In business as successful remixers and music producers for a day job, Japanese brothers Shuya and Yoshihiro Okino - otherwise known as the Kyoto Jazz Massive, step out as artists on their first full-length release: SPIRIT OF THE SUN. Truly sophisticated dance music, the album's eleven tracks explore their musical minds and takes a smooth path through thoroughly modern interpretations of classic funk, Jazz, Brazilian and soul music elements. One listen to it - and the rest of their solid catalog of singles, reveals a deep dedication to making great music but just how did these two guys get so funky? When we caught up with them in Germany where they stopped over to do a press day, we found out that like us, they were inspired by the best, had to start from scratch and definitely multi-task. But thanks to their management company, label, magazine, retail store and booking agency, they've helped sustain and promote the development of this movement on both sides of their country while spreading their unique flavor around the globe. For these 5-Qs, we get the goods on what goes on in the studio, how they create and what they're mom thinks about them being musicians…
1. This debut album represents the bridge between where you've been and where you're going as artists, how did you select the songs for it and what message were you trying to send with this release? Any interesting studio stories you'd like to share?
KJM: There are three reasons why we selected the songs:
1. As we have been doing re-mixes for others for years - sometimes foreign and sometimes Japanese artists, we decided to release our own album, with our own songs and show our work [over] the past ten years. 2. These songs stand for what the music of Kyoto Jazz Massive is. 3. [Since] we really like music from the 70's and it is still popular, we hope the tracks we selected for our album will also be liked in the future… 30, 50, 100 years from now. Because our music contains many influences of jazz, hip hop, soul, house, techno and Brazil, we would like to transport freedom to the listeners. Furthermore, there are many prejudices because there are certain groups who only listen to certain kinds of music. As our music is a fusion of many different styles, we hope to contribute to stopping the prejudices among those groups and fuse them together like [we do in] our music.
There is one story about the production of the track "Mind Expansions." We first produced a demo version of the song but somehow, we were not really happy with it. It sounded very "musical" - very constructed, too complicated. So what to do? We made a second version of the track and used samplings of the demo version we just had produced. For the sampling, we used an eight bars keyboard but a different melody. Pretty weird, as there are so many artists using samples of jazz records but we just sampled our own demo into the new version.
2. Who were some of the artists, music and media that influenced your love and desire to be in this business? Did you party, hear the music on the radio, or see live artists in concerts growing up?
AG: What my fans can expect? I'd say both of them will have to wait a while. Actually, it's much too early to say. I'm currently working on a few demos which I'll use to (hopefully) convince some label to give me a deal. I'm talking with a few labels, but it's hard to say what will happen or when; the record business is really fucked at the moment. The rights to my Nuphonic album have reverted back to me, so I'm also in discussions with some labels about that. In the meantime, a remix I did of Jarvis Church "Shake It Off" is coming out sometime in August, I think, on RCA via Giant Step. And there are some other tracks of mine on various compilations floating around.
Shuya: Before I became a DJ I had been a manager of a small club in Kyoto named Container. I started to do DJ sets on my own there every Thursday. Later on, I booked my brother's DJ-sets [there as well]. After that, we started to do parties along with the Japanese jazz/funk-band Mondo Grosso at the Metro in Kyoto since there were actually no other interesting bands or DJs.
3. Where did you grow up and what did your family and peers think about your choice to go into music? Are there other musical/artistic members of your family? Do you play any instruments?
KJM: We grew up in Kyoto. Our family was not too happy with our choice… especially our mother who thought the music business was a very risky one. She comes from a very traditional Kyoto family. She would have preferred us to choose a life that was much safer then the life of an artist. No, we do not play any instruments and in our family there are no other artists.
4. Now between the two of you, Japan is locked down on the Jazz-fusion tip. Discuss your individual projects and be specific about your QUALITY! publication, events, parties and where your store is located.
Shuya: I am strongly involved in a club called The Room which is in Tokyo and I also run an artist-management company. I manage Hajime Yoshizawa who is a keyboarder (he contributed on the Jazzanova album IN BETWEEN) in a band called Sleep Walker. Their saxophone and keyboard players are former members of Mondo Grosso and of course I manage KJM - it's kind of self-management. As for QUALITY!, I am the editor-in-chief. The next issue will be out by the end of September including interviews with Michael Reinboth and Seiji.
Yoshihiro: In Osaka I run a record shop called Especial Records. I also run a label of the same name that supports good but pretty unknown musicians that I introduce to the scene. Further, I set up tours for foreign DJs on COMPOST RECORDS like Jazzanova and the West London Boys, just to name a few… that's all.
5. What's your creative process like? What kind of equipment do you use in the studio and what piece of equipment can't you live without?
Shuya: At the beginning, we work separate from each other on demos for several tracks. In my case, I create the melody by humming it first, then I make the bass line in my mind. Next, I will make a demo with my own programmer who is not [my brother]. As for Yoshi, he will program the drum line first, then he will select the chords and on the top, he makes the melody. After that, we introduce our demos to each other, select the tracks and then my brother will program my tracks again. After that we go to the studio with the Macintosh and Akai MPC2000XL. If there were no more computers, we would use real musicians like movie directors [since] musicians are like actors.
BONUS: My all-time favorite KJM track is "Nacer do Sol" - I nearly burned it off the BOSSA TREZ… Jazz [Yellow, '99] CD from repeating it so much. What does the title mean and what is the story behind the creation of that track? Are there similar gems like it on the new release?
KJM: In Portuguese, "Nacer Do Sol" means sunrise. That's the first thing. The second is that the feeling of the song is like a sunrise. And third, since Japan is considered the land of the rising sun, we thought it would be a good title for our first release outside of Japan - representing artists who come from the land of the rising sun. This concept is also the concept of our debut album. You should especially check out the "The Brightness of These Days" and "Shine".