Label Showcase: Samurai Music/Horo

A skateboard, a few protections, and a lot of nostalgia, Geoffrey Wright, well-known as Presha in the drum and bass scene, rides down to Volkspark Friedrichshain in Berlin. In the skatepark, he slides on the bowl’s rails and overcomes the tension born from some past injuries. In New Zealand, he belonged to the first generation of skateboarders, before the upsurge of the kick-flips, seen as “circus tricks” by the veterans back then. In Manukau City, in 1984, he was riding on a self-built ramp, standing in the garden of a friend’s house, before doing some late-night downhill sessions, roaring from the speed and freedom. It was “the good old time,” when skateboarding wasn’t an Olympic sport, but a way of living for a certain marginalized youth, part of the street culture. All the tricks needed to be invented, beer in hand, with punk or rap music in the background. Wright remembers: “Tuakau, the town where I grew up, was very gang dominated and there was a lot of violence. I was hanging out with the wrong people until I discovered skateboarding: it gave me a new family, who lit up my dark environment.”

On the negative side, like many skateboarders, Wright was trapped in the street world. The “asphalt path” often doesn’t lead to a constructive professional life, unless the tough decision to take some distance is at one point taken. After some years, he finally found the strength to do it, at least temporarily, to build the foundations of his adult life. It caused some damage: “Nothing competes to the adrenaline and the consuming feeling that you get out of skateboarding. When I took a break from it, I didn’t know what to do with myself because nothing was matching the sensation. Determined, I quickly found some jobs but got in trouble with substance abuse. I also became an alcoholic,” he confesses, before adding: “Skateboarders today don’t realize how crazy skateboarding was in the eighties. We were marginalized, which built my character as an outcast kind of person. The deviance with the substances was a logical follow-up for people like me, in search of a certain intensity and vibration.”

In the skateboarding culture, rap, metal and punk music were merging without any social rupture, as part of a broader urban music family. It’s not uncommon that the skateboarders, constantly immersed in the sound, were ending up in rap or rock bands, often created in the parents’ garage. Wright belonged to a metal band for a while, as the lead singer, which made itself a name as Anigma when, in 1989, in Auckland, it played the support slot of Metallica’s first tour in New Zealand.

Wright opened himself to new music genres while getting a job as a seller in Sounds record shop. In 1985, the first compact disc found its way into the shop, a memorable moment for Wright: “The very first CD was Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms. It was a piece of history, and people were looking at it as if it would never catch on.” It was one of the first albums recorded on a digital tape machine, issued from lead singer Knopfler’s will to give his audience a better sound quality. It marked a new technology-driven era, which ultimately led to the upsurge of new electronic music genres.

Wright was at the forefront to discover them. He got in touch with house music in particular thanks to a DJ, Roger Perry, who was regularly visiting the record shop. They became friends and shared a flat together. This was how Wright became a DJ. After some club experiences soaking up Perry’s skills in the DJ booth in New Zealand, Wright traveled to England from 1989 to 1992, during the upsurge of grunge music.

Geoffrey Wright (Presha)
Photo by Miriam Vaughan

Wright discovered the rave parties at that moment; he smiles: “We were rock kids that used to go out and party for the whole weekend and the only places that were open all night long in London were Raves. I was one of these long hair guys with tattoos and a biker jacket, discovering acid house parties: we were going there because there was no other place to go, but it was fascinating for me.”

As a DJ, Wright perfected his skills as a selector first and foremost in metal music, having found a residency in a big club in London, Astoria, which was organising a metal night every Friday. He remembers: “I think I met a DJ over there, who I became friends with, and he invited me to join, knowing that I had some background in this style of music. I was playing heavy metal, rock, at a moment when both genres were big. There were neither turntables nor CDJs with pitch control at that time. They were just stacks of old-style CD players going into a basic mixer, but that kind of started my passion for DJing for a crowd.”

Wright also played metal in the notorious Cathouse rock venue in Hollywood, as well as back in his hometown in New Zealand, in a bar that he ran for one year. A love story made him move to another town, Christchurch, where he found a job in another record shop, Echo Records. His role in the shop importantly impacted his path: “I was working there and somehow I became the buyer of all the electronic music. We were importing hip-hop from America and rave records from the UK: the early Jungle music…”

Through this activity, Wright grew a network of friends and DJs, and thanks to them, eventually learned how to use the turntables. He crafted his skills by playing rap, house and funk in a bar named Espresso 124, and in the DJ booth, he started to drop some jungle music in the middle of his sets. Later, he organized a monthly drum and bass venue; it’s through the energy felt by the audience on those specific nights that Wright completely fell in love with the music genre.

