MxCx Interview#24 "Hitori Tori"

Hitori Tori

Hailing from Vancouver, Canada Hitori Tori has seen a hand full of EPs and
releases on net labels such as Peace Off Records, Kaometry and Otherman.
Hitori Tori's live performances have received positive acclaim in publications such as
Computer Music Magazine and Create Digital Music. Over the past several years Hitori Tori has toured Japan, Europe and played improvised sets at the Manitoba Electronic Music Festival.

Where are you from?
How long have you lived in Vancouver?

I’m originally from Victoria BC, Canada.
I crossed the water to Vancouver when I was very young.

Have you lived in Japan in the past? How long and Where?
At that time, did you do music activities (live,DJ,etc)?
How was life in Japan? What is your impression of Japan?

I moved to Japan in 2002 and stayed there for 4 years. I lived in Osaka for the first year and then moved to Saitama for the rest. I had the opportunity to check out a lot of different areas because my employer would send me to teach in different cities for one week at a time. I felt very fortunate to have been sent on all those business trips.

As for musical activities during that time, I produced a lot of tunes and played a few DJ gigs here and there. One of the highlights for me was meeting producer O.N.O of the Japanese hip hop group Tha Blue Herb. I met him at an O-parts Recordings Release party in Tokyo and he gave me some of his rare instrumental vinyl releases. I was damn excited about that. A few times I went out to Accelmuzhik (Osaka) and Vibrant Recordings (Tokyo) events and they were pretty cool. That was a long time ago and these days that scene has changed quite a lot.

When did you first make music? What instrument you bought for the first time?
What kind of music you making at the beginning?

I started making plunder-phonic style music in 1988 using my sister’s multi-speed dual cassette deck. The machine was perfect for splicing together sound segments recorded from the radio and other tapes. In 1994 I bought my first proper recording device which was a Fostex 4-track recorder. I was truly obsessed with that machine for a few years and I spent hours mixing together layers of traffic sounds from an intersection right outside my Montreal apartment. That’s what initially sparked my interest in Electroacoustic music and I ended up taking a bunch of classes related to that subject in University.

Please tell me what you influenced.Who is your favorite artist?

As far as electronic music goes, I’m really just a huge fan of the classic Warp Records artists. When I was quite a bit younger though I was inspired by music from The Boredoms, Coil and Bernard Parmegiani. Yes, I realize that I do not sound like any them. I am also a huge fan of a band called: Ween.

Madlib is a great sample-based producer on the hip hop side of things.

In terms of electronic artists, these days I’ve been enjoying the music of Daed (Mozyk) and a producer from Norwich, UK known as 6.9Hz.

Are you also influenced by works in Canada?
Canada has a unique and wonderful artist. For example, David Cronenberg, Venetian Snares, Skinny Puppy, Knifehandchop, DJ K, Capital J, DJ Plague, Belladonnakillz, Skeeter, 0=0, C64,etc.
Who is your favorite Canadian artist?

Canadian influences, eh? Well, I sincerely appreciate all of the individuals you just mentioned. I suppose we could also add John Oswald and William Gibson to that fine list of names.

When did you start music activities such as live/DJ? What kind of music scene was there in your town?

My first performances were at Electroacoustic concert events in Montreal in1997. I was diffusing multi-channel sound-object style pieces with abstract syntax. It basically sounded like explosive avant-garde style music and involved the sound of breaking glass and slamming doors.

As for the electronic stuff, it took a considerable amount time before Jungle really caught-on in Montreal. Double A and Twist, and Jordan Dare were the first real Jungle DJs around Montreal that I can recall. They ran a weekly Jungle night called “The Session”, but it was usually pretty dead in terms of attendance. DJ Destro and DJ Maus ran successful Jungle night on Saint-Laurent street for a while. That was a lot of fun. The ‘Acreq’ series of events were well-curated and catered to my Electroacoustic tastes. David Kristian was active and he was doing some interesting modular synth performances around that time also.

What is the first release of "Hitori Tori"?

I self-released a full-length album in 2005 but I gave all the copies away to my friends in Japan. I recorded a few compilations tracks for Winnipeg’s Balanced Records in 2009 and then released Kinematics EP on Panospria Records shortly after that.

You have released 2 EPs from Peace Off. How did you meet Peace Off?

