Volume 04, number 09
Topic: vertical infinity and US tours
Takanori Nishikawa goes where no T.M.Revolution has gone before
The upcoming ten-year anniversary of T.M.Revolution’s debut in Japan posed an opportune moment for charismatic singer/songwriter/performer Takanori Nishikawa to reassess and challenge public perception of his solo project. “To me, TMR is just my voice,” he says. “I don’t think there’s any point in establishing limitations for myself.” With that in mind, Nishikawa pushed the boundaries of what TMR fans are familiar with on his new album vertical infinity, which pursues a broad musical palette, jettisoning the thematically unified writing approach he’s taken on previous albums. “This one is more a collection of parts, where each part expresses its own theme in a single song,” he remarks. “I was taking on an omnibus-style approach to songwriting.”
You don’t have to listen long to find proof that this TMR album is different. You’ll find ultra hard rockin’ guitar riffs and live drums on “ULTRIMATE,” alongside sprinklings of funky guitar and brass arrangements on “MOHAYA –can’t begin without you-.” And then there’s the standout R&B number “Scarlet Sand.” What’s that? TMR doing R&B? Nishikawa admits that he anticipated this soulful track would be received with skepticism in some quarters, but he went ahead with it precisely for that reason. “I thought I could prove that even an exclusively rock-oriented artist such as myself could do R&B, and it just goes to show how silly it is to categorize music like that,” he says. “I was hoping in my own small way to get people to arrive at that conclusion.”
The album also boasts a number of English-language songs, but it was more happy coincidence than anything else. “Web of Night,” for example, was used as the there for Spider-Man 2’s Japan release. When Japan hosted the international X Games motocross event and chose T.M.Revolution to produce its theme song, Nishikawa decided to write the lyrics for “Chase/The Thrill” so that overseas contestants could sing along. “Things like that just happened to coincide in this case, the end result being that the album has an unusually high number” of songs with English lyrics.
While changes abound, TMR’s modus operandi hasn’t been entirely revamped: “I think the greatest appeal is this sense of immediacy, a kind of closeness to my audience that you don’t find in other artists.” Exchanging ideas with others remains the biggest source of creative inspiration across ever facet of his work. “Music is nothing if not an ensemble,” he adds.
“There’s a whole host of instruments that come into play, and we all ‘communicate’ with each other in a number of different ways.” He experiences with US fans at Otakon and the Pacific Media Expo are regarded as career highlights. After forming the Takanori Makes Revolution project almost a decade ago, Nishikawa recalls that people questioned what kind of revolution he could incite. The tide turned however, as news of his stateside appearances gradually made the rounds in Japan. “They realized I am doing new things, to break out of the Japanese music and culture mold and bring the world something new,” he says. “At first it was just a sense of wanting to change all theses things, but that image has expanded into what it is today, and to me, that’s huge.”
However, due to hectic domestic touring commitments, he won’t be able to formulate plans for a US return until next year. The upcoming anniversary demands attention to his loyal Japanese supporters: “I felt I need to give something back, to reaffirm my gratitude to fans in Japan.” Scheduling conflicts are part of the reason “Scarlet Sand:” holds special significance. There’s a line in the lyrics that translates as: “If all I filled was a shapeless emptiness in your heart, then it didn’t have to be me.” The idea is that perhaps other artists will win the attention of US fans during T.M.Revolution’s touring absence, he explains. “The thing is, I want to be the one who always fills that place in their hearts. It’s hard to feel this sense of distance between my fans and myself, and this song just says that in another way.” It might be a while before stateside fans can see him perform again, but the upshot is that a large scale tour is being considered for when he returns. “There’s a while culture of music and other things I would like to be on the vanguard to introduce [around the world],” he enthuses. “The timing has to be right, but the desire is there. I really, really want to go.”