Where are you based?The suburbs to the West of Tokyo.
Is this your home town?No, I’m originally from England. I grew up in a small village in North Norfolk.
What brought you to Japan? How long have you been here? Do have any plans to move back to the UK? Is there anything you miss about the UK? What do you like about Japan? What, if anything, do you not like about Japan?My wife is Japanese. We met in London about 12 years ago and moved to Japan just over 4 years ago. At the moment I have no plans to return to the UK. The only thing I really miss in England is friends and family. I like the weather, food, people, and social life in Japan. I think it’s a great place to live! There isn’t really anything I dislike as such although not being able to read and write to any useful degree is frustrating!
What is your first musical memory?Seeing Slade on TOTP and being terrified by the guitarist, Dave Hill. It was his haircut. I’m not joking.
What was the first record you bought?I think it was The Specials’ first LP.
What was the last record you bought?Vera, “Take Me To The Bridge”.
How did you hear / find this record?Late night Youtube session, I believe.
What inspired you to start DJing / making music / the label?I started trying to make music about 30 years ago when I was in my first band with my best friend. We we’re called ‘Noise’ and did bad Chuck Berry covers. I was in a variety of bands after that, Alabama Swamp Surfers, which was Surf and Psychobilly, Jolly Boys Lane, 80s indie, but after hearing a Frankie Knuckles record while off my head in a club sometime in the late 80s I wanted to make House music.
Can you still rock a Chuck Berry riff? Do you still listen to any Surf or Rockabilly? Who were the inspiration for Jolly Boys Lane? Can you remember the name of the club and the Frankie Knuckles track? Do you still make music that wouldn`t fit within the loose headings of House or Balearic?Yes I can still do a bit of Chuck. It’s falrly basic stuff actually! I haven’t really listened to much Rockabilly over the last few years. I need to reacquaint myself with the genre I think. The main inspiration for Jolly Boys Lane was probably The Smiths. The Frankie Knuckles track was “Your Love”. Actually is that strictly speaking a Jamie Principle track? I guess the only stuff I do at the moment that wouldn’t fit under the loose-limbed Balearic moniker is some of the music I’ve done for theatre companies in Tokyo.
How long have you been DJing / making music / running the label?I started DJing about 20 years ago, as I said I started playing in bands before that but I made my first record in 1993. I only started my own label, Jansen Jardin, a couple of years ago in 2010.
Can you remember your first gig? Can you remember the music you played? What was your first record? How did the recording come about?I think the first gig I did in a band was in about 1985 in a village hall somewhere in the Fens. There were only about 6 people there. The bassist was wearing a WW2 German army helmet and this upset some farm labourers in the ‘audience’. We had to leave out of the back window and hide in an irrigation ditch with our gear until my mate’s dad could come and pick us up. First record I made? That was “Up There Out There” by Essa released on Warp Records as part of the D.I.Y Sound System compilation they did. We, me and Tim White the other half of Essa, were living in Nottingham in the early ’90s. We were trying to make “House” music using a four track Portastudio, a crap electric keyboard and some guitar effects pedals. D.i.Y. started a label so we gave them a tape of our tracks and they put us in the studio with Charles Webster. Charles was working as an engineer at Square Dance in Nottingham where D.i.Y had their studio and label office. He engineered our first couple of records and kind of took us under his wing. He let us use his own studio for some other projects and always encouraged us in what we were trying to do.
How did you meet the DIY crew? What was your involvement in the parties?We met them just by going to their parties. Rick and Pete, Digs and Woosh, had a weekly pirate radio show called “Serve Chilled”. They then started a weekly Tuesday night party of the same name at a place called the Cookie Club in Nottingham. We used to go there quite a bit and we DJ’d there 2 or 3 times too. We weren’t really involved with the parties other than DJing at them on a regular basis. I think we wanted to do more with regards to actually making records.
You`ve told me about a long running gig at the club next to The End. It sounded to me, that here, playing long sets, this is really where you really learnt your “chops”. Can you you go into some detail here? When? Again, what kind of music were you playing?The End had a bar next door called AKA. At weekends you could move between the two venues, they were actually connected inside. AKA opened at 6pm and they needed someone to play music through until 10 when whoever was promoting that night’s event would takeover. I think they had a problem finding someone who wouldn’t start playing peak time bangers at 6 ‘o’ clock on a Friday evening. Although I’d been DJing for over 10 years at that point this was the first time I’d had a regular weekly gig. I did it for about 2 years and I learnt quite a lot during that time. Obviously it would be pretty quiet for the first hour or two but by 8-9 PM it would usually fill up. It was a fairly large space, maybe 200 – 300 people. I would start off playing very laid back stuff, things like “Space Commercial” by Eddie Harris, “Stadera” by Tullio Di Piscopo then move into tracks like “Mellow Blow” by Barrabas, “Twilight” by Maze. By 9 PM I would be playing more uptempo stuff, Rinder & Lewis, Patrick Adams, Gino Soccio type disco alongside newer records on labels like Bear Funk, Environ, DFR, etc.
How would you describe your sound / the label`s sound?I can’t make “dark” music. I can’t help it, everything always comes out sounding blissful and sunny, although there are some definite dance floor moments. The label takes some cues from early releases from Italian labels like Heartbeat and Calypso and then I like to set that off against a contemporary, contrasting remixer for each project.
How has the concept of getting in drastically different remixes, from people like Ju Ju & Jordash and Chicago Damn, been received? Would you like to make “dark” music?It seems to have been received well, although sometimes the artists are little perturbed! If the dark side beckons I will see what I can do. I`ll try my best to be accommodating.
