We speak to Japanese Popstars ahead of their Spectrum gig at new venue Electric…

Way back in August we gave you the news that underground powerhouse Spectrum has found a new permanent London home at The Electric in Brixton – and is celebrating with an epic launch night! This year Spectrum’s arrival on the London scene has stopped the scene in its tracks, with three sellout shows, and so much more to come in November and on New Year’s Eve. And now Spectrum brings together a spectacular lineup for the launch of their new residency on Saturday October 1st– a true sign of big things to come. These guys don’t do things by halves!

On Saturday October 1st Japanese Popstars play their live festival techno show, which has drawn parallels to Underworld and also helped land them a major deal and appearances at some of the world’s best festivals. An electronic act from Northern Ireland, Japanese Popstars consists of Declan McLaughlin aka Decky Hedrock, Gary Curran, and Gareth Donoghue. In 2010 they collected the Best Live Act award at the Irish Dance Music Awards and were signed to Virgin/EMI Records (also signed to indie label, Gung-Ho Recordings in the UK, and Beatink in Japan, home of Underworld, Aphex Twin, and Cinematic Orchestra). Over the years they have toured with Basement Jaxx and JUSTICE in Japan and have recently colborated with the likes of Green Velvet and Robert Smith of the Cure on their new album. If all this wasn’t enough the band even have their very own brand of Nike trainers called JAPSTARS01!!! Ahead of their gig at Spectrum we met up with the 3 lads for a quick chinwag:

I heard you formed the group so you could blag free passes to Oxegen festival in Ireland – is this true?

Yeah thats were the original idea to put together a live dance act came from, festivals were and are great fun but they were just getting so expensive, we needed a way to get to as many as possible without breaking the bank, this seemed like a good way to do it

As you are not either Japanese, or popstars, have you ever had any funny misunderstandings when it comes to your name?

Its mainly drivers that come to airports or hotels that find it most confusing, they are holding up a sign saying japanese popstars and they are literally expecting japanese popstars to appear. Alot of time in the early days people would think we were just trying to blag a free lift somewhere.

I see you played in Derry quite recently, how does it feel to go back and play in your hometown since your success?

Playing in Derry is always fun and usually gets a tad messy. Thats where the bands home is, even though one of the member isn’t from there, we build all our early support and did the majority of our early shows in the city.  We still get Derry folks coming to our shows no matter were in the world it is, its great to have that support.

Is there a big dance music scene in Ireland?

Yeah there really is.  We have so many friends that make great dance music in Ireland, both North and South and at literally every Irish show we always get demo’s given to us by upcoming new producers, the standard of these tracks are scary, there are so many good producers out there at the moment.

Your recent album tracks have featured techno god Green Velvet on “Let Go” and the Cure’s Robert Smith on “Take Forever”. Were you big fans of theirs prior to working with them?

Massive fans.  We decided to approach people that we really look up to, chancing our arms a bit but at the end of the day, the worst people can do it say no.  Green Velvet has been playing in Belfast for Shine for years, I have had so many good nights on the floor to that guy, and when we started having the chance to do some shows with him he asked about doing some vocals, it was great.  We are all massive Cure fans as well, Disintegration is still probably my most played album ever.  It was unbelievable to get Robert on board

You’ve done more of your share fare of festivals, and have also graced many a hallowed deck, including of Fabric’s Room 1. Do you prefer playing at festivals or in clubs?
They can both be great.  Sometimes there is more energy in a club room that holds 300 people than at a festival that holds 10000, but thats not always the case, when festival shows are great they can leave you smiling for a week.
You’re playing at the Spectrum party on 1st of October, what can people expect from you in your live sets?

Hopefully a lot of energy and something that people can engage with and its something that they haven’t heard before.  We try and change it up as much as possible live, plus we normally drop in some new stuff that we are working on just to try it out

You played in Japan alongside Basement Jaxx to 5000 people, while Justice playing to 5000 people in the other room. Was this as ridiculously amazing as it sounds?

Yeah it was.  It was an absolutely crazy trip.  Just to be on that tour with those guys was so much fun, we made some good friends

Have you been back to Japan since the earthquake?

No unfortunately we haven’t had a chance. It was a scary time, we have family and a lot of friends out there, and at the time no one could get in contact with anyone.  We were planning on going out to do some festivals shows in support of our new album but have had to change and probably postpone until next year

Your debut album “We Just Are” was out in 2008 and you released your 2nd album “Controlling Your Allegiance” this year. There are some who say the 2nd album is the hardest… Was this the case with you guys?

Yeah maybe it was.  I guess I will know after album three.  It definitely was tough at times, we were really pushing ourselves on this one.  The first album was done at a time where we had no expectations, we had nothing to prove and we had a lot of time to come up with those ideas.  For the second album all of a sudden we are now professional producers or musicians , whatever way you want to look at it, none of us have any real training at this and we are still to a large extent writing music in our bedrooms.  But we also constantly on the road, and people have expectations , and we want to deliver something that we will be proud of.  We definitely pushed ourselves very hard on this one

OK, let’s talk kit… Which production tools can you not live without?

The one production tool that has been at the centre of the majority of Japanese Popstars tracks is Propellerheads Reason.  Thats been our main platform from day one

If you were given the chance to work with anyone, dead or alive – who would you each choose?

We would all probably have deferent answers on that.  Its a tough one, I am really liking the Arcade Fire album at the minute, a tie up with those guys would be great, Bruce Springsteen would be an amazing project, or what about getting big Frank on a techno cut

What else you got coming up this year?

We have another two singles from the album to come out before the end of the year, Take Forever and Shells of Silver.  We also plan on releasing a few EPs of more underground tracks

You are signed to Virgin, have won numerous awards, you play all over the world and even have your own brand of Nike trainers. Did you ever in your wildest dreams expect all of this when you formed back in 2006?

In a word, no.  We know we are some of the luckiest guys in the world, we just want to keep working as hard as possible to try and make the best music and do the best shows that we possibly can


Interview by: Melissa-Jane Frost



LWE Presents… Spectrum 

Saturday October 1st, 2011
The Electric, Town Hall Parade, Brixton, London SW2 1RJ

Japanese Popstars Live
Further headliner announced Sept 1st

South Central
Bare Noize
Pete Jordan

Visuals by Blend

Room 2 hosted by Underground
Cookie Monsta
Torqux & Twist
Duku b2b Sibla
Mr Whippy
Scratch Maestro: Rik Sinner
Hosts: Skara Mangla / Gavstar

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