Sugai Ken

Blending native folklore, geographical sound design, and personal ambience, Sugai Ken has been an active comp oser in Japan’s underground scene since the mid-90s. His unhurried and organic compositions, whether self-published or released on beloved labels such as Japan’s EM, offer nimbly molded and reshaped interpretations of sound. Since debuting ToKiShiNe (Freed Records) in 2010, Ken has produced a steady stream of releases, his distinctive process of trimming, treating, and expanding found sounds reaching a new peak with 2016’s 鯰上 —On the Quakefish (Lullabies for Insomniacs).

With UkabazUmorezU, Sugai Ken delivers an intimate, yet vast, labyrinth layered in heavy fog; the artist, wielding a burning lantern, leads the listener through environments of folklore habit, musique concrete, symphonic music, and the “ambience of night in Japan.” In the curious sound world of Sugai Ken, ample space exists for a sound to be everything and nothing at once. Sugai Ken will perform in Berlin at the Kiezsalon on April 18th.


1: I would love to go to Kinzanji temple, the place where the tea ceremony originated.
2: This is the era of personal freedom, where regardless of background or race you can connect with anybody.
3: I am very excited to meet all the local people through the EU tour.


1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Some of my biggest inspirations are the rules that lie within Japanese folk entertainment, the seasonal changes in Japan, the latest electronic music, and electronic music before the 80’s.

2. How and when did you get into making music?
I started about 15 years ago, my friends and I started a hip hop group in our home town. I bought an equipment MPC2000 and started making music with it.

3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
To pick five albums out of all the countless wonderful albums are difficult, however here are some that gave me a sense of value.

Katsuhiro Tsubonou – Metamorphosis of Paper
Toru Takemitsu – Honoo
Toshiro Mayuzumi – Princess Hollyhock
Makoto Moroi & Koubou Abe – Akai Mayu
Makoto Shinohara – Broadcasting

4. What do you associate with Berlin?
I associate Berlin as a city that is rich in culture and understands artistic and expressive activities.
Compared to it modern Japan has a poor understanding in new cultures, furthermore culturally it is still a developing country. Majority of cutting edge artists in Japan are hindered in their creative activities die to the incompetent politicians.
I believe it is one of the reasons why modern Japan has difficulty being distinctive and expressing themselves.

5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
My favorite place is the forest near my house, the pleasant smell you get from walking pass it is nice.

6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
If there were no music in the world I would love to study more about Japanese folk entertainment, folk art, gardening and dialects at an educational institution.
Currently I do personal research on them for musical inspirations.

7. What was the last record/music you bought?
The last record I bought was Reassemblage by Visible Cloaks.

8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with Muso Soseki.

9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
In 2017 I went to see Ei Wada, it was the most impactful concert I’ve been to.
Ei wada is an absolute genius. (

10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Technology is very important.
I am currently more interested in the unpredictable effect analog technology has over digital. However, I would love to incorporate VR, drone technology, and other new technology in the future.

11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have an older brother who works as a designer in New York.
He is supportive of my music and has also designed my past album covers.

To Listen:

* Photo credit: Yohsuke Matsuoka