Six years after crossing paths on a remote Australian farm, the Italian Michele Catena and the Japanese Tatsuyuki Negano have decided to produce music together from distance under the moniker Ikokai. Their tracks, mainly electronic, funk and minimal techno, sound amazingly accessible and fresh, so we decided to ask them a few questions to find out how, thanks to their composition process, they turned into a 24 hours non-stop producing machine.
How did you guys meet and when did you realize that you wanted to make music together?
We met in a working hostel in a small town called Bundaberg, Australia, back in 2012 when we were doing farm work to earn some easy money and extend our Visa.
After work we would meet up and jam by the river with a classical guitar, a sort of didgeridoo made out of a cheap plastic water pipe and a bongo. Once a month we were also arranging a big techno event at our yard among all the backpackers in town. After 5 years of distance, we spoke again and realized that music was our only way out of troubles, so we tried to make a song together even though we weren’t living in the same city and that’s how Ikokai got started 5 months ago.
Since you’re living in different cities, how is the process of composing a track between you two?
We are running the same software and plugins on our machines and we share our projects in a shared folder in the cloud. Thanks to the time difference we are becoming a 24hrs no-stop producing machine. When one is producing, the other one is sleeping!
When did you start making your own music and what was it like to begin with?
Taz: I started to make my own music last year, in 2016. My music was of any kind. I was simply going through different kind of music to see what would have best suited me.
Mik: I used to have a band back in 2002, when I was 14. We were the “Rudeband”, a bunch of young stoners playing rock’n’roll, ska-punk and reggae music. Rehearsing and playing live at concerts was fun indeed but after few years I decided to quit the group and keep music as my secret lover. I had then set up a soundproofed studio at my parents’ place with all the needed gear so as to record multi-tracks songs in-house. And that was my mystic temple. After school I’d always go in there to experience new things. From time to time I’d also jam with random friends who were dropping by my house to have pure fun.
Does living apart influence the music you make?
Taz: I think it’s a good influence for us because we are surrounded by different views, people, noises, nature, everything! But the funny thing is that our life flows in the same exact way: Eat. Work. Sleep. Enjoy!
I think that if we stayed closer, our music could be more perfect in details, but now this long distance makes our music more unique, so when you listen to our songs you feel that there is not egoism behind Ikokai’s music.
Mik: Absolutely. First of all it’s not like: “Oh shit, today we gotta rehearse”. But it’s more like when a kid has to unwrap a present. It’s like, alright… let me see what my crazy mate has done yesterday, and then I open our project. And there we go again! We don’t take things personally. I love what he does but when I then start inserting my touch in the project, I feel free to overturn it completely. And he does the same with my part, until we generate a unique synergy. We are not influenced or restricted by each other’s point of views as we are not in the same room at the same time.
What sort of music were you exposed to when you were growing up?
Taz: I used to listen mostly roots, rock, reggae music, rock steady and then I started to DJ at the club from when I was 18 until the age of 22 and play all the vinyls that I love, mostly old reggae music.
Mik: My very first tape that my parents gave me as a present when I was a kid was an album from “Lucio Battisti” called “Il mio canto libero (1972)” which has surely left a nostalgic mark on me.
Where in the world would you most like to perform?
Taz: About place to play, everywhere I can. But if we could play in an African little village of an ethnic minority, well, that’d be fun! The most important thing is not the number of people, but it’s quality of the moment.
Mik: The best place will always be my room with my best mates.
What are the top things you’d suggest visitors to your region should go and see/do?
Taz: I recommend visitors to go to “Nishinari” in Osaka . I think It’s the only “ghetto” place left in Japan. Some police men said: “people sell porn videos at entrance of the primary school” or “there are more human poops on the floor than dog poops”. Also they are used to sell only one shoe on the street rather than in pairs. There you can find the cheapest hostel, the cheapest food, and the cheapest porn obviously, haha!
Mik: I’d recommend to visit Monte Conero. It’s a is a promontory situated by the Adriatic sea. There you can rent out a cheap boat with friends, swim around, go fishing, eat really great and cheap seafood. And when the weather allows it, don’t forget to bring your surfboard!
What do you think the future of music is going to be like?
Taz: I think people will like more and more noise music, and I also think that “out of key” music will become fashionable. I’m saying this because I guess it’s going to be harder and harder to have moments where you can relax and be free in the future. It will all depend on what level of noise sensitivity we are going to develop.
Mik: I never worry about the future, as it comes soon enough! Perhaps Ikokai will be the future!
Can you send us a photo of the view from your window?
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