Music by VICE

IMPRINTS: Abstract Architecture

For label owner Satoshi Tomiie, it’s about the right balance between letting go and concentration.

by Julia Martineau
Jun 1 2015, 3:30pm

Imprints brings you weekly profiles of the most exciting independent record labels the world over, written by movers and shakers from within their own electronic music communities.

Name: Abstract Architecture
Vibe: Narrative-oriented house
Founded: 2015
Location: Tokyo

Launching his career in Japan during the late 1980s, Satoshi Tomiie is the veteran producer known for crafting meticulous house music for upward of twenty years. Tomiie's debut single "Tears" was co-produced in 1989 with Chicago dance legend Frankie Knuckles and became an immediate worldwide success. Since then, Tomiie has held releases on labels like Running Back and Sony, toured with the storied Ryuichi Sakamoto, and kept up a rigorous global DJ schedule.

Sixteen years after his debut full-length, Tomiie is releasing his second original album New Day on June 22 via his own emerging imprint Abstract Architecture. The complex offering speaks to his accomplished background and is a culmination of the styles that have influenced him throughout his life. THUMP caught up with the influential figure in house music to learn more about his inspirations, creative processes, and the vision behind his newly inaugurated label.

THUMP: What was the inspiration behind the label name?
Satoshi Tomiie: Composing music is very similar to creating architecture. Bridges are built through skill and for the actual use of a human being. Old architectural styles are borrowed from and blended with the new. To me, this applies to music as well—especially dance music, which is so repetitive. A producer can cut a three-minute song for one second, then loop it, and it takes on a completely different meaning from its original sound. To me, that is an art. There is a very similar process happening in the world of architecture, which I find fascinating. That's really where the name comes from.

How would you describe the sound of your latest album?
You can think of my latest album as a musical journey, or a story that people can listen to from beginning to end. The album is not a collection of 12 singles that are ready for the club dancefloor. Of course, the listener can enjoy each individual song, but as a cohesive album there is much more meaning to it. I want people to listen to the album and interpret it for themselves.

What is your production style like?
It starts with writing a lot of sound sketches. Most of the time, it's something simple—just two bars of a groove, a simple bass line, or a drum machine programming. Then I let the track "sleep" for a while. I let the grooves age for a few hours or a few months. Developing the grooves into songs is sometimes simple and sometimes a real challenge. I often question the music, make something else, and repeat the process until I manage to tap into a special sound. For me, it's about the right balance between letting go and concentration.

What's the dance music scene like in Tokyo?
I am from Tokyo but resided there during the very early stages of its club culture in the late 1980s, when people didn't have much of an idea of what house music was. There were very few releases from local artists then. I have been living outside Japan for over 20 years. I go back roughly every six months and DJ there. From what I have seen, musically speaking, the scene is quite healthy and the parties are awesome. I bet you hear similar—or better—answers from other DJs who have been there to play. Notorious 'Fueiho' (a police ban on dancing) has been in effect for decades, but it's about to change. This will likely have a huge impact on the Tokyo club scene and make its future brighter.

Watch: Japan's War on Dance: Clubbing in the State of Fueiho

What are some of your upcoming releases?
We just released the first album sampler and part two is coming very soon. Both include originals and remixes from Ron Trent, DJ Sneak, Fred P, and myself. I have a huge amount of respect for these artists because they all deliver fantastic work. Obviously, the album itself and singles will follow. As for after the album, you will have to stay tuned! I've been working on some new musical challenges. Pretty excited, I have to say.

What makes Abstract Architecture different from other labels?
Abstract Architecture is more than just a label—to me, it's a gallery of curated music. Right now, I'm focusing on the release of the album and the samples and singles around it. Then, I'll be moving onto the next project. Sometimes, I'll collaborate with other artists. Abstract Architecture is defined by continuous movement and is a different entity from a regular label.

How do you choose your artists?
It's really a sustained effort. For this album, I actually listened to each song and picked the artist who would fit the best. Making choices like that is really the hardest part of owning your own imprint and running everything.

What challenges do you face running the label?
There's a lot of weight in running a label by yourself and a lot of work involved. As an artist, producer, and label owner, you have to wear many hats. You basically need more than 24 hours in a day to do it all. Total control is great, but at the same time, it's a lot of responsibility. You have total freedom, but at the same time, total obligation.

What's next for you in 2015?
I'm excited to have Maayam Nidam joining me at Air in Tokyo and Circus in Osaka for the album launch. She did a fantastic remix of "New Day" which will be released on the label later this year.

'Second Sampler' is now available on Abstract Architecture.

Satoshi Tomiie is on Twitter // SoundCloud // Facebook