Tokyo Weekender and More Than Music (MTM) collaborate in a monthly interview series with the diverse musical performers on the Tokyo music scene. For this interview, we caught up with Zuma (stylized as Zuma.) and Demsky.
Zuma with a dot, is a Tokyo-based DJ and producer that dwells in all types of vibes. His signature sound combines the vitality of the Tokyo metropolis and the chilled experimental groove unique to his native Californian upbringing.
How would you describe your music in one word or phrase?
How do you go about creating a song?
I make the beat first. When it comes down to it, the beat’s got to slap. I have a personal philosophy that even if you have the most intricate cords and melodies, but the beat is weak, the track is going to be forgettable. For me, I like to keep it central to the rhythm. I will usually lay down a groove idea and go from there. It’s always this path of diversion between the original intent and the output. But I am trying to have fun with it. Everything is all about experiment and what feels right at that moment.
What kind of DJ would you label yourself as?
I’m a multi-genre DJ. I started off as a house DJ, then moved on to hip-hop and electronic music. My set is like a mix of throwbacks, cool remixes with cutting edge sounds and today’s familiar tracks. Plus, I like to throw in a lot of R&B, feel-good beats, as well as hard-hitting beats. It’s all over the place. With my DJ gigs with MTM, I’ve been allowed to have more creative freedom. I always get to throw in a wild card of a mix that kind of incorporates everything.
What was your most unforgettable live performance?
I have two. The first one was a while back, my first music festival experience. It was the Sun God Festival, an annual college-wide event at the University of California San Diego. I was part of the college radio DJ station slot. It was my first time ever performing at an outdoor stage. The number of people, the energy and their reactions, it was incredible. I was able to play the music that I was really about and the vibe was on point.
The second one would be the recent show I did with MTM back in January. I didn’t have the pressure to make people dance and I was able to re-explore the music I really love. The music that kept me going and inspired me to make my own stuff. I was able to be 100 percent myself.
What should more people know about music?
Without music producers, the artists wouldn’t have a vehicle to express their thoughts. Without the production, it’s half the game. It’s important to pay some respect to the producers who are churning out your favorite artists’ songs.
Anything for us to keep an eye out for?
I have a summer EP coming out in June. It’s going be a lot of hip-hop. I’m working with a rapper called Chow Mane, my buddy who’s based in the Bay Area. We worked on it online so it’s a Tokyo meets San Francisco collaboration. I’m also in the middle of working on my own solo beats tape. Hope to get that out this year.
Keep up with Zuma on Instagram.
Now residing in Tokyo, Toronto-born musician Demsky takes a lot of his inspiration from the chill instrumental, beat-making music scenes that he’s heavily involved in. Demsky brings individuality and stories to each of his works, each of them unlike the other.
How would you describe your music in one word or phrase?
I always say the same phrase: lessons of love, happiness, sadness, adaptability.
What is the concept behind your album “Tell Me About The World”?
“Tell Me About The World” is a quote from a book called Tribe by Sebastian Junger. He is this army vet and when he came back to America after the war, he couldn’t find any form of community. This made him feel lost and as a result, he was searching for a connection with someone. He sat down with his brother-in-law and said “let’s drink cold coffee. And tell me about the world.” He just wanted to listen and I think that was such a beautiful concept, despite it not being the main point in the book.
That’s the idea of the album. It’s not about my own interpretation, it’s about me listening to everybody else. As you know, in this world, no one else really listens to each other anymore. We need everyone to say, “I was wrong,” which is okay. Or, “I never knew that.” No one says, “I hear you” anymore because everyone is trying to put their own point across.
What was the inspiration behind your “Airport” music video?
The “Airport” music video is essentially me deciding to grow a huge beard, which is very easy for me, and getting all my friends involved and they could do whatever they wanted to me. I had to stay silent during the whole filming. The idea is that I am open to their interpretation and I will listen to them. It’s full-on trust, I just told them don’t cut my eyebrows, but everything else — go for it. They had fun smacking me around, doing whatever they wanted.
What is your process of music creation?
Before I release anything, I have to play it live. I have to, because it’s the ultimate test to see how people react to it. I try different arrangements so the concept and meaning develop over time. There are some songs that I haven’t played live yet. I would love to test them live.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
I could open a small food truck for fried chicken. I have a really good marinade which I use to make a great spicy chicken and rice dish with cool coleslaw. Maybe I could serve it at a music festival. Customers won’t get to choose anything, though. It is the perfect omakase dish (laughs.) You’ve actually given me an idea here.
Follow Demsky for music and future chicken on Instagram.
You can see Zuma and Demsky perform live on Saturday, April 9 at an MTM event in Shimokitazawa.
TW readers get a 10% discount on the ticket by entering the code: TKYWD at check-out. The same code gets you a 50% discount on the first month of the membership fee as a trial. You can sign up for membership here.