It’s Cool Sound! Interview with Toshi Nakada

(I’ve come to think that my blogging is like a jet plane. I started off with new posts every 3-5 days, taking flight into the world of Hawaiian music. Now the plane’s cruising with the clouds, flying at a steady pace. In other words, I’m now focusing on quality over quantity, an idea I picked up from reading this blog about rare soul music.)

After my interview with singer/guitarist Murray Compoc of Tender Leaf, I got in touch with Toshi Nakada, owner of the Japanese record label Cool Sound. I heard that Cool Sound wasn’t able to contact any of the band members, so they licensed the CD through Kit Ebersbach, who produced the Tender Leaf album. Toshi & company have reissued over two dozen Hawaiian albums under the label Cool Hawaii, a sub-label of Cool Sound.

Toshi was very kind to let me interview him, as he’s usually the one conducting interviews. (To date, he’s done nearly 300 interviews! He’s also traveled to L.A. over 70 times, Honolulu 15, and Nashville on several occasions.)

“I’m not a Critic at all, just a Journalist or a Navigator of qualitied music. I just wanna introduce the real things or real thoughts which were untold from the Artists to the users/listeners.” –Toshi Nakada

Although I’m not an interviewer of Toshi’s caliber, I’m glad I got to chat with him about Cool Sound/Cool Hawaii. Enjoy.

Please introduce yourself.
Hi. My name is Toshiki Nakada, everybody calls me “Toshi”, and I’ve been working in music business since 1985. At first, I worked at record company for 2 1/2 years and after that I switched to a FM radio programmer as Tokyo had started the new radio station “J-WAVE” (1988). Since then, I’ve been a radio programmer, a music journalist, sometimes a composer… I do anything about music. And I started my label Cool Sound in 1998 “by accident”.

What is Cool Sound?
The company Cool Sound started one year before the label. It means the original Cool Sound is a company that can save the tax of Toshi Nakada’s income (ha ha ha).

How did Cool Hawaii come about?
In the autumn of 1997, my friend Shotaro, who had been working at a few independent labels as an A&R and had worked with me a couple times, asked me if I could start a label, which mainly releases or re-issues AOR (West Coast Music) albums. At that time, I didn’t have a desire or something for having my own label, but he mentioned that he could prepare all the money, which new labels need when they start off. So, I respected his heart and followed him. And in April of 1998, the label Cool Sound started off.
By the way, the origin of my company name comes from the words that many musicians often say: “It’s COOL !”.

When did you start collecting Hawaiian music?
Personally, I’m not a collector of Hawaiian music. But, I was born in 1961, so, in my late teenager or early 20’s, the music of Kalapana, C&K… were also very popular in Japan. I really loved them. As for the Cool Hawaii catalog, my partner Shotaro knew Hawaiian music much more than me. So he influenced me.

Which artists/records do you like the most?
Though I cannot choose one or two from Cool Hawaii label, my personal favorite of all the time is… Airplay, Gino Vannelli, Steely Dan, Eric Carmen, a Danish pop rock group Gangway and a Japanese ’70s group Garo. As for Hawaiian artists, Kalapana is really great, and Ben Vegas is best for singing and composing.

Have you noticed any trends in Japan regarding Hawaiian record collecting? Has any trend helped with Cool Hawaii’s success?
A really nice question. The re-issue of Tender Leaf had a Cool Success for my label, which Shotaro recommended me to re-issue. He mentioned that the collectors here were eager to find their LP. I still remember that he mentioned that one of the craziest collector’s could pay ¥100,000 (more than US$1,200 by today’s money rate) for the original sealed vinyl. So I thought it’s time to find the owner of the master of the album. Then we reached to Kit Ebersbach who produced their album, and we did a deal with his company. That was 2000.

How/Why did you choose the releases for Cool Hawaii?
I met a real key person of Cool Hawaii in 2001 in Tokyo during his Japanese trip. He suggested [that I] release the compilation CD of Hawaiian music that makes Japanese AOR listeners very happy. It was a really nice selection and I thought I could trust this person.
His name is, yes, Lance Jyo, and the name of compilation CD is “Island Mellow“, released in summer of 2001. Lance is a guy who loves AOR kind of things most in Islands. Definitely “Most” [compared to others]. And he helped with many releases/contacts for Cool Sound for free, not for business.
That’s really important. Our friendship made Cool Hawaii go ahead.

Why are Aura and Music Magic reissued on Cool Sound, not Cool Hawaii?
Shotaro mentioned that to indicate the “Cool Sound” label could have better [higher] initial orders at the retails than the “Cool Hawaii” label. That’s it.

You probably have many more favorites that aren’t on Cool Hawaii. Are there any albums that didn’t get reissued? For what reasons?
For last 10 years or more, my personal favorite is a kind of Smooth Jazz things. I really love to hear WAVE stations when I get to L.A. and I became a friend of Dave Koz, Jeff Lorber, David Benoit [non-Hawaiian artists]….and many more smooth jazz stars naturally. But, they are my personal favorites and I do wanna enjoy them at my relaxing time, not for business, though I’m willing to help their albums’ promotions here as a music journalist or a radio DJ.

There haven’t been any Cool Hawaii releases since 2003, why?
Please see the answer above [about Aura and Music Magic]. And I couldn’t find better items to release since then as Cool Hawaii.

Are reissues limited/one-time-only pressings? Only CD, or have you done vinyl too?
We often do additional pressings. As for vinyls, the retails which sell many vinyls are totally different from the normal retails which mainly sell CDs. Vinyl [stores] are really special. So it’s not easy to work with them so often.

What are peoples’ reactions when you tell them you want to reissue their music?
Many artists gave me their smiles, I believe, even if they didn’t have the master rights of the albums.

You make an effort to interview the artist(s) whose music you reissue? What are the interviews used for?
Mainly for Japanese liner notes of their CDs. I’m not a Critic at all, just a Journalist or a Navigator of qualitied music. So, I don’t criticize. I just wanna introduce the real things or real thoughts which were untold from the Artists to the users/listeners. I really love to have interviews with any artists.

Which interviews were most memorable?
Besides Cool Sound, I did interviews with David Foster several times, and an interview with David Bowie in N.Y. (maybe in 1996) was really memorable. I counted my interviews for last 20 years and it was more than 250!! Unbelievable, myself. So it’s really hard to choose one or two from them.

You’ve done a lot of work with West Coast musicians/albums. In your opinion, what distinguishes contemporary Hawaiian music from the mainland’s sound?
Well, I’m not a good English speaker at all, so it’s hard for me to answer with my honest thoughts in English, so sorry… As everybody knows, Hawaiian ones have much more resort atmospheres and I love them. But, anyway, I love both [kinds of] music.

What do you enjoy most about Hawaii (aside from the music)?
Everything! I miss Hawaii, [I haven’t visited] for [the] last 20 months…..

Anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks so much for asking me [tbese questions]. I really enjoyed answering and am honored to be asked [interviewed]

***Interviewed via email on October 14 & 15, 2010***

Thanks to:
–Toshi, of course.
–Hawaiian-bred blogger Kym, of Kym’s Aural Fixations, for his generosity and love of music.

3 thoughts on “It’s Cool Sound! Interview with Toshi Nakada

  1. Jay Molina says:

    Hi,

    I was wondering how I could get a hold of Toshi Nakada at Cool Sound.
    I am one of the members of the Hawaii based band Music Magic .
    Any info would be much appreciated.

    Mahalo,
    Jay Molina

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