What’s In Your Playlist MZA?

Half Japanese and Singaporean DJ and beat maker, Matt “MZA” Sekiya has played the underground nightlife circuit from places including Choice Cuts Goods + Coffee, Camp Kilo, the infamous Good Times parties, to fellow music producer Intriguant’s Uploading sessions. Having also worked in The Analog Vault, and now music producer under electronic imprint, Yen Disco Soundsystem and founder of ZŪJAGO Jazz Blog for all things Japanese Jazz related from the 1960s-1980s and beyond, as well as music contributions to GMP Radio Tokyo and music collectives like Darker Than Wax and Revision Music, MZA is making his mark in the Asian music industry, creating music in a sonic universe for the modern age.

As part of *SCAPE ALT. Residency program from October 2020 to January 2021, MZA reunited with Intriguant and under his mentorship produced new singles, ‘Liquid Ocelot’ and this month, ‘Eldritch Terror (Prelude)’. Heavily inspired by Lovecraftian horror themes, ‘Eldritch Terror (Prelude)’ includes heavily clouded downtempo rhythms in this eerie electronic trance track. Haunted by dissonance and hypnotic basslines and beats, MZA’s latest track is merely the prelude to a larger discography of sonorous and mellifluous electronic music. 

We got MZA to share a playlist on his eclectic mix of music influences throughout his years beginning with his introduction to Jazz, to a mix of alternative indie, RnB and Hip Hop growing up, to exploring and sampling of sounds found from deep dusty grooves and finally to the holy trinity of John Coltrane, Gang Starr and Massive Attack to shape who he is today and might potentially shape a new EP to be slated for release this year.

1. John Coltrane – Blue Train (1958)

Gotta start from the beginning…so in addition to spending hours in front of MTV in the late 90s – early 00s with my cousins, and also my mom who would play it daily. My earliest interests in music were mostly jazz. After hearing me play a dodgy lounge jazz compilation when I was 13, my dad decided to school me in proper jazz with his CD collection. I’ll always remember hearing the opening notes of Coltrane’s Blue Train and feeling an obsession with the music enrapture within. Never been bluer since.

2. Wes Montgomery – Full House (1962)

Wes Montgomery and Django Reinhardt were some of my earliest influences growing up playing bass and guitar after school everyday obsessively, sometimes even skipping my CCA to do it. I’d spend hours watching a pixelated video of a live recording of “Full House” on a very bare-bones YouTube at the time and being amazed. I’m still amazed to this day… Still can’t play guitar as well as them unfortunately, but who could?

3. Joe Pass – How High The Moon (1973)

Joe Pass is my own personal guitar god. The way he plays without actually needing any accompaniment and plugged simply into a guitar amp is one of the best things I’ve ever watched. I’m still wondering to this day how does he have the dexterity to play melodies while layering a walking bass line simultaneously. Absolutely sacrilegious.

4. Death Cab For Cutie – Pictures in a Exhibition (1998)

What can I say? Death Cab was the soundtrack to my early teen years, first heard it on The O.C. and felt Seth Cohen was a kindred spirit. Hearing ‘Transatlanticism’ live at the age of 27 still makes me weep. It’s hard to pick a favourite song from their discography but ‘Pictures in a Exhibition’ from their debut album is my most played. Not the most common choice, but that hook is still a killer and I’d play it on loop for hours.

5. The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (1984)

If you were to ask 18 year old me what my favourite band of all time was, I’d tell you it was The Smiths. End of story. 

As a late-teen emo, Morrissey’s lyrics paired with Johnny Marr’s jangly guitar licks were all that I needed for a period in my life. ‘How Soon Is Now?’ gets special mention as the first song by them I’ve ever heard — although years later I found out it was actually a cover. Yes, that’s right I first heard this on the show, ‘Charmed’ which my uncle would watch religiously weekly while I spent my holidays at my grandmother’s. 

When’s a good time to listen to this song you’d ask? 
How soon is now?

Photo credits: MZA / Richard Sta Ana (@richardstaana)

6. Danger Doom – Sofa King ft. MF DOOM (2005)

DOOM was a game changer for me. I honestly hated rap music before discovering DOOM on Adult Swim and his other albums via Last.FM. This Danger Doom collaboration was the first album I had ever heard, which luckily enough was a free download back in the day. Witty and eloquent, the masked man on the mic will never be equaled.

7. Gang Starr – Jazz Thing (Video Mix) (1990)

Gang Starr and Black Star were another two discovered via Last.FM. Given my earliest influences were jazz related, it’s a no brainer that jazzy hip hop would captivate me just as much. The one hip hop producer I would most like to meet and god forbid collaborate with is definitely DJ Premier. His beats and sample flips are the stuff of legends. There’s nothing better than good old classic boom bap and Premo still reigns supreme. 

