justSPIN! Tenka, In The Eyes of Teppi

DJ Teppi
Words by Jenkin Au
Photography by Tony Einfeldt

DJ Teppi has been in the scene for many years. Originally hailing from Japan, DJ Teppi came to Vancouver in hopes to relax and just visit. What DJ Teppi found instead was Vancouver’s nightlife, and as he contributed more and more to this scene he discovered that he was staying longer and longer, even more than he had intended. Soon, DJ Teppi formed his own promotions company known as Tenka, which translates to “Underneath the Heavens”. DJ Teppi shares his story with the justalilhype! Crew.

Describe yourself.

I was born in Tokyo, Japan, and I came to Vancouver when I was 21, about five years ago. I came for a working holiday, intending to stay for a year. I used to promote hip hop parties back in Japan. When I was 19, I promoted for a lot of university students, but it was a really bad life. Night life in Japan is open to five or six in the morning, plus drinking, so I got sick a lot. That’s a reason why I came here for vacation; I came here to socialize and relax. But, I met so many Japanese DJ’s and dancers here and I started it up again. I had a turntable in Japan but it was only a hobby. I started DJing here in Vancouver since 2005 for my own parties. We didn’t have any connections here and didn’t have money. I had a little bit of experience and if I did this, I can save us money and spin my favourite music.

Did you know you were going to DJ?

No, not at all. I didn’t expect it at all. I just wanted to chill out and think about my health and then go back the next year. I don’t know, maybe I like it. Since 2005, I started my own Japanese community party called Tenka. I started DJing using the name DJ Teppi for Tenka. I am lucky to have met so many DJs here giving me lots of opportunities and help. Now, I’m doing DJing and working as a graphic designer, working Monday to Friday.

Having a background from Asia gives you a huge variety of different music. How has this helped you as a DJ?

As a DJ? There are so many DJs in Japan and you can find them anywhere. Japan has so many vinyl shops. Even just regular people that like music, they would go buy the vinyls. With Japan, it is really follower city, which is good, because they are the first to keep up. But for the people, it’s hard to keep up because it’s always changing. So many people are following the boom over there to just to get the girl or to look popular.

Well how do you feel about the scene here?

Here, it’s more party. Realistically, there isn’t a good scene here but the people still go to drink and dance without much focused music. In Japan, if you go to a hip hop club, then it’s hip hop music. If you listen to hip hop and hip hop in the car, then you go to a house club, then you don’t fit in. Here, who cares what music you listen to. Here, we play good music for people to party to. I think Vancouver is more multi-entertainment. The people have the HYPE to have a good time.

Define your version of funk.

Funk is…to have fun and you just feel the music playing. Some people are really shy, like me, I’m really shy. But after music and maybe a little bit of alcohol, they let go and be themselves.

How have you contributed to this scene?

I’m trying to play more music that other DJs don’t spin. I want people to know more kinds of music. Every week, there’s a new DJ but the same sound and I think that people are getting bored. I want to bring new music to everyone, maybe once a month. Like, this time, I play reggae, and then next time I play hip hop. I DJ for dance battles sometimes and I’m doing more funk, which is unusual for club music. Sometimes, I spin original music, and sometimes I spin remixes and mix samples. We mostly know the new music, but we don’t know about the original music. I want to play more music not from the Top 40.

Describe the relationship between dance and music.

DJing is for people. Music and dance is like the same thing, together. No dancers, no music, and no music, then no dance.

Tenka means underneath the heavens. What exists underneath the heavens in your eyes.

I can see so many nationalities that can share the same thing. In Japan, I didn’t recognize this because it was always Japanese people and some tourists. Here, you have so many nationalities so that’s why I used that name, to cover everything.

What artists are your favourite.

Nitro Microphone Underground. That was my favourite group back in Japan. Now, after coming here, I think my tastes changed. I really like Mary J. Blige and Nexxt and others.

How do you energize a crowd?

In HYPE time, I’m trying to mix really quickly, like one verse, one verse, one verse, to get the crowd HYPEd up. If I can spin as much as I can, then they are energized. Some good songs, I let it go for maybe two verses. Others, I keep it really quick. There are so many HYPE songs, and I try to keep my favourite and songs that aren’t on the radios fresh. Here, the radio scene is very slow so it’s the same songs going on. People here don’t know many songs, they know the Top 40.

How do you want to change this scene?

I want to put more performers in the clubs. With Tenka, I have been using dancers every time since 2005. That is myself and I’ve grown up with dance. With the dancers, they don’t get money and they don’t spend money on drinking so in the club scene, it’s bad customers. But I’m trying to push more dancers and singers and people really like it. I want to put some spice into it.

What is HYPE?

HYPE are the things that I don’t need to think about anything.