Prana – New comeback album & Interview
The second half of the 90s saw the peak of Goa Trance music and the birth of Psytrance. A name that was central to the emerging culture and musical scene at that time was Prana. Prana was a hybrid project that consisted of different people at different times, but at the center of it were three people: Tsuyoshi Suzuki from Japan, Nick Taylor from Australia and Andy Guthrie, from England. It was only fitting that Prana was such a seminal project for a culture that bridged physical & technological distances.
Now Prana are back with a new album and live performance and we hooked up with the guys to learn about the new album – Sense of Unity – and reminisce about the good old days a little.
A Prana comeback album suddenly appears, seemingly out of nowhere, almost 20 years after your last album. What happened? What prompt you to go back to Prana?
Tsuyoshi Suzuki (TS): Well, I always wanted to come back to PRANA but it depended on the timing between me and Andy. And now Nick has also started coming back, so it’s good timing to get together for the three of us. And you know, the nineties style of Goa trance is still going on and I’m still really attracted to making this kind of music with more modern production.
Nick Taylor (NT): The three of us actually performed live in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve 2013, which was the first time we’d ever all worked together and it was a lot of fun. So when we got another couple of bookings at ZNA and Apsara, and Tsuyoshi and Andy started working together again, I didn’t take too much persuading to get involved.
Andy Guthrie (AG): It’s been great to play the old stuff live – starting in 2013 in Tokyo – but when we were playing together we wanted new tracks too. In the end it was a long time before we did actually get in the studio!
Tell us a bit about the album and the creative process?
TS: Yeah, it’s the 30 year anniversary of the beginning of PRANA and the title is ‘Sense of Unity’ which is the three of us together, united, and also we are just hoping for peace for the world. The artwork is by the Japanese graphic artist, KC. First, it’s coming out as a collector’s edition, numbered double-vinyl album including collaborations with Etnica and Skizologic, and next will be on CD with a booklet containing a history of PRANA written by Mark Ainley and with remixes by M-RUN, Roy Sason, Gorovich, Dickster, Funky Gong and so on…
NT: As for the creative process, it was tricky with the three of us living on separate continents. Tsuyoshi was able to spend a couple of solid chunks of time in Andy’s studio in the UK writing together and I made a couple of brief cameo contributions when I was in the country. At other times I’d send them files from Australia to incorporate into the tracks and we’d all run whatever we were working on past each other, trying to be as collaborative as possible.
AG: Our approach to making riffs and lines was really similar to how we did things in the 90s, and we all felt it was important to keep those ‘Prana’ features; drums, basslines, melodic lines etc. It felt very natural to make something new but something which was still unmistakably Prana. Then one of the other things we wanted to do was to include some other musicians, so we worked with singer Sangita Lakhanpal and Djembe player Vieux Bakayoko which adds another level to the tracks they feature on.
How did you all meet and how was Prana born back in the 90s, please include the juicy details 🙂
TS: Well, me and Nick met in Japan when I was a university student and Nick was teaching English in Tokyo and we met in an African food restaurant where I worked as a waiter. I think it was when I was 20 or 21 years old and we just started getting into playing in a rock band together. And then we got together with a Japanese guy called Take in an electronic band called Blissed. Then me and Nick decided to go to London together and that’s when we started as PRANA, releasing several vinyl singles on Inter 1 Records and an album on Step 2 House as Taiyo. Then I set up Matsuri Productions which released more singles and the first 2 PRANA albums. During those times, Nick left for Australia and Andy Guthrie from Medicine Drum and Banco de Gaia joined PRANA and we made Alien Pets and Geomantik and Boundless, etc.
NT: Yeah, it was late 1989 when I met Tsuyoshi and me and my friend couldn’t believe our luck when our very friendly waiter turned out to be just the drummer we were looking for to join our band. However, 6 months later we’d all become obsessed with electronic dance music which is when Tsuyoshi and I ditched our guitars and drums and hooked up with his old mate Take and his synths.
AG: I’d met Tsuyoshi from Return to the Source gigs – I’d been playing with Medicine Drum. I did meet Nick once back then, but it was around the time he had gone to Australia. I also knew Tsuyoshi through Matsuri, who released my first solo track and a collaboration with Tristan, so I’d been to his house and used his studio in Brixton. I do remember having some food with Tsuyoshi and Chris Deckker at Chris’ house, and me and Tsuyoshi ended up with the giggles over some stupid noises. Good times!
What are the main differences in the way you wrote the new album to how things were when you started? How was it to make this music again? How was the chemistry between you?
TS: Well, we wanted to keep a nineties, old-school Goa trance vibe to it. The differences between the nineties and now is just the production, the mastering quality and so on.