Then, during the thirty following years, he developed it in every single link of the artistic chain. He grew his role as a promoter of drum and bass nights and became the main distributor and seller of the genre in his country. As a DJ, outside of his numerous residencies, he diffused the sound in a multitude of emblematic venues and festivals, on every continent. He launched one of the first internet radio shows entirely dedicated to drum and bass music and ran a few others. He dabbled in journalism, once interviewing Goldie for the defunct Pavement magazine. He provided expertise in other record stores, including one that he owned.

On the side of the labels, he co-founded Subtronix in 2001, to promote the local drum and bass artists, such as Bulletproof, then Samurai Music in 2007, more international, with a name symbolizing his final battle against alcohol. “This year, Samurai Music celebrates its 15-year anniversary, and it is also 15 years that I have been sober,” he mentions proudly. With his numerous collaborators, he crafted the 170 BPM language also through a myriad of sub-labels: Samurai Red Seal in 2009, Samurai Horo in 2011, which became Horo in 2016, and Shiro in 2015. He co-founded The Grey Area with Sam KDC and ASC in 2015. In the same year, he started to produce with Sam KDC under the alias DiNT, exorcising the pain in The Black Drug EP, and most recently, had his first solo project with RATS in 2021.

Thirty years in a time-lapse shows that “the good old Wright” personifies the drum and bass culture as a “paterfamilias,” making him the perfect consultant to open the door of the musical movement. At this stage of the conversation, after having covered a big portion of his life, it was time for us to request his point of view on the drum and bass world, which emerged in the UK in the early 1990s.

First things first: we challenged him to draw a definition of the drum and bass music, to which he answered: “I would say that this is firstly a tempo—170/185—used as a rhythmic skeleton for the drums and the bass in various different formations and combinations, to then use audio brushes to paint moods around. It can be any mood you want it to be, across the whole human spectrum. The various moods these touches create have become the way of defining the different subgenres of this music.” Then, he identified some of these subgenres: “For me, there is mainly the old-school, the mainstream, and the liquid drum and bass. The mainstream genre is a blending between Neurofunk and Jump-up, the latter being the most represented now. The liquid genre is kind of jazzy and funky, represented by artists such as Calibre. There is also a deeper drum and bass; from what we do with my labels through to the Tech step. Tech step was a term from 1996-1998, linked to labels such as No U Turn and Emotif, as well as artists like Ed Rush and Trace. Most of what we do is heavily influenced by what those guys were making and the kind of music that Photek and Source Direct were doing.”

Wright has always been considering that both Photek and Source Direct were game-changers for the drum and bass culture, but not only them: “Digital and Amit, with their half step beat structure and how they put the kicks together, also have become the kind of blueprint for a lot of today’s producers. Another person who has been very influential in the development of the sound is Loxy. You also can’t deny also the influence of dBridge, Instra:mental, and ASC from their Autonomic years. Drum and bass was getting to the point where it was going so fast and was way too full: the artists from Autonomic went the complete opposite way, by pulling everything down, replacing the angry pads with their own more atmospheric approach, and focusing more on the kicks, which was not being done at that time. Those were important years of development, which created a lot of what is heard today.”

We also asked Wright to come back to the distinction between jungle music and drum and bass: “Both names represent the same sound for me and always have been. The name “Drum and Bass” was invented to create a divide, but to me, it’s the same music, sharing the same codes. At the time the term “Drum and Bass” was coined, there had been so much violence associated with “Jungle,” the term’s primary use was to clean up the concept and make it a more palatable and inviting prospect; a gentrification of the genre basically. Nowadays, because it’s been like this for so long, most people have created that musical divide in their heads. But it’s all Jungle to me.”

Among all Wright’s musical projects, two stood out from the others, in terms of success and influence: Samurai Music, dedicated to drum and bass on an international level, and Horo, a basket for all the non-drum and bass music, yet inspired by the culture still, but more experimental and abstract. The legend saying that Wright was requesting his artists to send him “the work that they find too deep or too weird to be released” is true: it’s in this list of bizarre tracks that Wright makes his selection for his labels, echoing unconsciously again the path of the skateboarder…

In the eighties, the rider was first and foremost marginal, a “persona non grata” in the urban places, hyped up with rock, rap, and adrenalin. On the fringe of society, and most of the time excluded by it, the skateboarders were however forming an urban tribe, sharing a passion and admittedly a certain social deviance. It would be a misconception to believe that Wright betrayed the metal movement to join the electronic music world. In fact, he brought the skateboarding culture into the electronic music, by privileging the tribal, intense and dirty sonorities, which totally refreshed both the drum and bass and the deep techno aesthetics.

