For a nation perceived as being constantly preoccupied with Western culture, it's taken the Japanese a while to understand the concept behind electronic music. Satoshi Tomiie and Shinichi Osawa aside, the list of successful Japanese Dj exports to Europe and beyond is a small one. Fumiya Tanaka, (who recently collaborated with none other than Ricardo Villalobos) and Womb nightclub are part of the new breed - these are the people and places who are etching Japan's name in to the ever expanding list of country's which every weekend reverberate to the sound of a 4/4beat. Another recent addition to this list is Ryo Murakami, the Tokyo Dj/producer who's gained great favour with none other than Steve Bug, who's licensed Murakami's tracks to his renowned Dessous and Poker Flat imprints. Murakami's latest effort, 'Just for This' looks set to enhance his burgeoning reputation and features a remix from widely acclaimed producer Graeme Clark, better known to me and you as 'The Revenge.'
We caught up with the Japanese producer to discuss Japan's musical electronic music landscape, the notorious Womb nightclub and what you can learn from working with a producer like Steve Bug...
Ryo, when were you first introduced to electronic music?
I was first exposed to electronic music back in the 90's through hip-hop music from the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Group Home, Peanut Butter Wolf, and Tony Touch and Peace Frog.
How has the internet helped sculpt Japan's electronic music scene?
Digital music sales in Japan are growing these days. At the same time vinyl record shops are closing - just as they are in other countries. There aren't many labels that have the network to distribute internationally, so domestic artists have no choice but to look for ways to market their music abroad. As digital distribution grows, the concept behind current labels may change and help market domestic music abroad. Although I have to say that I'm not sure this would help supporting the scene here.
What dance sound is most prevalent over there?
The sounds that international artists play when visiting here always has a huge effect on Japanese audiences. My music is always changing in sound, and I enjoy my music in any direction it flows in...
Is electronic music in Japan confined to Tokyo?
Not at all - both Osaka and Tokyo have big electronic music scenes and excellent music scenes in general. There's always cool things happening all over Japan be it Nagoya, Gifu, Toyama, Hokkaido or Sendai.
Is your sound mainly deep, as is the case with your 'Lost It' EP?
While I like deep sounds, I don't always maintain the same deep tech house production style as seen in 'Lost It'. My next single "God of Lunch" on Quintessentials and 'Just for This' on Dessous are both very different in style. My music is always changing in sound, and I enjoy my music in any direction it flows in.
Talent wise, what Japanese producers should we keep an eye out for?
As for producers keep an eye on STEREOCiTI, Kez YM, Kiyama Akiko, Sai and Yosa. as well as DJs, DJ Pi-Ge, STEREOCiTI, DJ Yone-ko, Sisi and Kihira Naoki.
Is Tokyo still home for Ryo Murakami? Have you ever considered moving to Europe?
Tokyo is my home; But, I'm hoping to move to Berlin this year given the opportunity.
What do you miss about Japan when you're travelling?
You run your own label, PAN records. What's the idea behind the label?
DJ Pi-ge, Sisi and myself formed PAN records to help make an original music scene created by the Japanese. As Steve Bug discovered me, we want to discover new Japanese talent and send it to the world.
I want to reproduce the same effect that YMO created from the underground, and we want to show the world the Japanese music culture.
You've had tracks released on Steve Bug's 'Dessous' and 'Poker Flat'. What has he brought to your career and what does being associated with these labels mean to you?
I guess most of my career started as a result of being discovered by Steve. Obviously my releases on Poker Flat and Dessous have helped my popularity, but most importantly of all, Steve really understands and supports my music.
Have you grasped the German language yet?
No - not yet!
Can you talk us through your latest track 'Just for This'?
When I played with Steve at Womb, this was the first track I played and he really liked it. I gave him a copy with other tracks, and he named the title.
And what about the remix by 'The Revenge'?
It's a great remix and I really like it, which has undoubtedly made the EP even even better!
In Europe, much of our knowledge of Tokyo's dance music culture is confined to Womb. How does playing the club differ from European clubs?
I've played Womb and it is a big club, which features a lot of big names and a lot of the attracts a lot of the younger audience. It's actually quite similar to some of the big European clubs, though there are some really great underground clubs which should be checked out.
'The legendary club' which opens again this year should deserves a feature on I Voice! It has a labyrinth-like structure with an organic sound that surpasses even the Funktion Ones.
Any big upcoming plans for 2010?
My aforementioned release "God of Lunch"is out on Quintessentials around March, and 'Just for This' is out Dessous in February. Keep an eye on the Scott Ferguson remix of "God of Lunch" which is very cool indeed. I'm also releasing my VA sampler soon and my first album later this year on my own Pan records imprint. So a lot to look forward to!