Tokyo musician/producer Wata Igarashi‘s musical roots run deep. Long before he began exploring deep techno a few years ago, he was a member of punk-hardcore skate band F.O.D. at the age of 15 while living in Madrid. When Igarashi, who also lived for a time in London, returned to Tokyo, he traded in power chords and angst for a freeform experimental instrumental band called Indigo Cage Airlines. Upon graduating from college he worked in sales for Fernandes Guitars and went on to work for Tokyo-based SYN Entertainment, a production company co-owned by Nick Wood and Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran. Igarashi’s exploits eventually led him to deep techno, a medium where he’s distinguished himself as a producer and live act.
Now working full-time on music as well as various sound design and production projects, Igarashi’s musical signature continues to evolve and mature. With the issuing of his brilliant four-track Junctions EP on newly launched Berlin-based Midgar Records, which follows cuts on Mariana Wax, Gynoid Audio, Counter Pulse and Sienna Obscure, Igarashi shares how his past continues to influence his future. “I try to produce something that I like and feels good. It wasn’t my real focus to make ‘deep techno,’ but I guess that’s what came out.”
On your SoundCloud you’ve posted field recordings of crickets and cicadas and you’ve also played in punk-rock bands when you lived in Madrid. How does all of this variety inform the music you currently produce?
Wata Igarashi: I guess I’ve gone through a bit of variety in music than most: a hardcore band, jazz and improv music and electronic music. It might be hard to recognize the resemblance in sound, for example, between the jazz improv sound that I was making to the techno that I am producing now, but sure there are lots of things in common. One mental common point for me is that I think I always tried to make music that takes you somewhere. I guess it’s like speaking the different languages in different manners, but trying to say similar things. The cricket and cicada clips were just me experimenting with the audio to see how they sound when they are time-stretched after seeing a Facebook post about this amazing cricket sound time-stretched sound but that turned out to be fake. Cicadas time stretched reminded me a bit of Mike Parker!
Junctions finds you further exploring deep techno. How did you come to work in this genre? Was there an important musical moment that led you to want to focus on this style?
I try to produce something that I like and feels good. It wasn’t my real focus to make “deep techno,” but I guess that’s what came out. [Laughs.] I have always liked deep aspects in music, whether electronic or not, so all these kinds of music has had lots of influence on me, but there wasn’t like a moment like, Bang! Wow, from now on I make deep music. Though, each time I listen to some deep solo piano of Keith Jarrett or am at Labyrinth festival, it does reconfirm that I do love the deepness in music. What I focus on when I’m making music is to make a musical journey. If you could find a good balance in deepness, groove and flow, it can take you on a super trip, I think. I am still trying to get that balance right.
Your EP serves as Midgar Records’ first release. How did you come to work with the label? Are there more releases in the works?
Jacopo, from Midgar Records, sent me an offer mail at the really right timing when I had just finished a few tracks. He liked what I sent him and it just happened, really quickly. He actually found me via this compilation EP from Mariana Wax, a label by Dave Twomey, who, you may already know, passed away last year. So I need to thank Dave for connecting me to Midgar. More releases from Midgar… yes, I hope so!
“What I focus on when I’m making music is to make a musical journey. If you could find a good balance in deepness, groove and flow, it can take you on a super trip, I think. I am still trying to get that balance right.”
There’s something hypnotic about the title track on the EP. Is there a story behind this track?
“Junctions” is the most recent track produced from the EP and for me it’s about all these different pulse moving and modulating in different directions. You can listen and follow how one pulse evolve, or listen to it as a whole.
“Flare” is almost the yin to the title track’s yang. Do you ever see yourself exploring housier styles?
I had a month where I produced only slow acid with pads. “Flare” was one of them. I do like working with chords and pads, so yes, it is possible to explore in more housier fields.
“Hitodama” relates to Japanese folklore. How did you make the connection between fire balls and the track you produced?
Jacopo named this one. When he heard the untitled demo version, he said he could see some blue fire!
You’ve lived Madrid and London earlier in your life. What are some of your best musical memories while living there?
I don’t think I would be who I am if I didn’t live in England or Spain. I wanted to become a baseball player till I first moved to England! I’d say I’m pretty much a very typical Japanese boy. Then instead of baseball bats, I grabbed a skateboard and an electric guitar. Meeting and hanging out with all these skater friends in Spain was the best thing happened to my life. With them I played in a punk-hardcore band as well. We had sessions in a really dusty basement in Madrid and getting wasted. It was the start of my musical life.
Tokyo is your home base. What’s the techno scene like these days? Are you still involved in organizing parties with Drone?
Tokyo techno scene is doing good in its own way. It’s not like Berlin; the parties are not whole weekend long. Weekday parties could be a bit scarce, but we do have great local DJs, producers, promoters and clubs, that are really pushing the scene. With Drone, we had a party with Polar Inertia at Louver in Shinjuku in April. Recently, we’ve been playing more live sets and doing a bit less organizing.
What are your live sets like? How do you translate the music you’ve produced into a show that will engage people?
Lately I am more often booked to do a live DJ hybrid set. This is good for me as if I have two hours or so; I can use the first half to bring the vibe for the live set. I try to make the live section a bit different from DJ section. For example, I try to perform almost the entire track before going on to the next in live. I try to rearrange it in a way that the potential of the tracks come out fully. Also, I use Miami drum machine. I think its sound and real-time control makes difference. But to really answer your question what’s my sets are like, please come my gig and find out yourself!
What’s next for you this summer?
More productions and hopefully some releases.
Final question: Udon, soba or ramen?
Ramen!!! (But I like everything.)
Wata Igarashi’s Junctions EP is out now on Midgar. This month in Tokyo he plays a DJ set at Unit/Saloon/Unice’s 10th Anniverary Party on July 5 and Dommune on July 16.