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Non-Prog Interviews

Tokyo Rosenthal

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Tokyo Rosenthal from 2010
MSJ: Can you give the readers a bit of a look at some of your history?
I'm originally from New York and have also lived in L.A. and New England. I started playing piano at six and studied for about 7 years before turning to the drums and then guitar and mandolin followed in my late teens. I gravitated to what was then called "country rock" and now is basically Americana along with The Byrds, Dylan, The Band, etc. After many years of ups and downs and various bands my big break came with a song called "Edmonton" which broke into radio in Canada and got me the key to the city there. It's been pretty much up hill since then as I just put out my third album and have been touring the world over.
MSJ: Your new album seems to have a lot more of a country music angle to it. Was that a conscious decision or did it just happen that way.
I never write to try and have a song fit a particular mold. If it sounds like it should have a country feel to it then I go in that direction with it. If it feels Tex-Mex, like the title track "Ghosts", then I go there. There's even some "jazz" on this album with a 5/4 section on "Feelings Don't Know Any Age". But no, the "country angle" was not pre-meditated. It just happened. I've always had a country slant.
MSJ: How would you describe your music?
Mmmm. I always like to say it's Tokyo Rosenthal music. But that being said it's 30 years of sounds I've heard and liked coming out in different forms, hence the Latin influence from Salsa meeting Roy Orbison or George Jones meeting Procol Harum. Lyrically however it's my life and surroundings - my family, alive and dead - my political views - my experiences.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Hopefully a Grammy! Certainly lots of touring, lots of radio show appearances, maybe a live CD in 2011. Just trying to spread the word about my music and the people who play and record with me.
MSJ: Are there musicians you'd like to play with in the future?
Many. To record with Al Perkins, Chris Stamey, Peter Holsapple, Bobby Britt and Jim Eisenberg was an honor and a great experience. But  my fantasy list would include Bruce Hornsby, Albert Lee, Alison Krauss, The Indigo Girls and Charlie Chamberlain who I'm presently touring with but haven't recorded with yet.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
I absolutely agree. I'm not a fan of downloading. I'm a firm believer that a $5 CD would save the business and spawn CD stores to re-open world wide. I also believe that the listener should have something to hold in their hand while listening and should have the entire album, not just one cut. Downloading has taken us back to the 50's where singles ruled. It's like we took everything that was developed after that as far as album creation and threw it away. It's a real shame. The local music store was part of our culture and we tossed it away for an MPs - very sad. Imagine if there were no more movie theaters. To me it's pretty much the same thing.
MSJ: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
That's a product of low budget technology that creates low quality sound. I don't think it hurts sales or the integrity of the artist. I do have some issues though when I see bootlegs of myself on YouTube that sound awful.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch-nemesis and why?
Every club owner, record label exec., crooked radio station promotion man and pompous music journalist. I hate power mongers.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band, who would be in it?
Charlie Chamberlain (lead guitar/mandolin), Bobby Britt (fiddle), Chris Stamey (bass), Tim Rae (drums), Tokyo Rosenthal (guitar, keyboards and vocals), and Al Perkins (pedal steel). If these guys sound like the guys I play and record with it's because I like them and the way we play together. Maybe I'd add Bruce Hornsby on piano. I don't need stars. These guys play great and I'm happy they play with me.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view, who would be playing?
The Band (with Robbie), Chris Hillman and Herb Pederson, The Indigo Girls, Alison and Robert, Jesse Colin Young, Emmylou, Son Volt, Jackson Browne, Bob Weir, Chris Isaak, Brett Dennen,Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson,Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Paul McCartney.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?
Brett Dennen
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson
MSJ: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there?

Only how much I love all of this. None of this has come easy to me so I'm not the least bit jaded. I enjoy every gig no matter how big or small, every interview, every autograph request  and every recording session. I get a kick out of touring and going places I've never been to perform my music. Everyday I get to do this is Fantasy Camp for me. I've been blessed with a good team behind me like Billy James,Brad Hunt,Kenny Weiss and Peter Holmstedt. And I love my family for being so supportive  and inspirational otherwise I'd be lost. "Goodnight Carrie, I'm Coming Home"!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 2 at
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