Ken Ishii is a Japanese techno and house producer and DJ. He has worked with Inner City, Wreckage, Inc, Talvin Singh, DJ Spooky, and Co-Fusion, has been remixed by Dave Angel, DJ Q, Afronaught, Boom Boom Satellites, FLR, DJ Zank, Rebus Tape, Si Begg, Tatsuya Oe and probably more as well. His sound has progressed from some very strange experimental beats to his more recent house and acid techno tracks. Surprisingly, his music is a strong example of Detroit-style techno and it turns out he started recording for Canadian and European labels long before a Japanese techno label even existed. He has recorded on the Exceptional, Reel Musiq, Apollo, Sublime, R&S, Sony, +8, and ESP record labels. Ken Ishii also composed the music for the opening ceremonies to the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.
After the release of his album Sleeping Madness in 1999, Ishii created a clothing line named Bugged-in Fusion, named after a track on that album. He sells futuristically-themed t-shirts and hats. Ishii has also recently started up his own label, called "70 Drums".
Now before I go listing a whole bunch of data, maybe I should explain a bit more about the guy's sound! Think about your idea of Japanese music. Mix it with technology. Mix that with disco. Now slowly extract the experimental elements and add boogie juice over the course of around 10 years. That's Ken Ishii's career in a nutshell. (Yeah, I sound like something the Brunching Shuttlecocks cooked up. Sue me.)
To be serious, Ken Ishii's early sound is both experimental and dancy. He's been known to take Japanese folk songs and rework them with electronics. Lately, the squeaks and squawks and lush sounds of his early works have given way to a harder beat with less odd percussion and more samples of all kinds of crazy Asian instruments. There were once some notes in poor English on Ishii's website describing the theme of each song on his Sleeping Madness. Dealing with our rapidly changing technological spectrum is one of the top things portrayed in his music, along the collision of cultures brought about by increased ease of communication.
Although he hasn't been spinning out for long, I would (and have) spent entire weekends driving around trying to see this guy play at clubs, and it's always been worth it even just to hear play other people's records. He's done a few live PAs in Japan but America is unfortunately not his highest priority.
Ishii has a number of pseudonyms. Among them:
- Flare records for Sublime Records (and sometimes Reel Musiq) and releases more ethereal music. Seems to be retired.
- FLR records for Reel Musiq, a subsidiary of Sublime, and specializes in noisy hard techno.
- Utu recorded for Plus 8 a long time ago and some of that work can be found on the Plus 8 Classics compilation.
- Rising Sun and Yoga which I don't know much about.
His albums and other notable releases
- Garden on the Palm, released in 1993 for R & S Records
- Tangled Notes EP, released in 1994 for R & S Records
- Innerelements, a collection of previously hard-to-find vinyl-only or unreleased tracks, released in 1994 on Sony in Japan and R & S in Europe, both with different tracklistings
- Reference to Difference, as Flare, released in 1995 on Sublime
- Jelly Tones, rereleased in 1997 in the US on The Medicine Label, originally released in 1995 in Japan on Sony, and R & S in Europe. The US version has two extra remixes by Dave Angel and Boom Boom Satellites. The singles Overlap, Extra, Echo Exit, and Stretch all came from this album.
- X-Mix: Fast Forward & Rewind, a DJ mix for Studio K7 released in 1996 on CD, VHS, and DVD
- Mix-Up Vol. 3, a DJ mix for Sony Japan only, series includes Takkyu Ishino, Jeff Mills, Fumiya Tanaka, released in 1996
- Grip, as Flare in 1996..
- Re-Grip, as Flare, remixed by various people, 1996
- Metal Blue America (1997)
- Sleeping Madness featuring collaborations with DJ Spooky, Talvin Singh, Co-Fusion, and Deckwrecka, released in 1999. The tracks Game Over and Misprogrammed Day were released as singles.
- Flatspin, featuring music from the soundtrack to the film Whiteout, and a collaboration with Inner City, released in 2000. This album spawned Iceblink and Slapdash as singles, but Slapdash only appears on the European releases of the album.
- Millennium Spinnin' at Reel Up, another DJ mix, harder than his previous ones by the look of its tracklist, 2001
- The Easy Filters LP, featuring two (or three depending on country of origin) new Easy Filters (which were released over time as Easy Filters Parts 1-2; Parts 5-6; Parts 7-8; Part 9; and Part X w/ remixes by Rebus Tape, DJ Zank, Access 58, Yamaoka, Kagami, Wall 5, and Chester Beatty) and another new track, released as FLR in 2001
- Emergency Exit 1, the first FLR release that is not a remix and not an Easy Filter. This is a trip back in time about a decade to when acid house was king.
- Future in Light, the first release on Ishii's new label 70Drums, released in 2002 in Japan, and in Europe in 2003. This album has spawned two singles: "Auburnia", with remixes by Valentino Kanzyani and FLR; and "Awakening" with a remix by Christian Smith and John Selway. These remixes were later released as part of the "Interpretations" remix album.
- Kjoh-Zon 1, an FLR collaboration with Steve Stoll, the Blunted Boy Wonder