Takuma Matsunaga (@i_want_a_nike) makes music as a way to explore inside himself. While any kind of art comes from within the artist, many create their work keeping in mind who will receive it. If it will be liked and be a success. If it will live up to expectations. If it will sell. These conditioning factors do not exist when the artist’s objective is to make an exercise of introspection. If creating from oneself is the most natural thing to do, creating for oneself is the most liberating.
Takuma Matsunaga talks about sex and drugs. Many musicians do the same as a provocation or boast. He seems to do it to make his own mental space become visible. In his EP “SAGAMI” he also talks about doubts, desires, and what he appreciates about his city, Sagamihara. It resembles one of those moments when saying a thought out loud helps to make it clearer.
Just as reflecting is a process that is done slowly, in Takuma Matsunaga’s sound there is time and there is repose. Music is one of the many ways we humans use to achieve pleasure, best enjoyed slowly.
Chorareii: First, introduce yourself!
Takuma Matsunaga: I’m an artist based in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture. I’m 21 years old now. I have released songs on subscription platforms [Spotify or Apple Music] this year, but I started uploading my own songs to SoundCloud about two years ago.
Tell me about your beginnings in music. Who inspired you?
SoundCloud was the first place where I released my own songs, but I have been playing music since I was a kid. I took violin lessons in elementary and junior high school, and also played in an orchestra for a while. I listened to Bach, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Taro Hakase at that time.
When I was in junior high school, I started watching YouTube and was attracted to black culture, Listening to R&B and hip hop has influenced me a lot —Nelly, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Chris Brown.
I’m influenced by many artists, movies, and books, but I think Ryuichi Sakamoto inspires my music the most because I’ve been listening to him for a long time. These days I don’t like music with lyrics, I prefer ambient, noise, and experimental music.
Your recent EP is “SAGAMI.” What is the concept behind it? What feelings and thoughts have you expressed in this EP?
“SAGAMI” is an abbreviation for Sagamihara city, where I live. The idea of the project was to express realistically the environment where I grew up, my lifestyle, and what I usually think about.
I live in the countryside, where the scenery is very different from Tokyo, and I make all of my music alone in my bedroom, so This EP is more of a soliloquy than a message addressed to someone. I made it giving value to my introspective side.
One of the most characteristic aspects of your music is the slow tempo. We live in a world where everything goes very fast, but at the same time, the pandemic made the world stop. How is the rhythm of your life and how is the rhythm of the world in your opinion?
The tempo of my music is slower than others because I value the sounds, and the intervals between the melody and the sounds, rather than only the melody. I have just recently started dancing with other people in clubs, and I haven’t had any friends to talk to about music for a long time, so I have always enjoyed music on my own.
The pandemic has made it difficult to share music with other people, so I think the trend of listening to music alone has increased. In that sense, I think my music reflects the times.
What aspects define your personality? How are they reflected in your music?
I’m not good at being with people all the time, so I think I write songs that are more for people to cuddle up to when they are on their own rather than songs that everyone can dance to.
However, I don’t think about it too much, I just try to make something that I feel comfortable with at the time. I think freshness is the most important thing when making music, so I try to reflect directly on what I’m thinking and feeling at that moment in my songs.
Although you have used your real name for this release, your artist name is also “I want a Nike”. This brand is frequently mentioned in your music. Tell me about this!
“Nike” for me has many meanings. The first tattoo I got says “Nike.” The brand is a symbol of success, its logo is rising and means victory. “I want a Nike” is said in Frank Ocean’s lyrics. This doesn’t mean that I like the brand Nike, it is an analogy. I don’t hate it either.
In your music, you talk about drugs and sex. I have the impression that these are two taboo subjects in Japanese society. They are not discussed openly in conversations with friends, they are not explained thoroughly at school or in the family. What do you think?
I think it’s true that drugs and sex are taboo topics in Japanese education. That’s why I deliberately decided to include these topics in my work.
Drugs and sex are both taboo, but I think that music has a drug aspect and a sex aspect, in other words, it’s all a human activity. Even people who don’t do drugs or practice sex can feel ecstasy. Music is an inseparable part of human life, so I was conscious of expressing those topics in my sound.
In the song “Sagami”, there is an interlude where a man says a few words. What is it?
It’s an excerpt from a film called “The Surgeon’s Room” directed by Tamasaburo Bando, a living national treasure. I used it because I love the way he talks about the world and it fits the theme of “Sagami” very well.
In the video for “Sagami,” you appear in nature. However, your previous video for “I Don’t Mind” had a much more urban vibe. Where do you feel better, in the city or in nature?
I don’t like places with a lot of people, so I don’t really like cities. However, I liked the feeling when there was no one in the city in the early days of the Corona disaster. It was very unnatural. I like to imagine dystopian worlds, whether natural or urban, where I’m the only survivor and there’s no one else around.
In your Instagram bio you express that you are “Fishing the sound.” Tell me about this, please.
“Fishing the sound” is a quote from Ryuichi Sakamoto’s documentary film CODA. It’s a scene where Ryuichi Sakamoto records the sound of water in the Arctic Circle, and it’s also one of the themes of my next work, so I hope you enjoy it.
What projects do you have now? What would you like to do musically from now on?
Although it hasn’t been announced yet, I have a couple of gigs coming up in November, and I’m planning to release a new song before the end of the year. There are so many things I want to do musically, so I hope to do them step by step.
I would like to be involved in films and video works. I would also like to write a novel, although all these plans may be a little further down the road.
Listen to Takuma Matsunaga’s music and follow him on social media.