Interviewer -Tsuyoshi Hayashi-
- From around 2015, we started seeing “T-Groove Remix” credits on complation albums from Expansion and others in the UK and Europe.
My first remix work was “Soul Life (T-Groove Philly Soul Mix)” by Tom Glide featuring Shaila Vaughn, released on January 10th 2015. The compilation, “Soul Life”, released from Expansion, was named after this song and was also the motif of the album.
- “Soul Life” ranked number 1 on the UK soul chart.
That chart sums up the sales of the CD and downloads, and also the number of times played on air, and to rank high on this chart, I was told it means it was quite popular. It was ranked 12th on a chart called Sweet Rhythms on Solar Radio, a R&B radio station, which also indicates popularity. Another chart the song ranked top 1 was on a chart from Traxsource, a music downloading website for dance music. These three charts are probably the key in this industry.
-Will you tell us about you and your career?
I was born in Hachinohe, Aomori and my real name is Yuki Takahashi. I was born in 1982, the year Madonna released “Everybody”. Michael Jackson released “Thriller” (November 30th ’82) 3 days after I was born. I love listing to music so when Desk top music became popular when I was in high school, I tried that out and my friends and I were also in a band. I played the keyboard in the band but it wasn't for me so I quit promptly. I came to Tokyo right after I graduated high school. I enrolled in a school that specialized in sound systems to become an sound engineer.
-How is your experience in playing instruments?
I like percussions, so I've independently learnt to play the conga and bongo as I recorded at home. I became a moderate keyboard player in my late teens.
-What did you experience from music as a listener.
This first album I listen to was “Like a Virgin” by Madonna (1984). I was in 7th grade when I experienced an eye-opening moment listening to 70’s disco music. I was into “Dance, Dance, Dance” by Chic at that time. That’s why I liked “Like A Virgin”, they’re Nile Rogers’ work! I also liked “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie. I have records at home by POWER STATION which is where the drummer of CHIC, Tony Thompson is from, I guess I can say that CHIC-ish sort of music is my favorite.
-Seems like you can say you are a disco expert now from the knowledge and information you have.
I used to write a blog “Disco 45, the journey of discovering 7 inch singles”. I have about 2 to 3 thousand 7inch singles, 500 LPs, and over ten thousand CDs. I look into reissued ones as well.
-When did you decide to proceed as a musician?
When I came to Tokyo in 2001 I was already making music but no one listened to disco/boogie music which is what I enjoyed the most. So, I made dance music up until I was 19 to 22 years old, but it didn’t show any signs of success. I didn't know how to promoted overseas and after struggling to figure out what to do it lead me to quit music once. But after a while, in 2011, my friend asked me to make a pop tune for his CD. At
first, I wasn't confident but when I got to making ballads it went smoothly. The restart point of my music.
-After that, how did you get involved in remixing the song by Tom Glide?
As I made pop music, the producer that looked after me suggested that I should make my own label. He said providing digital contents are easy, so I released two disco singles on my own budget. There were two titles, Rum-Bullion and The Sophisticated Funk. The Sophisticated Funk was the same title as my current debut album, “Move your body”. I didn’t know how to sell, so I uploaded it on Soundcloud. Then a DJ from Canada contacted me and told me he loved it and he'd love to play it at his clubland radio. That was Robert Ouimet. He worked with Gino Socio and is big in the Montreal disco community. From there, as he promoted songs, Tom Glide jumped on board. I was 32.
-Now that it’s mainstream to load on Soundcloud, and from then on artists like Daft Punk, Tuxedo, Dam Funk, Mark Ronson lead disco/boogie to thrive again, you can say you were just in time to ride that wave.
Even if it hasn't in Japan, in countries abroad it’s starting to become popular and I've managed to get involved just in time, to be accepted for a genre I've always been told is out of date and won't sell is astonishing.
-The arrangement and mixing work load you have done after 2016 is massive, and you've especially done a lot of work with Two Jazz Project
As I contacted LAD, a music label in Portugal specializing in digital data, I looked up if they worked on any interesting groups and that’s when Two Jazz Project
came up. I ask the CEO of LAD and that’s how we started working.
-Who else have you picked out and contacted?
Saucy Lady, wife of Masahiro Kanesaka also known as Monolog. Her cover of “Help” by the Beatles was so cool, that I had to give it a try reaching to her on Facebook. Then she kindly replied to me in Japanese. She is from Kanagawa, half American and half Japanese. Monolog nick named us “double Yuki”. I call him “Kyosho (the master)”, and he calls me “Wakadaisho (the young commander)”. That’s how I completed my first 7 inch, “Sugar High/ I’m Ready” in October 2015.
-You recruit a lot Japanese instrumentalist such as Takao Nakashima the bassist and Sho Kamijo the guitarist.
Bassist Nakashima is a long time fellow member. He brought out the life in my sounds. I met Sho Kamijo when MANABOON, a trackmaker/keyboard player, reached out to me about the Tom Glide Remix. We've decided to work on a song together around the middle of 2015 with Sho as the guitarist, MANABOON as keyboard player and I made the base. “Another weekend” by Peo featuring Chris, released in August of 2016, was the work of the three of us and Nakashima.
