Keep Ourselves Flesh: Yuji Kondo Interview

Yuji Kondo 2014 artist photo

You may have run into the work of Japanese sound artist Yuji Kondo whether you know it or not. Whilst the Kansai based producer has had several releases under his birth name, his involvement in leftfield techno scenes runs far deeper, releasing under alias’ such as Ducerey Ada Nexino and Steven Porter alongside Katsunori Sawa.

The pair also orchestrate the staggeringly consistent ‘10 Label’, an imprint which despite its short discography has managed to attract some of the most sought after names in electronic music, such as Matthew Herbert and Anne-James Chaton.

With a four track EP of dense warehouse techno due out shortly on Ali Wells’ stellar Perc Trax imprint, we decided it’d be a fitting time to catch up with Kondo to discuss the release, his relationship with Sawa and the Japanese music scene in general.

2014 seems to have been a busy year for yourself, releasing EPs under your birth name as well as the Ducerey Ada Nexino moniker. How would you describe the different between the material you produce as Ada Nexino and the Yuji Kondo releases?

I don’t really think of monikers during the initial sound materials making process. I usually decide which name to use when the demo track is complete. That decision is mainly depending on my intuition and the timing(s) around me.

My new EP “Radiate The Ocean From My Back” has both new and old sound materials. It even includes the materials that were created before I started making Techno have actually featured sound materials that were recorded during my school days for a release “Kill Centre” (2012) on the Tokyo based cassette label, Sludge-Tapes.

You also work under the alias ‘Steven Porter’ alongside Katsunori Sawa, how did the two of you first meet, and where does the name for the project come from?

We already knew each other through the internet somehow. Both of us didn’t have any releases at that time. That was probably 2006 or 2007 when I met him at a cafe in Kyoto. That meeting actually became the starting point for the Steven Porter project.  We had an idea of having a person’s name like an ordinary one that often appears in a school textbook.  Also it was important that the name has an association with wings.  It’s somehow higher if that makes sense. I’m considering Steven Porter as a totally different project from our solo projects.

The two of you also run ‘10 Label’ together, how did this come about and what is it you look for in a release for the label?

We are doing treasure hunting basically and not aiming to release similar music every time. This approach might not be satisfying for conventional listeners; however we need to keep ourselves flesh all the time. Our opposite personalities are working well for operating the 10 Label. Meeting with Sawa, starting Steven Porter, founding the 10 Label, all of these happened spontaneously. I’m feeling that things we have been talking are gradually becoming a reality. I have a lot of gratitude for everyone involved in the 10 Label.

You’ve managed to feature some pretty amazing producer’s on the label such as Matthew Herbert and Anne-James Chaton, despite having only put out three records so far – how did you get in touch with these artists originally?

They are really gentlemen that have taken our offer kindly. Although we just have met them once for a few minutes, we have been touched by their works for a long time.  It’s all magical.

Yuji Kondo 2013 artist photo

Tell us a little bit about the new EP for Perc Trax. Ali Wells had released on ‘10 Label’ prior to this I believe, was this your first contact with each other?

When I create an EP, I usually prepare session demos first and think of their titles according to their atmosphere / associated images; however as for the “Radiate The Ocean From My Back”, I took the opposite approach. It was my first time to use a personal pronoun for the title.  I didn’t want the release to be something weird that often can be heard in the bottom of underground scenes. 

In my opinion, it has clear expressions / stories compared to my previous releases. I simply wanted this release to be really powerful that blows all the boring things in daily life away. I had my first contact with him after TEN001EP “MU EP” was released on the 10 Label. Fortunately he knew about us and thus we asked him to submit a track for the label’s second release “REPLAY”.

First time I met him was at a club in Osaka when he had a Perc show. His album “Wicker & Steel” is brilliant. It’s been our favourite Techno album. He is great.

How long had you been working on the tracks for prior to the release?

It took about five months in total but not that long for the actual track making.  It took me quite a time to think and decide what kind of sounds I’d like to bring to the Perc Trax. I’m deeply grateful to him. 

