April 28, 2012
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on April 2012
Growing up the son of a dad who worked on US military bases, Eli Walks led a nomadic existence. It was Tokyo’s club scene that lured him to settle here and use the city as a base for a career as electronic music producer.
“I was born in California and moved around a lot, including Okinawa and Tokyo,” the 28-year-old tells Metropolis over coffee in Shibuya. “I came back because I love Tokyo. Going out to clubs here and seeing people vibing to a 4/4 beat, and being exposed to events like Electraglide and Metamorphose, opened me up to dance music.”
A decade of soaking up beats and four years ramping up his laptop production skills at CalArts has now led to his debut album. Parallel dropped last month and has already garnered Walks a sought-after spot on the Fuji Rock bill.
Rooted in Walks’ experience of the Tokyo electronic music scene and Los Angeles’s influential Low End Theory party, the album sits somewhere on the musical spectrum in between the abstract techno of British outfits like Autechre and the glitch-hop of Low End Theory’s Flying Lotus.
“Honestly I think I’m just having fun playing around,” Walks says, when pressed about his musical direction. “The key for me is heavy beats and nice melodies. I like to go to have a steady beat, to bring two worlds together, the IDM stuff and the danceable pop.”
Experimental electronica along the lines of Autechre or Flying Lotus can prove a challenging listen to all but the committed. But Walks brings an emotionally accessible, melodic thread to songs like “Moving” and “Freefall,” and says he isn’t averse to commercial music. This may be the result of high school years spent playing in a rock band with his vocalist sister.
Fully bilingual and comfortable on both sides of the Pacific, Walks is noncommittal about which he prefers. “I’m totally fine with both,” he offers. “The Japanese are very concentrated and like to sit still and listen, but in America they are very aggressive with the moves and want to grind to the music.”
Rather than how punters respond to his music, however, Walks’ main preoccupation is whether they can actually afford to come out to his concerts.
“I want to play a ton of shows, but a lot of people don’t have money,” he laments. “A lot of my friends are broke. They want to go to the shows but they can’t afford it. I’ve been to shows recently where I thought there would be more fans. The economy is pinching people.”
Republic @Womb and WWW, May 19 (listing).