Hiroshi Watanabe A.K.A. Kaito

Hiroshi Watanabe A.K.A. Kaito

The producer (and photographer) flies the Japanese flag on cult label Kompakt


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on January 2011

Courtesy of Kompakt

Hiroshi Watanabe’s releases on Cologne label Kompakt in the early noughties helped birth the short-lived term “trendy trance,” a brand of techno that emulated the depth and emotion of main-room trance without the cheese. Several years and releases later, the Berklee College of Music graduate is now firmly established on Kompakt’s formidable roster, where he goes by the name of Kaito. Metropolis caught him via email in advance of his set alongside label mate Rex the Dog at Womb.

How did studying musical composition in the States lead you to electronic music?
I was studying jazz, pop, and all kinds of music at school, but my friends were really into house and techno. I simply discovered it that way.

The scene in New York must have left a big impression on you…

Yes, that’s why I decided to live there and not back in Japan after I graduated. I went to many clubs and listened to the most amazing house and techno.

How did your relationship with Kompakt start, and what other artists do you admire on the label?
Actually, it was when I came back to Japan in 1999. My best friend, when he heard my new tracks, recommended I send them to Kompakt, so I sent them all right away. Of course, I was listening to Kompakt beforehand—back then, I was very impressed by Dettinger, who was awesome!

Around 2001 you started to use the name Kaito…
It’s simply my first son’s name. When Kompakt released my first single, they wanted me to have a new project name, and they asked me to choose something Japanese. So I was thinking, thinking, thinking, but couldn’t find the perfect word. I suggested my son’s name, and from that moment on it was “Rock it!”

Your releases on Kompakt are pretty uplifting. Are you trying to convey a certain message?
I don’t think my sound is really uplifting. I produce more melancholic and atmospheric sounds under the Kaito project, because it relates to my life itself. With the track names, I also take meaning from human life. I’m always trying to put across the essence of life’s feelings.

Describe your DJ style.
Basically, the same approach I have with my own tracks goes into my DJ sets. I didn’t start out as a DJ but as a producer, so my point of view is to always think more about what I am playing.

You’re also a professional photographer. Does your style marry with your music?
Yes, it does. Both processes appear quite different, but they are the same for me. The time frames are different, but inside the feelings and actions are the same—they are always connected.

So Many Show! Jan 28, from 11pm, ¥4,000. Shibuya. Tel: 03-5459-0039. www.womb.co.jp