Has electronic music always been your main focus? What kind of things were you listening to growing up?

I was listening to Rock music and playing a bass guitar in a band.  I even hated electronic music until the age of eighteen when I came across Warp Records’ catalogue. Then I dived into a world of electronic music. Now I like it.

Do you feel that Japan has a strong community in terms of noise and techno producers? I believe I am right in saying you’re based in Kansai, are there many other electronic artists in the region?

I feel that Japanese people are not satisfied with domestic Techno or Noise scenes. I believe it’s not just only me. A critical thing has not yet happened in a Japanese club scene - I often feel that a gap between Japan and Europe is significant.

I do know great domestic producers, DJs, organisers, clubs and record stores. But I cannot feel a strong power or energy in the Japanese scene, especially in the last five years. There isn’t any decisive buzz. I’m not being too pessimistic here. We have to go through this situation somehow. People are all keen to witness the great tension of 90s. Although I’m not confident in myself I have a huge confidence in a music culture that has been growing from the past. 

You’re website credits you as a photographer for several of the Ada Nexino releases, and there has obviously been a lot of thought put into the artwork for the 10 Label releases – is visual art something you have a big interest in alongside music? 

Yes, certainly. It is essential for me to imagine something in my head when I create music. This imagination is very important. As a producer I’d like to suggest things such as theme / concept / clue more or less. I’m using visual images to help this communication.

Finally what can we expect to hear next from yourself?

I’m currently involved in a project with an audio visual art collective in Tokyo. It’s a medium I’ve never stepped into. It will be released at the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015.  We will announce a TEN004EP on the 10 Label soon as well. It will be a great release. Thank you.

'Radiate The Ocean From My Back' is available from September 22nd.

Call Super // Suzi Ecto

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Label: Houndstooth

Format: Digital/12”/CD

Release Date: 15/09/2014

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Having been sufficiently blown away by Call Super’s previous release on Houndstooth – ‘Depicta / Acephale II’ - the unexpected announcement of a forthcoming LP on the same label was cause for feverish anticipation. Depicta had brought a heady - dare I say spiritual - element to the dancefloor, with angelic drones hovering overhead, rising the listener up above the club and into a celestial setting. This was a brave track, with a huge scope for imagination and expansive ambience that set itself firmly in my favorite 12”s of the year so far. However, Suzi Ecto is placed somewhere altogether more colourful and tropical, tracing a concise yet robust ethnomusicology from all over the world that is refreshingly distanced from his previous efforts.

In particular, ‘Dovetail’, incorporates an ambling bassline with off-kilter rims and swathes of swelling pads. Lead single ‘Sulu Sekou’ holds a meandering clarinet over a down-tempo plodding low-end: both tracks something of a shock to the system for those expecting an album of TTTs (tedious techno tools). Furthermore, ‘Rain Dance’ – a personal highlight – playfully bounces woody hand drums around a network of analogue-electro bleeps: juxtaposing two seemingly antithetical sounds in an inventive and successful way. This interplay of naturalistic and artificial textures runs through the entire album, with percussive thuds of woodblocks, grainy fuzzes of sampled synthesizers and the soft pulse of steel pans darted all over.

There are elements of the late Actress (R.I.P…) infused here too. There’s a sense in which Call Super is taking the baton from Cunningham and advancing the sound into something less alien and more familiar. The album ends with a tantilising pre-equal to latest release, briefly recalling the sample from Acephale to project his sound into the future; Call Super is far from done delivering albums, this is but the first chapter in a long narrative that he has only just begun to deliver.

What is perhaps most striking about this LP is how clearly it has been thought out; this is far from a mere collection of techno 12”s – which, to be honest, was what I was expecting. To the contrary, Call Super is unafraid to dwell at a much slower tempo with a much broader conceptual reach. Not undancable, but not really dancefloor material either, Suzi Ecto holds itself up as a standalone work in itself, exploring and attending a wealth of vibrant worlds.  

Words by George McVicar