Amsterdam`s Sound Of Vast have just released their Ultimate Yokota (1991-2019) collection. A run through the vaults of Japanese house music hero Shinichiro Yokota. Selecting 12 tracks from 30 years` worth of material. A lot of it produced back in the late 1980s and early 1990s with help from Yokota`s friend and mentor, the legendary Soichi Terada. Music that sits alongside that of contemporaries recording for Italy’s Calypso and New York`s Nu Groove. Music that has recently been re-discovered by the West, and consequently become highly collectable.
Where are you from?
I’m from the Ota Ward in Tokyo.
Where are you based?
Still mostly in Tokyo.
What instruments can you play?
I play guitar, bass, piano and drums. When I was in junior high school, I did a little euphonium and saxophone with a brass band. You can hear me playing the bass guitar on a song called Orange Moon, which you can find on a previous collection of my music, Do it again and again.
Did you have any formal musical training?
I learned the basics of piano for about two years when I was an elementary school student. The rest is self-taught.
You use a lot of breakbeats. Were you into hip hop before house?
Yes. From around 1985, I listened only to Hip Hop – I made tracks, mixtapes, and took part in DJing contests. I was involved in various hip hop projects, the making of albums, etc., in the music’s early days in Japan.
When was the first time you heard a house record?
I think it was around 1988 or 1989.
How old were you?
I was 18 years old. I know it was around this time because the photos on the jacket of the recent I Know You Like It single dates from February 1988.
Can you remember what the record was?
I don’t remember exactly, but I remember Soichi Terada turning round to me and saying, “Lil Louis is really cool”.
What impression did house make on you?
The tracks were very simple – just drums, bass, synthesizer, some vocals. I was thinking “How do you make song with such a small number of sounds?” It was this that first interested me.
Can you give me 5 of your favorite house tracks?
Lil Louis / 6 A.M.
Neville Brothers / Fly Like An Eagle (MAW Slippin’ Dub)
CeCe Peniston / We Got A Love Thang
Crystal Waters / Gypsy Woman
Robin S / Show Me Love
Were you going out to house music clubs? If so who were the DJs? Was there a house / rave scene in Japan in the early 90s?
To be honest, I’ve never been to a house music club. In the 80’s I went to hip hop clubs only. I`ve got no idea about the 90s, because I started a family and I stayed at home.
When did you meet Soichi Terada?
I think it was around 1988.
Were you making music before meeting Soichi-san?
I was in bands, when I was a student. I was a drummer. Around 1982, I started producing songs, overdubbing instruments using two cassette decks and a synthesizer.
What equipment did you have when you first started making music?
My first keyboard was a Casio MT-40. After that I bought a Yamaha CS-01, KORG POLY-800, Roland TR-606….
Who were the other Japanese producers / musicians making house records?
At that time, the only person I was aware of was Hiroshi Matsui.
Did you have any interaction with the Major Force crew?
There was no interaction, but Hiroshi Fujiwara was one of the judges at a hip hop DJ contest I took part in.
The tracks on the compilation date from 1991 and 2016. What happened in between? Were you still making music? Are you still making music?
During that time I founded a company manufacturing car parts, but mainly I was crazy about raising my three children. Again to be honest, the nature of the music-making equipment evolved – making it easier, and making the possibilities infinite – but for some reason to me it just seemed less interesting. I still made music for web / on-line commercials and corporate events, and I played the keyboard in a jazz fusion band.
What equipment do you have now?
Recently, my Mac Book is my main tool, with a KORG M1 and an Akai S1100. I usually compose on a Rhodes Piano Mk1
Do you have a favorite piece of equipment?
I don’t have it any more but my favourite was a synthesizer called the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5.
The records you released on Far East Recordings are now highly collectable. Did they sell well at the time of their release?
At the time we didn’t sell any. Soichi had boxes and boxes of unsold records at his home. He used to use them as furniture. He used to eat his dinner off them.
Shinichiro Yokota`s Ultimate Yokota (1991-2019) should be in stores worldwide any minute now, care of Sound Of Vast.