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Ann Arbor Music


Meet + Greet with Mayer Hawthorne

Ann Arbor native Mayer Hawthorne had the city abuzz with excitement this past Saturday as the headliner for Live on Washington, a free outdoor concert benefitting the teen center Neutral Zone. We're big fans of his latest album Where Does this Door Go, especially since I knew Mayer back during high school (which inspired much of the album) and during his days with Athletic Mic League.

It was an exceptionally beautiful day and perfect for an outdoor concert. Nick brought his set up and caught some exciting shots of the sound check, private meet and greet and group shots of the student curators. 



Astro/Ajekt/QP + Aya

Many stories exist regarding the formation of the super group Locus. Some say they're highly trained agents of Naicho created to bring the Yakuza down from within. Others say they crashed to Earth disguised as a fallen satellite. 

I'm here today to tell you the truth about Astro, Ajekt and QP.


Prior to any written record of Locus, Astro (MC/Vocal) associated himself with hip-hop/rap culture. He was heavily influenced by his younger brother and Dirtyneez, a group of talented artists coming from Detroit, Ann Arbor, North Carolina, Atlanta, and Tokyo.


After working as an MC and producing several tracks for his first duo, No Future, Astro formed an MC duo with his kid brother, DNA. Playing shows became the norm for the next few years, along with meeting greats like Chance, Baatin, Miss Corona, Yoshi, Black Milk, Elzhi and Spier1200, but something was missing. Astro became aware he needed to excel his skill as a rapper and entertainer. He was looking to change his game. That's when he approached Ajekt and QP.


Early on Ajekt (DJ/Programming) enjoyed listening to Nine-Inch-Nails, covering Weezer and borrowing style from Rivers Cuomo. The study of audio engineering brought him to the US; Miami to be specific. During his time in subtropical South Florida he developed his eclectic musical taste through deejaying at a college radio station. Tracks from DFA, Domino, 4AD, Ninja Tune, Warp and Thrill Jockey were on heavy rotation and spinning 12-inch UK Breaks/Tech House vinyls at house parties became second nature.


It was a career opportunity that brought Ajekt to Michigan. Once here he joined a J-Pop cover band, where fate lead him to QP and later Astro at the band's first performance.

Despite doubt, Ajekt did enjoy playing mainstream Japanese music, but gradually realized his true passion for electronic music. When the cover band broke up he got the urge to create his own music at least once in a lifetime (yes, he also loves the Talking Heads). He then asked Astro and QP to collaborate on a project combining rap and electronic music, reflecting the musical culture of Detroit and the diverse musical influences of the three artists.


QP's (Bass/Programmer) musical carrier dates back to 1999 when he joined/co-founded the rock band called JAM2 in Tennessee. Despite being a young novice band, they were booked to play at a local music festival and attracted a large crowd of passionate rock fans. They left the stage after making a massive impression.

Later he moved back to Tokyo and formed a new band called Rock On and performed at several well known live music venues. Although successful, QP felt unmotivated by the tepid environment in Japan. He was eager to expose his passion in a challenging yet inspirational situation. So he moved to Detroit to fulfill his desire.


As his roots grew deeper in the state of Michigan, he formed another successful band with local talents called Hoola-Hoop. Around the same time he began recording and producing music for fellow artists through which he met Astro. In addition he also spent considerable time contributing to his community by organizing annual local music festivals and volunteering as a sound engineer for many events. When Hoola-Hoop disbanded due to a key band mates departure, he joined the band where he would meet Ajekt.


Then.... Locus was born.


"A collective mind of musicians with different musical backgrounds searching for our own unique sound through trial and error. We've put out various types of music, now creating more danceable tunes and setting fire to the dance floor by experimenting with sounds and collaborating with artists who specialize in their own genres of music. We've had many opportunities to work with talented artists, sharing passion and love for music, yet we're still on a journey to create something extraordinary and new to the listeners. We're trying to establish a fan base in the metro Detroit area, Japan and wherever the internet can take our materials to. The band's music is heavily influenced by hip-hop, rock, electronic, pop and j-pop. The masks we wear represent our alter egos, separating us from the daily life to portray characters more fitted to the image of Locus and our songs. The original purpose of our masks was to have an edge and mysteriousness on stage, as well as hide our faces so the audience hears and feels the music rather than focuses on who we are as individuals. We want to send the message that we all in some way wear a mask trying to fit into our own community like a facade or front. We say that out loud by physically wearing the masks."


All the pictures were taken during a recording session between Locus and an incredibly talented pianist named Aya Higuchi.


The group met Aya, the most recent collaborating artist, through Astro's daytime job a few years ago. Last year Locus created a demo track of "Original Message", a song in Japanese to send a goodbye/thank you/good luck message to all their friends and family who've left this state to pursue dreams. In it they recomposed the classical masterpiece "Canon in D" by Pachelbel. Aya heard it and they started talking about collaborating their talents.


Many thanks to my good friend Astro for providing the background so many have wanted to know.


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Kenta: Hair Stylist, Musician, Astro

After an amazing photo shoot with friend, hair stylist and musician, Kenta, I had an opportunity for some Q and A. His band Locus can be seen and heard here.

N- How did you become a stylist?

K- After high school I was searching for a job and went in for a haircut at a local salon for my interviews. I gave such detailed order to the stylist, he said "you should become a hairstylist!" So I did. I still believe that moment was meant to be, this job is the only job I've never wanted to quit! (Kenta has been styling hair going on eleven years and currently works at Da Vinci's in downtown Ann Arbor).

N- When did you get into music?

K- The 4th grade. I really liked this girl and she played flute. I wanted to be with her in music class so I begged my ma. I only played for four months or so... At that time I was very shy about being the only boy in flute class so I converted to trumpet! Since then I've played a little tuba, guitar, and drum. My friend taught me how to DJ but I was never good in any instruments... so I highly respect people who practice instrumental music.

N- Describe your personal musical interest and your bands interest.

K- I have very broad musical interests, but grew up listening to a lot of punk, ska, rock, hip-hop, J-pop, trance, house, and techno and was never good at remembering the bands name or the song title.Band mate Ajekt (DJ/Programmer) also has a very broad interests and digs deep on all types of music. It's crazy how much he knows about the history behind a band or the songs. I call him the Wiki of Locus! He can answer most of your musical questions! Band mate Qp (Bass/Programmer) is deeply rooted in rock and J-pop and listens to everything he likes. His bass playing style is heavily influenced by what he heard in his youth. He has also produced a few Japanese Pop songs for local talents as well.

As a band all three of us comes from very different musical backgrounds. The first few years we were suffering to find a point of interest, but we're now gradually finding a solid Locus sound. We're still in search of "creating something new, something never heard before". I know its a long journey but feel like we're definitely on the right track. The energy and atmosphere Locus creates is something I've never experienced in any other music or shows.

N- Tell me about Astro.

K- I've wanted people listen to our music rather than judge us by our looks, so it was my idea to put a mask on at a show one day. I've asked the band members to wear the masks too, but we've had some clashes on this idea. Astro is like a messenger for me, he's the one who shouts my thoughts and emotions through the microphone. He's a little cocky, spiritual, and loves women. He'll do things I can't and thinks what I can't.

Thank you, Kenta for a great session and for sharing your stories. To have your own portait narrative photographed, contact us here.

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