INTERVIEW & ART:CAST #109 Sentaku

Welcome to the Sentaku cosmos. The French/English collaborative label and collective founded by Massaï and Josh Rawl is a platform for creatives to express and portray their vision of the arts – be it visually or auditory. With inspirational and forward-thinking artists united under the Sentaku-belt the collective has managed to leave its footprints in the House music’s underground scene – with each performance, with each release or each artwork and any visual design a bit more. Meanwhile and with as much creative potential that the collective has to show Sentaku was expanded by Shin’ūchu 深宇宙 – the second label in the cosmos, which has now three satellites in the musical orbit with more to follow. However, the nearly infinite creative potential of Sentaku and its members is something one has to experience firsthand or firstear. Therefore Torture the Artist had an in-depth chat with the collective about how their friendship and passion led to founding Sentaku, the process behind the music, musically and visually, the different art forms and fields that complement each other, the members’ dreams and visions and much more. Additionally Josh Rawl and Dandeloo delivered two art:casts for this special occasion.

The rainbow is what we’re dressed in everyday.

Torture The Artist: Hello guys, thanks for chatting with us and sharing your art:cast today! How are you doing and what color(s) and or shades are you dressed in today?

Sentaku: Hi guys, thanks for having us! If we’re talking about the whole crew, we’re definitely a large pallet of different colours and shades. Each of us are individuals with his or her origins and backgrounds, yet we’re all part of this big family. We all share the same vision and values, yet are totally different to one another, so we’d say the rainbow is what we’re dressed in everyday.

Torture The Artist: Great, let’s start with how you were introduced, would you give us some background information on how you met, remained friends, and then became Sentaku?

Sentaku: The beginnings of Sentaku started in late 2016, a few years after Josh and Alex met through mutual friends and started playing records together. Jane quickly came into the picture and after planning all of it for almost a year, the collective was born. The idea was to give the opportunity to showcase the talents of artists who didn’t have a platform to express themselves. That’s how we released our first record, by Dixia Sirong, who have always been close friends. Shortly after that, Dandeloo joined the team as a resident and started playing as a trio along Josh and Alex. Sentaku is kind of a big house where each member has his own space of developing their talents in their own fields. For example Louis and Josh are dedicated to developing the food aspect of our events, and the label logistics side, Jane and Elsa on the design and visuals, Simon and Alex take care of the bookings and the management. Then we have Priscou on communication and socials, and Viviane on storytelling. And of course our residents Dandeloo, Dixia Sirong, Josh Rawl, Massaï, Pablo and our latest additions to the team: Lamalice and Man/ipulate.

Torture the Artist: The entire Sentaku cosmos consist out of a lot of people – seven resident DJs, graphic designers, photographer, how is everyone’s vision put into practice and do you have democratic decisions?

Sentaku: The label was built on close links and true friendship, and how each of us brings something to the table. As a collective, we push each other to the limit, to grow together and to contribute their skills to make what Sentaku is today. We encourage each member to engage in their personal skills to what they are best related to. As our main focus is to discover and collaborate with new talents, our main goal is to get unknown talents to be a little more visible in the music industry. We also do many collaborations with other collectives and labels, and we really feel it’s part of our identity as a collective. During meetings with the whole crew, everybody gives their opinion and their input, ideas and how they can help in any way to push the label. Every member has their say and always gives ideas. Josh and Alex have always been very open minded on every idea mentioned by crew members, and will make decisions according to their thoughts, even if the final decisions are down to them.

Torture the Artist: What’s, maybe the common, artistic vision you do want to share with the world out there and what were some of your influences to come up with the idea of Sentaku?

Sentaku: Sentaku is definitely not only about music, it focuses on many different art forms. We see it as a collective that pushes culture and arts. Our main focus is to share and interact with people, so at every event we try to incorporate immersive arts to interact with our audience. For example, we organised a pop-up in Paris a few years ago including music, arts, food, a painting exhibition and fashion sales. We believe our interests revolve around different art practices, skills and senses. Our main influences come from people around us in our day to day life who share the same passion and who we build with.

Torture the Artist: Both Sentaku and Shin’uchu are Japenese terms, where does your preference for Japan come from and is Japan possibly a symbol of futuristic artistical approach that you would like to reflect with what you do?

