Japanese artist Fuminori Kagajo makes house music that blends Jazz-funk and Latin-disco from his hometown Sapporo. No stranger to the international music circuit, Kagajo has released on the likes of King Street Sounds, Slip ‘N’ Slide and Fatsoul Records, while he’s been DJing since 1996, landing gigs alongside Frankie Knuckles and Ian Pooley among others.
At first I became interested in Underground music when I was about 17 and also Acid Jazz were quite popular in those years in Japan...As imbedded into the tradition of 70’s jazz, funk and fusion as it is into Chicago, and New York house, this Japanese artist’s sound is swimming with soul – his musical past of live instruments and band projects makes its presence felt wherever you look, and for Kagajo’s latest EP, ‘Chase Down’, he joins the Italian Roots Underground roster with Alex Agore, Roy Gilles and Miruaga. We caught up with Fuminori to have a chat.
Hi Fuminori, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. What have you been up to recently?
The pleasure is mine. I appreciate this opportunity. Well, recently I’ve been immersed in production work, with 4 songs in the works. The vocals have a very good vibe so I’m really looking forward to the finishing those works!!
Lots of my productions & songs are influenced by that music & the 90s House music, of course...Can you tell us a little bit more about your musical background? When did you first get involved and start making music?
At first I became interested in Underground Music when I was about 17 and also Acid Jazz were quite popular in those years in Japan. After that I began to listen to much different music. In addition to House and Techno, I also love the 70's Jazz/Funk, Fusion, and Soul. Lots of my productions and songs are influenced by that music and the 90's House music, of course. I started DJing soon after, and I developed an interest in Underground Music, but quickly realized that I wanted to do more than just play the music of others. I bought some synthesizers and a sampler and began to make my own music
Night Clubs don’t have deep roots in Japanese culture, so I think that there aren’t many people who are interested in dance music...Japan’s underground music culture seems to take a more secretive position on the international stage. Can you talk to us about your life as a musician in Japan? How do you think the Japanese scene compares to others all over the world?
Definitely…Night Clubs don’t have deep roots in Japanese culture, so I think that there aren’t many people who are interested in dance music. When I have a DJ gig locally, there are often very few guests…
This is just my subjective opinion, but I think that overseas, going to a club is just as natural as going out to a pub or bar for a drink.
However, in Japan a club or disco is considered a special place, and unless there’s a huge party or a famous DJ then it’s difficult to get people to attend.
Your latest EP, ‘Chase Down’, comes out on Italian label Roots Underground. How did the release come about?
One day, I received an email from Marco, owner of Roots Underground Records. He seemed very interested in my work, so he offered to me to release a new EP for the label. I was really happy for this opportunity. Most of my works are usually released in digital, so the thought of releasing a new EP on vinyl once again, has excited me a lot.
Actually, I had performed the four tracks of this EP several times in my gigs before I received the offer from Marco...Can you talk to us about the tracks? Do you have any personal favorites and did you confront any challenges writing the EP?
"Chase Down" is my favorite, so I decided to use it as the title track of the EP. Actually, I had performed the four tracks of this EP several times in my gigs before I received the offer from Marco. This helped me to focus on their completion, and the project has developed surprisingly smoothly.
Do you use samples or is the music performed and recorded live?
I didn’t use samples. I asked some friends, who are musicians, to play some instrumental. In particular the keyboardist, Mr. Kudo, is very popular overseas. He plays keyboards on most of my songs, and also we sometimes compose together. He’s incredibly talented!
You’ve played some pretty impressive DJ gigs. Any stand out moments over the course of your career?
It’s always fun to do some gigs as DJ, and I have particularly fantastic memories of playing in different cities.
one of my most memorable gigs was when I had the chance to DJing with Frankie Knuckles in my city...However, one of my most memorable gigs was when I had the chance to DJing with Frankie Knuckles in my city. That was a great time.
Finally, what can we expect from Fuminori Kagajo in the future? Are there any new releases or gigs scheduled that have you particularly excited?
My next release, a song in which I have collaborated with Stephanie Cooke, is scheduled for the early 2017 on King Street Sounds, and I’m hoping to release the songs that I’m currently working on, as soon as possible. Also, I’d really like to DJ gig overseas. If anyone calls to invite me, I’ll be on the next flight!!