Like a turntable’s tonearm guiding the needle to the record, Lance Jyo has helped Toshi Nakada find the groove he was looking for.
Hawaii-based musician Lance Jyo was instrumental in helping Japanese record label owner Toshi Nakada reissue a handful of classic Hawaiian AOR albums.
Lance met Toshi purely by chance
But first, a little background: Lance Jyo is a pop/AOR musician who travels to Japan often, where his music is released on labels like Cool Sound and P-Vine. He lives on Oahu, Hawaii, but his audience is the Japanese market, not Hawaii or the US mainland. He’s also got a full-time day job, which he’s says he’ll never leave, but he’ll always be a songwriter.
Toshi Nakada is president and founder of Cool Sound, a Japanese record label focusing primarily on pop and AOR music including reissues of classic West Coast AOR albums. You might be familiar with Cool Hawaii, a sub-label featuring reissues from Tender Leaf, Mike Lundy, Aura, George Street, and Mackey Feary (to name a few). Toshi rereleased many Hawaiian albums during the peak of Japan’s interest in Hawaiian AOR music, circa 2000-2004.
Lance wrote a tune called “Cool Sound” in tribute to his good friend, Toshi. It’s a testament to their unique friendship that has produced cool sounds and good times.
A serendipitous meeting in Shibuya
It started about a decade ago when a fan from Osaka contacted Lance out of the blue. Lance, who enjoys receiving fan emails, received the message about a month before his next trip to Tokyo. His fan wanted to meet him in Japan, if possible. Lance told him yes, let’s meet in front of the Tower Records in Shibuya, a popular place to meet in Tokyo. That’s the last message Lance would send to his fan before his trip.
In Shibuya, Lance went to Tower Records and found a Japanese man standing about, waving around a copy of his CD, At Second Glance, hoping to see Lance.
This man, however, was not Toshi Nakada. Both Lance and his fan had brought some friends along to their meeting. Their group headed to a nearby TGIFriday’s to talk story. Turns it, Lance learned, they both have a strong interest in AOR music.
Here’s where fate shows itself: the Japanese man said he knew a guy named Toshi Nakada, who owned an AOR record label. Lance knew the name, having seen “Toshi Nakada” as the liner notes author for a number of AOR reissues. (Read my interview with Toshi Nakada.)
Lance agreed to another meeting—this time his fan would bring along Toshi. So, they meet again, at the same TGIF in Shibuya, but this time with Toshi, too.
When they sat down, Toshi pulled out a long list of Hawaiian artists. Toshi wanted Lance to help find these artists in hopes of reissuing their albums on Cool Sound/Cool Hawaii. Lance hardly knew all the names on Toshi’s list, but he was all for helping Toshi.
Meeting musicians in Hawaii
Toshi tasked Lance with tracking the musicians down—Mike Lundy, Johnson Enos, George Street… Lance, with the help of his friend Jon Basebase, started making contact with each artist, telling them that a guy he met in Japan wants to reissue their music.
Lance hardly knew Toshi, so it was rather tricky to convince musicians to trust their music to a guy they just met who was working for a guy he had just met. But it worked, probably because these artists (whose glory days in the spotlight had passed) supported the idea of letting their music live once again.
I should mention that Lance did all of this without compensation—he helped Toshi out of friendship and for the love of music.
Reissues start to happen
After Lance made contact with all the musicians he could find, Toshi flew to Honolulu to meet each musician. Toshi’s plan was to promote their music with a series of compilations—which eventually became the Island Mellow 1 and 2. After this, Toshi would know which musicians showed the greatest potential (and were easy to work with).
There was, however, one big catch—each reissue album must feature at least one bonus track. That’s why CDs like AURA feature the hard-to-find single “The Feeling’s Right” and the dancefloor jam “Stop”. Or, in Mike Lundy’s case, an entire album’s worth of new versions of his originals.
This all happened in the early 2000’s. Mike Lundy’s The Rhythm of Life was reissued in June 2003. By that time, Toshi had already released the self-titled Tender Leaf LP—one of Cool Sound’s most popular releases to date—Mackey Feary’s Touch Sensitive and Nite Life, plus a string of Toma-Natto works.
A gift to Lance
While Lance gave Toshi the opportunity to give us some wonderful Hawaiian AOR reissues, Toshi gave Lance one of the greatest gifts any musician could ask for: the chance to meet legendary AOR musicians for the opportunity to record a brand new album.
With Toshi’s deep—deep!—network of Los Angeles musicians, Lance’s dreams of working with legendary AOR artists soon came true. Lance named some of his biggest inspirations—like Jay Graydon, David Pack, and Bill Cantos—hoping Toshi would be able to introduce him to these artists.
Toshi didn’t upset: Lance was soon meeting the artists he requested artist face-to-face to discuss his album. A dream come true, the kind you have to slap your cheeks just to make sure you’re awake.
And best of all, Toshi released this special project on his Cool Sound label.
Lance and Toshi continue their friendship
Nowadays, Toshi is an aspiring songwriter. He and Lance have recently collaborated on a new single, “You’ll Always Be The One For Me”, featuring actor/musician Kazutaka Ishii. The CD single, Cool Sound meets Kazutaka Ishii, is available in Japan on September 26, 2012. Listen now:
For more info on Cool Sound, check out www.coolsound.co.jp