Today, it is not surprising to see him enjoying artists who also share the alternative music language, even outside the drum and bass music, thinking for instance of Donato Dozzy, who we interviewed lately, and who brought the hypnotic techno into the alternative/chill-out culture. Wright comments: “For me, Donato Dozzy is one of the techno artists that I admire the most. We got in touch for a remix of a track by Homemade Weapons on Samurai Music, we chatted online and I met him in Berlin. More than being a talented DJ and producer, he’s particularly genuine and honest, online as much as in reality. For me, he’s a shining example in the artistic world, totally devoted to his craft, and I just respect him so much.”

As for Horo, formerly known as Samurai Horo, Wright created it with high ambitions: “Horo is the Japanese name of the cloak worn by the elite Japanese soldiers during the ancient wars, which was a trophy for their enemies. I want Horo’s releases, if not “trophies,” to be at least “special” for the listener,” he explains.

Talented producer ASC set the foundations of the label with his dark and impactful sounds. Wright remembers: “I met him online, during my forum years, it must have been on Dogs On Acid. We got chatting at a time when his label Auxiliary was launching and I signed a bunch of tunes from him for Samurai Red Seal. We quickly became close friends and he has been one of my closest collaborators ever since. Musically, he shaped himself what was the beginning of Horo.” In 2018, ASC brought a monument to the electronic music culture: Astral Projection, which for us, remains his most accomplished creation so far.

Then, thanks to ASC, Wright got to know Sam KDC, who also played a key role in the development of Samurai Music and Horo: “James (ed. ASC) introduced me to Sam, whose sound has been also very formative for the labels. Sam is a very interesting person, very inquisitive, focused on self-development and learning about life. He takes the same approach in music I think. James and Sam are for me the most unique and important musicians operating in electronic music. It follows from their personality: they are very detail-focused and they show very deep devotion to the craft. Sam is also a primary collaborator in my projects.” On our side, we remember his occult Omen Rising, the 2019 debut album on Horo, showing both his immense talent and his deep spirituality.

It is worth mentioning that Sam KDC used to have a very talented “co-voyager”: Lemna, from Japan. Before meeting Wright, Lemna was already well-established in the scene of her country, for being a charismatic MC in the drum and bass nights, known as Key MC. In 2015, she came to an event featuring Presha, Ena, and Goth-Trad, and gave Wright a demo. It’s however later on the recommendation of Sam KDC, that Wright listened more closely to her music. He remembers: “She was cool, I really liked her style, she was intriguing. Initially, her tracks were well-produced but they were somehow reminiscent of the music from artists such as Ena and Clarity. As she became close to Sam KDC, and the Grey Area project kind of started, she seemed to find her musical voice and became a really good producer, really fast. It must be said that she dedicates a lot of her time to learning and she’s a fast learner. Sam KDC took her under his wings and then her tracks became really good, really fast.”

Besides ASC and Sam KDC, Wright has surrounded himself with other emblematic artists over the years, such as Ena, Homemade Weapons, and The Untouchables. “I enjoy the fact that they are very distinct personalities sonically, with a very recognizable sound signature. They are also totally devoted to their sound,” says Wright, before adding: “Take Ena for instance, he spends most of the time in the studio. This is also part of the Japanese culture to work very deeply on a project and to be extraordinarily creative. Being a great sound engineer, Ena also makes K-pop for a living, and I think that his drum and bass / electronic music is a reaction to that: it’s like the opposite pole, allowing him to experiment the way he really wants. I met him after he put out his album for 7even Recordings, the Japanese label. I was playing his tunes in my set and decided to contact him. He then became an important cog of what was going on with Horo.” Binaural on the label has been a game-changer for Ena in 2014, who impressed the scene with his artistic skills.

Wright also recalls how he met Homemade Weapons and The Untouchables: “I got introduced to Homemade Weapons by Gremlinz. The fusion between Samurai Music and Homemade Weapons was written: our trajectories were meant to cross. There are a lot of producers that are inspired by him but when you hear a Homemade Weapons tune, you know it’s a Homemade Weapons tune. He’s a very unique artist, coming from the USA and also carrying a certain culture in his music. He deserves more attention. It’s in the same period that I also met The Untouchables. They are a husband and wife combo from Brussels and our connection has been very natural. They are quite similar people to me, being both deep music lovers and also into skateboarding. We have a similar tastes in many domains and we became really good friends. Skateboarding creates a natural bond with its practitioners that you can’t really explain.” Following these words, we have in mind Homemade Weapons’ inspiring Clarion Call EP, released on Samurai Music in 2015, as well as the resounding 2018 album Mutations by The Untouchables, also on Samurai Music.

After such laudatory statements on these important artists through the eyes of Geoffrey Wright, it became clear for us, during the making of this feature, that our feature on Samurai Music and Horo wouldn’t be complete, without having the direct point of view of these talented artists on some chosen topics. We set up a group interview with ASC, Sam KDC, Ena, Homemade Weapons, and The Untouchables including an exclusive label mix by Presha.


