On Our Guestlist: Fumiya Tanaka

It’s one thing to produce a great track, but we are only complacently sold when we've also heard a thrilling set from a DJ. Though there can be no set formula, they ought to tell a story, to somehow progress coherently while remaining unpredictable, and provoke some sort of interior renovations to their listeners. They’re not easy to master, not everyone should do both, but there are some dedicated sound painters out there that are simply doing a tremendous job on each aspect. Producing, mixing, track selection and attitude - all flawless - while we can only imagine how much pressure and hard work that involves.
"On our guestlist" features artists that are outstanding in all the aspects mentioned above. That’s why they often get to be on our guest list.

Through his long career over 20 years as a DJ and a producer, Fumiya Tanaka has been the most prolific artist on the front line of the Japanese scene. Although his sound was more into techno at the beginning of his career, since moving to Berlin Tanaka started putting his own twist on a small but increasingly neglected corner of minimal, where boggling brains is just as important as moving feet.
In the early 1990s, Fumiya was still one of the many dancers in Osaka's nightlife, his hometown, and the place with the world's highest cost of living. There, he launched his own party series called "Chaos", which he has since hosted, inviting befriended guest DJs from all over the world to the underground scene of Japan.
Anyone buying a one-way ticket to the other end of the world usually decides to leave friends, family and their own home behind in order to start all over again from the beginning. The Japanese artist left the land of the setting sun in 2009 and moved to Berlin to start a new chapter. Today, Fumiya is not only a fixed techno-size in his own country, his productions are played worldwide and span a range between brute loop techno and deep grooving house.
Fumiya Tanaka has one of the most distinctive sounds in minimal, with one of the most recognisable aesthetics. Tanaka's beats hit hard, swamping the dance floor with fat snares and tumbling basslines, in a minimal format which is a reflection of the innovator's desire to seek new possibilities.
Since turning to softer sounds after ten years of making purist techno, he's put out melody-rich slow-burners ("Für Elodie"), latin-flavoured summer jams ("I Can Tell You Of Course I Know It Was"), subaquatic brain-melters ("What's That Called Water? (Dub)") and everything in between. 

As previous collaborations with Villalobos and Thomas Melchior have shown, Tanaka's tracks benefit from an outside influence, which often adds an emotional touch to his rugged drum loops.
The Japanese veteran first linked up with Perlon label back in 2010 when he contributed a track to its last compilation, Superlongevityfive. He returned with a two-track 12-inch in 2012, and was back with a four-track double-EP the following year. He's remained a core member of the Perlon family since then, playing regularly at the label's monthly Get Perlonized! party in Berlin and at label showcases around the world.
You Find The Key, Tanaka’s first album on Perlon, is one of his masterpieces, featuring renowned arrangements such as Love Keep Mapping The Head, The Mysterious Pocket Is Right and The Only Your Researching.
This November, he is set to release Perlon124 , a LP where he showcases his seminal works of futurology through 8 tracks. Each of them is a soundscape of its own, fit for both deeply personal ambient moments and dance-centred spaces. We’ve never heard a Fumiya Tanaka record we didn't liked.

Although Japanese producer Fumiya Tanaka is known to most for his releases on Perlon, his creative works on his own labels - Sundance and Torema - offer to audiophiles another place to explore his individual take on minimal techno. Through his Torema Records, the pioneer Japanese Techno label run by himself, he released the last of the trilogy of Unknown possibility series, Vol.3-3 and "20th" marking the label's 20 years of history.
Given the comparisons with Jeff Mills early on in his DJing career, and the prolific amount of records he's unleashed since 'Unknown Possibilities' emerged a few years back, it would be interesting to note just how different Fumiya Tanaka sees his DJing style of sound from the music he makes.
"What I enjoy most about DJing is not so much choosing the records that I personally want to play, but choosing ones that are suited to the mood of the room, to the general atmosphere, depending on factors such as how people react.”

In his sets, Fumiya Tanaka is indulging his love for all things jagged and stripped-back. His selections are gripping and the mixing is surgical, but truly remarkable is his patience and ability to exercise restraint: only after hours of loopy, barebones techno he dares to release the tension and shift gears into real crowd-pleaser material.

Tanaka has an interesting alternative career lined up if he wouldn’t have started DJing and making music. "It's hard to imagine, because I've been making music for as long as I can remember. I love doing it. I guess if I was to be born again, though, I'd like to be a highly skilled soccer player." The master of chunky minimal house returns with his trademark sound at Guesthouse on the 26th of October. Watch out - you might Get Perlonized.

Credits De-Vice - interview published in Zebra, Melbourne, 2000
Photo credits: Kay Ross & Y. Baraki
Curated by Bianca Iulia