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Ryogo Yamamori is a top contributor to the Japanese techno scene. The Tokyo-based artist has solidified his reputation with more than 20 years of experience and many international gigs in various countries, including China, Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the USA. Locations such as Octagon, ageHa, Womb, Vent, Dommune Contact have witnessed his signature three-deck mixing style that gets listeners into deep, cavernously hypnotic sounds.
Yamamori got his start in techno in the late 90s. It wasn’t long after before he expanded his skills beyond DJing, into the arenas of producing. He even found his own record label, Kagerou, which he established to feature some of his closest affiliates including Kan Shinomura, Hisaharu Sato, Skoll and Sinnertia.
He has released multiple tracks under respected labels. Diehard fans will find it all too easy to recall his best works: The Trinity EP on Josh Wink’s Ovum; his part in the Hot Steel 2 VA on Nina Kraviz’s трип, and his outstanding addition to Psyk’s Non Series.
These days, Yamamori focuses more on developing his own label, featuring his latest solo works. I could not resist the opportunity to sit down and pick his brain.
So here we are.
Hello Ryogo, thank you for chatting with us. You have been a prominent techno afficionado since the 90s. Tell us: What are your thoughts on techno’s evolution as a specific genre from when you started ‘till today? What are the differences between then and now, and what are the milestones we should remember by?
In the 90s, sound systems were more analogue circuits. So if you’re exposed to loud music in a club with old equipment, your ears would hurt the next morning. Nowadays, sound systems are better and more gentle to the human ears.
In the past, some people would leave because it was too loud. Music production has shifted from analogue equipment to digital, which precipitates the use of Moog’s early modular.
Synthesizers continue to evolve with more technological advances, too. To put things into perspective, consider the fact that pianos have been perfected for 400 years and are still the same today.
The fun of techno is in the consistent way that synthesizers keep getting updated. Music production has also become much easier.
As a producer, how do you open yourself up to inspiration?
It’s about listening to music in a more crossover way. If you don’t have an idea, you can’t do much and you can’t go on making music. Recently, a friend asked me to make some background music to fit the vibe of a flyer, so I explored that as my creative process.
Overall, the important thing is and has always been to feed yourself with new ideas.
Are there any other genres that leave marks on you?
My mother was a classical music lover, so I always listened to her music daily, all day long, from morning ‘till night. Listening to music just comes naturally to me.
How would you describe your music to strangers?
My techno is more minimalist and immersive. My music isn’t made up of tracks for peak times but rather, movements that are designed for deeper moments.
Your sound has distinctive Japanese folk and native sounds. What inspires you to incorporate them into your compositions?
My identity is Japanese. And I happen to love traditional music.
Back in the 90s, I’d released a track with Japanese instruments. Today, and especially of late, I’m picking up koto (a native pluckable half-tube zither instrument). I’ve been making some ambient music with it. I’ve released some of the works on Kagerou’s Bandcamp page.
Ryogo Yamamori circa 2002
What was your most memorable gig?
I don’t know if there is one in particular that I can walk you through. All the gigs I’ve played are special to me. I do, however, think I like playing overseas more than I like DJing in Japan. People who want to enjoy music and the spaces fitting for them are more in the international scenes, so it’s more fun to play.
Overseas, the crowd is more energetic, too.
What’s your favourite setup when DJing?
My set will require three CDJs. I like to build up this situation where I layer multiple tracks and just let it all flow. Some clubs have two CDJs, so I’m not able to express myself so much. With my favourite configuration, I can do a lot with the time that I have so I like to keep myself busy with mixing.
Now that I think about it, it might be time to get some external equipment for me to explore more.
Tell us more about the techno scene in Japan, and what you love about it.
Techno has a huge share within the electronic music scene in Japan these days. In the past, house music was a lot more popular. Saturdays of the past yesteryears have been all about house. So you can only play techno somewhere else more underground or hidden.
There’s been a shift from outdoor trance raves to psychedelic techno parties in Japan, which I love. The younger generation is also influenced by these events, and more of them are starting to DJ. Overall, I think these changes make a good trend.
Any plans for 2022?
I don’t have a specific plan, but it is to go abroad as soon as possible and increase my opportunities to DJ. I am looking forward to see you on the dance floor soon!