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by Don Crispy

Duck Rock

Long before it was fashionable, the DJ was cutting up rock with electronic beats

“Too many clubs are chasing too few customers, and many dance floors are empty.”

Since the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim began mixing rock riffs into sequenced beats to come up with a style called “big beat” almost a decade ago, it’s become trite to hear tracks like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” chopped and blended into house music.
But as anyone who’s heard a set by Tokyo’s Duck Rock will know, the DJ takes this approach to a higher level. Rock tracks are not played just to get a rise out of the crowd, but form a seamless part of a dense thicket of beats and samples; he’s not a hands-in-the-air showboater, but a dedicated craftsman of sound.

“My style hasn’t changed in 15 years,” Duck Rock (Nobuhisa Yamamoto) tells Metropolis. “I select electronic music with a rock taste.”
Growing up with rock and ele-pop, his inclinations were formed early. He got his first exposure to dance music at a club in Kyoto called China Express, and he began to mix dance tracks into sets of indie rock he’d started playing at a local rock club.

Relocating to Tokyo, Duck Rock was behind the decks at some of the formative clubs of Japan’s early-’90s dance explosion, including Picasso, Cave and MC1000. These days, the soft-spoken DJ can be heard mashing up rock with breakbeats at venues like La Fabrique and Ruby Room, but his essential approach hasn’t changed.

In recent years, Duck Rock’s mixing skills have brought him a variety of recording projects. When the drummer for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion heard him spinning at Milk, he asked Duck Rock to remix for the band. The result was an incendiary live mix on turntables that blended a breakbeats track with JSBX’s “2 Kinda Love.”

With the increasing interest in breakbeats during the last few years, Duck Rock has found himself more in demand as both DJ and remixer. He’s worked with overseas forces like Germany’s Westbam and domestic acts including Pealout and Polysics. He’s also released a series of mix CDs, including Sound Republic Vol. 2 Mixed by Duck Rock on KSR.
A quiet but opinionated veteran of the Japanese club scene, Duck Rock believes that not all recent developments have been healthy. “Demand and supply are not in balance,” he says. “Too many clubs are chasing too few customers, and many dance floors are empty.”

He says changes are needed in the way clubs organize parties. “These days, anyone can make a party easily, whereas for me it was a struggle. Dance music has become repetitive—I think events should be playing a wider variety of sounds.”

Duck Rock is resident DJ at Vanity, Deck ‘n’ Effect, Cosmopolitan and other parties. See www.duckrock.net for details.


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