From being terrified by the prospect of shitty radio in Oregon to hanging in elevators with The Strokes at Fuji Rock, Autumn Depoe has had more musical moments then most. She performs as a DJ in Nagoya as Queen Autumn, regularly appearing at the Plastic Factory’s Fever parties, and hosting all-girl music events at Move Sound Bar – reprazent! We had a girly chat about indiscriminate backstage leg-humping, pushing keys instead of scratching vinyl, and being a pirate. Arrrrrr!!
So, what brought you to Japan, and perhaps more importantly, what on earth brought you to Nagoya?
I get asked this a lot and I really have to shrug and say I don’t know. My partner took off to live in Sydney for a year…I couldn’t get a work permit in Oz so I came to Japan. The company I came here with put me in Nagoya despite my requests for Osaka. I’m happy to be here though.
You helped to run a pirate college radio station in Oregon for 3 and a half years. What was that like?
The Portland Radio Authority was broadcasting illegally from a downtown location – before that they were transmitting from a basement. It was a collective love, with many DJs paying dues to keep the station going. It became well respected and popular within the community. We gave away tickets and did live broadcasts from concerts featuring artists like The Blow and Y.A.C.H.T., who are getting a lot of press now. We were betrayed by a local reporter, and the Federal Communications Commission came to find us and shut us down. The demise of the station was traumatic. I was happy to come to Japan one month later because I wouldn’t have been able to cope living in Portland without decent radio.
Was it easy to make the transition to DJing for Japanese audiences compared with those back home?
I don’t think it was easy at all. Music I loved – like The Gossip – didn’t start hitting the airwaves in Japan until very recently, six years after I first started playing it back home. I would play stuff people had never heard, but they said they liked it. DJing in Japan has given me the chance to show people new things. It’s great when people take an interest and ask about who I’m playing. I blend a lot of indie rock with dance music, so people who like both genres specifically tend to get a bit thrown off.
Do you think the music scene in Nagoya offers anything different to Tokyo or Osaka?
The only thing I can really say is that it has a lot of potential, and the people who are trying to make things happen are completely awesome. I come from a town where shows cost 15 dollars at the most and don’t start until 10pm. I really don’t know why the shows are so early and expensive here – it’s frustrating for the artists who come through. It’s even worse for the poor eikawa teachers – working during a Klaxons show hurts a lot. I was really sad when I found out how difficult it is for people to see some of the top acts here.
So, you’re a DJ, you’re female, and you use your laptop, rather than vinyl. Are you some kind of crazy revolutionary, or just keeping it real?
It has more to do with me being dirt broke. There is no way I’d be able to ship all of my vinyl over here. I only planned on being here for a year, and if I bought a lot of vinyl here I would just have to pay to have it shipped back or resell it. As a female, I don’t even know if I will be able to afford to have all of my shoes shipped back! I am already having to make some tough decisions about boots. I still like checking out record stores and smelling the vinyl, though.
Have there been any hurdles you’ve encountered as a foreign DJ in a place like Nagoya, or has it all been relatively easy getting your name out and getting gigs?
I think the people who run the foreign bars here are absolutely fantastic and very supportive. I haven’t had any troubles so far because everyone is so nice. It is a lot less hipster and holier-than-thou here, and I think that makes for a better overall experience. But I have had trouble getting free beers. If the venues would give out more beer and help with promotions, I’d be set.
Is there anyone in Japan that you’ve come to really dig?
OOIOO is awesome. I met them in Tokyo late last year. Their music is so complicated and intricate. They are amazing musicians, and moms to boot. They blew me away. The Gossip was in the audience and were completely in awe of them.
You’ve had some pretty cool musical encounters with a few big international acts in Japan. What was the most memorable?
How can I best sound like a name dropper? I’d have to say Fuji Rock 2006 tops everything. I ended up on the Red Hot Chili Peppers guest list and found myself babysitting one of the dudes from Snow Patrol. I got him back to the hotel after an encounter with the police, and wound up drunkenly pushing elevator buttons with one of the Strokes. We made everyone stop on our floor and when the doors opened, we just waved at them. Then Jeppe from Junior Senior humped my leg backstage during the 2 Many DJs set. He was nice about it though and bought me a drink afterward.
Autumn is DJing at Girl Gal Grrl at Move Sound Bar in Sakae (near Red Rock) Saturday 19th from 21:00. It’s an all-girl music event for just ¥1000 (1 drink free), then the following weekend at Fever – details in this month’s Out & About.