Root & Branch Presents UBIK


Special To The Japan Times

Hiroshi Watanabe has been a trailblazer in the Japanese electronic-music scene since graduating in 1994 from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, producing beats under the monikers Nite System, Quadra, Tread, Crank and 32 Project just to name a few.

Watanabe will be performing as “Kaito” at Root & Branch Presents UBIK at club Eleven on July 22, alongside Magic Wire Recordings, cofounder Matt Cutler, aka Lone, a Brit who has been impressing audiences all over the world with his lush, sun-drenched soundscapes influenced by hip-hop and 1980s grooves — a sound he debuted on his first release “Everything Is Changing Colour,” in 2007. The lounge will be manned by the Diskotopia team, headed up by DJs BD1982 and A Taut Line, who will be providing their trademark bass-heavy tunes through a night that’s sizing up to be a party not to be missed.

After covering genres such as reggae, trance and progressive house, it seems that for the time being Watanabe has settled for graceful and meditative, albeit euphoric, house and techno reminiscent of the sounds of Thomas Fehlmann and the Undergound Resistance crew under his Kaito alias. He is just as well known for his luxuriant ambient productions under the same name, lovingly coined after his son who fans have watched grow up as he has been on all of his record covers with German label Kompakt.

“No matter what you create,” says Watanabe, “music always has to come from deep inside the soul, based on your personal experiences.”

It seems personal experiences count for a lot when it comes to Watanabe’s own musical roots. “Growing up, I listened to a lot of jazz and fusion sounds — together with rock, pop, classic, contemporary and traditional music — because of my parents,” he says. “They were musicians also.” Indeed, the artists that have influenced Watanabe in his development as a musician include jazz legends Pat Metheny and Miles Davis, as well as revered classical composers Gutav Holst and Johannes Brahms.

Both Watanabe and Cutler will be playing their live sets — as opposed to a DJ set — comprising tracks from their ever-expanding musical catalogs. Although Watanabe equally enjoys DJing and performing live, he explains the biggest difference between the two is the feeling of responsibility that comes with a live gig.

“A live set is a musician’s own personal act,” says Watanabe. “I’m playing my own tracks right from the beginning, so I have to make people dance with my sound.”

With years of experience playing the international electronic-music circuit however, there’s no doubt the dance-floor will be bobbing to his beat.

Root & Branch presents UBIK takes place at Eleven in Minato-ku, Tokyo, on July 22 (10 p.m.; ¥3,500 or ¥3,000 with flyer). For more information, call (03) 5775-6206 or visit www.go-to-eleven.com.Hiroshi Watanabe