8. Black Star – Astronomy (8th Light) (1998)

Coincidentally released on my birthday in ’98, Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s Black Star is where rap becomes poetry. The verbal wordplay between the two is still unparalleled. It’s a shame Mos (or better known today as Yassin Bey) kinda lost his head after a while. There is talk of a Black Star 2 produced by Madlib that’s set to release but I doubt it’ll ever top this. This is a desert island spin for sure.

9. Nujabes – World’s End Rhapsody (2005)

Special mention to the one and only Nujabes, whose works I and many others discovered through Samurai Champloo. Also my first introduction to jazzy hip hop, although at the time I didn’t even know what to call it. I’d remember nights spent watching the anime on ODEX VCDs with my dad and sometimes my mom. Those are memories that will inexplicably be forever soundtracked by Nujabes, Fat Jon, Tsutchie and Force of Nature.

Photo credits: MZA / Richard Sta Ana (@richardstaana)

10. Mariah Carey – Emotions (1991)

Favourite R&B diva? Some might say Beyonce, Rihanna…maybe even Whitney. Hands down, Mariah is my favourite. It never occured to me that R&B was something I loved till much later in my life when I started DJing at clubs. I love playing Mariah whenever I got the chance and ‘Emotions’ is just such a great guilty pleasure tune that makes you feel good. Considering I’m someone who thinks happiness as an emotion is overrated, this tune makes me happy 🙂

11. Total – Do You Think About Us? (1996)

In terms of favourite R&B songs, Tamia’s,‘So Into You’ and Aaliyah’s ‘Rock The Boat’ comes close. However, coming out of left field Total’s ‘Do You Think About Us?’ is my favourite. Produced by the absolute best, your favourite producer’s favourite producer, it can only be Raphael Saadiq. He also provides additional vocals here, and you can feel his imprint on the music from the get go. There’s a certain sensuality to his tracks especially the ones from the 90s. This is baby making music at its finest. 

12. Raphael Saadiq – Doing What I Can (2002)

Apart from his production works, Saadiq’s debut album ‘Instant Vintage’ is my own holy bible to Neo-Soul music, bass playing and production. If Joe Pass was my guitar god then Saadiq is my bass and production god. The lushness of his instrumentations and balance of the mix is just addictive. It has influenced me on a core level to really think of creating music that’s lush and balanced as much as possible.

13. Massive Attack – Paradise Circus (2010)

If you’re still reading at this point, we’re now diving into music that has had an impact on my recent music productions. ‘Paradise Circus’ was the track that really made me notice drums and its patterns in music. The irregular placements of the claps were something an old friend of mine and myself would spend hours trying to figure out. It’s something that I obsessive over in that I try to never have drum patterns or sections that are too repetitive. Although I foresee it making my tracks an absolute nightmare to mix in a DJ set. Sorry about that!

14. Depeche Mode – Useless (K&D Session) (1998)

The stoner’s delight. This absolute stone cold remix of Depeche Mode by Kruder & Dorfmeister is an acquired favourite from my time working at TAV. The use of echoes, reverbs and filters here are tastefully and beautifully done. Considering myself a bassist first, this bass line was what got me hooked from the first spin. Although fair warning from the 6:20 minute mark I’d skip to the next song. Not my favourite outro, and it feels a little self indulgent at that point.

15. DJ Krush – Kemuri (1994)

I have a confession to make. As much as I want to make straight up hip hop beats, there’s something freeing about dabbling in genres that I’m not commonly associated with. It allows me to create a world that feels closer to what’s inside my mind. Cyberpunk Neo-Tokyo is where my mind is at and there is something very dystopian about trip hop. Easily I can imagine DJ Krush soundtracking it’s sceneries and landscapes. His music has had a large influence on myself in terms of vibes and sample choices in particular of traditional instruments. Whether this continues to influence my upcoming EP is something to be seen as I dive deeper into my past influences paying homage to the memories and places that I grew up with.

16. Larry Heard – Dolphin Dream (1994)

One little extra track just cause this one is too good to leave out. Larry Heard’s ‘Sceneries Not Songs, Volume One’ is one of my favourite albums I’ve been playing a lot in recent times. A solid blending of deep house with jazz sensibilities. If this is the jazz we’re gonna be spinning in 2099 then sign me up for the apocalypse!

You can follow MZA:

Instagram | Bandcamp (Yen Disco Soundsystem) | ZŪJAGO Jazz