Shugo Tokumaru has created his own distinct musical world. A bedroom virtuoso, he writes, produces, mixes and plays the dozens of instruments he uses to create his songs, which are sung in Japanese. With a steadily rising profile in North America as a result of 2008's critically lauded "Exit," Tokumaru's fourth album, "Port Entropy," is being released Feb. 15 on Polyvinyl.
1 You write your lyrics from dream diaries. Could you talk about some of the dreams that inspired "Port Entropy"?
There isn't a specific dream which is a clue to the album. Several different dreams come into each song on the album. It's hard to explain what they're about, as there are so many. For instance, on the second song ["Tracking Elevator"], there are sequences from some dreams where I'm on an elevator which goes slanting and never stops while another me looks at myself in the elevator through a window, waiting for it to stop. Then people start to overflow the room, get thirsty, scoop up water with their hands and drink it up . . . I'm not sure if it makes any sense at all, though.
2 Have you felt tempted to include English-language songs on your North American releases?
There are clips of you doing the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" and Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks" on YouTube.I couldn't be pressured into including an English-language song, but I might do that if it's essentially required for the album-I'm not sure what the future holds. I do the cover of "Video Killed the Radio Star" at shows for fun because I'm a huge fan of Trevor Horn and I really love that song. As for "Young Folks," I was asked by someone from the Cokemachineglow website in Canada to record a cover version of a popular song which was released that year and I decided to do that one. I also recorded a cover of the M. Ward version of Daniel Johnston's song called "To Go Home" on the same occasion.
3 You've played dozens of instruments on your previous albums. How many did you play this time?
I can't tell the exact number, but I think I used at least 50 different ones for the recording of this album. However, it's not really the kind or the number of instruments which matters. These are songs on which I spent hundreds of hours mixing, so I'd be really happy if you could listen to them many times and hear the entire sound in the left and the right as well as from the top to the bottom-to hear the depth.
4 After four albums, have you considered bringing in collaborators?
For me it's the most stress-free and pleasant way to do it all by myself, but I also find it very interesting to work with help from a producer or other people. However, it's not that I'm running out of things that I would like to do by myself, so I would like to continue to do it that way. At the moment I cannot really think of a specific person I would like to collaborate with in particular.
5 There's a series of photos of you in abandoned buildings. The contrast between those and the childlike cover of "Port Entropy" and the sense of wonder in your music is striking. How does a sense of place inspire your music?
That photo was taken somewhere in the outskirts of Tokyo. There are not many places like that in Japan; it seems as if the time has stopped there decades ago. I do get inspired by a sense of place, but in most cases I look back on a place I visited a long time ago and write the soundtrack to accompany the landscape which I've reimagined.
6 It's been a year since "Port Entropy" was first released in Japan. Are you eager to move on to the next record, or is it time for a break?
I started to work on "Port Entropy" three years ago. I have been thinking of and working on music restlessly since the release of the album, too-working on music for a theater play, TV commercials, remixes, live performances, doing press and appearing on TV or radio . . . There's a lot to do and a lot to think about. I cannot wait to go to North America again to play shows and to get to work on the next album.