Akiko Kiyama has made a name for herself as one of the most prominent female Japanese techno artists. Since returning to Tokyo this past December after living in Berlin for several years, she has already launched her own label, Kebko Music, with two releases in a matter of months.
“I’d always thought about starting my own label, but when it came to the type of music I wanted to release, I wasn’t sure,” Kiyama says. “Then I realized I was leaning toward music that wasn’t necessarily techno, but was honest. It doesn’t matter what genre the music falls under as long as the piece is characteristic of the artist who made it. It’s kind of anti-trend.”
Kiyama also demonstrates her label’s “anti-trend” attitude in her recent album “Ophelia,” a collection of experimental pieces that stray from her previous work, which was more structured dance music.
“It’s inspired by the kind of strange music that started piling up in my computer as a byproduct of other projects,” Kiyama says of the making of her album. “I liked the music but I had no idea what my fans would think, so I just decided to make it very personal.”
This lack of intention is the only rule that the artist stands by in her creative process.
“I’ve always made sure not to have a concept when making music. If you go in with a concept, your ego gets in the way and does more harm than good,” she says. “I want to create something that I didn’t know about and surprise myself.”
For Kiyama, the same organic energy and element of surprise in the production process are integral to her live sets.
“I always feel conflicted when I perform live,” Kiyama says, with a tinge of guilt. It’s a surprising comment, considering how her sets have placed her on the same stage as top artists like Nina Kraviz and Underground Resistance. “When you perform electronic music live, the question is always about how much is improvised and how much is planned. When I play music that I’ve released, the crowd likes it because they know the song, but that song is already finished. To make a song playable live, it’s a process of deconstructing a finished piece and that’s very uncreative to me.”
With her recent deviation from traditional dance music, what can audiences expect from her sets now?
“My tracks don’t have a straightforward groove to them. I make most of my music on my computer but it somehow gets tangled. I never liked that but some people see that as a good thing, so now I want to make unusual grooves — grooves that feel sticky.”
Akiko Kiyama will perform her first live set in Tokyo since the release of her album, “Ophelia,” at Hatogaya Forest Limit in Shibuya-ku on June 27 (10 p.m. start; ¥2,000 in advance; 03-6276-2886). For more information, visit www.akikokiyama.com.
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