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Nick Luscombe, 55, is a radio presenter, DJ and recording artist from Plymouth, England. Involved in various projects, from the Royal Society of Arts to Otocare, a music and well-being initiative, he is also A&R for the London-based label, Nonclassical. His recently curated compilation, “Fieldwave, Vol. 2,” which focuses on field recordings taken by various artists from across Japan, is out Nov. 5.

1. When did you first get involved in music? When I first got my hands on my parents’ old 45s and record player. I was 11 when I started buying my own records with my pocket money.

2. What was the first record you ever bought? Giorgio Moroder’s “From Here to Eternity.” It kick-started my passion for futuristic electronic music.

3. What first brought you to Japan? I was producing radio shows for various airline companies in the 1990s and desperately wanted to go to Japan to discover new electronic music. I had a real interest in Japan thanks to labels like Bungalow, which were releasing records by Yoshinori Sunahara, Fantastic Plastic Machine and the wonderful “Sushi 4004” compilation.

So I had a chat with Swissair and they agreed to fund a trip to Tokyo in return for me making a compilation CD for their long-haul flights. I spent 10 days in Tokyo meeting labels and artists to collect music, and selected the best tracks for what became Swissair’s “Destination Tokyo” album.

4. How do you put a mix or show together? I always start with checking out new music I’ve been sent or by visiting record shops, Bandcamp and other trusted music blogs and mailing lists. Once I’ve found a few tracks, I start getting ideas for older ones that share a similar vibe. The best shows develop organically. My “New Ratio” show for CIC Live in Tokyo also features exclusive Japanese artist and record label mixes, which widens out the music on offer and also helps me think of ways and themes to shape my track selections.

5. Why are field recordings experiencing newfound popularity at the moment? Most people carry a high-quality recording device around with them every day: their mobile phone. People can use this technology anytime to become an environmental sound recordist. (The pandemic) has given people more time to stop and listen to — and appreciate — the sounds around them.

6. Ambient music has risen in popularity, too. Why? The pandemic also provided a new desire for music that people can work and relax to in their homes. So much of this music was made in Japan in the 1980s, like kankyō ongaku (environmental music). These are stressful times, and this music has helped many people to unwind and refocus.

7. “Fieldwave, Vol. 2” is focused on sounds from Japan. What’s so unique about soundscapes here? Japan is one of the most sonically rich places on Earth. The sounds of nature and the sounds of the cities are endlessly fascinating and multilayered. Japan has a very unique sense of sound, perhaps in part connected to ma (negative space) and non-Western rhythmic structures.

8. How do you choose where to record? Sometimes the place is determined by the nature of the project. For instance, I recently worked in an Oya stone mine and at a bamboo farm — both near Utsunomiya (Tochigi Prefecture) — for a government project.

I also record at places that have interesting sounds — stations, parks, hidden corners of the city, air ducts on the street. … If it makes a sound, I will usually record it!

9. If someone wants to get into field recording, where should they start? The first step is to learn how to listen. Take time to close your eyes and simply be still and listen to the sounds around you. You’ll be surprised at how rich the soundscape is.

10. What kind of equipment should they get, besides the phone? I always carry a small Zoom H1n for on-the-fly recordings. You can pick one up for around ¥10,000 and it’s well worth the investment.

11. Who are your favorite artists or labels in Japan right now? Not being able to have live shows for the past 18 months seems to have provided time and focus for more studio experimentation, and I hear a lot of tracks on the radio that are so well recorded.

I am really into the new EP from Ai Kakihira, modern alternative electronic pop with nods to the ’80s music of Akiko Yano. Flau is a label I’ve loved since its early releases, and I am a huge fan of EM Records from Osaka.

12. You founded the architecture/music agency MSCTY, how did that start? It started off as a simple idea to soundtrack seven places across London in 2010. We collaborate closely with architects and musicians to explore the acoustic qualities of spaces, and also research the natural soundscapes and perspectives of the place.

13. What projects are MSCTY involved in now? We are working with Kengo Kuma to produce soundscapes for his spaces and structures, most recently at the V&A Dundee with ambient music pioneer Midori Takada and Scottish Portuguese sound artist SHHE; and also the Kengo Kuma-designed “Bamboo Ring” at this year’s Milan Design Week, which featured a multichannel sound work for which we collaborated with composer and violinist Midori Komachi.

14. Do you have a favorite building or structure in Japan? If I have to pick one it would have to be the Nezu Museum in Tokyo, also designed by Kengo Kuma. It’s the ultimate oasis of calm in the city, and a wonderful fusion of art and nature.

15. What’s the idea behind Otocare? It was born out of the early stages of the pandemic, when hospital staff were under huge pressure. We believed the use of sound could improve conditions for hospital staff and we worked to develop new soundtracks to help them relax and recharge.

16. What have you learned from the project so far? What is clear from all the evidence we have so far is that we should look to improve our sonic environments as a matter of priority for the benefit of our general health and well-being. Our Otocare Bandcamp page offers exclusive free mixes of natural sound and music to enjoy, and we will be launching some exciting new activities in 2022.

17. You’re also doing a workshop for budding field recorders. Where do you find the time? It’s a challenge, but I am quite disciplined and have been balancing numerous projects for many years now. The good thing is that each project connects to the other through music and that helps make it all quite efficient.

18. With travel coming back, where’s one place you’d love to go? Right now I’m in Tokyo, which has long been my favorite place so that’s worked out pretty nicely. I cannot wait to go to Tallinn, Estonia. As an architectural tourist, it’s an amazing place. Tallinn also has some of the best restaurants I have ever been to, and boasts a really exciting and dynamic music scene.

19. What do you like so much about Tokyo? If I have to narrow it down, I would say it’s the feeling I get when I walk down a street — be it in a small local place, or a busy part of Shinjuku. It’s very different to London, which feels very angular and competitive. Here in Japan, movement feels very unhindered and smooth, and in Tokyo there is more respect for space and distance. Despite the number of people, it rarely feels crowded or competitive.

20. Even the trains? OK, so I admit I do avoid rush-hour trains as much as possible — which is a different side of Tokyo!

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