The ninth edition of Japan’s premier boutique music festival, RAINBOW DISCO CLUB, takes place in Higashi-Izu later this month. In the lead-up to the event, held across three days from April 28-30, Tokyo select shop VENDOR has collaborated with the festival on two limited, special edition T-shirts and an exclusive 2CD set. Titled “FOR OUR SOULS”, the first CD is a hypnotic mix by Antal, founder of globally revered Amsterdam record store and label RUSH HOUR, while a bonus disc of re-edits by RAINBOW DISCO CLUB resident DJ Sisi is also included. The package releases Friday, April 6 and will be available exclusively online at COVERCHORD.
To find out more about RAINBOW DISCO CLUB, and the man behind the mix CD, Antal, we sat down with festival founder Masahiro Tsuchiya and the RUSH HOUR boss in two separate interviews.
Masahiro Tsuchiya - RAINBOW DISCO CLUB
RAINBOW DISCO CLUB (RDC) is in its ninth year, what has changed since the first event thrown back in 2010?
The main change is the venue [RDC was originally a single day event held at Tokyo’s Harumi Passenger Ship Terminal, but in 2015 the festival moved to Higashi-Izu]. From a music perspective things haven’t really changed, we are always bringing different artists but there is a thread that connects them all. We get a lot more overseas guests travelling to Japan to attend, and when we first started out as a one day event we didn’t have so many families coming. Since we moved to Izu and became a three day festival with camping, we have a lot more people bringing their kids along.
The festival has a very family friendly atmosphere, was this something you tried to cultivate or did it happen naturally?
One of the motivations for moving the festival to Izu was exactly that. The people around us were having children and it seemed like it was time to move in that direction. We wanted a place that parents could bring their children if they wanted to. We were conscious that children can’t easily experience dance music in Tokyo and we wanted to create an environment where that would be possible. We thought if kids are listening to this music from a young age it might inspire a new generation. We now get a lot of families and a lot of children, which helps make the vibes of the festival really happy and positive. To make it easier we do things like create play areas for kids and stop the music at night.
In spite of its name, its not specifically a disco festival, and a lot of different genres are played. Is there a general music policy and if so what is it?
First of all its got to be music that we like. As a group we discuss artists we’d like to book and there is a zone where we all kind of meet. I guess its black music, we all really like soul, funk and disco, so we mostly book artists who play that kind of music, or modern music born from those genres.
The line-up each year has a very good balance of international artists and local Japanese talent, around 50/50 it seems. Was this always the intention of the festival?
I think that’s just naturally happened. Sisi has opened the festival every year since the beginning and we’ve regularly booked local artists like Kaoru Inoue and Kenji Takimi. This year we have guys like Yoshinori Hayashi, who is really building a name for himself here and overseas, and last year, and again this year, we have guys like Soichi Terada, who is not a young guy, he’s in his 50’s, but he is working really hard and doing great things at the moment and we want to support that. The concept of the Red Bull stage this year is paring local artists up, for example Sapphire Slows said she’d like to play with MIIIA from Shanghai, so we arranged for that to happen.
This is not the first time you have pushed back to back DJ sets though is it. Two years ago DJ Nobu played back to back with The Black Madonna on the main stage, after having only just met, and then last year he did the same with Fred P. How did that come about?
DJ Nobu is one of my favorite DJs. When he plays solo he is very much techno, but he’s been around a long time and he actually used to play a lot of house and disco. So the idea was to get DJ’s who are known for a particular style, get them to play back to back with someone, and though doing that have them showcase a different side of what they can do. Of course, there is a risk with asking people to DJ back to back without any prior experience playing together, and Nobu’s first reaction was exactly that. But we had a long talk and discussed ideas of who he would be interested in doing it with, and that ended up being The Black Madonna. It was a huge success so last year he did the same with Fred P and this year will be with Joey Anderson.
Rainbow Disco Club has thrown events in Shanghai and Amsterdam. What was the reasoning behind this expansion? Are there plans to expand the festival to other locations in the future?
