Preston Oshita, the Chicago born rapper better known as Towkio, is a member of the Savemoney crew, has released music with names like Chance the Rapper and SZA, and is just an all-round cool guy. No stranger to sacrificing himself for his art, Towkio released his latest album, World Wide .Wav, while 30,000 kilometres above the earth’s surface.
Making his way to Australia for the first time for Splendour in the Grass 2018, Backyard Opera had a chance to chat with Towkio all the way in LA about touring down under, his favourite festival experiences and Stevie Wonder.
BYO: You’re playing Splendour for the first time this year! Are you excited?
PRESTON: I have no idea what it’s like, but I know that I have a good following out there, so I’m excited to meet all my fans.
BYO: What do you expect it will be like? What’s been your favourite festival experience, both as a punter or performing?
PRESTON: Wow, that’s a good question! I would probably say Lollapalooza 2016, because that was my first Lollapalooza set, my brother Joey had a set too. Literally, we had been arrested for making money and hopping into that festival since we were like 13. Fast forward some years we were doing the same thing, but from the stage this time.
BYO: So you started music at a young age; what inspired you to start?
PRESTON: I never felt at any point in my life like I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or felt worried about whether I was going to be successful. That energy has carried me, it’s a driving factor. This isn’t even a choice, I’m just doing what I have to do. For some reason I wake up every day and just do it, you know. I think it’s just part of my path. I can’t really explain. In the eighth grade, I started making music just for fun, and next minute I’m at the Shangri-La; it’s been a crazy ride.
BYO: Tell us about your album, what was it like creating it?
PRESTON: It was such a magical experience, you know. I know me and my friends will never forget it. We all flew out here [to LA], first time at Shangri-La, we’d all visited but never stayed here. Me, Smoko, Peter, Carter, Knox, Darren; all my friends, Joey. We were just all in here. There was 4 bedrooms, we had air mattresses everywhere; people sleeping on couches. We were here for 2 weeks, or 10 days actually, just making music. Everybody had to produce a section; it was the most magical workplace ever. I was able to develop as an artist, and I made an album that I’m very proud of. Now, I’m moving on to the next album, and I’m making it right now. I literally took a break making it to talk to you guys! I can’t wait to see where I’m going to go, because I’m going crazy. I just need to stay in this headspace.
BYO: So you do have a second album in the works?
PRESTON: Yeah, but I don’t want to start calling anything an album because that makes everything take longer. I just want to release the music. I’m working on that next body of work. I feel like I have to make 100 songs. I feel like that’s how I’ll get what I want. I don’t plan on not releasing those 100 songs. I want to release everything I work on during this period in my life. And then when the next album is here, I’m going to win that Grammy.
BYO: Love it! You feature a lot of big names like SZA, Vic Mensa, Teddy Jackson, how was it collaborating with those artists?
PRESTON: It was dope. It was all organic, nothing was forced. I had a few people coming to the studio, hanging out, just kicking it, smoking, meditating; just chilling. Sza was working with Carter [Lang] a lot, my good friend Carter. She was working on her album at the time, so it was a real magical time you know. We were both making our music. We have mutual friends, so one day she pulled up, about 10 o’clock, got dropped off, and then we were just chilling. She was like ‘I want to get on board with you,’ and I was like ‘let’s get it’ and we made a body of work.
BYO: What are some of your main musical influences?
PRESTON: I’d have to say Andre 3000 and Jay Electronica. I like Kid Cudi too! I grew up on hip hop, or rap. Kanye definitely; he’s in that handful too. Kanye, Kid Cudi, Lil Wayne, Andre and Jay, they’re the main ones, they’re my top 5.
The Lil Wayne era, that’s what raised me. That’s what raised a lot of us. I just remember being in the 7th grade with a CD player and a CD case, and that’s all I cared about, that and my Wayne mixtapes; I had like 5 of them. I had every mix tape that came out. Literally, any mixtape with his music on it I had it, even if it was somebody else’s music. Then I discovered Andre 3000 and Jay Electronica. Jay Electronica was one of the first artists that I had a spiritual bond with; it really resonated. I hate the word spiritual, but he was speaking truths. And then Andre being the artist who made albums like The Love Below; that wasn’t even like a rap album but he’s one of the best artists. Then Kid Cudi being the artist who makes it okay to make different music and still exist in hip hop. He’s one of the only artists whose done that, and I feel like I’m the same thing. I just exist in a different world, as well. I can’t even compare to Kid Cudi or anybody, because I’m doing my own thing. That’s one of the problems that I think we have here in America is that people don’t know how to understand difference. Especially nowadays it’s like, ‘do you rap, do you sing?’ Unless you’re like a bigger artist. You guys seem to get it in Australia though!
BYO: Song you’ve got on repeat right now?
PRESTON: Oh man… I switch it up! Honestly I’ve been playing Stevie Wonder to be honest. He’s my default, if he comes on then I end up listening to him. I don’t know! Mostly ‘That Girl’ or ‘Master Blaster’ [by Stevie Wonder]. They’re my favourite.
BYO: How did you come up with the name Towkio?
PRESTON: I was releasing music under my name Preston San at first, and then most people have alter-egos when they’re doing rap shit; they release music under different names. So then I became Tokyo Shawn. At one point, I was upstate and I was like I can’t do this under the name Shawn, I had seen a vision in my head. Too many people have a name like Tokyo and my name isn’t Shawn, I couldn’t live with that. I had to find something that is completely me. So then I came up with Towkio spelt my own way, and now it defies the word Tokyo. It doesn’t mean the city, it means me.
Towkio will be playing to a sold out Splendour in the Grass crowd in Byron Bay on Sunday, July 22. There are two sideshows, one in Melbourne at the Howler on July 19, and another in Sydney at the Oxford Art Factory on July 20. For more information about the Sydney show, head to: http://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/towkio/103754