We recently caught up with Synthwave artist and producer Tokyo Rat who is about to release his album ‘Edge Of Tokyo’ on September 26th — which will no doubt, be pretty phenomenal. His music, which is a blend of the 80s mixed with modern elements, manages to grasp the classic sound while putting his own unique twist to it. In this recent interview, here is what this classically trained pianist inspired by the likes of Herbie Hancock, had to share with the readers:
Please introduce yourself to the readers and how you first got into music:
I started playing piano when I was 4 years old… classically trained. I got into jazz drums in school growing up — I was like Miles Teller in Whiplash, as my school had an outstanding Jazz program in my small hometown of Qualicum Beach, BC Canada. At the time I loved electronic music, I loved Dubstep, and I was always fooling around making beats, or weird electronic stuff. I got into acting and making videos on YouTube, so that started to pick up for me — but I always kept music as a hobby. Something fun.
I would book an acting gig, and spend some money on a new synth or instrument. So, naturally I started to get into synthesizers as a teenager. People always told me I made video-game type music which I never understood. I didn’t do it purposefully, I just did it naturally. My melodies and sounds were very “Nintendo” sounding. This evolving process has led me to now… making Synthwave/Darksynth /Outrun style music.
How did you come up with the name Tokyo Rat?
I was actually inspired by my recent trip to Japan. I had taken Japanese in high school and was learning the language and I finally got the chance to take a trip there last year. I had only created one Synthwave track and I was going to use the name “floppydisk” which I still might use for an album or track… haha but then I was in Shinjuku, Tokyo for the day and literally saw a rat scurry across a dark-night alleyway. It was so visual to me, I literally said out loud “Tokyo Rat”… and instantly wrote it into my phone notes. I was born in the year of the rat (Chinese zodiac) and so it actually just made sense to me. I was surprised the name wasn’t taken.
Who or what were some of your influences growing up?
Classical piano, jazz, Herbie Hancock, Vulfpeck, Snarky Puppy… EDM; Skrillex, Deadmau5. The movie Drive got me into Synthwave with Kavinsky night-call… I also loved some weird eccentric and comedic music. Faded Paper Figures, Weird Al, Songs To Wear Pants To (now, Andrew Huang)…Charlie Puth when he was doing YouTube comedic music! So overall, just a LOT of stuff. I loved synths though… I kept trying to find music I liked that used lots of synth / keys.
What kind of training have you had, if any?
Other than classical training in piano my whole life until I left the house, I also had a drum teacher for jazz in high school and my band classes in high school and middle school. Everything else is self-taught, or pushed from friends who were better than me at music.
Tell us about your new music/album:
This is all Synthwave baby! Back to the 80s! And this is the genre where synths succeed. This is where my synth playing and video-gamey music is praised! Not frowned upon. I remember wanting to bring my new synth-keytar to my jazz combo in high school and nearly getting kicked out, for it. They hated it. I wanted to combine jazz and electronic music! So, now I found synthwave as my current home.
I love the community and the music is starting to find its way into more pop-mainstream media ie; The Weeknd. My album drops on September 26th and I have several singles out right now. The album is called ‘Edge of Tokyo’ — Edge of Tokyo provides nostalgic synths, with a new Retrowave feel. The album is a perfect blend of driving/outrun upbeat Synthwave and nostalgic, melodic ballads — all a part of a hero’s journey in an apocalyptic-neo-Tokyo.
What has been one of the biggest highlights/achievements of your career?
My acting career has been quite successful! I have worked in over 100+ episodes of TV and one of my kids shows I hosted ‘Finding Stuff Out’ allowed me to compose/write music for nearly every episode! Achievements are subjective and I am just always happy to be working in film and music and be doing what I love. This music project Tokyo Rat has certainly been my biggest solo music adventure so far, getting featured on EDM.com was pretty cool and I am hoping more people can recognize my music and the genre! I’d love to get placed in Stranger Things or in a video game or something!
If you had a chance to work alongside anybody who would that be?
If we’re talking electronic… M83. One of my favorite artists of all time. But there’s so many incredible people I’d love to work with! I love collaboration.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I am in the beginnings of taking a little writing retreat, putting together a feature-length comedy film I am really passionate about, as well as figuring out what’s next for Tokyo Rat after the album. I have been toying around with a “authentic” OutRun style, or maybe going even darker… we’ll see.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring artists?
Make more stuff. Learn more stuff. Keep improving. Look at what’s around you and what you like and copy that. Find your unique voice/sound through what other sounds, sound good or what people want to hear. It’s an evolving process and there’s no shame in asking for help either. But, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be self motivated and find ambition to just start making stuff yourself!
For all the latest updates and to pre-save ‘Edge Of Tokyo’ go to: