたい Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai. The title has been variously interpreted, but seems to shape up best as I Want to be a Shellfish, and is listed on under this moniker.

The preview is up on YouTube here:

Due for a theatrical release on November 22nd here in Japan, the movie stars actress Yukie Nakama (Trick, Shinobi, and one of the hottest faces in Japanese advertising right now), alongside Masahiro Nakai—a member of domestically über-famous J-pop band, SMAP.

Unfortunately, in my first two days on set doing the MP rounds, I didn't get to see either of these people (I later did get to meet Nakai-san at Toho), but it was February, a particularly cold winter, and the shoot was outdoors. No doubt they were somewhere cushy and warm with their feet up, laughing at the outtakes.

Instead I got to push and pull heavy prison gates, and wandered dusty streets with an actress dolled-up as a particularly unattractive prostitute. Going by this movie, all post-war hookers in Japan were hideous creatures, and American MPs six decades ago must've had remarkably open taste.

My only aspiration in this wasteland of extras was to ride about in the white on-set military jeep, which the Brazilian and the Canadian MPs got to do on both days. Lucky bastards.

They were the escorts for the military bus, on which rode Nakai's character, Toyomatsu Shimizu, who's been abruptly arrested as a war criminal following the cessation of hostilities in World War 2, and is now being tried for murder even though he believes he's not guilty of any wrong doing.

This story was also made as a TV drama last year, for NTV (, starring Shido Nakamura from Letters from Iwo Jima and Death Note.

It's based on autobiographical notes by Tetsutaro Kato—during the war years, reputed to be one of the more brutal commandants of Niigata 5B POW camp, located 160 miles northwest of Tokyo—under the pen-name Ikuo Shimura.

During the subsequent occupation, Kato was tried and found guilty of an array of sordid activities, including beatings which left some POWs permanently disabled, and was sentenced to death by hanging for the bayonet execution of an American prison escapee named Frank Spears.
In 1959, Kato's yarn was adapted into a screenplay, dramatized, and directed by Shinobu Hashimoto—a man better known as the co-writer, with Akira Kurosawa, of Seven Samurai (1954)—and the movie starred Frankie Sakai, of Ghost Story of Funny Act in Front of Train Station (1964), and this blog's fave, Mothra (1961).

The ending was also vamped up to tweak the tragic.

Whereas Kato's sentence was conveniently commuted by Douglas MacArthur, thanks to family connections, and he left Tokyo's Sugamo Prison on good behavior in 1952, the fictional Toyomatsu Shimizu goes all the way to the noose.

Prior to his execution, Shimizu writes a long-winded farewell letter to his wife and son, the gist of which says that if ever he were to be reincarnated, he would hate to come back as a human being, and would prefer instead to be a shellfish living on the bottom of the sea.

Hence the strange title of this affair.

While Kato no doubt had a lot of time on his hands during his initial interment for war crimes, Sugamo Prison was an interesting place for the conjuring up of the original tale.

Built in the '20s to a European blueprint, the prison was located in Ikebukuro in Tokyo, on the site that the 60-storey Sunshine 60 building now stands, erected in the '70s as part of the Sunshine City shopping metropolis.

It's confided that the ghost of wartime Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo—himself an executed Class A war crim—haunts the retailers there, but in amenably Japanese style: after closing time.

So it came as some surprise to find myself dressed in that American MP uniform, standing beneath a huge sign that read "Sugamo Prison", with a big blue back-screen that'll no doubt be used to superimpose the CG ring-in for the prison complex itself.

My VIP job in this all-encompassing human drama?

Ceremonial gatekeeper. Sure, I got the helmet, the gun, and the girl. But I also had to drag two huge prison gates open and closed again, open and closed again, ad infinitum, as the director and his extensive crew shot and re-shot that white jeep (with the Brazilian and the Canadian) and a military bus driving through, for about eight hours all up.

Even more interesting, it seemed, was that the other gate-keeping sentry doing this manual labor was also an Aussie.

60 years on, Americans are, it seems, too busy for such mundane chores in Japan—as are the British, French, Brazilians, Germans and Russians.

