You may not have heard of Tomoyasu Hotei before, but the Japanese rocker has already been around for a long and successful music career, initially making his success in Japan. He now brings his music overseas to the West with his new album, Strangers, overflowing with exciting collaborations, and guitar riffs that will send shivers down your spine, Hotei is on track for breaking onto the European rock and metal scene in a very, very big way.
We spoke to the artist about his Track of the Day ‘Move It’….
Music has been a huge part of your life from a very young age. What was it about music, and specifically the guitar that grabbed you so intently at such a young age?
I think I was one of those average kids who was good at sports and school education but was unable to devote myself to any of them. The only thing that has been able to keep my interest throughout my life so far is guitar. Perhaps it gave me an opportunity to express my emotions beyond speech. Guitar allows me to express feelings and colour my emotion. It can set me free from my soul and body. Within the cosmic of 6 strings and 20 frets, there’s infinity. If I didn’t meet guitar, I wouldn’t be able to share my feelings with the world. I thank God for connecting me with guitar. Oh, wait, I should thank my mother for buying my first guitar!
Your new album, Strangers, was released back in October, with a track list full of great collaborations, and exciting instrumentals. How did the process of making this album differ from previous work of yours?
Making music for music fans around the world and touring worldwide has been my dream for a long time. 99% of my 30 year plus career was mainly devoted to the Japanese audience. 5 years ago, was the turning point where I had to decide whether to stay in my comfort zone surrounded by Japanese fans in Japan or pursue my dream to challenge the global market. Perhaps I had a late start, but I don’t think it was too late. To show my commitment I’ve relocated to the UK, found management and a label and have started a whole new life. Working with producers, other than myself, was a first in my career. I thought the necessity of soaking myself in the market where I’m based was challenging. Fortunately, I was able to meet people with mutual interests and was able to create amazing collaborations. I take pride in my long career and almost everybody knows ‘Kill Bill’s tune, Battle without Honor or Humanity. I gave up singing in Japanese and decided to concentrate on my guitar performance. The vocal collaborations and instrumentals are a good balance in the album. I think I was able to demonstrate myself.
Previously your music has been more for the Japanese audience. Do you see much difference between Japanese audiences and British? Have you found it easy to adjust your working process or style for your new British audience?
Japanese people are very shy and very hesitant to dance along with music, but it is a part of life here. I think I stopped making music with my head, but more with my soul? In recent development of technology, I was more ‘designing’ music, but I think there’s still a raw sense of ‘making’ music in London. I’m looking for a much simpler yet more dynamic sound, chords and structure of music.
For this particular song, “Move It”, you collaborated with Richard Z. Kruspe of Rammstein, who does vocals on the track. How did this collaboration come about?
We were connected through our label, then we had a skype meeting, shared files via the internet and that’s how ‘Move It’ was born. He said when he first heard my demo he visualised something from 007 or Mission Impossible – some speedy spy movie. It is very important to share music with visuals. He is a part of huge band, Rammstein, but really he’s a very down to earth, cool guy. His imagination is very refreshing; I fell in love with him as a human being (smile). Very very respectful guy. We shot a video together in Berlin. I think the production team were all excited to see two legends with totally different backgrounds. He also managed to spare time to come see me perform in Berlin, too. I think he enjoyed the show!
What inspired you for the song?
Cool rhythm and a simple yet twisted guitar riff. I tried to make it as everybody wants to play air guitar.
What would you say your favourite track on the album is, and why?
It is very difficult to choose one because every track has different flavor and I am pleased with them all. But if being insisted, Iggy’s ‘How the Cookie Crumbles’ is very special for me. Can you believe it? I had a chance to work with Iggy Pop!!
What does the rest of 2016 hold for Hotei? Do you have any news for us about future tours or any more exciting collaborations in the pipeline?
The year of 2016 is very busy with various activities in Japan to celebrate my 35-year career, but I also have two US gigs in NYC and LA. Also, I’ve worked with Italian legend, Zucchero and contributed my guitar performance to his album. I’m inviting him to Japan for my show to play together. There’s also a discussion about joining him on stage at his shows, too. I’m committed fully to working hard to make new fans and to let people know of my existence! Wish me luck!
This Track of the Day feature was written by Alia Thomas, a GIGsoup contributor