“Sentaku is a family affair” – Massaï says. The London-based label & event series has constantly displayed the ambition to spotlight enthusiastic and developing artists since its founding in 2017 by Massaï and Josh Rawl. Sentaku’s first event of the year is quickly approaching (yes, this Fridaaaay), and we are super excited to explore more about the party’s preparations and the strong Japanese culture behind it. So let’s get down with co-founder Massaï and the label’s booking and event manager Simon.
- Hello guys! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Before we go any further, can you guys introduce yourself and tell us more about what inspired you to found Sentaku?
Massaï: Hello Monika, I’m Alex co-founder, Artist Director and Resident of Sentaku and I am with Simon, our Booker and Event Manager at Sentaku. Our journey at Sentaku started from a friendship with Josh Rawl (co-founder), after we started a few conceptual parties in London we decided to create our own imprint, it has always been inspired from the very beginning by Japanese culture and specifically the Edo period.
- What was the goal of establishing the label in the first place, and how did you guys meet and collaborate?
Massaï: We decided to create our label mainly because we had many friends that were struggling to find a platform to release their music. We had the idea of creating something that was our own and most important that was representing our values in this industry: bringing people together and creating a community of like minded people. We are grateful to all our friends and artists that trust in us, releases after releases and helped us in building the Sentaku and Shinuchu record label. This is for me the biggest achievement. Sentaku is a family affair, we all met in London through Uni years, gatherings, friends and parties. Simon has been part of our journey from almost the very beginning. He naturally started to help us during our events using his experience in stage management. Since then he officially joined Sentaku team and we became inseparable.
- What has been the most difficult aspect of getting this label off the ground?
Massaï: Well I think the most difficult part was the fact that we literally had zero experience in this nor money on our savings ahah. It was not easy to build the label from scratch but being surrounded by creative people was very helpful. I was at University at the time studying Management of the Arts so this was also helpful to build our legal structure and going through the first steps of organising a record label. Josh was studying Business management which was a plus in building our business plan for the record label. We both did a lot of research on the legal side as well as a curation of labels. We are both huge fans of the Hip Hop culture, being an underground culture before being more popular and accepted as part of the general culture. It was very interesting and inspiring to watch documentaries on how these small labels became big and worldwide companies using music as their medium of communication to the world with strong messages and images. I think that our community want to give a message of unity, peace and acceptance and music is for us the best medium to do so.
- Your first event for 2022 is just around the corner alongside Desyn, Man/Ipulate and Pablo. What are your expectations for the event and actually, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit more about the philosophy behind each Sentaku event in terms of location and artist selection, as well as elaborate on what you think are the game’s most important components for throwing an event in London?
Simon: Yes we are so excited about our comeback 🙂 To be honest after a long break due to COVID, the most difficult part as promoters was to not be allowed to organise events. So I’d say I’m so looking forward to welcoming people and seeing people’s faces reacting to the music. This event is a challenge in some ways as we come back with new ambitions mainly to develop our event side. This year we will focus on 3 different events implementing the Sentaku vibe in every aspect so I am super excited to present what we have been working on.
Massaï: London is an amazing city and has a very strong electronic music community, we have always been looking for an intimate spot and this is the leitmotif from the beginning. In terms of artist selection we have always done the music we love and as you can see we have a wide range of musical tastes that progressed throughout the years. Our formula is simple: intimate spot, good soundsystem, a mix of resident and friends and last but not least an artist that is an inspiration and a true representative of the scene. It is very important to us to put the light on the up and coming scene, I believe this melting pot is the essence of Sentaku. We are super excited for our first event of the year with Desyn in line, Man/ipulate and Pablo perfect recipe and we cannot wait to announce our other projects coming up this year – that said we are hoping to see all of our community as we are preparing something special including more stage design and projections. We want everyone to feel the Sentaku vibe all night long.
- All of Sentaku’s releases have Japanese titles (some of the tracks too). Could you please elaborate on that and how you came up with it?
Massaï: The process behind it took us a whole year to elaborate, we wanted to do something that has a mystical aspect as well as linked to Japan’s history. I have always been fascinated about Japan since my early age and Josh is the same. It was kind of an evidence to dive into the Edo period (circa 1600); creating releases around famous characters of Japanese history as well as mystical beliefs like mythology.
- What inspired these titles and releases, and where did the names come from?
Massaï: All titles are inspired by existing figures from the Japan history, the names are not only characters but most of them are people who existed and marked Japan history as an exemple, Hattori Hanzo was a famous ninja from the Tokugawa clan and is known from being one of the most faithful servant of Tokugawa Ieyasu, he was a major figure in helping Ieyasu to become the ruler of united Japan. He is also known for being a very accurate sword master and tactical engineer.
- Since its inception in 2017, the label has hosted 25 parties and released six vinyl records. If you could travel back in time and experience any moment with Sentaku over the previous five years, which one would you choose and why?
