Heroes: Interview with Jerome Qpchan (Tokyo)

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We interviewed Jerome Qpchan — tireless record hunter, like Crocodile Dundee, gray cardinal opened a lot of musical treasures to the world, he’s obscure encyclopedia on two legs. Jerome is an alter ego of “digging” term, as well as synonymous with hard, tenacious and passionate love of music.

There’s no info about you in Internet besides your Discogs profile, of course :) So let’s start from how did you get in Tokyo?

I come from somewhere in middle of the French countryside (center west of France) but lived 10 years in Paris before marrying my long time Japanese love and moving to Tokyo in early 2012 (my nickname Qpchan comes from her btw..)

First serious musical memories are from mid ’80′s with some underground local FM radio show (still existing to this day!) playing alternative, new wave, underground «pop» dance music, this was ’84-85… Always been into «different» (not commercial) music as long as I can remember but of course liked a lot of «hits» in the 80′s too. Got deeper into underground dance music from around 1987, Dimitri (not yet «from Paris») had a weekly radio show on the main FM radio station in France, every Saturday evening he was playing, in the mix, all the fresh «dance music» imports. Hearing «Promised Land» for the first time there was a life changing moment for me… Kind of where it all started really…

I was also into rap (even hip-house) for a bit, more into the «not serious» «light» side of this music, got memory of «Funky Cold Medina» rocking the clubs in Spain, summer of 1989. It was all so fresh!

Records where expensive for a teenager at that time, especially imports, so I started to buy 12 inches around 1990, but had limited choice with my budget. With all the music going so fast at that time, you had to be well kept informed, so I was listening to FM radio a lot! Recording cassette tapes too. The CD was booming and shops were starting getting rid of their vinyls in the very early 90′s, so you could do nice bargains (remember shops called Nuggets having Trax originals for so cheap). House was already big but still underground in France, especially when living in a small city. I went to my first big rave in 1993 near Paris, Garnier was the «god» at that time, he was so inspiring. Moved to London in 1995, was tuned all the time on Kiss FM, so many good music from every corners at that time, the 2 x Colins (Faver & Dale) for techno and house, Gilles Peterson & Patrick Forge for world, jazz and grooves, LTJ Bukem for drum & bass, Paul Thomas for the chill-out ambient stuff and so on. I was receiving Jazzman newsletter at home, with all those rare records for sale (library, jazz) — this is how the digging hobby started. I Spent 4 years in the UK, back in Paris in 1999, I was really getting into the «vinyl hunting» thing, finding a few big bits helped on motivation.

Early 2000, house and music in general was kind of starting to bore me, my fave DJs were starting sounding shit, they were all starting to play CDs and they were loosing the «soul» and I got deeply into digging old music. Met two of my best musical friends via some boards (Sam D/M/S/R aka Deemsaar and David 028 aka studio Ganaro) they opened my ears on disco and Italo (which I was avoiding completely previously, my bad). They were so into the CBS radio, Loud-E was the king, this was 2006 or something.

I was already addicted to Discogs, but when the database allowed people to submit other styles than electronic music, it went to another level. Met my digging partner (and the next big thing in Deejaying ;) ) Raphael (Top-Secret), he was in the young duo of DJs «Zaltan & Top-Secret», they were injecting some freshness in the Paris underground DJ scene at the time, and meeting with them was really inspiring too. We started taking our digging hobby very seriously, waking up too early, drive away to some lost car boot sales was (and still is!) our drug! Good times like going on for 2 weeks all around France, driving 4000 kms with our mate Antoine (from Syracuse). We learnt a lot from our finds, adjusting our tastes all the time. We could not keep all the records, we needed «fuel» too, so we created our Creme2laCreme account/channel.

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Been meeting quite a lot of people since in Japan, much easier for connections amongst foreigners here. One of my dream would have been to open a record shop here in Tokyo, doing something similar to what the Red Light crew does in Amsterdam, but haven’t yet found the opportunity, right people to do this with. You need to be a crew! Learning even more about music all the time, any music collector knows it’s a dream (nightmare?) for vinyl addicts here :)

Do you feel yourself as a part of some community? What is it?

Well, the community of music freaks that don’t want the quest for obscure records to ever be ending! Not sure it being a community as there is a lot of competition, especially since everyone seems to be looking for the same damn records! But some of us are really friends, we exchange info, tip ourselves all the time, so yes, there is a community. But it’s tiny, and it’s «underground» :)

Is music a biggest part of your life?

So big that 90% of my close friends have the same hobby/work.

What is it like to find something and to understand it’s unknown for most of others?

It makes you understand how huge was the music production back then. Finding an obscure 7″ (tiny autoprod recorded in someone’s homestudio in the south of France, for example) during a Sunday morning car boot sale in the middle of the French countryside, playing it on your portable deck and finding out that there is a dope instrumental cosmic funk on the B-side, then back home in the evening searching info online and nothing comes out. Damn I miss this! Doing 10 days trip / 3000kms all over the country and scoring new discoveries almost everyday back in 2010 is a big memory too.

What is your current fave period of time or style where you are digging?

