Groove Patrol
The expat DJ cuts a channel through Tokyo’s house and techno scene
By: James Coulson | Feb 4, 2010 | Issue: 828 | No Comments | 3,497 views

Photo by Mark Oxley

The man behind UK-based events like the Housin Project and Filth, DJ Nick Clarke (a.k.a. Groove Patrol) relocated to Tokyo four years ago. Since arriving in town, he’s supported a slew of big-name international DJs at major clubs while also helping to form events collective Phonika Tokyo, which gathers together DJs, live artists, photographers and VJs for parties at leading venues such as Velours, 57 and Warehouse702.

How did you get into dance music?
I would go to shows before I was old enough to get into clubs. I got my first turntables when I was 17—the ever-indulgent silver 1200s. They were the love of my life, and are sitting in storage back home. I miss ’em…

What’s your sound?
I always try to be at the deeper end of the spectrum, maybe a little less obvious. Half of my set probably contains older house and techno, with sometimes a load of old disco cuts thrown in, to boot.

How do the UK and Japan scenes compare?
England is spoilt for choice, and I don’t think they know how lucky they are sometimes. Look at the lineups at Fabric week in, week out. They have the biggest DJs on the planet in one night­—eight to ten of them—all for under ¥4,000. In Tokyo, clubbers have to pay the same amount to see one of those guys spin.

Tell us a little about your roles here…
Phonika is a club event that focuses on showcasing the best international and local talent. We try and keep it interesting by installing heavyweight visuals, and always try to bring that live aspect with regard to main artists. Eggworm is a Tokyo event company seeking to create unique experiences through visually exceptional venues and artistic concepts.

How did Phonika Tokyo start?
In Tokyo, it wasn’t too difficult, to be honest. The hard work is making it last and keeping it fresh. We are always watching what others are doing right and wrong. It’s important to stand your ground and be as straight as possible with everyone. I think that’s why Phonika has grown so fast in under 18 months. Without the people around us wanting us to succeed, we’d probably be just a bunch of bedroom DJs.

Is there a strong expat DJ scene in Tokyo?
I think the expat DJ scene is healthy–there are many opportunities if someone wants to go and get their name out. No need for stepping on people’s toes or sharpening that knife for a bit of backstabbing. Stick to your guns, be nice, do what you say you will and play some shit-hot records. Simple. That said, there are some amazing homegrown DJs here, and I’d recommend the less obvious parties. Some events, with under 50 people and a couple of unknown Japanese cats at the helm, will open you up.

Anything coming up we that should know about?
Minimal tech-funk producer Bodycode, from respected label Ghostly International, will play live at our Phonika 12 party at Warehouse702 on Saturday. Also, in the summer, Eggworm will be putting on a festival within Tokyo’s city limits—5,000 revelers in one of the most exciting spaces I have ever been to.

Phonika 12@Warehouse702, Feb 6. The Social@Xex, Feb 12. See club listings for details. www.phonikatokyo.com

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