037: ALEX FROM TOKYO's Intoxicating Summer's Brew
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
PARIS <> BERLIN <> TOKYO
Perhaps no one represents the cosmopolitan nature of dance music better than Alex Prat, known affectionately by his fans as Alex from Tokyo. The Paris born, Tokyo raised, Berlin based DJ has forged cultural connections between East and West throughout his long and storied career in music spanning the last 30+ years. Alex continues to be an artist that defies boundaries and categorization.
While we won’t rehash Alex’s entire career here (as a biography or memoir would be more suitable to do Alex’s life justice), it is important to highlight how integral Alex was in connecting the dance scenes and people of Tokyo, and Japan more broadly, with Europe and the rest of the world in the 1990s.
Whether working in the realm of fashion, sound design, music production, radio or clubbing, Alex has continued to be a cultural ambassador throughout his life; his life experience in multiple hemispheres and time periods makes him perfectly suited to do so. The man emanates a harmony through the mixtures of sounds, ideas, cultures and inspirations which are singular to his lifetime of experiences.
Alex spent a good part of the 2010’s in New York City after moving back and forth between Tokyo and Paris throughout the 90’s and 2000’s. Now based in Berlin, Alex is the head honcho of the “World Famous” label (cheekily named by Alex’s friends for Alex’s role as global purveyor of dance music;), which recently started a Bandcamp page after running mainly limited pressed vinyl releases that were very hard to find.
He is a member Tokyo Black Star, a “galactic samurai” musical trio comprised of Alex, sound designer Isao Kumano, and analog aficionado, Kenichi Tanagi making future leaning music. Alex helped found popular Japanese audio brand, Phonon, which Alex represents globally. And, yes, he still somehow has time to be a highly sought after DJ.
As for current news in Alex’s world, Tokyo Black Star’s collaboration with Quinn Lamont Luke, (formerly known as Bing Ji Ling of Phenomenal Hand Clap Band fame), “Not My Day” will be seeing a reissue soon on Quinn’s El Triangulo label.
Phonon has released a new pair of headphones called the SMB-01L and SMB-03, touted for their extraordinary build and sound quality. Alex continues to inspire with his constant flow state and boundless energy.
Enjoy my interview with Alex and his mix exclusively for O&O below...
Alex, Thank you so much for joining our series! We are thrilled to have you on as we are big fans.
So as we always ask at the start of our interview- how are you doing right now? What was your experience during lockdown and has it brought on any new ways of looking at your art and work?
The long multiple lockdowns (between Arizona, Ghent and Berlin) connected our family and close friendships stronger.
I also became a father for the 2nd time, with the birth of our 2nd daughter last December. My life changed 180 degrees and it has been non stop DJ Papa mode at home! It has been a challenging complicated time in every way including of course DJing and travelling.
My wife and daughters have been such great inspiration and support through these re-adjusting times. We always remind ourselves how fortunate and privileged we are. This period has been a reality-check, reassessing everything in my life and enabling me to think about my work and my art. I feel I am still going through some kind of a transformation.
I haven’t been able to make much music but I have listened to a lot of music. I realise how much music means to me and it gave me new perspectives and hope about my activities finding a good balance while doing what I love the most.
Fortunately I was able to focus on some of my non-DJ activities like our audio brand PHONON and other music/audio/Japan related projects which was a good thing. But I miss DJing at my favorite parties and travelling. I have been trying to stay positive and creative as much as possible.
I recently saw a photo of you on a ranch in Wyoming. Is that right? What was happening there?
I am visiting now my wife’s family at their home in Wyoming. They live on a nice ranch with 6 horses outside Casper in beautiful nature. It is so peaceful. I love it. My father-in-law is a real rancher and cowboy, he still team-ropes every week. We went to the Rodeo Final last weekend and it was amazing! We will go after to Yellow Stone national park and California.
So as a world traveller and cultural ambassador for life, are there any memories you’d like to share with us? A colorful anecdote from your work in music, fashion or design?
The most extravagant event I think I DJ-ed at was at this big Louis Vuitton party in the early 2000s in a huge warehouse in Tokyo Bay. The theme was “2001 Space Odyssey” and they re-created the movie decor! It really felt like you were in there in the big space-ship. Some of the staff were dressed up as astronauts floating…it was surreal and very elegant too!
You are constantly involved in new projects and events. How do you maintain energy and optimism around your mutli dimensional work as an artist?
I don’t see myself as a pure artist. I am a DJ at heart bringing people together with happy positive vibes. I am also a connector and a producer who loves to share and collaborate. Connecting Japan and Europe especially has always been part of my mission.
I guess cultural ambassador is a great description. When I represented the French label F Communications in Japan in the mid to late 90s, my title was Japan Ambassador. Collaborating and working on different types of projects with different people and challenging myself keep me excited and alive every day.
Are there any artistic / career highlights for you that fall outside the realm of music? What was the project?
It is not a project I worked on, it is bigger than that, it is an unforgettable lifetime experience that opened up and changed my life, it is my 1st Blues Music road trip (followed by 2 others) with my dad (who is a huge blues fan), from Memphis, through the deep Mississippi Delta to the North Mississippi Hills. It was a truly soulful trip, the deep music heritage, the Stax Museum, the Civil Rights Museum, the African-American history, Clarksdale, the juke-joints, the musicians, the people, the North Mississippi Hill picnic, the Shack-Up Inn, the food etc, we went back to the roots and it was very inspiring!
Now onto the music… what are you working on right now that we should be excited about?
I recently took part of this great “Japan 90s Disk Guide” book in Japan in charge of the Japanese house music section which was a fun introspective exercise for me going through all these records from that era that had a great impact on me. I am currently preparing and working on a Japan-related music project I am very excited about.
On the production side, I am very much looking forward to finally get back to this Japanese gagaku music remix project some friends recorded. Let’s see where it will take me.
For my label World Famous, I would like to re-introduce Tokyo Black Star to the new generation, our album for Innervisions was released more than 12 years ago and I am planning to put together a special collection of unreleased and new music.
Tell us about this mix - where and how was it recorded? You told me it’s a “summer mix” and mentioned your children were there and you were enjoying yourself ... music to my ears ….
This mix was recorded in Berlin at home one beautiful morning just before we left for the US with my daughters playing around in the living room. It was pretty special and fun. Everything flowed naturally. It is more of a selection of music of the moment, some current favorite old and new records (a few Japanese jams too) I picked up spontaneously as a laid back feel-good eclectic summer soundtrack to listen at home, in the car, in your backyard, in the park….
Any parting words of wisdom for us or your fans as we conclude the interview?
The pandemic showed us how life is fragile and special. Let’s make sure we stay healthy for our well-being. Like the Japanese say “健康第一” “Health comes first”. Life is short. Let’s make sure we embrace it and do what we like.
Thank you once again for giving me the opportunity to share this selection of music with you! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. You can catch me live every 2 months on my residency show “ta bi bi to” on Kiosk Radio in Brussels. The next one is on August 10th. In the meantime, I wish all of you a great safe summer full of good vibrations!
Thank you so much, Alex! You are a true inspiration.
Please enjoy this exclusive mix by a world-renowned selector and cross-cultural icon. It will take you on a trip to exotic, airy and intoxicating places.