Inspired by Can and The Velvet Underground, Toshio Nakanishi first took to the stage as singer and guitarist with The Plastics. The legendary Japanese New Wave band that sought to combine catwalk fashion with The Sex Pistols and Kraftwerk. National success took them to the U.S. in 1981, where they opened for Talking Heads in Central Park. Where Toshio also designed graphics for David Byrne & Co. In New York he heard Planet Rock everywhere he went. Intrigued he checked Afrika Bambaataa at The Peppermint Lounge. Drawn to the similarities he saw between rap and turntablism and the literary cut-ups of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, he, and The Plastics, were responsible for bringing Hip Hop culture to Japan.
Over the next three decades The Plastics morphed into Melon, The Water Melon Group, then simply Water Melon. Their output moved away from Bowie and Roxy Music influenced Rock. Instead becoming a kind of Sci-Fi Exotica. Mixing cues provided by Bladerunner, and friend and associate, Haroumi Hosono. Exposed to the “Second Summer Of Love” in London, Toshio fused the Acid explosion with Hip Hop. He wanted something Psychedelic. The music press called it “Trip Hop”.
Back in Japan, he founded Major Force, the country`s first Dance Music Label. He pulled together a collective of co-conspirators. Musicians and producers, that included Kudo Masayuki, Kan Takagi, Gota Yashiki and Hiroshi Fujiwara. Their releases peppered Hip Hop and House with Spiritual Jazz and Rare Groove samples. Music with hooks for the dancers. Music with smart, near hidden references for the heads. Back in London, labels like Mo`Wax and Nuphonic, echoed their aesthetic. Toshio and Kudo joining UNKLE, alongside James Lavelle and Tim Goldsworthy. Extending these ideas as Skylab with Howie B and Mat Ducasse.
A couple of months ago Toshio was DJing at Bonobo in Harajuku. Cutting and collaging between his vast archive of cassettes. A musical memoir of material recorded all over the globe. Last Saturday he sadly passed away.
His contribution to the evolution and development of Tokyo and Japan`s Dance Music scene cannot be overstated.
Below is a personal selection of tracks, that I think you should know, from the catalogue of Nakanishi-san and Major Force.
The Water Melon Group / The Gate Of Japonesia
Return Of The Original Art Form
With DJ Milo of Bristol`s Wild Bunch AKA DJ Nature.
Tiny Panx Organisation / Hiroshi`s Dub
Later remixed by Joe Claussell.
Sexy T.K.O. / Tribe Of Love
Sampling Eddie Kendricks` Girl You Need A Change Of Mind.
Sexy T.K.O. / Touch Me, Take Me
Covering Rita Wright in a Lovers stylee.
Major Force / The Time Has Come
Making beats with Timothy Leary and Sun Ra.
Tycoon Tosh / Country House
Remixed by Marbo & Harvey.
Water Melon / Moon Shaker
A Big Chill favourite with Sade`s Andrew Hale on keys.
Skylab / Seashell
With that most Balearic of samples from the San Sebastian Strings. When members of Skylab visited Sabresonic at EC1, I was standing next to Weatherall as they walked through the door. As he said with no sense of irony, “We`re not worthy”.
The Water Melon Group / Fly Me To The Moon
An irreverent, “Punk”, cover of the Jazz standard, originally broadcast as part of The Snakeman Show`s mix of global sounds and lewd humour. A track that somehow found its way into Leo Mas` sets at Ibiza`s Amnesia. Today at least, it feels like a poignant epitaph.