-Your debut work “Move Your Body” is released form Diggy Down records France, as is the CD and the analogs, and the digitals released from Victor records in Japan makes it a major debut in Japan. You are not only the first Japanese but the first Asian to have a contract with a Disco~GFunk specialized music label, Diggy Down.
I am the first Japanese residing in Japan to work with them. The owners of Diggy
Down (Oliv' and Ness), had listen to my remixes earlier and told me they would like to work with me, so I did a couple of remixes of B.Thompson and that was the start of everything. It was 2015. It was when I worked on “All night Long”, a great hit from his album “Evolution”, which is also in my current album.
-When did you start working on your album?
From the beginning of 2016. After I made the B.Thompson remix, there was a request for another original song which was why I made “Move Your Body”, then Oliv’ suggested I might as well make a whole album. At the same time, I’ve began remixing and arranging songs by artists at the label and one of them was “Funky Attitude” by Renee Rose. This hit really made my bond and trust at the Diggy Down records stronger.
-What is the concept of the “Move Your Body” album?
Basically, “you might as well Dance”(lol). I rather say it’s fine as long as it’s fun, than give it deep meaning to my music. I think my music should be a fantasyland a part of a dream, so I don't want to put images of the real world into it.
The ’78-’82 sound is a strong concept to T-Groove atmosphere.
The 1981 disco is not too disco and the 1982 electric is not too electric. I focus on the balanced coexistence of the live sound and electric sound. Joey Negro told me I have a similar taste to SLAVE.
-Will you briefly tell us about your songs from the album? “Move you body” is a disco tune using a vocoder.
I’ve mentioned that it’s a remake of the work I've done for B.Thompson but this version is also an homage to Daft Punk. Because when Daft Punk released “Get Lucky” in 201, it was when I gained confidence that I might be able keep up in this industry, though it also has a hint of CHIC.
-There’s also a remix done by Rob Hardy from Cool Millon at the end of the album.
I asked if Rob can remix for me in return since I've done aa Cool million remix before and he said yes.
- “Roller Skate” with Precious Rose as guest is a roller disco homage and is very urban disco-ish as is said to be.
Precious Rose contributed a major roll on this. The edit and mix credits says Gilbert Masuda. He is from Precious Rose and the one singing. He is a Japanese descendant residing in Canada.
-“I’ll Be Right Here” has the characteristics of Steve Aarington from SLAVE but sang by Winfree.
He is known for Talk Box but is a talented singer. Dockett played the guitar and the keyboard was done by MARUKEN, a singer song writer and producer from the Japanese pop industry.
- “Family” with Jovan Benson and Sammy as guest is a mid-tempo tune.
I've dug out a song that has been declined as Japanese pop for being too western. Jovan put a Stylistics’ “You Make Me Feel Brand New” type atmosphere to it and made
it a song about family love.
--“Let your body move” sang by Enois Scoggins is a nasty disco tune.
This is like a last song from a ’79 LP Aside. It last 7 minutes 30 seconds, the longest tune in this album. It was actually completed within hours, however, Enois kept improvising and sending us different patterns and we couldn't leave any out, for which is why its 7minutes long.
- “Everybody Dance” with Dian Marsh is a medium tempo, melodious piece.
I’ve mentioned the release of the instrumental version of “move your body” as “Sophisticated Funk”, this is the version with vocal. Since this piece played a great roll at the turning point of my career, most of the instruments are played by me.
- “Let’s Get Close” is an urban, medium to slow tune and with rap.
The son of Keith Johnson, from the label, is participating as ICE. It is the first T-Groove piece with rap.
-The “Why Oh Why” sung by Winfree in falsetto reminds us of Michael Jackson singing “Why why” in “Human Nature.
Winfree brought that song to me to suggest ideas. We were looking for ideas and Oliv’ said, “What about a ballad?”. I did want one slow song so Winfree talked to us about it.
- “Call It Love” has similarities with “Move Your Body”.
This is the song I made when I was asked if I want to make a song for B.Thompson after I did his remix. It was originally made for Japanese pop, however, as I worked on it with him it turned into a nice melodious piece.
- “Stuck Like Glue” with Madam Mya is also a medium piece with an adult atmosphere.
It was a disco tune at the demo stage, but we had enough of it and with this atmosphere we thought it would turn into a great slow jam so we changed it.
- “All Night Long” we talked about earlier is a remake of a B.Thompson masterpiece.
This was also made with CHIC influence. The bass line like “Good Times” and the funk strums of the guitar like CHIC as well.
- “Do You Feel the Same?” With Leon Beal is a sharp urban dance piece.
I made this song in 2012 and it is a gorgeous disco tune. Leon is about 50 years old, he works in Boston and is also a friend of monolog. I played all the instrument in this song except the saxophone. The guitar and bass all done by me.
-Isn’t it almost the first time ever for a Japanese creator to launch from an oversea record label within a disco boogie genre?
I guess it is the first time ever to release within this genre from a French label from the beginning. This may sound exaggerated but I guess it implies that R&B musicians and producer can pursue their dreams. Being Japanese won't get in the way.
Interviewer: Tsuyoshi Hayashi