Norio Sato aka DJ Norio is a true connoisseur of magical rhythms, awesome DJ, musician, art collector and partymaker, plus he is a man behind the outrageously wonderful vinyl shop RARE GROOVE. Earlier he recorded great mix for our podcast series. Now time has come for an interview with the Man!
Norio, what was the first record you bought?
It was Deep Purple — Highway Star 7”. I liked Ritchie Blackmore when I was at high school. I bought it at flea market. It has a very cool cover, isn’t it?
How did you come to opening your own record shop? How long you’re doing it?
I’m managing my record store for almost six years. I’m doing it to keep listening and digging records for all my life. I’m happy because I can listen to records 24/7). Japanese music is most popular in my store from last year. But this section is too small in my store. I was very surprised that many foreign customers are very into Japanese records, they always say to me: “Why there are only few Japanese records in your store? Here is Japan, right?” Ahh…
What’s the story with your new store? Have you moved there or is it your another one shop?
I opened small store same building on the 2nd floor 6 years ago. I moved to 4th floor 3 years ago. And now I moved back to the 2nd floor. It is the third spot.
Have you the ideal in your head before opening it? How did you shop change through the years?
First, I opened my store without an ideal. I moved to 4th floor (last store) 3 years ago because off course room rent was down and record business in the Internet was very popular few years ago. But when I went to USA to buy records last year, I was very surprised how many young customers were digging records anywhere. Buying records in the record store is a very special thing. I thought that I’d like many customers to come to my shop in easier way. So I moved back to the 2nd floor same building again this year, right now there are 6 record stores on one floor! I’m flying to USA 2 or 3 times a year. And I’m buying records from European dealer and DJ, too.
Tell your story with music. Japan is a very special place and we don’t know enough about scene there.
When I was younger, I had no interest in club culture. Sorry, I don’t know about early club culture because I had never gone to club before opened my own store. But some DJs came to my store for some years now. They showed playlist of DJ Harvey to me) I was very surprised because he played the song of my favorite band Deep Purple. Ahh… I started go to clubs from that time.
How can you explain the Harvey phenomenon in Japan?
His sets are always crazy! Many people expect something unpredictable from his DJ set. Every DJs around my store are my mentors. They teach me good music and I can introduce good music to them too. Club & record store are good places for this purpose. Key figures for me are Zecky, Chee, Idjut Boys, Prins Thomas and many other great DJs. And I respect Red Light Records crew, Basso and Invisible City crew. They released some amazing re-issues, it’s a great work.
How long you’re DJing, are you DJing outside Japan?
About 10 years. I’ve never play outside Japan.
Tell about music scene in Japan, how it did change during your observation of it?
Umm… I don’t know about Japanese music scene well but record scene is really charge up. I’d like to introduce the excellence of records to young people more and more.
Are all Japanese so crazy about obscure and expensive stuff like I think about them?
Yes, there are many great diggers in Japan. But I was surprised that people in USA and Europe are also looking for Japanese records eagerly. Can name the one: My Mine — Hypnotic Tango.
Describe your ideal vacation? How do you relax?
I visit record store and check new release titles in Internet on vacation. I relax when I play in club on weekends.
What are the most amazing cafe / club you visited?
There are many nice cafes & clubs in Osaka. Club Nuooh was amazing venue in Osaka. Unfortunately, the club was closed few years ago. COS/MES, Tiago, Todd Terje, Michael Ozone and many great DJs played there. Great memories!
Do you have a favorite cocktail or drink?
No, I don’t yet. Beer, beer and beer!
I saw you got a bunch of Whatever We Want records, where did you get it? it’s super expensive on Discogs))
It’s a top secret! Ahh…
What do you recommend to buy there now?
Gigi Masin — Talk To The Sea. It’s a very special re-issue!
Greek Salad With Gus Kamaras — Disco East. It’s a very obscure disco LP. Never saw it in other stores.
Methusalem — Journey Into The Unknown. Space disco classic!
Cogwheel — Sightsound. German cosmic rock!
What are your plans, what’s next?
I’d like to hold a party in my store!
Words by Sasha Tessio & Artem Super Ikra.
Cover drawing by Sasha Tessio.
Photos by Norio.