After winning the DMC World Final in 2002, Tokyo’s DJ Kentaro has since risen to worldwide fame through a series of critically acclaimed mixtapes, two albums on the legendary Ninja Tunes label and tour dates all over the world from small clubs to mammoth festivals. As well as collaborating with some of bass music’s greats, he’s taken his Hip Hop background to the clubs, bringing a sonic aesthetic of tight cuts and sharp scratches to dance music from d&b to Grime. Having more recently developed an audio visual set that allows him to take DJing to the big stages of festivals, a show he’s bringing to London on the fourth of October for Videocrash. We had a little chat with him to find out what led him here and what we can expect of his set at Shoreditch’s Village Underground.
Hi Kentaro, are you currently touring or back in the homeland?
I’m in Japan now, trying to prepare for my 2nd European tour of 2013 which starts from next week.
What would you be doing right now if you weren’t answering these questions?
Aww, probably eating dinner perhaps!?
Sorry to keep you from that! What’s the last tune you listened to?
Ahaha, funnily enough I was just checking my own mix Celebration of Curation 2013 after uploading it to mixcloud! It’s part of a project Mixcloud are running where each day celebrates a different city around the world, I did the Tokyo edition. Check it out below.
You’re a Tokyo resident, do you feel your Japanese roots are apparent in your music and DJing? How would you say the country influences your output?
In my last album Contrast I put some Japanese influences, little samples and melodies, in order to bring my roots and culture into the music. Also, I feel the Japanese style of story telling and the concept of “Wavi-Sabi” has affected my music. It’s a concept derived from Buddhist teachings that accepts and celebrates transience, imperfection and asymmetry.
How have you found the audience differs in Japan to elsewhere, like the UK for example?
UK or European people are more lively than Japanese crowds for sure.
You signed to legendary label Ninja Tune early in your career and still work with them to this day, what is it about the label that you think has made it so successful?
They are a group of creative people and they’ve been such a strong and positive influence on me, even though the type of music we make or play is different.
Your latest album, Contrast, was released through them in 2012. How would you say your sound’s developed between that and your debut album Enter?
Contrast was more for the dance floor, I sort of planed and made tunes I can play when I perform in front of big crowds at festivals etc.
It features plenty of collaborators including DJ Krush, Matrix & Futurebound and Foreign Beggars. How do you decide who to collaborate with and do you work together in person or over the internet?
Those people are all good friends of mine, I like to work with people I’m close to and that inspire me. We also work on the songs in person which is always nice.
Your mix CDs such as My First Songs have developed mythical status in the Hip Hop and DJ world, how do you go about starting to plan a mix and how long do they tend to take you from start to finish?
My Favorite Songs is an old school classic, it was only released in tape (do you have one?). I cant remember it clearly to be honest, but back then there was no computer to record on so it took a long time for sure.
Unfortunately not I’m afraid! You made your name as a scratch DJ, is this still a big part of your club sets?
I still do some routines to hype the crowds, however I m more into playing tunes that I like, I tend to play a lot more bass music these days.
So if the dance floor’s ever a bit stale, is that often your backup plan to liven things up?
Exactly, if it’s all a bit slow on the dance floor I tend to incorporate my old DMC routines to get the crowd more involved and excited.
You’re playing an Audio Visual set at London’s Village Underground on the 4th October for Videocrash, what can we expect from that?
I wish I could perform my full AV set with everyone involved, unfortunately that’s not possible but the one in London for Videocrash will include elements from it. One day I’ll bring the full set to the UK, check out the video below to see what that’s like and get an idea of what to expect.
So what kind of video footage do you use and where do you tend to source it from?
My video director KIMGYM does all the video direction for my show, and lighting as well. From visual mapping to LED set ups etc, he does all that side of things and really brings my sets to life, so you’d have to ask him I’m afraid!
Fair enough! There seems to be a strong UK influence in your sound, what’s your favourite thing about the country?
Yes, many great producers, musicians are from UK that I like!
What’s your favourite English food?
Mmm, curry in London! Is that English food?
I’m pretty sure it originated in India, but we’ve adopted it so much that it’s basically thought of as traditional British dish. We’ve also bastardized it so the particular curry’s we eat are generally English in origin. We’ll let that one slide! What else is coming up for you?
I’ve got a couple of new EPs I’m working on that will be coming very soon!
Thanks Kentaro! Any final words to end on?
Cant wait to see everyone at Village Underground! See you then!
Buy tickets for DJ Kentaro in London over at the Soundcrash website.