Ken Ishii is one of the pioneer of Japanese techno. His activities are not limited to the ‘techno’ field. His long-awaited new album ‘Flatspin‘ includes the soundtrack for the movie ‘White Out’ (directed by Setsurou Wakamatsu, starring Yuji Oda) which will be released on August 18th. It is not too much to say that this album is ‘a complete compilation of his works’. He just visited Sapporo for a live performance. We interviewed him about his new approach for the sound track and his roots while he was in Sapporo.
I think you’ve visited Sapporo often.
My grandparents are living in Sapporo and I’ve often come to Sapporo since my childhood. I was born in a hospital in Sapporo, I’ve never lived here though. Sapporo has a functions as a city and has many works of art. Everyone can easily see nature in the suburbs. I like the size of the city.
You’ve also often visited other countries for live performances. Is there any difference between Japan and other countries?
It’s almost impossible to compare Japan with many other countries, but there are subtle differences. I was actually in the Netherlands a few days ago to play at a Jazz Festival. It was a huge open-air concert like a rave. People were basically open-minded and when I was playing together with sax player Dulfer, everyone – from guys to old ladies – were standing and dancing. The response was very favorable and I fully enjoyed playing as a musician. Good music can make a good response regardless of the genre. It’s always great to play at a good place in any country.
Do you think the environment in other countries is better than in Japan?
I don’t think so. I think there are many more people who have a good sense of techno in Japan. They listen to music carefully and love music. In Europe, the club scene is definitely big, but many people only enjoy dancing at a club without buying records. I think there are many people who react to music with more sensitivity in Japan.
Producing an album and playing as a DJ. Do you think they are two different things for you?
It must be. When I produce an album, I usually start thinking of how to express the ideas in my mind, and when I play as a DJ, I try to enjoy the dance floor.
The new single is a soundtrack for the movie ‘White Out’. Was there any production differences compared to your usual method?
Basically, I can do everything when I produce a normal album, but many people are involved in producing a soundtrack, so I have to think of how I can include my style in it. It’s a different attitude. For this sound rack, I was asked to produce tracks suitable to each scene, so I tried to be conscious of the scenario, but now I’m sure I could put my style in it.
Please tell us about the full soundtrack album released in August.
In the previous album, ‘Sleeping Madness‘, I collaborated with non-techno/electric artists in a new attempt, but this album includes a soundtrack and I felt like half of them were not me. I was given the main theme of the movie and I tried to think of how to make other tracks based on the theme. It was like an impulse from my early days of techno music. For these years, I’ve found power in a new style of techno, but now I feel like I went back to the starting point. I think this is the most techno-style album. It’s a kind of compilation of my techno music.
Are your roots in techno?
Originally I loved mechanical sounds. When I started listening to techno music, electro pop was already over. I felt like I was following the past music and there was nothing new. Then Detroit techno came out. It was real for me and I was waiting impatiently for the new releases. That was when I was in my late teens.
My roots are not in rock’n’roll nor soul music. It’s definitely in techno. The thing is that you can do many things with technology. It’s not a player music and it’s the attraction of techno music. It has been said that only people who can play instruments can play music, but with technology and an idea, people who love music can make music.
You’ve seen the Japanese techno scene as a pioneer since its beginning. What do you think about it?
It’s exciting in a sense. When I started listening to techno music, there were only a few clubs playing techno music, even in Tokyo. I think only one club in Shibuya was playing it. In such a situation, I couldn’t find any meaning to keep my style in Japan. Then I went to Europe. Today I can tour local cities as a DJ and it’s a pretty good situation. The open-air festival experience with poeple in their teens can change their life. It totally depends on their music experience in their teens.
Do you have any messages for young techno artists?
Today I have many opportunities to come in contact with younger people. I’m not as young as I was (laugh). I think people who want to be an artist need to have something plus techno because there are so many people who want to be a techno artist. At the beginning, I had no manager and I did all the management things by myself when I went to Europe to participate in events. It was tough but the experience trained me a lot. I had to travel alone in other countries where I’d never been. But thanks to those experiences, I felt like I could do anything by myself. Of course, you’ll have a hard time in your life, but it always happens to everyone. It’s important to keep doing. You’ll see nothing if you stop doing, but there’s definitely a possibility if only you keep doing. Do not give up and be positive.
The last question. Do you have any plans for the near future?
The album is released in August and after that, I’ll go on a tour. I’ve been recording the first half of this year and I did no performance as a DJ for a long time. I was thinking to do some performances after the album is released, but I had lots of offers and it became like a tour (laugh).