Tako Tomago is the brainchild of L.A. based producer Jonathan Van Gils. His album Shades of Blue dropped on April 19th. He was good enough to answer our questions about the album, his journey and his thoughts on the “Wave” scene that he’s a part of.
We’re also excited to be bringing you the premiere of his exclusive new track “WANTUBAD”:
Hello Jonathan, how are you?
Hey Ryan, thanks for your time. I’m doing well! Currently working on new music and laying low while Los Angeles is under quarantine due to COVID-19 measures.
What is the basic story behind Shades of Blue?
Shades of Blue is a story about self-love, accepting yourself for who you are without a filter and realizing that the world will reciprocate that love back to you once you truly believe in it.
Chronologically, it tells the story of my experience of moving to Los Angeles and gaining the abilities and self-empowerment necessary to make this music and share it with the world.
The colour blue carries a lot of symbolic meanings. Wisdom, faith, sincerity, confidence being some examples. Which do you feel apply most to the album?
Absolutely. I would say that the quality of blue you mentioned I connect most with is confidence. That’s what the whole album is about, really. The year spent working on Shades of Blue, and the musical abilities I developed really gave me the confidence to create something new that contained reference points to modern music but also a new sound that might surprise you.
I couldn’t have done without that confidence in myself and also the vision [creative partner] Forerunner and I had for the album.
Musically the album carries a strong atmosphere of cool. But also one of vulnerability and struggle. How crucial was this kind of dynamic to the project?
Vulnerability and struggle are at the core of my lyrics and songwriting. Even the bravado raps and boasts, I’m emulating that ego-rap like Kanye or somebody. I’m trying to be vulnerable, and show that I do have an ego.
This music does give me illusions of grandeur and I feel like a king when I’m making it. Exposing that ego is a vulnerability in itself, and that stuff is the hardest to execute. I gotta nail it just right for it to work.
What would you say are the main characteristics of “Wave” music. Especially in contrast to more familiar sub-genres like synthwave, trap, future garage etc…?
Wave is already becoming a pretty expansive genre, but I would say the main characteristics lie within the sound selection/song structures/and reference points to other electronic music styles such as D’n’B, grime, trance, etc.
As well, most of the wave artists I’ve worked with have a similar approach when it comes to the creative process. They’re looking for an emotion or a particular feeling from the music. I think the approach that many artists take when creating wave definitely informs the music itself.
Generally speaking, who are your main inspirations?
That’s tough! Everybody on Sekai Collective on Human Error//; just incredible artists and people making very original music with serious attention to the production. Beyond that, here are some I listen to often:
Drake, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Caribou, Childish Gambino…
On certain tracks you give shout outs to communities, collectives, and scenes you’re associated with. What impact have they had on you as an artist and individual?
Meeting my Sekai Collective and Human Error// fam was the best thing to happen to my music and social life in general. These are amazing people, very supportive and hard-working artists and friends who are very inclusive and caring. We want to see each other succeed, so we collaborate often, give feedback, and support each other.
As an artist, being able to share the table with these producers has been extremely inspiring informative and exciting for me. It blows my mind how much I learn from my friends every day.
The release party for Shades of Blue was held on the Human Error// collective’s Twitch channel. How was that experience for you?
Amazing. I was expecting the community to show up but I was not expecting so many artists to show support internationally and everyone was very engaged in the music. Huge thank you to YAMA for hosting the event. His channel is taking off so be sure to check out the other Twitch live-streams he has coming up.
Music Twitch has been growing for some time, though obviously COVID-19 has increased its significance. Do you see it becoming an even more important part of independent music, even after the lockdown?
Absolutely. What’s really exciting is this scene is at the forefront of that movement. When we put on a show or festival online, you see the whole community coming through to show love, as well as new listeners and people curious about the music. It’s a great look.
How was it, taking part in YAMA’s recent “Wave Dub War?”
The Wave Dubs were a perfect example of how tight-knit this community is.
I was inspired to make mine after hearing a few. I used the opportunity to make a laid back wave song. That song “Aurora” and its layers – the Jay Z acapella chop, reese, guitar tones – inspired a lot of music that I’ve been writing that will come after Shades Of Blue.
I think that was the experience for many of us. The energy of the Dub Wars really inspired something in us that led to a creative spark.
What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
I’d like to tour the US and start sharing this sound with more listeners who might not be as aware of the scene yet.
Musically, I have a number of collaborations and solo works coming out in the next few weeks.
Where can people find you and your work?
Check out www.shadesof.blue.
If you’re interested in buying the album, it’s now available for purchase on Bandcamp.
If you appreciate Ryan’s work, please consider making a donation to them on Ko-Fi: