Biography of Towa Tei


by Hirofumi

Ryuichi Sakamoto used to have his own show on FM radio, called 'SoundStreet'. He invited many guests to the show including David Bowie and David Sylvian, and he told the listeners to send demo tapes to him. If he liked a song, he played it on the air. When young Towa Tei was trying to get in to art school, he submitted several demo tapes using his sampler. Sakamoto really loved Tei's work, and later put two of Tei's songs in the compilation album which contains Sakamoto's top choices of demo tapes. (I have the album, and Tei's works are so far superior to the others.)

He later got into Musashino Art School, where he majored in Visual Art. In 1987, He decided to go to NYC. (That year, he had won the Fuji TV Video Art Contest.) In 1988, he met the two members of Deee-Lite, and joined the band. He has worked on the Jungle Brothers' and A Tribe Called Quest's albums on 1989. You know about the Deee-Lite's success, so I'll skip that.

In 1991, he co-produced Tachibana Hajime's 'Bambi' album, and worked on Sakamoto's 'Heartbeat' album on which he co-produced a few songs. In 1993, he did the remixes on YMO's 'Technodon' album, Pizzicato Five's 'Bossa Nova 2001' album, and Sandi's album. Pizzicato Five leader Konishi Yasuharu is a big fan of Tei, and in Tei's album's brochure, he says, "The first time that I got to see him was the summer two years ago, in NY. I've talked with him on the phone, but since I was a big fan of Deee-Lite, and was waiting for their second album, so when he came to the reception of Pizzicato Five, I was so delighted that I even asked for his autograph on my 12" single of 'Runaway'...Although we get along very well as friends now, he still is my idol, and one of the genius artists in 20th century." Tei was the DJ when P5 did a live show in NY.

He also produced several songs on Nokko's album which was released in U.S.. (It reached #10 on dance chart in Billboard) In 1994, he arranged and produced Nokko's single, Mermaid, worked on Sakamoto's 'SweetRevenge' album, and composed and produced Geisha Girls' single called Kick & Loud. He only worked on several songs on Deee-Lite's third album, because he was busy doing the works above.

Recently, the remix album of "Future Listening!" was released, and I bought it. It contains 'Luv Connection' remixed by Tei, Kenny "Dope Gonzales, and Allstar, 'Batucada' by Satoshi Tomiie and Phillp Damien, and 'Amai Seikatsu' by Goh Hotoda & Tei. It is pretty cool.

The Geisha Girls' single will be released soon with the help of Kenny "Dope" Gonzales of Masters At Work.

From here, I'll try to translate some of his interviews regarding his new album from Japanese. I'll be making a lot of mistakes translating, since I don't usually do this. Sorry.

-what was the cue in making the solo album?
"When I first started the Deee-Lite, I didn't think it would take so much of my time dealing with it. So, I got tired of it a little, and decided to take a break from the band."
-when did you start composing for your album?
"It depends on the songs, but I had ideas about 'Technova' and had the basic tracks on it in 1991. I started to make sketches on the Mac and Akai Sampler, accumulated to roughly 100 sketches. Sketches consisted of many things. It could be just one bar of drum loop, chord progression, bassline, etc... I had many ideas which had different colors compared to DL, so I wanted to use them as well. "
-about the 'Technova' demo, how complete was it when you made it?
"I had all the melodies, drum tracks, and all the instrumentations. It was roughly the same with the 'Technova' on the album. When I first made it, I thought it was too early to release it...I was going to name the album 'Technova' also, but when I heard all ten songs on the album, I knew 'technova' concept cannot fit all of the songs, so I decided to used "Future Listening!"
Ryuichi Sakamoto did several 'Bossa Nova' type of songs on his new album. Did you inspire him with Bossa Nova, or did he inspire you? "It was more like we both were inspired by the other. It was '91, when I was really into Bossa Nova, but I couldn't put it in DL's second album as much as I did on "FL" because the base of DL was house music."
-The first song [I Want to Relax, Please!] does not have the bass.
"In fact, I asked Mr Hosono Haruomi (exYMO) to play bass on that track, but when he heard the song, he said, 'this track is OK without the bass'. Of course I did try to boost the low frequency region by bringing the kick up and by mixing."
-I can hear many electric sitar on several tracks.
"I got the sitar from Goh Hotoda(mixer). He also is using a lot of it in his own solo."

Taken from KB Special 11/94. Ritto Sha.

What was the concept in your mind when you first thought of the songs?
"I don't feel like doing something 'house' right now. House albums have been increasing a lot in these two years, but many of them are so boring, and I'm losing interest in house. I think the scene has reached its limitation. There is deep house or progressive house now, but it doesn't have the flexibility anymore. But I never made any albums without inspirations from somewhere."
So how should the listeners take this album as? "The technique that I used in this album was house, and hiphop. So I guess it is a house album (laugh). I think a lot of people have the image of myself as a house artist, but I like hiphop as much as I like house. And in these two years, I really listened to many types of music...especially easylistning music. In short, I was into house, hiphop, reggae, and bossa nova. It was easy listening to them, but I knew it would be hard to make them. I think I finally have the answer to what's 'easy listening' to me this time."
So we can say that your recent interest in several music genre is reflected on this album.
"But you know, the so called 'easy listening' in public is not really 'easy' to listen to. So I wanted to make something that is easy-listening to me, and how I can manage to dissolve all of the materials into one. That was the theme on the album. From the times in DL, I was trying to dissolve latin, jazz, movie soundtrack and soft rock. But I had to make music which was more oriented towards the clubs, so I guess I wanted to make something opposite."
What are the main instruments used in this album?
"I recently bought three ADAT, so I practically recorded in ADAT and mixed them later. Basically I made all the data at home. Computer is Macintosh Quadra 630, with Studio Vision Pro. Sampler is S3200 and SP-1200. "
Did you record the vocals in ADAT also?
"Yes, except Nomia Maki's track. The vocal track on 'Luv Connection' was the hardest of all. When I made the bass and chorus, I asked Joi Cardwell to do adlib. Then I edited the adlib part with Felnando (mixer) using SoundDesignerII. In 'Meditation!', I put MC-202 filter on girl's voice."
You used the vocals and acoustic instruments as materials... "To me,...I shouldn't say this but Sakamoto-san's piano, my keyboard riffs, SP-1200's factory sound, samples from turntables...they are all equal in myself. I think using them as materials is very similar to house music."
Any plans for the future? "I basically don't do concerts. I think I'll do the DJ live, same as before. I'll be forming a group called 'SP-1200' with T. Mori(worked on the album, former Jazzadelic member). I now am making a CD-ROM also, and am the art director on this album."

Taken from Sound & Recording 11/94 Ritto Music Co.

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