Currently dividing his time between New York City and Paris, and living the musical life he dreamed about when he was an aspiring musician growing up in Japan, I ask Satoshi Tomiie during an afternoon Skype session about what inspires him. Since breaking big on the global dance floor in 1989 with his timeless track “Tears” cut with Frankie Knuckles and Robert Owens, the man who has risen to artistic sensei doesn’t think twice about his reply.
“I love what I do. I love making music and discovering,” Tomiie says. “I make what I want to make and it’s personal. After more than 25 years, I find music really interesting. It’s never tiring. That’s the music force for me: to keep doing it everyday.”
Having taken time to build his dream project studio after issuing his 2000 full-length debut Full Lick — which featured his massive crossover hit “Love In Traffic” featuring Kelli Ali from Sneaker Pimps — his meticulously crafted second full-length album, New Day, isn’t afraid to think beyond the dance floor. During our conversation, Tomiie spoke about the long and winding road to realizing New Day, why creative innovation is important and what led him to release the album on cassette. That’s right, cassette! Continue Reading →
Over 25 years ago Frankie Knuckles met a young Japanese producer in Tokyo named Satoshi Tomiie. Add legendary Fingers Inc. vocalist Robert Owens into the mix and the house-music classic “Tears” was born. In the annals of house music, few songs are as impactful and impervious to the test of time as “Tears.”
Talking to Tomiie about the details of his upcoming second album, New Day, due out May 20 on his Abstract Architecture label, Tomiie recalls how he learned about the Godfather’s passing a year ago today.
“I was at my friend’s house in Buenos Aires just chilling out,” Tomiie remembers of the say day. “Hector [Romero of Def Mix] called me. Nobody really calls me on my phone, except for a few people. I thought it had to be something urgent. The news was quite shocking.”
How did Tomiie deal with the loss of his mentor? “I didn’t,” he says flatly. “I couldn’t deal with it, basically. There was no way. It was impossible. I hadn’t spoken to Frankie in years, and that made it more difficult. Nobody expected this news.”
The globetrotting Tomiie says putting together an event last May at Air in Tokyo allowed him to keep busy and pay tribute to Knuckles in his own personal way.
“One way to ‘deal with it’ was with the party I did in Tokyo, which is where I met him,” Tomiie says. “His performance in Tokyo changed everything for me. I wanted to do a party in Tokyo to pay my big respects for what he’s done and what he did for me. He changed my life.”
Tomiie called upon DJ friends DJ Nori, Ko Kimura, Kenji Takimi and DJ Kent to spin at the party. Robert Owens, who also played a pivotal role in Tomiie’s early career, flew in to perform with Tomiie. (Listen to a podcast from the event here.)
“Some of the classics I listened to at his first performance in Tokyo from Fingers Inc., well, nobody had the instrumental,” he says. Tommie spent several days recreating the songs so Owens could perform the songs at the event.
“It was a part of the process of dealing with it,” he estimates.
All these years later, how does Satoshi Tomiie, who went on to craft future club classics like “Love in Traffic,” look back on “Tears” and the impact of his debut single?
“It’s my first record and my starting point. It came out in 1989, 25 or 26 years ago. My attitude to music is to look forward and do new things. I’m not someone who looks back a lot but this was a whole different time to make music. It’s a symbol of when house music was introduced to the world. It was a symbol of a good time for that style.”
Look for an in-depth interview with Satoshi Tomiie about his second full-length album publishing next month. Listen to Cevin Fisher’s exclusive Big Shot Guest Mix tribute to Knuckles here.
Satoshi Tomiie is among a growing legion of globetrotting DJs who are blurring the lines between dance floor genres.
Revered DJ/producer Satoshi Tomiie hails from Japan and calls New York City home. However, he hasn’t spent much time in either place during the past year. “My summer tour kicked off in May, and I was on the road nonstop until September,” explains Tomiie, talking from a hotel room in Buenos Aires. “I didn’t go back to New York at all. After the tour was over, I left two weeks later for another couple of months. I don’t spend time in one particular place; I keep moving. It’s difficult for me to stay in one place because I love what I’m doing.”
Since making a name for himself in 1989 by co-creating Frankie Knuckles’ epic house anthem, “Tears,” Tomiie has steadily worked himself up the house music ladder. Where he was once the low man on the totem Def Mix pole (the management company helmed by Knuckles and David Morales), he’s now top dog and has earned a legion of new young fans. Tomiie’s popularity due to his technical prowess on the decks and rich, buoyant production style, which as of late has blurred the lines between house and techno. Constantly exposed to music from his world travels, he’s excited by the convergence between the two styles he’s been straddling for over a decade.
“House and techno are getting a lot closer,” he observes, “and that’s making for some interesting music.“
Tomiie says his years of experience—and the advent of mixing software which allows him to spin without having to lug boxes of vinyl around the world—has allowed him to lead the type of virtual life many only read about in Wired magazine. “I used to get sick a lot when I first started to travel,” he recalls, “but now I’m way more mentally and physically prepared for traveling and touring, even when I do back-to-back festival dates. Having friends in other cities really helps, and my focus allows me to bring something special to every gig.”