interview Taro Lin & Denzel | lejournaldebord.fr

I met Denzel when I was in Tokyo last November. I was at this party organized my friends from XLARGE at Harlem Club in Shibuya when I bumped into him while dancing to Travis Scott. We kept in touch after my departure. One month before my arriving in Taipei I reached him to see if he was down to hang out. I have to say he was definitely the best host I ever had! He showed me all the things, well cool things to see around town & also introduced me to his closest friends. Denzel is a really nice & down to earth dude. I knew he was rapping. Fact is he had a show when I was in town! That is exactly when I met with his friend and producer Taro Lin. We sat down a few days later to this coffee shop nearby his house to talk about their common interest in music & especially Hip Hop, it was one of the most interesting talk I had there.

à Taipei, une discussion avec Denzel & Taro Lin.

Interview & Photography Farade Nicolas

 


Can you give us a quick introduction?
Denzel
: 24 years old rapper from Taiwan.
Taro Lin: 23 years old, I make beats from sampling. I am also a vinyl collector, a crate digger…

How did you guys meet each other?
Denzel
: Through mutual friends.
Taro Lin: Well, I knew what kind of music he was doing but he wasn't aware that I made beats, therefore, I decided to send him a few ones. It was a long time ago I can’t really remember an exact date I just remember that he didn’t like them at all.

Really? That's a nice anecdote! Taro could you tell me a bit more about how did you start to make your own beats?
Taro Lin
: I am at Art University and there was that time when every student had to produce something creative. At the beginning I didn’t know what I was able to do so I was like « why not trying to make music?». At that time I discovered sampling, let's say I was testing my skills... 

You had all the equipment to produce at your place?
Taro Lin
: Not really, I started with some software like Audacity & GoldWave.

When was the first time you made your very own stuff then?
Taro Lin
: It was 2,3 years ago. 

What was your first introduction to sampling, hip hop music? Which was the first artist that inspired you to get the job done?
Taro Lin
: When I was 5 or 6, my dad got a CD that his colleague sent him, it was a jazz compilation and I remember this song by US3 - Cantaloop  that blew up my mind, I thought it was simply Jazz music you know so, I started to imitate the voices, trying to sing along the lyrics even know I couldn’t understand what he was saying! Later on, I learned it was basically Hip Hop music.  I naturally dived into it, learned about sampling through the craft of Pete Rock with this song « Grow man sport » where he sampled an African artist Fela Kuti and when I found out about that I was psyched!

What about you Denzel, when did you get into Rapping & Hip Hop culture?
Denzel
: At first I was dancing like Taro & I used to listen to Hip Hop music a lot. But,  the first time I encountered this culture when I went to study abroad, in America. The kids in my school were listening to artists like Jay Z, Eminem... Things that I never heard before. I end up buying Jay-Z's album.

Was it the first album you bought?
Denzel
: No, the first one was the Black Eyed Peas « Bringing the gap ». I was still dancing in High school until I went to College. In third grade I started to try rapping, I was using my iPhone to record everything. 

Just using your iPhone?
Denzel
: Yes man, later on, I bought a MacBook and started to use the Garageband software.

When did you record your first song & did you made your own beats too?
Denzel
: About three years ago. Yes, I did but it sucked (laughs).

So you guys also collaborated at the same time right?
Denzel
: Totally, he sent some of his stuff and I really enjoyed it.

But Taro said you didn’t like his beats...
Taro Lin
: True, at the beginning he wasn’t into what I was producing. In fact, I had two attempts (laughs) to somehow try to please him. The second beat I sent was the good one!

What was the issue with the beats?
Taro Lin
: I guess it was about the drum breaks and the sample aspect you can use on Audacity was too limited. I am still in a learning process of layering and chopping stuff. I wasn’t really serious at that time as well. But, a year later we were assigned to do another school project so we decided to work on a Rap album where I’ll do all the beats. I did two beats, however, the people I was working with didn’t feel too comfortable rapping on em’ and I was kinda upset because I loved those.
Denzel: Yes, we were at our friend birthday party and he showed me the beats he made, once I heard them I was down to work with him straight away!
 

