Yuzo Iwata comes to the plate for another episode of ‘Mixed By’. Building from Ambient beginnings, Yuzo shows patience and skill in building his sound over the hour; swimming through his pool of genres past Dancehall, Acid and Trance along the way.
This same skillset is on play across his debut album, Kaizu, which recently dropped on Melbourne’s Butter Sessions. Yuzo flexes his sound design muscles across the LP; Balearic textures, broken rhythms and a nod to Japanese video games and eighties fusion, his many influences are expressed with finesse across the full works. For me, Kaizu represents what it really must be like to live inside Yuzo’s head, and what a place it must be!
Thanks for putting together this wonderful mix, the selection and flow throughout the hour is brilliant. How do you normally approach a mix?
Thanks, I’m glad you liked it.
I recorded it in my home studio with two Technics turntables and an old A&H rotary mixer. This is the setup I use except for live recordings at clubs.
The abstract concept is for each mix, and I draw up a storyline with a selection of favorite songs with textures I enjoy within that temperature. It is the same for non-beat listening sets.
Kaizu is a masterpiece, congratulations! The depth of styles and the versatility is always something I admire in an album; can you tell us more about some key insights and influences that went into the music.
Thank you so much. This album is in a unique place, and I wasn’t sure from the beginning of its production whether listeners would enjoy it or not. But I created it in the middle of a pandemic, an irregular event that most people living in this time experienced for the first time, so I created these pieces of music as a footprint of my own life in this strange time, so as not to put a lid on personal impulses.
Kaizu means ” Ocean chart” in Japanese. This ocean is a metaphor for my own mind as well as the outside world that I dreamed of during the lockdown. The diversity of islands and life forms scattered across the ocean, never in one form or another, has been a surprise to those who discover them. We live in the same world, but every life and every land has its own story. I wanted this Kaizu to be like that, a collection of individuals with a rich variety that come together to form a single collective entity.
Japan is such an inspirational place, how much has Japanese culture influenced your life as a musician?
I was born with half Japanese and half Cuban roots in two island countries, but I was born in Japan and lived most of my life in Japan until I turned 30. My father and grandfather were karate masters, we have a karate dojo at home, and I have practiced karate myself since I was 4 years old. So I grew up in a more traditional Japanese culture than most Japanese families. It is difficult for me to verbalize how this environment has influenced my view of music, but both karate and music have influenced each other in my life. My background of being from a combination of these two countries, which is very rare in Japan, and the fact that I followed my father’s karate training since childhood and had the opportunity to visit many countries in South and Central America have also influenced my own music.
I was born and raised in Japan and naturally grew up playing video games, watching anime, and listening to Japanese music. Just like food, my tastes are hard to change. I am curious and enjoy meals from many different countries, but most of the meals I eat at home are Japanese home-style, and even though Kaizu uses spices from many different countries, I think it is still based on my Japanese taste buds.
What was the studio process behind the album? Timeframe, equipment, mindset etc.
The production period is eight months, from September 2020 to May 2021.
Many of the demos I had made prior to that date became the inspiration for the album, but I wrote most of the songs anew after planning the release of the album with Sleep D. I wanted to make the album more personal and conceptual in the format of an album.
I used a variety of equipment, five different synthesizers, two samplers, three drum machines, electronic percussion, effects equipment. I recorded them into Ableton 11 for arranging and mixing. Since I had the concept of a ” Nautical” , So I sampled from my Vinyl collection first to express that in a way other than a direct Balearic sound. It is not only music, but also sound effects and ethnic voices. They played the role of external factors such as waves, wind, and the mood of the island. I tried not to make the trip monotonous by layering the recordings of instrumental performances on top of these sounds, as if I were steering the ship myself. I wanted the work to be like a voyage journal in which I myself traveled to an unknown world.
What’s next? Have you already started Kaizu 2?
Haha, that’s an interesting question, because Kaizu is a document of my own work in a very raw and weird feeling, so I am not sure if I can make the same thing again, but the concept and process of making it is very clear, so I think it’s possible. Your question makes me think that “Kaizu 2” would be interesting as well. My son was born while I was working on Kaizu. Maybe he will be on the same boat for the next voyage :)
What is Open Port Club?
Open Port Club is a joint project with a team from Sapporo, where I lived before moving to Berlin, and was originally started to connect Sapporo and Berlin. We had a monthly program on Berlin Community Radio, which is now closed, but after it was no longer there, we restarted it as a mix series on Sound Cloud. We started with the concept of creating a world map of music without limiting ourselves to the traditional music of each country by commissioning mixes from local artists on each of the six continents, or from artists with roots there.
My friendship with Sleep D started with a request for a mix. t used to be a monthly program, but since the club scene stopped with Covid and I was not feeling up to it, We stopped updating it, but it will resume again soon.