FROM ITS INCEPTION, DJing has generally been understood as a platform for selecting and playing records. Japan's DJ Krush (born Hideaki Ishi) expanded this pursuit far beyond the traditional sense, and in turn became one of the first genuine turntable artists in the mid-1980s. By employing DJing as a tool for composing, his early innovations stretched the possibilities, invigorating a generation of turntablists and lending some serious integrity to the craft.
When asked in a 1995 Bomb magazine interview about his inspiration, Krush describes being so amazed by the 1983 hiphop/graffiti film Wild Style, and the live performances that he saw at the accompanying Wild Style tour in his hometown of Tokyo, that he rushed to an "instrument shop" the next day to purchase a turntable, mixer, and sampler so he could start scratching and mixing.
The fact that Krush refers to the items in the DJ repertoire as instruments is indicative of his highbrow approach. Although he was heavily influenced by the fun and funky Bronx beats that acted as his entry point into the hiphop scene, Krush's take on the sound has firm grounding in jazz musicality. While he's often cited as the father of Japanese hiphop, his music is as much a product of early Miles Davis as it is of the Sugarhill Gang, and his lush, mid-tempo productions would be more aptly described as acid jazz or triphop.
The jazz recordings his father played for him as a kid are evident in Krush's catalog, notably in Ki-Oku, his groundbreaking 1996 collaborative album with experimental jazz trumpeter Toshinori Kondo. A survey of the musicians he's worked with since then—Guru, Zap Mama, Anti-Pop Consortium, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Bill Laswell, to name a very few—illustrate his taste for quality, inventiveness, and the avant-garde.
Krush doesn't appear to be touring for any reason in particular. He hasn't released a new album in years, and the only news on the horizon is an upcoming celebration in Tokyo of his 20th year as a solo artist. But the man is a pioneer with a reputation for delivering an enveloping live performance, and that's good enough to go see what he can do.