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Sound Decision
Interview: T.M.Revolution

by Jonathan Mays,
Takanori Nishikawa is a bona fide J-Pop superstar. A few months after his May 1996 debut, Nishikawa had the opportunity to sing the Rurouni Kenshin theme song, "Heart of Sword," which earned him instant recognition across the country. Several million-selling singles later, he performed a massive two-day concert in Tokyo Dome in front of over 100,000 people. Meanwhile, just nine months after making his US debut at Otakon, Nishikawa's back on this side of the Pacific. This time the stage is Pacific Media Expo in Anaheim, and he's the centerpiece of the most ambitious J-Pop concert California has ever seen.

Let's start with a few fun ones. Tell me about your manga collection.
I have a very large collection, and a lot of them haven't been introduced in the US. The one called "Monster" was turned into anime in Japan. It's written by Naoki Urasawa. There's also Berserk.

Are you still a big fan of RPGs? Final Fantasy?
Definitely, I still like them! Right now I'm into Final Fantasy X-2, and I also like Dragon Quest V, which are made for PlayStation 2.

You know, Koda Kumi performed in the last Final Fantasy game. Will we see you next?
I'd love to if I were given the opportunity. By the way, I'm friends with Kumi.

Last December you performed a "guys-only gig" in a club in Japan. There has to be a good story behind that.
The end-of-the-year concert?

Yeah, I think so.
Right, right, it's an annual event I do for my fan club. Usually I perform in very large venues—arenas or concert halls. Unlike my normal concert tour, I make a special musical arrangement for this fan club event. So if you have a chance, please come check it out.

What's in store for your clothing line?
Ah, let me introduce it to Americans. It's called Defrock. D-E-F-R-O-C-K. The name's actually a bit of a play on words. I'm very into cars, and there's a car function called a differential lock. That's "lock," with an "l." I turned it into "rock," with an "r," you know, as in rock music. Check out the website.

I heard on your radio show that, you had an... encounter in the Baltimore airport last year. With a blow-up doll. Care to recount the experience for us?

(Sony staff: Was it on his Japanese radio show?)

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Er, um... It was a sex toy. One of my Japanese fans gave my staff member a sex toy, since I'm a single male. And they set me up in the airport!

I see. On that note, let's change gears and talk music. You first decided to be a musician in middle school. What was it then that made you decide, "This is what I want to do for the rest of my life?"
Before I started in that band, I had no idea what I was good at. But when I found the band, I found my identity.

You have a special attachment to one of your guitars—Gibson [Les Paul].
First, I don't have a large figure, so this Gibson guitar fits my body perfectly. There's also the sound—a perfect match for my voice. And the feel of the guitar. I think it has a warmness to it.

Walk us through the process of making a T.M.R song.
I start by brainstorming ideas for the songs. Then when I get a few ideas, I discuss them with my producers, where we exchange many opinions. My style of producing music is very flexible and as a producer, I feel my job is to get the best out of the musicians I work with. So it's a good partnership.

When I went through your lyrics, I got the impression that you want people to see the world for how it really is, not how they want it to be.
Mm, that's right.

You sing a lot about dreams and truth.
I always want my lyrics to have universal themes like those. That's why you always hear about love and hope and such.

Destiny's another interesting one—"If you change your destiny, tomorrow your future will be in jeopardy." Do you see it how you sing it?
I believe things happen for a reason—for instance, the fact that I was given the opportunity to come to the US and perform, and the fact that I got to meet you today. It's not by accident. I truly think it's driven by destiny.

You're not afraid to sing about loneliness, pain.
I think negative feelings give you motivation to be strong, to go further. After all, it's both positive and negative feelings that make up a human.

"Stop hunting for things that are only beautiful/ There is nothing in this world that does not get hurt." You sound a lot like Chihiro Onitsuka. She's said before that darkness and pain are simply part of being alive.
Yes, I relate to that very much. When I was younger I had a complex because I looked feminine and had such a small figure. In fact, I went to a bar last night, and somebody called me "beautiful." He thought I was a woman! That complex, those negative feelings, are a firm part of my life, and I use them to become a better person and find new aspects of myself.

Got a good stage disaster story?
Right now I'm doing a tour in Japan, and in between I came over here to do the concert. During the concert I did right before I came to the US, the show had been going well, and everybody was excited. At the very end of the show, I sung a beautiful ballad. I thought it was just fantastic. Then I went backstage and realized I was unzipped.

Here's your F. Scott Fitzgerald quote of the day: "There are no second acts in American lives." Good thing you're not American.
America is my second act. I'm hoping to make it just as fantastic. And Fitzgerald was wrong anyways.

You debuted eight years ago this month, and you've done pretty well in the music world. So what's next?
Last year, I went to Otakon, on the east coast, and this time I'm on the west coast. Both times people came from all over the country to see me. I'd like to go see them next time—a tour!

How about life outside of performing?
I'd like to have this conversation without a translator, so I must work on my English.

You know I have to ask which was better: Otakon or PMX.
Ooooooh, that's a hard question! Otakon is a convention that focuses on animation, while PMX is about Japanese culture. I think last year I was invited as a musician who's done a lot of anime songs. This time was different. PMX is broader, encompassing all of Asian culture. It's the start of something new and exciting.

T.M. Revolution's latest domestic CD, Seventh Heaven, hit the shelves on May 4th. Tofu Records has all the details.

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