Tokyo Weekender recently asked Japanese American musician Sen Morimoto seven questions ahead of his Japan tour, which begins this week.
Involved in production and songwriting while also playing various instruments, Morimoto is a multi-talented individual. Closely tied with jazz, pop and hip hop, he previously collaborated with the likes of American singer and songwriter Kaina (stylized in all caps), Japanese rapper Aaamyyy and hip hop group Pivot Gang.
His saxophone-infused debut album Cannonball! was co-released with media giant 88Rising. Its follow-up, Sen Morimoto in 2020 was released on his own label, Sooper Records and won critical acclaim from publications such as Pitchfork and Line of Best Fit.
He recently released a remix version of his sophomore album, featuring collaborations with Japanese and worldwide artists, including Tamanaramen and Foodman. The project was aimed at bridging the gap between listeners and artists. Entitled Sean Motorolla, it made our Top Albums of July list.
1. Tell us your most controversial opinion?
I think most of my peers and a lot of our generation agrees, so in a sense it’s not controversial at all, but I think the most controversial stance I’ve taken was against the Chicago mayor and the Chicago Police Department. During the pandemic, a virtual performance I prepared for the City of Chicago was canceled and pulled from airing because I spoke out in support of defunding and dismantling the police and because I criticized the mayor for her cruel treatment of protestors in Chicago after the murder of George Floyd.
I also don’t really like bananas. That’s probably more controversial to people our age.
2. Tell us one of your proudest moments?
I think [one of] the most satisfying moments, at least in my musical career, was the first time I got to play my music in Japan. It was Summer Sonic 2018 and I was able to bring my whole band from Chicago and also fly my dad out. He’s from Japan and has been taking me to visit there since I was a kid, which is something I’m so grateful for now that I can grasp how formative those experiences were for me. It felt really special to get to return a small portion of that gift to my dad by flying him out to see the show. He hadn’t really seen me perform my solo music before so for his first time doing that to be on such a big stage and in his home country made me really happy.
3. Who or what inspires you?
I’m very much inspired by nature. I grew up in a small town in the middle of a state forest and I feel that a lot of the rhythms in life and music that I gravitate towards are informed by the quiet and tranquility of that setting. I think even some of the more paranoid or lonesome aspects of my writing come from that feeling of isolation too.
4. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be and why?
I would love to travel to Brazil. I have always loved old Brazilian music like João and Astrud Gilberto, Caetano Veloso and more recently Luiz Bonfá. Plus I’ve heard Brazil has a very large Japanese population. Those kinds of cultural cross-sections are fascinating to me so I’d love to just go meet people and see what that’s like.
5. What are your top songs to play around a campfire?
Jon Bap – “Gotta Be Your Lover.”
Iris Temple – “Pretty Love.”
Aaamyyy – “Gaia.”
Nnamdi – “Anti.”
Kaina – “Good Feeling.”
6. What are the best three songs of all time?
Nina Simone – “My Sweet Lord + Today Is A Killer.” (Live)
Alice Coltrane – “Going Home.”
Lauryn Hill – “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind.”
7. What does this year mean to you?
This next year I’m trying to recognize what is important. Clear some of the fog that distracts me from experiencing real life in the moment. Sometimes that’s work or chasing some idea of what success looks like, sometimes it’s letting unimportant details ruin whatever you’re doing. I want to gain the tools to stay focused on my work without letting it dominate my whole life.