Japanese mainstay Ken Ishii has become known for his distinct take on Detroit Techno, taking the global underground by storm. We caught up with him to discuss his contribution to Blumoog label head M.R.E.U.X’s newest release, his incredible career and future plans.
Ken Ishii - Interview
Hi Ken, welcome to Minimal Mag. Where do you find yourself right now and what are you up to?
Hello Minimal Mag! Finally the scene is almost back in Japan and I play more often here, as well as I have started playing outside the country. I already played in Europe in March and will soon be back there and coming to the US. Also, I keep myself busy producing music – EPs, remixes, film soundtracks and game music. It’s been quite exciting lately.
You’ve recently contributed a track to the My Secret World EP on Blumoog Music, titled ‘Metal Spikes’. Can you tell us a little more about the track?
This is my first release on the label. The label boss M.R.E.U.X. invited me to contribute to the EP. I knew he has collaborated with my favorite artists like Ben Sims and Terrence Dixon etc, so I was happy to do it with him. Since he initially told me he would do vinyl for the release, I produced a little more hypnotic stuff than usual for it. Hypnotic techno lovers play more vinyl, right?
The other two tracks on the release are by Blumoog head M.R.E.U.X, what’s your relationship to him and the label?
Can you tell us something about your production process?
In most cases, I play around with my gear and synth plugins to get some inspiration, then find something interesting and make some loops with them first. They could be bass, percussion or synth loops. Now putting rhythm tracks on, I make it to a whole track. I leave it for a while, and correct, edit and tweak it to complete it. I try to test-play it on my gig to see how it sounds when loud before completing it as well.
Ken Ishii - Metal Spikes
What inspires you to make your tracks? Do you get influenced by things and experiences outside of music?
New gear and plugins always inspire me. I like to learn them. What my favorite producers do inspires me too. Yes, I often go to museums and exhibitions of contemporary art to get inspired. It’s not like it influences directly to my music, but I become motivated to make something fresh and new.
You started producing Techno in Japan before its widespread success in the country. What was it like seeing the genre take root in the country and how do you feel you contributed to it?
It was truly exciting to watch how it evolved from the very beginning. When I started making techno around 1990, the biggest techno party in Japan had only two hundred people. Then I made my artist debut in ’93 and the scene and media attention got bigger and bigger so fast. Only three years later, in ’96, the first outdoor rave ever in the country called Rainbow 2000 happened and it had over 10000 people. I was thought to be one of the key figures in the scene and I kept appearing on mainstream media. I think I’m a lucky guy who experienced everything that happened in the period.
Speaking of, you are a scene veteran over there. Can you share something about the underground music industry in Japan? What are some of your favourite institutions/clubs?
Getting out of the pandemic slowly, I see good signs. Lots of small but new parties, new DJs and young promoters who are motivated. My favorite clubs are Sound Museum Vision, Contact, Womb, Vent in Tokyo, Mago in Nagoya and Joule in Osaka etc. It’s a shame that Ageha, which was the biggest club in the country and where I had regularly been playing for 20 years, was gone a few months ago though.
Thank you for speaking with us today, before you go: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I look forward to playing in Europe again soon. Even during the pandemic, I received a lot of requests from fans all over Europe about when I’d play in their city or country again. It’s great to feel such respect from them, and so I can’t wait to meet them again!
Ken Ishii - Links
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