Sentaku: The Japanese culture has always been an inspiration for Josh and Alex, for the simple reason that they try to perfect their skills in everything they get into. It may sound pretentious and we’re definitely very far from being perfect, but the idea is to get as close to perfection as possible. The goal is to achieve and complete as many ideas that were pitched among the collective as possible, and in the most professional way possible. We also feel the meaning and sound of words in Japanese are transcendent and far stronger than any other language we know. Sentaku means “selection”, which is an even more essential aspect of a DJ than technique in our opinion. Shin’uchu stands for “deep space” and the more alien side of our realm. We’ve always been fascinated by different dimensions, space times and planets. 

Torture the Artist: What’s the (creative) process behind a release on one of your labels and how do you proceed? 

Sentaku: As mentioned above, we like to give a space for artists and especially newcomers to express themselves. We especially love doing that with people we’ve had connections with. Our community and close circle are a priority. Our last release on Shin’uchu was produced by Vincent aka Man/ipulate and is the result of a year’s work. He came to our free space with ideas and we communicated on how we could all help to make the most out of his sound, and “Shinsei” reflects it. We met Vincent a few years before Sentaku when he moved to London, and were always great admirers of his music and person and always thought he deserved to be put out there. Fitia aka Lamalice played at our second ever event, in a shady basement in Stoke Newington. He’s always trusted our vision and always has an insane connection with us. Now they’re both part of the family and gives us the opportunity to showcase these incredible people. It pushes us to bring them to the next level and create something new all together. In fact, our 3rd digital release is a 100% in house residents release, whom we always give priority to.

Torture the Artist: Connected to the question before, do your synergies complement each other so some of the results are different from what you had first imagined or in mind, meaning you follow a creative flexibility at time rather than sticking to an initial idea?

Sentaku: Our synergies obviously complement each other and are a central element in our collective. We definitely follow creative flexibility, as some of us are more experienced than others and give advice to other members for them to get better. For example, Fitia is the most experienced member in music production and knows most of the technical aspects behind a successful workflow and is always around to help out. There are some ongoing projects upcoming soon, including a little side project from Lamalice and Massaï, and they also made a track together with Man/ipulate. The next Sentaku EP will be from Dandeloo and Lamalice, we’re really trying to push our family in everything we do.

Torture The Artist: Speaking a bit about music, can you share the most recent vinyl that you listened to (together) and how does it compare to the first time that you shared your musical collections and interests?

Sentaku: That’s an easy one! Our most recent record is Man/ipulate’s “Shinsei” and is one of the best releases we’ve ever heard, we’re so happy to release this bomb. Next one coming on Sentaku is by Dandeloo and Lamalice and we can’t wait to share these tracks from our beloved crew members.

We could finally see each other everyday and share this common passion!

Torture The Artist: Where do you produce or mix music and what advice would or would you give to another duo about sharing a space?

Sentaku: Each of us has a place to produce and mix, unfortunately we are not all in the same city otherwise things would be easier. Man/ipulate and Lamalice are from Marseille in the south of France, and they have their own studios. Pablo and Massaï live in Paris where they also have their home studios, and the same goes to Josh and Dandeloo who live together in London. 

One of our main goals is of course to share a space all together, it would be a huge step but also a place with a warm creativity because we could finally see each other everyday and share this common passion! We would love to have our own offices, it is something we have been talking and thinking a lot about now, we need to find the right place to fulfill this dream.

Torture The Artist: What inspired you to make your sub-label Shinu’chu, a space-themed project, and what does this have to do with Josh’s so-called “spaceship” set up. Can you describe it to us?

What mainly inspires us is the things that we can’t explain as humans, the things that are above us and it is basically space and its exploration has always been a true inspiration for the crew! Josh used to have this huge bedroom where we would go afterparty all the time in London and basically his booth was taking up the whole space of the room so it looked like the cockpit of a spacecraft so we called it the spaceship! It was definitely a place we all called home for quite a while and we spent countless hours there recording, partying, playing and hanging out together. 

Torture The Artist: Has Shinu’chu’s mission statement also been an outlet for you to explore the visual aspects within an aural industry?

Sentaku: Shinu’chu follows the Japanese space program (JAXA) and each EP is a chronology of each spacecraft sent to space from Japan since the 70s. It is somehow the quest of the unknown but it does not mean that we understand it, but it’s about how we approach it. This is why the visual aspects of Shin’uchu has a lot of meaning, though a bit more simple than our Sentaku side. Elsa our graphic designer for Shin’uchu explores the visual aspects of the label through her collage and diagram in a total free way, we like to use reality and create a storytelling that is proper to us 

We should film the crowd and DJs, and project an altered version of what was happening in real time.

