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Yasushi Takayama, from Toy’s Factory to Rush! Production

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

Our follow up interview wants to be a complete breakdown of Mo Wax Japan. Whether it be through music, design or fashion, Yasushi’s work certainly helped James Lavelle’s label to become this legendary sought after reference with a popularity that never faded. When this adventure came to an end, Yasushi created his own imprint and vowed to work with former Mo Wax artists such as Tommy Guerrero and Money Mark, but not only… 2023 will see Rush! Production’s 20th Anniversary, so let’s find out how it was launched and what it continues to achieve. Meanwhile, we wish Yasushi who turns 51 today, a happy birthday.


Yasushi in NYC, 2006
Yasushi in NYC, 2006
 

Jon

In my opinion, Toy's Factory gave James Lavelle an opportunity to create incredible packaging with renowned visual artists such as Sk8thing, Mankey and NIGO®, even though their names are rarely mentioned on sleeves. So who are these people and were you instrumental for them to meet in the first place?


Yasushi

When James came to Toy's Factory to start Mo Wax Japan, he and NIGO® were already friends for maybe six months to a year, and so James wanted us to work together with him. James is very good at socializing and making friends so he had NIGO® introducing me to people like Sk8thing, Mankey and other Harajuku [a district in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo that is a trend-setting are for fashion, it's also a major commercial and financial zone in Japan] designers. And even though James couldn't speak Japanese, he would just set up meetings with all these different designers and he would collaborate with A Bathing Ape (Bape) and other brands.


The Rabbit In Your Headlights single [TFCK-87962] was designed by Mankey. But the Psyence Fiction CD sleeves [regular and limited versions, both bearing the TFCK-87955 catalog number] as well as the Be There singles [TFJK-37918 & TFCK-87973 on vinyl and CD respectively] were all designed by Sk8thing, and as you might know he also designed the logo for Bape. NIGO® had the vision and he worked out the design with people like Mankey and Sk8thing, so that was also true for those releases.


NIGO®, James Lavelle and Takagi Kan. Photography by Beezer circa 1999

Mankey and Sk8thing were both very important graphic designers at Bape. Mankey is the guy that came up with the Baby Milo characters as well as the Bapesta sneakers that have the star on them, and they collaborated with Hello Kitty and stuff. There was another person that was in charge of designing the clothes there and James Lavelle worked with someone named Kazuki Kuraishi who also used to work at Bape back then. He speaks English well and he was friends with James as well as Ian Brown, and collaborated with them on various projects.


Jon

Bringing all these emerging fashion designers to Toy's Factory was meant to serve James Lavelle's ambition for Mo Wax Japan. Not only did you create a whole range of clothes but there were also Medicom toys, RAH dolls, collaborations with Futura 2000, etc... And when you think of it, at the time it was aiming for the Japanese market only, because they were not sold in Europe or the USA. All this must have been quite expensive, so how did you convince your president to collaborate with this whole crew?


Yasushi

So back in the late 90s, Toy's Factory had a lot of momentum as a company and the president was also pushing us to work on new ideas, new projects and do things that other people weren't doing. The company as a whole kind of gave me the green light to go that direction and so doing special packaging was one aspect. One interesting fact is that the special packaging that Mo Wax Japan did, kind of influenced the other pop artists on Toy's Factory. So j-pop artists also started to do that sort of thing.


James Lavelle, Yasushi and his daughter Rune, 2003
James Lavelle, Yasushi and his daughter Rune, 2003

There is a pressing plant called Toyokasei in Japan and they were the only company in the country that was pressing vinyl back then, and so we would press all the CDs and LPs through them. Not only Mo Wax releases but also all the Ninja Tune stuff, and that was representing like three to five titles each month. Since we were placing a lot of orders with them, we were able to bring down the costs. We would get good feedback from people in the industry or the artists themselves who would say, "You guys are doing some really cool packaging," so that helped a lot. And as the UNKLE project was kind of the peak of all the special packaging, that allowed me to do it also for other projects.


Some of the Mo Wax Japan sleeves designed by Sk8thing and Mankey (Toy's Factory / Mo Wax, 1998-1999)
Some of the Mo Wax Japan sleeves designed by Sk8thing and Mankey (Toy's Factory / Mo Wax, 1998-1999)

Jon

Were you able to create test pressings at the plant?


Yasushi

Working with Mo Wax, one of the important points was to be able to release records in Japan earlier than the other countries. So we would try and make test pressings, but often we would be working under such tight deadlines that there wasn't enough time to get them before the street releases actually hit the market. In the end, I would just kind of let Toyokasei proceed with quality control.


Mo Wax DAT for the DJ Shadow 12" In/Flux (MW 014, 1993). James Lavelle’s archives
Mo Wax DAT for the DJ Shadow 12" In/Flux (MW 014, 1993). James Lavelle’s archives

Jon

Were you usually receiving Mo Wax DATs from the UK with unmastered tracks on them that you'd have to EQ in Japan before bringing them to Toyokasei, or was the music sent to you ready for mass production?


Yasushi

So with Mo Wax, I would often receive a DAT with the master of an album. But then another important sales point was to have exclusive bonus tracks for the Japanese market, so I'd usually get extra DATs for them. For example, I'd get three other DATs in case there would have been three bonus tracks.


The album might have been mastered in the UK, but I would have an engineer in Japan master the bonus tracks so it would fit the same sound as the album. We also released a bunch of compilations for Mo Wax, so that would be like 15 to 20 tracks. In that case I would have as many DATs sent to me and those would have to be mastered in Japan from scratch. For LPs of those compilations we would sometimes have to change the song sequencing compared to the CDs and that would also have to be done in Japan. As you could fit 79 minutes onto a CD, I would try to get as many bonus tracks as I could to fill it up. And as I was saying, oftentimes we were on a tight schedule so I would kind of leave the whole process up to Toyokasei because I trusted them.


Yasushi & DJ Vadim at the Vacuum Records shop in Osaka, Japan, 1997 (with thanks to Strictly Kev)
Yasushi & DJ Vadim (right) at the Vacuum Records shop in Osaka, Japan, 1997 (with thanks to Strictly Kev)

Jon

Did James have any final approval on the artworks used in Japan, or was it your call?


Yasushi

At the beginning of the design process, James would have an idea that he would directly communicate to NIGO®, or he would tell me about it and I'd have to talk to NIGO® and Sk8thing about James's ideas. He'd go, "I've talked about these design ideas with Futura, can you talk to Sk8thing about that?"


Sk8thing would usually come up with ideas of things he'd be into at a certain time, and he was very much into the Tron movie [dir. Steven Lisberger, 1982] at the time of the Psyence Fiction release. I don't remember if it was James or Sk8thing who said to use Tron, but they talked about it and it became the main idea for the Japanese sleeves design. There was a rule that I would have to get final approval from James for the design before it came out.


