On a gloomy day in London, in a French café, I had the pleasure of meeting Takaki, a self-taught Japanese DJ, who had never expected that his popularity would soar to a height where his skills would be used to create a Panasonic commercial. The ad was admired by many during the FIFA World Cup in 2014; in it, Takaki used 10 turntables. The video itself has reached over a million views on YouTube and opened doors for Takaki to discover new horizons in producing his own music.
Born and raised in a small town of Shizuoka, Takaki has always admired the local surroundings and the perfect view of Mount Fuji: “Shizuoka countryside has the most beautiful scenery, the view of the mountain is extraordinary. It is just a great place.” With two sisters and parents who were already into music (his mum is a piano teacher and dad is a huge fun of old music), he also discovered love for it, but for a different type of sounds: “My life was a bit strange (laughs). I had a normal childhood until I was 13/14, I was a student, actually a pretty good one. But when I was entering teenage years, something changed. I saw a famous DJ, and his electronic music had a sudden effect on me. I don’t know why, but I felt like that kind of sound and type of work would suit me; I didn’t want to play piano like my mum (laughs). I wanted to do something different and innovative. I just took a different path in life I guess.”
At the age of 16, he participated in the ‘DMC’, the world’s most prestigious DJ competition, in which he had to prove his skills while playing on turntables. He reached the finals and was rewarded with the third place. It was a huge achievement for a 16-year-old teenage boy: “It was an amazing experience, so many people took part in the competition and I got into finals! Before the competition, I was using my dad’s vinyl to learn how to do that famous DJ’s scratching (laughs).”
He never got any formal education as a DJ. “I also learnt how to play turntables myself, I didn’t have a teacher. First, I was copying other DJ’s way of playing, but now, after over a decade of playing professionally, I can say that creating my own music and having my own style feels amazing.”
Takaki is extremely dedicated to his DJ-ing; he practices every day and he is always on top of everything when making music. According to him, there is something irresistible to the electronic sound, and mixing various sounds increases his creativity. As far as he remembers, he wanted to be a DJ, and doing it for a living makes it even more exciting: “I think when I was 13 and learnt about the underground music scene and Japanese DJ scene, this somewhat influenced my decision later in life. And the aforementioned ‘DMC’ competition has definitely helped me make my mind up about becoming a professional DJ.”
Apart from making his own music, Takaki has worked for international brands such as Adobe, Lacoste, VAIO, and SONY. Keeping his creativity while working for those companies must have been hard: “Obviously my clients have their own taste in music, and most of them asked me to make the music that suits their needs; as much as possible I had to keep within their requirements – at times it wasn’t easy to do so. That said, I could still use a little bit of my own creativity and skills, e.g. sound upload.”
Takaki is currently living in London, but will soon be returning to Japan. To him, moving to London was a very good decision as it expanded his musical horizons: “I really prefer European music culture, techno and electronic in particular; it is more creative and vibrant here in London than in Japan. I think my music style suits the U.K. more than my homeland.”
Undeniably, being a DJ isn’t the simplest job in the world. “To produce a DJ set takes time and dedication,” Takaki exclaimed.
“The last DJ set I prepared, which also included a collaboration with the famous shamisen player Hibiki Ichigawa, took over a month to prepare. I have to think about how to create a good atmosphere; making my own music takes time, mixing tunes in particular. Also, practice takes time. There is a lot of work involved in the preparation of a good performance.”
When it comes to inspiration, Takaki is deeply inspired by Nina Kraviz, a Russian DJ, producer and singer. Richie Hawtin, a Canadian electronic musician and DJ, is another source of Takaki’s inspiration and motivation to work more on mixing music and improving his way of playing his sets. It is worth mentioning that currently, the 30-year-old Takaki also often performs with Japan’s top visual team TANGRAM – a team who is in charge of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ visuals – and they “do projection mapping to Takaki’s aggressive body movement while he DJs.”
DJ Takaki is keeping himself busy with gigs around London before flying back to Japan to shoot a promotional video and probably perform at a few of Japan’s most popular clubs. He will be releasing a new album soon where he – for the first time – will show his skills as a beat maker.
Chatting to DJ Takaki was great fun! He is a charming and very humble man. He has promised that he will be back in London in no time as he would love to spend more time getting to know London’s music scene better.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
Featured Image © Remain In Light Photography
Takaki’s photo at Womb Club © Iga Rina