Simon:I have so much to be honest… in the London scene we have collaborated with so many friends for parties that each of them is special, such as the ones with our dearest 110 boys. But for the crazy and magic moments, I would say one of our biggest co-host party in Paris at Wanderlust with our dear friends from Lourios Bookings in May 2019. We lined up artists such as Praslea, Charonne, 100hz, Muten, and many more in 2 stages and welcomed more than 1000 people. This weekend was even more magical as the night before we were co-hosting a party with Opia and MOB in London. So as Lady Gaga said, this weekend was: club, train no sleep, another club.
Massaï: It is hard to bring one specific memory, we had the chance to experience many different cities and countries, meeting super interesting and inspirational people. The Mobtakopia (MOB, Opia, Sentaku) was one for the books where all conditions were met from an amazing venue to a memorable set (Michelle played 3hours in live), the VJing and stage design was also amazing, it was a very special and unique vibe on this day.
- Could you walk me through a typical, day-to-day week at the label? Do you have typical, run-of-the-mill weeks, or are they always a little different?
Massaï: Well first you have to know that dealing with the label is not our main job, I am a booker for Pieces where I manage 9 artists and Simon is a Cyber Security Consultant. However we always find time during the day/evening to exchange on label activities. Simon works mainly on the event/booking aspects: dealing with the venues for our upcoming events but also with promoters for the bookings of our 6 artists (Lamalice, Man/ipulate, Massaï, Josh Rawl, Dandeloo) I am the artistic director of the label so I work mainly on finding new artists for the label as well as establishing the line up and contacting the bookers. I also work closely with Jane, our graphic designer, to share ideas on the artworks. It requires time and organisation but so far so good! Also during the pandemic we had the time to completely restructure the label and event side, assigning a role to every member of the crew, we are also doing meetings every week to share ideas and put them into reality.
- Sentaku releases, in my opinion, have strong electro elements, which I absolutely love. However, I am curious how you would describe the Sentaku’s sound in your own words?
Massaï: I believe Sentaku has a wide range of colour pallet throughout the years, our tastes in music has gone from minimal to house with some bits of trancy/techno/ electro touches, we want to represent what we like without any limit so the sound we stick to is the sound we love in every aspects.
- What factors do you consider when selecting artists for your releases?
Massaï: As previously mentioned, it is very important for us to work within our community. Sentaku is a family affair so we mainly work with friends we know and artists we believe in. This forthcoming year we want to focus on our residents who are producing amazing tracks, last EP was a combination of tracks from Lamalice and Dandeloo and the next one will be from Man/ipulate. We also plan on an album from Lamalice and two EPs from Dandeloo and Pablo. That said, our digital releases main focus is friends and family so it will focus on up and coming producers that are within our community.
- Sentaku is well-known in London’s underground scene; what distinguishes partying in London from other European cities, in your opinion?
Simon: Oh that’s a very good question actually. I would say London is unique. Alex lives in Paris so he can certainly confirm what I’m saying. London is unique because of the vibe, the open-mindset of our crowd. As you understood from us, friendship is key for us and in London most of the crews know each other. We go to everyone’s party and there is no beef. I am not saying it’s a candy world far from it but coming from Paris where ego and vibe can be different. Underground means something here.
Massaï: Indeed London is a very interesting melting pot, there are loads of people coming from abroad so it definitely makes it unique, we are lucky to have such a curious crowd in London. In Lion and Lamb which has been the home of our events for the past years, allowed us to bring artists from small to bigger profiles and people would come down because they are curious in listening to new artists. There is also the fact that politics are more open to our industry in the UK in general. This allow us to look for new and intimate spots where in Paris it is a lot more difficult. However with the city (Paris) extending thanks to the enlargement of the metro, I am sure it will bring many more interestings places in the future.
- You’ve been in the electronic music industry for a while now, and you’ve probably seen some crazy things at parties. Are there any that spring to mind in particular?
Simon: You know what we say right? What’s happening in the party, stays in the party 🙂
Massaï: Well usually we have the same formula for doing events in London, we usually do Lion and Lamb and then an afterparty in different intimate locations (boats, warehouses, lofts…). Unfortunately in the middle of the Lion and Lamb one, the after party spot dropped out last minute but London is magical and full of opportunities. That night we had a friend who sorted out a boat and it ended up being a super cool after party we had Josh Rawl and Lamalice playing an extended back to back as well as Manipulate and myself for another 5 hours, the fact that is happened like this was definitely something and you could feel it on the boat.
- What does the future hold in store for you guys and Sentaku?
Simon: Oh man, I hope first the future will be brighter for Ukraine as it is really hard to keep having fun and planning events knowing the situation over there… But for Sentaku as I said we are developing our events with our next one celebrating our anniversary 🙂 can’t disclose too much of it for now
Massaï: The main focus will be to develop our brand, we have been lucky to travel the word in the past few years. With Manipulate and Lamalice joining the team as well as Dandeloo, Pablo and myself developing our productions skill we would like to be able to present our project, family, vibe and be more established in the scene through a series of curated events and releases. I am also dreaming of a building festival where we could focus on our generation of artists maybe doing with other collectives and getting involved as much creatives as possible, make it something unique.
Words by Monika Zander
Tickets for Sentaku presents: The Underworld w/ Desyn here