Psyence Fiction (TFCK-87955, Toy’s Factory / Mo Wax, 1998) and Preemptive Strike (TFCK-87954, Toy’s Factory / Mo Wax, 1998) CDs. Design by Sk8thing and inspired by Tron (1982)
Psyence Fiction (TFCK-87955, Toy’s Factory / Mo Wax, 1998) and Preemptive Strike (TFCK-87954, Toy’s Factory / Mo Wax, 1998) CDs. Design by Sk8thing and inspired by Tron (1982)
Screenshot from the original Tron (1982) movie showing the grid and laser colors inspiration for Mo Wax Japan sleeves
Screenshot from the original Tron (1982) movie showing the grid and laser colors inspiration for Mo Wax Japan sleeves

Jon

As you said, James is a really minded kind of person and so I'd like to know if there are some ideas that were turned down by Toy's Factory because they'd be too expensive or impractical?


Yasushi

For the most part, all of James's ideas did come to fruition including compilations or working with Japanese artists. Although we were meant to release an album with Indopepsychics [DJ Kensei, D.O.I and NIK] but we didn't manage to sign the artists.


Jon

Toyokasei pressed all the records and CDs too, but what about the sleeve printing job?


Yasushi

Toyokasei is also a manufacturing company, so they made the packaging, printed the sleeves and pressed the records and CDs too. And I know that record sales dropped for a while, but thanks to the vinyl revival, Toyokasei has been at the top of the industry again for the last 10 years.


Jon

I have to say that Japanese records are always incredibly well put together. They have stiff sleeves to stand the test of time, they usually come with an obi and insert, there's no clicks or pops ever so they sound crystal clear and they are usually in good condition. I mean, compared to what you can get in Europe or even in the US for that price especially in regard to vintage music, I think it's important for a collector, and so I tend to purchase Japanese pressings.


Strictly Kev (aka DJ Food from Ninja Tune) and Yasushi in a record store in Japan, 1997 (with thanks to Kev)
Strictly Kev (aka DJ Food from Ninja Tune) and Yasushi in a record store in Japan, 1997 (with thanks to Kev)

Yasushi

In Japan it was the opposite back then. When it comes to Toy's Factory, one of the main reasons we were working with Toyokasei is because they were in Japan and we needed to work with a company that could accommodate our schedules.


But in reality, Japanese people always really preferred records from the US and Europe. Like for hip hop 12", we always thought that the way they were made in the US looked and sounded really cool. For like house and techno 12", we always really admired the records that came from the UK and Europe. We kind of liked the fact that their sleeves were very thin and glossy because we thought they looked better compared to the Japanese records that had thick matte cardboard sleeves. But now [that I'm older] I understand a lot of collectors around the world who like the Japanese pressings because of this actual packaging.


Jon

In May of 95, there was this first Mo Wax Tour in Japan, which was actually put together by Avex Trax, the label that was housing Mo Wax from 1993 to 1996. It was called The Battle Royal Tour and it featured DJ Shadow, DJ Krush, James Lavelle, U.F.O., Mondo Grosso, Monday Michiru, but also Futura 2000 and Katsura Moshino who both created live art installment on stage. Katsura Moshino also designed the different posters and flyers to promote what remains Shadow's longest Japanese Tour to date. So that was before the deal with Toy's Factory, but since you were already working with some of those artists at the time, I figured that you might have been to one of those shows.


Mo Wax ‘Battle Royal Tour’, flier for the Liquid Room show in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 1995. Design by Katsura Moshino
Mo Wax ‘Battle Royal Tour’, flyer for the Liquid Room show in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 1995. Design by Katsura Moshino

Yasushi

Mo Wax was still kind of following that acid jazz scene at the time and [since I was into that kind of music myself], I did go to that event because I had been put on the guestlist through someone at U.F.O. That was probably at Liquid Room [Shinjuku, Tokyo on the 6th of May 1995], but I didn't talk to James or Josh at the time.


Jon

On the 6th of August 97, the Mo Wax Japan launch party was held at Aoyama Blue in Tokyo, and this time it was of course a Toy's Factory event. It featured DJ Shadow and James Lavelle plus NIGO® and Takagi Kan. What do you recall about that event and how was it put together?


Aoyama Blue August 97 DJ schedule announcing the Mo Wax Japan Release Party
Aoyama Blue August 97 DJ schedule announcing the Mo Wax Japan Release Party
Mo Wax Japan Release Party advert (1997). Art by Robert "3D" Del Naja
Mo Wax Japan Release Party advert (1997). Art by Robert "3D" Del Naja
Mo Wax Japan promo booklet (1997) with Robert "3D" Del Naja artwork
Mo Wax Japan promo booklet (1997). Artwork by Robert "3D" Del Naja

Yasushi

The event wasn't just a regular concert, it was media orientated for Mo Wax Japan to gain attention and so I had a lot of executives come to the show from places like Tower Records and HMV. I remember that it was an early show, like from 7PM to 10PM. And then the president of Toy's Factory was also there giving a speech saying, "We're starting Mo Wax Japan so we want your support!"


A year before that, Mo Wax was still evolving into that acid jazz scene. But then at this event James wanted to show that he was going in a new direction with a different sound, and that's why James asked people like Takagi Kan and also NIGO® to DJ that night.


In terms of merchandising, NIGO® had produced special tee shirts [two different compressed tees shaped like Blade Runner guns] as well as a 12" round sticker. All these items had been designed by Sk8thing specifically for that event and only given to the media people who came to the show.


12” promo sticker handed to media people at the Mo Wax Japan release party. Design by Sk8thing, 1997 (thanks to Rob)
12” promo sticker handed to media people at the Mo Wax Japan release party. Design by Sk8thing, 1997 (thanks to Rob)

I don't remember exactly if the Creative Man agency contacted all the artists overseas or if it was us at Toy's Factory, but they definitely helped put on the show. I also remember James talking to Shadow and saying, "This is not a regular show, this is to promote the Mo Wax Japan label and there will be some interviews, so please come over." And I also remember Shadow saying, "I have these two friends who are very talented rappers and if I can bring them up then I'll come," so Lateef and Lyrics Born came along with Shadow [Hashim remembers Shadow had brought his MPC]. And so James, Shadow, NIGO® and Kan DJed that night.

I was all over the place helping the artists and then I had to talk with all these different companies, but I was very excited because it seemed like the beginning of a new movement. Nowadays it's common for musicians and fashion brands to do collabs but that wasn't happening back then, and so I wasn't sure where things would go in the future. But I remember Toy's Factory's president being really happy with the event. He wanted the company to outcome itself, and as it seemed to be happening before his eyes, he walked by and said, "Something new is about to start…" That really motivated me!


Jon

[Now asking Hashim who is live translating] Were you already working with Yasushi at the time?


Hashim

Yasushi had already hired me to translate Shadow's interviews when he came at that time, and I do remember translating for Lyrics Born and Lateef also.


Meiso by DJ Krush (MW039LP / Mo Wax, 1995). Design by Futura 2000
Meiso by DJ Krush (MW039LP / Mo Wax, 1995). Design by Futura 2000

I was a big fan of this whole movement coming up, like Shadow, DJ Vadim, DJ Krush, DJ Cam and all that stuff, and when Shadow brought over Lateef and Lyrics Born it was my first time seeing underground West coast rappers like that. So I remember being really blown away because it was such a different vibe compared to like New York rap. And I remember Shadow playing the remix that he did with DJ Krush featuring Black Thought ["Meiso" / Mo Wax, 1996]. That was my favorite song back then, and so when he played that, I lost my shit! I remember the place to be really small, packed and dark, and at the time Lateef was wearing his big hat on his dreads.


