DJ sees colours in original music

DJ Krush (above) is a Japanese turntable legend and experimental hip-hop producer.

When DJ Krush was a secret society underling many years ago, he might or might not have broken the bones of rival gang members.

When he turned to music, however, he certainly smashed boundaries.

The Japanese turntable legend and experimental hip-hop producer rose to fame in the 1990s for his music which pushed the envelope of hip-hop, jazz and Japanese classical music.

The 51-year-old DJ, whose real name is Ishi Hideaki, says he prefers not to be confined to a specific genre, choosing instead to "break the format with different approaches and to create styles never heard before".

Rather than treat music according to genres, he approaches it as "colours".

In an email interview with Life! ahead of his gig at the Gem Bar on March 7, he says: "I have never cared about genres. I just search for varieties of colours to put into my music.

"Hip-hop teaches me how to create art and jazz teaches me the ways of colourful expression. I just keep dropping my music as DJ Krush, even if it's defined as a specific genre.

"I'm always interested in artists who can express their originality through their sound. It touches my heart whenever artists have original music. I just want to know more about what I do not know.

"I just wish my music changes your world, to make it a little bit brighter at least."

A pioneer in Japanese hip-hop, he got his start in music after watching the seminal American hip-hop film Wild Style (1983), which featured acts such as The Cold Crush Brothers, Grandmaster Flash and the Rock Steady Crew.

In 1987, he formed hip-hop group Krush Posse, which was dubbed by numerous publications as Japan's best hip-hop act.

The early 1990s defined him as a gifted producer and turntablist when he pursued a solo career in music. His big break came in 1994 when he signed with famed American trip-hop label Mo Wax and released his debut album, Krush.

Known for his live mixing and being one of the first DJs in the world to use turntables as a live instrument in shows with other musicians, he was among pioneers of downtempo hip-hop, incorporating extensive use of jazz and soul samples.

He has released eight solo albums and countless singles and remixes, having worked with well- known artists including American jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, hip-hop band The Roots and Canadian singer-songwriter k.d. lang.

DJ Krush, who is married with two daughters, has been releasing singles on a monthly basis in the past year, in the run-up to his yet-to-be-named new album, which will be his first original solo album since Jaku (2004).

Old-school hip-hop DJs such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, who made their name in the 1980s, inspired him in the early days.

And the genre continues to have an impact on his music. "1990s hip-hop still impresses me."

It is ironic, then, that he uses vinyl emulation software Serato for his live sets most of the time, even though there is renewed interest in vinyl among DJs and music-lovers.

He says: "I have lived through an age of analog technology but I always stay connected with digital technology in my work."

melkok@sph.com.sg


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