#PHANTASYMIX 25: Toshiki Ohta

Born in Japan and raised in the USA, Toshiki Ohta spent his childhood on the move. Arriving in the UK in the late eighties, Toshiki quickly found his tribe amid the heights of UK rave culture, falling deeply for breakbeat rave, jungle and techno.

Almost permanently locked to pirate radio stations like Touchdown and Kool FM, a fake NUS card took the 16 year old Toshiki into a hedonistic, progressive world of raves, seduced by the sounds of early jungle at nights like AWOL and World Dance to techno from Laurent Garnier, Billy Nasty and Fabio Paras each playing at the height of their powers at Club UK.

As the latest guest on #PHANTASYMIX, the London resident contributes a musical journey that’s no mere nostalgia trip. In the time since, whether inside or outside the capital, Tosh has remained largely absorbed in music and the tempting throb of club culture. On top of his roots, Tosh has seen through classic house, electroclash, indie-dance, trippy techno and whatever else catches his ears.

Now a co-resident on NTS’s ‘Sacred Pools’ show alongside his friend DJ October, Tosh is best known for an always impressive, occasionally mind-bending ability to mix between textures, genres, tempos and styles, underground and overground, sounding, as the best DJs often do, just like himself. He certainly puts his foot on the gas for the latest edition of #PHANTASYMIX, which incorporates music from Doc Scott, Vladimir Dubyushkin, Luke Vibert and our own Cowboy Rhythmbox.

You can find a brief chat with Tosh below to accompany the mix.

While you wouldn’t know from looking at you, you have been in clubs for the best part of thirty years. You’ve observed trends, fashions, politics from within the dance… What do you think has been the most significant change? And what has stayed the same?

Significant changes? I think people are so much more self-aware on the dance floors and distracted, but It’s such a great feeling when you find somewhere where people are really losing it and moving hard. Also the technology - seeing the production for Aphex Twin at Red Bull Music Festival last year blew my mind. On that note the increase in the amount of brands in nightlife culture is a huge change. It's great seeing brands genuinely contribute and nurture culture/scenes, but that culture needs to be understood.

What has stayed the same? The energy on a dance floor of a jungle rave. I experienced this for the first time in decades when I saw DJ Storm play at Rage at Heaven last year, it was really nice to be back.

As the mix demonstrates, you undoubtedly think forward in terms of music. Do you think there are any eras of UK club music that you think have thus far been slept on? If you could organise a compilation covering any particular scene or sound, what would it be?

Good question! Over the years there have been some amazing compilations of UK scenes.. especially on Strut. Trevor Jackson’s Metal Dance, Fabio & Grooverider’s Rage, Optimo’s UK Bleep & Bass,  Richard Sen’s UK acid house… For me I’d love to put together a UK hip house / breakbeat hip hop like Silver Bullet, Rebel MC, Ragga Twins, Hijack, Blapps Posse kind of thing…

Your family are Japanese and you moved around a lot before settling in the UK. Did discovering rave and alternative culture as a teenager make you feel somehow more at home?

The internet and social media is how most people find their tribe nowadays. But the internet didn’t exist until I was pretty much an adult, and my discovery of electronic music happened around the age of 13.  A few things happened which changed how I saw  and consumed music - I discovered pirate radio whilst scrolling through radio stations (Green Apple & Touchdown FM) and I watched a documentary called “New Age Travellers - Between Two Worlds” - a self shot documentary by a girl my age about growing up in traveller/outdoor rave culture (it’s on YouTube if you wish check it out). That was the first time I saw what a rave looked like.  Also the first DJ to tell me about records, DJIng and to give me a mixtape they had recorded was this guy who sat next to me in a maths lesson, who is still a great friend (producer / DJ The Maghreban on R&S Records). From knowing what the music sounded like from pirates, reading about it in The Face and watching rave footage that I had recorded from TV I was dying to go to a nightclub from quite a young age and had to wait until I got a fake NUS card. Once I was in, I really did feel at home and it still feels like that now.

You’ve recently become a resident on NTS Radio as part of the Sacred Pools show, alongside DJ October and Jason Fellows. What’s the show about and how did that relationship develop?

I was a fan of DJ October's after finding his releases through Honey Soundsystem. We met by chance through a great mutual friend and ended up chatting music for hours and it started from there. Jules broke his arm and couldn't record a show one month so asked me to step in, and after that he asked me to join the Sacred Pools coven along with him and Jason Fellows so we now rotate the monthly show between the three of us. What I love about the show is that anything goes. In his last show he goes from gnarly heavy metal through to Japanese power ballads to experimental Indian proto-acid (check it out, Search Scared Pools on NTS). I'm just about to record my next show and digging hard through records at the moment.

John Thorp, April 2020.

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