Write-up and interview by Julien Breistroff.
Given Japan’s reputation for fostering niche cultures, and considering the nation’s decades-long relationship with reggae, it should come as little surprise that UK dance/bass music has found footing on the islands’ shores. Though Japan’s presence in dubstep may have come sooner – with Goth-Trad and his Back to Chill imprint and night – its grime scene has slowly grown to establish itself as the most cohesive representation of the genre in Asia. This status was recently cemented when Elijah & Skilliam tasked stalwart local MC Pakin with assembling an all star crew of Japanese grime MCs and DJs to record a showcase set for Butterz.
Among the artists featured on the resulting mix was Double Clapperz, a Production/DJ outfit consisting of Sinta and UKD. The duo have steadily made a name for themselves over the last few years, their tracks being played by a number of distinguished grime names. Spooky in particular has supported them since early, though Murlo, Boofy, and Impey have certainly helped to get Double Clapperz’ music played on radio and in mixtapes for Rinse, Radar, BBC Radio 1xtra, and Fabric. Coupling traditionally jagged grime drum patterns with a meticulously crafted low-end, their sound is as conscious a nod to grime as it is to soundsystem culture more broadly. The pair have worked extensively with local MCs and can count themselves among the most prominent contributors to Tokyo’s grime scene. With a white label dropping this June and the spotlight on Japanese grime growing ever brighter, Double Clapperz are poised to help bring their scene to the attention of grime fans globally.
Never straying far from the customary 140bpm, Double Clapperz’ Astral Plane mix progresses at a blistering pace, quickly and deftly blending their own brand of abrasive precision with hollow weightless cuts, dubstep, and hints of dancehall. Filled with unreleased beats, bootlegs, and exclusive vocal tracks, the mix is a thrilling glimpse into Japanese grime. Familiar ground is also provided as the duo pepper in released material from the likes of Commodo, Kahn & Neek, Ishan Sound, Murlo, Terror Danjah, and the Boxed crew – as well as an Astral Plane favourite, Last Japan’s forthcoming “Ascend” featuring AJ Tracey. We had the chance to ask the guys a few questions over the internet, and their responses (along with a tracklist) can be found after the jump/below the fold. In the meantime, turn your subs up and travel from Bow to Tokyo with this lesson in Far Eastern bass.
Hi guys, we’re excited to be featuring you as the first Japanese artists on the site. Let’s start with the basics – what are your names, where are you from, and where are you based now?
Thanks for the interview, we are really excited to be working with the Astral Plane. We are a production outfit made up of Sinta & UKD, and we have been collaborating under the name Double Clapperz since 2012. Sinta was born & raised in Tokyo, UKD moved from Fukushima to Tokyo 6 years ago. We are based in the suburbs in the Western part of Tokyo.
How did you guys get into grime music, or UK dance music in general?
We got really into UK dance music after going to Outlook Festival’s Japan Launch in 2012. We were really impressed with our first experiences of sound system culture and just how big the system sounded! You could feel your eyes trembling, and it was the first time we’d ever experienced bass like that. We saw Neo Tokyo Bass [music collective] there with Rumi [MC] and we were really impressed. After that, we organized a couple soundsystem-oriented nights featuring reggae as well as UK dance styles.
Can you tell us a bit about the nights you threw?
We threw the parties in Tachikawa, the suburbs in the West of Tokyo, and had to do them in a venue for rock music because there are no clubs out here! The parties were a lot of fun, and we managed to get people to make the 1hr train ride from the city to come dance. We didn’t have that many parties because renting the 3.5 meter speaker stacks is expensive but we would love to do more events.
How would you characterise the emergence and growth of Japan’s grime scene? What is its status today?
Japan’s grime scene is still very much underground. There are a few DJs who have been listening to UK music for a long time and who have amazing selection, from old school grime and dark garage to jungle, and they paved the way for Japanese producers and MCs to try their hand and push the local scene forwards. It’s still small but it’s growing, more teenagers are getting interested in grime what with artists like Skepta getting big in the UK and US. This phenomenon is also thanks to Twitter. Lots of people around us really like Twitter, and a lot of UK grime artists like twitter, so we haven’t had any problems linking with people internationally.
Grime is still a heavily UK-centric scene; have you felt it necessary to interface with grime’s traditional framework? Or do you think has grime moved past that and started to become a global genre?