Give the job instead to the newer kids on the block. It's a job that may in fact suit our talents, if you take into account that 220 years ago Australia started out as a penal colony.

Bah; humbug.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Godzilla vs. Mothra

“Mothra would go down in flames, and probably smash into Tokyo Tower for extra effect, if Toho had any say in the big fight.”

Japan—the country that created vital cinematic stars Godzilla and Mothra—continues to immerse the world in some scintillating anime and manga, and is the home for the otaku—a term that loosely translates as ‘geeks’, but (perhaps) takes the notion further still into obsessiveness and occasionally creepy social ineptitude.

With these concepts in mind—and carrying much hidden emotional baggage that will remain rather churlishly unspoken here—I set about doing an inept and somewhat pointless vox populi of some of the newer DJs and producers on the block, all of them here in Tokyo and established and/or undoubted rising stars, with the goal of attempting to discover common answers to some less-than-world-shattering concerns.

Q1: In a grand master bout between Godzilla and Mothra, who’d claim the golden glove?

"I'd definitely support Godzilla," assesses technopop musician, Tomoko ‘Electron Tee’ Terasaki. "He's much cooler—and, besides, I hate moths!"

Techno DJ/producer, Shin Nishimura, agrees with Tee, except for the bit about anathema towards the common streetlight variety of moth. "He'd win by jumping and punching with that tail of his," Nakamura visualizes.

DJ and producer, Naoto Yamazaki (a.k.a. Naotoxin), nods. "He—or is it actually she?—is bigger than Mothra, and more powerful."

While producer, Yuki Ota (a member of eclectic electro outfit, Alone Together), just shrugs—"I've never watched any of those movies," he swears in a sincere tone—Ota's compatriot, Chichi (a member of the electro/industrial duo, Dick Drone), is far more animated and assured.

"Mothra would go down in flames, and probably smash into Tokyo Tower for extra effect, if Toho had any say in the big fight," he says.

The rest of this story shows up and scars the pages of the November 2008 issue of Geek Monthly magazine, out shortly.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tokyo Marble Chocolate

“In spring, we have fun under full-blossomed cherry trees, eating and drinking and romping around with our friends. Then, of course, you need to be careful not to quaff too much booze...

Right before it made its debut at the 20th Tokyo International Film Festival last October, Tokyo Marble Chocolate whipped up a wee bit of a local cinematic feeding frenzy and sold out all seats to the show within one day. I know, 'cos I missed out on that screening.

It's no surprise, really, when you take into account the caliber of talent and the subtle ingenuity behind this two-part animated sensory banquet masquerading as a contemporary Japanese love story.

While that might sound kind'a sappy or dangerously teary, think again, and you can tuck away the Kleenex.

The director is Naoyoshi Shiotani, who previously worked on Blood+ and did the key animation for The Prince of Tennis. Even more impressive is that fact that the anime production studio behind the experiment is Production I.G, famously responsible for the animated sequences in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, and Mamoru Oshii's superlative Ghost in the Shell movies.

Scripted into an appropriately love-lorn recipe by Masaya Ozaki, Tokyo Marble Chocolate's pre-baked inspiration was cooked up by two resident BMG Japan musicians (Japanese rapper and hip hop artist SEAMO, a.k.a. Naoki Takada, and J-Pop duo Sukima Switch, lesser known as Takuya Ohashi and Shintaro Tokita), and the brew put together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of BMG – just after I.G had celebrated its own double-decade.

The anime was awarded the Grand Prize in the Feature Film Category of the 12th Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival (SICAF 2008), held in Seoul, South Korea, in May, 2008.

“It's a bittersweet love story,” Shiotani told me late last year in an interview we put together for Anime Insider mag, outlining the two principle protagonists – named Yudai and Chizuru – in one very bizarre love triangle.

“It's one story told twice, meaning that you see the events from Yudai's perspective, and you can follow the very same story seen from Chizuru's eyes in the second chapter. Despite the fact that the two characters are standing in the same place at the same time, what they see and what they feel turns to be quite different. I wanted to show all that.”

