Crzkny unites artists against nuclear power

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

Electronic-music producer Kenji Takikawa’s work took a major detour following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

“Like many Japanese people, I feel angry about the way March 11 and the consequent events that followed regarding nuclear power was handled,” says the Hiroshima native who records under the name Crzkny (usually rendered in all capital letters). “Once I learned about the events, I couldn’t look away from it. I feel that March 11 changed my music drastically.”

Takikawa creates juke, a frantic style of dance music that features split-second vocal samples, and in the last few years he has infused politics into his sound. His Crzkny releases often maintain a dark atmosphere and feature samples related to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdown. He also organized the “Atomic Bomb Compilation,” a 2012 project with a theme of “the abuse of nuclear energy,” featuring contributions from electronic artists all across the country. On Aug. 15, he’ll release “Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 2.”

Takikawa, who grew up and resides in Hiroshima, became aware of juke music by following the website Booty Music Japan, which covers the genre. He says he started making his own tracks in 2011, and soon connected with others around him who were interested in the style, such as Juke Fondue and Skip Club Orchestra (who established the label Dubliminal Bounce, which has released music from Crzkny and other Japanese juke acts).

“Unfortunately Hiroshima doesn’t have a juke scene,” he says. “Almost nobody knows about juke besides the three of us.”

A year after starting out, Crzkny’s music veered toward the political: “I hate Japanese nuclear mafia. Protect …women and children,” went the description for his 2012 “Struggle Without End” EP. And the protesting didn’t end there. Songs, such as “F-ck Jap Genpatsu,” took audio from news reports and press conferences concerning Fukushima and mashed them up with clattering, grim beats. Takikawa revisited the topic on subsequent releases, most notably on the “Atomic Bomb Code” EP from August 2012.

“I think artists are constantly influenced by society and the events happening around them,” Takikawa says. “In a way, we become like machines, constantly creating products influenced by the world around us.”

Takikawa set about making the “Atomic Bomb Compilation” after Kyoto-based juke artist Gnyonpix proposed it on Twitter two years ago.

“His proposal was very important to me as someone who lives in Hiroshima, so I joined the project,” Takikawa says.

Prior to the proposal, Takikawa had helped produce the influential “Japanese Juke&Footworks” compilation, which was released on the Japanese Mutation Bootyism Bandcamp website, alongside Takahide Higuchi (better known as Shokuhin Matsuri aka Foodman). Because of this experience, he was made the leader of the project.

The final collection, uploaded to Bandcamp in 2012, featured a cover picture of Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Dome landmark and song titles such as “Breaking News,” “We, Atomic Children” and “No Nukes Parade” from prominent juke producers including Foodman, Dubb Parade, DJ Catfood and more. There are no overt messages embedded in the songs, but rather the collection is a frantic, dark and often claustrophobic affair that captures the feeling of nuclear dread rather well.

Due to time constraints last year, Takikawa says he couldn’t put together a second edition in time, but instead released a solo album titled “Atomic/Nuclear” instead. This year, however, he called for submissions at the start of July, and he plans to release a proper sequel this month.

“I hope to continue these compilations every year from now on,” Takikawa says. “I am not concerned with a specific genre of music, but instead I’d like the tracks to reflect the desire to live in the moment.”

“Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 2″ will be released Aug. 15. For more info, visit crzkny.bandcamp.com.