TF Archives

Tatsuya OE interview: But you can call me Captain Funk!

Author: Andrez Bergen
Monday, February 27, 2006
There're a bunch of more internationally recognizable Japanese producers of electronica at the moment: think people like Ken Ishii, Fumiya Tanaka, Takkyu Ishino, Hideaki Ishi (a.k.a. DJ Krush), Tatsuya Kanamori (DJ Shufflemaster), Susumu Yokota, Tomoyuki Tanaka (Fantastic Plastic Machine), and Shuji Wada and Heigo Tani (Co-Fusion) - not to mention Tatsuya Oe, better known as Captain Funk.

Oe also happens to be one of the 'nice guys' of the local scene in Tokyo - he's so down to earth, accessible and mild mannered it's like his own character is the complete opposite of the music churned out from his wayward psyche. "I'm very glad you're interested in my album and label," he said when first approached for this story, as if such attention or interest is a surprise to him.

Captain Funk made his very substantial mark in the latter half of the 1990s - with releases like Bustin' Loose on Sublime subsidiary Reel Musiq - as a leftfield big beat artist sandwiched somewhere between Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) and Si Begg (Buckfunk 3000), and he's spent the past eight years reinventing himself.

Norman Cook allegedly described Bustin' Loose as "Fucking insane!", and Oe remains indebted to that remark. "(I'm) totally honoured - don't you think it's the most honourable thing that my work is described as 'insane' by that crazy guy...-" he laughs.

On Songs of the Siren, he explored more vocal-driven psychedelic jazz terrain courtesy of Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith, Zoobombs vocalist Don Matsuo, and Raj Ramayya of Tokyo-based folk-rock duo the Beautiful Losers. With Here and You (2002), he assembled a pop album fused with sneaky electronica that a more subversive label like Warp or Mille Plateaux might be happy to release.

The following year he collaborated with Otomo Yoshihide's New Jazz Quintet to produce the improvisation piece ONJQ + OE, and in 2004 he released Director's Cut (as just plain OE) mixing and matching old skool vocoder riffs with some innovative studio tinkering. "Captain Funk is my main solo project, and OE is kind of my alter ego; an experimental or more personal side."

"I'm now doing new tracks as Captain Funk," he reports of his more recent activities this year (2006), "and I'll launch my label Model Electronic soon. Through Model Electronic, I'd like to develop and introduce 'hot' dance music and contribute to making a kind of bridge between Japan and other areas in the music scene. From last summer I've been trying to build the computer download system with my friend - it takes a lot of time to build, and program the system from scratch, but it should have flexibility and scalability... and, actually, we're enjoying programming! I already have a lot of tracks as Captain Funk, so at the beginning I'll upload them gradually as a trial. So, it'll take more time to launch my label and company, but I'd like to show kind'a mock-up at least by this spring. You'll be able to get information and listen from the website - soon."

Regarding a specific Tatsuya Oe 'sound', the man himself balks at the idea. "Some people say my present style is nu-wave house", he muses. "Others say it's electro house or electro clash; I can't define it myself, though!"

Label-wise, Oe is quick to nominate a few peers he respects: "Recently I choose European electronic dance music, especially German and French - for example, labels like Gomma, Eskimo, Citizen, Ed Banger, Kistune, and - of course - International DJ Gigolo," he reports.

For 2006, Oe has a few further notions he'd like to share. "I believe dance music will see a Big Bang again this year. There've already been some signs these past few years - but to see the totally exciting Bang, music businesses and people might need to accept more changes of paradigms. We need to discard a lot of old customs and think of listeners' changes more to keep this scene fresh and exciting."

Japan also has to change, he stresses. "Personally, I hope Japan