Shuya Okino has been leading Japanese Jazz club scene with his various works such as producing Mondo Grosso and Monday Michiru, playing as a DJ and operating a club “ROOM” at Shibuya, Tokyo.
Lately, he released an album under the unit name of COSMIC VILLAGE with Ryo Kawasaki and Monday Michiru as guest musicians. In this album, Okino specifically presents “the unity of Japanese 70’s fusion music and contemporary club music” which he has been expressing through his DJ play.
We, SHIFT, interviewed him about “Jazz of 1997” and more.

This time, you released new album under the name of “COSMIC VILLAGE”. All tracks in this album were selected from Ryo Kawasaki’s previous works. How did this project begin?

It’s started at the club ROOM, I met a person from the record company which Mr.Kawasaki has contracted. I was asked to write some comment about Ralph McDonald by this person. Then we started chatting and I found he liked 70’s jazz, fusion as well Mondo Grosso and Monday Michiru. Through this chat, the idea of Mondo Grosso and Mr.Kawasaki playing together was born.

I have been fond of the tune “TRINKET & THINGS” which is also the title tune for your album. I guess this tune, which represents the 70’s Japanese Jazz and Fusion, is quite popular in the world club fields. Could you tell us why you chose “TRINKET & THINGS” for your album?

I’ve loved this tune for long time, too. So, we planed to make an album which I would make sounds and Mr.Kawasaki would join. But I didn’t want to make my album in a style lile “Ryo Kawasaki meets Shuya Okino” because it seemed to me too market conscious. Therefore, I made an unit and this unit played tunes of Mr.Kawasaki. I think this way worked and could prove my contemplation to “TRINKET & THINGS” well.

I would like to know about the sound creation for this album. You introduced the Drum’n’ Bass to “TRINKETS & THINGS”, did you have this idea from the beginning?

I listened some musician arranged “TRINKET & THINGS” before. On the other hand, I read a comment “Jungle is Bossa Nova in the 21st century” by Everything But the Girl, and I felt “wait a minute” because I had my own desire to define a relationship of Bossa Nova and Samba in terms of Jungle that doubled the speed of the break beats.
Meanwhile I was trying to create new fusion of Bossa Nova and Drum’n’ Bass in my way, I got a chance to arrange “TRINKET & THINGS”. So, I decided to arrange this tune with strong and contemporary beats. And since we followed Mr.Kawasaki’s approach in some way, we invited him to play with us which meant really something for us.

Could you tell us about the concept of “COSMIC VILLAGE”? When I read a phrase “the 21st century hippy”, I got an impression that you were going to built new generation hippy village in Japanese Jazz scene, like 60’s hippies made communes and villages based on their thought and religious belief.

The relationship of COSMIC VILLAGE’s members are very good, let’s say, we eat together and talk about many things, not only music. And I like the feeling of commune very much.
Nowadays in Japan, it’s getting very rare to talk about something seriously. Moreover there is some atmosphere that having discussion and debate is somehow embarrassing. But I think it’s rather cool to discuss something seriously.

I guess everybody has a desire to communicate with someone who has same or similar idea and opinions. If not, it’s too desolate.

I think we need “places” where we can talk about our lives and even outlook on the cosmic. So, I hope people come to the place I made, and find “place” for themselves.
I used the phrase “the 21st century hippy” with these wishes. In a way, “COSMIC VILLAGE” is a commune I’ve thought of and this VILLAGE symbolises these commune kind of matters.

It seems you are aiming the village or commune to link creative activities, like Andy Warhol’s Factory.

In fact, many different kind of people, such as photographers, actors and musicians come to ROOM. And I always hope the encounter at this place will be the motive and driving forces for their creative works.
60’s and 70’s cultures have strong influences on 90’s fashion, music and so on. And, of course, there are some special things from 90’s. I’m trying to remain fine things from 60’s and 70’s and at the same time, introduce these from 90’s on good balance. With doing so, I hope something like 90’s Factory is grown.

