Born in 1965, Soichi Terada, the multi-talented Japanese artist started out in music thanks to his dad’s electric organs. He grew up in Tokyo and took a try in J-pop with a band called Tax Flee. In 1989,  after graduating in computer science and the electric organ, he founded his label Far East Recordings; the same year, he produced ‘Sun Shower’ with Japanese singer Nami Shimada. Larry Levan got a hand on this tittle, put his special touch on it and it became a Paradise Garage classic. 

During the 90’s, Soichi Terada released several albums and EPs from drum’n’ bass to downtempo, house, techno and experimental music. During the same period, he started producing video game soundtracks; the best known of them being Ape Escape by Nintendo for whom he produced 7 different soundtracks for each new version of the game. Then, in the beginning of 2000, he founded his band Omodaka with Akiko Kanazawa, leaving little space left for his solo productions. Instead the band produce experimental electronic music with tints of 8-bit and j-pop.

Despite being respected by many DJs, he remained unknown by the classic electronic music consumer. It is thanks to the retrospective compilation released in early 2015 on Rush Hour that Soichi Terada’s carrier is going through a recent revival within the electronic community. So thanks to Rush Hour’s boss, the incredible DJ Hunee had the brilliant idea of putting Soichi Terada back in the spotlight.

That’s how twenty years after this prolific period as a house producer, in the year of his fiftieth birthday, Soichi Terada finds himself in the middle of a European tour with Rush Hour that stops in the following four cities: Amsterdam, London, Berlin and Paris. On this wonderful occasion, we thought it would be really cool to interview him.

Hard Life • We’ve heard that you discovered House music in Tokyo’s underground clubs and that it was this that made you want to produce your own tracks. How was the Tokyo scene back in the 90’s? What DJs or producers do you consider emblematic of this era?

Soichi Terada • Back in those days, House music was getting popular even in Tokyo. I used to go to some house parties organized by Connie, a girl from Singapore. Satoshi Tomiie and Yukihiro Fukutomi were well known house music producers at that time, however I’m sure there are other emblematic djs of that era, I just can’t remember their names.

Hard Life • Were you more inspired by the vibe from Detroit, Chicago, New York or London?

Soichi Terada • I was inspired by all of those different vibes. No matter where the producers came from, I was most fascinated by their way of making music, by cutting and sampling.

Hard Life • Are there any Japanese producers who you think we should discover?

Soichi Terada • Yes, there are. Shinichiro Yokota, Takecha and Hiroshi Matsui. They’re all house producers and good friends of mine.

Hard Life • We know you produced a lot of music for video games. What did you like about this universal field of work? Do you adopt a different compositional approach when you create this kind of music?

Soichi Terada • I’ve loved video games since my childhood. In 1994, the Playstation was released and therefore there was a huge requirement for producing gaming soundtracks. Then, one day a video game producer who had listen to my ‘Sumo Jungle’ offered me the opportunity to compose tracks. There was no special approach regarding the composition, I used to compose them the same way as I did when I produced house music, layering beats, bass and harmonies. The only difference is that those soundtracks were made for game staging and had to fit the director’s decisions.

Hard Life •  You’ve produced House, Drum’n’Bass, Hip-Hop and video games soundtracks. How do you juggle with all these sounds? Do you have a preference?

Soichi Terada • I don’t have any particular preference. I think all those different styles are based on my clubbing experiences, where I discovered all those massive sounds played really loud.

Hard Life • Let’s go back in time. How did your collaboration with Larry Levan occur in the early 90’s? Have you been to the Paradise Garage?

Soichi Terada • I haven’t been to the Paradise Garage, but in late 1989, I went to a party called Choice that was held by people who were formerly involved with the Paradise Garage. That’s were I met Hisa Ishioka*, Victor Rosado and Larry Levan. I brought them records including ‘Sun Shower’, they liked it and started playing it.

*The connection between New York and Tokyo has been initiated in the late 80s by Hisa Ishioka through his label King Street Sound in New York (named as a tribute to the Paradise Garage that was situated on the 85th of King Street, NY) and BPM Records in Japan, and later by Larry Levan who did his last tour in Japan in 1992.

Hard Life • How did you meet Shinichiro Yokota, with whom you produced your first records on your label Far East Recordings? Do you have plans to collaborate again? Or repress some unreleased tracks from back then?

Soichi Terada • I used to be part of a Japanese hip-hop gong show, where I played some sample works I made before Far East Recordings. That’s where I met Yokota and made lots of other friends. We do plan to collaborate again, the idea is to work on some unused tracks.

Hard Life • Your productions don’t sound at all like the American house from the 90’s, you produced with Japanese machines (Roland TR909, TB-303, Juno 60, Korg M1…). What synths/machines did you use to make your sound?

Soichi Terada • I loved using hardware samplers like AKAI S1000, 1100 and S3200XL, and sampled many Japanese drum machines, not only 909 or 808. Editing bits of sampling with samplers might affect the way my music sounds, though I would love to make sounds like the Americans do. I also liked to play with Roland D70, Korg M1 and sampling synthesizers.

Hard Life • Are you aware that there is a small community of Japanese house diggers here in France (Jeremy Underground, Brawther, Fulbert, Gunnter…) that religiously collect your records? (Brawther and Alixkun are releasing an incredible compilation of Japanese house)

Soichi Terada • Yes, I am. I met and talked with Brawther and Alix several times in Paris and Tokyo. They even know what I have already forgotten. I have to complete the Far East Recording release list with their help.

Hard Life • What was your reaction when Hunee, Rush Hour’s boss, contacted you to make a retrospective compilation?

Soichi Terada • It made me happy and wonder why. Indeed I have been a stranger to the house music scene for the last 2 decades, now I am very thankful and grateful about it. Also they did much more than I expected, with the beautiful binding and the little captions explaining each title.

Hard Life • We can say that there is a real enthusiasm about this compilation. Do you understand the new resonance your music gets today?

Soichi Terada • Yes, I do. I can feel it now that I’m touring in Europe. When I perform the crowd gets warm and excited and it makes me feel happy and full of joy.

Hard Life •  For the last two years the House scene has been blasting in Paris. How is it in Japan?

Soichi Terada • I don’t have this feeling about the Japanese scene, however only my ignorance may cause this impression. Nevertheless, I have many opportunities to play in Tokyo since my release on Rush Hour, and that’s a real pleasure.

Hard Life • Are there some French artists among your influences?

Soichi Terada • Yes, there are. I loved to listen to Debussy played on a synthesizer by Isao Tomita, Eric Satie and some modern French dance music artists. For example ‘Sun Shower’ has a similar chord progression with the ‘Gymnopedies no.1’ of Eric Satie.

Hard Life • Can we expect a new solo release from you?Soichi Terada • Yes you can! Here is a future release of Hyamikao, my new collaboration with Japanese singer Chisato Moritaka, coming out on Qrates. I am also planning to do more solo releases from now on.Hard Life • Thank you so much for answering our questions!Soichi Terada • Thank you for this opportunity!

Johann Demazel aka Dusty Fingers & Julie Janody