Ta-Ku‘s Create & Explore series is a “conversation between mediums,” a way for creatives from different circles to interact and find synergy in collaboration. Matching music with visual art, Create & Explore establishes a symbiotic relationship between the two sensory experiences, allowing music to soundtrack specific places in time while videography transports audio to a tangible, physical location.
For episode 009 of the series, Ta-Ku tapped Minnesota-based director, Braden Lee, to set the scene for his own musical production — a piano-laden beat titled “005” from Ta-Ku’s collaborative project with Kit Pop called HWLS. Lee decided to leave America for his assignment, flying west to the stimulating metropolis of Tokyo. What emerged from Lee’s trip was a stunning juxtaposition of Tokyo’s cutting edge modernism with centuries old Japanese tradition.
Watch Braden Lee’s Create & Explore episode above, and read below for a Q&A with Braden where he discusses the concept for the video, his thoughts on Ta-Ku’s series, and why Tokyo was the perfect place for him to shoot.
How did you link up with Ta-Ku for this episode of Create & Explore? What are your thoughts on Ta-Ku’s concept behind the collaborative series?
Joe Kay of Soulection shared my work with Ta-ku and then one day he hit me up on Instagram. We haven’t met quite yet, but planning to see him live at his MoMA PS1 show later this month.
Create & Explore is a dope opportunity for visual artists and beatmakers/producers to collaborate and showcase their respective talents. Ta-ku partnered up with photographers Michael Salisbury and Johnny Castle to start curating this platform. You really have to check out their Instagram – it’s this amazing community built around the hashtag #createandexplore.
What do you find most special about Tokyo and what was it about the city that inspired you to make it the setting for this video piece?
I think it’s the people of Tokyo who are most special and make me want to go back. For real, the people are so incredibly generous and willing to help out. I’ve only been making music videos for two years now, but most have been shot where I live in Minneapolis so it was time to go somewhere new and unfamiliar. Ever since I watched the film Enter The Void by Gaspar Noé, I knew I had to go for its vibrancy, culture and architecture.
You mentioned a dichotomy between tradition and modernism in the synopsis of the video. Do you see the two ideals as somewhat symbiotic or completely opposed?
I see them as interdependent. You can’t have one without the other. I simply thought it would be interesting to contrast old and new dance forms. Some people notice this and others don’t, but the person in the mask is actually Daisuke, the male contemporary dancer in the video. You could say that the masked figure represents a dream sequence and Daisuke is sort of channeling an ancestor. Daisuke isn’t a religious person, but he told me he felt something very spiritual take over him as he had that 400 year old mask on.
Tell us a bit about “Noh” and why it was important for you to represent this cultural tradition in your video.
Noh is a very old Japanese theatrical drama using music, minimal dialogue and various masks to represent characters and spirits. It’s been around since the 14th century and the guy that created it was publishing his plays 200 years before Shakespeare. The theater owner explained how young people aren’t very involved with Noh anymore. I could tell he was worried that the art form could die off since the teachings are passed from one generation to the next. I think that’s why he was willing to be a part of this because he saw all these young people wanting to film in his theater.
I thought it was intriguing that in many of the shots where the main characters are dancing in public places (the crosswalks in Shibuya, the train, etc), a lot of the people around the dancers seemed either disinterested or oblivious. Why do you think that is?
Haha, everyone thinks that I directed the passengers to sit there and not look at the camera, but that’s what happens when you enter the train. You hope to find a seat and once the doors close it’s completely silent. People are glued to their cell phones. I think it’s because Japanese people respect each other’s privacy much more than Americans or Western cultures do. The other reason being that we were doing something unexpected and probably illegal at times so they didn’t want to be affiliated with us.
In addition to this video, are there any other pieces you’ve recently worked on or have coming out soon that you recommend us checking out?
Yeah for sure, I have another video dropping soon with Create & Explore and Hypetrak. And I just had a chat with Soulection about another project I can’t speak on quite yet, but check out bradenlee.com for updates. Thank you for having me on Nest HQ. You guys are doing great things. I find the best shit on here daily.