Producer Lex (de Kalhex) is born and bred in France, but Japan seems to be where his heart is. Working with Uyama Hiroto and Segawa Tatsuya—both close friends and collaborators of the late great Nujabes—on his new album Satori, Lex crafts progressive instrumental hip hop with a touch of jazz, ambient & electronica. Pushing his own boundaries by solely working with samples.
Satori comes with an art zine consisting of drawings inspired by archive photos, books and films Lex found during his trips to Japan, printed on a mid-1980s Risograph—even that is from Japan. We catched up with Lex to talk about the sample-based album, his love for the Land of the Rising Sun, and to giveaway Satori on vinyl to one lucky reader…
“Satori” relates to the Japanese buddhist term for awakening. What do buddhism and being “enlightened” mean to you?
The title refers directly to Jack Kerouac’s novel Satori in Paris. It’s also a tribute to Roland Barthes’ book on Japanese culture, Empire of Signs. Both led me to getting interested in Japanese culture. I don’t consider myself to be a buddhist, but I can relate to buddhism a lot.
I think a lot of Zen concepts can be related to any artist’s creative process and daily life. For example: doing your very best at all times, not expecting anything back, and trying to maintain a beginner’s state of mind.
What I also liked about the title “Satori,” is the idea of an eternal quest. It’s like a horizon that you’ll never reach as an artist.
What are your most valuable memories from your trips to Japan?
I’ve been in Japan three times so far, each trip was unforgettable. It allowed me to meet artists that I have appreciated for so long and who have become good friends and collaborators. Such as Keiji Ito, FK, and part of Nujabes‘ former entourage: Takumi Koizumi, Nao Tokui, Kousuke Awane, Segawa Tatsuya & Uyama Hiroto.
Last year, I’ve also met L.A. based producer Dday One in Japan. We’ve been in touch for years, and were finally able to perform together in Tokyo. That was very ill. It helped us to finish a long-time collaborative project that will be released very soon…
Your Satori album is made strictly from samples. Can you share a part of the record that means a lot to you?
I won’t tell any title or artist’s name since we never clear our samples. [laughs] But one of my favorite beats from the LP is Being. It’s a special track to me. The original sample comes from a gift of my friend Takumi, who’s releasing my music in Japan via Rockwell Product Shop. Takumi Koizumi was Hydeout Productions’ manager. He left the label after Nujabes’ death to create his own: Roph Recordings, with Segawa Tatsuya and Uyama Hiroto.
He sent me a record for Christmas that contains the original sample used for Nujabes Luv Sic! On that album I found a couple incredible seconds that I used for my track Being. Then I pressed the beat on a one-of-a-kind 7″ vinyl record, and sent it back to him as a gift to celebrate the birth of his son.
I wanted this song to appear on my album, as the whole creative process of making Being sums up what making music means to me: caring and sharing with people I’m close to.
The album comes with an art zine. I personally didn’t know you also focus on art and drawing. What’s your background in this?
Drawing has always been my main focus. I started making music in 2004, which became as equally important to me as art. I’ve studied six years at Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-arts de Paris (Fine Arts). And I teach drawing in preparatory art school for three years now.
My first drawing book was published a few months ago by Éditions Matière. It’s a leporello called Expo ’70, based on Osaka World Exposition’s archive pictures.
Can you share any Japanese artists people absolutely need to know if they’re into producers such as Nujabes and Uyama Hiroto?
Firstly, I would like people to pay more attention to FK, or how I like to call him: Japan’s best kept secret! I discovered his music via Shades of Nostalagia, the B-side on Nujabes’ D.T.F.N 12″ back in 2005.
To me, FK is one of the best producers out there, he’s one of my all-time favorites. We did a couple of tracks together. Last one that came out was with Awane. Both of them used to work with Nujabes at his former record stores in Tokyo, Tribe & Guiness.
I’m also impressed by the younger generation of Japanese producers from Tokyo, such as Illsugi, Linn Mori, and Salty. At the moment I also dig a lot of electronica, glitch, and ambient. For that, I would suggest to check out Ushio Kensuke a.k.a. Agraph, and Inner Science.
Satori is almost sold out on vinyl, but you saved one record for a lucky The Find reader. How can he or she win Satori on vinyl?
Let’s stick to Satori’s Japanese theme. So people: go to the post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, share your favorite(s) from Japan or a release that means a lot to you, and I’ll pick one of the recommendations as the winner of Satori on vinyl…