Interview with HOTEI

interview - 01.04.2017 11:01

JaME catches up with HOTEI in an interview about his recent activities, upcoming European tour and more.

After rounding up a hectic 35th anniversary last year, HOTEI has taken things slow for the first two months of 2017. Very soon, however, he will find himself busy once again with his European tour in April. JaME catches up with the guitarist in an interview about his recent activities, upcoming tour and more.

Hi HOTEI, thank you for accepting our interview request. It's been a year since our previous interview with you. How have you been?

HOTEI: Thanks to you too! 2016 was a crazily busy year with my 35th anniversary tour. Right after touring Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin in February, I released a 3-CD set best album titled 51 Emotions in Japan. After that, I spent most of the year on a tour that had "8 Beat Silhouette" as its theme, with eight sets of differently produced tours, starting with Beat 1, which was a small club tour. Beat 2 was a revival of my first solo concert. Beat 3 was a free concert in my hometown, Takasaki City, Gunma with 20,000 people in attendance. Beat 4 was to visit the 2011 tsunami disaster area in Tohoku. Beat 5 took place in Los Angeles and New York. Beat 6 was a summer festival in Hokkaido. Beat 7 was in 26 cities throughout Japan. Then, Beat 8 was arena shows in Nagoya, Kobe and Tokyo. For Beat 8, my set consisted of 35 songs, which was a three and a half hour set. The tour ended on December 30th, then I flew back on the 31st! I don’t think anybody will call me lazy for not doing anything for the first two months of this year!

You will be performing in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands for your upcoming European tour in April. Why did you choose these countries to perform in?

HOTEI: I love the air in Europe. Perhaps it is because I grew up listening to music from the UK and Germany — especially Germany, my first overseas stop. BOØWY recorded one album at the historical Hansaton Studio in Berlin, and since then I’ve been back many times. I have been listening to German progressive, techno and noise music quite a lot. My favourite album is the late David Bowie’s Heroes. After I became a solo artist, I recorded GUITARHYTHM II and more at Mountain Studio. I was invited to the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2014. Everything is very expensive, but I like Switzerland. Amsterdam is also one of my favourite cities in Europe — very artsy and I'm able to enjoy freedom. I always recharge myself when I visit Amsterdam. That gig at Paradiso last year was very explosive! I think the audience loved it, too. And Belgium ― this is going to be my very first visit. It was always on my "wish list". I'm so thrilled to be able to go this time. Rock music fans in Europe are very open minded, I think. Venues for this tour have very intimate settings and I am really looking forward to interacting with the audience.

For this European tour, you will be joined by Zac Alford on drums, Okuno Shinya on keyboard and Noko on bass. How did you come to know and work with these musicians?

HOTEI: Zach was in David Bowie’s band, and we have been working together since I guested on David’s show in Tokyo, so it’s been a while. I think we have a mutual understanding of each other both personally and musically. His drumming is quite raw, but manages to stay elegant. I think he’s a genius ― not too technique-heavy, very simple. I think you will understand why David Bowie loved him once you see his performance. Okuno Shinya was one of the core members from last year’s tour. His skill is very diverse, from classical to jazz to avant-garde. Very, very talented. His involvement in the band will free me from using backing tracks! It will be raw sounds. And Noko ― as you may remember, he was in last year’s band. I think he’s the most fashionable bassist in the world, dressed in Vivien Westwood! I think I have managed to form very tight band; I can’t wait to let you soak yourself in our sound!

What do you hope to achieve with this European tour?

HOTEI: I may have achieved a great deal in Japan, but I’m a new artist in Europe. But I have great confidence in my live performance and I'm convinced that I can build my audience with my performance! The trick here is how to get the audience to be interested. One step at a time and it's an unavoidable step for growth. It’s not an easy tour and I have a busy schedule, but I try to enjoy the most out of it!

You have a lot of experience performing live throughout your long music career. What are the elements of a “real” live performance? How do you ensure that fans do not get tired of your lives?

HOTEI: There’s no way to hide on stage in front of the audience. Thus, it’s a worthwhile challenge. I think my performance is quite unique and it can also be enjoyed by those who have no interest in the guitar. That is why the demography of my audience ranges from 10-year-olds to 60-year-olds. My sound is somewhat nostalgic yet very "now". I believe in interactive performances. It is not just me performing; I would like to "collaborate" with the audience. Lately, I’ve been training my strength by jogging …

You performed with Zucchero Fornaciari at the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy on February 11th. How did this opportunity come about?

HOTEI: I met Zucchero through a mutual friend, who is a producer. I contributed a guitar performance for his latest album Black Cat and then we began our friendship. Not only is he a great artist, but an amazing human being as well. I invited him to Tokyo for his first ever performance in Japan last year. I think something "clicked" while we were on stage. I think whoever shares the stage with me has the tendency to fall in love with me (smiles). If you don’t believe it, please ask Mick Jagger and David Bowie. With Zucchero, we are on an exchange program ― he’s been inviting me to Italy to join him on stage and I’ve invited him to join me in Japan. His invitation to join him for the Sanremo Music Festival was something I can’t describe! The viewership rate reached 70% in Italy. Am I famous in Italy now? (smiles) I’m truly disappointed that we don’t have a date in Italy, but I hope to make it happen in the near future.

Recently, you shared the music video of Russian Roulette on your Facebook page, commenting that it's an "appropriate theme tune for the world we live in". Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?

HOTEI: The message in this track is "Don't bother about what others say. Stay true to yourself, live your life, and you will be laughing at the end." Don't you think it is perfect in this era, driven by the internet? When I play outside of Japan, I try to sing songs in English, but I seem to gain positive response to this track. I think the flow of music is very "roller coaster"-esque. Very thrilling. Well, here are the lyrics to which you can sing along to: Jibun shinjite, jibun tsuranuite. Please join us for the chorus at the show!

You had a studio recording session with Steve Barney, Mark Neary and Okuno Shinya recently. How did this recording session go? Why did you choose to work with these musicians?

HOTEI: It just started. They are all very unique, talented musicians I am experimenting working with unique individuals to see if we can come up with very interesting, unique chemistry among us. It is beyond language, nationality and genre, a collaboration of each individual’s musical spirit. I hope to learn something from this process.

Can we expect a new release soon, perhaps within the next few months?

HOTEI: (laughs) I think my managers in Japan and London will all be happy! However, it is not going to happen. Making music is a fun yet very hard process. Let’s just say it will be out sometime this year!

Is there any theme or concept you have been exploring or wish to explore in future releases?

HOTEI: I’d rather make music that is not disposable but grows in people’s hearts and lasts for a long time. You have easy access to all sorts of music nowadays, so you tend to skip tracks while you are listening. You don’t listen to the whole album. I’m developing that habit myself, which I'm not proud of. I don’t skip anything when I listen to by David Bowie. I always discover something new every time I listen to that album. I wish I could make something like that in the future.

What are your plans for the rest of 2017?

HOTEI: I plan to go to Asia and Japan for concerts. I don’t think I can finish my next album by the end of summer. Depending on the response to my European tour in April, perhaps I will come back to Europe. Well, something "secret" is cooking in the pot. Yes, I can’t tell you because it’s a secret!

To conclude our interview, please leave a message for JaME readers.

HOTEI: As a Japanese, I’m truly proud and honoured to find out so many people have an interest in Japanese music and culture. My music is not so simple to digest, but I’m sure you will see through me if you come to see me live. I’m really looking forward to connecting with as many audiences as possible. That’s my dream. Please bring your friends! See you soon!

JaME would like to thank HOTEI and Pirate Smile for this interview opportunity.

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