TiD&B Interview: Heavy1

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When people think of Japanese drum and bass, the name Makoto often springs to mind first, but Tokyo’s Heavy1 is working to change that. Since arriving on the scene in 2010, Heavy1 has been developing his self-described minimal sub bass sound and is shining new light on the region’s thriving drum and bass community. In addition to his upcoming ‘Minimalized’ LP, which will drop 14th May on Rubik Records alongside a 12” sampler,  Heavy1 is cultivating his new Tokyo-focused label, Yabai 84 Records, which already includes the likes of Need for Mirrors, FADE and 2SHY MC.

TiD&B’s Melissa caught up with Heavy1 to discuss these latest endeavors, as well as learn more about the evolving drum and bass scene in Japan…

TiD&B: Before we dive into all the new things you’re working on, let’s get a very quick history lesson – what first got you into producing music, and drum and bass specifically? 

Heavy1: My most defining musical moment was about 14 years ago, when I was 12 or 13 years old. I heard the song ‘Joyride’ by the Japanese electronic band Boom Boom Satellites . That song got me into dance music and showed me that Japanese artists have the potential to significantly influence the scene.

Overall, my greatest drum and bass influences are artists such as Photek, Source Direct, Icicle, Optical, Ed Rush, etc.  Of course, other genres of music like techno, rock, house, hip hop, R&B and soul all influence my work and are reflected in my music. 

TiD&B: Your ‘Minimalized’ LP covers a notably wide range of styles and BPMs. How long have you been working on it and what was the driving concept behind the sound?

Heavy1: Production took just over a month and I was able to finish all the tracks by the end of last August.  As part of the album concept, I really wanted to put in some sounds that resemble old hardware. There’s also a bit of a “going back-to-basics” vibe coming out of last year’s 80s revival trend and I wanted to layer that on top of my own drum and bass sound, while staying around 130 BPM.

There’s a track on the album called ‘Pulse’ with Key MC that I wanted to make particularly intense.  I had already had an idea of what I wanted prior to starting, but soon realized it couldn’t be properly expressed with the drum and bass sounds that I had already made, so I changed it to 140BPM.  

The drum and bass tune ‘Ongaku’ has all the elements typical of my music – a lazy snare and kick pattern and wide sub bass that’s like the deep sea.

TiD&B: Did you experiment with anything different in your music production for this album?

Heavy1: The LP sampler 12” features a tune with June Miller called ‘Judge’ – I previously didn’t like doing collaborations, but I learned that sometimes they can produce great results.  I have so much respect for the June Miller guys and so grateful that despite their busy schedules, they were quite speedy in finishing up the track. I love their musicianship and enjoyed the process of working with them.  If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have made such a good tune. 

TiD&B: What are your personal favorites from the LP and why?

Heavy1: ‘Judge’ with June Miller and ‘Ongaku,’ which has already gotten a lot of attention from followers.  I like ‘Ongaku’ because it represents all elements of my music. – I incorporated features from everything I’ve ever done, including tunes like ‘Specium” (forthcoming on Vampire Records), ‘Millers’ (Samurai Music) and ‘Xiphactinus’ (Demand Records).

TiD&B: You’ve been busy working on your new label, Yabai 84 Records. Can you tell us a little more about that, where the name came from and if you’ll ever stray from the tagline: “Yabai 84 Records is a Strictly Tokyo D&B Label”?

Heavy1: Japanese drum and bass artists have had to build their own scene using their own music and own connections across the water.  We’re progressing slowly and I think we’re reaching the point where we are starting to develop our own networks.

Makoto’s Human Elements is the only well established label in Japan, as far as I know. What I wanted to do was create a new high-standard for DJs and producers to follow, especially on the deep, hard drum and bass side of things. I just wanted to do something new for Japan’s drum and bass scene.

Yabai 84 Records is my platform but I’m still going to try to make tunes to release on big labels, which has been a dream of mine since I started producing drum and bass. Whatever tunes I make that don’t get picked up by the big labels, I will release on Yabai 84 Records.

About the name…the 84 is taken from George Orwell’s book, 1984. I wanted it to say, “Fuck Japan’s media control.” YBI001 ‘Thought Police” is also taken from 1984, which is about the same topic of government and media. If you’ve followed the news globally, Japan has had major problems around the issue of nuclear power, but the media and government here don’t take it very seriously. You could say in a way that Japan has been sick since the earthquake.

TiD&B: Your artist roster already includes Need for Mirrors, FADE and 2SHY MC. As you continue to grow the label, what sort of talent are you looking for? 

Heavy1: I get a lot of demos from many artists. I really want to release Japanese producers, but first and foremost, it is important for me to maintain quality.

Artists I am paying attention to right now include Fade, Detail (Ukraine), Axon (UK) and L 33 (Bulgaria). They are really making good stuff at the moment. I’m also working with established artists, like Need for Mirrors, so watch for news from Yabai 84 on that front.  

A demo tape that will grab my attention is one where you can feel something strange but friendly, and has dance floor appeal. Anyone is welcome to send demos to: info@yabai84.com  or my Soundcloud Dropbox .

TiD&B: Yabai 84 has a label night lined up in Tokyo at Module on 12th August, what can people expect on the night and what other events are you lining up?

Heavy1: Events like Human Elements are very important to promoting the scene here.  I don’t know what people will expect from the label but I do hope to push the Japanese drum and bass scene forward as a whole with Yabai 84.  Club Module is the best venue I’ve played in Tokyo.  Good sub bass sounds. 

I’ll have an album release party  in Tokyo at Loop Shibuya on June 30th.  I am also planning to go to Europe in October 2012. 

TiD&B: Tell us more about the drum and bass scene in Japan today – what changes have you seen over the years?

Heavy1: There used to be very few people in Japan producing drum and bass. DJs seemed to lack motivation or interest in making their own sounds. But recently, little by little I’ve seen an increase in the number of DJs creating tracks and starting up labels.  For such a long time, Makoto dominated Japan’s drum and bass scene. Aside from Makoto, I also respect artists such as Ena, Velocity, and Key MC, all of whom are giving a voice to the Japanese drum and bass scene across the world.

TiD&B: What does Tokyo offer that you can’t hear or experience in any other place in the world?

Heavy1: That is a difficult question. The sounds in my music reflect the inhuman and robotic nature of Tokyo, plus some darker feelings derived from my more inner complexities.  At the same time, if I look at it from a different perspective, Tokyo is actually a place from which one can derive quite a lot of musical inspiration.

TiD&B: We can’t close this out without a language lesson. What Japanese phrase should every junglist know?

Heavy1: “Maji hanpanaku yabai bass ga deteru ne!” (This is a dangerous sub bass sound!)

“Imihumei, tteiuka kanzen ni nazo dayone.” (These strange and mysterious sounds cannot be described in words.)

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