Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Tokyo Rat/Aeroviper

Artwork for “Osaka heat.” Courtesy of Houde Records.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

In today’s world, the collaboration between a rat and a viper might seem unlikely, but thanks to Houde Records, that’s just what happened.

Musicians Tokyo Rat and Aeroviper connected on Instagram and soon worked together to create their latest single “Osaka Heat,” available now everywhere.

The track – set in Osaka, Japan – is described as an “angry, fresh take on the Outrun sub-genre of Synthwave.”

The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with both Tokyo Rat/Aeroviper about “Osaka Heat” and more.

Music Bugle – What inspired the song “Osaka Heat”? 

Tokyo Rat – I was listening to a lot of Lazerhawk and sometimes, limitations can actually help. All my usual synth gear is in storage in L.A. and I am currently living in Hawaii, so I only have my Teenage Engineering OP1 with me and so, it started with that opening synth/bassline and some drums inspired by M83’s “Bibi The Dog.” Sent that over to Aeroviper and then I found that Japanese sample off the top from a newscast in Osaka, Japan, where the police were busting into a former-Yakuza house. “Osaka Heat” was born. 

Aeroviper – When he provided the stems, I realized I had a good amount to work with. I began working the track the day after he sent stems, but realized it could go many different ways and decided to give it time – about a week – to revisit it. When I came back a week later, I was able to finish the track with Rat’s feedback in just a few days. Rat has a lot of gritty elements in the stems, so I tried to compliment them with my melodies when making the final arrangement.

Music Bugle – What made you two want to collaborate? 

Tokyo Rat – We had become familiar with each other’s music through the Synthwave community on Instagram, so I had been throwing the idea around on Instagram DM’s to collab. I mean, a rat and viper collab!? It’s meant to be. Also, we both just shared a similar taste and vibe for aesthetic and music. 

Aeroviper – What Rat said. I had a few people ask to collab, but Rat was the first to put his money where his mouth was and was proactive. He sent me everything on his end with no creative restrictions, besides the much-needed feedback which he provided and was concise about. (Laughs) As Rat said, the rat and viper combo was meant to be.

Music Bugle – That being said, will you two collaborate again in the future? 

Aeroviper – This was a very seamless collaboration that came together quickly and Rat is a multitalented, relaxed and awesome dude. This was my first real go at a cyberpunk outrun vibe, so working with him and his style allowed different strengths of ours to shine while also being a great learning experience for me. So, yes – I hope so!

Tokyo Rat – I don’t want to jump the gun. Nothing is written in stone, but we have been discussing future collaborations already. I can speak for both Viper and I when I say we really enjoyed working together on this. It came together very naturally and Aeroviper was super easy to get to know and work on this track with. We have toyed with the idea of a full collaboration album in the future – rat x viper! – so we’ll see! 

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Tokyo Rat – I was in L.A. and moved back to Vancouver a month into the lockdowns. Now, I am in Hawaii. All my music gear is in storage back in L.A. and it’s been really tough not having my instruments or piano to play or to make new music with, so that’s been really tough, but also maybe that limitation has forced me to try new ways of production and start doing more collaborations like this! “Osaka Heat” is the first of several collabs I have planned. 

Aeroviper – Outside of music, my full-time job has been extremely supportive during COVID-19 and I’m fortunate to work at home as a media specialist. I know a lot of people who have suffered, many close to me. I think most people agree last year was a dumpster fire. That’s all I can say about it.

Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people may be surprised to know about you?

Aeroviper – Away from music? Does not compute. I own a long bow, have multiple video awards for production and editing and I love casinos. 

Tokyo Rat – I’m actually an actor and filmmaker first. I have starred in a lot of kids’ TV and movies. 

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape? 

Aeroviper – Music is my escape (laughs), but my wife and I love to travel internationally whenever possible. I’ve been to a lot of great countries and I’m thankful for that, especially now. Other than that, I do a lot of thinking in my garage oddly enough.

Tokyo Rat – To be honest, I don’t feel the need to escape anything too often, but I do enjoy my alone time with music! I am staying creative! My trip to Japan in late 2019 inspired “Tokyo Rat” and so, that was a really cool escape from L.A. and all. I think traveling, or just going out there and trying new experiences and meeting new people is the best escape and inspiration.  

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise? 

Aeroviper – A lot of stuff, all synth. I listen to good deal of Nightstop, Dance With The Dead and other more thematic synth stuff like Thomas Barrandon, Ogre Sound, Dynatron and Neon Nox. Also, some staples like Robert Parker and a dash of Italo Disco via Vincenzo Salvia. If I had to pick music with vocals, I’d vote John Maus.

Tokyo Rat – Oh man. I listen to a lot of stuff. EDM houses like Chris Lake, to indie BeaBaDooBea, Alvvays, Men I Trust, to Japanese disco, Yaeji, J-Rap, hip hop and jazz. I listen to a lot of music constantly. Whatever my mood is. 

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt music? 

Tokyo Rat – Interesting question. Not sure if I have the answer. I’ll go with “help” for now… 

Aeroviper – In my case, it helped me. I didn’t have many social media accounts when I released my first track “Gravity” and I barely used Instagram at the time. Now, I feel like it can be a great tool and I’ve had other projects come about quickly because of it. I’ve also met some awesome people.

Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry? 

Tokyo Rat – Concerts, shows and playing live music. One thing important to me when I start doing shows is that I play it live. Most of my music I have played the synth parts for real, not in software. I love analog synths, so I want to play as much as I can live and make the show an experience for the audience and fans coming out, something they won’t see or hear online. 

Aeroviper – More collaborations would be rad to see, but I don’t have any opinions on who or what. I guess I’d like to see more artists raising each other up. Representing each other, respecting and promoting each other. Everything in life is a competition and people listen to music like Synthwave to escape that nonsense. I personally haven’t had any issues, but some of the stuff you see on social media makes you realize how toxic it can be. No one wants their passion to feel like work. (Laughs)

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do? 

Tokyo Rat – Ooooh, I have a couple quotes right now. This one is great though and I changed it slightly myself – “Connect with all, connect with none. Connect with one, connect with all.”

Aeroviper – I would say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” It’s how I learned to write and mix music. Be self-reliant and try to learn on your own, but it doesn’t mean don’t seek feedback and criticism, or turn away help. We live in a time where you can learn anything on your own if you’re passionate enough and spend the time doing it, especially with something like music. I’m inspired by people like filmmaker Werner Herzog, who learned from a young age that you can’t rely on other people for your happiness or success. For a long time, I was convinced to make music, I’d need other people, like, join a band. Then, my brother introduced me to Ableton years back and it changed my life. When I discovered synthwave, I fell in love and realized this was exactly what I’ve been wanting to do, and I can manage it on my own – only now, there was a following for it! 

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