How has being involved with Samurai Music/Horo impacted your musical career and creativity over the years?

Sam KDC: I’m not a fan of using the word career when talking about my own personal musical journey, I don’t think it does justice to the creative or spiritual/transpersonal aspects of music, the importance of which far outweigh any monetary/career motives for me. Regardless, working with the labels has certainly accelerated and enriched my journey thus far. It has allowed for more connection and community, more opportunities, more involvement, more exploration and growth, more everything really. As for the impact on the musical creation, it has given me the space to experiment and express in a way that very few other labels could, if I still wanted to make a living from it. And for all of that, I am immeasurably grateful.

Ena: After releasing music on Horo, my career has changed completely, especially after the release of my album Binaural. I have big respect for Geoff for breaking the borders, truly Samurai Music is for me a big part of modern electronic music.

Homemade Weapons: Aside from Samurai being a reputable outlet that has elevated my work to a global audience, there has never been a push for me to make music that I don’t want to make. Having a consistent supportive outlet encourages an artistic focus as opposed to the less creative (at times, overwhelming) aspects of self-branding.

Which of your tracks have a good story linked to them? Please share some…

ASC: Writing The Farthest Reaches was interesting, as that was in many ways the first set of Grey Area tracks that was written once Sam and I had decided on a plan and worked on the mathematics. I say that as if we’re solving a Fourier series or something! But yeah, once those tracks were made at the end of 2013, we actually sat on them for close to three years, as Grey Area as a concept wasn’t ready to be launched, and we were still working on writing techno at 170 BPM also.

Homemade Weapons: I’ve never told anyone about how I mixed up the names of a stem pack and accidentally gave the same stems to two different collaborators years ago. Luckily, they both came back unlike the start I’d sent, and were eventually released on other labels.

The Untouchables: All our tracks have a meaning and a story. They usually emerge from a feeling and emotion we felt on that day. “Dem Pirates” was aimed at labels and promoters. “Tread this land” is about helping another man to think for himself. “Foul Mouth” is about the bickering self-pity of greedy artists over others, dividing crews. We could go on and on about all the tracks we produce…

With its polyrhythmic and martial structures, Horo’s music seems to sacrifice a certain groove in favor of an emotional—sometimes explosive—intensity. Is this deliberate?

ASC: I don’t agree with this. Horo’s music has a unique groove usually (but not always) created by the polyrhythmic work pioneered by me and Sam KDC. Mine and Sam’s persistence with polyrhythms was definitely deliberate and eventually, that experimentation led to us creating Grey Area. This sound and unique groove became an integral part of the Auxiliary and Horo sounds, and even spawned an eponymously named label too.

I’d say Horo is more about evolution rather than pinpointing any specific emotion or explosiveness. If you look back at the first release to where we are now, it’s night and day. I think this boils down to the fact that everyone involved in Horo is searching for new ways to express themselves, and the platform exists as such to encourage constant evolvement.

James Clements (ASC)

Ena: I also don’t think that the groove is sacrificed. For instance, with the live progressive metal, people can dive through complicated songs and I have observed many times people dancing with polyrhythmic tracks on the dance-floor. It just needs a bit of understanding.

The Untouchables: We love Horo’s music; it’s such a deep label.

It has been intentional for Geoffrey Wright to originally request tracks that were too deep or too bizarre to be released. Do you still pursue the will to be different? What do you think of this idea that a creative person is first and foremost someone who dares to “color outside the lines”?

ASC: I’ve never pursued anything other than the essence of pure creation. I found from very early on that I didn’t write music that really fit in with whatever was perceived as popular or “flavor of the month,” so I’ve always been an outsider in that regard.

I don’t agree with that concept of a creative person being someone that first and foremost dares to color outside the line or think differently though. Creativity doesn’t have any ties with being eclectic or pushing any boundaries, in my opinion. What one person may consider as being creative won’t work for someone else. Creativity isn’t a one size fits all ethos.

Sam KDC: Going in the same direction, I think it really depends on the individual: there seems to be a wide spectrum of creativity. There are creative people who color very well inside the lines and there are creative people who seem to have access to totally different and unique dimensions and who open portals that allow new concepts to enter into our shared human realm.

For the first decade of writing music electronically, before refining the style and sound that I now have, the will to be different was something I pursued, to a degree. I would never be content just copying things that were already in existence. But the music being emotionally resonant has always been more important than being different for me. That’s true also for the music I listen to. Discovering music that feels totally different can be very exciting, but sometimes even the most cliché ridden pop track will connect on an emotional level. And when that happens, why reject it because of its lack of originality? If something strikes, I choose to let it in. Otherwise, you’re only depriving yourself of potential joy. And as far as I can tell, joy is a precious resource. It would be nonsensical and spiteful to reject it because it doesn’t meet some arbitrary criteria of being different.