This is set to be the couple's first Christmas together, yet the duo end up spending it stressfully apart, thanks in no small part to a hyperactive miniature donkey wearing a nappy (or diapers, as the Yanks like to say)...

“It's probably the most funny and absurd creature appearing in the movie," Shiotani admitted. And he's absolutely right – it's brilliant.

I like Shiotani. When I was doing a story on the Japanese all-consuming fad for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties earlier this year, he was the most down to earth and amusing respondent.

In March or April, depending on when precisely the nation's cherry blossoms (sakura) decide to unfurl, millions of people unfurl their own blankets in crammed public spaces, ostensibly there to watch the delicate, snow-like shower of flowers. Yeah, right. Mostly they want to catch up with friends, impress the boss, drink vast quantities of sake, carouse, get drunk, sing, and be raucous in exceptionally un-Japanese ways. These parties often stretch from daytime into the night (when the name is changed to yozakura), and lanterns hung up to drink by and warble prolific.

“We Japanese enjoy the different feelings and peculiarities of each and every season,” Shiotani deadpanned.

“In spring, we have fun under full-blossomed cherry trees, eating and drinking and romping around with our friends. And the sake you drink, surrounded by pink cherry petals dancing in the air, is somehow tastier than usual. In Japanese, we have even coined the word, hanamizake – which refers to the sake you sip under the cherry trees. Then, of course, you need to be careful not to quaff too much booze...”

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cocaine Speaking

Okay, so what we have here is the single most infectious groove to land in my lap since this whole Mix Doctor thing began. So much so that a guy walked in and caught me doing the Shake ’n’ Vac dance.

Yep, we cracked DJ Mag - the October '08 issue (see above). Page 142, in the Mix Doctor section.

We submitted Little Nobody's original 1999 'Mind-Bending Remix' (by me and François Tétaz) of the Little Nobody vs. DJ Fodder track, Cocaine Speaking, hacked together earlier that same year by me and Jeff Willis.

That track was released on a Kiss-FM (Melbourne) compilation through Shock Records in 2000 ( under the DJ Fodder moniker, with Little Nobody credited as remixer as well as co-producer.

Then we released it on the Little Nobody album, Action Hero, in 2000 (

Also that year it turned up in Sydney on 12-inch vinyl on the Nine09 label ( under the name Little Nobody vs. DJ Fodder. Are you confused yet? I am, and I'm one the people responsible for this fine mess!

Anyway, this obviously begs the question: why submit the track for consideration almost a decade later, in a magazine section devoted to up-and-coming new stuff?

Well, I never was one to resist a spot of mischief, and the fact is that it never really got all that far outside of Australia—although the now-defunct Muzik mag over in the UK bizarrely described it (in 2001) as "A bit like Gordon Brown breaking off from talking about monetary policy to dance the can-can. And we all know how great that is."


Truth to tell, the fact is that we're also in the process of resurrecting this brute of a track—we're collaborating with Sydney's Elektrax and Hypnotic Room imprints to serve up a slew of new remixes, including ones by Dave Tarrida and Mijk van Dijk, shortly.

So, we submitted the original to DJ Mag to see what they had to say 9 years after the track was hobbled together (without telling 'em that)—and they were surprisingly spot-on about the age:

Little Nobody vs. DJ Fodder
‘Cocaine Speaking (Mind-Bending remix)’

Okay, so what we have here is the single most infectious groove to land in my lap since this whole Mix Doctor thing began. So much so that while I was hoovering the studio floor (always the best time to listen to new tunes), a guy in the adjacent studio walked in and caught me doing the Shake ’n’ Vac dance.
Now,putting my shame aside for a second, there is LOTS that needs to be done to the production before you could play it in a club to full effect.
Firstly, the kick just is not nearly phat enough, so that the whole track sounds like it is about ten years old. The bass too, though full of old-school charm, doesn’t have any new-school weight, so I think it needs to be layered a little more.
Also, as the track stands, the loops also sound a little loose and old-school, but put a current kick and bass under them and I think the track will move smoothly from out-dated to retro, so that’s not the end of the world.
Finally,as much as I love the simple arrangement, I think just a tiny bit more needs to happen, whether it’s some chopped up bits of the vocal or a few more of the cool edits, some delays on the master output in places or anything of that nature.
At the end of the day, though, I did dance to it, love the groove and in an industry full of well-produced and finely polished turds, it’s great to break through a dirty veneer of basic production and find a golden nugget of an idea gleaming inside.

