Image via DJ Healthy/SoundCloud
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Michael McKinney understands the cultural importance of Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci.”
Masahiro Ueda keeps a low profile. The DJ and promoter, better known as DJ Healthy, started spinning records in Yokohama’s club circuit, playing trance and techno at a club where he once tended bar. After a move to New York, he has deepened and broadened his sound, pushing a heady fusion of techno, breaks, and trance. His approach is both omnivorous and highly specific; it takes the million venn diagrams of modern dance music as an invitation to go deeper and stranger still. Tune into one set from Ueda and you’re liable to hear alien breakbeat-techno, steamrolling hard-drum, and light-speed percussion workouts; tune into another, and you might find stomach-churning ambience and black-hole drum-and-bass.
This may make his methodology seem all over the map, but that isn’t exactly the case. In his practice, Ueda focuses on low-end frequencies and head-nodding kick-drums; his sound is focused on keeping ravers moving even as he threatens to turn the dancefloor inside out. In this manner, he recalls several critical contemporaries: Aurora Halal, a similarly-minded techno-etc. DJ from New York; Special Guest DJ, who specializes in head-spinning ambience and drum-and-bass; and Huerco S., who, after making his name with otherworldly ambience, has since pivoted towards anything-goes club-music delirium. It should come as little surprise that Ueda has worked with each of these names—his sound, like theirs, is rooted in classic dancefloor idioms and filled with promises of parts unknown.
Ueda’s work behind the decks is hardly the whole story, though. Just as DJing is about bridging styles and sounds, the rest of his work is about furthering the links between Tokyo and New York, putting two wildly different dance-music cultures in conversation with each other. In late 2021, he launched Will Records, a label intended to showcase the talent in Japan’s electronic-music scene while branching out across the Atlantic. Alongside the aforementioned Halal, Ueda is responsible for Sustain-Release Tokyo, an international outgrowth of one of the States’ most prized underground dance-music festivals.
Following a gig in Minneapolis, we got a chance to catch up with Ueda, digging into the intersections of DJing and promotional work, the challenges of promoting clubs in Japan, and the communal spirit of dance music.