Homemade Weapons: Though the use of formulas and adherence to boundaries will warrant certain outcomes, knowing the “rules” and how to strategically break or manipulate them can slowly edge things forward and outward. I think it’s easy to redo what’s been done for a moment of shine, but I feel that route lessens the sustained value of the original effort. Sadly, it seems gratification and self-branding outweigh the need for personal fulfillment in artistry these days—resulting in stagnancy and disposability, as opposed to making products that truly stand the test of time.

The Untouchables: Thinking outside the box and being different is a good thing though. It individualizes each and every one of us. We believe in making music first, still. If your music is good enough, it will get picked up by labels, but they should not dictate how you make the music with one rule or another.

Another common assumption about creative people is their specific need to combat boredom, how much room do you give to this state of mind in your daily life, how often do you allow yourself “to be bored,” both in your private life and in your music productions?

The Untouchables: Understanding that you can’t be creative all the time is a huge stepping stone in being an artist. It is important to have a break from being creative and just do something else; reading a book, watching a movie, or engaging in physical activities… In such moments, you are being a sponge, picking up everything in your surroundings and this will helps recharge your creative mind.

Homemade Weapons: I think that boredom happens if you aren’t satisfied with what you have before you. I had become incredibly bored and uninspired as a result of the pandemic, so I focused on schooling. Though the excessive downtime has inspired some creative exploration, I’ve found it can be overwhelming trying to outdo what you’ve done on an even cleaner slate knowing that music consumption continues to change with the tide of COVID-19.

Digging deeper into your creative process: what does a 170 BPM structure allow that a 128 doesn’t? Which artistic opportunities are unlocked in a high-tempo structure? Also, would you agree to say that drum and bass is more a vibe than a tempo?

ASC: For me, it’s more about the concept of a piece of music (rather than tempo), and usually the concept dictates the tempo. I agree that drum and bass is not just a tempo. If we’re talking about 170 BPM, then that doesn’t necessarily mean drum and bass to me. I can think of countless pieces of music I’ve written at 170 BPM that are 100% not drum and bass and shouldn’t be categorized as such. It’s always seemed like genre and sub-genre classifications were often artificial concepts made up by journalists and sites like Beatport to compartmentalize everything into neat categories to make search algorithms work better. Music isn’t binary and never should conform to simple tick boxes.

Sam KDC: I’m not convinced that either tempo allows anything that the other doesn’t, or perhaps it’s fairer to say there’s nothing that’s exclusively possible in one and not the other. Not that I’ve found yet anyway. Energy can change—some things can have more energy at one or the other. Regardless, they are my two favorite tempos to work at and I approach them both in the same way.

Samuel Wood (Sam KDC)

Ena: 170 BPM can be really a wide range that already Samurai artists cover. Technically, it allows a lot more possibilities than lower BPM ranges in my opinion.

Homemade Weapons: I believe on my side that it applies more to DJing and maybe categorization in the sense that 3/4 at 170 BPM can blend seamlessly with a 4/4 at 128 BPM. When it comes to tempo, I feel a general understanding of math, space, and time go a long way. And while tempo does seem to be the focus when it comes to genres, the vibe is the priority, being the feeling that I believe surpasses the classification. How fast or how slow a song is only adds to the impact of the vibe. I feel the music that we make has an intensity that is derived from an emphasis on the elements that constitute the jungle/drum and bass. Some songs are percussive driven, some are nothing but bottom end, and some may have nothing more than drones and high hats. I believe this approach to production adds another layer to the DJing side of things.

The Untouchables: There is not a perfect tempo. Every BPM lets you do certain things that other tempos don’t. 170 BPM allows a fast enough halftime. The only limitation is the one you set in your mind.

To Sam KDC in particular: there is a spiritual dimension in your music. Are you a believer? Does your spiritual thinking have an influence on your music?

Sam KDC: If you mean am I a believer in an anthropomorphic creator God being of the Judaeo-Christian narrative, then the short answer is no. If you mean do I believe that it’s possible that there are phenomena beyond the realms of the five human senses, or that maybe there are forces at play that are beyond either our current comprehension or the tools of measurement used by reductionist science, then yeah, sure. And yeah, that line of thinking has a sizeable impact on the music I make. I would say that the “spiritual” path is the one that holds the lion’s share of my devotion in life and that certainly seeps over into the music—from titles and themes to instruments and techniques, sound palettes and the kind of sonic environments I try to create, to whatever it may be that I’m currently trying to understand, process or express through the writing process.

To ASC: Your music is also very deep, but a strong cinematic dimension can be sensed, maybe more than a spiritual influence. Which cinema inspires you and which sides of it fascinate you in particular?

