Spawned from the Japanese club scene at the turn of the millennium, Soil & ‘Pimp’ Sessions’ high octane live ‘Death Jazz’ sessions soon became renowned amongst the regular Tokyo club faithful. Having raised their heads above the parapet, 2003 saw them become the first unsigned band to grace the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. Eventually snared by JVC Victor, Soil & ’Pimp’ Sessions put out a mini-album, ‘Pimpin’ in 2004. By the time 2005 rolled around, a few international DJ’s had been ‘Pimped’, none more so than Giles Peterson who began championing their sound on his Worldwide radio show. Inevitably, the natural progression was to sign with his Brownswood Label releasing a full set entitled ‘Pimp Master.’
Now following their sixth and most recent album release on the Brownswood label entitled ‘6’, Soil & ‘Pimp’ Sessions are again on the live circuit, unleashing their unique, self titled brand of ‘Death Jazz’ upon the world. UK Vibe’s The Dood tracked down the bands enigmatic and energetic front man Shacho aka ‘the agitator’ himself, during the bands gig rehearsal at London’s Jazz Cafe, five hours before they were due on stage for real.
The Dood: So Shacho, what does your name mean?
Shacho: It means President or Boss.
The Dood: Ok right! So how was your gig at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham last night (20-7-10)?
Shacho: It was good, amazing! The audience were very hot and energetic! We played our music and these guys made plenty of noise!
The Dood: They were very receptive?
Shacho: Yes, It was a very nice gig and a very nice venue!
The Dood: Where did the name Soil & ‘Pimp’ Sessions originate from and can you expand on the term ‘Death Jazz?’
Sacho: Ha! Ha! Everybody asking me this question! Soil is like the sand or the mud or the earth which are very natural and warm things. ‘Pimp’ is based on something brilliant like a gold chain, which sometimes is linked to gangsters. These words have opposite meanings I think, like ying & yang. Two opposite meanings into the one music – that is our style…We expose both sides of the human being.
The Dood: I understand. And ‘Death Jazz?’
Shacho: ‘Death Jazz!’ Yes. Actually, we respect traditional Jazz…but we want to make a new music. Jazz sometimes is boring! Everybody sits down and eats dinner and lets the music wash over them. Sometimes it’s too posh!
The Dood: It’s too restrained, too polite maybe?
Shacho: We want to enjoy the music/Jazz with the audience. Like when a DJ plays a Jazz record, everybody is dancing – like bebop dancing. So we do the same thing as Jazz DJ’s with a session on stage and the audience dancing and screaming. As they get more and more heated, we play even more energetic music and the audience call for more and make more noise. We want to break down the barrier between the stage and audience. We want to make it the same level.
The Dood: Like you are one with your public, a real jam session.
The Dood: So you guys initially linked up on the Tokyo club circuit. What year was this?
The Dood: You gradually began to add the live Jazz sessions to your DJ sets. Can you expand further on this transition?
Shacho: It not true that we were just playing jazz sessions or jazz related DJ sets. Everybody had the attitude of wanting to create new music. We all have a diverse background with regards to our musical tastes – Such as Black Roots music, Reggae, Latin, Brazilian – everything!
The Dood: It’s all good music?
Shacho: Just good music, yes. During 1999/2000 there was no equipment to allow for a live set in the Tokyo clubs….Ten years before though, in the eighties, there were many clubs which featured live gigs.
The Dood: So it faded away?
Shacho: Yeah, it faded away, over time the live culture disappeared.
The Dood: So you guys wanted to bring it back?
Shacho: There was also another important reason for the disappearance of the live gig. Everybody was a Jazz musician, so there were a lot of straight- ahead Jazz jam sessions in the Tokyo Jazz clubs – that was boring!
The Dood: So you wanted to bring a fresh approach?
The Dood: There’s a saying: ‘observe the masses, but do the opposite.’ This is how I view Soil & ‘Pimp’ Sessions – You’re aware of and appreciate the straight-ahead Jazz, but everyone was doing it, so you wanted to creep up on people from a different angle, round the back as it were. Is that fair to say?
Shacho: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! We wanted to make something new, so we met at a Jam session I organised at Roppongi (a section of Tokyo infamous for its nightlife). Actually, I was a DJ and organiser originally….but everybody gathered there and played at these sessions. Then we all got talking to each other and said, ‘let’s make a band.’ That’s when we formed the band.
The Dood: Do you play an instrument yourself?
Shacho: Yes, I used to play the trombone at that time, but when the band started, I switched to synthesizer and sampler. I was not ‘agitator’ at that time.
