Currently dividing his time between New York City and Paris, and living the musical life he dreamed about when he was an aspiring musician growing up in Japan, I ask Satoshi Tomiie during an afternoon Skype session about what inspires him. Since breaking big on the global dance floor in 1989 with his timeless track “Tears” cut with Frankie Knuckles and Robert Owens, the man who has risen to artistic sensei doesn’t think twice about his reply.
“I love what I do. I love making music and discovering,” Tomiie says. “I make what I want to make and it’s personal. After more than 25 years, I find music really interesting. It’s never tiring. That’s the music force for me: to keep doing it everyday.”
Having taken time to build his dream project studio after issuing his 2000 full-length debut Full Lick — which featured his massive crossover hit “Love In Traffic” featuring Kelli Ali from Sneaker Pimps — his meticulously crafted second full-length album, New Day, isn’t afraid to think beyond the dance floor. During our conversation, Tomiie spoke about the long and winding road to realizing New Day, why creative innovation is important and what led him to release the album on cassette. That’s right, cassette!
Satoshi Tomiie’s New Day is out now on Abstract Architecture. Read our interview with Tomiie in which he discussed how Frankie Knuckles changed his life.
After 2000’s Full Lick your second album, New Day, took a long time to see the light of day.
Satoshi Tomiie: I did singles, EPs and remixes every year. I wanted to [build] my studio in New York and it took me quite a while. At the same time I was super busy traveling. I prefer to put my hands on the gear and making stuff. Not having a working place didn’t make things easier. I could manage to make a song here and there, but making an album is a full commitment. So when the studio was finally ready a few years ago, then I had the idea to put sketches for the album together. It just happened this way. The next one could happen earlier [laughs].
There’s a timeless sound evident on New Day. It’s as if you didn’t think much about trends or fads. Each track has an original flavor to it.
You definitely hear my early influences on the album. It’s not just repeating ideas; it’s a mixture of modern ideas and production [techniques]. I didn’t want to create a compilation of singles. DJs want to produce something that they can play in their sets — I wanted to do the same, but the concept was one package with multiple chapters. It had to have a flow and not [be only] for the DJ or the dance floor. I am doing that with remixes of singles off the album. These remixes will be more floor friendly. When you make an album you find sub ideas, so I made enough sketches to make another album!
I found it interesting that there’s only one guest on New Day, John Schmersal, who tours with Caribou. I’m sure you could have worked with many vocalists and collaborated with other musicians and producers, but you chose not to go in that direction.
No. I wanted the album to be more instrumental oriented. That’s where I started and enjoyed making the instrumental tracks in a different way. Before I made dance beats, I was self-taught jazz piano so instrumentals are part of my regime.
“Momento Magico” reminded me of the vibe of some early ’90s house records.
That’s interesting. I made that track a couple of years ago and there’s a ’60s Brazilian influence on there where I twisted some samples and more disco beats and pads. It’s a hybrid, a mixture and my interpretation of my past influences on that song.
And “Landscape” reminded me of sounds from a few old Nu Groove Records.
I think that’s one of the first tracks I made for this album. I found a Roland Jupiter-8 in Japan. I was so excited about it. So maybe that sound led me into that old-school vibe. I had no plan to make that track. I got a new toy…let’s play with it! Because it’s such a great synth, I used it on almost every track on the album. It came with a DCB but for some reason it failed after I bought it. I ended up deploying everything live — I was forced — but I was happy to use my hands. I would use sequencing from Ableton but couldn’t. So I explored other options…the first track was me messing with the arpeggiator. It was a happy accident. Fifteen or 20 years ago it would have been really annoying to not have the sequencing option, but the analog synths are a handful but really useful. I’m really into hardware again with software because it’s so much creative.
“Years ago I thought the medium is old, let’s digitize because it’s so convenient, blah-blah. But I miss the physical touch of the media. I think anything that’s too convenient makes you want to explore a medium with limitations.”
New Day is available on cassette, which in itself is amazing. What led you to release the album on this much maligned format?
It’s actually really interesting that the younger generation have discovered cassettes. I’ve been digging through my old cassette collection. It’s fun as is anything physical — I am releasing the album on vinyl too. It’s something you can touch. Years ago I thought the medium is old, let’s digitize because it’s so convenient, blah-blah. But I miss the physical touch of the media. I think anything that’s too convenient makes you want to explore a medium with limitations [laughs].
The cassette is a limited format!
Super limited! My mother got rid of her house and moved into an apartment because she didn’t need such a big place anymore. She told me, “Satoshi, you need to get rid of all this stuff.” At her house I had tons of records and cassettes, some synths and found some really interesting live radio recordings. You can’t find those recordings anywhere. Now I’ve digitized those tapes. I have to give credit to TDK. They had amazing quality control, and those tapes from my youth are still going.