The Japanese Popstars – Interview

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From their humble beginnings in Derry in Northern Ireland, The Japanese Popstars have gone on to become a household name both at home and further a field with their brand of electro noodlings. Having just signed to EMI/Virgin, the band are ready to take their sound more overground and with remixes of Daft Punk, The Ting Tings, Kylie Minogue and Beyone to name a few under their belt already, the future look even brighter for them. Having seen them dj at Life a few years back, I thought they were excellent and I caught up with Decky ahead of their Cork show this Saturday, December 3rd, to find out more about the Irish trio.

I suppose first things first- How did ye guys meet and come together?

We met whilst auditioning for mountain workers to collect wild flowers in the high costal mountains of Japan. When we where there we did lots of Karaoke and got the nickname “The Japanese Popstars” from the locals. I guess the name sort of stuck.

With all of ye on production duties, how does the writing process work? Is it a case of all sitting down together and writing or working separately and making ideas fit?

It works with either the three of us together in a studio coming up with ideas we all like or someone brings an idea to the table and we work on it from there. We all have our own studios, so we can work individually on ideas etc.

Ye’ve done countless of remixes of everyone from the Gorrilaz and Depeche Mode to Kylie Minogue and Beyonce. How did they come about? Were ye approached about doing them and what’s the general ethos when putting a remix together?

Yeah, all the remixes we do we are approached by either the artist or the record label. They all would be commissioned remixes. When putting together remixes we look for a track that has something, we feel, that we can use, like a hook, or riff etc. We they try to work around that, adding our own sounds etc and trying to integrate more of the artists music to see if it will fit.

Ye’re tune Take Forever features Robert Smith. His voice works well with ye’re music. How did this collaboration happen?

We were writing an idea for a track and thought Roberts voice would work well on it, so we called our manager and asked if he could see if Robert wanted to sing on it. We heard nothing for six months, so we assumed that it was a no go but randomly we received an email back apologising for the delay and explaining that our email had disappeared into Roberts spam folder and got lost. He had been checking through his spam folder and found our little email sitting there unread! Robert had a listen to our music and said he’d be up for a collab!! We were well over the moon, as that was about two years ago and long before Crystal Castles did their collab with him, so it was new and exciting times.

What gear is absolutely essential to ye both live and in the studio?

We are all mostly software based these days running Ableton and Reason both live and in the studio. We have loads of hardware (keyboards, synths, samplers etc) too but seldom use it anymore.

Ye’ve relased stuff on indie lable Gung Ho and more recently on Virgin/EMI. How does working with a bigger label differ from the smaller ones?

A small label like Gung-Ho had a limited reach, so the first benefit we noticed was that EMI were releasing on a worldwide scale! For the last few years Gung-Ho was mostly UK and Ireland based with our released filtering into other territories on import or with whatever distribution the label could get. When we signed to EMI we were sitting in London recording Skype interviews for MTV Australia, Germany and media in all these new countries that would be receiving our album soon. It was an eye opener.

Ye’ve won ‘Best Live Act’ in the Irish Dance Music Awards 3 years running. How do ye approach ye’re live shows?

Its actually four years in a row now lol. We basically write our music with a lean towards us playing it live and it fitting in our show, so we can bring Ableton and Reason on the road with us and tweak the tracks live. We also bring a few extra gadgets and FX boxes to help the live show, as well as live keys and microsampler to add new elements into the set whilst we play.
Upscaling our live production is where we are at now, as we have what we called our Technodrome Desk. Its an 18ft bespoke lighting unit that our equipment sits on and we bring it to our larger shows. It has 25 hi res LED lights attached to it, CO2 cannons and some rear light projectors to make it look like something from Close Encounters Of The 3rd Kind.

What do ye make of the Irish electronic scene? Do ye still feel a part of it?

Yes, most definitely its our roots, so that will never leave us. Its a very healthly scene and it has tons of amazing producers that are a lot better than us. We have seen the music scene grow over the years and hopefully we think that if other Irish producers see that we can do this then it’s inspired then to have a crack at it and push themselves to be heard internationally too.

What can people expect for the Cork show?

Loads of debauchery

What does the future hold for ye?

Back writing, remixing and gigging. Some EPs in the new year and who knows what else!

Finally, what advice would you have to other Irish producers out there looking to make it?

Get your music heard.

Nice one for the interview lads 🙂 

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