You were born in Japan, live in New York and have been to just about everywhere in between; where on Earth has the most satisfying crowds?
For me, it’s probably Argentina. The way they react to the music is one of a kind; you don’t find it anywhere else in the world. They almost live up to the stereotype of the Latino – really passionate and energetic. The buzz they create in the club is amazing, and it gives me the energy to give something special back. I don’t play out there enough – I do one or two a year and I always look forward to it.
Have you played much in the Middle East?
Yeah – Beirut has a great culture of dance music fans, and Dubai is obviously really international, so you have a lot of people coming in from Europe that are already experienced in electronic music and know what they want. It’s not just the Europeans, either – many people who live there, whatever their origin, have travelled the world and know how to appreciate and relate to electronic music. But Dubai’s mostly about parties and clubs, rather than underground scenes. New York is going back to warehouse parties, so I’m starting to feel that old magic, that excitement, that I used to get back in the day.
I’ve been told that in Japan the idea of sharing music with others in a public space is still new, so you tend to get people facing the DJ rather than dancing together. Is that fair?
Yes, but that kind of thing tends to happen everywhere. In Beirut, where I just played, they don’t really dance; they all focus on the DJ, like it’s a concert. Sometimes I feel like they’re expecting something, but I’m not going to dance or anything, at least at first. I still have fun, but for the first hour or so I try to read the environment and the crowd, and create the set. So I’m concentrating too much to do physical performances. Once I feel that people are enjoying it, I can move my body.
What other demands do audience members make?
The way I play is to start a little deeper and then build and build until I’m peaking at the end of the set. And some people don’t like that approach; they want it to be banging from the first track. They complain and throw their hands up in the international gesture of ‘play harder’. But I just smile to them and think: I’ll play something harder later, but please wait for it. If you start with something hard, the crowd gets tired faster and leaves earlier. As a DJ I’m not just an entertainer, I’m an educator as well. DJs should lead the crowd rather than play what they all want; give them something they may not have experienced before.
Does anything else get your goat?
I hate it when people breakdance in the middle of the dancefloor, with everyone watching them. It can be cool, but they don’t really share the moment – they’re just dancing for themselves and not paying attention to the music. In which case, why do they need me? I could be anybody.
Satoshi Tomiie plays Digital at Chi, November 19.