Metropolis had the chance to sit down with Payne on his latest visit as he finished work on the Johnny’s musical production Playzone 2012.
Apart from a budding fashion career, Travis Payne is perhaps best known for his work on Michael Jackson’s final stage show-turned-film, the blockbuster This Is It. Payne began working with Jackson in 1992 on “Remember The Time” and the Dangerous tour—an experience that forever changed his life and his approach to art. He helped produce and direct the documentary that grossed $10.4 million in Japan—the highest figure of any international market. “In Japan everything ‘Michael’ always worked. Asia was his biggest market and remains so today. I think he would appreciate how well-received his art continues to be here,” he says.
Most recently, Payne has been involved with Playzone 2012 from überproduction company Johnny & Associates. Johnny Kitagawa, the company’s founder, has been a friend and associate of Payne for over a decade now and Travis Japan, Johnny’s newest boy band, bears the artist’s namesake and is his latest labor of love. The group will debut at this year’s Playzone, and will also be the first to showcase Payne’s apparel.
Japanese artists such as SMAP and Shonentai are just a few on Payne’s mile-long list of celebrity clients, thanks to his big break in 1990 as a dancer on Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation tour. “Everything has happened to me as an evolution of the thing before. From dancing to choreography to directing and now fashion design, it’s all been a natural progression,” he says humbly.
When asked about advice he would give to aspiring dancers, he offers similar insights honed through his own experience. “It’s not enough to just dance well. Yes, be an awesome dancer, but you need to have some business acumen too. I look at the Paula Abduls and Jennifer Lopezes of the world—both of whom I’ve worked with—and I see how dance was the foundation of what ultimately became empires,” he says. “Be ready and be diversified. Learn about everyone’s job you’re going to work with. You have to stay current and always remain a student.”
When he’s not at work in the studio, he spends his free time roaming the streets, taking in the views—often from the top floors of hotels. The view of Tokyo Tower is particularly dear to him—it was MJ’s favorite spot in the city. You might also spot him browsing his favorite store, Don Quijote. “It’s like a giant WalMart in the middle of the night,” he says, adding that he learns something new on each visit. “I call Tokyo a very clean and very organized New York.”
Playzone 2012 Song & Danc’n Part II runs at Aoyama Theater until Aug 11 (listing).