Torture The Artist: Logistically, how did your events look when the crowd and the DJ took part in a live video installation?

Sentaku: We had several experiences outside our events before coming to the conclusion that we wanted to create an installation that would get our crowd and the DJ involved. The Lion & Lamb is a magical place where we started our residency a few years back. It was the perfect space for us to explore our visual identity on top of the music. Jane came up with this idea that we should film the crowd and DJs, and project an altered version of what was happening in real time. It caught the crowd straight away and really became a staple at our events. You could see yourself in a different dimension, while playing with the camera and bringing your friends along to make it a kind of choreography, people had so much fun with it! Some didn’t even realise that the projections were live and it actually enhanced the experience even more! In the future we would like to do more of these kinds of things, but experience them on a larger scale for even more people at once.

Torture The Artist: Do you think the visual technology behind your concept will imitate the surge of AR’s (in the future) infiltration onto the dancefloor?

Sentaku: We don’t think we have invented anything. However, we can make this concept more and more interesting with time and new technologies, especially because Jane can always develop her ideas within Sentaku. We are sure that in the future we will be able to implement new technology into our world and if it can provide everybody with an even better experience than we’re all for it!

Torture The Artist: Is there anything in your background that influenced your appeal to the incorporation of visual stimuli. Do you think your pre existing relationship with graphic designer and animator JXQ (aka Jane) influenced this?

Sentaku: The idea mainly came from the fact that we had experienced many raves, but we felt that something was missing. In fact, it is one thing to keep your eyes closed and make your imagination work, but being able to project this imaginative trip into something concrete is one of the many reasons why she joined the team. Jane’s works totally inspired us, she always comes up with the best ideas and we encourage her to do what she does best. It’s clear that she doesn’t work for us, but with us. We consider her as a founding member of the crew and we’ve always had an amazing relationship.

Torture The Artist: What piece, track or otherwise, that when you listened to it the first time you felt it represented you?

Sentaku: The first EP released on Shin’uchu is Osumi, and is totally something that represents our musical world. Massaï met Solär Sound System aka P.O and Jimmy Batt and when we went through with the EP we felt it was something very special. The textures, the sounds that these boys came up with are so unique and versatile; to us it’s comparable to a piece from Fernand Leger or Picasso where you see so many colours and shapes. Sentaku’s fifth release from Mazargues Affair (Man/ipulate and Nico Bellic) has a variety of sounds and touches that is in total harmony with what we want to represent: a true palette of different distinctive colours that form strong and opposite energies that bind perfectly together. 

Shin’uchu 001 : Jimmy Batt – Robot’s Club

Torture The Artist: Josh and Massaï, you are two self-described as having the “yin-yang” dynamic, or rather opposites attract. Why do you believe yourselves to be opposites?

Sentaku: This is a tricky one, as we are definitely not opposites but we have distinct and different ways of thinking and seeing things. But in the end we are complementary to each other in many ways, and that is what yin-yang means. It is a blend of two different forces and dynamics that go hand and hand, and although we both have two very strong personalities, we always manage to find a meeting point in almost everything we do!

The whole universe of Samurai, Sumos, Feudal Lords, taps into a child-like fantasy and sense of adventure that appeals to everyone and we really like to indulge in that.

Torture The Artist: Although neither of you is Japanese, the Japanese influence binds and defines your relationship with one another, why this choice? To what extent do you enforce continuity for your track names and their relation to Japanese culture? Do you think this makes it more authentic?

Sentaku: We use a lot of Japanese elements for story-telling in our releases. We don’t ever try to seek authenticity, as we’re not pretending to be Japanese, but for us the whole universe of Samurai, Sumos, Feudal Lords, taps into a child-like fantasy and sense of adventure that appeals to everyone and we really like to indulge in that.

Torture The Artist: If you could pick a place to set your art: cast in today, where would it be and why?

Sentaku: It would be in a museum, as it is spacious, elegant and suitable to the visual and musical experience. It’s the kind of place where you blend different art. We could see ourselves dancing on Lamalice’s live project alongside JXQ visuals followed by a set from each resident!

Torture the Artist: What’s the picture/ graphic you have in mind when listening to the art:cast?

Sentaku: The picture of the whole Sentakrew and friends celebrating and finally dancing and hugging after such a long time being stuck in our places. Although we had time to unlock a certain creativity during these times, this is one thing that will make the crew definitely stronger after this pandemic. Many thanks for having us!

Torture the Artist: Pleasure is all ours.

Words by Bella Gadinis & Holger Breuer