The Japanese artist Zongamin arrived on record shelves and over club soundsystems during a now distant, post ‘mash-up’ period in which retro funk, electro, pop music and vintage house converged to drive a fashion concious-club scene. Delivering records on both XL Recordings and Parisian label Ed Banger during it’s critical and commercial peak, Zong was an ambitious outlier on this scene, whose records nonetheless got rinsed by everyone: Bongo Song, a percussive, cut-up, arms-up anthem released on the latter, was a go-to curveball for scene leaders such as 2ManyDJs and our own Erol Alkan, who has consistently featured his productions all the way from his notorious ‘One Louder’ covermount CD in 2006, to featuring his remix of Manfredas on 2014’s ‘Fabriclive’ compilation.
With this connection in mind, and the first Zongamin record in over a decade in our hands just released on Multi Culti, we thought we’d take the opportunity to have a quick smart catch-up, a mini-Forum, if you will, with the diverse producer. In the time since, he’s toured the world playing a key part in Floating Points touring live band, where his notorious instrumental dexterity and improvisational nous have played a key role in the ensemble. You can hear this all across the new EP, O! Is a tightly-wound, unpredictable “melding of Detroit string-house, futuristic electro, ceremonial flute-jazz, to indie folk-tronica”.
Thank you. It's exciting to release some music for the first time in a while.
Some musical highlights for me have been working with bands/musicians recently which have included a recording and writing retreat with Vanishing Twin, in a very cold mill house in the countryside where we played music for several days. We had some very special moments. The recording trip to the Mojave Desert with Floating Points was another special experience. Also a series of ongoing collaborative sessions with the producer Drew Brown in various places. Some sessions were with Sandro Perri and Mike Silver and later became part of Sandro's Off World project. It's fascinating for me to share experiences of musical adventures with other musicians. Isolated in extraordinary locations ideally.
Some live shows have been memorable too. Traveling and playing with Floating Points, Alexis Taylor, Fimber Bravo, for example, have been amazing experience. I've been lucky to have been involved in interesting projects, great bands with amazing musicians, artists.
You have been touring with Sam Shepherd, otherwise known as Floating Points, and his excellent live show. How did you initially connect?
We met at Plastic People. I went there with Alexis Taylor, after a session, when his friend was DJing there. Sam was there, we talked, and he was looking for a bass player and invited me to his studio to play on music he was working on.
You are releasing your ‘comeback’ record on Thomas Von Party’s suitably escoteric label, Multi-Culti. How long has TVP been pursuing you?
I met Thomas through our mutual friend Mike Silver. Thomas asked me to do a sleeve illustration for the Multi Culti Japan compilation.
He, Gus and I started talking about doing an EP on Multi Culti about 4 years ago. I remember us briefly spending some time together at Glastonbury Festival 2014. Multi Culti have also released a track of mine on a compilation album called Moon Faze Sun Gaze. I'm glad to be welcomed on a great label with fantastic artists.
The music on the new EP is just as unusual and unpredictable as your previous releases. What has been the electronic music that has excited you in recent years?
The older tracks on my recent EP, Nonstop, and High Tension, have had some inspirations from the music of Cluster/Harmonia and African rhythms, that I was listening to a lot of at the time. Both are very exciting for me. Early version of Nonstop had a softer sounding synth and didn't have handclaps/disco beat. I think it sounded more like something inspired by Cluster or Harmonia. At the moment, I like In Another Life by Sandro Perri, RP Boo, also, recently I was blown away by unreleased music by George Issakidis. Hopefully coming out in the future.
Since we last heard from you, I feel that Japanese music, especially reissues of ambient records by the likes of Midori Takada, have really captured the imagination of the public. What Japanese music would you like to see gain greater attention in the coming years?
I've spent more time in the UK and my memory of Japanese music is quite fragmented. I'm discovering now some Japanese music I didn't know, and re-discovering, some sounds, feelings I got from the music that was around at the time I spent more time there. Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Taeko Ohnuki, Tatsuro Yamashita... I remember funky, jazzy, fusion sounds more. I don't remember much ambient music. I do remember music of Kitaro that my mum sometimes listened to when driving.
Can we expect to hear more fresh Zongamin soon? I hope so!
Thank you, I'd like to release more new music for sure.
John Thorp, December 2018.