John Robinson

John RobinsonOccupation:
DJ at Velfarre
Time in Japan:
8 years

I came here because, well, I' been a DJ for longer than I care to remember-actually this year is my twentieth anniversary of being a DJ-and I had been in the Philippines for four years doing bits and pieces similar to what I'm doing here: recording, TV, stuff like that, but I didn't know how to produce, how to arrange, not even, really, how to write. So I contacted a company here, sent them some tapes and told them I wanted to learn remix and production. They asked me to come over for a couple of months to see how we'd get along and basically I've been here ever since.

Before I came to live here permanently, I had visited on a number of occasions so didn't experience any real culture shock. I'm a complete gadget freak and during my first six months I was going around like, "Wow. Wow. Cool." I was amazed at everything, even stuff like the massive TV screens on the sides of buildings, which you may see all over the world now but which eight years ago was still pretty unusual. I miss that feeling of wonder and I wish I could get it back.

I don't necessarily think that Tokyo is conducive to being successful simply because you're a foreigner. I've been very lucky, I'd be the first to admit that, and a lot of that has been to do with being in the right place at the right time. But I also think that to a certain extent you make your own opportunities, and yeah, Tokyo is good like that, but so are a lot of other places. If you stay focused on what you want to do, then generally, you'll find a way to do it. That's probably an unfair thing to say because, like I said, I've been very lucky and I know some very talented people who are in a completely different echelon to me as far as talent goes who haven't had the breaks. It's just luck of the draw.

Probably the worst thing about living in Japan is the absolute rigidity of the society; that there is a set of rules and the majority of people seem to follow them. Whereas that may more or less account for the dynamic success of this country in the past, I think it's also restricting it now and that it's time for a bit of change. You know, it's like washing machines that in the past were programmed and now have that thing "Fuzzy Logic" which gives them a little bit of room to make decisions according to the situation. I think that's what society needs now-a bit of Fuzzy Logic.

I've had too many embarrassing experiences to mention during my time here. The one that jumps to mind, and it's every DJ's nightmare, is taking off the record that's playing. The thing is that when you do that-and hopefully it doesn't happen too often-obviously everything goes quiet, but then there's like a shock wave that hits you and you're like, "Jesus Christ the sound went off!" Then you look down and it's a real Warner Brothers moment: your eyes pop out as you realize that the stylus is there in your hand and off the record. That's quite high up on the embarrassment meter.

This coming year, I very much want to expand into other territories-that's what I wanted to do when I first came here but I kind of got waylaid with what I've been doing up until now. Three weeks ago I did a small tour of Taiwan and released my last album there and hopefully I'll be doing the same in some other Asian territories this year. That's where I want to be: out and about in Asia.

I think that to a large extent my future will be based here in Japan, but I don't really know. Whereas before time was going really quickly recently I've started to feel like I've been here for eight years, and that's a long time. So maybe I should sit back and analyze exactly what that means, and it may be that I find it's time to think about moving onto other things. We'll have to wait and see.

Velfarre re-opened on March 14 after extensive refurbishment.

John Robinson spoke to Richard James.

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