For the American music industry, the phrase ”big in Japan” has long been something of a joke. But with Tetsuya ”TK” Komuro, ”big in Japan” is no laughing matter. Over the last decade, his songwriting and production have generated over 150 million CD sales in Japan — most of it in the last three years. The mastermind behind Japan’s most popular recording acts, including teen idol Namie Amuro and his million-selling techno-funk trio, Globe, TK is such a hit machine that at one point last year, he was responsible for all of Japan’s top five singles. That’s a Midas touch not even Babyface can match.
But being big in Japan isn’t enough for TK, and so he has set his sights on America. His first U.S. effort, the thumping techno track ”Speed TK Re-mix,” is featured on the soundtrack to Speed 2 — and a multi-version club single is already in circulation. ”My music style is a kind of techno and dance music,” he says, in his heavily accented English. ”Always, I use a computer and synthesizer, and Hollywood, lately, hires people who make that kind of dance music. Their direction is close to me right now.”
TK may be new to Hollywood, but he’s no stranger to L.A., having recorded many of his Japanese hits at the city’s famed Record Plant. Now, however, he’s setting down roots, having purchased a beachfront house in Malibu, Calif. ”I can be in a relaxing atmosphere,” he says of life in America. ”In Japan, I can’t go outside. Everybody is watching me, the same as a Hollywood star, maybe.” He laughs. ”But here, I can think of music. Just music.”
Well, not just music. TK is hard at work on plans for American-chart domination. He’d like to see if his Japanese stars can shine as brightly on this side of the Pacific — particularly Amuro, whose sound and appeal suggest a techno Janet Jackson. ”[With] her power, her face, her charisma, I think that she can get success,” he says. ”Only one problem — she cannot speak English right now.” TK himself faces a bit of a language barrier and will have to work with translators or American lyricists as he writes for this market. But that hasn’t dampened his ambition. He wants to produce American singers and plans to launch a U.S. version of Globe.
One thing he won’t change, however, is his approach. ”My direction is always the same,” he says. ”Always, I’m trying to mix beautiful and sensitive melodies [with] hard dance music.” And with the current boom in electronica, that kind of formula needs no translation.