The release of February & Heavenly in 2012 marked the return of Tomoko Kawase’s alter egos Tommy February6 and Tommy Heavenly6. It was a reminder that Tomoko likes to keep herself busy, either in the guise of her other selves or as part of The Brilliant Green – and sometimes she likes to play the role of producer and writer for third party artists.
Back when Tomoko was carving out her particular synthpop niche as Tommy February6, she was also developing a separate act known as Tommy Angels, which resulted in the 2003 release ‘You’ll Be My Boy’ (which also featured a somewhat lacklustre cover version of Tommy’s own ‘Everyday At The Bus Stop’). The tracks on the release were credited to Malibu Convertible (Tomoko’s producer/writer nome de plume).
The Tommy Angels project appeared to swiftly fizzle out, but the same year Tomoko took interest in the career of Asuka Hinoi. Originally part of the 3-piece LOVE & PEACE outfit, Asuka went on to try a solo career. Tomoko produced Asuka’s first solo release ♥Wanna be your girlfriend♥ which was released on the Sonic Groove label (one of the Avex subsidiaries).
In 2005 Tomoko began working with popular Japanese comedian and TV star Takashi Fuji. This collaboration resulted in the release of ‘Oh My Juliet!’ which was designed to showcase Takashi’s vocal talents. This collaboration appeared to be a more successful venture featuring a superb slice of J-Pop forged in the classic Tommy February6 style, matched with Takashi’s own effective vocals.
Clearly, the role of writer/producer appealed to Tomoko because in 2012 she was also developing the career of AMOYAMO – a J-Pop duo consisting of models Amo and Ayamo (hence the portmanteau name, which has echoes of PuffyAmiYumi). Amo and Ayamo had previously established themselves as known faces on the Harajuku scene, particularly for their take on the Aomoji-kei style and featured in a series of magazines as well as working with brands such as Candy Stripper. The idea of models developing music careers isn’t a new concept. It’s done wonders for the likes of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu for instance and the idea of joining forces with a talent such as Tomoko Kawase was certainly a shrewd move.
AMOYAMO released their self-titled debut EP In August 2012 and the tracks bear all the hallmarks of classic Tommy February6 releases with the trademark squelchy synth sounds and catchy melodies. Even AMOYAMO’s logo is styled in the flourished typeface used for Tommy February6 releases. A single titled ‘Let’s Go Out’ arrived at the end of October and made No. 23 on the Oricon charts.
In the Autumn of 2012, the ‘super group’ HALLOWEEN JUNKY ORCHESTRA put out a special single release and performance to coincide with Halloween. The impressive line-up (featuring Kanon Wakeshima, Anna Tsuchiya as well as members of VAMPS, SCANDAL and MUCC) also saw Tomoko appear in both her Tommy February6 and Tommy Heavenly6 guises.
A further Tommy February6 release titled ‘Be My Valentine’ slipped out in the early part of 2013 to coincide with both Tomoko’s birthday (6th February – of course!) and Valentine’s Day.
It’s clear that Tomoko Kawase wears many hats in her musical ventures and isn’t content to restrict herself to one role. Keep a listen out for future J-Pop releases and perhaps you’ll hear the hand of Tomoko at work in the background.