Hanegi Koen Interview by Rocco Tyndale Music / Art / Label / Interview

Hanegi Koen

Subtempo Guest Mix 029


Hanegi Koen is the creative duo of British filmmaker Sam King and Canadian label head Sean Mallion (ADSR Collective) they take their name from the park located near their homes in Tokyo, Japan. From the start, the two committed to a simple and spontaneous live approach to writing music, opting for analog synths and drum machines instead of laptops and digital effects. The result is a sonically rich landscape of delay drenched melodies and sun tinged psychedelia made to compliment any Sunday outing to your local greenspace.

Hi Sean and Sam. First of all, thank you for doing this mix for us.

You’re welcome! Thanks for asking us.

I wanted to start by talking about the mix. How, where, and when did you record it?

We had about 4 sessions of getting together, finding the right tracks and getting the order right. Then we mixed it live using Traktor and a small controller.

Is there a theme for this mix?

We both enjoy quite a wide variety of genres, so we wanted to try and incorporate that whilst keeping it cohesive at the same time, so we tried to find tracks that had a similar vibe that would fit together. We wanted it to reflect our music in a way, which involves quite gradual changes and notes of electronic and indie.

Hanegi Koen. What does the band’s name stand for?

The name comes from our local park. It took us a long time to come up with a name that we were both happy with, and our local greenspace seemed the most fitting. It’s a kind of old school park, mainly populated by elderly people doing their daily exercise, and then families and kids running riot. The colours are all kind of slightly washed out and saturated, which gives it a sort of psychedelic feel, in our minds at least! It’s a nice environment to escape from the city, and is where we filmed our first video.

Hanegi Koen is the name of the park near where Sean Mallion (left) and Sam King (right) live in Tokyo, Japan.

You are both originally from somewhere else but converged in Tokyo, Japan. How is it to be an ‘ex-pat’ in Japan as cliche as that word sounds?

Japan is a fascinating country to live in, and it’s definitely interesting to live here as foreigners. Before COVID when there were lots of tourists it wasn’t so rare to see other nationalities around the city, but definitely now it feels more pronounced. As with any big city it has its ups and downs, but the area we live in (near the park!) has a nice relaxed atmosphere and community vibe, which we certainly feel a part of when going to our local eating and drinking spots.

What drew you to start collaborating?

From the start we talked about music quite a bit and we had pretty similar tastes. It was fairly natural to just start jamming with some of the gear that we had with us, and when Sam moved to his new place he had a small loft space where we could leave everything setup. We’ve since outgrown that space but it was the source of inspiration for the EP, all the tracks were written up there.

And when you started this project, it had to have a DAW-less component, correct? No computer, all machines? Why was that important for you?

We both spend a lot of time looking at our computers and screens for work, so it’s good to get a break from that. We tried a little making music in a more traditional production sense, but when we started jamming and playing more like a band we found it easier to write and things came a little more spontaneously, so we just developed our setup to suit our needs.

From the beggining they wanted to be focused on making music without staring at a screen. This premise inspired their current set-up, which is intended as a live experience, even in their studio workflow.

Do you feel that the Japanese culture has influenced your music?

Definitely we think that Japanese music and architecture have an impact - we feel our tracks have a minimal vibe that is probably influenced by our surroundings somewhat. We also include field recordings from our neighbourhood and around Japan, so that definitely has an effect. During summer when we practice we can’t tell whether the sound of the insects is from our tracks or outside the apartment!

We are doing this at a time when you have your first record, “Well Worth A Visit” out on pre-order, which is set to release this spring on vinyl on Subtempo. Tell me a bit about it.

Thanks, it’s been a long time coming so we’re excited to release it! As we mentioned it was all written in Sam’s loft at his apartment, and then recorded downstairs once we had invested in a little bit of gear to enable us to record live. Most of the tracks were recorded live and then edited down a little, and then we sent them off for mixing and mastering. The artwork was put together by a friend of Sean’s from Vancouver - check out Laine Butler on instagram, who’s also an excellent musician in his own right.

Hanegi Koen at an event last year in Tokyo.

Your record got mixed by Aoki Takamasa, a Japanese experimental musician with stuff out on labels like Raster-noton or Fat Cat. What’s the connection to him?

Sam met him when making a film for Resident Advisor about the scenes in Osaka and Kyoto. He mentioned that he does mixes, and so when it came around to finding someone to work on the tracks, we reached out to him - thankfully he was into the music and happy to mix them for us.

Well, he did an excellent job, it sounds wonderful!

He did, we hardly had to give him any feedback!

The music is certainly journey-like, it’s got a fluid quality to it. Is that something you are consciously looking for when you play?

We think that’s something that just evolved naturally - we’re both fairly relaxed people, so that probably comes across through our music. We’re both fans of music that provides a good soundtrack to a journey, so hopefully you can put the EP on your headphones during a long train ride or a bus and it’ll compliment it well. And the same goes for the mix!

You both work in music independently. Sam, as a freelance film-maker and video producer for brands like RA, Ableton, and more, and Sean, you run ADSR Collective, a label, and blog. Do you feel like your other creative work has an influence on your music as Hanegi Koen, or are these completely separate worlds for you?

Definitely there’s a lot of crossover - we’re both constantly exposed to different kinds of music and creative people through our jobs and projects, so inevitably we take influence from that.

Bring your synth to the park, they say.

These are super changing times, and we are doing this interview in the midst of the covid situation. What role do you think music plays in these times?

For us it’s been a life saver - during the first wave we both had a lot more free time on our hands so we were able to put a lot more energy into our music, and we actually wrote a lot of new material during that time. Getting out of the house has become more restricted, but even if we can just go for a walk and put some music on whilst wandering around it makes a massive difference to our wellbeing - it’s a great form of escapism.

What’s the situation like in Japan? Are you able to play shows?

At the moment there are some restricted shows happening, even some bigger ones - I think Thundercat was in town this week. We haven’t really been to any and haven’t played either - we’re really keen to do so but we’re waiting for the timing to be right. Hopefully by the time the EP comes out towards the end of March we’ll be able to play at least something in Tokyo.

And lastly, what can people expect from you guys in the near future?

Well we have an albums worth of material ready to record so once this EP is out, we’ll focus on getting that down, and then hopefully if the world will allow it we can play some actual shows!

Pre-order Vinyl


  1. Khotin - Water Soaked In Forever [Ghostly International]
  2. Plaid - Ralome [Warp Records]
  3. Zen in Space - Earth Tones [Pharmaceutical Audio]
  4. Akasha System - Echo Earth [100% Silk]
  5. Seb Wildblood - Muscle Memory [AMT]
  6. YAMAAN - 石化浅瀬 [Dotei Records]
  7. D.K. - Raindrops [Antinote]
  8. BROM - Deep In It Part II [The Waiting Room]
  9. Lootbeg - Oblivion [Truth]
  10. Mary Yalex - Somewhere Along the highway [unreleased]
  11. Hanegi Koen - Susukino [Subtempo]
  12. Four Tet - She Just Likes To Fight [Text Records]
  13. Bullion - Loving Furlong [Jagjaguwar]
  14. Johnny Nash - Exit Seven [Melody As Truth]
  15. Alaskan Tapes - The Ocean No Longer Wants Us [Nettwerk]
  16. Rei Harakami - Long Time [Sublime Records]

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