Bushidō (武士道), literally “military scholar road”, is a Japanese word for the way of the Samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry; a rather modern term than a historical one.
Godisnolongeradj caught up with Geoff Wright (aka DJ Presha and head honcho of the Samurai Music group) in Athens after his gig, to discuss all things Samurai, inspired by the seven main virtues of the “Bushido Code”.
You are a Japanese art enthusiast, hence the Samurai logo and artwork. How would you describe the ethos Samurai Music is representing and how would you say it encapsulates, in an abstract level, any of the main virtues of the Samurai Code of Honour (implicitly referenced on the “Way of The Samurai 2 – Code of Honour” compilation sampler series released by Samurai Music in 2012)?
The name came at a time when I was having a lot of personal issues in my life and I needed to summon some strength to get through it. Although the Samurai story is mostly a negative one at the heart of it, they were powerful, committed individuals with unflinching devotion. That quality is something we could all benefit from, harnessing and using it in the direction of good. All of the virtues can be used in a positive way towards any life pursuit, and without sounding like a total cheese ball, I like to think they are virtues I use in my dealing with everything to do with the label. The words speak for themselves really and I do identify with every one with running the label.
Samurai Music and its subsidiaries (Red Seal and Horo) have been strongly supporting the vinyl format, since day one; in fact the Samurai Horo releases are available only on limited edition collectible vinyl. Is it financially sustainable nowadays for an independent label to carry on this path?
These days there is very little profit involved in the records, but for me it’s an important part of owning a label that releases music, and still adds validity to releases. Our sales figures for vinyl haven’t changed drastically in the last 5 years, and as long as it continues as it is, we will carry on making them. I think the reality is these days people don’t buy a lot of club music on vinyl, as it’s become a lot harder in some areas to play vinyl in a club, but for home listening music it seems there is a kind of “revival” in the use of the format.
You are among a handful of high-profile djs that have not engaged (officially) into drum and bass production. Has it been a conscious and irrevocable decision or production activity is something you are contemplating in the future?
I don’t think I am really high profile, but that’s flattering 🙂 ; I have had a working studio most of the last 15 years and have always meant to get to it, but have never followed through. I am constantly following production trends right from when I bought a brand new Emu 6400 Ultra many years ago. My life has led me in other directions and I have found my interests more in the organizing and product creation than the actual music making. I did make some music with one of my favorite producers recently that won’t ever come out with my name on it, but I am very much hoping it will come out somewhere. I am not sure you would call it drum and bass though. I’d still love to make more, but I need another me with some spare time. DJing is really what got me excited about this music and I feel it still retains a certain mystery when you don’t produce. Sadly, the reality in 2014 is that the scene is almost totally producer-based. I don’t really think you should make music to get gigs, which is what a lot of people are doing now. Make music because you have to, because a creative idea drives you …
You have recently relocated from New Zealand to Europe (Berlin, Germany). What has changed in terms of bookings, exposure, access and way of life? In hindsight and regardless of life circumstances, would you say that moving to Europe has helped you and your label evolve?
It’s been 3 years now, so I am very settled in. Obviously bookings have been different / better as I am in the area, which is a distinct advantage. I’ve been to so many great places I would never have imagined before. Exposure-wise as well, it’s immeasurable, as anyone who has been following the labels for any time will attest to. Berlin created Horo, that’s how influential coming here has been. Plus, it’s all very well chatting to people online, but actually meeting and spending time with people totally changes everything. The way of life part of the question ties in here as well, as I don’t actually think I totally understood a lot of things until I moved over here. The European way of life moves so much faster in every way than life in NZ, and it’s something no one can explain to you, it really has to be lived.
Samurai Music has been fostering an enviable stable with up-and-coming artists alongside established ones. What does it take for a new artist to attract your interest and sign him?
It used to be easier but these days it’s almost like a psychological profiling, if I am honest. The music always, always comes first, so if I hear some music that perks my interest, firstly I will get to know them through that track and see how things develop from there. For me, the way I work is very relationship-based, so I need to know I can get on with this person and we can speak freely to each other and agree on the way we both work in this industry right from the start. Most of the time it works, but occasionally you come across someone with different perceptions and objectives than you, and in that case it’s better to just enjoy their music without getting involved in a releasing scenario. It is a major personal commitment from both parties to release a record, so this stuff is vital for me to know right from the start. I am looking more to work closely on artists in a development sense these days than be a singles stable, where you’re one of 5 labels to get offered a bunch of tunes. Usually I want people to write music specifically and exclusively for Samurai projects now.
