Tetsuya Komuro, an Introduction

Ok, this is a departure from the CD comments entries because I don’t have any albums from Tetsuya Komuro. However, he is one of the leading current synth musicians in Japan right now, and if you’re not familiar with him yet, here’s your chance.

Tetsuya was born in 1958 in Fuchu, a town at the western outskirts of Tokyo, which was actually a 30-40 minute bike ride from my apartment when I was living in Kanagawa (prior to the 2011 earthquake). He’s credited with introducing dance music to mainstream Japanese audiences, and used to own the disco Velfarre in Roppongi. He also worked as a record producer, partnering with hitomi, TRF and Ami Suzuki. His music career began in 1979 when he worked as a keyboardist for Speedway, and he wrote the soundtrack for the Vampire Hunter D anime movie in 1980 (his band, TM Network, performed the closing song, “Your Song”). He then composed the soundtracks for “Heaven and Earth” and “Seven Days War”. TM Network changed its name to TMN in 1990, and disbanded in 1994. Komuro then entered the record production game in 1994, which peaked around 1997. He even worked with Jean Michel Jarre from 1998 to 2001. However, in the mid-2000’s, supposedly to raise money for an ugly divorce settlement, Komuro sold the rights to his songs to both Avex Group Holdings and an Hyogo-based investor for 500,000,000 yen (approx. $5 million at the time). He was arrested for fraud in 2008, given a suspended 3-year sentence in 2009, and agreed to join Avex Group Holdings to perform on tour. One of his latest singles, “Freedom” was slated to come out on July 8, 2015.

The best way to sample his works is to jump on youtube and just click on all the links there. You may notice that there are at least two obvious distinct eras as exemplified by Gravity of Love (live concert in 1991) and the Ken the 390 collaboration live concert backing some rapper in 2012). The earlier stuff, as part of TM Network, is pure fluffy j-pop where Komuro doubles on vocals and keyboards and seems to be channeling Elton John with big puffy stage costumes and eye make-up. The later videos depict Komuro as a back-up keyboardist with someone else fronting on stage. In the 390 collaboration, Komuro is very subdued and just kind of hiding behind his rig, playing it like a regular piano. In both sets of videos, there’s very little reliance on the synthesizers as machines that you can mess with during the performance, which in some ways is similar to what Jordan Rudess does.

There’s one specific video that shows Komuro experimenting with what could be termed House or Techno, and the results he gets are fairly interesting, although his style is a bit over the top (mashing the keys with his fore arm, or his knee).

Direct youtube link

There are very few Japanese bands or musicians that I really like, so I’m not the best person to be recommending Japanese synth artists to the western world. So far, I only know of a few, including Komura, Tomita and Ryuichi Sakamoto (YMO), so maybe this is a field that could be expanded in the future. Regardless, if you DO like j-pop, and Japanese techno, Komura is worth keeping an eye on.

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