Tomo Asaha

JRR: How did you get into music? What made you start playing guitar?

Tomo: When I was in junior high school, my friend had two drum sets in the garage. He invited me to show [me] how he is good at the drums, something like that. And then, I just found the guitar next to the drums, and I thought we should jam or something even though I don’t know the guitar, you know? I don’t know how to play guitar but, you know, we could do something. So, we just played, and it was very fun. Then, I think, I start[ed] practicing guitar from that. And also my father, he used to play acoustic guitar a lot, so there is always [an] acoustic guitar in my room. So I just [started] touching and playing, enjoying the sound. Even though I don’t know how to play, it was fun.

JRR: Was it difficult when you were starting to learn?

Tomo: It was very hard because I have small hands. (laughs)

JRR: How was your experience with the Visual group Voyage?

Tomo: It was really good. That was my first band, the Visual Kei band. It was kind of difficult to start from zero, but we had a lot of support from the other people, and finally we got a producer who used to be Dir en grey’s manager.

JRR: What did you learn from being in your first band?

Tomo: How wonderful playing music in front of other people [is].

JRR: In the panel yesterday, Tony mentioned that you’re working with the band called Alias in Japan. Can you tell us some more about that?

Tomo: Alias, that started like one year ago, probably. When I went back to Japan, I met KiYO, which is the drummer from Alias. Me and him were talking [about the] Japanese music scene and the American music scene, exchanging information. He just got the idea that, “We should make something unique. It’s going to be fun.” And I said, “Yeah.” I had known him for over ten years, and we hadn’t worked together yet, so I was like, “Yeah, we should do something.” Then he found the other members and we started recording, but it’s kind of difficult because I live here. Some of the members live in the Osaka area and some from Tokyo, so we are separated. It’s kind of difficult to make one song, but thanks to the internet, we can exchange information and data, and then record it. We found a new way to make music. It’s kind of fun because I haven’t seen them yet, [since] the first time when I recorded the first song, but I can tell like, “Oh, this person, maybe the vocalist, has like this kinda voice and is singing this way, so probably she’s like that person.” You know, I can guess, I could guess something [about the members]. That was very fun, finding myself into the music or song.

JRR: What kind of music is it?

Tomo: It’s like Jrock, Jpop. It’s good for anime.

JRR: Are there any other artists from Japan that you’ve worked with that you’d like to talk about?

Tomo: It’s not like officially working, but I like to collaborate with some people. I did once at Oni-Con 2009 with Satsuki. Echostream joined GPKism and BLOOD [in] concert. We had a kind of session concert. I joined last night’s session, which was fun. I want to do more of this stuff.

JRR: Do any of the experiences you’ve gained from Japan come into play with Echostream and what you do with them?

Tomo: I think so, because I’m putting everything from me into Echostream, which is every experience I have had. I’m not focusing on which kind of genre I should make or something. I just want to make cool, beautiful music. Some people are like, “You guys are doing this genre so I don’t like it.” I’m not like that type. I’m gonna get everything go through my style filter and get together. Our music is very interesting to me because there’s a lot of genres going on in the music.

JRR: How did you meet the members of Echostream and get involved with them?

Tomo: First, me and Tony were doing another project called Unknown Frequency in Japan. And actually Ryoko joined as a keyboardist [in Unknown Frequency]. Tony was working for another project, which was Echostream, and he wanted me to join as a support guitarist. Now we are more focused on Echostream.

JRR: What did you guys do with Unknown Frequency then? Is it just a side project?

Tomo: It’s like a tryout. The genre was like electronic rock. It’s kind of heavy stuff, more like dark side of the Nine Inch Nails, something like that.

JRR: I know you’ve created Heaven’s Factory as a personal outlet for your work, can you tell me a little more about your goals for this project? What is your major focus for Heaven’s Factory?

Tomo: Heaven’s Factory is like an archive of my history. I’m putting what I have done together. everything that related with me is Heaven’s Factory.

JRR: How is Echostream’s music different from other bands that you’ve worked with?

Tomo: Echostream’s music is different because each member has [such a] different background and they bring their unexpected ideas to the band. If you are in any specific genre for a long time, you can kind of imagine, “Okay, first, the guitarist plays like this, so the bassist should play like that.” I don’t know if that way to play music is modern or something. You can kind of expect how each part should sound in certain genres, but this band is like, I play this and they played that instead, and then he plays this and then he didn’t do anything and she did this, or . . . I’m like, “Wow,” you know? It’s very new for me. It’s more creative and unexpected. JRR: Is there a message or something you want your fans to realize as they are listening to your music? What are you trying to express through your music?

Tomo: I’m not trying to convey anything too strongly through my music. Each person will have different feelings about my music. I’m happy if you can feel it in whatever way you like. But if I had to choose something, I would say it would be the feeling of “connection.” I think that you listening to my music is one such “connection,” and that you could come to know me is also. People cannot live alone. Living through your connection with others, and because of those connections you are able to feel emotions. Sad songs, happy songs, there are many kinds, but I would surely be looking for a meaning behind that. From those “connections” there is happiness, and from those same connections we can understand sadness. I think it would be nice to express such a thing.

JRR: Do you have any traditions or habits that you do before you perform for an audience?

Tomo: I think, meditation, a little bit. And before the meditation, I need to stretch.

JRR: To stretch?

Tomo: Yeah, because I move a lot. (laughs)

JRR: What about after the performance?

Tomo: After performance, I just need to be calmed down because I’ll be so excited afterwards. It’s the feeling of achievement or something, like, “Okay, I did it!”

JRR: Why did you move to U.S.?

Tomo: The reason I moved to the U.S. was because of Echostream, that’s the only reason. I came here for Echostream. The first time I performed here was the 2005 Oni-Con, which was [with] Echostream.

JRR: Is there anything you miss from Japan?

Tomo: I miss food, family . . .

JRR: Do you get to talk to your family a lot?

Tomo: Yeah, online and by phone. JRR: Do you like New York?

Tomo: Well, if you live somewhere, you’re gonna like it. You need to like it. Everywhere has good things and bad things, of course. Of course Japan does too. You can just pick one area to live, and then you need to adjust yourself also, and you will find good things too.

JRR: What are your favorite bands?

Tomo: I like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Bjork, and also Japanese bands: hide from X Japan and [the band] Oblivion Dust.

JRR: You said like to do computer design and graphics, right?

Tomo: Yeah.

JRR: What kind of things do you design?

Tomo: Mostly for Echostream I work, so it’s for the lyrics or atmosphere . . . Were you at the show on Friday?

JRR: Yeah.

Tomo: I made up that video, the image video. I made it into music with Tony. I wanna work on it more because — not only the song, with the visual — a concert is like, if you perform and you don’t move, it’s kind of boring to see, you know? It’s like that, so the visual things really affect your feelings too, like emotions. So, I like to make visual things too.

JRR: What are your goals and plans for your future as a musician?

Tomo: I want to meet a lot of people, and I want to travel a lot, I mean like a band tour.

JRR: Is there anywhere specific you want to go?

Tomo: Echostream did a small European tour. We went to Spain and England, which was very fun because it was the first time, and we met new people who didn’t know us at all. I got a lot of opinions from them, which was very good. I want to feel more different countries, and different people too, and different cultures.

JRR: Do you want to say something to your fans?

Tomo: Thank you for taking time to read my interview, and I have Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter, like almost everything, so I’d like to listen to you. Please support me, echostream and Alias!

Interview by Blair Greenwood