Taro Lin: He had this song called « Young Fly Motherfucker » the second verse was fire, the flow & the lyrics and when I heard this track, I just clicked to his style, I felt like the beats I made the ones that my friends did not want to rap on might suit him perfectly!

Tell me about the creative process when you’re working together, how it is like?
Denzel
: Most of the time he made the beats and just send them to me. Nowadays it’s kinda changing. I wrote the thing that I’m thinking without any beats then he made his own thing.
Taro Lin: His track « Back from Hell » was produced like this for example. He wrote some lines and he came to my place then I just started to think about a beat. When he heard what I was making he kept writing more, it's really cool. 

So, which process do you enjoy the most Taro?
Taro Lin
: I enjoy it all. If he’s there and I am working on something, the chemistry, the dynamic is on a whole nother level. 

What about the creative process, how do you write your lyrics?
Denzel: I think it comes naturally, I never search for the words on dictionary or such. I use the words I know and that’s it, just by putting everything together, it has to make sense to me. My lyrics aren’t that deep though, it is really easy to understand everything. It also depends on the beats, if it sounds like something more chill, I will make something sounds smooth you know?

Totally. Can you tell me what makes Taro’s beats more special to you?
Denzel
: It is just different from what I am using to hear and most importantly it fits my style of writing. You can’t find this kind of beats in Taiwan.

Totally. Can you tell me what makes Taro’s beats more special to you?
Denzel
: It is just different from what I am using to hear and most importantly it fits my style of writing. You can’t find this kind of beats in Taiwan.

How do you manage your working schedule, do you try to do a beat a day?
Taro Lin
: Depends, sometimes I force myself to do so especially when I hear something cool it gives me an extra motivation. But mostly I will listen to music, old stuff and then I will start sampling.

You said earlier you’re a crate digger, do you have a favorite spot in Taipei to dig some music?
Taro Lin
: Back then, when I started they had some vinyl sales and a few vinyl festivals in town but nowadays I am mainly looking over the Internet through record labels I look for re-issues or just check out some interviews etc…

But by having Internet, it is somehow totally different because you know exactly what you get instead of going into the vinyl stores and take the time to dig for some stuff or even stumble on things you didn't expect to see right.
Taro Lin
: Exactly. I would say it is another generation and the Taiwanese digging scene is really not that develop.

There aren’t many vinyl records here?
Taro Lin
: Yes and if they are, all Jazz vinyl would be expensive like around 500 bucks. It’s hella expensive if you ask me! However, I enjoy going to Japan when I can just to look for new vinyl.

What was the most expensive one you bought yet?
Taro Lin
: I paid around 6000¥ for the « Positive Energy, Volume 1 » from Ronnie April, a jazz saxophonist. I believe there is only 500 copy worldwide so I was very fortunate to find a sealed copy. I have been looking for this one for quite awhile! 

Do you find some inspiration in the Rapping scene in Taiwan?
Denzel
: I think it’s getting better, it’s good to see things moving.

Tell me about your trip to Japan Denzel, how was it to work with Japanese producers?
Denzel
: I went there because it’s a big city, way bigger than Taipei obviously. I just wanted to get a new energy over there. I couldn’t even speak Japanese so I learned very quickly, then I connected with some DJs who were producing tracks. Overall, it was a good experience, some of them were really professional. However, there were two things that I didn't really enjoy, first the style of beats they were producing, secondly, I didn’t feel comfortable with the way they were working. Usually, when we went into the studio, at least from what I can tell about Japanese people, it is because you have to do something there. For me, it was stupid cuz' that’s not the way I work with Taro at all and don't get me wrong I am a hard worker it's like if you don’t have anything to write or to do you’re not supposed to be in the studio, that is the way they think.

