Douglas Tomooka explores other realms as Saiku Sapien

Music has evolved much like life, in familial fashion. Genres inspire others, with the common ancestry of styles apparent in their sound.

That’s why when an artist comes along and produces music that defies the typical labels, sounds authentically different from anything else, you have to wonder how the leap in evolution occurred.

click to enlarge Douglas Tomooka explores other realms as Saiku Sapien
HIS OWN SOUND: Local musician and recording technician Douglas Tomooka’s newest album as Saiku Sapien is titled Human.I.Am, and features music recorded decades ago, supplemented, and remixed for a genre-defying sound.

The first track on the album Human.I.Am by Saiku Sapien is a great example. The song could be a progressive rock song with some world music influence at first listen, but then the violin kicks in, and you don’t know what to think.

Saiku Sapien is the musical moniker for Douglas Tomooka, a local computer programmer who does sound recording, mixing, and songwriting on the side. He’s been performing and playing with bands for decades, Tomooka told the Sun, and has a backlog of recorded material from his years involved with sound recording.

The new album, Human.I.Am, includes some segments recorded as long as 20 years ago, remixed and supplemented with new instrumentation, Tomooka explained. Some of the songs on the album are new as well.

“Now that I have the tools, I decided to remix the old songs and do them in the style I wanted to,” he said. “Because I had never done the songs quite the way I wanted to.”

Tomooka played the rhythm guitar and sang the vocals for the recordings, he said, along with the help of guest instrumentalists. The nimble finger work of violinist Ryan McKinley is impressive in a couple of songs, and so is the guitar work of Terry Belmore and Greg Timmons. If you had to tack down an era of influence in Saiku Sapien’s sound, it’s definitely the progressive rock of the 1980s, as heard in the lead guitar on the album.

The rest of the instrumentation on the album is Tomooka. Whether he arranged electric drums or the lyrical baselines, he succeeded in creating a dynamic and cohesive whole.

Douglas Tomooka explores other realms as Saiku Sapien
CHECK IT OUT: You can learn more about Douglas Tomooka’s ongoing music project, Saiku Sapien, at

Tomooka said some of his favorite bands growing up were Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Queen. Like those bands, his album has a polished, almost classical-influenced sound.

The word “Saiku” is Japanese for “craftsman” or “artisan,” which informs Tomooka’s work well.

“Songs are different for me,” he explained. “They start with the music sometimes, which will give what I want to say as far as the lyrics. But sometimes I start with the lyrics and they inform the melody.”

Human.I.Am is Tomooka’s third album as Saiku Sapien, which is his solo project. He has played with groups and written songs with collaborators, he said, and continues to do so. He also mixes albums for local musicians.

He hopes to get the latest album loaded to his website,, for others to listen to as well. People are welcome to reach out to him via the contact info at the website and request an album if interested, Tomooka said.

“I want to do another album too, but a darker, more metal album,” he said. “I’ve got a bunch of songs that are dark and heavy, and I haven’t done an album like that.

“Most of the albums I’ve done have been more uplifting and lighter, but I do have a dark side,” he added. “I’ve played harder music before, and it’s fun.”

Interim Managing Editor Joe Payne tries to be a skilled sapiens too. Contact him at [email protected].

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