Jon

When I first came to Mo Wax it was through DJ Krush and then I discovered DJ Shadow. So when I found out about their collaboration ["89.9 Megamix" / Mo Wax, MW033DJ, 1995] it was as if the best of both worlds united on a UK label. Do you remember if an album was meant to be produced between the two of them?


Yasushi

I remember that when Shadow and Krush would meet at shows, they would chat and stuff and say things like, "Let's work on something together." And even though they didn't produce a full album together, they collaborated on a song on one of Krush's albums called "Duality". And then there was also a remix on Krush's album called "Meiso" [Meiso -迷走- / Sony - Mo Wax, 1995] that Shadow worked on [“Meiso (Klub Mix By DJ Shadow)”], that was an incredible song and it really stood out as a remix. I remember Shadow saying that he didn't do too many remixes. But for this one he made an exception.


UNKLE Trilogy Box Set (Toy’s Factory / Mo Wax, 1998). Design by Stash
UNKLE Trilogy Box Set (Toy’s Factory / Mo Wax, 1998). Design by Stash

Jon

On March 21, 98 there's this UNKLE Trilogy Boxset [both on CD and vinyl] that was released featuring NIGO®, Shadow, Takagi Kan, Rammellzee and Scratch Perverts to name a few, and I think that it was sold in Bape stores. This was also released on Toy's Factory and so again as it's not mentioned anywhere can you tell me who designed it?


Yasushi

NIGO® did the art direction and he asked Stash to work on the design. Oftentimes NIGO® would want to put it out there that he worked on the design, so if he was really asked he might say, "I had Stash work on this." But usually he would present himself as being the person behind the design or the art direction. So it was intentional that these names weren't mentioned, and that's kind of the way NIGO® works now too.


Jon

From September 18th to 22nd of 98, there was a series of Mo Wax Nights that were held in Japan for the release of Psyence Fiction and they were called "Heart of Darkness Hip Hop Conference". It refers to Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse [dir. Eleanor Coppola, 1991], a documentary which chronicles the difficulties the crew went through making Apocalypse Now [dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1979]. Samples from both the documentary and the movie were used in Psyence Fiction and when you think of the difficulties to record the album, that name was quite à propos…



Mo Wax Night (UNKLE Release Party) flier, September 1998
Mo Wax Night (UNKLE Release Party) flyer, September 1998

Those nights started on the 18th at Club Karma in Osaka with DJ Krush, on the next day it was at Precious Hall in Sapporo and on the 22nd at SpaceLab Yellow in Tokyo. Again what do you remember from those events?


Yasushi

With this event, James didn't want to do an early show like the Mo Wax Japan release party. He wanted to find places where kids could dance, and so we selected legendary clubs in Japan for this Tour as per James' request. So as you said, the club we chose in Tokyo was SpaceLab Yellow which was designed and produced by Daizo Murata and his company Global Hearts, and so we worked with him to make this Tour happen.


People from the Kemuri Productions crew were there such as DJ Yas, but Rino and Twigy — who were rappers featured on DJ Krush's records — also did a performance together. I remember James doing a very unique DJ set blending rock, hip hop and dance music all together. Takagi Kan from Major Force made a special appearance, because he's this very influential person for James. He was kind of rapping beside James while he was DJing, and they even performed the song "Last Orgy" [by Major Force, Major Force / File Records, 1988] together, which is very memorable. James was mixing things like DJ Shadow tracks, old school hip hop such as De La Soul and Beastie Boys, and then he would also play stuff like Nirvana.


James Lavelle DJing at SpaceLab Yellow, Tokyo, Japan (September 22, 1998). Photography by Beezer
James Lavelle at SpaceLab Yellow, Tokyo, Japan (September 22, 1998). Photography by Beezer

I really remember seeing the audience jumping up and down like mad! It was very interesting because it seemed like it was a generation of listeners who were both into rock music and dance, which was new at the time. And those were the people that bought the Psyence Fiction album.


Since James Lavelle's DJ set was so energetic, I remember Shadow trying to do something a bit more mellow. He played some UNKLE tracks and then he kind of mixed together songs from the Psyence Fiction album. Shadow closed his set playing the classic Souls of Mischief track, "93' Til Infinity" [Jive, 1993].


You know, it kind of became a legendary show! And when it was over, I felt really glad that it worked out so well with James and Mo Wax Japan!


Jon

I've seen footage of that event and the reaction of the crowd. How do you explain it since Japanese people don't understand English very well?


Yasushi

James had a good understanding of the Japanese audience, he had already been collecting Japanese records for a long time and he'd always been looking for music made by local producers. The Tokyo culture was a mixture of music, art and fashion so because he was into all of that himself, he knew how to read the crowd.


Japanese advertisement for UNKLE’s Psyence Fiction release in Japan. Design by Sk8thing, 1998
Japanese advertisement for UNKLE’s Psyence Fiction release in Japan. Design by Sk8thing, 1998

The other thing was that Western music in general had already been popular for many years down here, and so there already was a large audience for it. Club music — not just house, but things like drum & bass — was also coming in. It was mixed together with rock music and the audience was already used to that kind of blending, so they understood that aesthetic. And when James brought it all together in one place, it kind of created this explosion.


When you think of artists like Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers or Nirvana, they were rock orientated but they were also bringing all these different elements and they were massive in Japan. At the same time, artists like The Chemical Brothers or Underworld were also huge down here. On top of that, Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic festivals also started in 1997 and 2000 respectively, so there was this really big culture of going crazy when watching those shows.


DJ Shadow at SpaceLab Yellow, Tokyo, Japan (September 22, 1998)
DJ Shadow at SpaceLab Yellow, Tokyo, Japan (September 22, 1998)

This Mo Wax event was kind of the precursor for bringing in all these genres together. People like James and Shadow were playing straight ahead hip hop, but they were also playing more experimental types of hip hop as well as rock music. In that context, a lot of rock fans were also big DJ Shadow fans, so they'd come to his shows.


I remember James and Shadow being very happy at this show because there were like 1600 people dancing in this tiny nightclub and it never had been so packed!


Jon

Before Japan, James and Shadow played together on the 24th of August 1998 at a midnight release party in HMV, Oxford Street, London. After Japan, they also performed a few UNKLE in-store events in the US (between September 28th and October 2nd, 1998) but after that, Shadow was replaced by the Scratch Perverts to play along with James in the UK. So apart from those events, I don't think James and Josh ever played the full album side by side.


Tony Vegas, DJ Shadow, James Lavelle & Prime Cuts (UNKLE and The Scratch Perverts) in Galway, Ireland (February 4, 1999)
Tony Vegas, DJ Shadow, James Lavelle & Prime Cuts (UNKLE and The Scratch Perverts) in Galway, Ireland (February 4, 1999)

Yasushi

After the Psyence Fiction release party, another event came along called The Worldwide Bape Heads Show 1998 [held at the Akasaka Blitz club in Tokyo, on the 12th of December 1998] and James brought the Scratch Perverts with him to perform there as UNKLE. Other artists such as Money Mark, Ben Lee, Cornelius and also the Japanese rap group Scha Dara Parr played at the event.