We’ve done events as RDC in Shanghai and Amsterdam, and also done smaller, non-official RDC events in Paris, Hong Kong and Sydney. We would like to keep doing events overseas for sure. There are a number of overseas festivals that have become global, like Mutek from Montreal, and are doing showcases in different cities around the world. However there aren’t any Japanese festivals that I can think of that are doing this. Fuji Rock Festival is famous around the world, but it’s only something done here. It’s happened very naturally so far, through our connections with artists we have strong relationships with, like Antal from Rush Hour, which allowed us to do the party in Amsterdam. We’d like it to keep growing organically like that.
This is the ninth RDC, do you have anything special planned for the 10th edition next year?
If everything goes smoothly this year and we are able to continue next year then I’d like to look back on the past 10 years of events and pinpoint the best bits and try to use all the experiences we’ve had to do something special for sure. I’m not sure what that is yet, but for sure, we’d like to do something special.
For someone who is thinking about coming to Rainbow Disco Club for the first time, what would you like to tell them?
To the people who come to RDC, I hope that for those three days, they can forget about their daily lives and everyday worries and concerns and just enjoy themselves with great music. I hope we can create an environment and an experience that is really special for the people who come. When you hear the term dance music festival, I think there is a certain kind of image that people have for what that might be, but the reality of RDC is that there are a lot different people coming, with different backgrounds and different professions and all different ages who have come together because they love the music. We try to create a space where people can just enjoy it however they want. Some people like to hang out at the camp site and listen from a distance, some sit in hammocks, some like to dance all day up the front. We just hope people simply relax and enjoy themselves like it’s a park, more than a party.
Are there any artists that you have tried to book and haven’t been able to or would like to book sometime in the future.
Sure, I’d love to book the KLF, Theo Parrish and Larry Heard. One artist we tried to book was Jayda G, but her schedule didn’t work out. One that you might be surprised is Richie Hawtin. He probably doesn’t fit the image people have of Rainbow Disco Club but I think it would be really interesting to have him play and see how he would approach it.
Antal - RUSH HOUR
What was the concept behind your “FOR OUR SOULS” mix CD?
I just wanted to put a lot of deep ambient and spiritual jazz records together and put them in a nice flow.
Was there a DJ who influenced you when you were learning the craft?
Many, but I think Theo Parrish was one of the biggest. When I heard his mix tape somewhere in 1996 we decided to invite him for a party in 1998. This exceeded all our expectations. That performance in Paradiso Amsterdam in 1998 was directly injected into our DNA. Not only ours but many people who attended that gig like San Proper or Volcov. I am sure they all feel the same about it.
Like RUSH HOUR, the store and the label, your DJing is known for its breadth and variety. Combining staple dance music genres of techno and house with more obscure music from around the world. Just a few years ago this eclectic style may have been considered niche, and solely the domain of the diggers and the heads. However you can now be regularly seen playing the main stage of festivals such DEKMANTEL in Amsterdam and RAINBOW DISCO CLUB here in Japan. How has this come about? Has there been a paradigm shift with club and festival going audiences? Or is it simply progressive programming by party promotors and festival organisers?
In all honesty. I have been playing a wide range of music from the early days of my DJ career. I think I always had nice parties to play with the occasional one that wasn’t that good, but it took a long time before I started DJing in other countries so extensively. And I think it is true that it wasn’t widely accepted to play in that eclectic way in clubs. It took time, but there have always been good DJ’s who could play like that and all of a sudden there was a critical mass and we reached a point of no return. And I think slowly on more and more clubs, parties and promoters got into this sound too.
You’ve been coming to Japan since 2001, what do you enjoy about playing in Japan?
I love the eye for detail, the interest in deeper things and the culture of taking care and doing it right, deep and classy.
Do you have a favorite Japanese record?
I can name some obscure things but It started it with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music for me. He is a master!
You have a strong relationship with RAINBOW DISCO CLUB. You’ve played the festival the last three years in a row and thrown RDC events in Amsterdam. How did that relationship come about and what makes it a special festival for you?
I love coming to Rainbow Disco Club. It’s always a nice and welcome stay and I love to bring my family there too. We love eating Japanese food and just being at this peaceful and musical place. I am happy we can do more things together like bringing RDC to Amsterdam for instance.
vendor Things × RAINBOW DISCO CLUB × RUSH HOUR
L/S TEE & 2CD SET
vendor Things × RAINBOW DISCO CLUB × RUSH HOUR
S/S TEE & 2CD SET