All members of “COSMIC VILLAGE” for this time are good at computer and so called digital type of people, but except you. You described your position in order to create new sounds as ” I took the part of ‘a field overseer’, in this VILLAGE construction”. I found this expression is quite interesting.

Again, It’ll sound like criticising Japan, though, I think the recognition to those “field overseer” kind of jobs is very low in Japan.
Well, I don’t play any instruments nor compose any music. However since there is a person like me, things go smoothly and musicians can play in good condition. I’ve learned how to decide the direction through managing works, but I haven’t got adequate recognition for my works because here in Japan, there is a strong idea of “a manager = an attendant”. So, I made a “declaration of artist producer” to appeal what I do.
As I expressed my position as a “field overseer”, Mr.Kawasaki was a designer and members of COSMIC VILLAGE were actual workers for this construction. Me as a field overseer, I had been at the building site and done my job such as encouraging members, arranging lunches and so. If there was no field overseer, no “building” could be constructed. I hope these explanations and my declaration help people to understand my participation in music.

The creativity of directing has been acknowledged quite well in other countries, but not in Japan…

Right. For example, GODAR, a movie director, you don’t know what exactly he had done for his film. But, you go to watch the movie with the name of “GODAR” in Japan.
There are people so called producers now in Japan but in a strict sense, they are not producers but composers and arrangers. Of course, you need to have certain talents to do these. But I would say what I do is really director’s and/or producer’s work.

I think you are trying to built something belongs to new genre and it’s refracted to your sound creation. For example, you presented “TRINKETS&THINGS” in three different versions and “Jupiter 2000” version and “Hal” version got quite futuristic sounds. Could you tell us your outlook on the cosmic and digitised future?

Well, we have heard the concept of retro future for a few year. Also, Ideas about year 2000 which people thought at 60’s and 70’s have been revaluated in fields of fashion, interior and so on. My outlook on future is something with warmth but I feel the reality is going different directions…
More decadence and coldness. People tend to imagine that in the future the world will be artificial and human beings will lose identity. But I hope we’ll have a future remaining many goodness and warmth of human heart from past. I mean there was the past and will be the future, these are continuous time. Towards the future, I’m concerning matters we shouldn’t lose as human beings and the directions we should evolve to.
I want to set people free with “sounds”. I wish them to be free from an individual, let’s say, from an individual to cosmic. ha ha. Well it seems extreme… but that I really feel and I want to set myself free, too.
Therefore I’ve thought of what’s the sound which releases people. For 1997, I think some futuristic sound is the one. And also, Jazz which absorbed Drum’n’ Bass and Techno can be the one, I guess.

You mentioned that “a Play Station and a pot” are necessities for the 21st century hippies and also used a phrase “make a club like a pot”. What’s “pot” mean?

The Play Station became a communication tool nowadays. Although I have no sense on machines and playing computer games, I’ve been playing “IQ” with great fun. Through playing games, I found games create communications such as a conversation “I played this way.” , “How did you play?” and so on. Also, people will gather, let’s say, “I bought a new game, come to my place and let’s play it”. There’ll be a communication, too.
Right, let me explain about “pot”. A pot is the primitive tool for a communication. It’s more direct communication, your chopsticks and others’ are hitting each other at bottom of a pot. ha ha. Not secondary contact. I like to value both games and pots. When we get together, we actually enjoy hot pot and game.
Even this album, it’s a mix of various kind of music, Jazz is the base and Rock, House, Techno, Drum’n’ Bass… with some taste of Jazz.

That’s exactly a “Pot”.

Yeah, like a “hotchpotch”. ha ha.

At the last, what’s your next plan including COSMIC VILLAGE?

COSMIC VILLAGE is going to remix of Belaza, the Latin artist from NY.
It’ll be released on July from Alpha Music. For myself, I’m planing to do DJ plays as a part of Kyoto Jazz Massive. And lately, I made an unit called “Latinple” with Genta who is a percussionist and a former member of Orquesta de la Luz. “We, Japanese, like Latin music, too!” that’s our feeling. ha ha.

Text: Takahiro Nakagawa [HEATIN’SYSTEM]
Translation: Satoru Tanno

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