At the moment I'm doing this completely self-indulgent series of articles for Impact magazine over in the UK - focusing on what I've unoriginally dubbed The Greatest Anime Ever Made. Most of it's selected by me, much of it is obvious (Ghost in the Shell, Akira), and on the feedback front I've conscripted a lot of local Japanese filmmakers, manga artists, anime crew, and - well, since they're cool and I dig their muzak - DJs and producers.
One of these helpful talking heads has been Shinji Tokida, who runs the record labels Fountain Music and Plaza In Crowd, and he cites Akira as the number one anime experience in his lifetime. "I love Akira - I even had the jacket," he recently told me. "I love the drawing touch and the characters' eyes, as well as the universal future concept which struck my mind when I was still in primary school."
Tokida also cited Mamoru Oshii's early opus Patlabor. "Oh, the Patlabor movie - I watched it when I was in elementary school; also I collected the manga and read it on my futon. I was a heavy fan and I remember that I bought the model kit, but I was too young to figure it out and put it together. Still, it was a good memory."
Then he pulled back to the here and now.
"These days I'm only into music, so I don't watch movies or TV and I don't read comics."
When I pitched the idea at Shinji this week that I'd like to extend beyond the anime references and talk to him more about his labels and himself, the man was thrilled. "One of my dreams has been to be interviewed by someone - thank you for fulfilling that!" he enthused.
Without a second to breathe, it seems, Tokida is off - the guy is a joy to quiz.
"I started DJing at 17, scratching records - I'd just changed instruments from the guitar to turntables and got right into hip hop. Then, in my Tokyo years, I came across more valuable music like house, jazz, soul and funk - and at last I arrived at techno. This was my true start to explore the business of music in my life."
Thus there are his record labels.
"The Plaza name was founded in front of my Mac at the funeral of Michael Jackson as he set forth for the heavenly world. It's a is techno label, with the concept being a dream crowd, all the people in the world together in one party. Fountain Music is more beautiful electronic sounds. I started a label more than ten years ago, when I was 19 - at that time I was crazy about the Mo' Wax label, and I read a magazine article that said the label owner James Lavelle started the label at 16 years of age. I just felt that I was so late starting a label after that!"
That early experiment folded later, however. "The label closed and for three years I did nothing - then I saw a beautiful woman at Nagoya Station, and it got me thinking: What is beauty? I thought about that on the train, and I just dreamed that if everyone is beautiful, the world would be a happier place. On the train home I decided to start new label."
Other influences include "Derrick May, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and also Yoko Ono", while he cites fellow labels like M-Nus and Cocoon. "But I have a dream to make my label a major player like Sony or EMI, because I am a music lover."
At the current time Tokida is pursuing more humble ambitions, but he's always looking to expand the horizons and is keen to share these ideas with others.
"We do CD pressing and distribute in Japan and Europe; we also do some digital releases. We're currently working on the new Popnoname CD release Surrounded By Mars - we got the finished product just today," he says. There's a promo video on YouTube here.
"Popnoname is my best friend in Cologne along with his producer Marc Knauer who runs the Italic label."
And then there are all the other artists he's currently working with.
"With DJ Yellow I feel a real sense of destiny, from Dave Angel there's super high energy, Dublee is an intelligent man, Sans Soleil is our first contracted artist, my neighborhood friend Takaaki Tsuchiya, new artist Temma Teje, Thopa, Death on the Balcony, Synethesys, Genevieve, and Astrid Suryanto." He pauses for breath. "These are the older friends we're working with, but we're also connecting with new artists such as Soundsquirt, Ney Faustini from São Paulo, Ron Schubert, Peter Clamat, Peter 'CWB' Mooka and Trancemicsoul. 4/4 Kicks Kiss and Sasaki Hiroaki, Louis Haiman and Masha Era are the latest inclusions."
Then there're the remixers they're calling in: Dubfire, Dave Angel, Mijk van Dijk, K.P.I., James Ruskin, Si Begg, Donk Boys, Dave Tarrida, and more (apparently) to come.
"The designers I'm working with on artwork and so on are my very old best friends Quenta and Beople [Yukifumi Uchida], and one of my bigger influences comes from Mars Gallery Tokyo and photographer Rikki Kasso.
Japan has a great history of cool electronic musicians - like YMO, Isao Tomita, Susumu Hirasawa, Ken Ishii, Takkyu Ishino, Fumiya Tanaka, DJ Krush, Satoshi Fumi, Hifana, Merzbow, Captain Funk, DJ Warp, Cut Bit Motorz, Toshiyuki Yasuda and Shin Nishimura.
"Techno's root is also in Japan," declares Shinji. "Technology and industry make people intelligent and active to love."
"We have to blast out this solution to all over the world and get in touch to all people who love music!" Tokida enthuses.