ASC: I’m a huge fan of Tarkovsky films, especially Stalker and Mirror, and other directors like Dennis Villeneuve, Christopher Nolan, Shane Meadows, Darren Aronofsky, Gus Van Sant, and Wes Anderson are some of my favourite ones. Anything involving science fiction/space exploration, I’m usually glued to the screen in wide-eyed fascination. Watching films that really capture human emotion and the nuances of everyday life with a gripping narrative are also important to me. Some of my all-time favourite ones include Blade Runner, Moon, Interstellar, The Darjeeling Limited, The Fountain, Whiplash, Paris Texas, The Shawshank Redemption. I could keep going…

Talking about sci-fi: in the group of people that will be selected to colonize Mars, some think that there should only be scientists and engineers, while others believe that we should involve artists as well. What is the purpose of art according to you?

Sam KDC: I’m not sure I’m in any kind of position to define the purpose of art, but I do have a somewhat tenuous grasp on the roles that it plays in my own life. They are very different roles as creators and consumers. As a creator, I use writing music similarly to how people use a journal (although I do that too these days) or taking photographs. It is somewhere between encapsulating a thought, feeling, memory or moment and making sense of whatever I happen to be ruminating on at that time. Like a cartography of the psyche and the soul. I think there’s a degree of that running through most art, but there’re innumerable different approaches and reasons to approach art. It is a versatile medium. As a consumer I deeply cherish cinema, and amongst the things I cherish most about cinema is the emotional alchemy that it can concoct, the emotive connections we can feel with the characters, settings, stories, events, etc. within them. For me, it is these kinds of connections/projections/recognitions that have often been the first spark of awareness into the universal nature of things I had hitherto assumed to be individual and isolated. A glimpse of how far our inner world extends beyond what we perceive to be “me.” How our neurotic self-tyranny and terrorism is something that’s actually widespread and “normal.” How the suffering we’ve endured manifests itself in uncannily common ways. How the experiences we’ve had that cause us shame are actually ubiquitous throughout time and culture. How sometimes feeling like a fucking alien in your own skin is an almost universal phenomenon. And realizing things of such nature is of course incredibly cathartic. So I don’t know if you can have a new world without art. A world without art would have to be a world without suffering and I’m not sure any scientist or engineer could manufacture a world without suffering. Not a world with humans in it anyway.

Homemade Weapons: I think community and culture amongst the masses play a big part in what we have now, so I’m unsure how that would flourish amongst a select few isolated individuals. I believe the ultimate purpose of art is to trigger or alter emotion in some way using an infinite palette of possibility. If it makes you love, hate, or feel any way at all—I think it’s done its job.

Andre Delgado (Homemade Weapons)

Ena: Art is fun, humans need to have fun.

The Untouchables: Firstly; why bother with colonizing Mars when we can’t even fix the problems on this Planet. On top of that, I think that we will probably make the same mistakes as we have always done, sending an elite instead of common people, artisans, and outside-of-the-box thinkers.
Bread wasn’t invented by a scientist: it most probably was a person that spilled water on flour by accident and thought to dry it with some fire. Look at how humanity survived on it…

Famous movie director Akira Kurosawa said that in the past, “the Japanese were seeing self-assertion as immoral and self-sacrifice as the sensible course to take in life.” Please share what you have sacrificed in life to become a musician, as well as what you try to bring to your listeners, showing that your artform is not just a means of self-expression.

Sam KDC: My art form is primarily a means of self-expression. I can’t say just because it has evolved beyond that as a consequence of being released into the public domain. So it’s not so much what I try to bring to listeners (and I would propose that there are few artists who can purposefully manufacture an experience for listeners and succeed without it sounding contrived—at least in creating any experience beyond making a dance-floor smasher) but rather what I am currently trying to express, understand, exorcise or alleviate from myself. And—at the risk of sounding utterly pretentious—sometimes these things I wish to express seem to connect with something more universal, something transcendent of just me being a miserable little fuck in my studio trying to map my struggle. Sometimes these little collages of sound that I paint happen to aggregate into something akin to little avatars of collective experience. Sometimes they are a splinter of something archetypal or seemingly equally ancient, whilst others are something relatively modern and as yet undefined but can still act as a bridge between something private and something shared. And on the occasions that such a thing occurs—when someone comes to speak to me at a gig or sends me a message, or leaves a comment online about how a piece of music I wrote made them feel better about something, or unlocked something for them, or helped them to understand, reframe or even survive something—those moments are maybe the closest thing I have to religious experience; profound, illuminating, ecstatic. For me, they are like gifts from the void, fleeting glimpses of the infinite and undeniably interdependent nature of the cosmos. And whilst I am deeply grateful for these shared experiences, they are not something I am trying to engineer or bring to anyone. I am only trying to bring a little order to my own psyche. The rest is an unintentional yet beautiful and cherished by-product.