AG: Back in the 90s we were really ‘bedroom producers’ – we weren’t using the big studios that some other artists were. We didn’t have any compressors, just the synths, a few FX and the mixing desk. So in some senses it’s still that underground vibe, it’s a DIY vibe. Though of course the technology available ‘in the box’ is so far ahead of the 90s. We’re not analogue purists – neither back then or now – we use a mix of analogue and digital synths. Although we have to work remotely and individually, it was so good to be back together in the studio in the UK. Sometimes me and Tsuyoshi, with Nick adding things remotely, sometimes all three of us. There is something about being in the same space that generates a special vibe and I think we all felt it was important to keep that vibe – and some of our working methods – from the 90s.
NT: The earliest PRANA tracks were all analogue because that’s all we had at the time. We really didn’t have much of a clue about what we were doing because we couldn’t just refer to a YouTube video for mixing tips back then. We learned it all on the fly which was certainly exciting. I didn’t even know what a compressor was back then! There are so many ways to manipulate and process your tracks these days – so much control. You have to try a little harder to subvert that and introduce the chaotic x-factor. As for creative chemistry, I think both me and Andy had that separately with Tsuyoshi in the past, and it’s been fun and easy to expand that into a trio.
The album also comes out on vinyl – why did you decide to release it on vinyl?
To order Prana’s new album on Vinyl: https://www.diggersfactory.com/vinyl/305839/prana-sense-of-unity
TS: Well, to collaborate with Japanese graphic artist, KC, who we totally respect, we wanted to show off his artwork so that our big fans could touch it and feel it. And vinyl is still popular, especially for the young crowd, and the quality is different to digital so we wanted to have vinyl too.
NT: We all come from a vinyl era, so making it available for the collectors on that format was a no-brainer. Especially as a showcase for KC’s amazing artwork.
Share with us a few stories from the golden days of Goa Trance.
TS: Yeah, we had so many good times in the nineties in Japan and of course Europe, Goa, USA Burning Man, yeah, all the stories. Also in Israel we had amazing, amazing times together and it was great music, especially the nineties music which we still love and we want to keep going on.
AG: The first time I heard Tsuoyoshi play was in Tokyo in the early 90s. I was there doing sound for Banco de Gaia on a Megadog all-nighter at the Liquid Rooms. After the first night I got taken to this mad party at about 7am, drank the punch, and totally freaked out to this amazing music. 12 hours later – with no idea where I was in Tokyo – I had to find my way back to the hotel for the second Megadog all-nighter!
NT: The golden days of Goa trance were fairly short for me because within a couple of years of moving to Australia in 1994, my tastes began to shift. But I remember vividly when we moved from Tokyo to London we started going to these super underground, word-of-mouth parties in abandoned warehouses and old quarries where we’d hear this incredible music which, as it turned out, was being made by many of the faces on the dancefloor: TIP, Juno Reactor, MWNN, Hallucinogen, Genetic, Psychaos, Total Eclipse, Slinky Wizard, Technossomy, Ayahuasca etc. etc. It was very inspiring for us to be surrounded by so many fantastic musicians. It hadn’t even been branded as Goa trance back then…
We know you also perform live, how is it to still play the music you made so long ago?
AG: It’s an honour and a privilege that people still want to hear it!
NT: Yeah, it’s a total buzz to see people connecting with music that we made 30 years ago. To be honest, it’s helped me to appreciate it again after many years of not paying it any attention. But I’m now really looking forward to performing these new tracks live!
Can each of you tell us in a nutshell what you did in the time that passed between the last Prana album and this one?
TS: After London, I moved back to Japan and set up different things, with different music – electro-rock stuff with a band called Joujouka. And still travelling around. Nothing changed so much. But after Joujouka, I started coming back to Goa trance style, more psychedelic, and this is where we are.
AG: I had kids. Family life took over and I was working as a musician and teaching in higher education. Now they’re both adults, and one of them is a DJ!
NT: I broadened my musical horizons in Australia, producing and DJ-ing many different styles over the years, But always with a psychedelic sensibility, I think. Until recently, I hadn’t produced any music for about 15 years. Instead, I went back to studying and completed a PhD in environmental humanities a couple of years ago. Other than that, I’ve been trying to stay out of trouble, with varying degrees of success…
Prana – Sense of Unity [Psychedelic visuals]
Can we expect more new Prana music?
TS: Yes, you could expect from us more new PRANA music, more and more and more. Of course, we’ll keep going on. It’s not only this vinyl and not only this album. This is just our start, so watch out for more new PRANA things coming out.
NT: Actually, there’s already new PRANA music which hasn’t made it onto the album. Our juices are flowing now!
Read our interview with Sonic Species: https://trancentral.tv/2023/12/sonic-species-new-album-interview/