I was introduced to Kyoka’s music through a mail-out from the good people at the esteemed electronic music label Raster-Noton. It’s been a while since I’ve been as instantly enthralled by a piece of music as I was with Kyoka’s latest 12-inch, SH.
Imagine a two section Venn diagram, one circle is genuinely interesting experimental music, the other circle being functional dance music. Kyoka is a Japanese/Berlin artist who exists in the minute patch where the two cross over.
Although SH leans a little more to the experimental side, its range of dark, skittering sounds beg to be played at maximum volume in a smoke-filled warehouse or club.
After hearing SH, I requested an interview and Kyoka and I spoke over Skype. She exhibits a natural openness and exuberance, keenly getting up a number of times to show me her array of drum machines and contact mics. Her English is very good but as a second language it is slightly broken, she is also a very visual communicator. All language mistakes have been transcribed verbatim to retain the spirit of the interview.
David Sullivan: Have you been to Australia before?
Kyoka: No, not yet but I will come someday because it’s actually not so far from Japan.
David Sullivan: Are you in Japan often?
Kyoka: Yes often, but very irregular. Actually tomorrow I fly to St Petersburg in Russia, then after that my gig is in Tokyo so I fly back to Japan. Then in ten days I come back here.
David Sullivan: Have you been to Russia before?
Kyoka: Yeah but only in Moscow, I was there two or three times, and I really like to perform there.
David Sullivan: How do people there respond to you?
Kyoka: Very nice. I always have nice audience in Moscow, and everything is great!
David Sullivan: Listening to your music, it’s hard to put a nationality on it, do you think your music has a national sense of any kind? It seems like you’re in a few different places.
Kyoka: I think my national influence is not too strong, but only in rhythm, like kick, I think my kick is not 4×4 so much, but my pattern of kick is kind of Japanese I think. Before I never think about that but maybe two years ago I played only modular synthesiser improvisation in Tokyo, and at that time Nina Kraviz was there and she told me “your kick reminds me of Taico drum.”
I never think about that before but she said that sometimes that idea come to my head, it might be true sometimes.
At the time I didn’t think it was right, but time by time I start to think, in a way it’s right.
David Sullivan: Do you use any drum machines?
Kyoka: Yes but nowadays I need to fix that. For example tomorrow I cannot use (my drum machine) because it’s broken. Actually I can hear only four sounds, four sounds it’s kind of nice but maybe to fly with it’s a little bit too big.
I like this a lot because the kick of this is very powerful and very physical and strong.
David Sullivan: What do you have in front of you when you play live?
Kyoka: Macbook, modular audio interface, BISCUIT OTO Machine, Roland Phraselab – I always forget number – and also MFB 503 Drumcomputer.
David Sullivan: Do you improvise live still?
Kyoka: MMM yes! Always for the first ten minutes I have no plan.
David Sullivan: So the sounds from the new EP were recorded from sound checks?
Kyoka: Yes, mainly what I record is Piezo microphone, because Piezo mic is always making different sound, in each venue and in each country, it gives me nice surprise so I really like to record it.
David Sullivan: Are you happy with the new EP?
Kyoka: Yeah, it’s the most happiest one. Before I released it, I wonder, it’s kind of very experimental side so called, for me it’s not so experimental but maybe it will be called experimental. I wonder what people say. But now everyone is kind with me after EP. I feel like I made this music along my audience. Always when I prepare some sound piece, I play that and the people give me the nice reaction I keep it, and if reaction is not so good I put away and remake later.
David Sullivan: Are you playing your new music live?
Kyoka: Yes always I record very short piece, maybe loop for ten seconds, then I try to play them in Traktor, with Traktor it is possible to mix with the other sounds. I check which sound fits with other sounds.
People always surprised at me because I use Traktor, even if I am not DJ, but I think Traktor is kind of nice too for improvisation.
When I want to do more for visual I use Ableton, but when I want to concentrate on music, for me right now Traktor is easiest.
David Sullivan: How long have you been in Berlin for?
Kyoka: Since 2008
David Sullivan: How do you like it?
Kyoka: I am foreigner here, I don’t get every information here so it’s let me close inside of me more easily so I can work better.
David Sullivan: You can detach a little bit from the rest of the world?
Kyoka: Yah. I also like Japan because I can understand everything, but sometimes the information is so tangled in my head. Berlin is a very relaxing city, people enjoy the weather, it makes me feel very open. Also german people are very direct I think, they are very clear so it’s easy to communicate.
Last February I played in Korea for the first time. It was very nice. Now I love Korea!! Every person I met in Korea was nice, smart, very polite and very aggressive in music, not aggressive but how you say, passionate!
David Sullivan: What’s plans for the rest of the year?
Kyoka: I am travelling in the different countries very often. For example, last week was in Geneva, the other week was another city in Germany, and tomorrow in Russia. It’s nice. After Barcelona, in Italy, also Copenhagen, Poland, and I have more but….
David Sullivan: So just lots of touring?
Kyoka: Yes lots of touring, but a lot already.
David Sullivan: You like touring?
Kyoka: Mmm! Since I was little, kindergarten size, I already was dreaming to travel around the world. And also at some time my parents asked me what you want to be in future and I said I want to be musician and now everything I like since I was very little is coming together now. So just fun for me.
SH is available now through Raster-Noton. More details here.