New Music Cities is a series of short films created by Dazed Vision and high street brand All Saints that gives a glimpse into the past, present, and future underground scenes of various cities across the globe. We've had two installments from the series already, the first looking at the defiant underground of New York and the second a group of musicians from South London including Mount Kimbie, Kwes, Katy B, and Micachu, and the newly-released third video travels to Tokyo.
This edition of the series is curated by Gilles Peterson and focuses on musicians Sapphire Slows, Emufucka, and Nissenmondai. Peterson is a fine choice of curator, having spent his whole life sourcing music from across the globe (even a relatively simple list of his favourite tracks from last year travels through Europe, the US, and Africa), and given how little Tokyo's music scenes are seen from a Western perspective, it makes sense to see the bridge between the UK and Japan through those eyes.
We caught up with with Sapphire Slows, the producer of gorgeous electronic dance music who releases through finest DIY labels Not Not Fun and 100% Silk, who we first spoke to in 2011. In the spirit of the documentary, we kept our questions related to her involvement in the local scene. You can watch her live session for New Music Cities and read our Q&A with her below.
Given your releases on LA labels like Not Not Fun, do you still feel a part of the Tokyo music scene?
Sapphire Slows: "I think I'm part of the Tokyo music scene, though I'm still sort of figuring out what the scene is itself. Maybe, Tokyo is mysterious enough that I guess no one can really see what it is from outside, so everyone asks me about it. Even from inside sometimes it's weird and hard to understand.
"When it comes to music, I felt more comfortable when I was in the US, especially in California. There are many friends and labelmates, but since I've been there only a few times I can't say I really know it well. And 'music scene' is not always about just the music, but includes more the atmosphere of the city itself, strong relations between people and places, history, philosophy and so on. I have a few good friends who I can share those kind of things with, but I think we are still very much underground and in the growth process.
"But for me, actually, such small underground things are definitely one of the most interesting things in Tokyo so I never want it to grow big enough to be easily understood but just want it to be deeper and stronger."
Are there any other musicians in the city that you collaborate with?
Sapphire Slows: "I usually don't work with others to make music, but I do have some friends that I do parties with, some of which I often play at. I met some artists at my favorite record store, like Japanese harsh noise artist P.I.G.S, 21-year-old, talented hidden gem boy NewZealand, riot girl traveling photographer Chiro, industrial dark romantic artist Cold Name (from Jesse Ruins), smart hardware acid house artist Naliza Moo, etc… Even not in Tokyo there are many interesting and fresh artists, like an electronic stage magician Seiho, neo witch-house maker Eadonmm, eclectic playful boy Madegg, and so on. They are based in Osaka and Kyoto, but you know Japan is very small."
What's your favourite record shop in Tokyo?
Sapphire Slows: "Definitely Big Love Records in Harajuku. They've been supporting me a lot since I was like 19 or 20, and I met many friends there! They are great as a music store and at the same they are always trying to help many great artists and young talented kids who naturally gather at the store. I love drinking Shiga-Kogen craft beer and talking with friends there after checking new releases, like every week."
What have you been working on since you released 'Allegoria'?
Sapphire Slows: "After I finished last autumn-winter tour I started working on new stuff! It's still not finished at all but I'm so excited to do new things! Now I'm interested in trying two different mode: more pop, or more experimental, or maybe both together. Now I want to use my voice maybe more clearly and also want to write down lyrics, but at the same time now I'm more into doing live recording for some weird improvised stuff. So I still don't know how it goes! As for tours, I'm gonna do my first Europe tour in early July 2014. So so excited for that!"