I recently had the opportunity to interview Yokohama based rapper AXIS. AXIS is on the LIBRA LTD label which has acts such as MSC who are known as one of the founding groups of Japanese Hip Hop. As with all of my interviews it was via email.
RSF - Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
A - Hello readers. I'm Axis. I'm an Indian citizen born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. Almost 36 years old.
RSF - You’re from Yokohama, the city by the bay and home to a pretty bad baseball team! (ha ha) Just joking! What made you decide to move to Yokohama after living throughout Japan and abroad in the states for some time? How is the Hip Hop scene there? The only person I really know of besides you is NONKEY from LIFE EARTH and OZROSAURUS (not sure how I forgot them initially I love MACCHO lol)
A - I'm from Tokyo, for the record. I moved to Yokohama after dropping out of college. Circumstances dictated my abode, more so than any choice I made. A few years ago, I bought an apartment in Yokohama because no real estate company wanted to rent me a place of any sort. Yokohama is more known for reggae than for Hip Hop. It's home to Mighty Crown, Fireball, and Unity Sound, among a plethora of other groups. Ozrosaurus is Yokohama's most famous rap group.
RSF - You recently released an album titled UNCIVILIZED, could you please tell us a little about the album?
A - I named the album what I did to signify that I was transforming myself back to a natural human being after being institutionalized for all my life. It also points to the barbaric aspect within my person. The album is 18 tracks long. It includes a story-telling trilogy ("MC", "Junky", & "The Fallen") that touch on the traps and ills of the music industry, drug abuse, and falling from the "grace of God". Basically, it's the story of my life, as well as those around me.
RSF - I have to say that I love the artwork in the booklet! Who designed it? It’s almost like a very old book from antiquity.
A - Hama-chan designed the cover. He's a very talented Japanese graphics designer.
RSF - You have a lot of well known, albeit somewhat underground artists on your album, including KM$ from Treasure Boat Gang and BLAHRMY from DLIP who are seemingly becoming kings of the underground and even KAN from MSC! How did you manage to come in contact with these amazing artists and ask them to work on a track? Not forgetting 5IVE, but I don't know much about him or RC76 sadly, I did love his verse on Insight very much though!
A - KM$ is like my younger brother. I've known him from school. I've known MC Kan since 1999, before Libra Records was established, and we have always had respect for each other's music. I've known Miles from Blahrmy for 7,8 years now. 5ive and myself formed RC 76 in 1999, after we decimated everybody else in a cypher. That's my other brother from another mother. I called all the artists, and asked them to rock after they told me they liked certain tracks. Voila.
RSF - You had quite a bit of producers on this album from DADDY VEDA a.k.a. REBEL BEATS to DJ MASH and Toma57move (one of my personal favorites who too few many people know of) and some great guitar as well. Oh right a question…You know A LOT of great producers and musicians in general, how are you so lucky? (ha ha)
A - I'm blessed by great friends, and also with great musician friends.
RSF - You’re from Japan, but you appear to be very influenced from music around the world, not just Hip Hop either. Who would you say are your biggest influences not just in Japan or North America, but around the world?
A - Here goes... Beethoven, Mozart, JS Bach, Eric Satie, Albinoni, Rachmaninov, Ravi Shankar, Harry Belafonte, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ron Carter, Stan Getz, Louie Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Supercat, Buju Banton, Chaka Demus & the Pliers, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Anthrax, Exodus, Pantera, Slayer, Metallica, Mr. Bungle, The Grateful Dead, Phish, Santana, Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Public Enemy, NWA, KRS-ONE, Wu Tang Clan, Gangstarr, Bootcamp Click, Kool G Rap, Tupac, Biggie, Big Pun, DJ Shadow, DJ Krush, DJ Soul Slinger, Ninja Tune, Non Phixion, Jedi Mind Tricks, Necro, Immortal Technique, to name a few...
RSF - You have a great mastery of English in that you can seamlessly meld Japanese and English in a track or from one to another. Why both and not just Japanese for instance?
A - I rhyme in one language or the other so that I won't confuse myself.
RSF - You’ve worked with some great people already, but who is left out there that you’d love to collaborate with in the future? Be featured on a track, have them featured, have a track or mixtape produced by a certain DJ perhaps?
A - I hope to be able to feature someone off of my list of influences. DJ Premier, DJ Krush, Vinnie Paz, & Ill Bill are atop the list.
RSF - I ask this to everyone I interview. Are you single?
A - yup.
RSF - You just released UNCIVILIZED earlier this year, but you know how people are so inpatient, are you currently working on any projects at the moments, demos for a single perhaps? Or are you just taking a break for a minute?
A - I am currently writing new material. If the going's good, I should be able to release new material early next year.
RSF - What would you say makes you get out of bed every morning and what is the most important and main message behind what you do as an artist?
A - The 8 pitbulls i live with wake me up everyday. I hope that someday, people will awaken. I hope that someday, people will buy music because of it's quality, and not hype.
RSF - Would you consider touring the states or Europe in the future? I know it would be very expensive, but a coupling tour could be manageable ! At least I think so! Maybe that’s just me trying to get you to America so I can see how you murder shit live! (ha ha)
A - I would LOVE to tour the US and Europe. It would be a dream come true.
RSF - Before we go would you like to say anything to our readers?
A - Thank you for your kind attention. Now go smoke some fucking weed.
Okay I lied one last question!
RSF - What is your favorite Takeshi Kitano a.k.a. Beat Takeshi film he directed or produced or acted in, the man does it all! (lol) ? I loved Outrage and cannot wait for part 2!
A - His first film, Kono Otoko Kyobou ni Tsuki.
We would like to thank AXIS for taking his time to talk to us. If there's one thing you will learn from AXIS especially as a human being and musician, it is that he is very blunt, (ha ha!) raw and REAL.