Interview by Adam Jay Weissman
It was about a year and half ago when I made the trip out to Tomoo’s studio. We were picked up from our hotel and drove for about thirty minutes from Shibuya, to an area that must have been Tokyo’s version of a suburb. I’d been a fan of Tomoo’s work for some time, so I was psyched to finally meet him. I didn’t really know what to expect. There’s a certain cinematic feel to Tomoo’s work: dark and slightly twisted. It always reminded me of a David Lynch films, or the Twilight Zone. Mainly black and white and super moody, but the subject matter is often pin up girls and wrestlers. The mixture of those things is what I was drawn to. Highs and lows. When we arrived Tomoo was working and playing LPs from his massive record collection. We pulled up at the same time as Tomorrow, Tomoo’s semi-English speaking sidekick, and owner of Washington-inspired Tacoma Fuji Records. We spent the afternoon drinking beer, listening to records and talking about wrestling and art. I’m not the biggest fan of wrestling, and only really know the superstars of the sport, but Tomoo is a super-fan. Wrestling is definitely something that’s been a big part of Tomoo’s life since his childhood, and it was interesting to learn how it’s tied into his work. We spent a few hours getting plastered (for a light drinker like myself) then left to go eat at one of his local food spots. Outside of Tokyo English menus are rare, so Tomoo and crew did the ordering. In typical white-dude-traveling-in-foreign-country-style, he ordered the horse, among other familiar traditional Japanese dishes. We ate horse and continued to drink until it was time to catch a taxi back to Shibuya. It was one of the more memorable studio visits and fortunately the beginning of the collaboration together for our Stüssy’s latest artist series.
What profession did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be a pro wrestler!
When was the first time you remembered experiencing art?
I don’t remember it well, but I believe it was the work of Pablo Picasso. At the time I didn’t think it was a very good painting, but now I have a lot of respect for his work.
Do you remember where it was that you first saw Picasso’s work?
My parents had a book of his paintings in our home. I think the painting that had the most impact, or was the most memorable would have been, The Weeping Woman or Guernica.
How did you learn to draw? Did you take any art classes when you were young?
I didn’t go to art classes when I was a child, but I was always drawing cartoons in school as well as at home. Japanese comics were really my starting point, and everything sort of came from there. I was really big fan of Fujio Akatsuka’s gag comics such as The Genius Bakabon. I also really liked some of the Fighting Spirit comics such as Tomorrow’s Joe and Star of the Giants.
Do you still read comics today?
I’m still reading the comics of Sigeru Mizuki, he sadly passed away last year. He originally studied art when he was young and has a really good hand at drawing.
What are some of your big inspirations? I know you are a big fan of wrestling and music.
I’m really influenced by Antonio Inoki, who was a very famous Japanese wrestler from the 70s and 80s. Music has always been important to me as well. I was very influenced by such musicians Tony Conrad, Thelonious Monk, Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart, Yellow Magic Orchestra, James Brown, This Heat, Jim O’Rourke, just to name a few.
What is it about wrestling that you love?
I don’t know, just watching a battle to see which man is stronger without any reason.
If you were a pro wrestler, what would your name be?
What would your costume look like?
This is wonderful question. My costume would be very colorful, like Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
As an artist that exhibits all over the world, where are some of your favorite places, or places you’d like to show?
It was so fun to travel in Mexico and it would be a dream of mine to do the show there. They have Lucha Libre, boxing, cheap tacos, dirty porno cinemas, and a really unique contrast between good guy and bad guys—everything I experienced was amazing there.
What are some of your favorite movies?
The Shining by Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorites.
How did you get into making zines? Did zines come before fine art?
I don’t know if it’s a zine, but I made a lot of self produced books when I was young. I made my own original comics and wrestler books. Things like that, unfortunately I’ve lost most of them over the years, they’d be great to have.
Do you have any plans in the upcoming future?
In the fall, I will do my second solo show at Mary Boone Gallery in New York. Then in 2017, I’ll have a solo show planned at Taka Ishii Gallery in Tokyo.