Scooter Oyama (Go Yama)
1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Garrett Scooter Oyama;
Artist name: Go Yama. Professions: musician and speech-language pathologist
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? Japanese American, US native
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? Neither of them are musicians, but my dad recently got pretty sick at the ukelele.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. I was one of the only Asians in my class from elementary until college. Of course, I had the occasional jab about my lunch being 'fish food,' and I got picked on in high school, but I was super lucky to have close friends that always made me feel like I was really part of the community.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? My parents were both born here and, as such, are really more products of American culture. I feel like Japanese Americans (and other Asian Americans) have their own completely separate culture and values, etc. I did also get to grow up with my grandma (bachan) in the house and so there was some mix of Japanese culture, but overall definitely more American than Japanese. After I studied abroad in Japan in college, I started linking more with relatives over there and had the chance to have some extended stays.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? 6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? 6a. I remember being 5 and having this book of musical instruments that I would obsessively study and carry around all the time. It was all history from then. I double majored at UCSD in Music and Cognitive Science and was simultaneously doing research and playing in bands. Then, I went to Emerson college in Boston for grad school and studied speech-language pathology. 6b. Truthfully, I wanted to do music professionally for as long as I can remember, so I thought I'd give it a shot. My mom was a doctor and definitely 'advised me strongly' to do something practical, but my dad was a graphic artist and so always was supportive of my music. It took a while, but I think they're both psyched now that I have a career that gives me the space to do music as well.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? A couple of projects I'm really proud of are these two themed albums I did. The first was a tribute to Miyazaki and Joe Hisaishi back in late 2013, early 2014 (before doing studio ghibli flips was standard faire) called Glimpses from the Spirit Plane. (https://goyama.bandcamp.com/album/glimpses-from-the-spirit-plane-a-tribute-to-hayao-miyazaki). I flipped the themes from most of the famous Miyazaki films. The second was a concept project I made in tribute to my uncle in Japan who passed away from cancer. He loved trains, and so I sampled all of the different train jingles on the JR line in Japan and made an album out of it. (https://goyama.bandcamp.com/album/transcendental-train-tracks)
Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. I've been a part of a lot of music projects as a guitarist (e.g. StarRo, Joyce Wrice, Sam Kang, Magnetic North, etc.), and I've done a few album collabs (e.g. Elaquent, CHON, sofasound, kaelin ellis, etc.). No brands to rep. [Summer interjecting here just to say that Go Yama's collab with CHON--"Berry Streets"--is how I found out about him, and y'all should check out their collab - here's the Spotify link].
8. Describe to me your dream project. Dream music project would be to do a full length with Thom Yorke and FlyLo. With an accompanying visual score.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? With music, being part of the early rising beat scene was a blessing in so many ways because it was the first time ever AAPI were big names in a genre, at least for music I listened to. With pop, rock, hip-hop it was so hard (and still is) to break out of the "Asian American" scene and get plays. I remember figuring out all these producers like Nosaj Thing, Tokimonsta, Shigeto, Mike Gao, etc. were all Asian and thinking it was dope.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? 10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? 10a. Ah so many, but off the top of my head the homies Gene Shinozaki, Mark Redito, StarRo, Mike Gao, to name a few. Blessed to have some super talented, creative, virtuosic homies to learn from. 10b. Hoping for respect and understanding from the larger community, appropriate representation in the larger cultural narrative, and the ability to really be equal participants in the dialogue.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Life is so damn crazy and mysterious, just be curious about things. And be grateful because you'll look back on those times with such fondness.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? Although I'm trying to release a full length in the near future, I'm also excited about a couple of music adjacent career things. One is that I co-founded a music non-profit called Sonic Allies which is made to research and create products which try to understand or utilize all the therapeutic uses of music (e.g. conflict resolution, benefits for mental health, rehabilitation). Another is that I am helping a company that uses beatboxing and hip-hop for speech therapy. Anyone interested in any of these things please hit me up!
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I love surfing and languages.
14. Any final thoughts? (non-self-promotional). Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? I'm just excited to learn from all y'all more than anything.
Spotify: Go Yama
Photos provided by Go Yama