You are a cross-genre music aficionado; apart from electronic music, what are you listening to at home or when travelling? Would you list five favourite bands/artists that have shaped your music taste and are subliminally injected to the Samurai Music sound?
I go through so many musical stages. At present, home / travelling listening (non electronic-ish) I have been listening to HTRK, Harold Budd, Earth, Lee Noble, Electric Wizard, Jesu, Grouper, The Smiths, Brian Eno, Moondog, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Bauhaus… I don’t often listen to a lot of non-electronic music these days though to be honest.
Five bands that shaped my taste? Wow that would be hard. I don’t think you would see any of these in Samurai, but a life top 5 bands would have to be:
- The Birthday Party / Nick Cave
- The Misfits
- Black Flag
- The Smiths
In the imaginative scenario that you were a “Ronin” drum and bass artist, which label/collective would you envisage your music could fit in?
Samurai, naturally 🙂
Dj Presha Biography
Internet, radio and nightclub DJ, event promoter, record label owner and artist mentor, Geoff Wright aka DJ Presha’s list of accomplishments and roles within the music industry are immense. Even more impressive is that he has been a forerunner in each of these disciplines, firmly entrenching himself within the sonic architecture of drum and bass culture worldwide.
Through his Samurai Music, Red Seal & Horo record labels, his many radio shows over the years, club sets and events promotion companies, Presha served as a guiding hand in the growth and development of the New Zealand scene and has assisted heavily in establishing the International export of artists such as Tokyo Prose, Fis, State of Mind, Trei, and Dose amongst others.
2011 saw an indefinite relocation to Europe for Presha, a move essential to the growth and longevity of both the Samurai Music labels and his devotion to the art of Drum and Bass DJing. From his adopted home in Berlin, Presha made 2012 and 2013 the busiest years to date for the Samurai Music group with high profile releases from the artist stable including Calibre, Marcus Intalex, Dub Phizix & Skeptical, Loxy & Resound, ASC, Nymfo, Tokyo Prose, Fis, Clarity and many more.
Ex-speed metal vocalist, old-school skateboarding aficionado, Japanese art enthusiast and lifelong cross- genre music lover, Presha has DJed extensively across New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Japan and America alongside top International drum and bass talent such as Calibre, Marcus Intalex, Doc Scott and many more. As well as featuring at label nights for A Bunch Of Cuts, Soulu:tion & Shogun Audio, his own Samurai Music Label Nights are building in popularity across Europe. As a seasoned selector himself with nearly 2 decades behind the decks, Presha brings a wealth of maturity and experience to his selections with every set, ultimately reflecting the highs and lows of a life lived on the frontlines of music.
Bookings and Agency Page:
Samurai Music Group is a group of 3 electronic music labels, encompassing the drum & bass focused Samurai Music, the deeper Samurai Red Seal and Samurai Horo, a vinyl only experimental electronica label. Owned and directed by New Zealander Geoff Wright aka DJ Presha, since the launch in 2007 they have grown steadily into some of the most respected, consistently quality labels on the international Drum and Bass scene.
Originally created with NZ Drum and Bass producers as the core focus, Samurai Music has grown into a fully international group of labels that have the power and reputation to promote new artists both from New Zealand and around the world onto the global stage.
Artists that have released music on the Samurai labels include Calibre, Marcus Intalex, Dub Phizix & Skeptical, Klute, ASC, Paradox, Loxy & Resound, Ena, Indigo, Kiyoko, J:Kenzo, Lynx, The Upbeats, Trei, Tokyo Prose, Clarity, Villem, Nymfo, Synkro, Stray, Consequence, Sam KDC, Gremlinz, Homemade Weapons, Cern and Overlook, with many more exciting additions to the roster in 2014.
Samurai releases have always been distinctive for their high quality artistic direction and highly collectable vinyl packages, a vital component of what makes the labels unique, along with the essential music contained in every carefully selected release, whether the artist is a newcomer or an established name.
Representing a full spectrum view of 170 BPM based D&B and electronica, Samurai Music Group strives to remain on the cutting edge of the Drum and Bass soundscape and to build organically into the future as a consistent sign of quality.
Samurai Music nights are available to book globally with the following list of artists suggested (subject to availability and prior approval):
Presha, Calibre, Marcus Intalex, Klute, Dub Phizix, Doc Scott, Paradox (Live), Loxy, Skeptical, Tokyo Prose, Clarity, Lynx, Nymfo, Villem, Cern, Sam KDC, Overlook, Ruffhouse, Pessimist, SP:MC, MC DRS, 2Shy MC, MC LowQui, MC Fokus.