DJ Gundam

Oh, the people you’ll meet!

Staking out Vinyl Union in Shinjuku a few weeks back on a Saturday at dusk, I didn’t expect to wait long for an interesting-looking character to come out with records who I could approach for a photo. Cavalierly passing on a few too-pedestrian-looking collectors emerging from the shop with records, I overzealously waited for somebody a bit more “special” …I know, I’m not proud of this, but it was wild and seedy Shinjuku after all, Tokyo’s Time Square… and somebody with some reason style and character was bound to emerge. So I waited…

But dusk quickly became evening as 10 minutes became 20 and I started to regret the dozen different missed opportunities that passed right in front of me. As the last remnant of sunlight evaporated, I capitulated and targeted a cool-enough looking “Leon” (a men’s leather clutch-clutching, sockless loafer, cardigan-donning, fat watch-wearing, quiff-a-little-too-perfect, probably Porsche or yacht-owning, silver fox, that okay, FINE, maybe I someday aspire to be…) when suddenly outta the blue, BAM! Out struts a long-haired, beret’d and Ramonish, leather motorcycle jacket (a NICE one) in black-black from head to Doc-Martin-toe who thankfully SNAPPED me out of my momentary Ralph Lauren delusion! The exact moment is actually immortalized on video – Just search for Tokyo Record Style (Behind the scenes) on YouTube.

Meet Saito san, AKA DJ Gundam. Like most all punks I have ever known in life, his rough-and-tough, edgy exterior was in stark contrast to his sweet and gentle inner soul. Saito was, without hesitation, or even me really pitching the entire idea, was happy and generous to oblige in a photo, (again, all documented on Yoube this time.) Saito and I shared a jovial and congenial chat, talking about music, about DJing, about 80s girls’ bands, including this Diamond’s record that he picked up today to spin at a nearby set that my interruption was actually making him late for.

Not wishing to take any more of his time, I sent Saito off to his set and said I’d follow up with some questions (particularly about that tidbit about DJing in a Gundam mask) via chat, and I’m sooooo glad I did, because…

When I finally followed up with Saito-san a week or so later, I asked him point blank, “What was that bit about spinning in a mask as DJ Gundam?”

Side note (read: rabbit hole): In case you don’t know “Gundam” [ガンダム”] is a very well-known Manga comic series that started in 1979 and continues today, a space saga that is said to essentially be Japan’s Star Wars. It’s HUGEly influential and helped to define not only the “Mecha [Giant Robot] Anime” and the enduring subculture that it spawned but the general culture at large, you can see Gundam influence EVERYWHERE. Conceived by Yoshiyuki Tomino, Gundam comes from “Gun” and originally Freedom’s “dom” which evolved later to “dam” as in a water dam, a blocking force. Gundam is actually a giant robot suit, piloted by human civilian teenager mechanics who navigate from its torso. It’s powerful to be sure, like the Millennium Falcon, but clunky in regular need of service for constantly fighting space battles in the galactic war between the Earth Federation and the Zeon antagonist. I’ll leave it at this: it’s very badass, highly beloved, and impossibly hard not to become completely enveloped by.

So when I asked Saito san about DJing in a Gundam mask (which he’s modified to make the eyes glow with lighted LEDs) he said “One day at a DJ set, I was spinning exclusively spinning anime songs. I bought my modded Gundam mask and when I put it on, and when the eyes lit up, the crowd went wild with excitement. From then on, I thought I didn’t need to show my real face, and that’s when I became “DJ ガンダム”.

WOW! Incredible, right, reader!? “Isn’t it hard to DJ in a mask with glowing eyes?” I asked. “Yes, that’s why I DJ with 7 inches, it’s easy to find the track.” “Naruhodo [ah, I get it]” I said.

“So Saito san, what else do you do besides DJ all genres of music in Gundam mask?” I asked. “Oh! I’m a publisher!” “Cool, what kinds of things do you publish?” I followed up. “Manga!” Saito replied! “WHOA! I love Beck! (a late 90’s early 2000’s manga about the misadventures of a teenage rock band and their magical dog named Beck discovering all kinds of music from the Beatles to Nirvana) ” “Cool! Yes!” replied Saito san, “I like Beck too! I also edited a music manga called “DJ道” [DJ Michi]!” WHOA!!!!

Ok ok, I’m getting a little excited here because… about 3 or 4 months I woke up with a crazy vision for a story about an unlikely DJing super-hero duo who fight against music moguls and help society enjoy more music, it’s very meta, and hip, and replete with a comic relief twist. I ran it through some paces, and wrote a pilot issue script, and I can clearly see the graphic artwork in my head and I can see the episodic nature of many multiple issues. To be honest, even though it’s squirrely and hair-brained, I think it’s one of the best ideas I’ve ever had and believe it could be hugely popular if I could get it off the ground, but it’s just so million-miles-away from anything I’ve ever done and seemingly so un-realistic, I didn’t know what the next step should be. “Sounds like a good idea!” Saito kindly humored me, “Why don’t I introduce you to the artist of the DJ Michi series, I think they might be interested in this idea. Let’s go out for drinks in the new year!”

OMG. The people you meet. Who knows, but I’m telling you, if you love music and a feel-good comic misadventure, like a Mel Brooks or Monty Python movie (talk about delusions of grandeur) and even if only ever a DIY pilot-version edition of this idea ever actually gets made, you’re gonna wanna get this. It’s too good, too funny. I so hope, for your sake and mine, this actually goes somewhere.

SO SO SO Nice to meet you Saito san AKA. Can’t wait to meet you again and also to experience one of your sets as DJ Gundam!

Princess Princess – Diamonds
Label: CBS/Sony – 07SH-3272
Format: Vinyl, 7″, 45 RPM, Single, Stereo
Country: Japan
Released: Apr 21, 1989
Genre: Rock, Pop

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