The founder of Japanese label PSF has died aged 67. Words by Alan Cummings
Japanese label and record shop owner Hideo Ikeezumi, founder of PSF Records, has died from complications from stomach cancer. He was 67 years old.
PSF was one of the first Japanese underground labels to create an international reputation. Borrowing its acronym from its first release, High Rise's 1984 album Psychedelic Speed Freaks, PSF documented and promoted the numerous rich seams of Tokyo underground music that had begun to appear in the 1970s. Artists across multiple genres, from psychedelic rock and acid folk to noise and free improvisation, were moving beyond imitation to create fascinating hybrid forms of their own.
Among the artists PSF introduced to the world were Fushitsusha, High Rise, White Heaven, Ghost, Shizuka and Masayoshi Urabe. The label documented the history of Japanese underground music too, releasing important 1970s recordings by guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi, saxophonist Kaoru Abe and bassist Motoharu Yoshizawa, as well as reissuing key early sides by Keiji Haino, Kazuki Tomokawa and Kousokuya. A handful of key non-Japanese artists, including Harry Bertoia, Charles Gayle, Borbetomagus and AMM also had PSF releases.
Hideo Ikeezumi was born in 1949 into a family of professional artists living in the Itabashi district of Tokyo. Fascinated by literature as a child, his musical obsession was first awakened by the triumvirate of bad boy enka singer and actor Akira Kobayashi, rough and scabrous Northern folk singer Kan Mikami and the aforementioned free jazz guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi. Once music sparked for him, he lost interest in studying and chose not to go to university. Instead he spent his time devouring music magazines and taping songs off Japan's first late night radio shows. In 1968, he started work as a buyer for Gobangai, a small chain of Tokyo record shops. The 1970s was a period of expansive growth for record stores in Japan, and Ikeezumi developed an implicit understanding what would sell, regardless of whether he liked it or not.
By the late 70s, Gobangai was carrying records by Japan's first wave of punk labels, but Ikeezumi had decided it was time to strike out on his own. He rented a small shop in the quiet suburb of Meidaimae. An ad for the opening of Modern Music appeared in Fool's Mate rock magazine in 1980, warning readers that the store carried everything "from Pere Ubu to Akira Kobayashi". The shop was a shrine to Ikeezumi's personal obsessions, and he only carried music that he loved, regardless of genre or obscurity. There were bins for free jazz and improvisation, psychedelic rock, contemporary composition, noise, acid folk, lachrymose Japanese enka and traditional rakugo comedy. Much of the stock was imported from the US or Europe, but he also carried any new Japanese releases that he thought worthwhile. When Keiji Haino's debut LP Watashi Dake? was released in 1981, he staggered the label's owner by ordering 50 copies.
The tiny shop with its counter piled high with records, cassettes and CDs became a gathering place, support network and information exchange for underground musicians. Members of Marble Sheep and White Heaven worked there, while others popped in to buy records, chat and drop off fliers for shows. It was an organic progression to setting up the label in 1984. The first releases were by High Rise and Fushitsusha, all of whom were shop customers. The label was followed in 1991 by an irregularly published magazine, called G-Modern. Worldwide changes in music retail led to the shop closing its doors in 2014, though the label continued, with its final releases appearing in 2015.
Ikeezumi will be remembered for the uncommon breadth and the uncompromising force of his personal vision of what music should be. He was always ready with an apposite and enthusiastic recommendation, and for me personally, his generosity, openness and well-honed ears will be sorely missed.