Interview : Haruka Big Love

21 Oct 2016


In Conversation with Haruka Big Love

During the recent Big Love Records pop up space at Goodhood, we caught up with the Tokyo store's co-founder Haruka to discuss travelling the world, the connection between music and fashion, and working with Cali Thornhill Dewitt...






Can you start by telling us a little bit about Big Love?

Ok, so Big Love is run by my partner and I. Naka has been running a record label for 26 years, since he was 20. He already had his store for many years but it primarily focused on Japanese bands. In 2008, we started Big Love and changed the store name to suit. We wanted a huge change to everything...maybe to his past and foreseeing our future. From then on, we only focused on western bands, apart from Kinuko (Big Love artist Sapphire Slows). We’ve now started another label called ‘Baby Amphetamine’ and it’s mostly run by Naka and that focuses on Asian artists and underground music.


What does a day at Big Love usually mean for you?

I’m pretty much at Big Love everyday, from my office doing accounting things. Even if I’m out and about, I always feel like I’m home when I get to Big Love. There’s always someone I know there, like regular customers and these kids. These days, the younger generation are coming to Big Love more and more. This guy Milo who works in the store has something like a cult following. He’s a model and gets a lot of girls coming in and staring and talking to him.


You seem to travel a lot. When you’re overseas, what exactly do you get up to?

What am I doing? In fact, I travel a lot for Cali [Thornhill Dewitt]. With knowing each other for 10 years, we have built up a relationship where I am helping him with the exhibitions around the world. I then started working for his clothing brand A.Four, to which I helped a little. Now I am managing Society with him.


Tell us about Society. How do you think it will differ from the other brands you are involved in?

Society is a brand by Cali and his good friend James, who is from LA too and does all the graphics. Cali comes to Japan and is constantly taking photos of signs and inspiration from everywhere, advertising signs etc. From there, James puts it into a graphic. I also add some ideas and translate words to Kanji. Then Kazuki takes care of producing and handling. It’s more casual, it’s not like A.Four, which is fashion and art based, Big Love is of course about music as it says ‘records’ in the logo and Society is more about friendship. Cali is like everyone’s father, he calls me daughter! He is always helping young artists.









You and Naka both have Instagram accounts but there is no ‘official’ Big Love account. Is this a conscious thing?

It is a conscious thing. Actually, I made it once. I think I posted like five pics, but deleted them, and then de-activated the account. I think Big Love is about Naka and my personality and our team (family) so I thought I don’t need an official Big Love account, people could just follow us individually and get a feel and information from our Instagrams. But that’s part of me, and Big Love!


How do you and Naka go about finding new music for the store?

It’s very easy actually as we have a lot of good friends; it’s like an international family. If we know one band that’s good, they then recommend another and so on. It’s always happening, it's very organic and Naka has a lot of knowledge of music. He’s been a record collector since he was like 15, so he has a massive collection. And he’s a nerd! 


Other than Big Love, what are your favourite or most exciting records labels right now?

Posh Isolation from Copenhagen, Sacred Bones from Brooklyn, there’s a lot at the moment, too many to mention. Russia has a great thing right now. 


Interesting that you mention Russia, there is a bit of buzz here at the moment. Such a giant country that’s maybe been a bit off the radar. Why or where do you think this is coming from?

I thinks it’s Copenhagen. They play in Russia, and they have a lot of young followers. Also, an artist like BUTTECHNO, he made the music for the Gosha Rubchinsky runway shows. I think Gosha is one key, making those Russian cultures grow and it’s obvious that Russian people are so beautiful and it’s so bleak and brutal.  








At times of economic hardship, often the best music is created. Take for example Manchester in the late 70’s, it was very bleak and all of a sudden all of this amazing music came i.e Joy Division, Magazine, The Fall, very cold sounding, almost industrial… Maybe for Russia that’s something to do with it? But in Japan where underground music maybe isn’t that hot right now, maybe that’s where it’s missing. There’s no drive?

Exactly, no drive! I think it was good that a fashion thing is growing and music is connected to fashion. So, if you have two things coming up, it will be really big but in Japan there’s nothing coming up together like that.


That’s interesting you say that. You've spoken before about the disconnect between the music and fashion worlds in Tokyo specifically, whereas here in London we feel like there’s a strong relationship. With someone like yourself, who lives 50/50 in fashion and music, why do you think there is this disconnect? 

I think Japanese people are always just waiting to be taught something. They can’t step outside to the world to find out something, because when you’re in the classroom, we have to do the same thing as others (what the teacher says). So we can’t think for ourselves what to do, or what to wear or what to listen to. Everyone always follows the magazines or a fashion icon but there are no fashion icons that have mass followings. Everyone is so average, even the girl bands, pop singers, celebrities. They are not special so the normal people think that “maybe I could be like her/him”. If the icon or influencer has a music taste they love, they would tell people that “you should listen to this, or that”. No one can teach people what to listen to, but for fashion there are still magazines which are very popular. There are no music magazines in Japan anymore, or no TV shows about music, it’s so sad! 


You have an exhibition space at Big Love, can you tell us a little bit more about that?

The exhibition space is curated by myself. I travel a lot and see a lot of great artists and I’m constantly inviting them to Japan! Everyone that comes are like friends, I won’t have people that are not friends, I can’t. That’s very important. Even if they make good art, we have to be friends, that’s the crucial thing. 







Can you tell us a few of your favourite places to hang out in Tokyo (besides Big Love)?

Hard question! My favourite place, just to chill, is the Meiji Jingu Shrine, its in Harajuku. It’s so beautiful and so sacred. Sometimes I go to Akihabara. I’m not really a night partying person so I don’t really go out at night, but I do love libraries! I’m there at the weekends or after work looking at art things or just reading poetry.


So, what’s next for Big Love and you personally?

For Big Love we’re going to have two shows, one in November and one in December. We have some exciting record releases too. Next year I really want to concentrate on working with upcoming artists who could make t-shirts for us. I always love finding good artists. As for myself, I'm currently studying Ikebana, which I may have a show for next year. I am also working on poetry and writing with my Japanese brush, with Sumi ink and I really want to concentrate more on that. And of course, I really want to bring amazing artists to Japan and teach Tokyo kids! 


We know your visit in London is short, but what else do you have planned whilst you’re here? 

I think I’ll go to the Tate this weekend. I’m also going to meet my friend tonight for dinner. Maybe I’ll go to visit the Young Turks office? I already nipped to Rough Trade, but that’s it, I really don’t have much time here!








Then you’re off to Copenhagen right?

Yes, off to Copenhagen. I will miss Cali’s opening but I can still go to see the flags exhibition.


And how about music things in Copenhagen? 

I’m going to PJ Harveys concert! 


Lastly, have you got any shout outs or special mentions?

Well, of course my father, Cali. All my good friends and family that I have been working with. I’m so grateful for the support that I get, and that Big Love gets too. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be myself. Big Love is made by my international family. I’m always so grateful.





Shop Big Love here & follow Haruka on Instagram here