Seiho to take Summer Sonic into the night

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

Three years ago, Seiho Hayakawa could often be found playing shows at basement venues around Osaka. Today, he’s all over the map.

In the past year, Hayakawa has toured the United States, opened for Disclosure in Tokyo and now divides his time between Kanto and Kansai. This Satuday, he’ll play the Summer Sonic music festival, to some of the biggest crowds he’s seen yet.

“The audiences in America were really quick at reacting to my music — it was easy for them to get into the songs,” he says. “It was also easy for them to quickly become indifferent to what I was doing. I gained a lot of confidence from that tour.”

When he DJs, Hayakawa says he relies on a specific strategy to get the crowd pumped.

“I just try to catch the attention of the people in the front row,” he says. “Excitement is contagious, so if 10 people get really excited, they might pass it on to 100 more.”

In late 2011, Hayakawa launched Day Tripper Records and released his debut album “Mercury” to good reviews. The LP featured Hayakawa jumping between jazz-influenced beats and space-focused songs in a similar vein to U.S. producer Flying Lotus.

“The big change for me was when I played the SonarSound Tokyo event in 2012,” he says. “That led to me getting way more shows in Tokyo.” His sound also took a major turn around that time, moving from jazz-leaning grooves to a more frantic style that sees him arranging split-second sounds — vocal samples, bass licks, 808 snaps — into dance songs that pop just right. This approach came together on the 2013 full-length “Abstraktsex,” where his bit-by-bit approach resulted in an album equal parts slinky and ecstatic.

“After ‘Abstraktsex’ came out, everything picked up quickly,” he says. “I met so many people and had so many chances to perform. I ended up touring Japan with (U.S. producers) Ultrademon and Obey City, and opened for Disclosure at Studio Coast this past May. I also got to be part of (Flying Lotus label) Brainfeeder’s recent showcase.”

Hayakawa has also become well-known for his fashion sense, something that has helped grab him shows marketed toward the trendy Harajuku set.

“These last few months, I’ve done so many shows, and I appreciate them,” he says. “But at the same time, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to make new make music.”

Perhaps Hayakawa will be able to get back to music after Summer Sonic. For now, though, there’s only one main concern before Saturday’s gig: “I still need to decide what I’m going to wear.”

Seiho plays the Rainbow Stage at Midnight Sonic, the all-night portion of Summer Sonic, on Aug. 16 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba. For more information, visit www.summersonic.com.