Anything from late 60′s experimental, modal jazz-70′s rare grooves, library, cosmic-disco-prog, early 80′s funk -afro / Carribean / leftfield reggae to early house and techno, and of course learning all the time about Japanese records. Also more recently discovering amazing overlooked music from late 80′s/early ’90′s

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I saw you shared your copy of Cool Waters with Jamie for the compilation on Music From Memory. Were you involved in some other projects because of you owning some super rare copy? And tell the story about Napoleon Cherry record

I did not discovered this (and no-one can claim a discovery anyways) but I gave the tip to Tako & Jamie after I heard it played by Max-D (from Beautiful Swimmers) and finding cheap copies online. We exchange information quite a lot. Music From Memory will be the «reissue» label of 2016, I feel it!

What do you miss about Paris and what excites you in Tokyo? What did surprise you the most in Japan after moving there?

Still surprise me: the organisation, everything here is SO organised. Too much sometimes. About Paris, well, I never been a Parisian, lived there 10 years and never felt I would ever be a Parisian, I am a «countryside» boy ;) I miss a few friends there, the digging (which can be good… sometimes), and the «pain au chocolat aux amandes» :)

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Tell some stories of your discoveries that became a holy grail later?

The one I am 100% sure that was not (well) known when we got our hands on it is Adio — Fatëlikul (Version). Late 2012, myself and my mate/digging partner Raphael just had spent a good 4 hours in a dusty basement of a shop somewhere in Auvergne (France), we were almost ready to leave when I pulled this last one from the «to listen» pile… I remember seeing the «Safari Ambiance» logo on back sleeve so I thought this had to be heard. Even on the Columbia GP-3, the B-side sounded dope! So good I had to shout something to Raphael who was already on the departure! Find of that day no doubt! After checking the web, there was like 15 copies hanging there, from very cheap to cheap, we got some, told a few friends who got the others. Few days later there was nothing left. This was then compiled by Danny on Magik Sunrise in 2013.

I separate Japanese records in two halves: one is a music influenced by European or American artists (like Yamashita — Big Wave OST) and other half — authentic local and independent (like Mariah)? If you do separate like this (or in other way), please name some your fave artists from both halves.

Well, not really, I separate Japanese only release of records made by foreigners (ex: Bobby Lyle, Marty Bracey, Steve Hiett etc) from the Japanese artists ones. I am recently getting rid of loads of stuff that I never listen to, a lot of one tracker too, but some are keepers though.

Can you explain a bit the phenomenon of Japanese records, the passion around it?

People want new things all the time, and rare things if possible, most Japanese records seem to have never made their way outside Japan during the glorious days of vinyl, so either you order them online now, and they can be pretty expensive, or you come here looking for them, but with just a tiny chance to score them at a bargain price nowadays.

Tell us about some Japanese diamonds in your collection

Got lucky to get my hands on that very rare promo LP called ニライカナイ Requiem 1945, apparently made in Okinawa (south part of Japan) and it’s got that «proto» acid track on it, it’s great. Got also the Wonder City Orchestra recently, my mate Danny offered it to me :D That «Changing» track is the one for me, thanks again to the Red Light crew for canning it in their sets. Also, Tabo’s Project is the one everybody wants now I guess!

Your fave spots, dealers in Tokyo?

When it comes to Japanese records and you wanna learn about obscure stuff, Dubby (Ondas) is the knowledgeable man. Won’t give any of my «secret» spots of course, but as you all know Disk Union chain is inevitable, you rarely get out a Disk Union empty handed :)

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We love synth-pop and new wave, and it feels that Japanese contributed the craziest and most radical records to the genre. Do you have favorites?

Strangely I don’t have much of those Japanese records, probably because I sell them, but also maybe because I never been that much into new wave synth stuff myself… Remember finding the Mariah 2×12″ three times since in Japan, but sold them all. Got a few faves still, Mu Project is one of them (which I still need to find). If you have to introduce someone to this genre you’ll probably need to play them Testpattern classic’s in it’s entirity.

Is listening session a popular party format in Tokyo? Did you have great experience with it (you played / heard someone played crazy set)?

There are some supercool bars with top cool soundsystem, but often if you do an «underground» party/session, it’s mostly empty or if crowdy, too many DJs are sharing the decks. I feel Japanese audience are not that adventurous these days and you better have a «better known» DJ to fill-up a place. Some of the best «underground» dudes been over here without the audience they really deserved (Invisible City, Steele, Dea, Raph). Locally, the «legendary» Chee Shimizu has always played very nice stuff. I think he is deejaying less nowadays. For party atmosphere, I like the monthly Lonestar parties at Bonobo with Max Essa and Co, not the most underground digger’s music you’ll ever hear but the vibe is always so right, and bar Bonobo can be such a cool spot.

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What is your ultimate record that fills you with energy and inspiration?

I have a few favorites that I keep hearing (and singing) in my head especially during my lonely bicycle rides in Tokyo’s streets, I come back to them on a regular basis for inspiration. The current one:

Follow Jerome on Soundcloud and check his Discogs profile.

Photos 1, 2, 4 Cedric Bardawil
Cover illustration Sasha Tessio
Words Sasha Tessio & Artem Super Ikra

Tags: Japanese_finest