Seven days in Tokyo seemed like a dream to us and that it was until Red Bull invited Stoney Roads to head to this years Red Bull Music Academy conveniently penned in Japan, a touch closer to home than last years stint in New York.
In an effort to condense what was probably the most eye-opening, inspiring, exciting and interesting experience we’d ever had, we’ve put together a piece giving you the best bits, along with photos of what Red Bull Music Academy and Tokyo in general has to offer!
Red Bull Music Academy
The idea is simple but the logistics of it all are immense…
Two semesters, 30 participants in each from all around the world, including already established artists such as Xosar, Zebra Katz and Mumdance. There was also fresh faces such as Australian talent Estii and Summer as well Melbourne character Lewis Cancut, Victor from Sweden and Laura from the UK all making up a tiny percentage of the willing, buzzing minds.
From there the music makers get access to world class studios with added visual flairs courtesy of renowned Japanese artists for each. There was also a smorgasbord of technology on hand with new and old drum machines, synths, keys, racks of audio and controllers for use by all at any time of the day.
The main studio is regarded as by many as being the best RBMA has ever had
To make it easier, each participant is also given a phone fully loaded with everyones numbers meaning late night sessions or a quick highball (scotch and soda) is only a text away. It also meant access to producers who were helping out the studio around the clock. Hell. on our first lunch break we manage to bump into Dre Skull and fanboy out.
After a brief tour of the completely custom block and its inhabits (shout outs to Arni, Mike and Jacob, you guys rule!) we headed into the first lecture with stern instructions of nothing to be filmed, recorded or any photos taken. Whoa, what were we heading into?!
Ryoji Ikeda – First Lecture
Ryoji Ikeda is a Japanese audio visual and sound artist who lives and works in Paris. On our first day at RBMA, we had the pleasure of listening to his story. He’s made his profession through performing art and playing music made with frequencies and white noise, ideally pitting the human body against sound and image. From a snapshot, he didn’t give much away which pulled you closer into trying to figure out his mystery.
A recent tour of his Test Patterns project saw multiple screens, usually donned with advertising in Times Square replaced with bouncing, whirling, jumping black and white shapes, lines and patterns sprayed across each. His other projects including the " target="_blank">‘Transfinite’ and " target="_blank">‘Data Path’ should help give you an idea of the scale he enjoys working with.
Turns out you can make money from making beautiful white noise.
WOMB Nightclub Shibuya (Party)
We were lucky enough to sneak into RBMA’s 1UP: Cart Diggers at Shibuya night club WOMB. The night was filled with talent kicking their interpretations of classic video games with the help of Dre Skull, Fatima Al Qadiri, Oneohtrix Point Never and more.
It was a nightclub with no obvious entrance but we were told by locals that it typically plays host to “EDM” based weekly events. In a snapshot, RBMA had transformed the club into an experimental melting pot that had a central focus on incredibly talented video game music accompanied by visuals of early 8 to 16 bit games.
A highlight for us was watching a world famous composer who’s sold millions of copies of his music and not many know his name. I’m talking about Donkey Kong composer Chip Tanaka playing live. Yep, he was literally making the beats live off a simple controller like he was in his basement/studio while cracking jokes in broken english that had the room in stitches ‘IM MAKING EDM!!’ ‘HERE COMES THE KICK’. A moment that will live with us for ever!
Ichiran Ramen, Shibuya (Food)
After a massively hungover night watching RBMA 1UP: Cart Diggers Live, we took to the streets in search of Tokyo’s best Ramen. With the help of a little thing we like to call ‘the Internet’, we managed to navigate our way to Ichiran.
Seated in your own stall, this place is the ultimate loner hang out which was perfect for two hungover bros. The ramen was second to none. We theorised that the place held nano medical technology in their soup to repair the insides. Yum!