Worldwide Bapeheads Show 1998 flyer for the Akasaka Blitz event in Tokyo, Japan (December 12, 1998)
Worldwide Bapeheads Show 1998 flyer for the Akasaka Blitz event in Tokyo, Japan (December 12, 1998)

Jon

There's this very special blue promo 12" of Money Mark's Maybe I'm Dead [MW 089 DJJP / Mo Wax, 1998] that was released in Japan. It came with a small device called the Vinyl Killer that was manufactured and declined in different versions by Vacuum Records as early as November 96. A single 9v battery powers the VW Combi van. Flip the aerial/switch into the ON position and you’ll see it drive along the groove of your record at 33 1/3 rpm, playing a raw monaural sound through its in-built speaker. This pack is extremely scarce, so who got this idea and how were they made available?


Money Mark’s Push The Button Vinyl Killer created by Vacuum Records. Illustration by Teppei Maki, 1998
Money Mark’s Push The Button Vinyl Killer created by Vacuum Records. Illustration by Teppei Maki, 1998

Yasushi

It was actually James' idea, and he had talked to Money Mark about it saying, "Let's do it!" I don't remember if the track was licensed from the UK or if Toy's Factory licensed the track to them, and I also don't recall if the record was pressed at Toyokasei in Japan or if it was pressed overseas, but I believe that Toy's Factory made between 300 to 500 copies of this. I actually gave away a lot of these rare products to DJs or to people from Ninja Tune, thinking that I could probably find them again easily later on. But it's been hard to get back a lot of these products that I gave away.


Jon

There was also this NIGO® box set called Shadow Of The Ape Sounds [Toy's Factory, 2000] that was designed by Futura and there were two different versions. There's the white one with this charcoal typography, and there's another one that is scarcer but now it's full color and signed by Futura. So did you actually meet with Futura for this project and how was it put together?


Yasushi

It was distributed all over Japan, and the artwork idea came from NIGO® who wanted to work with Futura on this album. For projects like this, NIGO® and Futura would come to Japan several times a year and they would mainly do all the discussions on their own. NIGO® is very private, he kind of has his own world so I wasn't present at those meetings and I actually rarely met Futura.


NIGO® Shadow of the Ape Sounds box set (Mo Wax / Ape Sounds / Toy’s Factory, 2000). Design by Futura 2000
NIGO® Shadow of the Ape Sounds box set (Mo Wax / Ape Sounds / Toy’s Factory, 2000). Design by Futura 2000

I remember having meetings with NIGO® about the kind of music that we should put on this. We had K.U.D.O and Takagi Kan (Ape Sounds/MAJOR FORCE) produce all the beats, and many rappers were featured on this, like Rakim, Beatnuts, GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, Flavor Flav from Public Enemy and Biz Markie. We had a coordinator in New York to work on getting all the artists and recording the raps they later sent us. There was a [Shadow Of The Ape Sounds (Director's Cut)] release party in Japan at a club called Womb [July 6, 2001 in Tokyo] and I remember bringing Flavor Flav over to perform at the show.


The reason why there were two versions of that box set is because the first version didn't have all the songs on it, so that was the white one. The color version had additional tracks that had been recorded in New York and so it was for Shadow Of The Ape Sounds (Director's Cut) [Toy's Factory, 2001].


Jon

I assume the partnership between Toy's Factory and Mo Wax came to an end when Mo Wax was sold to Island Records in the UK. But what's the last Mo Wax Japan project that was released?


Yasushi

When James sold his company to Island Records, artists like DJ Peshay, DJ Shadow and Money Mark went to Blue (Island) which was A&Red by Ross Allen, and so Toy's Factory couldn't release those artists anymore. James also had some releases on XL Records from Beggars Banquet, along with other artists from the Mo Wax roster like South.


But at the same time, when Mo Wax shifted to Island Records they still had another two years with Toy's Factory. Some of the last records that were released included DJ Magic Mike [The Journey (Era Of Bass Part 1) / TFCK-87995, 2000], DJ Assault [Belle Isle Tech / TFCK-87996, 2000] and Malcom Catto [Popcorn Bubble Fish / TFCK-87825, 2001]. Back then, Tommy Guerrero had a two-album deal with Mo Wax so we released A Little Bit Of Somethin' [TFCK-87803 / Toy's Factory, 2000], that's how I met him and started booking live shows for him in Japan.


Tommy Guerrero & Yasushi, 2013
Tommy Guerrero & Yasushi, 2013

I left Toy's Factory in 2001 and worked freelance for the first year, starting with Tommy right away. Around the time James released UNKLE's 2nd LP [Never, Never, Land / 2003] through Island Records, Tommy Guerrero was releasing his 3rd album Soul Food Taqueria on Mo Wax [MWR158LP]. I managed to bring this album to a Japanese label called Flavour Of Sound [PUCY-1021], and even put on some big events for him.


Jon

Did you leave Toy's Factory because you wanted to move on, or was it because you couldn't work with Mo Wax anymore?


Yasushi

So there were several reasons. One of the biggest reasons was that CD sales had started to drop from around then because the digital era had started. And so Toy's Factory told me, "We can no longer release Mo Wax, Ninja Tune or artists like Silent Poets because the CEOs aren't keeping up." I was about 30 years old at the time and they told me, "You can stay at Toy's Factory if you're okay to work with j-pop acts, or we can have you work on a famous Japanese artist, but then if you're not into that you might not have anything to do here!" So I decided to leave with all the connections I had made during my time at Toy's Factory.


After that in 2001, I signed a label deal with Asmik Ace. Asmik Ace is a film distribution company and they were already knowledgeable about literature, art, animation, games, the street scene, and fashion. They wanted to expand into the music industry, so I made a presentation saying that I wanted to bridge the gap between music and film, and also bring in the fashion element. We would have meetings every month to talk about the kind of business we could do together, so we started releasing CDs and we also booked a lot of collaborations between movies and fashion. That kind of led me up starting Rush! Production in 2003. Around that time, my contract with Asmik Ace came to an end, and I signed a two-year deal with Toy's Factory.


Money Mark Mark’s Keyboard Repair flier. Photography by Kumiko Tanaka, 1998
Money Mark Mark’s Keyboard Repair flier. Photography by Kumiko Tanaka, 1998

Jon

When you left Toy's Factory in 2001, was it already your intention to create your own imprint? What's the concept behind Rush! Production and what does it stand for?


Yasushi

I always had a dream of having my own label and that came to fruition because after working with Asmik Ace, I realized the limitations of just working alone. When I worked with Toy's Factory as an employee, they had a big team for marketing, so I knew that I needed to start up a company so I could have my own team to work on releases.


At first, I was going to call the label Rush! Records, but I thought that this name would be limiting because people might just see it as a label that releases CDs and records. In reality, I wanted to have more freedom to do promotion, booking Tours for artists and doing various collaborations.


