Nagi and Kei Sugano, more effectively known as Dazzle Drums, are a Tokyo-based DJ and producer duo with proficiency for making catchy beats with danceable tempos and groovy melodies. The couple has made their rounds in the Tokyo electronic scene and is now making their way around the world, playing at festivals and in cities across Europe. We caught up with Dazzle Drums to talk about how they work collaboratively, if they’ve noticed changes in their music since they began, and how they feel about the electronic industry.
Electric Soul: You both come from different musical backgrounds. Kei, yours seeming to be more rooted in hip-hop and Nagi, yours in dance. How do you work collaboratively? Is it an easy process to work together or does someone focus on one aspect while the other focuses on something else?
Dazzle Drums: Of course we have different personalities, interpretations and perspectives. To turn that difference into a positive, we’re always talking about music, even small things. Luckily, it’s not really difficult to understand each other because we are DJing together almost every week. It’s harder working in the studio together than it is DJing. We create balance by changing roles and tasks depending on projects.
ES: How does the music you DJ differ from the music that you produce in terms of sound?
DD: For DJing, it totally depends on the improvisation, the atmosphere and location of the day. But we do get some edits/production ideas from performing. So, there is a synergy between both playing and making music.
ES: Your tracks have been played by a number of illustrious DJs, including Tim Sweeney, Louie Vega, and DJ Nori, during their sets. Which DJ were you most excited about playing one of your tracks?
DD: We were glad they all played our music. It’s a really difficult question. However, if we pick a few… Danny Krivit, Gilles Peterson and Louie Vega. We always get huge motivation from them.
ES: It’s been 15 years since the start of Dazzle Drums, in what ways has your sound evolved?
DD: In the beginning, we were making music with analog equipment like AKAI sampler and Juno106 (we used to have Cubase for DAW). Right now, we are making music with both Ableton Live and Logic. As for our musical expression, our tastes haven’t really changed. But we have definitely upgraded in terms of knowledge and experience, including technological evolution.
ES: Where do you two draw inspiration from? Is there a particular artist, genre, or city that you are influenced by?
DD: We often get inspiration from DJs and parties. We can’t pick really one person, but we are always influenced by DJ Danny Krivit.
We are most familiar with Tokyo’s various club scenes, but there are many cities we still want to visit.
ES: Tell us about the Tokyo electronic scene. How has it changed since you’ve been a part of it? Where do you see it heading?
DD: International guest artists come to Japan almost every day. This is nothing new. However, Tokyo’s local DJ scene has evolved. We don’t believe that Tokyo DJs are inferior to foreign DJs, however, there is limited opportunity for their music to be heard by non-friends and peers. Changing this is one of our biggest goals. In the last few years, we’ve been making our own parties by paying special attention to showcasing local talent.
ES: You’ve released music through a number of different labels, but also your own, Green Parrot Recording. Which is your preferred method of releasing music? How does one way differ from the other?
DD: Having one’s own label is a nice part of being able to do whatever you want, including artwork and other things. It’s great that music can be released immediately if it’s digital, but we are also happy to release an entire record. We’re looking to deliver music in both ways and finding a good balance.
ES: You’ve now toured Europe twice. Which is your favourite city to play in?
DD: Our music taste is really diverse. So we prefer a crowd that likes many types of different music. We agree that Worldwide Festival at Sete and Brighter Days, hosted by Kamma and Masalo, were wonderful. We have great memories from Malta, as well.
ES: How does the European scene compare to the Asian scene?
DD: Historically, Japanese people don’t have a habit of going to clubs and bars compared to some major world cities. It proves difficult for people to understand music for more than just drugs and some cheesy performances. It’s not really easy to carry on our music / DJing because of this. It’s sad that in recent years, like the electronic scenes around the world, it has become more about the number of followers you have than the music. We’re more about good DJs and music rather than what’s just popular now.
ES: What can we expect from Dazzle Drums in 2020?
DD: Our 3rd album will be coming out! We also just want to work to keep the Tokyo scene evolving.