DJ Harvey’s Favorite Places in JapanMusic
This series focuses on visiting DJs’ and artists’ favorite places to go to in Japan. Today, we asked the disco/house sensation DJ Harvey, who first visited Japan 30 years ago, about his take on Japan’s night scene and some places that he likes to visit while he’s here.
― So, how was Rainbow Disco?
A lot of fun, a really good time. We had some very interesting weather. When I arrived, it was raining, and then when I started to play, a rainbow came out. People thought it was kind of a magical moment. Then the rain went away, and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and then night began. So, I basically brought a rainbow to the Rainbow Disco Club. Yet another Harvey legend... (Laugh)
― Do you perform at festivals a lot?
I’m more of a nightclub DJ or a warehouse DJ. But in the last 15 or 20 years, festival culture has become bigger and bigger, all over the world. I like festivals in Japan because they have a great atmosphere. I think the idea of a festival really works well with Japanese culture. People enjoy getting out of the city and escaping to the countryside and camping. I also think Japanese people enjoy interesting clothing and colorful things - and it’s fun for me to watch.
― When did you first come to Japan?
The end of this year will be the 30th anniversary of my first time in Japan. I am going to do a 30th-anniversary tour around then. So, I think it’s 1988 or 1989.
― So you’ve been watching the Japanese night culture evolve for the past 30 years.
Yeah. I would say, after 30 years, the Japanese night scene has remained the same in many ways. The Japanese people are the same, and the way they approach parties is similar. But, 30 years have passed and, obviously, some things have changed. For starters, the Japanese economy was in a bubble back then. I saw a lot of businesspeople everywhere - it almost seemed like everyone was a salaried employee. Now there is a lot more independent and artistic culture in the scene, I think. More of the younger generation refuses to become salaried employees, and many of them want to become artists or musicians or do something creative. I think it has a lot to do with the rise of what I call the digital culture or the cellphone culture. All information is accessible from a phone or a computer. So, I would say the biggest change is the arrival of this new digital era.
― How do you spend your nights while you are in Japan?
Eating and drinking. Almost all Japanese food. I like natto, I like udon, ramen, okonomiyaki, sashimi... Generally, in the evening I want to get something nice to eat, and then maybe after that, I will find a small bar and have some drinks with friends - and that’s it.
― Do you have a specific night-spot that you like to go to?
No... (laugh). For me, a nightclub is just a place for working. I enjoy my work. But when I'm not working, I don't go to nightclubs. Most of my time in Japan is spent in a very small area in Shibuya... around the hotel I stay at. All of my favorite places are within walking distance from the hotel. One of my favorites is a place called Baby Doll. It's a puppy shop very close to the hotel. When I go in there, I feel instant happiness.
― What’s a special memory you have of being in Japan?
I enjoyed playing at a club called Gold, which was in Shibaura. Big sound system, seven floors, those were good times… There are really too many good memories; I can't think of just one story.
― Congratulations on your 30th anniversary of visiting Japan. How has your DJ life changed in the past 30 years?
Things haven't changed very much. Now I make a little bit more money, so I'm very lucky. I can relax a little bit. My personality and my style have not changed. I'm still doing the same kind of thing. I play dance music, I try to make people dance and feel happy - that's it, very simple. In addition, I’ve been listening to music for about 50 years, and that knowledge gives me strength. So much musical knowledge is stuffed in here (pointing at his head).
― I think the dance music scene, in general, has also grown considerably in the past 30 years.
I think it's a good thing. For me, the music really didn't change. It's the same. 40 years of four-to-the-floor. But, technology has changed so now we have drum machines and computers that make it easier to make this stuff. But for me, music is the same. It didn't change. Obviously, there's lots of new music being made, and sometimes some new sounds. It keeps it exciting and moving... Even if music stays the same, people change. Every five or ten years, a new generation comes in.
― Do you have plans for this year’s 30th anniversary? Also, tell us about your summer schedule.
I want to come back to Japan at some point towards the end of the year. Right now, we don't have a set plan. I am completely full for this year. I will go back to LA - I have a few gigs in America - then I go to Europe again, then I will be in Ibiza for August and September, then in October I will be in Bali. After that, in November and December, I will be looking at Japan for the 30th-anniversary tour. In Ibiza, there's a hotel called Pikes. I will play there every Monday for two months.
― The Olympics is coming to Japan, so we expect some changes. How do you think the night scene in Japan will be affected?
I'm not sure how it would be affected. I think there will be many international travelers coming to Japan. They are going to be in all the bars, drinking, and that's going to be the main thing. Lots and lots of foreign people, drunk, in Tokyo. Surely some serious partying is on its way (laugh).
■DJ HARVEY FAVORITE PLACE in TOKYO
“This is a very interesting place. Some other places in Japan may have a better sound system or might be more purpose-built nightclubs, but Oppa-la has a good heart. It gives me a good feeling- that makes a big difference for me. In these respects, Oppa-la is one of the best.” OPPA-LA is a restaurant/club located in Enoshima where DJ Harvey frequently performs. The sunset is beautiful on sunny days, and sometimes you can even enjoy a view of Mt. Fuji. On weekdays, the place turns into a restaurant, popular to the locals as well, where curry is one of the specialties. The venue hosts art events in addition to DJ events and is known to be a cultural melting pot.
1-12-17 Katase Kaigan, Fujisawa-shi, Kanagawa, Enoshima View Tower 4F
2. Lion／RECORD BAR Analog
There's a big desire for so-called “hi-fi bars” now - bars with a very good sound system. Many of these are appearing around the world. One of the oldest is Lion, and one of the newest is RECORD BAR Analog. It’s interesting because they are so close to each other. I like Lion because there's no talking in the cafe. Analog obviously plays vinyl, and features a nice sound system.” Go to the 100-year old Lion for coffee and the brand new RECORD BAR Analog for some drinks. Both feature excellent sound systems that will surely satisfy any music-lover.
2-19-13 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
RECORD BAR analog
2-20-9 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Dogenzaka
Dogenzaka Ryukou building 3F
When people come to Japan, they might be looking for some secret or special place, but Family Mart is my go-to. Inside, the products are very different from the rest of the world. Family Mart has everything. Food, drinks, clothes... you can even buy socks. It's not a secret place, but if you are visiting for the first time looking at the different candies and drinks is a lot of fun.” Open 24 hours in urban areas, Family Mart is a small supermarket where you can find a lot of products unique to Japan. It is a good place to pick up some souvenirs as well.
All around Shibuya.