Early last week, Brussels’ Citywurl Records sent us a promo of Tokyo-based producer-come-beat-maker Emufucka’s latest EP called Select. The six-track effort, a genre-defying mix of cosmic electronic beats and mangled melodies, is fresh, flawless and cerebral. We email-interviewed the 24 year wizard of odds, asking him about everything from the view from his bedroom window to having Count Bass D on his EP.
Can you describe where you are right now? What do you see through your window? What’s the vibe like today, the weather? What time is it, your time?
At the moment I’m living in a quiet central area of Tokyo (Japan). From my room on the 7th floor, you can see the Tokyo Dome, well known as a baseball stadium, and also a bunch of buildings. During daytime, you can see cars and people everywhere from my balcony. Come night, it’s quiet and gives you a feeling of loneliness. Well maybe it’s just because I am writing this at 2am. Spring still feels far away, although it’s getting warmer these days. I don’t really deal with the cold that well, so it has been tough for me. But everything is getting better and better, almost like a calm feeling.
There isn’t a lot of info about you online, so could you introduce yourself to us? How old are you? What’s your real name? Where did you grow up? What kind of kid were you at school?
My real name is Takafumi Sakurai, I’m 24 years old. I’m going to university. My stage name is EMUFUCKA, it’s my name upside down. I born in MIYAGI prefecture, also home to Gagle and Mitsu The Beats. I sometimes go to theirs events whenever I visit them. I personally think that Sendai has a diverse culture, especially in terms of music. During the summer time, an amazing jazz festival is held, you can also visit marvelous record shops. Not far from the city, there is also the Jazzy Sport in Morioka. Sendai was influenced by this shop a lot. When I was a kid, I was a shy and unactive boy. However I was lucky enough to have a lot of good friends. Well, I was quite pessimistic and shy and that has not really changed. Both of my parents were working and whenever I was home, I played games, watched cartoons… I thought that I was a kid who couldn’t do anything good. But when I turned 20, I moved to Tokyo and have lived here ever since.
Your album’s really refreshing, experimental and cerebral yet coherent. Certain influences really come through, both old and new, which is nice. What did you grow up listening to? To what ‘music tribe’ would you say you belonged to? Where do you lean musically nowadays? What scene would you say you are part of in your hometown?
Thanks, glad to hear that. Originally, my mother used to teach music at school and she let me play piano and violin. That really influenced me so much and I ended up listening to classical music on CDs and vinyl. Well not only classical music but also old Japanese pop music from animation and games. Then I fell in love with Hip Hop music after junior high school. I started to produce music when I moved to Tokyo, so it is quite recent. Before producing, I was MCing. I did not listen to Jazz, Soul all sorts of African music until I started to make beats. What triggered me to look into these styles was my quest for samples. I think my music could be described as “BEATS” music and I have some intention to make my music as BEATS. But to be honest I have no interest in genres. This genre-thought really limits producers’ ability. So it’s really up to the people to decide what genre Emufucka’s music belongs to. I personally want my music to be fresh all the time, you know. But I believe all of my roots go back to Hip Hop and I really would like to keep my music this way, but also bringing what I think is beautiful. Before I was in love with the sounds from J Dilla or Madlib, trying to make beats like them. These are the people who deeply influenced my sound. And I still love them. I basically love all sorts of music, but nowadays Beats, Electronica, Psychedelic, Experimental, Dubstep, Glitch, Techno, House, Post Dubstep, Drum ‘n’ Bass, Game Music, Soundtrack, Alternative…etc… And I can’t name a lots of my favorite artists but recently Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawk, Rustie, Clark, Dorian Concept, and James Blake are the people I really feel influenced by.
Regarding the music scene in Japan, we unfortunately do not have a great beat music scene, in comparison to LA or the UK. Only a few people are doing this stuff here and I do believe our music is out of date by maybe two or three years? You could even say the same for my music.
Having Count Bass D on your album has to be every rapper/producer’s secret fantasy. How did that work out?
