№ 114 - Chee Shimizu
For many years, Chee Shimizu has been internationally acknowledged as an archaeologist for the lesser-known, headstrong grooving spheres of music history. His compilations "More Better Days", "Music from Memory Japan", and “Gerardo Bátiz - Amarillo: Grabaciones Originales 1980-1987” as well as his one-of-a-kind book “Obsurce Sound”, released in 2013, made him known worldwide among collectors of rare reverberations.
As a DJ, he is famous for playing a wide range of styles from ambient to dance, experimental grooves, and all sorts of Japanese traditions including pop, rock, and edgy arcane electronic zones. His mixes Denshi Meisou and Follow My Dream for the defunct internet blog lovefingers.org are unbreakable classics for unforeseeable, totally absorbing DJ journeys. They both feature music Chee sells in his Organic Music store, which he launched virtually in 2008, and that he runs today as a physical store in Suginami, a quiet town, not far from Tokyo’s city centre. Lately, Chee has also been working on live sessions with improvisational musicians, and an album under the name of Chee Shimizu + miku-mari was released in 2021 by ESP Institute.
For The EDWIN Music Channel, Chee Shimizu has produced a transportive psychedelic trip, in which he plays a lot of music by friends like Belgrade-based producer 33.10.3402, Sinkichi from Kyoto, Ryota OPP and Igaxx from Tokyo, melding their works with rhythms by legends like Can’s Holger Czukay, US-American electronic music composer Steve Roach, and German lo-fi electronic act Global Electronic Network from the '90s.
To accompany his haunting mix with insights into his life and creative adventures, we spoke with Chee about his formative years, his fascination for DJing, his ”Organic Music” customers, and the first record he ever bought.
Q. Chee, can you talk us through your musical background, and how you got into vinyl collecting, DJing, and producing? What is your musical background?
A: I have been familiar with music and records for a long time, since I was a teenager, but I have never really thought about collecting vinyl. I genuinely enjoy listening to music, and as I developed an interest in a variety of music as my mind took me, the number of records I had naturally grew. I started DJing, which was also a major factor in my vinyl collection increasing. At that time, CDJs were not yet in widespread use, so DJing with vinyl was the norm. It would be very long to tell you about my musical background, so I'll refrain from doing so here, but from my early twenties to now, well past my fiftieth birthday, my attitude and motivation toward DJing has remained largely the same, even as my style has continued to change. The act of DJing is such a fascinating one. The producing is also derived from my DJ activities. Anyway, all my activities cannot be described without DJing.
Q. You run the record store “Organic Music” in Tokyo. Can you tell us a bit about the store. Why did you start it? Who are you main customers? What kind of music you have on offer? And do you have a ‘wishlist’ of music like old records you'd like to sell in your store but never could?
A. Before starting the record store, I was a freelance graphic designer by profession, but due to the recession in the industry, my work began to decline at a certain point. At that time, my wife suggested me that "you should use your knowledge of music and vinyl to open a record store". So, I started an online store in 2008. The main customers are music lovers with open sensibilities. My store carries many different genres of records, but now that I am no longer able to go overseas to buy, I focus on Japanese music. But I do not stock much of the currently popular city pop or Japanese ambient music, but rather focus on 20th century 's avant-garde and experimental music. I don't have a specific "wish list" but I am always on the lookout for some interesting music that I haven't heard.
Q. How do you stay on top of all the new music being made right now?
A. I have not been very aware of this. Fortunately, I am surrounded by many excellent creators, so I am able to learn about fresh music through the news that comes from them.
Q. What was your process in selecting the tracks for your mix for the EDWIN Music Channel?
A. I did not set a concept for this, but I tried to use as many pieces of music created by my friends as possible.
Q. Since around 2006 you have regularly released your own edits and remixes. What is the driving force of your creativity?
A. If I had to say, it would be excitement. For re-edits, it’s a very old-school way of thinking, I could say that I am reorganizing it to make it easier for me to use when I DJing. As for remixes, I genuinely enjoy the reconstruction.
Q. How would you characterize your artistic output?
A. Impulses and caprice, yes.
Q. Can we expect any new Chee Shimizu releases or the revitalization of Discosession soon?
A. Discossession is a project that has been inactive for over a decade now. Each member is active in a different path. My own new work may be ready for release this year.
Q. Do you see yourself as part of any scene?
A. I do not intend to belong to any scene, but I also believe that I am connected to many scenes.
Q. Back in the day you were known for vibrant Italo and cosmic disco dj sets. What makes these styles special and how did you get to be an expert of these genres?
A. Very few people know that I used to play Italo Disco and Cosmic Disco. That was a long time ago. And I was not an expert in them. As for Italo Disco, I saw it as an extension of Chicago House. Cosmic Disco erased my resistance to slow BPMs and my adherence to the genre.
Q. Can you remember where you first started DJing and the kind of music you were playing?
A. I started DJing as a hobby when I was around 19 or 20 years old, playing American jazz, soul, and funk, which was called "rare groove" in Japan. I forgot the location.
Q. What are some of the first records you bought?
A. It was a 7-inch called "Beard Dance" by a Japanese comedy group called The Drifters. I bought it with my parents' money when I was eight years old.
Q. How do you buy your music today? Only digital? Only vinyl?
A. Sometimes I buy music digitally, but 99% of the time it is vinyl. Of course, I buy them at record stores.
Q. What are three albums that you'll never get tired of listening to?
A. I can hardly narrow it down to three. Rather, I cannot remember.
Q. What old albums have you rediscovered lately, and what makes them special?
A. There are too many to remember about this as well.
Q. Please recommend two newcomers to our readers, which you feel deserve their attention.
A. I don't know the definition of a newcomer, but I know many talented young creators. I cannot choose only two people for this as well.
Q. If you could be in any band, living or dead, for a day which band would it be?
A. I don't want to join any of the bands. Because it would destroy my dreams.
Sinkichi - The Unsung Forest
Pablo’s Eye - AMB 8
Steve Roach - Time for Time
Chari Chari - Esfera de Agua (Yoshiharu Takeda Rework)
Igaxx - Space B
Global Electronic Network - Electronic Desert
Holger Czukay - Echogirl Rmx
Hideo Yamaki - Shadow Run
Ryota OPP - Charm
33.10.3402 - Slow Port
33.10.3402 - Elika
Atom™ - Flextone B