TOKYO CUTTING EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai #4 : The New Generation’s Chiptune Artist “TORIENA”

『TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai』#4 : 新世代チップチューンアーティスト "TORIENA"
TOKYO CUTTING EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai #4 : The New Generation’s Chiptune Artist “TORIENA”

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TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai is column series, which covers Tokyo’s latest cutting-edge culture! In this series she’ll be interviewing creators that have caught her interest, in order to discover the latest cutting-edge culture in Tokyo. For our first installment, we interviewed artist Ai☆Madonna, for the second time welcoming Junya Suzuki, who has been working for fashion label “chloma”, and for the third time we had discussion with Etsuko Ichihara, an artist/ director of wild ideas. For this time we will be interviewing TORIENA, who has been working as a chiptune girl.

Julie: TORIENA-chan, long time no see! Thank you for meeting with me today.

TORIENA: I’d like to thank you, too!

Julie: To start things off, please introduce yourself for people who may be reading about you for the first time!

TORIENA: I’m TORIENA (toe-ree-eh-nah).


I was born in 1993, and I’m a chiptune girl ♀. I’m chairwoman of the Japanese chiptune music label, MADMILKY RECORDS. I make do all of the sound work (lyrics, compositions, arrangements, and vocals) and art (illustrations and designs) by myself. I’m good ad using the GAMEBOY device and LSDj (Little Sound DJ) to make hard, pop-sounding music, with wild-like characteristics. I’ve performed at Square Sounds Melbourne 2015 (Australia) and Lucca comics & game 2015 (Italy). I’ve also contributed songs and the like to music games by Konami and Capcom.

Recently I changed my desktop music and I’ve been working on music!


This interview was conducted via Skype./対談はSkypeチャットを通じて行われました。

Julie: I first got to know you through Hally (the first so-called chiptune musician in Japan, who Julie used to perform with as part of a vocal/chiptune unit, called JulieHally), and at the time you were just a university student, which made me wonder how someone so young knew about chiptune.

The chiptune genre, in a loose sense, was derived from techno, but mainly refers to music that was made from internal sound source chips in game devices from the 1980s. There are fundamentalists, or maniacs, perhaps, that say chiptune only includes original game chip music. It’s a genre with a lot of middle-aged male fans, reminiscing about playing the Famicon (NES) when they were kids. But the music itself is really cool, and became more and more popular!

TOREINA: That makes me really happy!

Julie: At the time there weren’t any younger people into chiptune, and we kept talking about how to get more people into the genre. I feel like that’s where you came in and breathed new life into the chiptune genre.

TORIENA: Yeah, as for there not being many younger artists in the genre, when I first started out I used to think about how there weren’t many other people my age and it was a little sad.

Julie: About when did you start doing concerts? I feel like back then most people in the audience were in their late thirties.

TORIENA: My first one was on February 26, 2012!

Julie: Four years ago then, yeah? Seeing you featured in so much media, I figured it’d been much longer.

TORIENA: I felt encouraged to make something myself, and a strong urge to get started on putting something out there quickly, and then as a result I started working more and more. (laugh)

Julie: Somewhat unrelated, but I feel like all of your work ties into your own unique world. By the way, how did it feel when you did your first concert?

TORIENA: I packed about 30 minutes worth of music datea into a single LSDij and just danced around on stage while the music played in the background.

Julie: LSDj are professional sound cartridges for GAMEBOY used to make music, right? Which means for your first concert you used music straight from your GAMEBOY! I’m in awe of how retro-cool that is! (laugh)

TORIENA: About the LSDj, I had an older classmate in university who said, “Hey TORIENA, let’s make some chiptune together!” I went with him to Kyoto to the holy land (?) of chiptune, Café la siesta, and when we told the master there that we wanted to make some chiptune, he gave us a cassette and that’s how I got my my first LSDj.

Julie: Wow, he sounds like an amazing guy! I went to siesta way back when, too. I’m from the Kansai area, and I have good memories of pulling all-nighters doing chiptune events there. I think it’s pretty hard to compose music on an LSDj and arrange it with the hardware; even for professional musicians it seems like the hurdle is set pretty high. And to think that a cute, female university student was doing it would just dazzle and captivate people.

Photo : Julie Watai Model : PINO 2011年撮影、地元大阪にて。8bitとコスプレ、ファッションフォトの表現を模索していた時期に撮った一枚。

Photo : Julie Watai Model : PINO 2011年撮影、地元大阪にて。8bitとコスプレ、ファッションフォトの表現を模索していた時期に撮った一枚。

Julie: By the way, what was the first game you ever played?

TORIENA: It was Pokemon Gold and Silver! I still love it.

Julie: That makes sense, since you’re part of the Pokemon generation. Are there any games that have heavily influenced your work? Or what about other influences besides games? Not just when it comes to music, but your unique vision.