Super Potato – (Classic Video Game Store)
Were we in heaven? Having brushed off our hangovers and being 80’s kids, we took to the metro train line to fulfil our now insatiable video game appetite to a store dubbed Super Potato. It essentially contains every game and console from NES, Master System to Gameboy and N64 in pristine working condition and ready for resale. Of the multiple levels is a place to play old video games, be it Alex the Kid, to Street Fighter and Metal Slug. Can you dig it? Yes we can. Sonic style!
Shibuya Square (World famous spot)
On our daily visit to Red Bull HQ Tokyo, we’d scramble our way through the famous and busy intersection of Shibuya Square. It literally feels like you are in a video game (good segway from Super Potato above!) and the only way to get to the other side successfully without losing a life is to not be brushed or bumped into by a minimum of ten people!
Ever put your hand in a lucky dip? Everywhere you go, literally no food makes too much sense, especially if it’s packaged. Walking into an equivalent to a mini mart is like walking into a rainbow filled anime cartoon. When we wanted a snack, we’d literally close our eyes and point, then that was effectively the best way to get a final decision!
Maruhachi (Drinks, food and fun!)
Are you gambling person who likes to gamble but not with money and you win a drink? Roll the dice at Maruhachi and if you are unlucky enough, you might find yourself drinking 96% alcohol as Ubbs did. Or eating a piece of sushi loaded with Wasabi!
Ubbs loosing a game of Russian Sushi
Dengue Dengue Dengue – Second Lecture
A mutated version cumbia instantly became our new favourite genre thanks to a duo from Peru who came into RBMA to discuss the electronic scene in a third world country. Their style is a combination of what we’d describe as tropical bass mixed with sample heavy old school / traditional cumbia.
We learnt about their wild parties back in their hometown of Lima that grew from hundreds quickly to thousands! Seriously inspiring stuff but most important. THAT BASSLINE! These guys know a thing or two about making the low frequency crank.
After cramming our brains with all the information and inspiration we could it seemed like a good time to relax and after hearing that Cat Cafes were a MUST we decided to finally get our butts into gear and make the journey.
Walk up 5 stories of narrow stairwells off the main road of Shinjuku and you are met with… Cats. The layout isn’t how we envisaged it. You arrive and have to get given neck bands like your walking into a concert. You then have to wash your hands and put stuff in a locker. Once you’ve entered, it’s like a super clean version of the crazy cat ladies house.
Andrew and I became good mates with a cat called ‘Goma’ who was a sucker for a back scratch. All in all a must do experience but like cats are, they generally don’t want to be patted. So it’s more entertaining watching people chasing after cats.
Cat popped onto the girls back while she was leaning over to pat another cat. LOL
Another thing everyone says you have to do is the robot restaurant and it is an experience like no other! Managing to grab a front row we were in for the show of our lives as giant robots battled, animatronic snakes hissed, fireworks exploded and scantily clad girls danced on- top of everything.
Rave and Ubbs pose with some robots while we karate chop some decks ps nice pout by rave!
Girls not wearing much drumming a glowing set of drums and yelling at your faces
Miraikan Museum – The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
We made the beautiful journey out to Koto to check out the Miraikan Museum which is kind of like the powerhouse in Sydney but ahh, slightly more futuristic. Here we checked out rocket engines, androids (yes they are scary) and almost everything else under the sun. Although fun you’d probably find school kids frothing a little harder.
The train ride was tough
Not sure what this is but you know, STRAYA
This android tells the news and is creepily realistic
Carl Craig at Liquid Room
This was our last night in Tokyo so we had to make it count although with Carl Craig not starting until 2am (suck it lock out laws) we had to push through but was totally worth it. Lets just say Japanese clubs hold a hell of a lot more people and pack sound-systems better than any, the result is an insanely good time and lots of friendly people enjoying good tunes.
It was quite a sexual experience. Every time Carl Craig took the bass out in his set, the room would literally beg until brought back. What a sound system!
Token blurry nightclub photo of Carl Craig slaying Liquid Room
A huge thank you goes our to Red Bull Australia for allowing us to experience something we’d never have expected to do in our lifetime.