Psycho geography #11: Nick The Record’s Tokyo
A true record addict, Nick has obsessively built his collection since the 80s, first tracing Hip Hop samples back to their roots to build a foundation of soul and disco, he now plays an entire spectrum spanning from that to electro, jazz, dub and everything in between. He was recently tasked with compiling the 4th volume of Under The Influence, a series whose curators make up a proverbial Who's Who of serious record collector DJs. He loves Japan, in particular Tokyo so he shared his thoughts and recommendations of the sounds and the culture there, ahead of his guest appearance in London this weekend:
Although I have never lived in Japan I have spent approximately half of my DJ career there, notching up around 75 flights & playing more than 400 parties since I first went over in 1993. I was invited to be resident DJ for a new party called Lifeforce which was a kind of DIY / collective style crew with a lot of influence from the UK Rave, Free Party, Festival culture of the early nineties. So I am going to share with you my Psychogeography of Tokyo.
There are of course some great clubs in Tokyo (and some even greater ones that have sadly now closed) but there are also several really cute little bars, sometimes smaller than your kitchen, often with a better sound than your average London club, and lovely decor.
It’s rare I spin at these places because usually a larger club has booked me and wants me exclusively for Tokyo so this is where I go on a week night to chill and spend some quality time with friends. I don’t drink when I am djing, so on a week night out I can relax and get stuck into some Umeshu.
Oath, Aoyama Tunnel, Bridge, Relove, Mescalito, Grass Roots – there are many but I’m going to write about Bonobo, which is a little bigger than the rest with an upstairs room & small rooftop terrace. The system is really sweet & they have a hand built rotary mixer which was made for David Mancuso.
You never really know what to expect on one of these nights out, it could be real mellow or you could end up bar hopping to three or four different places in one night. You could also end up in the same tiny place for 12 hours. Some parties at Relove went on for days. I look forward to checking their new place which is opening soon.
Apart from the parties & the people the other thing that keeps me coming back to Japan is the food. You can find some good Japanese food in the UK, but unless you’ve been to Japan you’ve only really tried the equivalent of a bar snack, or if you have really dug in maybe a starter dish or two compared to the array of Japanese food you can find in Japan. They eat very seasonally & locally too. Each area seems to have it’s speciality dishes. I have been lucky enough to travel all over Japan & in all seasons. It is etiquette that the club or promoter pays for your hotel, travel & a meal. Unlike most English DJ’s I won’t be drinking my body weight of your booze so I tell them I am a bit of a foodie & that if I eat well I will play well. It seems to work, the better the meal the longer I seem to be able to keep my marathon set going.
Ramen is really popular in the UK & US now but I don’t eat meat so that’s no good for me. But there is an equal or maybe deeper Soba culture in Japan which has fish dashi so it’s good for me and it is delicious. It’s the speciality food of the mountainous Nagano area so when I go there to play at Taico club festival (where I play the closing set every year) I then rush to the local Soba shop in the hope that they haven’t yet run out as they stay open until it’s all the Soba is gone. There are also some great Sobaya’s in Tokyo, my favourite of which is in the gay area of Shinjuku known as Ni-chome. The side dishes are amazing with Yuba, vinegared Mackrel, and deep fried Lotus Root burger and of course the Soba is top class. My one reservation is that they play classical music in there which can get a bit grating. One of my pet hates is ‘cool’ restaurants in the UK that play club music too loud. Most restaurants in Japan play jazz which is the perfect music to digest to.
When you visit Japan it is essential to try out Onsen, natural hot spring baths. Like everything else in this list they come in many shapes & sizes and styles from modern & bling to traditional. With many different types of water quality depending on the natural chemical make up of the environment.
Usually this is more of a countryside pursuit for me when I am outside of Tokyo, but we are talking Tokyo here so Shimizuyu is probably the best local old style option.
I’m not a big fan of shopping with the exception of record shopping of course. However, Japan has everything you want and many things you’d never dream of wanting or needing. If a friend won the lottery my advice would be get on a plane to Japan and shop. They do have great clothes shops and the combination of me having some rare spare down time during the week, my cash from some of my best paid gigs in my pocket and the chance to own something beautiful that almost no one else in the UK will own can be dangerous. So usually no more than once a year I’ll go to Okura. A beautiful shop full of wonderful clothes which are mostly dyed with Indigo.
Of course I couldn’t finish this list without mentioning record shops. The shops in Tokyo are many & varied. There are great little boutique stores selling rare & specialist stuff. My other job at home is selling used records, mostly US disco & soul, most of which I buy from disco era DJ’s collections in the US. I don’t buy much of that in Japan these days, but the Japanese disco & pop stuff that is in vogue these days is fun to explore. Being around old records full time & buying most of my new stuff online these days it is a treat for me to a store well stocked with new releases. Lighthouse Records is a great shop with a strong selection of house, techno, nu- disco & edits. Situated up high (hence the name) on a busy street in the heart of Shibuya I love to watch the buzz of Tokyo people through the window as I listen to new releases in headphones or on the Klipsch speakers they have in store. We even had a couple of small parties in the shop in the later stages of my time with Lifeforce. They moved what records they could out of the way & just covered up the rest & they were fine and that is perfect example of why I love the Japanese. No matter how hard they are partying no one is going to try to steal something or drop a beer on the records.
Mavrik with guest Nick the Record is at The Souls, London on 11th March 2016. Full info and tickets are HERE.