Which production / release / remix are you most proud of?If I had to pick one of my own tracks it would be “Panorama Suite”. It was ambitious but I think I pulled it off. Remix? I really like my mix of “Yeah” by Lusty Zanzibar on Nang and I just did remix of a track called “Words Under The Sun” by Savvas for Valley Sound which is sounding wonderful.
The music you produce for Is It Balearic?, I know there`s a theme, a progression to it, would you like to explain more about it and give some clues to what`s coming next? How did you hook up with Tim and Ampo?With the records I’ve done for Timm and Ampo I’ve just tried to do something a bit different each time and they’ve supported that. “2 B The One U Want” was kind of a nod to that early 90s Italian House sound. “Panaorama Suite” was simply the most blissed out music I could make at that particular point in time. “Feel It In Your Body” and “Heartache” was kind of Balearic chugger anthem versus 80s white boy Funk. Next up is, well, Elkin & Nelson do New Beat.
Which production / release / remix would you most like to have done?Basically I wish I was Trevor Horn. Anything he’s done.
What are your favourite places to play / hang out in?My Favourite place to play is Bonobo in Tokyo, tiny but a wonderful spot for small, crazy parties with a great sound. Also, Tipographia in Pescara, Italy is wicked! Hanging out? These days it’s at home with my daughter.
I`ve heard that the warm-up DJ at Bonobo is particularly gifted.He is something of a legend in certain circles.
Do you get to play outside of Japan regularly?About once a year I try and head back to Europe for some gigs.
What is your favourite place outside of a bar / club / record shop?A yakki niku restaurant on a nomi hodai tab (Korean barbecue with all you can eat and drink set price).
Do you see yourself as part of any scene?These days it’s so easy to maintain regular contact with everybody around the world that there is a strong international network of labels, producers, parties doing likeminded stuff in the UK, Portugal, Germany, Japan, US. I guess I’m part of that. The 21st century Balearic network?
Who does your artwork?For Jansen Jardin I worked on the label design with my brother, Sam who is a bit handy with Illustrator. Other things like the Bear Funk LPs and the mix CD that I did with John Daly, they were done by a guy called Sebastien Pignon in France.
The artwork on that mix CD is amazing. Kinda Aubrey Beardsley meets Alan Moore? Are either of these influences?It turned out very well. It’s all the handiwork of Sebastien Pignon. I think I gave him some kind of brief to do with early 20th century opium dens.
What`s the story / idea behind the Jansen Jardin labels, the Latin, etc?The label design is based on an old 78 label I found. The Latin loosely pertains the tracks but really I just like the way it looks.
Is a visual identity important?Yes.
How does this reflect your own likes / inspirations?For me it’s another way of playing around with the vibe of the content, the music, having a bit of fun with a few references.
You looking like Kashif on “Continental Drift” for example?‘”Underground” artists very rarely put themselves on the cover of their releases, it’s a very “Pop”, mainstream thing to do. I couldn’t resist it.
Which artists are you currently working with?Just finished the next Soiree LP with Stevie Kotey entitled “Let’s Play Tennis” which he recently described as Flight of The Conchords doing New Wave Disco. I think that probably sums it up quite well! Also working with Charles Webster on a “Pastoral Psyche” concept that is developing slowly. Charles is also remixing a project I’ve just produced for Jansen Jardin with the Zimbabwean singer, D.C Mathias, and a Japanese songwriter called Mai Oshida.
“Pastoral Psyche”. Ok. What music / artists would you class as Pastoral Psyche? Actually that was Charles’ phrase. I like it but you’d best ask him to define it.
How did you meet Stevie?I’d bought a Bear Funk record and I really liked it but the only contact details were a postal address so I wrote him a letter introducing myself. We were both living nearby so we met up for a pint.
Who would you most like to work with?Elkin & Nelson, Tuillio De Piscopo, any of the YMO guys!
Does playing and making music pay the rent?By the skin of my teeth. But not just DJ / dance stuff. I do some corporate and theatrical music work as well.
Do you think you the same opportunities to survive “creatively / musically” exist in London? I know you have worked, and do work, bloody hard to achieve the goals you have set yourself. What would be your longer term aspirations as an artist? Is it possible, at the moment, to survive on production only?
I think they do exist in London but my own personal situation is that things have developed for me now, while living in Japan. I’d like to collaborate with people from other disciplines, film, fashion. I think nearly every producer I know wants to have a crack at a soundtrack. I can’t survive just on production for underground labels. I have to DJ every weekend and take corporate or theatrical jobs when I can.
What sites, if any, do you regularly check on-line?The Guardian. Living in Japan it’s hard to find decent news sources. Test Pressing, I do, honestly, TED, Pornhub.
Any news that isn`t on Pornhub isn`t worth knowing.Indeed.
What was the last book you read?“Explorers Of The New Century” by Magnus Mills
What is your favourite book?One of my favourites is “Tough Tough Toys For Tough Tough Boys” by Will Self.
What was the last film you saw?Hitchcock’s “Frenzy”, which is full of excellent early 70s London street scenes.
What is your favourite film?Difficult, but I really love “Diva”. It has such a great mood.
What is your favourite piece of music? If that`s too difficult, what`s your current favourite piece of music?The Soft Rocks remix LP on ESP is great. Been playing the whole lot at various parties for the last few of weeks.
Max and Stevie`s Soiree project will release their “Let`s Play Tennis” LP, previewed here, in August.