Rush! Production logo. Designed by Tetsu Nishiyama
Rush! Production logo. Designed by Tetsu Nishiyama

So I went to my friend Tetsu Nishiyama (aka Tet), he’s the designer of popular clothing brands called W/TAPS and Descendant. I told him about my vision of the label, and we were talking about how in the 80s we were so inspired by hip hop and skateboarding, music and fashion. And so Tet said, "You don't want to have a label name that is limiting. Why don't you use the word Rush?" Rush means not being limited by rules and regulations and stuff. And so Tet came up with the first logo design and then he made a second design which is the one we still use now.


Jon

Was your brother Fumitaka already part of the music industry before he joined Rush! Production and how is it to work with family? How's the label structured?


Yasushi

Fumi is nine years younger than me and we were already very close as children. Fumi actually worked part time at Sony for a while before joining Flavour Of Sound, and so when I started Rush! Production, I asked him to join the label. There were seven or eight employees at the time, and so initially Fumi was in charge of the web design and doing assistant-type work.


But nowadays, Rush is only me and Fumi and he has a lot of responsibilities in the company. He does the financial stuff, takes care of the digital streaming contracts and he's also in charge of the web design for the label, so I'm very grateful for all the stuff that he does. As brothers we sometimes disagree, but since we are family, I have a lot of trust in him.


Yasushi and Fumitaka
Yasushi and Fumitaka, 2012

Being the president of the company, I come up with ideas for projects and finding artists. So you know, being in that position I have to talk with different entities. If it's booking interviews, I talk with the editors directly. If it's some kind of a fashion collaboration, I'll be in communication with the designers. If we need to deal with different publishing companies, movie companies or the government's tax department, I'm the one doing that. But then I also do promotion work and finding talents, plus communicating with the artists.


A big company can hire people and pay them a monthly salary, but as an independent company, it's more efficient for us to hire people per project based on our needs. So when there's a Tour coming up and artists come to Japan, I'll have a team of like six people working for me on different aspects.


Since Hashim is based in L.A. and has worked with me for a very long time, he helps me with international communication stuff, which is actually pretty massive! And in case I need to organize a 2-week Tour for one of our artists, I'll hire a Tour manager locally. For example, I always hire a guy named Ittetsu Asai to work on Tommy's Tours. For interviews, I'll hire a woman named Naoko Machida who's really good at English, and then have her work on the interviews. I'll also hire writers to write about artists on websites and music magazines...


Hashim & Akiko Bharoocha plus Yasushi & Fumitaka Takayama, 2004
Hashim & Akiko Bharoocha plus Yasushi & Fumitaka Takayama, 2004

Jon

You said that your contract with Toy's Factory came to an end because the CD industry was going down due to the emergence of the digital era. I've noticed that Rush! is mostly CD releases, so like swimming upstream. Why this choice?


Yasushi

So as you're saying, nowadays young people only listen to digital music, and in a way, it might seem like releasing physical music is going against the times. But I feel that it's important to continue to release CDs because it leads to other types of businesses. Especially if it's a licensing in Japan — which means the CD's actually manufactured in the country — then the media takes that release more seriously and it gets more exposure. I'm able to get it into different places more easily that way. And it also leads to being able to book Tours and launch release parties, which leads to being able to manufacture merch, and doing other types of booking, other types of secret gigs or festivals for the artists with other companies, which means more promotion...


As long as we are going to be a music label, I want to be able to release physical media even if we might be losing a little bit of money on sales. You know, I take pride in that and I think it's important to continue releasing them! Another aspect is that the artists also want their music to be released physically.


But we actually have some releases that are digital only. For example, we've helped Josh Lippi — who plays bass with Tommy Guerrero — to get some music released digitally, we've released a record by Chuck Treece and we've also released Quinn Luke's music digitally.


Jon

What was the first release on Rush! Production / Asmik Ace and what sort of projects have you worked on together?


Yasushi

So I had a deal with Asmik Ace where Rush! Production would come up with the ideas of what to release, and I would present them with the releases because they were manufacturing them as well. Distribution was actually done by a company called 3-D System which later became AWDR/LR2, which I also worked with later.


Wild Dayz by Beezer (Rush! Production / Asmik Ace, November 2003)
Wild Dayz by Beezer (Rush! Production / Asmik Ace, November 2003)

The first ever Rush! Production release was actually a photo book by English photographer Beezer from Bristol, called Wild Dayz [Rush! Production / Asmik Ace, November 2003]. Kazuki Kuraishi designed the book and we had Shinsuke Takizawa from Neighborhood® to create t-shirts inspired by the book. We also worked with Adidas® to have a photo exhibition in select Adidas® stores throughout Japan. So even though we're a music label, I kind of wanted to surprise the industry by coming out with something that wasn't a record, and it was a great experience for me.


I was working with a man named Masao Teshima (then president) who was my main contact at Asmik Ace, and through him I did a lot of movie promotional work. For example, there was a live concert film from the Beastie Boys called Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! [dir. Adam Yauch, 2006], and so Asmik Ace had Rush go to New York and interview the Beastie Boys about the movie. After coming back to Japan, we put on a concert for the film premiere [July 26, 2006 in Tokyo], and we had Money Mark performing at this event.


Another music and film collaboration I worked on with Asmik Ace was a surf film called Sprout [dir. Thomas Campbell, 2003]. Asmik put the film in theaters, and created a DVD with the soundtrack on an additional CD in collaboration with Rush. I traveled to Laguna Beach in California to go to the Moonshine Festival [October 9, 2004], where Tommy Guerrero introduced me to Jack Johnson and the producer of the film, Emmet Malloy. From there, I got to work on the film screening event and concert which featured artists like Jack Johnson, G-Love, Tommy Guerrero, Money Mark, and I also got to work on promoting the film.


Yasushi with MCA, Ad Rock and Mike D from the Beastie Boys, NYC, 2006
Yasushi with MCA, Ad Rock and Mike D from the Beastie Boys, NYC, 2006

There was a film that was put out on DVD by Asmik Ace called Tokyo Tribe 2 [dir: Sono Dion, 2006 / Original manga by Santa Inoue]. DJ Muro was in charge of the soundtrack for this film, and so Rush released the CD [2006] with Toy’s Factory. We actually went to New York where Muro recorded with people like Ghostface Killah, Just Blaze, De La Soul and Alchemist.


There was a DVD project called Director's Label Best Selection [2003], it had three DVDs in it featuring music videos by people like Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham [and Spike Jonze]. So I went to New York to interview the directors for this project and promote these DVDs. I also worked on the promotion of Jim Jarmusch's movie Coffee and Cigarettes [2003], collaborating with Neighbourhood® to make t-shirts for this film.


So our approach with Asmik Ace was to do various collaborations in music and fashion, and it was a very busy time for us…


Jon

Blackalicious was released in Japan on Jazz Not Jazz Records in 1994 [Melodica EP]. And even though they were licensed by Mo Wax in the UK, when James Lavelle signed the deal with Toy's Factory, there was no Solesides representation on Mo Wax Japan. But as soon as Rush came in, most of the Solesides / Quannum crew was able to put out their music in Japan. That includes Maroons (Chief Xcel and Lateef the Truth Speaker), Lyrics Born and The Gift of Gab. So I wanted to know if that partnership was facilitated by your connection with DJ Shadow, and if you dealt with Lydia Popovich or Isaac Bess who were in charge of global management and marketing for Quannum?


