For Japanese producer Yosi Horikawa, inspiration comes from all around. His utterly unique music is often grounded in a collage of ‘found’ sounds, ranging from the rhythms of the forest to the humdrum noises found in the kitchen.
Starting out in his Osaka bedroom at the age of 12 using only two tape decks and whatever he could find around him, Yosi has grown into one of the most original artists around. A slew of early releases beginning in 2009 were supplemented with a deeply educational trip to Red Bull Music Academy Madrid in 2011, where he met and collaborated with the likes of Dorian Concept, Jesse Boykins III and Aenon.
Although wholly committed to his particular method of working, Yosi crucially never sacrifices melody at the expense of invention, which is why his debut album ‘Vapors’ is possibly one of the most gorgeous pieces of music we’ve heard for many a year. As a little taster, you can download ‘Stars’ from the album for free via the Soundcloud player below.
We caught up with Yosi below to get more of an insight on his musical vision, influences and his unique creative process.
Hi Yosi, where are we speaking to you from today?
I’m in my home in Chiba, Japan and I’m working with an architect and preparing for the tour in Asia and Europe in this Summer.
You’ve just released your first full length LP, the excellent Vapor last month. How long a process was it to assemble the 16 tracks on the LP?
At first, I decided to realise many of my good memories and yearning for my first album. It took a long time to make 16 tracks. So I grew a liitle older, so my favour and thought have been changed little by little. First half, I made just what I wanted to make and second half I tried to find everything missing from an album. It was a lot of fun for me, like a sonic journey.
Given how unique your sound is, was it ever a challenge getting people to listen to your music, and have you ever felt pressure to tone down your experimental approach?
To be honest, I’ve been taking this kind of approach for so long I didn’t think it was a special challenge this time. When I started to make music, I didn’t have any musical instruments so I tried to find and record something nice from the sounds in my daily life, recorded with my headphones (influenced by KRS ONE‘s sleeve ‘Return of The Boom Bap’). I’ve tried many ways to make music since then, but one day, I noticed my first experience might be my unique method.
Describe for our readers, how you typically go about conceiving and executing an idea for a track?
The most important thing for my music is reality. Of course I know it depends on the people and how real the situation is, so I try to find a common feeling. I’ve tried to record and use so many kind of materials. I think I’m getting to know the sounds little by little. e.g. if I use the sound which everyone knows, the sound can remind the people of their memories.
Aside from the found sounds which form the basis of your work, what more conventional musical influences do you have?
I’ve always been crazy about black music, like Hip-Hop, R&B, Jazz, African tribal music. I’m learning so much about their sense of rhythm.
Have you ever received formal music training, or are you entirely self-taught?
I was learning a piano when I was a lot younger, but I was not a serious student at all. When I started to make music, I didn’t have any other friends who make music… so it’s very close to self-taught.
Although your work is very original and experimental in its construction, what is noticeable to me is how melodious your work still is. How much do more conventional musical concerns like melody and rhythm feature as part of your creative process, given your commitment to such unorthodox methods?
The relationship between rhythm and melody is very important. Strong rhythm sometimes helps emotional melodies and smooth melody sometimes makes a rhythm conspicuous. Everything needs balance, but at the same time, I’m very interested in how I loosen the balance.
How beneficial was the experience you had at Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid?
The biggest thing was meeting others I was making music alone for a long time before I joined the Academy, but I knew how interesting a collaboration is. Also the Red Bull Music Academy staff are still supporting me a lot. I have to return the favour to them by doing my best!
Considering the unorthodox nature of your style, is collaboration with other artists something you’re open to – or do you think it would compromise the integrity of your work?
I think I know the difference of collaboration and solo creation and the pleasures are different as well. My style is useful in almost all the cases, I bring many of my recorded sounds and enjoy how people add their originality. It’s different from a compromise for me.
Going forward what creative ambitions do you have for your work?
Some people know I learnt architecture. I love relation between spatial element and substance. I would love to make physical materials with sound one day. I want to spread the possibility of the sound.
Yosi Horikawa – ‘Vapor’ is out now on First World Records