IFFY BIZNESS Sydney tour, 2001

Heh-heh... a mate of mine just drew my attention to this unseemly propaganda tidbit that's still hanging round on Sydney's 3D World site, some 7 and 1/2 years later...
Maybe it's time to hit the delete button now?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Robo*Brazileira - Toshiyuki Yasuda

It was always one of my vague plans to do a remix of Toshiyuki’s Robo*Brazileira stuff. Such nice vocoder work... but we never got round to it. I bet loads of other folk would be up for doing mixes, too… ack... one day.

So lamented Si Begg last week, in one of the desperately quickie e-mail exchanges we occasionally get around to having.

We were talking up Japanese producer, Toshiyuki Yasuda
, who just did some crazy über-Kraftwerk, “Robo*Brazileira” vocoder vocals for my Little Nobody track, Robota. You can check out the unmastered, lo-fi version of the collaboration on YouTube here:

Anyway, Toshiyuki is one of my current favourite Japanese producers, along with Tatsuya Oe (Captain Funk) and the HIFANA boys, and he recently finished working with Uwe Schmidt/Atom Heart (in the man’s ulterior Señor Coconut guise) on Around the World With Señor Coconut and His Orchestra.

Toshiyuki’s also just unveiled the Autumn Session album, in collaboration with Pecombo, on his own label, Megadolly
–just in time for the autumn season in the northern hemisphere, and fashionably out-of-whack for those of us hailing from the deep south, like Australia.
He also has some interesting things to say about Japan in the next issue of Geek Monthly mag.

By the by, if anyone here is manly enough (or should that be “personally enough”? I always confuse my PC tags) to admit that they don’t quite get what a vocoder is, or how it works, check out the informative background lore thrown up on the suitably vintage Wendy Carlos vocoder Q&A page.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The producer asked me to join the project, and I thought it would give me excuses to draw girls with nice curves and nice bottoms. Did I say that their wardrobe resembles underwear…?

So recently admitted director and character designer, Kazuhiro Takamura—who helms the new Gonzo anime series, Strike Witches—in an interview we did together last month.
Natch. Check out the show's overt iconography, and you'll probably agree.

Shimada also designed the somewhat techno-curvy “Mecha Musume” toy series for toy manufacturer Konami, which have been dubbed anything from mecha-shojo by otaku in Japan, to “moe anthropomorphisms” on Wikipedia. The picture that accompanies this piece was snapped at a recent Tokyo toy show, where the Strike Witches figurines were showcased to rather enticing effect.

Think shapely female figures whose bodies have been integrated with bits and pieces of real-life airplanes, tanks, and other military hardware, most of it retro in nature, and harking back to World War 2. And that's just the start.

14-year-old Yoshika Miyafuji, whose late father designed the Striker Units, is a sergeant in the central outfit, the 501st. Her legs are modeled after the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane. Then there’s fellow sergeant, Lynette Bishop, whose Striker Unit is based on the famous British Spitfire fighter, Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke, who has the German Messerschmitt Bf-109G Striker Unit, and Charlotte E. Yaeger—who bears the American touch with legs attributed to the P-51D Mustang.

By the way, if some of these character names are also familiar, that’s because they’re based on famous real-life ace pilots from WW2.

Takamura’s favorite character is Bishop, the surrogate English rose with the Spitfire legs. “Lynne’s a very kind-hearted girl who has large breasts,” the director espouses. “Who wouldn’t like a character like that?”

The rest of this interview will pop up in the next issue of Anime Insider magazine.