In the space of just the space of six tracks on his EP Temptation, Joji a.k.a PellyColo’s vibrant, authentic and colourful disco (mostly purple and blue shades) is already exciting and addictive. Mostly because it takes elements of Nile Rodgers funk, Vangelis and 80s electronic music into a new era with modern techniques similar to Justice and Daft Punk. In his first ever UK exclusive interview, we talk about his first steps into the musical landscape, his unique process, his decision to perform in English and his surprising roots in Hip Hop music.
Where are you currently based and how do your surroundings influence your music?
I’m based in Tokyo. I live near the river side, nice parks are around, great environment for production. Stores are open 24 hours, busy transportation, Japan is crazy but a convenient place to live in. In terms of music surroundings, I’m not really sure since I don’t know which scenes in Japan I belong to.
What does PellyCollo mean and why did you choose that name?
The name is taken from an Italian Mafia character who appears in my favorite Japanese manga “Jojo’s bizarre adventure”. Just liked the sound of it.
How would you describe your music to people who have never heard it before? To me, there appears to be elements of Disco, Funk, Free-Jazz, and similarities to Daft Punk, Toto, Stevie Wonder, Nile Rodgers, Justice and Kavinsky. Do you feel the same way?
Those are surely my great influences! I would describe my music as 80’s inspired music. This would be for my PellyColo moniker, and for the other project that I’m planning I will be making easy-listening/mood music.
What is the general process of your music and what instruments are involved?
I will sit in front of my computer, launch Cubase and start playing some chords with the keyboard. Sometimes I use my guitar to do this. Once I get the brief idea, I will work on beats, then bass, some synth obligato, guitar, vocal melody, strings, and so on. I recently bought an Ehru and I want to use it in my songs. Need a lot of practice though.
How do you record your voice in the songs and what gives your voice that electronic sound?
I record it in my room. The electronic sound comes from the vocoder. It’s mixed with the original voice because I don’t like it when I sound too electronic. Wish I could sing better so that there’s not much to rely on excessive vocal treatments.
How do you perform, and what kind of venues do you normally prefer to perform in?
In a band that I currently belong to, I play a digital guitar, synth and vocoder. The band is called Minato&Mirai. I’m using CASIO DG-20 to send midi signals to ableton live where it has all the instruments loaded. When I play like a carimba sound, it’s really funny because no one has a clue where that sound is coming from. For my solo, I DJ most of the times. Seldom I do a live set. I prefer playing in a loungy venue, since I like the atmosphere when people are enjoying music for their mood.
Are you currently touring and when are you coming to the UK?
I’ve never toured in fact since I mainly focus on the production. But I feel that I need to do more shows this year. This has been difficult since I want to do a live with a band which I’m having trouble finding the members. No plan for a tour in the UK at the moment, but would certainly love to in the future! Someone please invite me.
What countries are exposing your music at the moment and what success have you had so far? Is your music gaining success in Japan too?
Japan mostly. I’ve been making music for other artists, idols, animations, app games, etc. I’m actually surprised and happy to get an interview from the UK!
Do you hail from a music family?
My father is a salaryman and my mother is a housewife, so not really. There were some influences from my older brother though. He had a turntable and a lot of soul, funk, jazz, hip hop records. I still remember the shock when I first heard 2pac’s “Do For Love”.
How did you get to this stage of your music career and what is your background in music?
I started playing electric guitar back in middle school just like one of those rock star wannabe kids. Then I bought my first DAW when I was 20 because I wanted to become a video game music producer. I was using a 8-track MTR before that. Final year at the university I formed a hip-hop group, which was the first time I made a club track. That’s also when I started to DJ, but rather than becoming a hip-hop DJ, I wanted to play more disco stuff, which might be the reason why I started making those genres. Then time passed, I made songs, people started to recognize me, luckily some people are giving me offers.
Why do you sing in English instead of Japanese?
My music doesn’t quite fit right with Japanese. I also want my self to appear rather internationally. This actually is difficult since the Japanese music culture is unique both positively and negatively.
What other musicians are you currently listening to and which music friends of yours would you recommend to us?
My recent favorites are Wally Badarou, Martin Denny, Judy Ongg, Muhsinah, Proviant Audio just to name a few, and here are some of my friends: LUVRAW (Great talkbox player), and Costa De Palma (these guys love palm trees) and Testa (Nice re-edits).
Do you have plans for a full length album?
I’m planning to release a vinyl this year. Once I’m done with that, I will work on a full length probably.
Interview by Matt Hobbs