In Conversation with DJ Takaki

Takaki, a self-taught DJ from Japan, seems to be pushing harder than ever before towards his goal of becoming the world-renowned DJ. With his innovative approach to DJ-ing, there is no doubt that Takaki will soon reach the level of fame of the likes of David Guetta, Tiësto or Calvin Harris. The opportunities in the UK for Takaki seem to be limitless, his latest performance taking place at the prestigious British Museum, where he presented his talents next to Shamisen player Hibiki. DJ Takaki brought the groove to a packed room of visitors, introducing them to Japanese sounds.

Recently, we sat down with the artist and talked about what he’s been up to in the past couple of years, about the creative process behind his music and his outstanding show at the British Museum.


Photo © DJ Takaki 

The last time we spoke was over two years ago; since then, it seems like you have kept yourself very busy! How have you been? 

Fortunately, I’ve had many great opportunities as a DJ in London so far. I’ve done some gigs, tours, and even some very unusual, but great projects – more than I expected. And of course, I gained a great network within the professional circle as well. I am very grateful to everyone who hosted me and allowed me to perform in various places.

Looking back at everything you have done, your shows and various performances, including the latest one at the prestigious British Museum, I realized we never really discussed your composing; can you tell us a bit more about the kind of music you compose? Do you compose for your DJ setlist – and do you add your own music to the setlist? 

Basically, my mind is set on composing my own tunes and when I do DJ-ing for long hours, it all turns into a proper mix, including live performances of my own music that stem from my background as a turntablist. I add my own tunes to my setlist. Also, when I do the DJ-ing, I do layer-style DJ-ing on my decks, with three or four tunes/sounds put together and then mix them up with my mixer to make it showcase my original style. The kind of music I compose is electronic music, on the lines of an underground Drum & Bass or Techno style, but I always focus on my own musical perspectives. My style is one of the most important parts when it comes to composing my music.

Photos © 2019 Clive Arrowsmith 

You recently performed at the British Museum with another Japanese artist, Hibiki (Shamisen player) – how did you arrange music for this show and what was the collaboration like with Hibiki on the day of the performance? Could you tell us more about the show itself? 

The British Museum invited us directly to perform there; our show took place in room 17 in the British Museum, at the front of the Nereid Monument. To organize my music for the show, first I tried to find some tunes and short sound samples as ideas to express our unique musical view of the world. Then I combined those ideas into a single song, two or three minutes long. And of course, I added other sounds, using synthesizer, drum machines, and some other methods. Finally, I utilized my skills by using the turntable (scratching and beat-juggling) to add to specific parts in the song, trying to get the sound to correspond to the real-time session of Hibiki’s playing. When I was performing, I listened carefully to Hibiki’s performance and controlled my basic track, and carefully added some scratching sounds and beat-juggling sounds with the turntable, to try to get a great groove going. The environment in the museum itself helped create a great atmosphere when combined with our sounds, so the show turned out to be a great success. I would like to say it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had, working as a DJ.

During the show at the museum, you and Hibiki wore Kansai Yamamoto’s design, how did come about? 

It was very honored that Mr. Kansai showed support for our performance and he wanted to provide special outfits for us. Hibiki and I were already thinking about what kind of outfits we should wear when we performed together.

Kansai’s outfits were totally impressive and the greatest way for us to express our unique styles. Also, our masks were provided by one of the most creative Japanese designers, Masaya Kushino. It was a pleasure to collaborate with both of them.

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Photo © Womb 

You have been part of Critical Sound – an influential record label for electronic music and DJs. When did you join them and how many shows have you done so far?

I tried to contact them last year and then, fortunately, they got it touch with me. Of course, I knew that they were really famous in the UK and in many of the other countries. As they wanted to come to Japan for the first time, I worked as a promoter and organizer, and I also performed at the events. I organised Japan tour with them and I also organized an event called “Critical Sound Tokyo” in February with them, trying to introduce them as a sensation at Tokyo’s night clubs and within Tokio’s DJ industry. The  founder of Critical Sound, Kasra, came to Japan for the events, and we also booked DJ Krush and Goth-Trad, legendary Japanese electronic artists, for the Critical Sound Tokyo event. The event itself was very busy and turned out to be a success; organizing it felt very rewarding.

Now that you have been working extensively in London, what are currently your main challenges as a DJ? What is it about DJ-ing that makes it interesting for you?

Recently, I’ve been focusing on my music, producing for my own releases with an influential record label in the UK. And of course, I would like to do many more gigs in London and other countries. In my case, one of the most interesting parts of DJ-ing is that a DJ always focuses on self-expression via DJ decks, and at the same time, a DJ uses that to form a connection with the people, the audience. If the elements come together in that crucial moment, it is a very exciting thing to experience and I really love it.

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Photo © Courtesy of the photographer 

You performed in front of many people, for crowds both small and huge; do you feel that audiences are actually able to appreciate the hard work that is DJ-ing, even if they don’t actually understand what is happening behind the decks? 

In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of DJ-ing is definitely music, more than any skills related to what is happening behind the decks. So I think if a DJ creates great moments and helps people have a great time, and if people appreciate that and are thankful to DJ for the ambience and the music, every DJ will find pleasure in their work.

What’s next for you? Any new projects in the pipeline?

First and foremost, I would like to live in the UK continuously. So far, everything is going well and I feel that London is my home now. Then, of course, I want to release my music via a great record label in the UK and try to boost up my international profile, and I would like to do more gigs in the UK and other countries. 


Photos © 2019 Clive Arrowsmith 

Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Sanja Struna

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