Q. Where does the name AKA SUGA come from and when was it created ?
Well…My real name is Aki Kasuga . When I first arrived in NYC ,I went to one of the cellphone carriers to sign up for a cellphone and the sales guy gave me an account name AKA SUGA. I decided to use it.
Q. What Inspired you to get into music?
My parents were the Disco King & Queen of my hometown Kyoto ! My dad had a huge vintage stereo console which is a cabinet style ,wooden record player with speakers attached to both sides. I must have been like 5 or 6 years old, and he would play Motown and the JB’s on weekends. I was not allowed to touch any of it. I just danced around in front of the console. My parents always encouraged my passion for music. I can truthfully say that whatever my dad played ,inspired me to get into music and vinyl.
Q. Your styles amazing, do you produce any of your own beats?
Thank you! I produce all my music. I don’t sample but I’m constantly inspired and motivated by what I hear.Especially music from other regions of the world.
Q.What desires you when it comes to production for your new projects? Any particular original bands or music you look out for when digging for vinyl?
“Mmmm”…I get inspired by many different kinds of music, but for my new album “No Label” I was inspired by seventies Japanese film scores, Bollywood sound tracks, and psych rock. I love Bollywood cause it throws a lot of conventional recording rules out the window and changes gears with ease. The psych side is how I want my music to feel. Like when I listen to Baris Manco or the Shocking Blue and I’m just like what?! The Japanese film scores provide a tone sonically and aesthetically. I must say Maki Asakawa is a really dope inspiration. I even reference her on ‘Silver Apples’. She is like a Nina Simone or Billy Holiday but Japanese. She covered a lot of American blues and folk songs, but she owns those songs in her own way. Whenever I go back to Japan, I always look for her records to bring back to the U.S. Recently , her catalog has started to get reissued in the U.S.
Q.What is your original birth place and give us a little history on your path to date?
I was born and raised in Kyoto Japan. Kyoto was the old capital of Japan before Tokyo.It has an extremely rich history and a strong cultural heritage. When I was younger, Kyoto felt too formal and old school for a young teenage rebel like myself. When I detached myself from it, my appreciation for what it gave me grew and it remains a constant muse. I’m very fortunate to have grown up there. I was a classical music prodigy, and got myself into a music high school but even before I graduated I knew I wanted to go to NY. So I booked a one-way ticket without telling my parents.
Q.How was your visit to Japan ?
I was back in Japan last February, and I had a great time catching up with family and friends. I’ve booked a few DJ gigs in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto for spring 2017. I’m looking forward to it!
Q.”Grey Sweats” & “No Label” …Was it planned to have 2 songs come out of one chorus? We loved that!
Haha. Thank you! I made ’No Label’ at the very beginning of this album and ‘Grey Sweats’ was the very last track I recorded and I wanted to sample myself. I re-visited what I’d recorded and that Grey Sweats line just stood out. I love fashion and high-end brands, but I’m addicted to plain grey sweats. I must have about a dozen slightly different variations on that same sweatshirt. So I just sampled those lines from ‘No Label”.
Q.How did you link up with Money Mercilesz?
I went to a party at the LPR hosted by DJ Rich Medina & Akalepse a few years back, and I saw this guy dancing. I immediately knew this guy was a heavy weight b-boy, and said to myself I need to be his friend. So, I went up to him and introduced myself. I can’t dance like him but we are both DJs so we bonded over music and we’ve been sharing tunes and building on our friendship ever since, it’s very organic.
Q. Are there any projects planned for you two in the future?
Yes! We just shot a great art project of me and DJ Money Mercilesz performing my album at the celebrated artist Lluis Lleo’s art studio in Red Hook Brooklyn as part of a dope collaboration, I’m doing with Lluis that will be available online early next year. I love collaborating with artists they tend to get me straight away.
Q. You have such a dope look…Any plans on modeling or any endorsements from fashion brands or ‘Labels”…?
Thanks! I collaborated with a London based fashion brand called The Fashion Tribe. They put together an AKA SUGA- No Label T-Shirt line that’s thankfully been doing well. We had a fun photo shoot in London recently! Please visit their website www.thefashhiontribe.com It has all the dope AKA SUGA tees that you need. Ha!
I’m also going to be having a few pop-up stores next spring where I’ll be selling rare records, T-shirts and various other collectibles. Keep checking my website cause I could pop-up in a city near you.
11.How do you feel about hip hop’s direction going into 2017?
Hip hop is a genre that’s moving forward and changing formats so fast. Personally I love 80’s – 90’s hip hop, but it’s like Jazz where you have a classic era and anything beyond that just keeps evolving and changing into something else….But it’s all hip hop! My personal opinion is as long as the hip hop artist understands the culture, history and fundamentals of this art .It’s all good ! I love the new wave of hip hop artists and there are so many sub genres within hip hop now so it pretty much depends on what you like. Personally I’m just real big on authenticity, I guess that’s a Kyoto thing !
12. Where can viewers find your music?
You can find me, my music, videos and projects at my website. www.akasuga.com