Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ken Ishii: Bonus Extra

Ken Ishii has been one of my fave techno and electronic musos since 1995, when I first stumbled across a little record titled ‘Extra’ released through R&S Records.

While a superb track unto itself, ‘Extra’ offered not only three of the coolest remixes of 1995 (by Luke Slater, Dave Angel, and Luke Vibert in Wagon Christ mode) but also one of the most insanely brilliant video clips ever made – an anime outing conjured up by none other than Koji Morimoto at Studio 4ºC.

Over the intervening 15 years Ishii has released innumerable EPs, albums and remixes (most recently one for my Sydney mate DJ Hi-Shock) through esteemed labels Sublime, Studio !K7, and more recently his own label 70Drums – through which, at the beginning of this year, he released the brilliant KI15 – The Episodes double-CD.

On top of his personal production work (as Rising Sun, UTU and Flare along with his own moniker) Ishii worked as a sound recordist in 1998 Darren Aronofsky’s movie Pi, and he’s been Japan’s #1 techno DJ/ambassador for years.

I’ve been lucky enough to interviewed him a few times since ‘98 on a variety of subjects, from music itself through to Star Trek and Akira Kurosawa, and he’s given us some honest feedback and invaluable suggestions with regard to our label IF?.

Anyway, a few months back I was preparing a book on Tokyo/Japanese culture from a more offbeat perspective, and in the process interviewed several talking heads I both respected and admired; unfortunately the publishing company, after initially green-lighting the project, killed it and several others when the financial downturn kicked into gear.

So, rather than bury an entertaining chat from a less-tread angle, I decided to run with the interview here.

What do you think is the coolest place in Tokyo, and why would you take foreigners there when they visit?

Tsukiji, where the big fish market is. There are hundreds of traditional food stores and sushi restaurants in one small area as well. There’s almost no influence from Western culture that you can see around this area – that's why.”

What do you think is the most off-beat place in Tokyo?

“Akihabara. It’s originally an area for you to buy home electronics, but it has turned into a Mecca for otaku people over the past 10 to 15 years. I can’t even keep up with the changes. You can discover lots weird people/scenes you can’t see in Shibuya or Aoyama.”

What are both the good and bad points of Tokyo for you personally?

“Tokyo is handy, you can get whatever you want any time: the modern, the traditional, the Asian and the Western. However it’s far from anywhere else – from Europe, North and South America, and even from most of the other Asian countries. And it’s hectic and there are too many people everywhere.”

Do you like sake?

“I drink sake only when I have good traditional Japanese food, so I don’t have much knowledge about it.”

What’s the best Japanese beer?

Premium Malts from Suntory is definitely the best beer from our country.”

What has been you favorite anime in your lifetime?

Akira, since it led the existence of anime into another level with its more futuristic and spiritual vision. It also widened the anime market – it created a more adult and serious fanbase in the scene.”

Who do you think has been the most important Japanese electronic artist to date, including people like YMO and Isao Tomita?

“You already have my answer - YMO and Isao Tomita. If I add one more, Plastics.”

Do you like matsuri [summer festivals]?

“I used to go to a village dance festival – we call it bon odori – every summer when I was a child. No reason; everybody loves bon odori in this country!”

What do you think of girls who wear traditional Japanese garb like kimono, obi and geta?

“I find them nice, as it’s simply beautiful. However it’s not easy to wear kimono properly and therefore rare to see young women who wear this in real life, actually.”

By the way, as a closer, here's that acclaimed video for 'Extra':

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