Self-Portrait: Shifting Gears

It would be an understatement to call Hoshina Anniversary “prolific”. The Tokyo-based artist will write “about 100 songs in 3 months.” This ceaseless impulse to write music has seen a surfeit of incredible releases across labels like ESP Disk, Osàre! Editions, Youth, and more. His oeuvre is split across three aliases – the aforementioned Hoshina Anniversary, Suemori, and Shifting Gears. The latter pseudonym is drawn from organist Johnny Hammond’s jazz funk opus “Shifting Gears”, and it’s a felicitous tribute to the salient influence of jazz composition and improvisation that appears across his discography.

In anticipation of a new Shifting Gears release on toucan sounds later this month, he’s compiled an hour of original material from his abundant vaults that showcases his compositionally and melodically attuned approach to making dance music. Drawing inspiration from towering figures like Miles Davis and groups like Weather Report and Return To Forever, he makes dance music that sounds like none of his contemporaries. In our conversation, he touches on their influence, his intuitive approach to composing, and the guiding impulse to make the music he wants to hear.

Drum Nation will be released on 28th January via toucan sounds.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

I think I saw a video clip of Billy Joel’s ‘Pressure’ when I was about five years old. The video was very powerful, but the synthesizers and chord progressions used in the song may have been the foundation of my music.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

Yes, I think so. My father loved classical music. My brother and sister learned to play the piano, but I never did. Ironically, the fact that I didn’t play the piano is probably what gives me this strange sense of musicality that I have today.

What led you into music production?

When I was 18 years old, the existing music was not enough for me, so I started making music that satisfied me.

I think my ideal was to play in a trio band like The Police, with the chords of Chick Corea. I would mix that with a taste of Miles Davis’ Nefertiti and Weather Report.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

Chick Corea, Donald Fagen, James Mason, Thom Yorke, Aphex Twin etc…

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

Not particularly, I guess. If there is, I could start at exactly 10:00, 11:00 etc.

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

No, it’s just a matter of going with the flow. While I’m working on it, I sense what the song wants, and I follow it, and sometimes I add other elements to it.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

Basically, I’m an impulsive creator. But I think this depends on the music. For example, if it’s dance music, I might want some space, so I might value the space and the initial impulse. On the other hand, there are songs that need a lot of work, or a lot of piano improvisation, so it’s a lot of work.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

Actually, it’s not like I’m making one from scratch. I open up a song file in Logic Pro that I’ve made before, and I use the drums or the piano in that file as a starting point for an idea. Then I start with one bar, then two bars, and so on, until I have a riff. From there, I’ll add melodies if necessary, or add flavor.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

Mostly original, I guess. Maybe it’s because I used to be in a band, so I like to make my own piano chords and type in my own phrases.

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Hoshina Anniversary or Shifting Gears track?

I’ve never really thought about it. I think there is a rhythm, a chord progression, or some kind of “habit” that I have built up over the years. That’s what’s important, I guess.

This mix is comprised of 100% original material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

It may be that it is easier to express one’s own colors. Also, I’m a prolific writer, so I can fill the entire 60-minute mixtape with my own songs. I’m not sure which track is special.

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

In 2022, I hope to tour Europe etc and do DJ gigs all over the world. I’m planning to release two albums and a few other EPs.

I want to continue to make music as Hoshina Anniversary, Shifting Gears, and Suemori.

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