by Don Crispy
THE FORMER MEMBER OF FAMED CLUB JAZZ DJ UNIT UFO EXPLAINS
WHY HE WENT SOLO
people think of clubbing on the same level as karaoke.
EVEN WITH THE EXPLOSION IN REMIX ALBUMS
since the 90s, its not too often that the opportunity
arises to remix the Godfather of Soul himself. So when Toshio
Matsuura got the call from Universal Japan at the end of 2002
to participate in a James Brown remix album featuring Japanese
producers, needless to say he jumped at the chance.
The negotiations with management were quite tough, and
there were lots of checkpoints. We couldnt edit the
lyrics or add too many effects on the vocals, but I really
enjoyed it, says Matsuura in an interview at a noisy
He says that he chose the track Give It Up or Turn It
Loosenot one of Browns familiar hitsin
order to give younger listeners a taste of an early, jazzier
James Brown. Its not a really clubby track. I
tried to mix it so it could be played in club, but also keep
Matsuura says that when iconic UK tastemaker and DJ Giles
Peterson put it on his Worldwide compilation series, the track
became key in introducing listeners abroad to Matsuura as
a solo artist at a point when he had just left his longtime
DJ collective United Future Organization.
The obvious question then arises: Why did Matsuura leave UFO
after 12 years during which the trio not only introduced club
jazz to Japanese audiences through their signature Jazzin
events, but also released a series of influential albums worldwide?
Matsuura says a near-death auto collision forced him to reconsider
his direction. Ill be 40 soon, and I got tired
of waiting for people to come to the studio. After I nearly
died I decided life is short and I dont want to wait.
I dont want to lose time and by myself I can act more
Since leaving UFOwith whom he says hes still on
good termsMatsuura has been dividing himself between
DJ tours that have taken him to more than 25 countries, production
work, and party planning. In addition to the massive New Years
Eve parties hes put on at Ebisu Garden Hall, hes
brought neo-tango unit the Gotan Project to Roppongi Hills,
and produced parties for the British Embassy. He also hosts
a regular show, Seven Eleven, once a week on Shibuya
FM that is syndicated around Japan.
Matsuura recalls the dozen years he spent with UFO as ones
which saw an explosion in lifestyle choices, among them clubbing.
I believe UFO really changed the scene in Tokyo. No
one is writing about it, but by introducing new music and
the attitude of enjoying clubbing and fashion we wanted to
show how much choice was out there. We wanted to teach people
how to choose for themselves, and teach them how to have fun.
With the explosion of club culture over the past decade and
its resultant commercialization, Matsuura laments that it
has become just another mass culture product. In a short
time its become too popular. Some people think of clubbing
on the same level as karaoke. Noting the growth of house,
techno and trance, Matsuura says hes trying to rejuvenate
the club jazz scene.
The situation seems far from dire. With Matsuura and his former
mates in UFO still active along with influential outfits like
Kyoto Jazz Massive, not to mention the popularity of jazz/jam
band events such as Organic Groove and young Japanese jazz
guns Pez, jazz is continuing to establish a new rolenot
as a whisky-sipping, sit-down experience for ojisan, but as
a booty-shaking soundtrack for the mating rituals of the young
(and young at heart).
Seven Eleven can be heard
every Monday night from 7-8pm on 78.4 Shibuya FM. Info: www.standard-works.com/toshio_matsuura
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