Introducing: Opal Sunn

Words by: Ben Raven
Posted: 31/1/18 13:32

After two breakout EPs, the Berlin based Japanese live duo are ready to go.

Berlin based live duo Opal Sunn first caught ours with the blissed out four track EP: Opal Sunn 'I' last year. They resurfaced in January almost a year later with Part II of the double EP and mined similar effervescent territory. Both releases exuded a mastery of machines and spaced out hardware melodies that demanded further inspection.

Having met in Berlin but hailing from Japan, the duo, comprised of Al Kassian and Hiroaki OBA, are one of the city's most promising new acts deserving your attention. We caught up with them to hear about what life's currently like for new artists at the coalface of Berlin's electronic music scene.

Ibiza Voice: Opal Sunn PI was one of our favourite releases of last year. Can you tells us the story behind it?

Opal Sunn: We're both very much into machines, not just synths but technology in general, natural science, and all things space related.

How did you meet?

We met at a house party in Berlin, and found out we had so many common friends. That was around March 2015 and we decided to get together to play some music. It was good fun and the result wasn't bad, so we decided to spend more time together that summer, which lead to making a lot of the music from Part I and Part II.

You're a live duo, how do you split the tasks between you?

We both try to learn all of the machines we have so that we can play all of them and program them in the way we want. During a live set, Hiroaki is usually on the TR-8 for the drums, and Octatrack to program sequences and trigger midi. Alex sequences basslines on the SH-101 and Arturia Microbrute, and plays the keys on a poly synth. We switch around at least once in a live set to mix things up though.

You're based in Berlin but where are you both from and how does where you live shape Opal Sunn?

Hiroaki: We're both from Japan. I'm from Kawasaki, and Alex is from Kyoto. Berlin has a nice and slow pace of life compared to life in Japan, and so naturally we have more time to get together in the studio, which is the main reason we're here in the first place.

What's your background in music prior to Opal Sunn?

Hiroaki: I played the bass in several bands for almost ten years. Around 2008 I started taking an interest in electronic music, and producing on my laptop, and started to buy pieces of hardware, one by one, over the years. I never learned production in school or anything like that. I just learned how to produce on my own. In 2010 I got selected to attend the Red Bull Music Academy which was a great experience. You could call RBMA a mentor in some ways.

Alex: I've also been making music for around ten years. I started making beats, but that changed when I moved to London in 2007. I've done one other project called 'Bearight' and used to release on Pets Recordings several years ago. My mother put me through piano and violin lessons when I was young, but I never enjoyed learning somehow, so I never really got good, but I developed an ear for melodies around that time from my lessons and my father's music collection. Around age 18 I started making a bit of music and now here we are.

Tell us about how you individually fell in love with dance music?

Hiroaki: I had a party called 'License to Dance' at a small venue called OATH in Tokyo for  three or four years, and those formative years were influential in discovering a lot of music and the dance music scene in Tokyo.

Alex: For me, moving to London changed everything. I was exposed to all types of music and back then, minimal was at its peak. One of my best friends showed me a record by SLG called 'Quarter Past Eleven' which came out on Level Recordings, and I saw him play live at a basement venue on Commercial Street. In my mind, he was this idol of mine, but when I met him, he was just an ordinary dude, which was somehow life affirming.

What's the hardest challenge you've had to face to get to where you are now?

Hiroaki: Moving from Japan to Germany was quite a big challenge, with the language barrier, the difference in food quality, the abundance of artists in Berlin. It gave me a reality check, but also motivated me to make it work here in Berlin. But the biggest challenge for me is simply living life.

Alex: Honestly, living a life as a musician is a huge challenge in itself. Dealing with doubts, and reminding myself to keep going is a daily thing. But a few things have come together in the last year that made me think it's always worth the struggle.

What’s next for you?

Now that both Part I and Part II from the double EP is out, we're hoping to play live more. We're constantly evolving our live set, which is mostly based on improvisation and jamming. We'll have a small release party in Berlin in February, and have a number of gigs lined up. Maybe there will be a Part III, but we don't know yet. We want to spend as much time in the studio making new music.

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