TORIENA: I wasn’t a big gamer, so when it comes to my vision I’d have to say the influences of (manga artists) Junko Mizuno and Lun Lun Yamamoto, and Super Milk-chan, are stronger. I also like pop and moe anime from the 00s, like DiGiCharat, which might also have slightly influenced my work.

Julie: Oh, I see. So most of your influences come from illustrations. Were there any musical artists you were into?

TORIENA: I was really more of a passive music listener, but I do think there were quite a few artists who influenced me.

Julie: So you listened to regular j-pop and the like? I want to know what the first CD you ever bought was!

TORIENA: As far as j-pop goes, I liked Judy & Mary, Sheena Ringo, and POLYSICS. The first CD I ever asked my parents to buy was Akiko Yano’s Piyano Akiko and the first CD I ever bought with my own money was Hilary Duff’s Metamorphosis.

Julie: I can totally see that! I think all of these artists are definitely tied in to your imagery.


Julie: (moe)

TORIENA: Really? (laugh) That’s funny.

Photo : Julie Watai Model : Komayu Location : Game Bar CONTINUE 2013撮影 大阪、心斎橋のゲームバーにて。この頃は「セクシーな女性とギーク」な組み合わせのグラビアスナップをメインに撮影していた。

Photo : Julie Watai Model : Komayu Location : Game Bar CONTINUE 2013撮影 大阪、心斎橋のゲームバーにて。この頃は「セクシーな女性とギーク」な組み合わせのグラビアスナップをメインに撮影していた。

Julie: Yeah, I feel like you have a really girly image about you. So from the time you were listening to pop like that until the time you debuted as a chiptune artist, what did you initially find appealing about chiptune?

TORIENA: That the sound was like minimal techno!

Julie: No doubt about it, it’s certainly minimal.

TORIENA: About the time I got the LSDj, I began to listen to chiptune noise and thought it was really minimalist. I liked the sound of it.

Julie: So that’s what you connected with! For people of my generation, we have a culture-based reaction to chiptune, so it was common to feel connected with it just for that reason alone, so I’m glad to find out your reason.

TORIENA: I see. I didn’t find it strange that it felt like game music. I like distorted guitar and bass sounds, so I think piercing-like game music is totally awesome! Like it’s so addictive.

Julie: I see. So that’s the kind of chord it struck with you. By the way, is there anything you feel has changed about the concert scene since you gave your first concert in 2012? Or something related to events in general?

TORIENA: Um, that’s a difficult one. (laughs) As usual, I feel it’s with the scratchy-sounding machines at chiptune events!!! But I don’t think many people in the audience would notice a difference. A lot of my listeners were originally into bands, pop music, or idols, so it feels like something about chiptune really strikes a lot of different people. As for the scene itself… I don’t think it’s changed much. It’s difficult to say.

Julie: “Culture mixes” are really popular with younger people now. But maybe before you started doing concerts, they were interested in that sort of genre, but just didn’t have the opportunity to get to know it. When you performed at Famimode (a chiptune festival), before you took the stage, suddenly the front row changed to younger people who were dancing, dressed from head to toe in Harajuku-style fashion, and it was quite impressive.

TORIENA: How can I say it, but even for me, even though I started putting out music in 2013, only last year has become easier to hear, and since then the frequency of DTM has spread.

Julie: (That’s a neat way to put it…)

TORIENA: After all, it’s difficult to listen to it just with the actual equipment. It may just be a problem with my technique, but the longer I work, the more I want to hear music from other people, which gives me too much of an edge.

Because of me using this original, scratchy-sounding device, and because there’s a history of that sound that has grown from it, I feel like there’s a completely different essence in the impression I get from people who suddenly do video game sounds on DTM. Or at least to those who are familiar with the original devices. (Some people might think that sounds elitist, though.) To those raised on the sound from these devices, they might consider me selling out, but recently I’ve been thinking of doing pop-like, original sound device + DTM + song stuff.

Julie: It seems like there’s somewhat of a technical limitation when it comes to expressing yourself in different ways. Listeners might get into chiptune through DTM, and in following the appeal of it, get into the original scratchy-sounding device style. At least if you get heavily into something and the original entrance for it isn’t all that wide (or easily approachable).

TORIENA: I don’t think there’s many that get into it from the original sound device way any more. So I’d like to dare to become a doorway into it myself. For example, “Oh you listen to TORIENA! You know, if you dig a little deeper, there are even more retro-cool chiptuners out there!” or something like that. That’s my current goal.


Julie: I can wee why you respect those stubborn older chiptune guys, then. You’re more stoic than I had first thought.

Julie: Last year (2015) was a really busy one for you.

TORIENA: Yeah, I did a lot of overseas concerts.

Julie: You mean in Australia, Italy, and China?

TORIENA: And then England and Italy again.

Julie: Wow, that many! How was the excitement compared to Japan?

TORIENA: A lot of it was hard/challenging, but the result was really fun. People were really into it!

