Thick: When did you start producing?
Unagi: I did music since I was a kid. I played different instruments and was in bands and what not. Then probably around '96-97 I started making beats with this crew that I was working with back in Massachusetts called The Discs of Tron. I started doing beats for the group and eventually went solo. Everybody's bitching now saying Hip-Hop is dead but back then in '97 I was disgruntled with the shit that was coming out and figured I could do a better job. That was when the shiny suits were jumping off and Swizz Beatz was coming into the game and I was just not feelin' it. I figured I'd start fucking around and making my own beats. Ten years later that's still what I'm doing pretty much.
T: We know your focus is vinyl collecting and crate digging. Talk about how that effects your music.
U: My step-father, who like raised me, he's a jazz musician. Ever since I was a little kid there was just a billion records in the house. I mean I have a lot now but he has like ten times as many. I was always into the vinyl and into different styles of music. So, I got into records and collecting them. I didn't call it diggin' back then. Honestly, I like the Neptunes, Mannie Fresh and other producers that don't really sample but for me, personally, the loop heavy stuff is what I grew up with and was into. I don't sample the obvious stuff. A lot of people say it's gotta be pre '74. I'm also kinda cheap and I'm not really trying to pay forty bucks for a record when I could get just as cool a loop off one that costs a buck. I do some stuff that doesn't sample but the vast majority is taking loops off records.
T: Are you part Japanese?
U: I'm a quarter Japanese. My grandfather, he was a first generation, he was born in Hawaii. Both of his parents were from Japan. My label is called 442. In World War II there was a unit called the 442nd that was all the Japanese-Americans. Basically, the ones that didn't get sent to internment camps because they were born in the States but looked fully Japanese. That's why I named the label 442, as a tribute to him. I haven't actually been to Japan yet but I'm hoping to go over there and do some shows at some point.
T: In terms of equipment. Do you tend to go with an older vintage piece or do you use newer stuff?
U: I use real old shit. I don't use the computer at all...like maybe for a little EQ at the very end, like the mastering. But I don't record with the computer. I also don't use an MPC. My set-up hasn't changed too much. I used to have a four track, now I record everything on an eight track. Then I have a ten year old Dr. Sample, one of those 202 joints. Also an equally as old Dr. Rhythm drum machine. I just bang out everything by hand. I don't sequence any of my stuff. I have a keyboard that I occasionally throw in the mix. I basically just do everything live off playing loops live, triggering stuff and playing my drums live. I record it onto the eight track and dump it onto a CD. I'm trying to get into the 20th century and learn the audio software and that kinda shit. But it's like, I've been doing it this way so long now that I'm just totally used to it. Also, I sit in front of a computer all day at work and I'm not trying to do the same thing when I get home. I think technology is cool and I'm not Unibomber-style, hating it. I think doing it my way gives it a little more swing or you could say sloppiness. Sometimes I think when everything is so blatantly off the computer it just sounds cold and shitty. When people see my set-up they're like, what the fuck? But that's what works for me.