The Untouchables: On our side, we’ve sacrificed everything to be where we are. We don’t go on holidays. We don’t go out for drinks or to restaurants. When we make money, we put it back in the studio. Our family and friends don’t always understand the sacrifices we make, but we love what we do.
The gratifications of creating something in the studio, seeing it rock the dance-floors around the world, and making it to vinyl really have no price. Having created something that inspires other people is unparalleled. That’s why we do it!

Ena: The Japanese society is the same as in the past. As I’m just enjoying music, I also feel having sacrificed nothing in my life. There is maybe a confusion that needs to be explained. Basically, my/our music is based on dance music, but it’s just built in a different way, there are many people who can dance with different grooves, simply I am trying to make dance music that I want to hear on the dance-floor. For me, it’s rather fun than self-sacrifice.

Yu Asaeda (Ena)

What do you consider important when DJing? Could you share examples of events that have left a particular imprint on you? Which one has been your all-time favourite and why?

Ena: Sound system is everything, I need a bass that physically pushes people. One of my favorite venues has been our Horo nights at OHM Berlin. ASC, Sam KDC, Felix K, and Geoff, all on the same bill.

Sam KDC: Yeah, a good sound system with some sub-bass weight is the most important thing for me too! I think it might be impossible to pick an all-time favourite event. I have been very lucky that the vast majority have been awesome. A few that spring to mind are; Trauma in Madrid was where I played my first live set (and the first time to perform in Spain, where I have lived now for some years) and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was a truly electric night. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of playing an AV set with the artist Akiko Nakayama for Klankvorm in Rotterdam. The venue was an old Freemason temple with some of the original décor and insignia still intact. That was pretty dope!

The events closest to my heart have been the long-running Horo nights at Berlin’s OHM venue. They have felt like a musical home for me. Over the years I have gotten to know regular attendees and they have always been the nights that you know you will hear loads of exciting new music. There have been a few favourites, but the one mentioned by Ena is top of the list. It was total fucking electricity. I really miss that place!

Homemade Weapons: Always fully functioning gear indeed, then maybe attendance. Though, I’ve found my favorite experiences weren’t always crowded and were often driven by a handful of people on the dance-floor connected to what was happening. Unfortunately, the stuff that we make isn’t received the same in the US as it is overseas, so I’m truly grateful for the amazing opportunities I’ve had to play events such as Sun And Bass in Sardinia, DADA in Beijing and NoiseTest in Bristol. Shouts to everyone that had me through nonetheless.

The Untouchables: For DJing; the setup, the sound, and the crowd are key for us to perform at our best. As for our favourite venues: Fold – Rupture London for the people & sound, Bass Camp in Poland for the vibe, Bateau Far – Paris for the crowd. Yeah, it’s also impossible for us to just pinpoint one.

Does DJing in public make you nervous or does it come naturally?

Ena: I’m just having fun when the sound system is great.

Sam KDC: The first time I ever played records in public, I took a train with a few friends to the venue. I was physically trembling with nerves for the whole journey. In the venue I was so nervous I could barely speak and my hands were shaking. Going into the booth I felt like I wanted the ground to swallow me up, right until the second I put the needle in the groove of my first record and let it play. At that moment, all my nerves melted away, my shaking stopped and I was in the zone, totally zen, playing records like I was in my room on my own at home. And I’ve pretty much stayed in that zone ever since. There have been a couple of times when I’ve played to crowds far larger than I’ve been used to that I’ve felt those proverbial butterflies emerge from their cocoons, but over the nearly 20 years since that first time it’s only been a handful of occasions.

ASC: I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been nervous, but it’s mainly anticipation. Once I’m into the first mix of the set, I’m usually in the zone and fully immersed.

The Untouchables: We are always nervous, but after the first mix, we remember that only the vibe matters.

Have you suffered disillusionment in your career or enlightenment thanks to music? What is the most important thing you’ve learned on the way, as a producer and DJ, other than the technical skills?

Homemade Weapons: Knowledge gained through experience is always enlightening, and I guess I’ve found disillusionment in the lingering uncertainty and the varying motivations of others. Learning to balance the demanding extroversion of DJing and the introverted nature of production while trying to be a part of a community can be a feat in itself, so I’ve found being mindful of purpose and patience have definitely helped me along the way.

The Untouchables: There is an illusion or misconception as to what the life of a DJ producer really is. A lot of the time it involves traveling where you don’t really see the country you are traveling to. We are lucky to be able to do this together and share the experience. As for the enlightenment, I’d say the most important thing is to stay true to yourself and stick to your guns. A lot of hard work will pay off. It takes a lot of work but if you are not true to yourself, you will get lost.

