Ken Takeuchi: Biography

Ken in California 2002

Inspiration

    Ken Takeuchi gained an understanding of man’s relationship with nature early on, from his father who commanded a team of fishing vessels in the South China Sea. "My father's work was always dependent on weather.  I remember he would sometimes bring home Taiwanese coins as presents when he had to take refuge in Taiwanese ports during typhoon season."

Early Roots

    Born and raised in Nagasaki, Japan, Ken was often found drawing around the house.  "When I was like 5 years old, I would sit on the steps in front of my house and draw a picture of Mt. Inasa.  My neighbor would walk by and tell me how nice the drawing was, and I would be absolutely annoyed! I was so focused on getting the drawing just right, and I could not stand her patronizing me and my work!"
    Early signs of Ken’s artistic talent were just beginning to be revealed when music replaced his passion: "My Junior High was known for its outstanding band program.  When I joined as a percussionist we went as far as the National semi-finals twice.  After that, I was totally hooked on playing drums!"  Realizing the only place to learn how to play drums was the U.S., he moved to Muskegon, MI at age 16 as a foreign exchange student.

Development

    Arriving at Muskegon Catholic Central High School, Ken joined the school band right away.  Studying music under the tutelage of his band director, Mr. Rod Schaub, was a fortunate accident.  "He was an ex-hippie band director who played guitar on the Happy Days theme song!  So naturally we would lean towards learning to play songs like ‘Siberian Khatru’ by Yes, or ‘Aja’ by Steely Dan." 
    Playing music also helped Ken win some respect from his fellow students.  "I was totally that stereotypical Asian exchange student, who walked around with a camera everywhere I went, but my friends thought I was really cool because I was good at playing drums."  Upon Mr. Schaub’s recommendation, Ken continued his studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA in 1989.
    During college, he began to pursue his interest in writing music.  Collaborations with other local musicians started to blossom.  "I would sync my Mac Classic to a cassette 4-track and record pop and dance songs.  Then I would take the tape to DJs on Lansdown Street.  One night, a DJ decided that it was good enough to play for a crowd of 2000!  It was one of the most exhilarating experiences; watching people dance to your music!"

Underground Sensation

    In 1993, Ken released his first 12-inch single in collaboration with David Young, a.k.a. Caleb.  The title track "Hands (to take me home)" became an instant underground hit across the US.  "We were getting pick-hit status from DJ pools in San Francisco, and our song was on legendary DJ Michael Fierman's playlist during his White Parties in NYC!  It was really exciting to finally get our music out there."

Professional Success

    After a short stint in Denmark, Ken returned to the US and relocated to NYC.  As he struggled to make ends meet, fortune smiled on Ken once again when he met his mentor, Grammy Award winner, Mr. Matt Kaplowitz.  Under his watchful eye, he learned professional audio engineering hands-on. "When I was starting out as an audio engineer, it was exciting but scary at the same time.  I had no doubts in my ability to learn, but being thrown into a session with real responsibilities was nerve wrecking!"
    10 years later, Ken creates award-winning audio work at Onomatopoeia, Inc, Mr. Kaplowitz’ full-service sound studio located in the heart of Chelsea. 

Rediscovery

    Ken rediscovered his desire to express his passion through art during stressful times at work.  "I really didn't have any outlet for my stress.  When I used to work for 2 months without any days off, all I could do was just catch enough sleep.  Forget about mixing my own music!"
    Beginning in 1995, Ken slowly started to draw and paint again, and has been steadily creating a solid catalog of work since then.  Incorporating the beauty of nature, with sometimes violent images, Ken finally found a medium where he could express his emotions without inhibition, spilling his soul onto blank canvas.  "Strangely, I feel okay for not having formal education in Art.  I think it really helps me create my art without feeling a need to prove myself."

New Horizons

    Ken is planning to push his boundaries further by creating a gestalt of his life experiences in various mediums, utilizing video, photography, original music, and surround sound mixing.  Ken adds, "Who knows?  Maybe I'll even throw in my famous Southern fried chicken recipe as a free gift!"

Compiled and written by Jake Chang, June 2004.

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