Photo: Press (Que Sakamoto)
Words are revealing and that’s also true for DJs. Que Sakamoto regularly uses two that make it clear what the Tokyo-based selector and musician is all about: “digging” and “vibe.” Having released on labels such as Roam, Not An Animal and, recently, Hivern Discs with his musical partner Noriyuki Takagi a.k.a. NT, the Huit Etoiles co-founder’s mix for our Groove podcast is dedicated to both of these things: it’s a treasure trove of (almost) forgotten material that forms an eclectic set ranging from dry post-punk to uplifting discoid dance music – stitched together in search of the enigmatic thing that is the vibe.
First off, how have you been doing this past year?
I really can’t believe this (fucking) situation, but I believe in myself and for now I want to focus on my music. That’s why I decided to focus more on productions, mixes, radio shows, and labels. I think that means a lot for after the pandemic. Afterwards, I hope to start touring again, to release more music, and to move overseas.
You are the co-founder of the collective Huit Etoiles, whose homebase is the Tokyo club Vent. What can you tell us about Huit Etoiles? How did the group come together? How would you describe the philosophy behind it?
Huit Etoiles is a Japanese nu disco community that I started with Tamaru. We did nu disco parties in Tokyo at Origami, which became Arc, and now Vent. Our first guest DJ was Hot Toddy from Crazy P. We also had him play live, too. After that we invited Late Nite Tuff Guy, Psychemagik, PBR Street Gang, Sean Johnston, Craig Bratley, Marvin and Guy, Khidja, Mehmet Aslan, Zombies in Miami, and we did a Disco Halal x Huit Etioles Showcase with Moscoman and Trikk. Danny McRain from Psychemagik changed my digging mind. Actually now my music taste has changed thanks to Khidja, I used to really liked disco, I liked their productions and DJ sets because they are diggers and they play everything. Before the pandemic, we did one or two parties at Vent per year and we toured in China and Korea with Huit Etoiles.
For your two EPs Lalo and Uchuu Hikoshi, you collaborated with the musician NT and have also contributed a collaborative track to a recent Hivern Discs compilation. How did it come about that you started working together and what does your working process look like?
We have been clubbing friends for over ten years. He’s a music teacher in a college and a sound engineer. He taught me how to make music. Our first projects were two edits for Neil Diablo. Lalo on Not An Animal was next, it was in the top 5 of Beatport’s new Nudisco Chart in March 2017. After that we released Uchuu Hikoshi, used as promotion by DJ Bar Bridge and a fashion brand, Magic Castle. I told him I wanted to make more music and do gigs around the world and he supported me. He taught what music is and how to make it. I have my idea for tracks, then bring it to NT’s studio and we collaborate together. Finally, NT does the mixing and the mastering. He has many vintage analogue machines and we just listen and make music together. Also his studio sound system is great. The tracks goes through big changes when they go into the studio. We were happy to release on John Talabot’s Hivern Discs. This year, we are working on new wave and dub material for the Siamese Twins label. We are planning seven releases on different labels, but the release dates keep getting delayed. They are coming this year, hopefully soon.
As a producer and DJ, you are interested in “fusing Japanese and European folk music with disco,” as it says in your official biography. Why is this hybrid approach so appealing to you?
I am digging for all kinds of music and sounds. The 70s are crucial because you can dig for so many interesting analogue sounds, new ideas and new feelings. I never want to play boring stuff in straight lines and it’s the same way with vibe, I like to move. My mixing style is catching a vibe and riding it to wherever it goes. Kind of like a trip. There is so much old good music, I can’t stop digging.
You have started a new show at Tbilisi’s Mutant Radio called Thoughts and Ideas. What’s the concept behind the show?
The concept is real digger taste. I want to focus on music that is difficult to find. I always select crazy weird stuff from Japan or all over the world. It’s difficult to say. It can be anything like post punk, new wave, dark, trippy and heavy, but also disco, ambient, dub, Japanese folk or city pop. I started the programme by inviting selectors from Columbia, Peru, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan. They did a really good job selecting good music. I had two shows, they were very good. I was happy and Mutant Radio was happy. We will do it again as soon as possible. In my next show, I’m going to focus more on the Asian side.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I wanted to focus on making my selection interesting. I start the mix with two of my favourite Japanese ambient tracks. There’s new and old material, psychedelic music and dubby bass sounds. Featured are my favourite tracks from friends like Khidja, Alf Champion, Fabio Me Llaman Soltero and als a forthcoming track from Siamese Twins Records’s Mogambo. I also play my unreleased track “Kaijin”. My mix starts at 85 bpm, peaks at 127 bpm and cools down after. I tried to select totally according to my taste and make it a story.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
I really want to get back on tour as a DJ because now is difficult to DJ with this situation and the state of emergency in Japan. I cannot catch any vibe. I really want to get back in touch with the crowds. I absolutely miss that so much and so I can’t wait to DJ again. I also focus on my music, I will start a label, and I’m planning to move overseas because I want a new challenge in my life and show off my Japanese taste in music like a ninja. (laughs) My mind and spirit keep going non-stop.
Stream: Que Sakamoto – Groove Podcast 290
01. 鎌田正 (T. Kamada) – Muzikapart (D D Records)
02. Perfect Mother – Dark Disco – Da.Da. Da.DaDa.Run (Minimal Wave)
03. This Heat -24 Track Loop (Light In The Attic Records)
04. Khidja – Smudgy Undertone (Ondes HXCX)
05. Newclear Waves – The Invader (Electronic Emergency)
06. Batu – SYX (Timedance)
07. Alf Champion & Funboys – Hipotesis (Unreleased)
08. Inkasso – Schöner Hausen (Osàre Editions)
09. Que Sakamoto + NT – Kaijin (Unrelese)
10. Metal Spark – Smells Electric (M Track)
11. Emotive Force – Ascendance (Intelligence Records)
12. Biosphere – Novelty Waves (Apollo)
13. Hi-Ryze – Terminee (GPR)
14. Umo Detic – Fahrenheit (Deutschland Version) (Basix)
15. Snowdome – Murdoch Most Foul (Abstract Records)
16. In Aeternam Vale – La Piscine (Minimal Wave)
17. Von Coburg & Armani – Everybody’s Got the Right to Be a Sucker Once (MG Records)
18. Chicos Muy Ricos – Bassline Power (Forthcoming)
19. Michael Bundt – The Tower of Osc (Electri City)
20. Mogambo – Haath (Forthcoming)