So you couldn’t hang out there, just processing, listening to music or just chat?
Denzel
: Yes we could but only when we were in the clubs or when we met to eat that’s all, just not in the studio. They never listened what I was saying ever I can’t really say why, maybe because I am a foreigner and they have some pride, I don’t know. I was annoyed.

Taro, you told me that you think Germany is one of the best country music wise, why so?
Taro
Lin: Musically they are really respected and especially the sound from the 90s the Boom Bap style. To me making Boom Bap is really difficult. Germanic stuff is melodic. It’s hard to describe, you can find different styles of Boom Bap in Germany. There is this dude named Beat Pete, he’s a DJ and he puts his vinyl session on Youtube, that influenced me a lot. Almost every producers that I enjoy listening to are from Germany. I definitely want to take the time to visit when I can. Hopefully sometime soon!

Do you post your sounds over the Internet?
Taro Lin
: I have a Soundcloud and I recently build my Facebook fan page! 

What’s next for you?
Denzel
: Working on an album together.

Oh, so you haven’t done it yet?
Denzel
: No we’re just focusing on producing tracks at the moment. We just started to work on a topic. We have to find a connection between each track. I think we’re going to start very soon.

Where do you record, do you have a studio in town?
Taro Lin
: Not at all, we record at my parent's house!

So your parents know you’re doing music and want to pursue a career from it, what they think about it?
Taro
Lin: Totally. When I was in elementary school my mom got an iPod nano and she was asking me for music. I was making her playlist where I added some Stan Getz and Hip Hop tunes in it. She’s a high school teacher and when she was listening to it at her desk, her students were like « oh you’re listening to Hip Hop, you're cool! » But at first they wanted me to find a real job you know how it is,  they are more open-minded now they really support me and that’s the best thing to me. 
Denzel: My parents are cool with that too. They just want me to stay out illegal shit.

Would you say that it is in Taiwanese culture to be open-minded about all of this Rap, Hip Hop culture?
Taro
Lin: No. Some parents won’t accept that their children do that. I think the real underground culture is growing up. But most people here listen to Pop music.

Any radio stations you guys are listening?
Taro
Lin: ICRT, about 10 years ago on Friday nights they use to play a lot of Hip-Hop music but I think the program shut down. The music quality in Taiwan is really cheap, people don’t have the self-awareness to understand that. They rap and post it on Youtube or Facebook, it's really bad.
Denzel: There is a very bad culture in Taiwan like most of the people are used to download a beat from Youtube, generally a track that’s popping everywhere and start rapping on it. It is easy, I can do the same thing every fucking day if I wanted to. I think people should find their own sound than a good beatmaker. However, if you can’t find one, well it is easy man, just start making your own beats! 

 

Taro Lin: To me, it just needs to sound good however it seems that some people haven’t established their own taste yet, you know what they really enjoy, the references. Obviously, the Rap sounds sloppy...  
Denzel: I think they are not doing it for the right reasons. It is about finding why you like this… Nowadays, they just want to be like everyone else. 

Who’s your favorite rapper?
Denzel
: Eminem. In elementary school, I was really paying attention to the lyrics and I was trying to practice the melody a lot. 

Which album is your favorite?
Taro
Lin: To me right now the one I can come up with instantly is a Jay Dee remix album, it’s a bootleg album though, it was released by House Shoes. Man those remixes are something special. His way of doing sampling is unreal, he will catch something people miss out. He is the real deal period.

Any last words?
Denzel
: Yes, if I become famous I want to be signed by Soulja Boy. He’s the hardest one, I love him. Shout out to Soulja Boy!!
Taro Lin: Can I be a hater now?
Yes, you can! It's your moment.
Taro Lin: A lot of Taiwanese rappers be like, « oh if I won the lottery I wanna get Asap Rocky on my song » but dude, you are terrible. I mean why would you want to get a guy who’s going to destroy you on the track? Like if I had this kind of money I want to build something that would make my craft much better.

 

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