Tokyo Weekender and More Than Music collaborate in a monthly interview series with the diverse musical performers on the Tokyo music scene. For this interview, we caught up with Emergency Oxygen. Don’t miss out on his full album release party MTM event on April 9 in Shimokitazawa.
Emergency Oxygen is Paul Romelot’s solo electronic music project. It stretches from ambient to electro through to progressive house with a constant love for atmospheric pads, lo-fi robotic sounds and textured synths. Emergency Oxygen started hitting Tokyo’s underground music scene in 2020 with an electro set influenced by Underworld, Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers, among others. TW sat down with him to find out more about his music.
How would you describe your music in one word or phrase?
Can I make a long statement instead? It’s electronic music that’s inspired by the electronic music scene in the late ’90s and early 2000s. I want to revive the sci-fi or futuristic vibe from that time.
How did you come to start music?
I started making music the year after I came to Tokyo, so seven or eight years ago. I learned music production in Tokyo for a year from a psy-trance producer called CPU, at a weekend school called International DJ and Production School.
After about two years, I finally released my first mini-album and it was more like an ambient kind of rock. But I wanted to make more aggressive electronic music.
The first few years I was experimenting. There were periods of time when I couldn’t make music at all. It’s hard to say how much time you need. I started working freelance two and a half years ago, just before the pandemic. The goal was to get some more time for music. The album I will be releasing has been a work in progress for three or four years.
What is your personal history with electronic music?
My personal story with electronic music is linked to Japan. When I was a teenager, I listened to a lot of rock. There was a grunge movement in the ’90s and during that time I didn’t like techno. I thought it wasn’t musical. But something changed my mind.
I was playing video games like any teenager. I had an awesome game called Wipeout, like Mario Kart but with spaceships. And the soundtrack of that game featured all of the best electronic music of that time — The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Underworld, The Crystal Method, and so on. The song at the start of the race was “Firestarter” by The Prodigy. That gave me chills. It’s how I fell in love with electronic music.
How did you come up with the name Emergency Oxygen?
I had some doubts about the name. It’s long and hard to pronounce for Japanese people. But also, it’s good because people remember it and no one else was called Emergency Oxygen. Finding a name that’s not taken is tough.
The idea came to me a long time ago, during a flight. I found the whole design of the safety instruction very odd. They’re explaining something that could be absolutely tragic with small comical characters. But then I thought the logo could be cool for a musician.
After I picked the name, I realized I had a two other subtle influences. There is one French downtempo band I like called Air. Also, one of the pioneers of French electronic music, Jean-Michel Jarre, has a famous album titled Oxygène.
When is the best time to listen to music?
When flying. It’s a very good moment to listen to music. No distractions. I was probably listening to something and thinking I should be making music someday. Inspiration hits when you’re flying high.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
I would love to be a nature photographer because it’s so cool. You wait there for hours before the bear comes and then click, click, click. I discovered that I had this passion when I was taking a road trip in Hokkaido. In a small region on the southeast side of the prefecture, you can see cranes, a symbol of Japan. I decided to travel there to take photos of them.
I was looking for them the whole day. They were always too fast so I couldn’t take a good shot. I decided to give up and drove back disappointed. That was when I saw three cranes on the road. I took a quick careful photo and they flew away. After that, I saw a fox that came to the car, probably wanting food. That was a great feeling.
Check out Emergency Oxygen and maybe his next nature escapade on Instagram.
Feature image by William Galopin
You can see Emergency Oxygen perform live on Saturday, April 9 at his album release 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.