Sushi-powered DJs!

A wise man once said that a good DJ set is much like sushi. It tastes good if you know what you’re doing, but if you overcook the rice, you’re totally screwed. The moral of the story: Keep it simple and always serve fresh ingredients. Nightlife, meanwhile, is not unlike miso soup. It’s dark, cloudy, and full of nutrients for those who know the best places to get it. Here are this week’s specials. Enjoy.

Tune in Tokyo!

Mike Ransom and Kaku Usui are probably better known around Detroit for their skills as techno DJs than for their combined culinary prowess, but that’s quickly changing. By day, Ransom holds down the kitchen at Foran’s Irish Pub (612 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 313-961-3043), making would-be same-old bar fare come alive with daily specials that have his own twist. Meanwhile, Usui is a sushi chef at the award-winning OJ’s Sushibar on Orchard Lake and 13 Mile. The two friends are combining their day and night gigs to start a catering company called “Nushi” — the perfect cheap pun for new school sushi fanatics.

Going down at Foran’s on April Fool’s Day (9 p.m.-2 a.m., but get there early), Tune In Tokyo is their second all-you-can-eat/carry sushi party at the Irish pub. The first one was way overcrowded and caught the two off guard as they completely packed the place with frugal sushi lovers and techno heads. More than 200 people sardined themselves in the narrow bar, waiting eagerly to get a plate. House DJ, Miguel Angel, dropped his plate when someone bumped into him, creating the sort of slow-mo horror movie sequence wherein onlookers screamed and grabbed their mouths in shock and disbelief as the precious rolls tumbled onto the heavily trafficked floor. For a second there, a few of those in line had that twitch in their eyes indicating that they were considering “the five second rule,” but thankfully passed on the idea.

Needless to say, they ran out of food early.

This time, however, the duo is ready for action. “I will roll sushi until there is nothing left and everyone is happy,” Usui says with the utmost confidence.

“It’s angled more toward a younger crowd and people who normally can’t afford it,” says Ransom of the idea behind Tune In Tokyo, a name that quickly conjures Long Duk Dong creeping up on Molly Ringwald’s budding teenage breasts for radio reception in Sixteen Candles. “We’re also pitching it with music to make it a complete concept — a packaged deal. We’re doing styles of sushi that cater to people who may not necessarily be open to traditional styles. For example, we’re using more sauces, cooked stuff, tempura things, eel — stuff like that.”

Watching the two talk is akin to seeing either an international ping-pong tournament or Lost in Translation.

Usui: “I’ve been doing it, for, like, almost for six years. I didn’t go to school. … I just worked and I, you know …”

Ransom: “He was like an apprentice.”

Usui: “What is this? Prentis?”

Ransom: “Like, studying underneath a chef — trained by chefs.”

Usui: “Train? By chef?”

Ransom: “You know what I’m talking about?”

Usui: “No, no …”

Ransom: “Like when you work in the kitchen … apprentice.”

Usui: “Prentis?”

Ransom: “Yeah. Apprentice.”

Usui: “Yeah.”

The two just nod and continue with the interview even though it’s pretty clear that Usui still has no idea what Ransom’s talking about.

They’re steering clear of techno this time around in exchange for more sushi-appropriate tunes. Brian Gillespie and John Stoll are on deck to play downbeat hip hop, rare groove, funk, soul, and whatever else makes people roll and dip. Headlining and making his debut at Tune In Tokyo is S.H. The Crate Digga, another Japanese import who happened to get his mix CD into Usui’s hands. Expect chilled hip hop and funk rarities.

On the flyer, Usui is billed as Detroit’s #1 Sushi Champion. There had to be a story there.

Usui: “No, that’s a joke, you know. It’s no big deal. [laughs]”

Ransom: “No it’s not. It’s not a joke. Tell the truth, Kaku!”

