‘No one taught me how to DJ’

Japanese disc jockey Toshio Matsuura, who is all set to play in Dubai tonight, holds forth on his kind of music and all that jazz

By Adam Zacharias

Published: Thu 19 Feb 2009, 9:49 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:27 PM

TOKYO’S FINEST DJ/PRODUCER Toshio Matsuura will grace the decks on the Madinat Rooftop today.

The Japanese disc jockey is known for his work in United Future Organisation (UFO). After forming in 1990, the band established themselves as funk frontrunners, gaining critical acclaim for their ambient sound and remix work.

In his 12 years with UFO, the group released five albums and worked with noteworthy producers including Thievery Corporation and the Kyoto Jazz Massive.

Toshio MatsuuraToshio eventually left the outfit in 2002, after he was involved in a near-fatal car crash. Shortly after he received a call from Universal Japan, who asked him to contribute a tune to an upcoming James Brown tribute album.

The result – a mash-up of Give It Up Or Turn It Loose – was picked up by BBC Radio One DJ Gilles Peterson and led to a lasting friendship and professional partnership between the duo. Together, they went on to found the Brownswood record label in 2006.

City Times spoke with Toshio about collaborations, his car crash and the current club scene in Tokyo.

How did you initially become interested in music and how did you learn to DJ?

I became interested in jazz when I listened to Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue – I was 15 at that time. My other influences later on were DJ Paul Murphy, Gilles Peterson and my ex-partners from UFO. No one taught me how to DJ, so I still play in my original style.

What were the highlights of your time with UFO and why did you leave?

A highlight was creating albums and having them released worldwide – for a DJ who can neither read notes nor play an instrument! Also, travelling to many countries and seeing a lot of different cultures and people. It's not easy to explain why I left UFO, so I’d rather not discuss it here.

Can you tell us about your car crash – how did it shape your views on your career and your life?

When I had my accident, at the start of the 21st century, my view on life changed completely. Of course I realised that driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous, but more than that something in me changed.

When you left UFO, you must have wanted to pursue other dreams. Do you feel you're realising these dreams as a solo artist?

I still think I have yet to realise my dreams – but I think I’m on the right path.

Do you have any strange habits or traditions when you DJ?

It’s often a great set when I’ve had a heavy or passionate night, in which I don't remember what I played. Also, every time someone comes up and asks me to play something in particular it’s always a song that I don't have, like Green Day.

What can we expect from your Dubai set?

Mainly jazz and Latino music. It should be a fun night with a range of multi-national and multi-genre music.

How did you approach the task of remixing a James Brown song? Why did you choose Give It Up Or Turn It Loose?

I wanted to add some essence of jazz and Latino music to the original funkiness. I chose it because this track was one of my favourites – it was always played in nightclubs during the 1980s.

Can you tell us about your work with Gilles Peterson?

Now as his Japanese rep I organise his tours and other activities, and he also supports me when I visit Europe. Our relationship is deep, both at work and in private.

What are you like when you're behind the decks – are you the same as you are offstage or do you have a stage persona?

I think I'm more happy and positive on the decks. That’s because the entertainer must be having fun in order to entertain someone else.

How is Tokyo's club scene at the moment? Is there anything that excites you about it or is it growing stale?

Compared to 20 years ago, it’s more open to everyone – although the music and quality hasn’t improved. Times have changed and I think we should rejuvenate Tokyo’s club music and its scene – that's why I'm trying to work harder this year.

Event Details:

What: iLL Communications presents DJ Toshio Matsuura

When: Thursday, February 19, 10pm to 3am

Where: The Rooftop, Madinat Jumeirah

Cost: Dhs125

Tickets: Available from OHM Records in Karama, www.timeouttickets.com and at the entrance to the venue.

For further info and table reservations, call Kumar Asnani on 050 725 8277 or e-mail kumar@electricmotel.com.

To listen to some of Toshio’s latest tunes, visit www.myspace.com/djtoshiomatsuura.


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