Shibuya-kei DJ Tanaka spins in the New YearTo Japanese DJ Tomoyuki Tanaka, getting old means adding something to his list of favorites. This is what lies beneath his stylish concoction of music from his lengthy list of favorite tunes ranging from the bossa nova to electronica. With more than 25,000 records at home, this internationally acclaimed DJ recently added one more thing to his list of favorites ― ringing in a new year in Seoul, performing for his fanatic Korean fans.
Under the name of his solo project group, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Mr. Tanaka did a countdown to greet 2005 with a party/concert at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where thousands of Korean clubbers danced to his deejaying. This from-dusk-till-dawn event, whose promotion posters were plastered in hip places around town like the Hongik University area for weeks, ended up as a huge success, with the rather expensive 50,000 won ($40) to 60,000 won tickets all sold out.
Since the late 1990s, Mr. Tanaka as Fantastic Plastic Machine, or FPM, has been a club scene figure, whose style belongs to what’s dubbed “Shibuya-kei,” referring to a chic mixture of lounge, French pop, bossa nova and soft rock, which gained popularity especially in Shibuya, in the western part of Tokyo. Along with other musicians like Pizzicato Five and Cornelius, FPM takes a key position in the Shibuya-kei.
Before FPM, Mr. Tanaka pursued various genres with groups like Margarine Strikes Back and Sound Impossible.
Speaking a few hours before the concert, Mr. Tanaka said that he got the name from the title of a small American surfing film, which he has never seen, but he liked the sound of the words. “Plus, a CD itself is a ‘fantastic plastic machine,’” Mr. Tanaka said, dressed in pants customized from sofa-covering fabric with a flower pattern on his rather plump and grand physique.
If you don’t recognize Mr. Tanaka or FPM, you still probably have heard his music in a number of Korean TV commercials. Mr. Tanaka has also been featured on the original sound track of the Hollywood production “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” Not that his style is about easy listening.
His former works include making music with the Icelandic avant-garde musician Bjork. FPM style eludes a fixed definition, with Mr. Tanaka pursuing diversity thanks to his extensive collection of records and CDs.
Mr. Tanaka himself has produced and released a dozen albums, which have been coming out in Korea over the past few years, with one more new release scheduled at the end of this month.
And it’s not just the music to enjoy on FPM’s CDs; another pleasure is the fun cover work, enriched with illustrations and designs by Mr. Tanaka himself.
The quintessence of FPM’s music is what Mr. Tanaka describes as “unexpected, coincidental experimentalism.” Mr. Tanaka, who compares performing to cooking, said, “You never know which taste you’re going to get, but it’s fun to mix various spices to encounter a hybrid to savor. That’s the fun part of my music.”
Which is why Mr. Tanaka defines his style as “pop.” “There’s nothing wrong about going pop, although some underground artists may deprecate it. I want anyone, say a middle-aged woman living as a peddler at a market, to enjoy my music.”
To pursue that pop music, however, Mr. Tanaka jokingly says that he considers “he’s been working too much all the time, every time he looks back.” His biggest New Year’s resolution, therefore, is “to never work too much.” But he seems to make the same resolution every year and is already busy making plans to perform again, with hopes of returning to Korea soon.
by Chun Su-jin