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10 Tracks: Makoto curates an hour of jazz classics and old-school gems

In 10 Tracks, we link up with the cool kids and OGs of nightlife, then ask them for a mixtape. This time around, the DJ known as Makoto tells us about his lockdown album and musical pet peeve.

For drum and bass producer and DJ Makoto Shimizu — known simply in the industry as Makoto — a lifelong love for music started with a parent and an errant night out. His father collected jazz and classical records, which Makoto remained largely indifferent to until his teens. “But then I don’t know what happened — I was fourteen, fifteen when I started getting into classical, then jazz.” 

Then came high school. As a rebellious young teen it was, of course, standard practice to sneak into clubs and parties that they may not be entirely of age for. A schoolmate brought Makoto to a club for the first time when he was sixteen years old, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Born and raised in Tokyo, Makoto is an undisputed OG of DnB largely credited with spreading the genre to Japan. Now based in London, Makoto spent the pandemic lockdown in London which culminated in a new album that he describes as “thoughtful.” Clearly, he had lots of time to be thoughtful, as Makoto describes being stuck in a house in London, alone, for the majority of the city’s lockdown. Now, he’s back to touring in full force, doing a short stop in Hong Kong before a tour in Japan, then back home to London for festival season.

Makoto’s tracklist for our 10 Tracks series is a playlist of his all-time favourites, composed of diverse picks from icons like Marvin Gaye to a composition by the late, great Ryuichi Sakamoto, to old-school breakbeat master LTJ Bukem. Check out the playlist below and catch Makoto’s set this Saturday, 10 June at OMA for Magnetic Soul’s 18th anniversary party.

What’s a dream movie would you like to make the soundtrack to? 

[laughs] I don’t know. If I could, probably like a sci-fi movie or something like that. 

What kind of elements about your music would people most recognise about your music? 

It’s quite difficult, because I just make what I like. And if people like my music, I’ll be happy. 

Do you have a style or signature? 

Uplifting and soulful.

I heard the soulful type of DnB, that sound is actually quite underground. 

Harder DnB has always been more popular and has been for many many years. So jazzy DnB is always quite small, but if someone likes it, they will like it forever. 

You came out with an album during the lockdown, Motion of Change? Can you tell us a bit about it?

I didn’t intend for it to be so vocal-heavy, but it is. I made it during lockdown times, so I had a lot of time to spend on adding elements to it that I normally wouldn’t as much. I think because of the vocals, it’s easy to listen to, it’s soulful and thoughtful. It’s not really club music.

Where did you spend the lockdown? 

I was in London. Basically two of my flatmates went overseas during that time and couldn’t come back. So I was living in quite a big house alone. I could make as much noise as I wanted, that was the amazing part. But it was quite a lonely time. 

So you said you produced your album during the lockdown period, I’m just wondering creatively, what was that process like? How did that work out for you? 

In the beginning, because I didn’t have to DJ, so I spent lots and lots of time, I could spend as much as I wanted. But after that, I kind of lost motivation because you’re not seeing anyone, you’re not going anywhere. So I found it quite difficult at the end but the first few months were amazing. [laughs] 

Can you tell me about one of your most memorable gigs? 

There are quite many. Printworks a few weeks ago in London — they just closed, I was so grateful I could play there. It’s an amazing venue. 

Is there a set or a performance that had a really lasting impact on you? 

I think in the 90s, when I first saw LTJ Bukem. Or someone like Gilles Peterson, all when I was a teenager. 

When you first went to the club, did you love the music right away? 

Yes! I was already really into that music. I had all the records from the DJ before I went. [laughs] 

What makes or breaks a set for you? 

A really good set is when the DJ is actually making a story or journey for whoever’s there. The mixing is seamless, when you don’t even realise there’s a song being mixed in. When DJing is just about technique – they can use 4 decks, 5 decks, whatever, mixing like crazy — but they don’t appreciate the music, they use music as a tool. That, I don’t really like. 

When was the last time you played in Hong Kong? 

I think 2017 or 2016. 

What’s your favourite thing about Hong Kong? 

The food!!

What’s next for you? What do you have coming up and where can we see you? 

I’m going to Hong Kong, and then I’m touring in Japan after. Then I’ll come back [to London] and do a few festivals and stuff. I have a few singles coming up as well, but I can’t say what yet. 

10 Tracks: Makoto curates an hour of jazz classics and old-school gems

Vanessa Lee

Managing Editor

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