Words by Manal Aziz
Atlas Electronic Podcast 013: SUGAI KEN – a truly mesmerizing insight into a culturally rich, contemporarily strong, and sonically pleasing narrative. For those who embrace the unfamiliar.
Japanese electronics-bender, SUGAI KEN, dissects and reassembles Japanese folklore in his timeless music. Drawing inspiration from his close ties to his surroundings, SUGAI KEN’s music creates mysterious sonic contexts for his listeners to explore. Learn more about his field recordings, creative process, the brain and heart behind the music in the interview below. Dig through the carefully selected tracklist or simply submerge yourself in our mind-expanding podcast 013.
SUGAI KEN, first of all, thank you for your incredible mix! I have listened to it many times over and keep hearing new things each time. For those who aren’t familiar with your music, could you explain to them your sound?
Thank you, you too! And I’m grateful for this request. My music is manic, so it is quite difficult to explain. But in short: I’m challenging myself to mix Japanese customs and folklore with electronic music.
Since your music is so tightly related to places, how would you consider your music to fit within nowadays Japanese culture?
I’d rather say my music may not fit in nowadays Japanese culture at all. Because the subject that I use for music production has mainly Japanese inconspicuous customs.
What is your approach in the process of making music? (How) is this different from your live performances?
I compose my music based on the scene imagined in my head. Sometimes this is based on abstract topics and sometimes it’s based on subjects derived from Japanese customs. As for live performances, I think they are completely different from making music. Live performances, in my opinion, need to challenge you in taking the risk of making mistakes.
You use a lot of field recordings in your music. What makes you decide to record a certain sound or moment?
To me, it is important whether the recording is impressive or not. The recording must contain the sound that stirs up the imagination of the listener. This does not mean it has to be acoustically flashy. I just think that it is important whether the sound has an arousing power or not.
A lot of references to nature and folklore can be found in your music. What role do these two phenomena play in your daily life?
The two play essential roles because humans always live while involving the two. They’re permanent but also fluid.
The soundscapes in your music carry an almost mythical air. Sometimes it’s dark but never in a scary way, more an intriguing and mesmerizing way. Where does this come from? And is this something you experience as well while making it?
It consists of both my real experiences and my fantasies. I incorporate Japanese folklore rules that I learned in my survey into composing, so you may feel that atmosphere. I often use dark tones, but in no way do I want listeners to be scared by my music. When I compose, I’m fully enjoying it. I have no interest in scary music.
After your praised 2017 album UkabazUmorezU, what can we expect from you? And are there any new things you’d like to try out in your ever-evolving music?
In 2018 I released two works (てれんてくだ – tele – n – tech – da and SUGAI KEN meets G禁禁禁禁 – 岩石考 -yOrUkOrU-) but several projects are ongoing. Please look forward to it.
Thank you so much for your time and I’m looking forward to hearing more of your creations in the (nearby) future.
01. Japanese Folk Sound (Kiyariuta)
02. Palace of Green Space for Electronic Music(1979) – Kiyotomi Yoshizaki
03. Japanese Folk Sound (Yokagura)
04. Japanese Folk Sound (Motosuriondo)
05. Panoramicsonor(1973) – Akemichi Takeda
06. Japanese Folk Sound (Yosebayashi)
07. Voice of Daisetz Suzuki
08. Shosange(1967) – Makoto Moroi
09. Tokyo 1969(1969) – Toshi Ichiyanagi
10. Music for Tape(1978) – Sesshu Kai
11. Flora 1971(1970) – Ryohei Hirose
12. Japanese Folk Sound (Matsuridaiko)
13. Japanese Folk Sound (Hitorimanzai)
14. Arcana 19(1960) – Kuniharu Akiyama
16. Beyond the Cloud(1976) – Keiki Okasaka
The Atlas Electronic Podcast series has been created for the sole purpose of sonic education and entertainment. Get to know the people behind the artists and learn about the creation process. Find tracklists to elaborate your music library or simply expand your musical horizon. Go to SoundCloud for the full extent of our auditory archive.