Japanese Wallpaper is the talented 19 year old Melbournite taking the chill-electronic music scene by storm. Also known as Gab Strum, the self-taught maestro started making tracks in his early teens and hasn’t stopped since. Before even finishing high-school he released an EP titled War Peace Rocket Ships, has supported numerous seasoned talents such as M83, CHVRCHES, Thundercat and Beach House, and his beautifully melancholic track ‘Breath In’ was handpicked by actor Zach Braff for his film I Wish I Was Here, released in 2014, which played alongside tunes by the likes of Bon Iver and Coldplay.
Japanese Wallpaper seems to feel at home among veteran music giants, developing a distinctive personal style and creating music of a very high standard. This summer, the budding producer released his latest single titled ‘Cocoon’, full of super sleek ambient vibes and tranquil vocals. Refreshingly, the young producer is a master of his craft – effortlessly churning out remixes, original productions, and joining forces with tons of gifted vocalists including Waifa, Airling and Pepa Knight.
We caught up with the Australian talent to find out more about his music making process and what’s in store for the future.
Tell us a bit about how you got started in music.
I started learning the piano when I was six – I aspired to be a classical pianist for the better part of ten years but eventually I fell out of love with the genre and began experimenting with writing music in other styles.
What’s the story behind the name Japanese Wallpaper?
It’s pretty embarrassing, actually! I just used a ‘band name generator’ online and chose the first thing that came up…
Who are your biggest influences?
It’s hard for me to pin it down! I find inspiration in the smallest musical moments – the way the chords move in an old Jazz recording, a lyrical turn of phrase from an LCD Sound-system track, the layering of synths and textures on a Tycho record – the list goes on.
You’re sounds are electronic but with super chilled vibes, how would you personally describe your music style?
I like to describe my style as electronic music for people who don’t like to dance.
Talk us through your music making process, do you always have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, or are you quite experimental?
These days I usually like to have a clear idea of what I want to achieve – I usually start with a sound or drum loop and set about building a chord progression and song structure around it. When I feel like I’m onto something I leave it on loop in my room for ages and hope for some kind of melodic or lyrical concept to fall into place.
Your track ‘Breathe In’ was featured in the Zach Braff film I Wish I Was Here, how did this come about and has it had an impact on your music journey?
I have no idea how it came about! I think Zach’s assistant found it online and showed it to him or something? All I know is that one day I had an email from someone asking permission to use it in a film she was involved in, and half an hour later it was officially on the soundtrack of a big hollywood movie. Moments like that always impact one’s journey – it’s hard to quantify it at this stage but I’m sure it made a difference in one way or another.
What inspired your brand new track ‘Cocoon’?
Lyrically, Cocoon is about my tendency to overanalyse everything that happens to me and also my shyness around new people. That said it’s also about beginning to feel less scared of putting myself out there, both in a real life sense and also in terms of my songwriting and production – it’s the first song I’ve released with my vocals on it.
You already achieved so much as a music artist in your teens, what would you say has been the key to your triumphs at such a young age?
I think the key is just maintaining a level-headed approach, working consistently and keeping an open mind when it comes to new ideas and change.
Has growing up in Melbourne had an influence on your approach to music?
Oh, absolutely. Melbourne has an incredibly rich music history and a really tight-knit scene – living here definitely plays a big part in my approach to music.
You’ve already collaborated with and supported so many great names in the industry, such as M83 and Thundercat, who would you love to work with in the future?
I would loooove to work with Anthony from M83 – we just finished a tour with them around Australia and I was blown away by his style and work ethic. Another person on my radar at the moment is a beautiful producer from Sydney called Jonti – he has some features on the latest Avalanches album and is a crazy genius in his own right too.
You’re set for an exciting headline tour this summer in Australia, what’s next for you and are you planning any international tours?
An international tour is definitely in the works for later this year, but in the meanwhile I’m working on my first full-length album and re-watching all 9 seasons of Seinfeld.
Listen to ‘Cocoon’ below and check out more Japanese Wallpaper tracks here.