Yasushi

So of course I wanted to release the Solesides / Quannum music because of my previous involvement with Shadow, plus I knew that they were all friends. I loved their music because it was a lot different from New York hip hop, and there was a very intelligent side to their lyrics and production.


Gift of Gab & Lateef the Truthspeaker on Blackalicious' Rock the Bells Tour at Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California (August 16, 2008)
Gift of Gab & Lateef the Truthspeaker on Blackalicious' Rock the Bells Tour at Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California (August 16, 2008)

I was essentially communicating with Isaac who was in charge of the contracts and getting materials up to the release. But there was also a man named Robert Bennett who was the manager of Money Mark at the time, and he was also managing a lot of the Quannum artists like The Gift of Gab. Robert was key in moving this project forward and releasing their music. Thanks to him, we were able to book Gab in Japan. I was going through him to communicate with the artists or get them Tour in Japan. And then the Rush team also went to San Francisco to shoot photographs of Maroons, so we could use them in our marketing campaign.


I remember bringing Gab to Japan for the [4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up] release party at a venue called AIR [April 21, 2004], which was located in the Daikanyama area of Tokyo, but it no longer exists. DJ Masterkey from the Japanese hip hop band Buddha Brand as well as MURO were the supporting acts that night. Gab performed for about 40 minutes and it was a powerful show with about 400 people in the audience. Blackalicious may have been booked in Japan separately for a festival but I wasn't involved.


Gab’s flyer for the release party of 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up @ AIR (May 21, 2004)
Gab’s flyer for the release party of 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up @ AIR, Tokyo, Japan (May 21, 2004)

Jon

Apart from the Quannum crew, many people from the former Mo Wax roster of artists (or their friends) were released by Rush. That includes Tommy Guerrero, Money Mark, Raphael Sebbag from U.F.O., and Twigy who had previously worked with DJ Krush. Would you say that beyond the business aspect, Rush is a label that relies on friendship?


Yasushi

As you mentioned, friendship with the artists is the starting point a lot of the time, and the other important thing for me is my respect for them.


Twigy for example is the same age as me, and I have a lot of respect for Prefuse73 who is the producer on that project [Akasatana / Rush! Production, 2007]. In my opinion, Twigy is one of the best MCs in Japan, and I'd love to work with him again.


Artists like Silent Poets and Raphael Sebbag are older than me, and I wanted to work with them because they were pioneers in their own scene and they did a fantastic job in Japan. Silent Poets are pioneers of Japanese dub and are known for using beautiful strings to create a cinematic sound, and their shows are always incredible. Michiharu Shimoda is the leader of the group and they now perform with over 10 members. Raphael Sebbag was very active in the club scene in Tokyo, from the 80s to the 2000s, and he kind of was the first person that started playing a lot of Latin, Brazilian and African music in Japan. So he created a following for that. I have a lot of respect for U.F.O. because of all they did for the club music scene in Japan, and we became friends.



Obviously, Tommy Guerrero is very central as part of Rush! Production. He was a superstar skateboarder in the 80s and he's still very active and inspiring as a musician. Money Mark is a genius! I didn't have the opportunity to work with him recently, but he's definitely a key person in Rush's history because he connected us to a lot of different artists, like Beastie Boys and Thomas Campbell. And a lot of our collaborations happened because of Mark, so I have gratitude for what he has done. Besides, I'm always on the lookout for younger artists that are coming up as well.


Money Mark's portrait. Photogragy by Akiko Bharoocha circa 1995
Money Mark's portrait, circa 2005. Photography by Akiko Bharoocha

Jon

So obviously, you worked with Tommy Guerrero to release nearly all his albums in Japan, even reissuing his older records. And even though Money Mark is busier at the moment, you also released a lot of his work. It’s basically the definition of successful collaborations.


Yasushi

I'm in contact with Tommy every week at the moment, because he has an upcoming Tour that we're trying to book in Japan, and he's gonna be releasing new music soon. And even if Tommy already has a long career, he still has so much more potential as an artist and he's continuing to grow. He recently Toured Europe, which was probably over 20 cities and he was very successful.


Money Mark is busy collaborating with a lot of big artists right now, so he hasn't been releasing any solo material recently. But if he does, I would love to release it again in Japan. It would be great to be able to reissue Mark's Keyboard Repair [Toy's Factory / Mo Wax, 1998] and Push The Button [Toy's Factory / Mo Wax, 1998] on Rush! Production. A couple of years ago, I wanted to bring out Tommy and Mark but with the whole COVID situation it wasn't possible.


Jon

Since the Mo Wax catalog belongs to Universal, did you have in mind to license Mark's first albums through them?


Yasushi

Robert Bennett doesn't manage Money Mark anymore, but there was a time when we spoke over the phone, and Money Mark said that the rights for those two albums came back to him. I've seen on Mark's website that he has put these albums up on iTunes on his own and sells the tracks on his website, so maybe there's a possibility...


Jon

You have this project called Unclouded Eyes, which actually gathers famous producers such as Tommy, Cut Chemist, Howie B, Everton Nelson and Mario Caldato Jr. Can you explain what's the concept behind this project and if these people are meant to work together?


Yasushi

I came up with the Unclouded Eyes idea in 2021 because I wanted to bring some kind of new material out into the world, as a production company.


Unclouded Eyes is a side project that was launched by Rush! Production in 2021
Unclouded Eyes is a side project that was launched by Rush! Production in 2021

I've had a long relationship with those five producers. My idea was not to have them work together, but having them produce Japanese artists. I'm already talking to different labels and management companies for that project. Some of those local artists have already started to record their vocals and stuff, but I can't reveal which ones yet...


And within this project, Howie B produced a remix for a Jap DJ named Cartoon ["Locking Systems (Howie B Remix)", 2021], so that's already been released. I'm currently talking with a TV production company to make music for them using these producers and it might be released on CD later, plus I'm also talking with fashion brands for the same. So it's a pretty new project, but I want to take my time with it.


Jon

Did you meet Cut Chemist when he and Shadow played in Japan in 2001 during the Product Placement Tour, and how did you start working together?


Yasushi

I've always been a fan of Cut Chemist. He did a great remix for Major Force when they were on Mo Wax ["The Re-Return Of The Original Art-Form (Reinterpreted By Cut Chemist)" / Mo Wax, 2000] and I loved all the projects that Cut worked on with Shadow. But we first met much later than that.


In 2011, there was a festival in Japan located in Shizuoka called Metamorphose. And so Lucas came to Japan to perform there [September 3, 2011], but it actually got canceled because of a typhoon, so he ended up playing at another venue instead [September 6, 2011 @ Warehouse702 in Azabujuban, Tokyo (with thanks to Cut Chemist)] and that's where we met.


