Tomo Asaha is known in the visual kei world from when he performed in bands like Voyage and Nil, before making his way to the USA. Currently, he is the guitarist for the band echostream, a band whose sound is electronic, haunting, and rock…all in one breath. We got a chance to ask what this guitarist has to say about his new life in America and on the JRock scene today.
People know you as the guitarist of echostream. How did you get involved in echostream?
Actually me, Tony, and Ryoko, when we were in Japan we had already formed echostream. But we felt our music was not suitable for Japan. So Tony and Ryoko came to New York and they made it their base. I was thinking about my life at the time. Tony called me many times saying ďYou should come, you should come! I need a guitarist! I need you!Ē So I decided to move to America. We started echostream, the three of us, and then we found a drummer, Jen. After that we found an electric drummer, CJ. And thatís how we came to have the five members we have now.
How would you describe echostreamís music?
HmmÖ Nine Inch Nails meets Bjork meets Radiohead.
You play guitar in echostream. Can you sing though?
No! Not at all! (laughs)
Youíve played in other bands before echostream. Whatís the history there?
I first started in a visual band named Voyage. The music was kind of gothic. Yeah, it was pretty JRock. After that I had a band named Nil. It was more of a soft visual band, not too heavy. The sound was really poppy and catchy. After that I quit visual bands. Then I started a JPop band. The sound was really heavy but the melody was really pop. I had two jpop bands, but what I really wanted to make was artistic music. Well, in Japan, itís like no – youíre either JPop or JRock. So I was thinking you know, Iíd like to make real artistic music. Fortunately I met Tony. It was really good timing. We started the band Unknown Frequency, and that was kind of the foundation for echostream. Through Tony I met Ryoko, and from there we started echostream.
How do you look back on those past experiences? Is it with happiness or with regret?
No, I never regret because every experience makes me who I am. If itís a bad experience, itís okay. Itís experience and I can learn from it. Every experience is really important for me, so I never regret it.
Do you still keep in contact with the members from the other bands?
Yeah, sometimes if I have time. Recently Iíve been really busy. I want to talk to them, but I live in America and they live in Japan. Itís difficult.
How has your experience at PMX been so far?
Really good! Iíve been meeting lots of people. Some of them like jrock, some of them like anime, some are more into other aspects of Japanese culture. But thereís no border! I can meet a whole range of people and talk with them about lots of things.
Are you surprised at the fan reception so far?
Yes! Because you know, Iíve never been to the west coast before. This is my first time visiting the west coast. I was a little bit nervous about that. But so far I like it.
Will echostream play here?
Yes! Iíd love to!
How do you personally view echostream?
Echostream is, well, our music is not pop. We want to show our emotions. Happiness is everywhere. People can like cycling, skating, snowboarding, and those things can bring happiness to people, but not to everyoneóit depends on the person. But inside, anger and sadness, thatís the same for everyone. Thatís something we can emphasize. Thatís why we like that kind of music. For us thatís what we concentrate on, and for me, focusing on that I can really get into the music. Itís comfortable.
Is that what you feel when youíre performing on stage?
What do you think about the Japanese music scene here in America?
I was surprised to be honest. Itís a really good thing though. Iím from Japan and I used to listen to American bands and European bands. I used to make music and took a lot of influences from American and European bands. It was kind of a mix of different cultures. And now, Japanese music is getting big throughout the whole world. Itís great because everybody, Americans, Europeans, can feel and be touched by Japanese culture.
Who are your favorite artists?
I really respect hide from X-Japan. My favorite American band is Nine Inch Nails, and from Europe, Radiohead and Bjork.
Do any of those artists influence the sound of echostream?
We really respect Tori Amos. She has her own world. We also respect Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Bjork. Thatís partially why our music is like that, but what we really want is to create new music. I can not say our genre is Ėthisó. If someone thinks our genre is rock, itís rock. If somebody thinks our genre is ambient, itís ambient. People can choose for themselves.
Whatís your favorite echostream song?
Shadow on the Cloud.
Tell us a bit about the process of making songs in echostream. Who does what?
Mostly Ryoko writes the lyrics, and then Ryoko or Tony will make the music. Sometimes I arrange the songs.
Is music something you always wanted to do?
Actually, when I was a kid, my parents really liked classical music. They often took me to concerts. I didnít know what was going on. I just thought, ďOh yeah, thatís music. Maybe, maybe.Ē When I was fifteen years old my friend said to me, ďLets make a band.Ē So in this band I was the singer. It was not good. (laughs) But I really like music. I think that has a lot to do with my parents.
When did you start playing guitar?
I was sixteen. Back then I was just playing it for fun. I started taking it more seriously around the time I was nineteen or twenty.
Youíre originally from Osaka. What do you like or dislike about Osaka?
Ö Dislike about Osaka?! I like Osaka! Iíve never thought about anything that I dislike about it.
What about New York? What was your first impression upon arriving in New York?
ÖBig. Itís a very big city. Tall buildings, crowded, dirty, noisy, yeahÖbig city.
Is it similar at all to Osaka? Or did you find it very different?
Very different!! New York is well, the culture, everyoneís from different countries. In Osaka, everyoneís Japanese.
What do you like best about the USA since youíve been here?
Everybodyís friendly! Thatís the best quality about it.
How have you grown as a musician?
At first I was thinking, ďI wanna be a rock star.Ē I just wanted to play in front of a lot of people. Now I feel that even if itís only a few people, Iím going to do my best, because theyíre people who want to listen to our music. So I donít care how big or how small the venues are. I donít care if there are many people or not. I just want to convey our music, our emotions to them.
Whatís in the future for echostream?
I just want to keep playing music. I think thatís the most important thing. I donít care how big echostream becomes. I do however really want to meet a lot of people because my energy for music comes from the people whom Iíve met. Iím Japanese. I came here, but Iím still a foreigner in America. But being here, I can be close to other cultures. Every culture has added to who I am. Meeting people from other cultures, I can learn a lot from them and it really excites me.
Last words to fans and readers?
Thank you for reading this and please come to our shows. Also, please be sure to check out our songs. Iím sure you will feel something because thereís lots of emotion to be found in them.
interview by Sarah; photos by Carroll Kong
Thank you to Tomo Asaha for taking the time to answer our questions.
echostream Official MySpace
Heaven’s Factory/Tomo Asaha MySpace