It was initially Dave Techdiff who put Frank (Rotator) in touch with me. I had played a show with Techdiff a few months earlier in Vancouver and we got to know each other. Dave is a really solid, nice person. I was chatting with him online and joking about the limited opportunities for exposure in Canada for the type of music that we make. Our Breakcore scene is small and it’s relatively hard for Canadians to connect with the larger scene in Europe. Dave pointed Frank Rotator in my direction and Peace Off got in touch with me shortly after that.

I feel Hitori Tori is making "Alternative Breakcore".
Do you think yourself an artist of "Breakcore"?

Well, certainly breakbeats are the rhythms that I work with the most. However when I play gigs alongside other Breakcore performers such as my wife Lootcanal, I feel that Hitori Tori seems quite a bit more melody-driven. Perhaps the term “abstract jungle” or even “acid jungle” more accurately describes the music I make.

Please tell me what equipment you are using.

These days everything revolves around my Intellijel Atlantis and Metropolis step sequencer. Those machines drive the Roland System-1m through both gate and cv. There’s also a Korg Electribe 2 in my little music arsenal. Renoise is still my main DAW for recording and sequencing.

How do you get a song idea?

Ideas for songs usually come about from toying with hardware and making sure I’m being proactive with regards to saving everything. I’ve seen far too many producers lose the plot because they enjoy playing around but they aren’t recording their ideas fast enough. In my case it’s simple: come up with a melodic phrase, record several variations of it, and then move on to the next phrase. I’ll mix and match the drums together in a sloppy/randomized fashion and then progressively make edits to them. I like to layer in some complimentary pads to fill in the void behind the phrases. Overall, it’s a very linear process.

If I feel stuck during this process I’ll leave the studio, go outside and try to actually hear the song playing in my head. When I am able to imagine what will come next, I’ll return to the studio and do my best to insert that idea into the song.

You have a unique and chaotic groove. How do you make beats?

I start by recording a few drum phrases taken from a drum machine or from my sampler. Then in Renoise, I’ll employ a pattern command called ‘sample offset’. It works using the hexadecimal counting scheme that Sound Trackers are famous for. In my case, the column info that is entered thoughout each of the 16 lines (00- FF) will reference a 1/16 slice of the instrument sample.

It’s easy to change breaks but also maintain a nice flow since the offset information in the effects column remains ordered- even though the instruments are being switched around.

If desired, the time signature can be changed by adjusting the number of lines in each pattern.

What do you use for Live performance? What is important in live?

For live performances I am running three instances of Renoise simultaneously. An Ohm 64 controller is used to navigate them. A Korg Electribe 2 holds some of the drum sounds which I play on the controller’s trigger grid. A System-1m is assigned to play out some of the baselines. The Metropolis / Atlantis combination is sometimes used to provide additional acid lines.

When playing live it’s important to keep myself engaged and reasonably challenged. I’ve seen other performers arrive at a gig with lots of gear, however they’re reluctant to improvise because they are still quite uncomfortable on stage with their machines. I personally try to challenge myself by gradually introducing one new gadget at a time into my live routine. Video recordings of performances can be very helpful to move forward in this regard.

How many times did you play as Hitori Tori in Japan? Where is your favorite place?

I’ve played roughly 30 shows in Japan and toured the country three times.

My favourite place to hang out is in Osaka, near Namba station around the OCAT bus terminal. There are some amazing breakdance crews that practice there, and it’s a treat to watch them. Kamogawa is a pretty relaxing river to hang out beside too, especially if you’re spending some time in Kyoto.

What kind of country is Canada for you? What do you think about the situation of the current Canadian music scene?

Canada is a beautiful place. I live in Vancouver where it’s kind of expensive. Many people simply consider my city to be a ‘bank’ for wealthy foreign investors and that’s a pretty accurate statement. The air is fresh out here and there’s lots of nature. That’s a really positive thing and it makes life better. Winters are wet and dark.

There is a well-established noise scene here in Vancouver and I go to those types of shows the most. With regards to experimental noise music, Holzkopf has long been one of my favourite live acts in the city. He is relentless at pushing himself in new directions and the audience is always in for a surprise. I’m also really fond of a local grind-core metal band called Ape War.

I think it’s worth mentioning that some really interesting A/V events that happen in Vancouver are hosted by a collective called Red Gates Arts Society. If you happen to be in our town visiting- you should definitely look them up.

What is your future schedule?

I’m heading back to visit Japan this winter. Perhaps I will play a few shows while I’m there.