Julie: Whenever I think of Europe I feel like there’s a lot of people really hardcore about dancing there.

TORIENA: But if I give it some thought, I don’t think there’s that much of a difference between Japanese audiences and audiences overseas.

Julie: Then you did a collaboration with SPINNS and Village Vanguard.


TORIENA: Yeah, which I think was a good turning point.

Julie: You created designs for the SPINNS clothing, but how did you convey kind of image were you going with the apparel?

TORIENA: I asked myself what items I’d want from a clothing store, drew a rough sketch, went to pick out the fabric, described the details to the clothing makers(?), and then it was done. Mostly I described it using pictures.

Julie: So that’s how you did it. You were really involved from the very beginning. There were quite a few items, but it really caught my interest how all of them were sweet with an edge, and how they were so well-connected with the vision of your music and drawings. What kind or reaction did they get?

TORIENA: Of course people who already knew of me interested in the items, but I was glad to see girls who didn’t know me buying the items because they thought they were cute. Seeing parents buy items for younger girls also left a big smile on my face. Also a lot of people were kind enough to say they were impressed!


Julie: SPINNS is a Harajuku-style fashion brand that’s become a staple with university students. I can see people getting into your music from the fashion, which I’m deeply interested to see.

TORIENA: Yes, there were some girls like that and I was really happy~

Julie: It likes like your concerts have an increasingly larger culture mix feel to them. In light of that, is there any concepts you want to explore in the future?

TORIENA: You’re right, and even now I’m still changing up my concert style. Up until now, having a fun feel to it has always been at the forefront, but I’ve began to feel like I want to add to the enjoyment aspect, and polish it into a show that’s easier to watch. So I’ve been thinking of turning it into a show that has a proper introduction, development, turn, and conclusion to it. I also want to prepare some VJ material.

In addition, I want to make the music more fascinating, more like a comprehensive form of art. I think the artistry of music isn’t just about sound alone, and includes artwork and video. I’d love to do a solo concert, too!

Contributor Wanted!!

Julie: The MV you released is really interesting. It uses a nostalgic kind of digital animation, but it has current-era appeal to it. If you could turn that into something the audience is able to feel at concerts, it would be something amazing. I have no doubt that you’ll be able to do a solo concert soon. Thinking about even farther into the future, how do you hope to see yourself in say, 10 years?

TORIENA: We’ve finished MV shoot, so now I want to help it spread its wings! In 10 year’s I’ll be TORIENA(33)…

Julie: Don’t put your age after your name like that…! (laugh)

TORIENA: Hehe. (laugh) Well, I’d like to be an artist that makes a mark on the history of chiptune. If possible, I hope it’ll be recognized as a proper musical category.

Julie: It would feel more legitimate as a genre if it were, wouldn’t it. I think it would be great if you became an artist more widely recognized throughout the world! I’ll definitely be cheering you on until I’m one foot in the grave. Thank you so much!

Photo : Julie Watai Model : TORIENA Location : Super Potato Akihabara 2014年撮影、TORIENAちゃんと知り合ってすぐに撮らせてもらった彼女のアーティスト写真。この時の撮影風景は動画メディア「VICE」の「Creators Project」に掲載されたJulieのドキュメンタリー動画にも映っています。

Photo : Julie Watai Model : TORIENA Location : Super Potato Akihabara
2014年撮影、TORIENAちゃんと知り合ってすぐに撮らせてもらった彼女のアーティスト写真。この時の撮影風景は動画メディア「VICE」の「Creators Project」に掲載されたJulieのドキュメンタリー動画にも映っています。

Out of our talk, I got the impression that TORIENA had been baptized in various different cultures from a young age. With music serving as an axis, she continues her work by establishing herself as a self-produced model, and creating drawings and apparel. When it comes to common sense, the younger the woman is, the harder it is not to reflect the opinions of those around you. Because women are instinctively social, they are therefore affected, and it can be an age where deciding on what’s most important in a world where what’s accepted has been decided, can weigh heavily on her. So in expressing her own free style in the way she does, I’m convinced that she’ll continue with her activities in the future as a new pop icon for women her age, for her strong sense of passion at times.

Read more articles TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai
#3 : Think About Where Humanity Meets Technology with Etsuko Ichihara

#2 : The Future of Fashion with Junya Suzuki from “chloma”

#1 : #1 : Past and Present of Akihabara with Ai☆Madonna

Related links
TORIENA official site :
Julie Watai official site :

Translated by Jamie Koide

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Julie Watai

After working at an idol in Japan, Julie Watai moved by herself to Italy, publishing SAMURAI GIRL in 2006 while working as a photographer for Italian publishing company DRAGO&ARTS. She quickly became an international Japanese pop culture figure, gaining a large following. After returning to Japan, she continued her work as a photographer, along with developing electronics as a hobby and iPhone apps, and has been remarkably successful as part of the Akiba-style geek culture, too.

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