“This is what really happened,” continues Ransom. And he says all this with a straight face. “After mastering both the crane and tiger styles, Kaku was sent from Tokyo to complete his mission of becoming Detroit’s #1 Sushi Champion. He was voted #1 by a panel of elders to be the most proficient in all 12 styles of sushi preparation, but it’s much deeper than that. Kaku spent years of preparation and training before that with Japan’s top sushi master in a small village near a river where he had to spear fish with chopsticks in order to eat.

“One day, Kaku speared the fabled golden scallop, and from that moment on, his teachers knew that it was his destiny and his birthright to become Detroit’s #1 Sushi Champion. Now he shall claim the title for all to behold!

“Under Kaku’s tutelage, I’m hoping to become Detroit’s first homegrown sushi champion and the second disciple of the Nushi Sushi, um, sect.

“Oh yeah, and ‘Nushi’ means ‘master’ in Japanese. It’s cool because it sounds like ‘sushi’. So Kaku’s like the new school sushi master — that’s why we chose that as the catering name. You know, because of that and the whole birthright thing.”

So, uhh … yeah. Anyway, the two hope to turn the Nushi catering thing into a business. They plan on doing private parties, outdoor events, and even weddings, bringing fresh sushi, DJ talent and sound rigs to new and unexpected places.

Usui’s sushi preparation philosophy is simple and elegant, and at risk of losing any flavor in translation, perhaps it’s best if the sushi master explains it himself:

“I like to do this kind of catering because I can serve everything super-fresh ingredient — everything fresh. Everything is fresh because I order just for the event. It’s not like restaurant, because restaurant have to have food all the time. They have to use sometime not super-fresh fish, but this way I can serve everything fresh — no bullshit.”

Anyone out there know how to say “that’s what I’m sprayin’” in Japanese?

Organic produce

Once again, Organic is bringing in some serious deep house talent. Following hugely successful parties with Joe Claussell and Louie Vega, Organic invades Centre Street Multimedia Lounge (311 Grand River, Detroit, 313-965-3651) this Saturday with Horizons. Starring left coast house legend Marques Wyatt, Horizons is not what you may think (which, in my case, would be to imagine an after-school program for special needs children). Having recently released an album by the same name, Horizons promises to be a party whose chi and karma are harmoniously intertwined, or some crap like that. Here’s a snippet from Wyatt’s promotional copy:

“This is the music of a new day, a new horizon, where people can feel free to express themselves to each other and enjoy the blessings and freedoms experienced through the emotional power of all cultures and traditions coming together as one.”

Well, yeah, that’s cool, but why are all the good house DJs such goddamn hippies about the whole thing?

Regardless, Wyatt’s a stellar DJ and Centre Street will be perfect for this event. They’ve removed the pool tables to make space for a proper dance floor in the warm, red-lit back room — a very good move as demonstrated by D Wynn’s performance on a Saturday a couple weeks back. That back room is sexy as hell, so watch your hands carefully if you bring a date. Organic residents Mike Huckaby and Michael Geiger set it off.

Movement #2

In a shocking announcement that rocked the international electronic music community, Derrick May canceled the Movement festival last week with reports of event-killing sponsorship and booking concerns. In lieu of any techno festival happening downtown, Detroit City Council members Kay Everett and Sharon McPhail will be in a no-holds-barred steel cage match at the basin of Hart Plaza’s amphitheater. (OK, so maybe this whole paragraph is just a thinly veiled April fools joke, but, hey, at least that would be easier to book than a three-day techno festival with no budget.)

In real, actual Movement news, the festival is having its official launch party at The Necto (516 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, 734-994-5436) on Thursday, April 8. DJs Stacey Pullen, Derek Plaslaiko, and Traxx will be at the helm — and, quite honestly, if the three of them could just figure out a way to play nonstop on five stages simultaneously for three days straight, we’d have a pretty damn good party on our hands for Memorial Day weekend.

Until then, let the speculation and armchair event-coordinating fly!

Robert Gorell is a freelance writer. E-mail [email protected]
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