The Dood: So you grew into that role or developed that character gradually?
Shacho: Yes, because we wanted to break down the wall between the audience and the stage. Initially we would sample words and lyrics from movies and poetry. I would speak these words/lyrics through the synthesizer, but now I use the live microphone also – I can change between the two.
The Dood: So you became the Soil & ‘Pimp’ Sessions front man by default?
Shacho: Yeah! Suddenly I become the front man!
The Dood: Please explain the purpose of the word ‘Sessions’ in the band’s name?
Shacho: That’s very important, ‘Sessions.’ We always want to present our music as an individual session, because coming up we did not want to do the same set every live gig.
The Dood: You wanted to keep it fresh for yourselves?
Shacho: That’s it – ‘Sessions’.
The Dood: Are you all classically trained musicians from a young age?
Shacho: Yeah of course. The piano player, Josei started playing piano when he was three or four years old.
The Dood: Really! Wow! That’s amazing!
Shacho: On saxophone, Motoharu, he studied at Berkley Music School in Boston.
The Dood: That’s where Fred Wesley (JB’s trombone player) teaches now.
Shacho: Yeah, that’s right!
The Dood: And Tabu Zombie on trumpet?
Shacho: Tabu learned his instrument at elementary school aged eight or nine years old. And Midorin, the drummer, he started playing drums at college/university when he was eighteen years old.
The Dood: We’re missing one?
Shacho: Akita Goldman, the bass player, he also started at college aged eighteen.
The Dood: So they all learned the basics or rudiments of their instruments early on, which explains why you’re such an accomplished and tight outfit on stage, especially, the understanding between the bass player (Akita) and the drummer (Midorin)?
Shacho: Yes, yes. These two guys are close friends from college, who first met at nineteen or twenty years old.
The Dood: How long ago?
Shacho: Well both are now aged thirty-two, so i say about twelve years ago.
The Dood: Individually, who are you musical influences, both historically and modern day?
Shacho: Everybody loves Stevie Wonder.
The Dood: That’s my man! Respect! (The Dood shares a brother’s handshake with Shacho)
Shacho: Everyone loves him, he’s amazing!
The Dood: He’s twenty people/musicians in one man.
Shacho: Individually, Josei (piano), he respects Herbie Hancock. Tabu Zombie (trumpet), he respects Clifford Brown. Moto, the sax player, he is very interesting – he doesn’t want to listen to music with saxophone in. He listens to all types of music and instruments and likes jazz guitarist Grant Green. Midorin (drums) loves Jack DeJonette and Akita Goldman (bass) loves Charlie Mingus.
(At this point Josei took a break from rehearsal and decided to join us for two minutes)
The Dood: So you’re a Herbie Hancock fan?
(Shacho asks him in Japanese who he respects)
Josei: Stevie Wonder. Also Robert Glasper, he’s great! I like Don Blackman too and Roy Ayres.
The Dood: Shacho, the band have become renowned for your full on energetic performances, with yourself Shacho ‘agitator’ at the helm, orchestrating and agitating the crowd. Are you as hyper off stage as on stage?
Shacho: When I get on stage I’m a very different person. When on stage, I’m wearing the suit, the sunglasses and chains – I change my mind. It’s like a switch goes on.
The Dood: You click into ‘agitator’ mode?
Shacho: Off stage everyone is gentle.
The Dood: Your sixth album entitled ‘6’ has just landed, maintaining the same intensity, vitality, gusto and quality musicianship of the previous five. Other than your mini-album ‘Summer Goddess’, this is the first release without the word ‘Pimp’ in the title. Why?
Shacho: The word ‘Pimp’ is very important for us, but ‘6’ is more important to us because these six musicians are key to our sound…If we changed one member, then I couldn’t make Soil & ‘Pimp’ music. These six guys make Soil & ‘Pimp’ music. There is another reason. The first time we met was at Roppongi in Tokyo….
(Shacho then writes a Japanese character on a piece of paper)
Shacho: …In Japanese this character means ‘Roppongi’. In Chinese this character means ‘6’.
The Dood: Okaaaaaay!!! So that’s another reason for the title of the album.
Shacho: Yes. It’s difficult to explain clearly in English.
The Dood: You have noticeable inclusion on this album of two vocalist, Jamie Callum (Stolen Moments) and the legendary Japanese singer/song writer/musician Yumiko Shiina aka Ringo Shiina (My Foolish Heart). How did your connection with her come about?
