Interview: DJ Kentaro Spinning the Globe

by: Kim Wilson

September 7, 2012

DJ Kentaro Egypt

How are you?
I am good thanks. I’m in Tokyo at the moment, at home! It has been a busy summer, I was touring all summer long basically, starting with my album launch at Ageha, Tokyo – it was an incredible show, the fans danced all night and we had a fantastic light show.

Then I went on a European tour, I played at some festivals: Soundwave was amazing; also Dour in Belgium and Malta in Poland. I just had a blast in all cities and also at the Fuji Rock festival. It has been non-stop since the album launch. Most recently, I did a mix from Kiss FM in London.

The new album has been a long time coming?
Oh, man, Enter came out in 2007 but I have done some serious mix CDs and compilations in those five years – it all takes a really long time. In 2008, I put out a remix album, Tuff Cuts on Pete Holdworth’s Pressure Sounds label and then two years later in 2010, I featured on the Ninja Tune 20th anniversary box set. I think it’ll be another five years until my third album!

How does Contrast differ do your debut?
Contrast is focused more on the dance floor, tunes that I want to play at gigs you know. The influences are more dubstep and grime – I didn’t want to make a purely dubstep album as I like drum ‘n’ bass as well and I also my turntablism to fit in. In the end, we had around 50 tracks and it was like ‘ditch this, keep this, ditch this, keep this’ until we had the album. Essentially, I wanted to make something you could dance to.

What track(s) are you most proud of?
Hahaha, it’s hard to pick, I like the tune I did with DJ Krush called “Kikkake” [meaning opportunity]. He came round to my house and played a selection of tunes, I picked one that I liked best and this became the basis of the track. The track has a 70 bpm, like a dubstep tempo but I made it more interesting with traditional Japanese things, like Japanese bells. The Qemists, Reso and Daedelus did remixes of the track as well.

I got alot of praise for “North South East West” ft. Matrix & Futurebound, though “Higher” is probably most people’s favourite. “NSEW” is where drum ‘n’ bass meets scratching, Futurebound and I did it in about three days we have to send Matrix stuff online as it was still in England. I really like “Big Timer” because of the raga taste. XLII and I were holed up in a studio in Hakuba, a ski resort in Nagano, and did it in a couple of days. XLII suggested MC Zulu for the vocals, we sent it to him and it was all mixed in less than a month.

“Fire is on” is the only song that is sung in Japanese on the album with vocals from Fire Ball, dance hall DJs from Yokohama. “Cross Fader” is also good featuring Kid Koala and D-Style, we made that at my studio in LA. D-style was there in person but we had do communication with Kid Koala online.

How has the scene changed since you began?
It’s mainly digital now, which is sad as less and less vinyl pressing is happening. I still press vinyl, my album Contrast is pressed as well as digital, so please go grab them if you can. The scene is still small, especially in Japan as it takes a long time and a lot of hard work to get good at it and there aren’t that many people willing to do that. I’d like to see the scene get bigger, for sure. DJ battles like DMC or Red Bull’s Thre3Style are a good way of promoting it.

What equipment do you use?
I used Ableton most of the time. A few keyboards, some other effector, and of course turntables! My live set-up is pretty much the same, three turntables and two mixers. When I started producing my own music, I found great similarity between a juggle [live tuntablist] and track composition. Now I do some visuals in Serato as well, I did the midi-lighting live as well at my album launch gig at Basscamp in Tokyo which was really a success.

What influences your sound?
It’s really hard to say, I usually listen to alot of four-four stuff, dubstep, lounge and band music but while I was making the album not so much, as I was really focused on getting the tracks together. When I was younger, say 13 or 14, I started watching scratching on TV and then started to practise myself. It wasn’t long before we started organising parties – we were still at school so they had to be daytime parties on a Sunday or during the holidays. The parties were fun, lots of people came and it was a great earner but it didn’t last for long. After that experience I really got into turntablism again and practised really hard.

There are loads of other artists on the scene that I like, such as Craze(US), Birdy Nam Nam(FR), C2C(FR), Jack Beats(UK). Too many to name! When I was growing-up, I listened to alot of hip-hop: Method Man, Redman, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul so on and so on. In the late 1990s Timberland and The Neptunes hit the scene and that really made the difference for me!

Do you have any dream collaborations or plans in the pipeline?
I have just finished this album! We will have to wait and see – I have enjoyed working with these people so far and would work with them all again.

For the rest of the year, I will be touring: visiting London in late September and then back to Japan for the Saturn festival in Osaka. We are also doing a festival called Electraglide in Tokyo in November. I have some Australian dates in early December before coming back to Japan for Basscamp and then Christmas and then a little rest before it starts all over again!

DJ Kentaro interview with The WILD magazine

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