MusicTechFest meets Intelligentsia, where classical meets sci-fi

“Things are easy when you’re big in Japan,
When you’re big in Japan…”

Aside from the all fantastic collaborations, experiments, performances, showcases, demonstrations, one of the other reasons I enjoy MusicTechFest so much, is the opportunities it provides to meet such a diverse range of interesting people from the community of music and technology.

One such encounter last year, at the end of the 2013 festival, was when I met MIRAI, (“Future Boy”) the founder of the neo-futurist network Intelligentsia. It turned out to be one of the longest conversations I had that particular weekend, as he explained his remarkable journey, growing up in the UK designing video games moving into music, relocating to Japan , Studio Gibhli and adopting to life back in the UK.


During the 80's whizz kid era, MIRAI released over 10 titles from age 14 and then moved on to music, video and fashion during the growth of the rave culture, where he began to group together a motley bag of musicians artists, always pushing against the status quo.

“Essentially because I had to program music sequencers for 8-bit computer games (C64, Atari etc.) and it was cheaper for me to write the music instead of paying someone, I discovered music and composition through games. I was listening to electronic music every night for 4 years while I programmed at night and studied the music patterns that way. Around 1989, I bought my first basic synths and decided to start a band and completely lost interest in programming. Our first live show was in 1991 at Camden Palace.”

MIRAI had visited there before, and as an admirer of the futuristic and technological wonderland that is Japan, in 1995 he decided to relocate to Tokyo, writing soundtracks for Japanese video games, club mixes, TV radio. He was also a video game character and co-hosted several electronic music radio shows, wrote for Keyboard magazine and did various TV National radio spots. In Japan, he had a political party named after him, was the first foreigner to perform techno live using a mobile phone, and was voted top Tomb Raider level designer. I have always been curious about Japanese culture, a comment in an interview with designer Oliver Reichenstein made, always stuck with me about living there, where he mentioned:

“It felt like a trip to another planet”,

MIRAI shared a little about his experience in Japan.

“I moved to Japan and worked as a Video game composer, where I started the “Ummo Discs” label which eventually turned into the “Earth Academy” label in London. ‘Intelligentsia’ also grew into a Internet artist network (from 1996) for people creating cutting edge works, which was the original intention of the name and music group. We were featured on Japanese television and then I started working with people like Susumu Hirasawa (Paprika / P-Model) and Morley Robertson (Logic System) who are both heavily featured in the Japanese media for frontier tech and eccentric electronic music.”

At this year’s festival of music ideas, Intelligentsia will perform, using the brand new Aug Motion synth controller (for vocals etc) with a customised “BODY-DRUM” suit and with their Australian opera singer clad in wearable technology, especially designed for the event by an Indian fashion designer.

“I created the “BODY-DRUM” for the ‘Interactive Live Show’ tour as Susumu Hirasawa had many kinds of interesting gadgets on stage..."

MIRAI in his “BODY-DRUM” suit

"...Also the audience was in total control of the gig play order — they would shout between each song and decide the direction of the music. Hirasawa was also using the Yamaha Miburi on stage and later I used the Gypsy-Midi Exo-Skeleton. The idea of the Body-Drum came from opening up a Simmons drum kit to see what was inside. In Japan they have this great store called “Tokyu Hands” where you can find all kinds of strange objects, shapes and plastics, and so I designed it around those parts. Japanese fashion designer “Massaging Capsule” built the Gladiator style rubber body for the drum pads to sit on.I also wrote the track “Interstella” for the Japan tour which had to be overly dramatic to match Hirasawa’s music, so for the first time I used Opera vocals..."

"...This track essentially became our most popular track so I started to use more female operatic sounds and finally thought I needed an Opera singer to join the band.”

That search for the female operatic sound, led to a chance encounter with an Australian classically trained opera singer called Bronwen.

“...Now that was kind of a hard call because it was difficult to find someone who both likes Opera AND Electronic music. But I saw Bronwen busking in the London underground and she told me she liked the Prodigy and Imogen Heap and that was that!”

Intelligentsia’s prime directive is to bring together artists on the vanguard of innovative philosophy positive future, we look forward to their performance.

Written by


An all too occasional music blogger.
Interested in good music, music-tech, new media and #longreads