Flier for the Metamorphose 2011 festival where Cut Chemist was meant to play. It got canceled because of a typhoon
Flyer for the Metamorphose 2011 festival where Cut Chemist was meant to play. It got canceled because of a typhoon

I really wanted to work with him and release his work, but because he was already in Jurassic 5, it was hard to do that. It took about a year of communication and preparation, but the first thing I did with Cut was to bring him over to Japan, and I had him perform for three different Tours since then.


He came back in 2013 [in celebration of Wax Poetics Japan's 5th anniversary] to play at this big venue called AgeHa in Tokyo, which was an event with DJ Krush [November 15, 2013]. Whenever I would bring Cut over, I'd be taking him to dinner, and if he wanted to go record shopping, I'd take him record shopping. So I was able to build a friendship with Cut through all the shows.


At some point, Cut said he wanted to release a project called Cut Chemist Presents Funk Off [AWDR/LR2 / Rush! Production / A Stable Sound / Vox Man Records, 2013], which is a compilation of experimental new wave from French artists Vox Populi! and Pacific 231.


Yasushi and Cut Chemist holding Cut Chemist Presents Funk Off, 2013
Yasushi and Cut Chemist holding Cut Chemist Presents Funk Off, 2013

Rush released that CD, it was distributed through a company called Space Shower, and we also made some tees for that release. And because we released all that, I was able to talk to Cut about the Unclouded Eyes project, trying to make a collaboration happen between him and a Japanese artist.


Jon

Sometimes, companies have to change their business plan to stay afloat. Did Rush! Production have to go through transformations over the years in terms of business or structure?


Yasushi

As I said earlier, being able to release CDs is important for Rush and that's the main part of our business. But actually, a lot of it is also centered around PR work for other companies and artists, and also booking Tours and events for DJs. And so the company has shifted more towards booking events and PR work for about two or three years.


But then with the pandemic, a lot of the artists I already had booked for events got canceled. And there was actually a music event I was working on for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics that couldn't happen… It's been very difficult for the company because for the last two years, we haven't been able to bring artists over.


Since more events are happening again, we're hoping to be able to bring out artists this autumn and winter, and that should probably help Rush's business. I get many offers from a lot of international artists and labels to promote their music in Japan. That gives me the opportunity to be more selective and I can work with artists that I respect. That's the kind of stuff I'm doing right now.


Jon

In 2004, 2005 and 2008, Keb Darge, Josh and Dante Carfagna came over to Japan for Deep Funk Tours. Rush's logo can be seen on the flier that advertised for the first event, so what was your role exactly?


From top left to bottom right: Yusuke Ogawa (owner of Universounds in Tokyo, where the photo was taken), Keb Darge, DJ Koco, DJ Shadow, DJ Tus-One, DJ Daisuke Kuroda, Dante Carfagna and Ryuhei The Man. Shot during the first Deep Funk Tour, September 2004
From top left to bottom right: Yusuke Ogawa (owner of Universounds in Tokyo, where the photo was taken), Keb Darge, DJ Koco, DJ Shadow, DJ Tus-One, DJ Daisuke Kuroda, Dante Carfagna and Ryuhei The Man. Shot during the first Deep Funk Tour, September 2004

Yasushi

So with the Deep Funk Tours, as you said, Rush was involved in all three of them. And this happened because I wanted to book DJ Shadow for a live event. So I asked Hashim to talk to Josh about it. And Josh said, "Doing a DJ Shadow solo event will be very expensive, but I have this other thing called Deep Funk with Dante and Keb. You can't use the DJ Shadow name, but if you want to do this, you can book this Tour instead." Despite being unable to use his artist's name to promote the show, we accepted.


Flier for the Deep Funk Tour 2008 in Japan
Flyer for the Deep Funk Japan Tour 2008

We brought this idea over to Daizo Murata, who had previously booked the Psyence Fiction Release Party back in the day [September 22, 1998 @ Club Yellow, Tokyo]. At the time, Daizo owned Club AIR in Tokyo, and being a fan of DJ Shadow, he was happy to book the show. The 2004 show was such a big success that we were able to book two more events!


Club owner Daizo Murata who permitted Yasushi to book several Mo Wax related events over the years
Club owner Daizo Murata who permitted Yasushi to book several Mo Wax related events over the years

Jon

When The Hyphy Movement [Rush! Production / Toy's Factory, 2007] came out, and even though it was written "DJ Shadow" on it, it was unclear to me if it was legit or not because it came completely unannounced. I was like "How come that Shadow released it in Japan only and why is there no promotion on his website?" For this project, Hashim was doing A&R which is a totally different job compared to translation, so how did you manage to do that together?


Yasushi

After the end of the contract between Rush and Asmik Ace, I started a new contract with Toy's Factory where they would manufacture and distribute the CDs that we wanted to release. And so I had to come up with different ideas. I wanted to do something with Shadow, and he offered to release this project with us.


The Hyphy Movement compiled by DJ Shadow (TFCK-86811, Rush! Production / Toy's Factory, 2007). Art direction by Takashi Koshima
The Hyphy Movement compiled by DJ Shadow (TFCK-86811, Rush! Production / Toy's Factory, 2007). Art direction by Takashi Koshima

Hashim

I got involved because I'm friends with Josh. And then as a DJ, I was also really into the hyphy stuff that was coming out of the Bay Area. So I thought it'd be a really cool idea to kind of capture that moment and put it into a compilation. Shadow also wanted to have some kind of document of that time by recording the artists who were developing that style. He had just released his 3rd LP [The Outsider / Island Records, 2006] where a number of hyphy artists were featured, so Josh introduced a lot of these artists to us and that's how we got in contact with them.


I met Shadow around that time. I have written the liner notes for the Japanese version of The Outsider [Island Records, UICI-1048, 2006] and I probably interviewed him for that LP when he came to Japan. I heard a lot of hyphy stuff through Shadow, and I actually loved that record a lot, so that got me excited to work on this compilation. And after we started working on this, we actually went to San Francisco, because we had to interview artists like Maroons [Chief Xcel and Lateef the Truth Speaker] and Tommy Guerrero. So while we were out there we met with the hyphy artist Nump and he got in touch with a lot of other artists and their managers for us. So he was very helpful and that's how we were able to make this compilation happen.


Nump, Turf Talk, Keak Da Sneak and Yasushi meeting at Sonar Festival in Barcelona, Spain (June 16, 2006). Photography by Oliver Solente
Nump, Turf Talk, Keak Da Sneak and Yasushi meeting during Shadow's Tour at Sonar Festival in Barcelona, Spain (June 16, 2006). Photography by Oliver Solente

Jon

In 2005, Rush released Money Mark's Father Demo Square [Rush! Production / Asmik Ace, 2005]. And one of the versions came with a Medicom Toy figure representing Mark. It seems to me that many of the merch surrounding his work are dolls or toys, so maybe it's one of his passions? And since James Lavelle wasn't there anymore, who came up with this idea?


Yasushi

So you know, when Mo Wax created a doll with sunglasses and the Vinyl Killer, that was obviously James' idea. But we actually kind of wanted to take on the tradition that James started and release a toy for this project. Medicom Toy was becoming very popular around the world, so I asked them if they could make one of those Kubrick's figures. We had to determine how many would be made and so it took a while for us to reach an agreement.