Kate McGill & Ajit Steyns (The Untouchables)

Ena: As a Japanese artist, I got tons of experiences that I would normally not have had. It taught me a lot of things regarding music skills and life in general.

Is music-making really a healthy addiction for you?

Ena: Yes, better than anything else.

The Untouchables: Yes, because we love what we do.

ASC: Yes and no. It’s healthy in the sense that this is what I’ve wanted to do from an early age, so I’ve dedicated my life to my craft. That in itself makes me happy and content. Of course, there needs to be a fine balance between that and everything else in your life, and I can say there have been many times where I’ve been consumed by creating and not left much room for anything else. I’m striving to create a happier medium these days.

With your long experience, what does it take for an unknown artist to impress you? Please share some examples of unknown artists that have particularly interested you lately…

Sam KDC: Anything that makes you say “fuck” out loud is a good start. When looking for music to support I’m not looking for it based on functionality, it’s not like all it needs is to hit some technical criteria—technical finesse can be developed later. It should contain a high level of originality or a new twist on existing traditions. I am not interested in hearing impersonations of other artists. But first and foremost it has to resonate and I’m open to whatever may provoke that resonance. It’s hard to put what that means precisely into words, it’s not really something that can be defined, it just happens.

Whilst the following artists are not exactly unknown and some of them have been realizing music steadily for a while, some artists I am currently keeping a close ear on are: The Nent / Vū, Meer, Flaminia, Kujo, SNCTR, Nigh/T\mare, Llimbs, Hålbå, YØKAÏ, How To Levitate.

ASC: Sciama is probably the best example of an unknown artist that impressed me in the past few years on my side. He impressed me so much that I ended up signing him to Auxiliary. Ultimately though, I’m looking to hear music that inspires me and gives me the same feelings my own music gives me. That way, I can tell if I’m on the same wavelength as this artist and usually great results come from such like-mindedness.

Ena: For me, just the quality of the sound matters. Not sure if they are well-known or not, but the trio Mosquitoes is a great example for me.

UK drum and bass pioneer Goldie says “My purpose on Earth is to leave a legacy,” do you have a similar goal through your various means of expression?

ASC: I don’t think about it in an obvious way, but I want to look back many years from now and keep feeling the same sense of accomplishment that I currently do. As long as I’m content with my work, and I feel like I’m constantly pushing myself, then that’ll count as success for me.

The Untouchables: For me, that is exactly what music is. You leave a legacy of emotions you felt at a particular moment. Having music in a physical format is so important to us. Having the music on wax is part of that legacy: it won’t disappear on a dead hard drive.

Ena: On my side, my thoughts are simpler, I just want to enjoy the music.

To Presha: Concluding the interview, what was the creative process behind the mix?

Presha: Instead of putting forward a mix that focused on upcoming music, I decided to go back to a period/vibe that I feel, in retrospect was one of the most important periods for Samurai Music as Horo began and started morphing into something of its own. Not all tunes are from this exact timeframe but they all capture or fit alongside the vibe of that time when producers like ASC, Sam KDC, Indigo/Ancestral Voices, and Pact Infernal were finding or redefining their styles and creating music that ultimately has stood the test of time and reached beyond the dancefloor.

For me, it holds fond memories and still carries a feeling that is missing from today’s music. This was the period of our labels’ progression where we attracted attention from the wider electronic scene and several techno producers got in contact, including Lucy who ended up remixing Pact Infernal for us and then releasing a record on Horo. There are, of course, a few new tunes added at the end!

01. Tokyo Prose – LPK Sound (Consequence Remix)
02. ASC – Brainscan
03. ASC – Zone One
04. Consequence – Noisy Spirits In This Soul
05. ASC – Bleep Test
06. Sam KDC – Downpour (Version)
07. Sam KDC – Between Dreams
08. Indigo – Storm
09. Tokyo Prose & FIS – The Truths
10. ASC – Axis Shift (Alternative Mix)
11. AND – FVS
12. Stray – Wired
13. Ancestral Voices – Old Earth Voodoo
14. Ancestral Voices – Vine Of The Soul (Pact Infernal Remix)
15. Pact Infernal – Meditations
16. Homemade Weapons – Spasmolytic (Ancestral Voices Remix)
17. Ancestral Voices – Hypersigil
18. Consequence, Loxy, Resound – Project No Name (Mastered)
19. Indigo – Tethys
20. ASC – Never Enough
21. Pact Infernal – Circle I [Limbo]
22. Pact Infernal – Death & Rebirth
23. ASC – Broadside
24. Sam KDC – Survive/Exist
25. Sam KDC – Erosion
26. Pact Infernal – Fraud (Ancestral Voices Remix)
27. ASC – Diffusion Loop (Rumble Mix)
28. ASC – Landslide
29. Sam KDC & Flaminia – Bitter Root