Before this album, I didn’t know him personally. He is one of my favorite artists. When I started making an EP and choosing tracks, (this is the track called August), I was thinking it would be cool to have Count Bass D‘s voice in it. I sent him a track through SNS without any expectations. And he really liked it… Known as an obscure artist in the music scene, I really appreciated his approval and interest. The process of making music with him was quite simple. He recorded his vocal part at his studio and I edited it. Tableek from Maspyke is also taking part in my new EP.
Listen to August -_ft_Count_Bass_D
What is your next secret fantasy? Who’d you like to work with/have on one of your next releases?
My next release will be two remixes on a label in LA that will hopefully be out this year. I cannot describe it’s sound but I am sure people will be freaked out. And I keep making music for next EP. I already have done some Demo Beats. Hopefully, the release will come out this year or early next year.
Can you tell us a little about how you came to release this EP on Citywurl? How did that connection come about?
I originally collaborated with Slye Records, which is run by a company called aright Entertainment. But there was no chance for a release to happen because they weren’t really feeling it. I sent my demo beats to Citywurl and things worked out like this, that was around last April… Citywurl is a brilliant label I think. I’m grateful that Jonas, the A&R from Citywurl, gave me this opportunity. Releasing music outside of Japan shows that people appreciate the music itself, you know. I am not sure about the situation in other countries, but Japan is all about connections and networks. So I probably can say that not all the music being released in Japan is because the music itself is cool. I happened to witness some people going through that shit so I really did not want to go through it myself. I just keep making music. Some people use music as a tool for success but I do not see it like this. I just wanna make good music and listen to pure music.
Can you talk to us about the album itself? How would you define it? Take us through the track listing. How do you pick title names for the tracks?
I think this EP is my perfect first album. I was able to put all the old and new stuff in there. I picked the selection from hundreds of tracks I made. And I also took good care of the balance of the album as well. The track list is Brain Machine, Inherit The Stars, The Heater, Lovin’ You, Galactic Soul, August. I picked the titles from my favorite films, English and American literature, science fiction novels, animation and cartoons. Whenever I make beats, I try to imagine them visually in my head. Smell, colour, warmth, space, texture,…
Where do you actually record? Do you have your own studio? Can you describe it for us?
All of the tracks were created in my room. A tiny, nine tatami size-studio with the minimal equipement. It was hard to get it with my budget. One PC, DAW-software, speakers and Audio Interface, MIDI controller that looks almost like a toy, a cheap analog recorder, a second hand synthesizer. I know that expensive gear could create a better sound but that doesn’t mean it can create inspiring sounds or tunes. Well, so far I don’t feel really eager to use that.
Can you tell us about the album, the moment or the person that made you get into making music? Are you self taught or did you go to music school? What instruments would you like to be able to play?
No one made me start making music. It came naturally. But I was certainly influenced by my mother who is a music teacher. I have always been in a musical environment. So I can say that I got a sense of music in my blood but I’ve never played any instruments properly. If the occasion presents itself, then I would love to start piano or violin again.
Whats on your current playlist? What are you listening to right now?
These are the tracks which I recently listened to…Young Montana? Ver / Astro Nautico, Connecting The Dogs / Rushkeys, Sometimes I Get Down(Mike Slott Remix) / Kotch, deadcatclearll (Baths Remix) / Themselves, Fancy Forty / Luice, Hold On (Sub Focus Remix) /Rusko feat. Amber Coffman, Night And Day / Oriol, Youth Blood (12th Planet & Flinch Remix) / Little Jinder, Good Boy / My Dry Wet Mess, Tsubomi & Erika’s Rubber Boots / Quarta330, Voices (Dorian Consept Remix) / Nosaj Thing, No Security feat. Kelis (Rustie Remix), Untitled_rsn / Joker, Snowy Lava / Ametsub, Stop What Your Doing (James Blake Remix) / Untold & James Blake, Pitter Patter / Redinho, Trapperkeeper / Low Limit, Carbonated / Mount Kimbie, Everything is Alright (Daisuke Tanabe Remix) / Yellowtail, Sing What You Want (Rusko’s Skwee Remix), Beast Nite / Rustie, Peaky Caps / Gold Panda, Domino Part A / Mr Flash, A Camphoraceous Elixir / Busy, Bits N .Dots.2 / RLP, Ill Yuykb / Coco Bryce, Yo! (Slugabed Remix) / Melkeveien Vs Nino..etc
What local bands are you into? What are the good parties to go to in your neighbourhood/city? The record stores you go to? The magazines/blogs you read?
