Before he created the renowned Ape Escape soundtrack, Soichi Terada 寺田創一 was making house music. The late eighties and early nineties saw him hanging out with the likes of Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan in New York, with a cohort including Shinichiro Yakota, with whom he co-produced several tracks.
In 2014, Hunee decided that the new musical landscape needed to be re-introduced to Terada’s music and set about compiling an LP, featuring some of Far East Recording’s best releases. The resulting LP has received great commercial and critical acclaim, including some of the house scene’s biggest DJs such as Ben UFO, who has been waxing lyrical about some of Far East Recording’s tracks.
Terada’s foray into house music began in 1988, just after he graduated from University of Electro-Communications: “when I was 23 or 25, I went to a clubnight in Tokyo run by a lady called Connie, at a time when house music was gaining popularity in Japan.” By this point, Paradise Garage as we know it was in full swing over in America. At the time, he found it difficult to buy vinyl but he says: “I remember artists such as Lil Louis and Mr. Fingers.” These influences can be heard in tracks he has produced with Shinichiro Yakota.
Clubs he frequented at the time (apart from Connie’s parties in Tokyo) included the infamous P.Picasso, which was seen by the Japanese was being rather progressive. It was a while before he went over to America to produce tracks with Larry Levan in New York but when he got there, the difference between Eastern and Western clubs was obvious. He found it easy to draw comparisons: “I reckon the biggest difference was the size. There was one huge nightclub called GOLD from late 1989 [DJs included Supermaar, below], but generally in Japan, clubs were relatively small. The music wasn’t as loud either.”
With the Japanese dancing ban due to be officially lifted next year, we thought it only appropriate to get Soichi’s comment on the situation and how he thinks the lifting of the ban will affect the clubbing in the country.”I haven’t been to nightclubs recently but I know that it has affected Osaka. Some of the clubs in the vicinity were shut down.” The ban itself was lax whilst he was clubbing in the eighties, with police turning a blind eye to instances of dancing past midnight. Recently, thanks to several high-profile drug scandals, raids have become more common, leading to the aforementioned closing of Osaka night clubs.
His earliest memories of Japanese clubs weren’t limited to the music he heard: “I wasn’t DJing at the time, I was on the dance floor. I remember that it stank of cigarettes!” Japan is famous for its odd clubbing locations and Soichi is no stranger to an unorthodox venue, having attended nights in the second floor of a Chinese restaurant: “The second floor of the Chinese restaurant was fun. I thought the location Daisan Souko was interesting – it was in Shinjuku, underneath the Hanazono Shrine.” Daisan Suoko was one of Japan’s first clubs to welcome homosexuality, fostering the Paradise Garage movement in Japan. Its name later changed to Milo’s Garage and subsequently, Club Wire, which closed in 2001. You can read more about that here.
His interesting background – he studied computer science and electric organ at university – leads us to inquire about his past mentors and whether he considers anyone in particular as being instrumental in introducing him to the scene. His response is wise: “I feel that the connection between people generates unexpected events. For example, my American friend who was staying Japan told me about Connie’s party, I was introduced to Hisa by someone, my friend took me to Daizo’s place, Nagayama introduced me lots of house music. So I like to appreciate all the people I have met.”
Terada’s Far East Recording label was started so he could release his own material but the underlying idea focuses on trying to get the East to the West. He says: “I thought it was interesting that lots of house music and remixes were connected to various types of music from all over the world.”
He started producing his own music shortly after he began clubbing. The link is tenuous though, as he comments that “I think I decided to start producing my own music because samplers became cheaper so people started playing with them and I wanted to experiment too. It was great that you didn’t need a proper studio to produce/compose music, you only needed computer.” Whilst his label focuses on the differences between types of music from east and west, highlighting this wasn’t a conscious thing; “I made a lot of combinations of genres of music without thinking about the difference between the east and the west so it wasn’t conscious.” He began producing house music and has since tried his hand at drum and bass, releasing the likes of ‘Sumo Jungle’ on Far East Recording.
When it was decided that a new compilation would be released, Soichi reveals that he was delighted when he found out. It was Dutch DJ, Hunee, who made the call in 2014. When Soichi heard the news, in his typically humble way, he said that he didn’t think that there would be a demand for his music: “I was surprised to know that there would be more tracks than I thought there would be. Regarding which tracks to choose, I was glad as Hunee decided for me; I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it subjectively myself.”
The compilation has gained him more fans from an entirely new generation. He’s refreshingly honest about the situation, saying: “I’m genuinely glad about it. Besides, I have now got more gigs because of the release.” Terada is due to play his first gig in Amsterdam later this year as part of Rush Hour’s ADE stage, alongside modern greats such as Ron Trent and Ron Morelli.
Previously, he mentioned that he’d lost touch with his long-time collaborator, Shinichiro Yakota, with whom he produced tracks such as ‘Got To Be Real’ and the incredibly catchy, Paradise Garage influenced ‘Shake Yours’. Since the compilation was released, he’s been able to catch-up with his old friend, sharing memories of days gone by. “I’ve had more opportunities to talk with Yokota and talking with him reminds me of lots of things,” Terada says with earnest. He mentions that they’ve been talking about releasing some previously unheard material.
Over in the West, there’s a so-called ‘eastern revival’, with influx of eastern-inspired sounds and samples, and Eastern artists becoming more prominent, such as Ken Iishi. This hasn’t reached the East though…”I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing. You can’t really categorise or generalise what is ‘western music’ but the influence of the east for the west is still great. Black music has a big influence as well.”
He’s produced a variety of genres – hip hop, house and jungle – and excelled at them all. We asked where his influences come from: “I think it comes from my clubbing experience – I had so much fun listening to those types of music at clubs.” His knowledge of jungle music is infamous, even though the genre isn’t common in his native Japan. We asked for a few recommendations but his stock is limited, for a reason: “although a couple of artists come to mind, such as T-Power, Nookie and Doc Scott, I listened to so much music at clubs that there are a lot of cases where I remember the tune, but not the names of the artists!”
His productions can, at the very least, be described as distinctive, peppered with computer game-esque noises, stabs of melody and bleeps. He talks us through the process: “I often use the combination of Logic and Avid 96 I/O. I like AKAI’s sampler S3200 and synthesisers such as Roland JV1080 and Korg TR-Rack.” The Ape Escape music came after his dancefloor music phase, leading to obvious and not-so-obvious parallels: “When making house music, I usually start with the bass line and the beats, whereas I focus on the melody line when making game music. Saying that, there isn’t a particular way for each genre – even if it’s for video music, sometimes I begin with editing the beats and some of my house music is produced by starting with the melody.”
In the early nineties, Soichi would use DAT and reel tapes when DJing, a technique which is rarely, if ever, used in 21st century. He explains why DAT and reel tapes have fallen out of use:”I used DAT and reel tapes to play the tracks that were in progress at clubs but it was often inconvenient to change the tempo and that. It’s so convenient now because we can do it on laptop, isn’t it? Of course, the sound differs – DAT is like CD, reel tapes are more like vinyls.”
With his music increasing in popularity as we speak, Soichi is excited for the future and what it holds: “I’m going to play for ADE in Amsterdam in October and I might be able to play at gigs in European cities in November. I think I might have the opportunity to release some unreleased material too.” Even though his own music is seen by many as ‘current’ even now, Soichi doesn’t follow new music trends. We ask him to pick five ‘nextups’ and five throwbacks but he says: “I can’t really come up with anyone as I’m not too sure about the recent releases! I now listen to the artists that I play at gigs with. One of them is called Omodaka.”
Ever polite, we wrap up the interview…”Thanks for interviewing me!”