The name Makoto has been etched into the halls of the drum and bass scene for some time now. Be it his ability to embed genuine soul and true-born 70s funk into his music, his lengthy discography or his perennially on-point podcasts, the man has been flying the flag for Japanese drum and bass for as long as many of us can remember.
Making connections across the world and with a direct line to the city of London and its musical inhabitants, Makoto and the country of Japan have time and time again endured the constant rises and falls that many of drum and bass’s ecosystems face worldwide with the times – and still thrived.
Excavating his deeply-rooted influences from spearheading artists like Goldie and LTJ Bukem, after sending an original demo to LTJ Bukem, he was then signed to Good Looking Records and began his evolution into the esteemed figurehead he is today. From his days working with the Brazilian powerhouse DJ Marky and the many collaborations with artists such as Deeizm and MC Conrad, Makoto has returned with his fifth studio LP and his debut album on Hospital Records.
…. But surely you’d have to leave to return, right?
Was this the case for the Tokyo-based funk drum and bass extraordinaire? Or had he just been building an assemblage of some of his best works to unleash to an array of international fans? This is what we’ve set to uncover right here…
Tell us a bit about Salvation and the overall theme of it. What were you trying to accomplish with your debut album on Hospital Records, and how did it come to fruition?
Well, basically I had so many unreleased tunes and my agent Chris sent them to Hospital but I had no knowledge of this, he just sent it. Hospital contacted me and asked me if I’d be interested in signing as an artist. It was very unexpected. I was immediately just like, “YES.” Then we started. I had so many tunes, so we kind of started choosing which ones would fit the album and which ones would go to the recent compilation We Are 21. In a way there was no concept to the album itself, I just had so many tunes….and well, it just worked.
So it just seemed like a good fit at the time and obviously you have a history with Hospital so it just kind of fell into place?
Yeah man, exactly!
So how has the process been with the signing, then? Obviously Hospital being London- based, do you have any memorable experiences or ties to London itself and your connection with the people there involved in the scene?
I’ve been working with them since 2007, from the days of Future Sound of Tokyo, I know them quite well. Anytime Tony(London Elektricity) comes to Tokyo I perform with him so I know him quite well! We already had a previous relationship prior to these releases.
What are your thought on the current state of Japan’s drum and bass scene in general?
Drum and bass in Japan was massive in the 90s, especially between 97/98. So much of Japan supported drum and bass a lot. The scene slowly became smaller and smaller over the years- but still there. I don’t know. It’s nothing compared to the scene in Europe, but still there are still people who love drum and bass here- just as you said, same as the scene in America. Kind of exactly the same. There are still artists in Japan making their own music out here, but it’s still very small.
Speaking of Japanese drum and bass artists, Oshirjima released on Med School’s New Blood 016 last year. Apart from Velocity, yourself and Oshirjima, is there anyone we should be paying attention to?
Actually yeah, there’s a new younger producer recently whose name is Mountain. He had a tune called Natural Law on the the Hospitality In The Park compilation this year.
One of my favorite tunes on the album is I Don’t Wanna Wake Up Feat. Karina Ramage. You guys seem to have quite the creative connection- how did that come to life?
I was looking for vocalists for the album- I just asked tony if he had anyone that he could recommend for me to work with. Straight away he said yes, its Karina. She sang on a Krakota tune, I listened to it and I kind of thought it was different than who I’d been working with, so I thought this could be quite interesting. At the time I was in London, as soon as I heard her voice I started making a demo on my laptop. Then I just sent her the draft and she liked it, and she spit out a vocal in a few days. That’s what happened really.
So it all unfolded quite naturally then…
It was like instant. I’d never met her in person and it all took place over an email chain so it’s quite perfect. I think some people might think that tune is quite different than what I’ve been doing, but that’s kind of what I’ve wanted to do so im quite happy with the tune and how it came out. To me, it’s got a bit of techno- influence which is quite unusual to me but still has a bit of the Hospital Records characteristic sound to it as well.
While on the subject of the album and what’s influenced you, did you have a favorite tune as the producer of the album? Anything that stands out? Is there anything that you enjoy more than the rest?
I was really glad to work with Pete Simpson, he sang on Sending Back Your Love and You Might Not Get Another Chance. I’ve been a big fan of his stuff so he’s always been on my list, so I’m really glad to work with him. The tunes we did are kind of soulful and yeah I still think that this is my favorite on the album but I don’t know, maybe too soulful to some drum and bass fans…
I recently just saw you on a livestream doing a throwback influences set. It’s understandable why that would be a favorite of yours! One thing I’ve noticed is the obvious underlying jazz undertone. Has that always naturally been you or has that been something you’d have to work towards?
It’s kind of came naturally, I don’t think I ever really tried, it’s just what’s happened. One tune from the album, Primitive Galaxy is a little bit harder of a tune than I normally make. I wanted to try and make a harder tune with that one. The other tunes just sort of come naturally.
Let’s talk a bit about the Human Elements Podcasts. What has inspired you from the beginning with them and what drives you to remain consistent?
The reason I started it is for the Japanese scene, but recently overtime whenever I upload them onto Soundcloud or Facebook there’s comments about us only talking in Japanese, so lately we’ve been trying our best to speak in both Japanese and English. I stopped it for a few years but now we’ve started it back up. It’s hard to find enough of the soulful sound to keep it going sometimes, but we manage!
You smash it. Final shouts now please Mr Makoto…
With this album I play more stuff in my DJ sets which is quite rare, sometimes when I make tunes I don’t wanna play them because I get sick of hearing them, but this one sort of came together naturally, and I’m very proud of this work and the label it’s being released on. I hope everyone enjoys the music as much as I enjoyed making it.
(Photo: Hana Makcovcova)