Satoshi Tomiie: Dancefloor finesse

Although you wouldn’t pick it from his Zen-like temperament, Satoshi Tomiie has a lot to be proud about. From his early days as part of the Def Mix crew to his current standing as one of dance music’s master craftsmen, the Japanese DJ just keeps on keeping on.

The key to Tomiie’s enduring appeal begins with his SAW.RECORDINGS stable, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Based in New York, the label specialises in deep, melodic house and progressive. It’s a fine resource for start-of-the-night tunes, while also offering up the occasional peaktime bomb. Some of its earliest signings included Chab, Guy Gerber, Jim Rivers, Nick Chacona and Nathan Fake, and the focus continues to be on the future.

As with everything its boss turns his hand to, quality control is paramount. “Our policy has been introducing quality dance music regardless of its style,” Tomiie tells inthemix. “We will keep moving forward to discover and present new talent to the scene in the future as well. New talent and music is the reason I am always inspired. This is the way I say ‘thank you’ to the scene I have been in for years.”

Championing new talent is one of his points of pride, but Tomiie himself a distinguished producer too. This year he revisited his Mes pseudonym for the slow-burning Back To Basics, which does exactly what the title promises. By 2011, there’ll be plenty more where that came from. “I have been building my studio for almost four years and it’s at the final stage,” he enthuses. “It has been slow for me but will be exciting to go back to the studio.”

While never resorting to cliché, Back To Basics is a reminder of where Tomiie came from. In the late eighties, he was invited by house legend Frankie Knuckles to join the Def Mix crew alongside David Morales and Hector Romero. The collective loomed large on the New York club scene in the heady days of the early-90s, while at the same time progressive champions like John Digweed were discovering how well Tomiie’s textured records worked in their sets.

It was then that Tomiie and Romero laid the foundations of SAW.RECORDINGS. Of all the Def Mix crew, it’s the Bronx-bred Romero who remains closest to Tomiie. In fact, you’ll often find the pair playing back-to-back in their home city. “We are a great team. There’s a lot of fun when we are playing together and I love watching him enjoying the music. It’s a good vibe all through the night.”

Tomiie’s gift for programming has been showcased on several mix compilations over the years. In 2006, he helmed the inaugural 3D collection for Renaissance, dividing the mixes between Club, Studio and Home. On the strength of that release, he was honoured with a punt at the label’s Masters Series. So, what does he make of the recent news that Renaissance is insolvent?

“We have been working together for a long, long time, and it definitely didn’t make me happy,” he says. “Still, what they have done for the scene and the influence they have had on all DJs and producers is definitely not insignificant. They’re a big part of the history of electronic music, for sure.”

This month, Tomiie returns to Australia for a round of club shows. He’s the kind of DJ who excels over several hours, each track immaculately leading from the last. Any fireworks are well-earned. “I love a deep and almost mellow start, then a slow build to the peak,” he agrees. “Just like good sex.”

Satoshi Tomiie plays:

Friday 8 October – No Nonsense @ Brown Alley, Melbourne

Saturday 9 October – musica @ The Forum, Sydney

Sunday 10 October – Hierarchy @ Geisha Bar, Perth