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  December 23, 2023 | Guest Mixes

#133 Hiroaki OBA for Deeprhythms

Mr. Lee aka Hiroaki OBA is best known for being one half of Opal Sunn (together with Alex Kassian) that have taken the duo's live sets to festival & club stages like Sonar and Panorama Bar.

The Berlin based, self-proclaimed "just a humble Japanese guy" is one to watch out for with some solo material coming out early 2024 on RMECR (yes, that's short for RAND Muzik x Echcentric). Hiro's productions are hypnotic and the ever-expanding textures are a great example of how countless hours of jamming live with hardware evolve into an organic & unique sound.

One of the nicest persons in my orbit, needless to say I'm super, super happy to have him as a guest (and soon on vinyl!). Stellar mix too!

Hi there, how’s things? Can you introduce yourself briefly to our listeners?

Hi, it’s Mr. Lee aka Hiroaki OBA, the utility man from Opal Sunn. I produce music, do sound/mixdown engineering, and play some tunes sometimes. I’m from Kawasaki, Japan and now based in Berlin.

What’s been keeping you busy of late - you’re both a DJ and a producer?

I do produce and sound/mixdown engineering more, especially after the pandemic, but still enjoy playing music when I get offers or for opportunities like friend’s birthday party. Thanks to the clients, I’m stacked at the studio and do mixdowns or producing music for commercial things like fashion shows, videos, etc. as a job, besides working on my own and Opal Sunn music.

What drove you to electronic music in the first place?

I don’t remember what exactly worked for me but one of my influences was my sister who is a dancer, played bass-banging music like TLC, Janet Jackson, and actually some eurobeat stuff in her room loudly which was right next to my room.

At least at that time, I realised sub-bass for the first time in my life. Then after a few years when I got interested in music, I started to play bass guitar. I was more into rock, punk, and funk music and when I went to a huge rock festival, I saw some electronic acts as well and they influenced me a lot. Not only techno or house DJs but hip hop acts and bands with synthesizers or something like electronic approaches. 

What about DJ’ing, and how did you get started?

Actually, I did live sets before I started to DJ. Around 2007 or so, when that polycarbonate MacBook got a bit reasonable I bought a black one and ableton live to produce and do live set.

After I got some DJ friends in Tokyo (I was still living in Japan) we started our party where I usually did live-set and sometimes played some tunes before many people came like a ‘pre-opening’ DJ. 

Do you have any memorable experiences to share from your early days as a DJ?

(Although it was live set,) one of my best gig experiences was ‘Tanuki Dansu’ party in Gothenburg which was an open-air party in a Swedish forest next to the cliff and sea in Summer arranged by my friend Cazuma.

I hadn’t experienced that much of that kind of rave or open-air party back then, but even now after some more experiences, I would say Tanuki Dansu is one of the most beautiful and heartwarming memories from my early days.

I’m proud of myself that we could have a party together at the ‘OATH’ club in Tokyo after a few years. That was also a beautiful night I remember.

Do you have any good stories to share about the live shows or DJ’ing?

Other than those party memories, definitely live set at Plastic People in London which was even my first gig abroad and was one of my best experiences. Also, I have to list up my live set at Sonar Festival in Barcelona, and Opal Sunn gigs at Panorama Bar as well.

When I saw many of my Berlin friends dancing on Pano’s floor during our live set, I finally felt ‘ ahh, I’m living in Berlin not just visiting...’ even that was after 5 years of living here.

Who are the artists and DJ’s you think deserve more attention than they get currently?

I used to always answer Alex Kassian for this kind of situation but probably I don’t need to mention him anymore right? Hehe. So, I would list U-T, Torei and Frankie $, they are my favourite DJs in Tokyo.

U-T - https://www.instagram.com/u.t.u.t/

Torei - https://www.instagram.com/toreidj/

Frankie $ - https://www.instagram.com/frankie_s_tyo/

You’re collaborating with Alex Kassian under Opal Sunn - how did that start and what’s the biggest difference in your way of working compared to producing solo? 

Since he is also from Japan, and has Japanese roots, we had so many common friends even before we met, and like 7 or 8 years ago finally we met at our friend’s birthday party in Berlin. I invited him to have a jam session and after one or two sessions I was back in Japan for 2 months but we continued to have more after I came back in Berlin and made 10 tracks over the summer. Then we just thought we should carry on this. This wss the very beginning of Opal Sunn.

Just a month ago, we made a track together from scratch for the first time in 3 years (Although we had worked together constantly and finalized tracks together the last 2,3 years through the pandemic).

We knew it but we realized again and were even feeling blessed that how happy we could work together at that level. That level, Taste of Music, the process of producing and how to care and vision for the music itself. After some (not a few) experiences in my life I can say finding a good partner and keep working with is not easy as probably many of you know. After all, simply working with him is fun! Not only about music taste and we have similar vibes and interests generally. We got close to each other through the music but even without it, he is more than best friend.

I also still enjoy producing just by myself but I feel it’s more like training or exercise these days. Technical-wise there are not so many differences between solo and Opal Sunn’s producing (probably use hardware a bit more when we work together) but somehow I could expose myself more when I work with him. Somehow maybe I’m still a humble Japanese guy. Hehe

Out of your own releases, which do you have the strongest bond with and why is that?

I would say all of Opal Sunn's releases are. Part 1 and 2 from Planet Sundae contain our precious memories of early Opal Sunn days, and two EPs from Touch From A Distance brought us to the next chapter. I put so much energy, sweat, blood and tears into finalizing one from ESP Institution, which is also my favourite mixdown-wise too.

What does the coming 12 months hold for you in regards of releases, collaborations etc.?

I’m working on new material both solo and with Alex as Opal Sunn. I hope I would release some of mine, and we are looking forward to announcing something new soon as Opal Sunn.

So the mix, can you tell us a little something about that? 

I made this mix mainly with the tracks I played in Tokyo a year ago when I was back there. When I finalized the selection of the tracks I also felt I should put something fresh for me (since I made the mix almost after a half year of my Tokyo gigs), but I decided to use those tracks to compile my good winter memories in Tokyo 2022-2023.

Many thanks, anything else?

Thank you very much for the opportunity! I hope you will enjoy my mix for the first time in many years!

DJ profile
Hiroaki OBA

Location: Berlin, Germany
Instagram | Soundcloud

Hiroaki OBA makes House and Techno music and in his live show, he dismantles his own tracks and then recomposes them, like putting puzzles together.

Full profile

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