Shokuhin Matsuri aka Foodman cooks up footwork on ‘oiss’

by Alisa Yamasaki

Special To The Japan Times

“I used to be a video-game nerd,” says Takahide Higuchi, the experimental footwork producer also known as Shokuhin Matsuri in Japanese and Foodman in English. “I thought that guys who were popular with girls made music, but I was sort of stubborn and didn’t try. Then, in my last year of high school I bought a music video game that had a sequencer. It was fun, so I decided to start making music.”

The now-Yokohama-based Higuchi, 33, has been making electronic music since. He has had tracks on compilation albums here and is very active on SoundCloud. His cassettes have been released via independent U.S. labels Orange Milk, Digitalis and Noumenal Loom, and his latest output, an EP titled “oiss” through Yokohama-based label Ghost, is an outlandish take on Chicago’s juke and footwork genres.

“Juke is a genre of dance music that originated in the so-called ghetto, but I feel like it’s unconsciously heading toward becoming academic music that modern musicians are making,” Higuchi says. “I personally want to explore footwork from an experimental angle. I feel like it has a lot of potential to be something other than dance music.”

Juke and footwork have rooted themselves in Japan’s music scene over the past couple of years, catapulting it into new territories. But why is the genre so popular in Japan?

“Juke itself doesn’t really have a set structure,” Higuchi says. “There’s this laid-back attitude that, as long as you’re adhering to 160 bpm, you can do whatever you want. I think that’s what attracts a lot of people to it. When new genres come out they become polished and boring, but I feel like juke still doesn’t have an outcome.”

It could be this lack of structure that has given juke it’s own flavor in Japan, distinctive to what’s going on in Chicago.

“There are a lot of juke artists in Japan and they all have completely different musical backgrounds,” Higuchi says. “In the States, juke comes from Chicago and it follows the legacy of house music, but in Japan since a lot of different people make juke, the resulting sound is all over the place. It could be because Japanese artists are misunderstanding or misinterpreting the genre, but it has still led to a lot of interesting tracks.”

Listening to how playful and varied “oiss” is, it isn’t surprising that Higuchi is a gamer or that his biggest source of inspiration comes from the video game “Final Fantasy.”

“I really love the world of fantasy and I’ve always listened to video game music. When you listen to music, you can travel to different countries. Making music is fun because you can create new worlds out of nothing.”

For now, Higuchi says he is focused on making music for art’s sake and like many Japanese artists, he’s not ready to quit his day job.

“I would like more people to listen to my music,” he says. “Of course it’d be nice if I could make an income out of it, but realistically the music I make is part of a minority scene. I used to be even more underground than underground, so I’m just grateful now that people are listening to my music in far away places.”

Shokuhin Matsuri aka Foodman’s “oiss” is available via his label Ghost’s Bandcamp site: ghost045.bandcamp.com. Foodman plays at “Shin-Juke in Osaka” at Namba Rockets in Naniwa-ku on July 4 (11 p.m. start; ¥2,000 in advance; 06-6649-3919). For more information, visit soundcloud.com/shokuhin-maturi.