The Father Demo Square album's cover was designed by Kazuki Kuraishi. It was based on the idea of Mark getting inspiration from people in the city. We had Mark walk around in Harajuku and Shibuya and we hired a photographer to take photos of him writing lyrics in the city. A lot of the inspiration came from Mark being in Tokyo, and apparently the title is inspired by Washington Square Garden in New York City.


Father Demo Square by Money Mark (ACCR-10039, Rush! Production / Asmik Ace, 2005). Sleeve by Kazuki Kuraishi
Father Demo Square by Money Mark (ACCR-10039, Rush! Production / Asmik Ace, 2005). Sleeve by Kazuki Kuraishi

This project was very memorable for me because of Money Mark's actual presence in Japan for the photoshooting. And it wasn't like Mark was a huge figure or toy fan, but when I showed him its final design he was really happily surprised. Somehow, it also fits the aesthetic of Mark's music because he uses a lot of toy instruments and stuff.


Yasushi's family (Yoko and Rune) with Money Mark, 2006
Yasushi's family (Yoko and Rune) with Money Mark, 2006

Jon

As you said before, circa 2008 you went on to work with AWDR/LR2 up to 2021 and then you went with Octave Lab, which is a sub company of Ultra-Vybe Inc. Ultra-Vybe Inc. is also releasing UNKLE's recent projects [The Road (Part II): Lost Highway / Songs For The Def, 2019] in Japan, so I'm wondering if you're meant to work with UNKLE again in the near future?


Yasushi

At the moment, there aren't any plans for Rush to work with UNKLE, but if James comes to me for the same, we obviously would love to do that. UNKLE is still very popular in Europe and they perform at a lot of festivals. They're this really big band, and so it can be difficult to release their music in Japan. As far as I know, the past few UNKLE albums haven't been licensed in the country, but James is very good at promoting and marketing the different UNKLE projects. I remember one of James' posts on social media where he was doing street promo posters in London, and I thought that it was a strong move. There are talks to possibly book DJ events for James in the future though.


Hashim Bharoocha & DJ Shadow at Rappcats in Los Angeles, 2018. Hosted by Egon of Now Again records
Hashim Bharoocha & DJ Shadow at Rappcats in Los Angeles, 2018. Hosted by Egon of Now Again Records

Jon

In 2018, Rush reissued Tommy Guerrero's first album called Loose Grooves & Bastard Blues [Rush! Production / Too Good, 2018] on vinyl and cassette. I don't think there are too many Rush vinyl, but in most cases they are records related to his work. Why don't you press records for other artists?


Yasushi

This reissue was released in collaboration with Manhattan Records, which is a record store in Japan. Rush's involvement was to coordinate the license, but it was actually licensed by Manhattan Records for LP and cassette, and pressed in Germany. Next year is gonna be the 25th anniversary of Loose Grooves & Bastard Blues so Tommy is probably going to release that and a lot of his older material on his label called Too Good. Rush has exclusive rights to release Tommy's music on CD in Japan and also book his Tours.


The reason why we don't press records is obviously because it's quite expensive, and we also don't have room to store that sort of volume. With CD releases, we work with different companies who manufacture and hold the stock, they also take care of the distribution for us.


Tommy Guerrero & Yasushi (aka Boba Fett)
Tommy Guerrero & Yasushi (aka Boba Fett)

Jon

Can you tell me more about the other artists that you have released on Rush and its activity on the radio scene?


Yasushi

We have released music by Ray Barbee who's also a pro skateboarder and musician who is known as a guitarist but he released a synthesizer record on Rush [Tiara For Computer, 2018]. There's a band called Blktop Project which is Tommy Guerrero, Ray Barbee with another skater named Matt Rodriguez and Chuck Treece, and we've released their 2013 [The Begin on Rush! Production / AWDR/LR2] and 2019 [Dub Session on Rush! Production / AWDR/LR2] albums. I previously mentioned Josh Lippi, and he and Tommy have a dual project together called Los Days that we have released as well.


Ray Barbee at the Fuji Rock Festival '18. Photography by Ripzinger
Ray Barbee at the Fuji Rock Festival '18. Photography by Ripzinger

We've had a long collaboration with a radio station called InterFM 89.7, and my brother Fumitaka is in charge of booking the guests that appear on a radio show called Tokyo Scene each Friday night, from 8PM to 10PM. We've featured DJ Yellow from France and the Hawaiian label Aloha Got Soul.


Next to that, Rush does PR work for a UK label called BBE, and that's how we've had several BBE guests interviewed on the Tokyo Scene radio show such as DJ Amir and even Peter Adarkwah who owns the label. BBE released a J Dilla project [Welcome 2 Detroit (The 20th Anniversary Edition), 2021], Brian Jackson's This is Brian Jackson [2022] and a Jazzanova project [Strata Records (The Sound Of Detroit Reimagined By Jazzanova), 2022] recently, so we did radio shows around those.


DJ Alex From Tokyo and Yasushi in NYC, 2006
DJ Alex From Tokyo and Yasushi in NYC, 2006

We are also in charge of coordinating another radio show on InterFM called beatDAYZ together with Masafumi Watanabe — who is the owner of a Japanese clothing brand called Bedwin — and with another guy called KATOMAN. So Rush works on that too.


Jon

What are your projects for 2022 and beyond?


Yasushi

So there's a lot of projects in the work, but it's kind of hard to say that they're happening because there's a lot of factors involved. There's the Unclouded Eyes project that is moving forward, there's probably going to be new music from Tommy and there might be more new music from the artists he's been working with. There's also a label called 12on12, which I'm planning on working with, and I'm still doing the promotion for BBE. This is also affected by the whole COVID situation, plus the war happening in Ukraine has brought up gas prices, and so flights and stuff are really expensive right now. I'm working on trying to bring artists like A-Trak, Bob Sinclar and DJ Yellow to Japan this year.


Jon

As we are coming to the terms of this interview, do you have any last words?


Yasushi

I first wanted to thank you Jon for having done these interviews with me. Shout out to Strictly Kev for putting us in touch so easily in the first place. I want to thank James Lavelle for the friendship and trust, and give a shoutout to Daizo Murata from Global Hearts for having booked DJ Shadow and UNKLE shows in his clubs. Lastly, I want to thank President Koichi Inaba from Toy's Factory who allowed me to do all these releases during the Mo Wax Japan days.


 

First part of this interview: Yasushi Takayama: The Man from Mo Wax Japan


Yasushi Takayama can be reached out to through his label Rush! Production, and also on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Many thanks to Hashim Bharoocha for live translation and his active part into the whole process. Shoutouts to Strictly Kev for opening his Ninja Tune photo archives, and to Beezer and Akiko Bharoocha for allowing us to use their work. Thanks to Rob from UNKLE77 for providing us with high res pics and technical help. All other photos from Yasushi's archives, online sources and our own files. Extra special thanks to Cut Chemist for additional information.

-----

Interview made by Jon on March 26 and May 14, 2022

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Great interviews. Really cool to hear about Toy's from an insider's perspective, especially the artwork.

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