That is a tough question. Grime has become global in the sense that people know it now, and there are people making it in Japan, Australia, China… all of it deliberately within the same genre. We definitely want to link with others and make waves from here in Asia. Still, given that most of the big producers are based in the UK, the UK definitely drives the scene for the most part. The UK is also the home of most of the radio stations important to grime music.
I see that you guys have played in London – are you over there frequently? Do you have any interest in moving there?
We’ve actually only played there once, Sinta studied in Madrid for a year and we happened to get booked in London. It was lots of fun but we don’t feel the need to move there. We find Tokyo’s scenery and its mixture of cultures has really inspired us when making music.
Which Japanese artists should we look out for?
Dufff is a great MC, with signature deep flows and serious lyrics. He and Nomine have an unreleased tune together that is truly incredible. Carpainter from TREKKIE TRAX is great, his garage production is incredible. Prettybwoy is one of the most creative producers in the game.
What platforms for grime exist in Japan? Labels, promoters, venues, websites, blogs, etc.
In terms of labels, there’s Soaku Kogyo run by Soaku-beats, which is famous for MC Dekishi’s albums, and Artcore G+ run by MC Dufff & Negatin. Last year, Artcore G+ had a grime night in Osaka with 10 grime MCs & DJs and it was pure madness. MCs in Osaka spit their bars aggressively with fast flows and it was incredible.
Promoters like GOODWEATHER, dbs, and BS0 (who specialize in Bristol Music) push international & local talents in the scene. We shared the stage with Elijah & Skilliam at a GOODWEATHER night at Nagoya.
Other than that, we’ve played at a number of dubstep, jungle, and reggae parties in Tokyo and we’ve found that the mixture of vibes inspires us a lot. As a result, our productions are not only influenced by grime, but also dubstep, dancehall & dub music.
There are plenty of local grime tracks but sadly few platforms on the web. We really love internet radio culture and are doing a semi-regular mix series for Radar Radio, we’ve done about five for them already. We also host a bi-weekly program on NOUS.FM, a Japanese internet radio station.
How did you originally connect with Pakin and other Japanese MCs?
We were finalists at an event called WarDubJP in 2013, and some MCs in the scene got to know us through that. We linked with MC Pakin 3 years ago. Pakin introduced us to Dekishi around that time too. We have plenty of exclusive vocals from them, and we would are excited to work more with those guys in the near future.
Want to tell us about your upcoming releases?
We are in the process of pressing a limited white label run of 200 copies [funded through Indie Go Go], thanks to all the support we’ve had from people over the globe. The vinyl will be shipped on June and will be sold via select distributors as well. We will be holding a Double Clapperz vinyl launch party in Ebisu BATICA, 16th of May. We are also currently working on something with Swimful, a Shanghai based producer. During 2016, we plan to release an EP digitally, so keep your eyes on us.
Kastle – Polytopia
Party Style ft.CatarrhNisin, Beyond – Party Style (Prettybwoy Remix)
Slackk & Dullah Beatz – Forest Walk
Last Japan – Ascend ft.AJ Tracey【forthcoming Coyote Records】
JT The Goon – Broken Silence
KOHH – Paris (Sam Tiba Remix)
Hi5Ghost – Nook Shot (Commodo Remix)
Kahn & Neek – Bucktown Lady Chann – Money ah dem god(acapella)
Ruff Sqwad – Pied Piper(Double Clapperz VIP)【Self Release/Limited 12Inch】
Uberjak’d – Whistle Bounce (Seimei & Taimei)
Terror Danjah – Mike Gully
Murlo – Into Mist
Rebound X – Rhythm ‘N’ Gash(Asa&Sorrow VIP)【Dub/Unreleased】
Prettybwoy – Hansei ft.Dufff & Dekishi
Prettybwoy – Kongou Koku【Dub/Unreleased】
Sentiment – 7 Looks Better Than 8
Boofy – Mask & Glove
粗悪ビーツ – 負けない ft.DEKISHI(Double Clapperz Remix)【Dub/Unreleased】
Nomine – Nomine’s Path【forthcoming Nomine Sound】
Nomine ft. Duff – World Of G(DoubleClapperz Dub)【Dub/Unreleased】
Ishan Sound – E.O.D.
Double Clapperz – Say Your Players VIP【Self Release/Limited 12Inch】
Asa & Sorrow – Untitled
XTC – Functions on the Low(Double Clapperz VIP)【Dub/Unreleased】
G.RINA – Utsusemi(Double Clapperz Remix)【Dub/Unreleased】