World Music At SXSW
10:02 am
Tue March 26, 2013

Japan's Shugo Tokumaru Is In Control And 'In Focus'

Full interview with Shugo and his translator/manager, Koki Yahata.

For his latest album, "In Focus?," Shugo Tokumaru maintained complete control over the creative process and played all the instruments on the recorded disk. In order to perform live, however, he needed some help, and had his band to back him up.

While the band delivered the songs with energy, complete with the subtle textural nuances that give Shugo's songs a little something special, he was visibly focused on the other two musicians during their performance the afternoon of March 14.

"Of course he trusts them as musicians," said Shugo's translator and Manager Koki Yahata, "and beyond that you cannot really say if you really trust someone - like even his father or mother."

Laughing, Koki said that Shugo doesn't want to remember the creative process for "In Focus?" because it was so difficult - to the point where it was painful. Shugo wanted to have complete control of the album - arranging, playing, recording, mixing - so it was much more difficult than his last album, "Exit."

"He is definitely influenced by his surroundings when he makes music so it could of course include his girlfriend, or, for instance, the three people around him right now. The image of you three people could possibly influence that process of making a song in the future. He is especially influenced by his own dreams."

Shugo keeps a notebook by his bed so he can write down his dreams, dreams that have taken him around the world.

"One thing he can say for sure is the Japanese audience in the quietest; doesn't get too excited. Even if he pulls off a great show - just clapping. Except for Japan, he doesn't see a big difference between this country and another country... Tokyo in particular doesn't really react to what he's saying or when he's playing."

Since Shugo was finished playing by Thursday, he took his extra time to see other musicians, who will unquestionably have an impact on Shugo's songwriting in the future.

"He had maybe a couple bands he really wanted to see, and so in between he was just walking around the street and then if he heard an interesting sound he went in and heard bits of it."

In particular, Shugo was impressed with British guitar player and songwriter Richard Thompson, American indie rock/hip hop group Why? and American alternative folk rock group Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.

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