Regarding events, I often go to Cosmopolyphonic radio show and also Breakthrough by Jazzy Sport. I only go to events where I can listen to good music. For record I often go to Janis, Jazzy Sport and Disk Union. I tend to get music on digital supports but at the same time try to get physical ones as much as possible. For magazines… Sound Recordings which features new instruments, DAW, “how to use” guides, etc… My favorite blogs and sites are 92bpm, Moovmnt, FACT Magazine, Ghostly, Just Like Music, XLR8R, Red Bull Music Academy, In to the Woods, You’ll Soon Know, Pitchfork, Rinse FM, Sonic Router, URB, nutriot, Music Forest and Tokyo Breath Sauce. Tidal who writes Tokyo Breath Sauce is a good friend of mine, an amazing person who tells me a lot about music.
Hudson Mohake, Neon Indian and the whole brainfeeder-low end theory sound and scene come to mind if Iwere to draw comparisons for the purpose of context/reference. Would you agree that, even from a distance, you all belong to this new tribe of electronic artists for whom hip hop probably played a big part in their musical upbringing…?
Well it is a really difficult question. well I personally categorize them as BEATS rather than Electronica Hiphop. I am sure there are a lot of opinions or perceptions about it, so I cannot really say what is right or wrong. All artists have different opinions but as I said before, my music could be categorized in non-genre music like ‘BEATS’ and that is what I am aiming for. For instance in my case, I got so much energy from J Dilla or Madlib… like Hiphop sounds and then now Electronica, Psychedelic, Experimental, Dubstep, Techno, House, Glitch, Post Dubstep, Drum ‘n’ Bass, Game Music, Soundtrack, Alternative… all kinds of different music. I embrace everything from them to create my sound. There should be a lot of controversy going on but what I can say is we should not create boundaries between them but just feel the music and enjoy it instead. If the music has a vibe, why do we have to focus on the genres?
There’s this ability to beautifully mix the old with the new which I found appealing in your EP, a strong sense for the past but with an eye firmly to the future kind of thing…
Thank you, sir. I am just glad to hear those positive comments. There are so many things that I really wanna do. So please keep your ears open for the next releases as well.
Except making music, what is your other bad habit?
I’m able to read people. And I am a cautious person, I tend to worry about almost everything.
If you were asked to curate a festival, who would you have headlining?
There are too many in world wide base so I will pick up Japanese artists…Aqua Dub, a.z, Alpachikabuto, Curicopo, Clearfixx, Daisuke Tanabe, DJ Keita, DJ Kicks, DJ Mitsu The Beats, Danny Masao Winston, Dai Kurihara, Eccy, Fujimoto Teturo, Fitz Ambrose, Gagle, Grooveman Spot, Himuro Yoshiteru, Hiroaki Oba, Hinako, KK, Kan Sano, Kawakami Kohei, Kenji Sakajiri, Legro, Monkey Sequence.19, Madmaid, Masaya Fantasista, Mizube, MMMMMM, Mimosa Pudika, mfp, Nadsroic, Neo Hetare, Ovall, Okada Yasumasa, Ogiyy, Pepin, Pigeondust, Quarta330, Ramza, rigly chang, Ryo Matsui, RLP, Super Smoky Soul, Sauce81, Sayuri Takimoto, Shiiiiii, Tidal, The Astronotes, Taro Yoda, Toi73, Yukari Takanose…and so on. I know most of the people personally but they are just amazing people. Theirs performance, activity DJ…everything is just cool.