The opening interview for 2020 is a long awaited one with Flau boss Yasuhiko Fukuzono aka Yas who kindly took the time to answer my questions. Flau is in it’s thirteenth year with artists like Part Timer, Radicalfashion, The Boats, Henning Schmiedt, Sylvain Chauveau, Danny Norbury, Ensemble 0, Cicada and many more others (including Yas’ own project, aus ) appearing on the label. Recently covered with in these pages were the Cicada and Henning Schmiedt releases of late last year, with the new year opening up with a new release from Schmiedt called “Schlafen”.
*Can You please tell us about the origins of Flau? I believe additional to the label you also put on events. Did these precede the label? How many people are involved with the label?
FLAU started as a live event with my friend Miyauchi Yuri at the end of 2006. I was playing all-night event, but I felt uncomfortable for our music because its not for so much dance, actually I felt “what I’m doing” in every early morning after the show. So, I started putting the shows on in the afternoon. When we organised the first event, we made a gift for our audience, it’s like a novelty, a compilation album that collected many friends and our favourite artist via Myspace like Hood, Lori Scacco, Western Vinyl’s owner Bexar Bexar and many more…It wasn’t going to be an ongoing process. That was very small show, only 100 copies were made. But in response to the compilation, we got a lot of demo’s from all over the world. At same time, I have many friends who have wonderful talents and are not released yet officially. Then finally we decided to start the record label for making platform for basically my friends. After a couple of years, Yuri left the label. Now the label is run only by me. I’m also still organising shows and tours, and I invited many foreign artists like Olafur Arnalds, Julia Holter, Julianna Barwick, Grouper, Rachel Grimes, and many more.
*The label has seen release from returning artists such as Sylvain Chauveau, Ulises Conti, Cuushe and The Boats to name a few. How important is establishing a roster in creating the Flau ethos?
Basically, we like to grow up with fresh and new artists, but what they have brought to the label is huge. Actually Sylvain and The Boats are friends before we released their albums. Sylvain sings on my track and I have also released the album from Moteer by Craig of The Boats. Over ten years we are still friends and long term relationships are wonderful for me. Looking back working with The Boats helped a lot for us to establish our way. Craig made some artwork for our early catalogues, introduced us to Boomkat and many people know of us through them.
They all have their own way, they also change their styles. Perhaps Sylvain and Ulises were famous piano musicians maybe, but Sylvain is now playing guitar with Ensemble 0, I feel he has moved from the piano music of this era. Ulises recorded Chamber Music pieces to field recordings and the to IDM. But they are still them. I can feel their aesthetics even if they change their style, that is why we love them and they tell us the most interesting things that amaze us every time to see how much as artists they change, think and feel.
*You recently celebrated the ten year (+1) anniversary with the “Circles” compilation. What have been the highlights, low lights (eg: robbery), challenges and rewards over that time?
I Think it is great that we have had a long relationship with lots of artists, that we have been supported by friends and an audience who really love and are connected by music. I can say it is a highlight for me. Low lights, yes the robbery, after that nightmare it was the most hardest time, I feel it still goes on. I had no idea that we would become a victim of a criminal case, but what we felt when we were victimised was the reality of the secondary damage and how difficult it was to raise our voice. In this case it affected individuals, communities, label artists and audiences in various layers, but we wanted to avoid any hindrance to the future activities of the label and related people.
In the modern era when everyone is looking at things from a panoramic perspective and is philosophical, unfortunately their best solution would be a way where neither the perpetrator nor the victim touches the issue. So, I am truly grateful to the artists and friends who nevertheless raised their voices at the time of the incident. Also I would like to express my deepest gratitude to those who encouraged me by email, phone calls and many orders without speaking out as well as my friends who supported us.
*What qualities do you look for in artists appearing on the label?
Unique, thoughtful, sometimes awkward or skilful. What is most important is that they have their own unique way.
*From an outsider looking in, the Japanese scene from labels to artists seems so vibrant and supportive. What is it that you think makes Japan such an exciting musical country?
It is a very difficult question. I believe that the process of delivering music is inseparable and that in every country they all work well together. Especially in Japan, cultural support is weak and land prices are high, so it is difficult to organise a show and run the label alone. If you are in a big city like Tokyo you can easily get close to a certain community, so it is necessary to cooperate with everyone. As a social environment you be able to work very powerfully when you are a teenager or young, but unfortunately it is very difficult to continue playing music, running a label and organising shows once they start working. It will be difficult without family and financial support.
*If you were able to select three releases as an example of the catalogue to someone who was new to the label, which releases would you choose and why?
Rima Kato “Sing-Song”, Sparrows “Berries” and Noah “Thirty”. These three are from last years releases. I think all of them are very fresh and are good for a person who is new to us.
*You release / have released under the name aus. With the exception of the collaborative track on “Circles”, it has been a while since you released anything. Are you still musically active?
I and not so much active with my music after the theft of my huge musical data. But I am now re-starting new recordings. Hopefully I will have something to show this year. On the other hand I and producing and supporting several artists and composing music for advertisements.
*Can you reveal your plans for the future?
We are starting 202 by releasing the new Henning Schmiedt album “Schlafen” which is a re-interpretation of Bach’s “Goldberg”. An album from Sylvain Chauveau is scheduled for April but it is a new challenge with a different taste from the albums he has released before. Other new releases are from new artists such as Kumi Takahara , Masaki Hayashi and Seigen Tokuzawa’s duo, both from Japan. Also Patrick Ellis from Brooklyn is planning his first album too as well as the return of Cuushe with a new project detailing this crime. Last year we released Tomo Akikawabaya’s new project The Future Eve feat, Robert Wyatt with which we had a release launch restaurant part and a unique exhibition. We will continue with his KiTsuNe project in the future and many more.