SNA Travel (Tokyo) — “For me, good music is something you can relate to. Good music is something you can feel, no matter the language, no matter where it’s from, no matter the culture.”
So says Michael Onetwenty Herrington, an American musician living and working in Tokyo.
His own favorite genres of music are R&B, Hip Hop, EDM, and Rock. But he says he really doesn’t exclude any genre if the music is good.
Herrington first came to Japan in 2010 as a US Marine, but he soon perceived that this was a land of opportunity as far as the musical field is concerned. So much of the music scene was filled with “cookie cutter” acts that went through the motions but lacked a sense of what music is really all about. Simply by being black Herrington already stood out, and with his long-practiced skills on piano and as a lyricist and vocalist, it was easy to get started.
“I want to be an original entertainer,” Herrington states, “I want to make my own music and I want to create my own image.”
Most other foreign musicians in Japan, usually for economic reasons, get channeled into performing cover songs made famous by other international artists, but Herrington aspires to blaze his own path and to become known for his own compositions. While Herrington has also done some cover songs in his performances in Japan, he says, “I don’t want to be put in that box. I’d like to create something entirely new.”
Herrington does most of his live performances with a band called Lokyo, which derives from “low-key Tokyo.” In this context, what “low-key” refers to is a Japanese music industry that tends to marginalize musicians who operate outside the well-worn commercial pathways and the established cliques. It is difficult to be taken seriously, Herrington says, and so Lokyo engages in various forms of guerrilla marketing and keeps the quality high.
Michael Herrington himself often goes by the name “Onetwenty.” He says that his father gave him this name and that there is, in fact, a rather long story behind it.
“Essentially it just means there are three groups of people in the world,” he explains, “There is a group of people who will live life and they will die. There’s another group of people living life who know there’s a bigger picture, and they will die. And there’s yet another group of people, smaller in number, who will live life, know that there’s a bigger picture, and they will change it, do something about it… What it means is that I’m going to change the world.”
SNA Travel caught up with Herrington at Club Ivy in Azabu Juban in early September 2016 when he and the band Lokyo were giving a Hip Hop style performance to a packed room of energetic fans. The full video is linked here: