Frequent Players Guest Mix | Tokamu

Kicking things off for 2023 and Frequent Players, we caught up with Italian based sound and visual artist Tokamu. Exploring the world of visual art, Tokamu sits down with Footpatrol to talk us more through himself and his intricate work. Coupling these visuals with sound, Tokamu leans on his 10 years experience of making music for a creative synergy between mediums.

Take a closer look at his visual mix he put together for us below!

Footpatrol: Firstly, Can you tell us about yourself, what you do, and the world of Tokamu.

Tokamu: Hi, thanks a lot for having me! I am a sound and visual artist based in Bolzano, Italy. I love to explore the worlds of visual art, animation, 3D art, sculpture and, most of all, electronic music. I like being free to choose between or combine various tools; Learning new tools, breaking tools, combining tools. These are things I do on a daily basis, and are incredibly accessible and easy to do nowadays. As much as I am afraid of the cold digital world (and its future), I love the incredibly powerful tools it offers to the contemporary artist. And, being familiar now with both music and visual art, I’m starting to find the commonalities between sound and image, between harmony and composition, between sound waves and light waves. My music inspires my visual art, and vice versa. It has become kind of a feedback loop, where I think I found a balance between these two different, yet so similar worlds. And, even though I’m 25 year old, I could see myself doing this for the rest of my days.

FP: I understand you went to University in London and graduated in Music Technology? Can you tell us more about your origins in music?

Tokamu: I started producing music around 10 years ago, with just a mate and a laptop. Where I come from there never has been a contemporary scene, so my inspirations always came from abroad. Brilliant minds like Brian Eno, John Cage, Aphex Twin, Nicolas Jaar and Four tet (and many others) drastically changed my approach to making music. While studying at the University of West London I met many talented people and great professors, which played a big part in motivating me to delve deeper into my study of music and its many shades and shapes. I love the culture of dance music, so much of my sound grew to be suited for clubbing. But I like to experiment with all sorts of genres: from ambient to noise rock, from classical to techno. It’s when I stopped having preferences that I truly started enjoying music in its entirety, even in its most abnormal and unpopular forms. As the great John Cage once said:
“If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience.”

FP: What was the thought process behind adding visuals to your tracks?

Tokamu: My visual art came into existence because of necessity at first. I really wanted to do music for a living, but since the birth of music streaming it felt like there was no room for small musical artists. Once I had finished my studies I was overwhelmed with a feeling of resignation, and was afraid that my passion for music was just a phase that had to eventually end. I was considering starting studying computer science when I discovered the world of digital visual art. I took a glance into a whole new world of tools, all of which could have been integrated with my music. And the best part was that a lot of the terms and building blocks were the same from my audio softwares. So, I started programming tools using Max4live and Touch designer, and kept going down the computer graphics rabbit hole. The more things I learned, the closer I got to finding my own style, which now includes both music and image in a sort of seamless way. Now it’s part of my style and brand, but my visual art was initially a way to save my music – and my future as an artist.

FP: What was it that specifically drawn you to Touch Designer + Blender? Why not Make it in Adobe AE, Maya or Cinema4D?

Tokamu: Touch Designer is one of my favorite tools of all time. There is no other software that can do what it does. It always inspires me to experiment with things I would never experiment with. It also makes it easy to generate shapes and movements, and it’s a joy to experiment with. It’s also a great way to familiarize with coding and the world of generative art. And, last but not least, it’s an awesome tool for performing visual (and audiovisual) art.

Regarding 3D art, I mainly use Blender. I’m not to say that it’s a better tool than C4D or Maya, but I personally think it doesn’t lack anything. Anything from animation to sculpture, I find it a very fast and efficient tool to get complicated and articulated ideas into something that makes sense. It’s a real swiss army knife that even people who aren’t into 3D could find a use for (also, Blender is entirely free).

FP: Do the visuals represent your mood at the time of creation? Or are they made randomly?

Tokamu: I usually think of my art in abstract form, it is difficult to pinpoint specific emotions in relation to an image. If there’s an emotion in you when seeing them, it’s the right one for you (I think).
It’s often the case that my music is what inspires my visuals: already abstract in its nature, electronic music helps me find a perceivable (yet intangible) context from which my visual art takes shape.
I also feel like Nature and the Ancestral are big references in my process, as they contain many universal rules and eternal principles – but I guess a lot of artists could say the same.

FP: Is this a full time work thing for you? How else do you balance your time? I imagine rendering these visuals takes some time?

Tokamu: I am currently working as a freelance, doing commission work primarily in audio and visual production. I also occasionally perform as both a music and visual artist, which I’m hoping I will get to do more of in the future. I try to always be working on something, and don’t allow myself to lack inspiration. A video needs time to render? Time to work on music. Struggling while writing a song? Time to work on sound design. If the willpower is there, there’s always something to do. I am more or less working full time, either on commission work or my own stuff. That’s just what keeps me going.

FP: How do you hope your work inspires others?

Tokamu: I have been inspired by many great people, not only artists, and hope to give back what I’ve been gifted with.

I hope that the art I make can motivate people into figuring out the process behind it. I’m not interested in impressing by showing my finished results. I wish to make anyone interested in my art take part in this ongoing research, which anyone can be part of at any time.

I have experienced the struggle of starting an art career, and realized soon enough how hard it has become to pursue it nowadays. I wish that in the future people will teach more about reasoning and exploration, and a bit less about industry standards. More about the importance of (self) research, less about following instructions.

FP: You have a new album releasing soon? Is this something you’ve worked on for a while? and when can we expect the release?

Tokamu: I have collected a lot of music throughout the years which is ready to be released. I’m planning to release an album this December (2022). A lot of work went into it and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

FP: We would like to thank you for taking the time to answer the above and are there any words of wisdom or shoutouts you wish to make for anyone who is in the scene and also looking into sound and visual careers?

Tokamu: Once again, thank you dearly for having me.

My advice to any aspiring artist is: fill yourself with enthusiasm, look for beauty everywhere and all the time. Architecture, photography, sculpture, geometry, mathematics, chemistry, physics, botany (and so on): There are so many worlds to take inspiration from. One simple concept in architecture can change someone’s approach to photography. A geometrical principle can change someone’s approach to sculpture. Understanding the physics of sound can give a new perspective on music to someone who has been a musician his whole life.

Collect resources and archive everything You learn and what You create. The more things get encompassed by your experience, the clearer your vision becomes.

Don’t start the journey with a fixed goal. Reach out to those who inspire you, ask for advice. Surround yourself with people that can criticize your art in an honest and articulated way. You don’t have to make a living out of art in order to enjoy making art. And, remember: There has to be no compromise in your art.

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