Shacho: Seven or eight years ago, I had just started our band and she came to our gig. She was already a big star, but she supported and championed our band….And she has a big brother who is a musician also and Tabu (trumpet) and Moto (sax) joined his band. His name is Junpei Shiina. He introduced her (Ringo) to me and she came to our gig. She loves our music and she always said we should do something together and if you need a vocalist choose me first!
The Dood: So you kept your promise?
Shacho: Yeah! Yeah!
The Dood: Will Ringo Shiina be joining you on any part of your tour?
Shacho: She’s very busy and has no time. Hopefully on future gigs maybe.
The Dood: Where did you record ‘My Foolish Heart?’
Shacho: In Tokyo
The Dood: Was the whole album recorded there?
Shacho: Yes, we have a very good studio there with good acoustics.
The Dood: So all your previous projects were recorded there?
Shacho: Yes, It is a studio owned by JVC Victor. It’s a very nice studio.
The Dood: How and when did you first become aware of DJ and Label owner Gilles Peterson?
Shacho: He is a big idol for the band. As a DJ he taught us many kinds of music via his compilations. We were also aware of Dingwalls.
The Dood: Did you get to hear his shows on Jazz Fm and kiss Fm?
Shacho: Oh Yes! My colleague in London would tape his shows and send to us.
The Dood: Great! So you linked up when?
Shacho: I met him (Giles) when came to Japan to DJ with Toshio Matsuura of United Future Organisation. Toshio introduced us to Giles briefly just to say hello. Then we released ‘Pimp Master’ and Toshio gave him a copy….Three months later he (Giles) invited us to Cargo in London and also to make some recordings for Worldwide Show on BBC Radio.
The Dood: Was that your first time to London?
Shacho: Yes. He (Giles) was a big brother for us. He gave us many chances and broader exposure.
The Dood: So you’re grateful?
Shacho: Yes, because when we tour Europe or around the world as Soil & ‘Pimp’ Sessions, we are introduced as the band recommended by Giles Peterson. Just Giles Peterson’s name makes people take interest and many people come to the venue to listen to our music.
The Dood: Which artist would you like to collaborate with in future?
Shacho: Oh! There are many, many artists, like Stevie Wonder. What we would like to do is make one album with all different DJ’s.
The Dood: DJ’s from around the world?
Shacho: Yes, and many ages, both young and old.
The Dood: That’s original. I like the sound of that!
Shach: We’ll write, compose and record the songs, then send them to the various DJ’s who will complete the tune. That will be interesting!
The Dood: That will be very exciting! A great project!
The Dood: On the same topic, explain your connection with DJ Kentaro the 2002 World DJ Champion?
Shacho: I’ve known him for quite a few years. He was a friend, then he won the DJ championship and now we can’t catch him! (Shacho Chortles) He’s very busy. He came to our studio and did some recording. He’s a funny guy.
The Dood: So he’ll definitely be on the new DJ album project?
Shacho: Of course! We’re gonna make something new, something fresh!
The Dood: What do you prefer, studio recording or playing live?
Shacho: Hmmm! Well when we are in the recording studio, we are always imagining ourselves at a gig with a live audience. For us it’s the same, we are always thinking about playing live.
The Dood: Soil & ‘Pimp’ Sessions have a very singular fashion image. Is it all part of the Soil & ‘Pimp’ Sessions experience?
Shacho: Fashion and music are intertwined. It’s part of the culture. Our fashion sense is important because of the ‘Pimping’ aspect of the band. It is also a kind of entertainment for our audience.
The Dood: Your videos also capture your quirky personalities and effervescence. Do you use always use the same director?
Shacho: For most videos yes, but ‘Crush!’ and ‘Summer Goddess’ were directed by Mr Takeuchi, a good director.
The Dood: Are you aware that you’re educating a younger demographic/audience to the delights of ‘death jazz’ and Jazz in general via your engaging brand of music and stage presence?
Shacho: We’re very happy, because education is a very important thing for us. Jazz is a very difficult music to get into and understand, so we make it a happy music and accessible.
The Dood: What can next expect from Soil and ‘Pimp’ Sessions?
Shacho: Actually, we are recording the next album, which is all cover versions of classic jazz tunes.
The Dood: We look forward to that. Does it have a title yet and release date?
Shacho: Ah! I can’t tell you the title yet, but it will be released in Japan first, maybe around the end of August.
The Dood: Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to the show tonight!
Michael ‘The Dood’ Edwards
2009 – 6
2008 – Planet Pimp
2007 – Pimpoint
2006 – Pimp of the Year
2005 – Pimp Master
2004 – Pimpin’