Alex From Tokyo (Tokyo Black Star / Phonon) relocated to Berlin in 2017 to start a new chapter in his music life. He still travels regularly to Japan, Asia, and beyond to soak up the sounds and share his “happy funky positive” soundscapes. Alex Barck is speaking with him about his new home Berlin and new music he’s working on.
Paris-born, Tokyo-raised, Berlin-based DJ, music producer, and sound designer. world famous label owner.
Calling Tokyo home from the age of four, Alex grew up amid the sounds and spectacle of the world’s largest city— playing baseball, practicing Kendō (Japanese swordsmanship), and honing an ear for eclectic soundscapes in Shibuya’s record stores and at famed underground clubs like The Bank, Another World, and Gold.
Alex returned to his birthplace of Paris in the early 1990s, and formed the unit “A Deep Groove” with Dj Deep and DJ Gregory in 1993. Their now-legendary lunchtime radio show on Radio FG 98.2fm was one of the first to spread the “real underground dance music” sound from the US and put a spotlight on early French deep house artists like St. Germain and Shazz.
Arriving back in Japan in 1995, Alex emerged as the go-to contact for European labels, DJs, and artists seeking a presence in Japan. He worked with Laurent Garnier’s F Communications, London’s Mr. Bongo and its label Disorient, France’s Yellow Productions and its Bossa Tres Jazz project “When East Meets West” (Alex coordinated the Japan side), and recorded mixed CDs for Tokyo’s P-Vine, Flavour of Sound, Rush Productions, Flower Records, Ultra Vybe and Italy’s Reincarnation. Alex surfaced as one of the strongest crossover DJs in Japan in the late 1990s, running his weekly radio show “Tokyo Club Mix Showcase” every Wednesday night on Shibuya FM 78.4, holding a residency at club Yellow in Tokyo, and touring all over Asia and the world. “ALEX FROM TOKYO” was born.
In the late 1990s, after releasing two remixes as “Tokyo 246 Ave. Project” (on Disorient for Ashley Beedle and Frederic Galiano’s label Frikyiwa), Alex started producing original music as Tokyo Black Star with sound engineer Isao Kumano (Kenichi Takagi joined as an official member in 2015). Tokyo Black Star’s debut release, a remix of “For You” by Big Moses (feat. Ja’nel), came out on Kerri Chandler’s label Basemental in 2000. Tokyo Black Star’s “Psyche Dance” EP became the very first release of Berlin label Innervisions in 2005 (Innervisions released four other Tokyo Black Star EPs as well as their debut album “Black Ships” in April 2009). The group has handed down EPs for Dj Deep’s Deeply Rooted House records and Slam Jam’s Reincarnation label, as well as remixes for such legendary artists as Tony Allen, Carl Craig (Planet E’s 20th anniversary Psyche “Neurotic Behavior” on Planet E, 2011), Phenomenal Handclap Band (Tummy Touch Records, 2013), Kuniyuki (mule music), and Bing Ji Ling (Lovemonk), and their track “Kagura” was selected for the Xbox 360 game “Crackdown.”
Already nicknamed by his music friends as “world famous,” Alex made it his brand name in 2002. The maiden release on Alex’s world famous label featured a remastered version of Japanese DJ/producer Dan K’s lost deep house classic “Melancholic dub” on the A side and a Tokyo Black Star remix of Japanese acoustic rock artist Breath Mark on the B side. Alex relaunched the label from New York in November 2015 with duo-turned-trio Tokyo Black Star’s “Edo Express EP,” which they followed with the epic soundtrack album “Fantasy Live 1999” in summer 2016. For the second release of the label, “Bing Ji Ling & Alex from Tokyo present,” Alex collaborated in NYC with Bing Ji Ling on the song “Not my day.”
Outside the club scene, Alex has been making moves in music coordination, consulting, and production work for international fashion brands (Y-3, Louis Vuitton, Mini) and other select clients (WAGYUMAFIA) since the late 1990s, a passion he continues to pursue. Alex also translated Laurent Garnier’s autobiography “Electrochoc” into Japanese in 2006 (Tokyo: Kawade Shobo).
By the early 2000s, ALEX FROM TOKYO was in international demand and eager for new inspirations and challenges. Drawn by New York City—spiritual home of dance and club music—and moved by special encounters with Larry Levan, Francois Kevorkian, David Mancuso, Daniel Wang, and Sarah Ellison, Alex decided to make the Big Apple his home in 2005. He would spend the next decade there, exploring his musical roots and shaking up the NYC scene by adding his own fresh and eclectic touch in clubs like APT, Cielo, Output, Le Bain, and Nublu and through curations like the UK label Claremont 56’s CD series “Originals Volume Ten, compiled by Alex from Tokyo” (2013).
Keen to share their sonic adventures with the world, Alex and Kumano of Tokyo Black Star launched phonon (phonon-inc.com) in 2010, crafting exceptional audio equipment for sound aficionados.
Alex relocated to Berlin in 2017 to start a new chapter in his music life. He still travels regularly to Japan, Asia, and beyond to soak up the sounds and share his “happy funky positive” soundscapes. Alex continues a nineteen-year residency at the Sunday afternoon party “Gallery” at CAY in Aoyama, Tokyo, alongside DJ Nori, Kenji Hasegawa, and Fukuba. From September 2017, Alex from Tokyo kicks off a new residency at The Observatory in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The world famous label will be digitally and physically relaunched from Berlin in late 2017/beginning 2018. Be on the lookout for new original music and collaborations by Alex as well as a Tokyo Black Star live project in 2018…