Originally born in Atlanta the path for Steffen Yoshiki into music was not straight forward. Despite sustained overtures by his mother (an accomplished pianist in her own right), to instil an interest in music, Steffen Yoshiki found his interests leaned towards the art world.
It was in the 8th grade that an interest in music began and then grew, encompassing the Atlanta scene with vigour-hip-hop, rave, rnb, chill-wave and ambient sounds (among others) became his staple diet. Steffen Yoshiki duly flourished in the vibrant music landscape. As is the case in life Steffen Yoshiki admits to “making bad decisions” in those late teenage years despite his musically productive period. Needing to “restart his life” he found his attention drawn to his country of heritage Japan. It’s a move which has proved fruitful.
Now an integral part of the burgeoning Tokyo electronica scene, Steffen Yoshiki has made a name with some beefy cuts. While in truth he has not put out any new material out for a while, #itchysilk caught him at the right time because he’s back in the lab.
As a bit of an intro to the man we decided to have a conversation with him to talk about music, his rather brilliant collective and we touch upon his photographic passion.
We aware you are in Japan now but talk about life first in Atlanta in terms of seeing your path into music and the creative arts?
I’ve always been very interested in music and art from a young age. My father often co-hosted a music festival while his main job was graphic design. My mother originally moved to the States because she got a scholarship to a school in Georgia for piano. So, growing up I’ve always been surrounded by creativity via my family. I still regret till this day that I didn’t pursue music earlier. My mother tried to teach me piano, but I didn’t want to when I was younger. I just preferred drawing and painting at the time.
And when did you actively start to pursue music more?
I think it was in 8th grade or freshman year of high school when I started to pursue music. I started writing poetry / song lyrics before eventually rapping because I wasn’t a great singer. Of course, every high school kid who is a rapper needs beats. I decided to try and make beats for my own projects and this eventually became my focus more and more. Around senior year of high school I started experimenting with everything from chill-wave to electro house and so on.
And what did Atlanta add to your own musical foundations?
In Atlanta I grew up going to a lot of shows, but it wasn’t till junior / senior years of high school that I was exposed to raving. It’s here I started to solidify a liking for dance music and djing. After graduating high school, I realized there was a certain style I was fixated on which was a mixture chill wave /trip-hop blended with trap. I didn’t at the time realize there were many people on SoundCloud really into this music until I moved to Japan. In Atlanta I felt out of place musically. At the time it was big room trap /dubstep that was popular in the raving scene. I think this pushed me to make music that wasn’t so dance oriented.
And how did making a life and a living in Japan Yokohama fit into your whole music journey-what prompted the move?
Well, Yokohama was a transitional period for me because I had family this way. Before I left the States, I was really focused on music, but after a break up and partying way too much I spiralled out of control. I still made music, but I was niave and making bad decisions. I don’t want to get into many details, but I always wanted to come to Japan to live (since I had visited at a younger age) and well I thought maybe restarting my life could put me on a better path.
I’m also inspired by movies, tv shows that explore psychological themes or moral philosophical dilemmas.
Your sound is eclectic and indeed in your production we hear samples from some old skool classic 80’s/90’s rnb-but in your own words what are some of the founding principles you employ in creating a sound that one might call ‘your sound’?
You’re pretty on the dot about the 80’s 90’s vibes. I really am inspired a lot by those eras, everything from new wave, shoegaze to rnb and hip hop. I like to think I like that I am using my inspirations from these genres but mixing it with more modern drums. I’m usually pretty bad at describing my own sound but I would say that its wavey emotional electronic music with blends of rnb and hip hop.
Ideas and themes in your work are esoteric, thought provoking but what do you search for in terms of ideas in your sound and indeed are there common themes that you keep returning to?
I think a lot of my musical inspiration comes from constant things I think about, anything from my daily life struggles and stresses to my constant thoughts on philosophy. I’m inspired by movies, tv shows that either explore psychological themes or moral philosophical dilemmas.
We Are Dosing -your sound collective talk about that?
So, dosing is a crew that I started with my close friends out here who I met through djing. We are a collective of musicians and artists who also like to party as well as put on our own events. Dosing is short for dreaming of sleeping which seems to be something that occurs when you live in Tokyo. Work in the daytime and go out at night and in between everything moves so fast. When we weren’t out djing or partying, we would be staying up late at night working on music and art, so we thought the name was very fitting.
We have been a collective for over 2 years now and we have been moving towards become an actual company. We will be focusing on releasing more music and putting on more events. We’ve always brought out international artists while trying to support the local scene, but we plan to bring out even bigger artists and hopefully create more connections between artists in the Western world and artists here.
Discuss electronica in Japan how big a movement is it ultimately and where is it at in terms of its growth?
I think electronica is still on the rise, since the band scene is still much larger. The movement though I think is fairly a good size. Most people tend to only look at Tokyo when it comes to music from japan but there are so many musicians all over especially those who make electronic music. In Tokyo though there are a variety of crews of producers and djs; everything from edm and bass music to ambient and chilled out boom bap. There’re many experimental artists who make very noise-oriented stuff but there are also those who make trap bangers for the rappers out here which seems to be growing more in popularity recently. Some of the notable crews in Tokyo when it comes to electronic music would be Trekkie Trax, Proper Pedigree [PRPR], Tokyo Vitamin, N.O.S [nitrous oxide systems].
We wanted to ask briefly about your photographic pursuits as all your music releases are blessed by great imagery.
I’m flattered, thank you so much. Well I don’t do much drawing or painting nowadays and have always dabbled in taking photos, but it wasn’t until I moved to japan that I really started trying at it more. My first job I really enjoyed was when I was an assistant to a Dutch photographer named marc albert, who through working with inspired me pursue photography. I also am very picky with the images I chose for my tracks on SoundCloud, so I figured I should start taking them myself and before knowing it became more than just a hobby. It became something I could properly express myself with and honestly having fun creating with other friends including my gf really has kept me interested in it as well.
We know you are a dj so name three tracks we should also feature on our playlist?
Diveliner – No Love, West1ne – Rock The Boat and Go Yama – Sequences
Is there anything you would like to add?
I know I haven’t released much music in the past few years but I’m about to put out new music that is more vocal oriented and I also have started a post rock / rnb project with some close friends that we plan to release soon as well.