Since forming in Kyoto in the 1990s as an acid-jazz band and later becoming the solo project of Japan’s leading DJ/produce,r Shinichi Osawa, better known by his stage name Mondo Grosso, is almost a cult-like existence for some of his fans with his innovative music style. We had the privileged to ask him a few questions about his inspirations, collaborations, and plans.
Who were your early influence and how did you transition into Dance Music?
When I was a teenager, mostly I was into Japanese techno music like Yellow Magic Orchestra. During that era, Pop Music originated from what was playing on TV or the Radio. And I was watching TV, and there was this ad for the cassette music of Yellow Magic Orchestra, and I was so shocked because it sounded so futuristic.
The very next day I went to the record store to buy the vinyl and that was the first time I went out to buy an LP. I ended up listening to the record every day after school and I was addicted to it.
Accidentally I was reading their interview and Ryuchi Sakamoto in 1980 or something, he was already talked about in the future, you wouldn’t have to practice anymore. If you have a very strong vision and imagination, then you can create any kind of music and that statement made a huge impact on me. He was ahead of his time; he was already using all these computers to make music. At that point I thought to myself, maybe I can be a musician. Even if I’m not a musician, I can still music. But still, I started playing the guitar, and use chopsticks to play fake drums.
I have 3 elder brothers and sisters and one of my sister’s friends took me to the studio. Bunch of random things happened, I rented a studio, and the setup was interesting with the drum machine, bass amp and saxophone and a secret machine. It is only now that I realize that the people using it were making techno music and that’s how I was exposed to overseas, new wave music
One of your earlier videos was shot in Hong Kong. Since we are based in HK, we’re very interested to know how did that decision came about?
I don’t know why we chose Hong Kong. The dancer from the music video suggested that we do something different, and we had a few ideas at the time. At the end, we chose Hong Kong, I don’t know why. The other ideas were more domestic ideas. For some reason, the discussions took us to HK and so many people loved it!
With the collaborations that you had with Ryuchi Sakamoto, how did it come about? Who would you like to collaborate with next?
I was a bit bored of the vocalist contacts that I can imagine, and I wanted to collect more ideas outside of myself. I needed new influences from the outside. So, we had a big meeting with my team, A&R, and the managers etc and the ideas were really random but I thought why not give it a try. That’s why I took the idea of finding an actress who can sing, and the result was very interesting. At the same time, I can say not only Hikari but actress who sing, to me, gives out a different flavor to singers who sing. Actors have this special approach and I’m still experimenting with this approach and working with these people.
So now I’m even collaborating with painters. We would be in the same room, and we would jam, the painters paint a certain palette and I respond with my music so I’m providing the soundtrack to the paintings/image. That approach is interesting.
For next collaboration, I don’t know yet but yes, we are open to experimenting
How does the rest of the year look like for you?
This year I’m still going to promoting Mondo Grosso. This year will be a transitional year. Of course, we will be recording/album, and we are still working on different versions or edits of certain songs.
I have another project for Ryan Soul and will be working on Shinchi Osawa stuff too so quite busy.
Any plans of touring Asia?
I’m super open! Last time I went to China, and I went to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing.
I hope I can do more tour under Mondo Grosso. I have played as Mondo Grosso in China. In the past, it was always under Shinchi Osawa so I think the China audience only knows that side of me. I also have artist that I work with here in Japan that I would also like to take with me to China.