Strangers is the first international album from one of Japanâ€™s most successful rock guitarists Hotei.
Hotei started out in the early 80â€™s as guitarist for the very successful Japanese rock group, BOÃ˜WY (pronounced Boy). Having sold approximately 60 million records in his native Japan, itâ€™s now time for Hotei to spread his wings further afield as he unleashes Strangers upon the international music scene. National Rock Review recently caught up with Hotei whilst on tour in Japan to talk about his career highlights, working with Iggy Pop and what it’s like to have Quentin Tarantino as one of his fans.
NRR: You are currently out on the road in Japan celebrating your 35th anniversary, which is quite an achievement. What has been your biggest highlight of that time period?
Hotei: Thank you! No wonder I have more grey hair 😉 I was truly blessed to have opportunities to work with many great musicians. My idol and hero, David Bowie and Roxy Music, Joni Mitchell, Brian Setzer, Gang of Four, Iggy Pop and The Rolling Stones! I may be the luckiest guitarist in the whole world!
NRR: I noticed a post on your Facebook page about Prince and I just wondered with his recent passing how much of an influence he was on you as an artist?
Hotei: To me, he was an amazing guitarist. He can sing, play piano and bass and he can dance so well! Multi-talented â€˜guitaristâ€™. I donâ€™t think there is anybody else who can play guitar with so much emotion. I have to admit his sharp cutting guitar playing has great influence over my guitar playing. I miss him so much.
NRR: On your latest album “Strangers,” the track â€œBattle Without Honor or Humanity,â€ was the title track for Quentin Tarantinoâ€™s Kill Bill. How did that opportunity arise?
Hotei: That was originally composed for the Japanese movie, ‘Shin Jingi Naki Tatakai (Japanese translation of Battle Without Honor or Humanity)’. One day Tarantino and Robert Rodrigues watched this movie, and I was told that they fought over it. As a result, Tarantino won this track. Well done Tarantino!! (smile). You can’t imagine how much shock I was in when I received an offer from him!!! I was his HUGE fan, I mean, HUGE! So my first reaction was ‘you got to be kidding me!’ It was such an honour, and I asked him if I could write a new bespoke track for his movie, but he insisted on using this track. I think he made the right call. So the title for the track was named by him.
NRR: There are a lot of special guest appearances on Strangers. Did you have each of those artists in mind to feature on those tracks when you composed them?
Hotei: I was so lucky to have the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with great artists and colourful personalities: Iggy Pop, Matt Tuck, Richard Z Kruspe and the one and only female Shea Seger. Every track has a very strong impact. When I looked around to complete them, those collaborators were the natural fit for each individual track. I reached out to them via friends and the label, and fortunately, they all recognised me as the cool guitarist on that track from Kill Bill, Battle Without Honor and Humanity. I can’t thank Quentin Tarantino enough.
NRR: Was there any artist that you wanted to collaborate with on “Strangers” that you didn’t manage to get on the album, this time, around, that you would maybe like to work with on future projects?
Hotei: St.Vincent, Kimbla, Questlove, etc.. so many artists I want to work with. I also would love to work with young talented artists even if they are still low profile. Iâ€™m looking for a vocalist for my next album. Let me know if you have any recommendations!
NRR: There are a couple of tracks on the album featuring Iggy Pop, “How The Cookie Crumbles” and “Walking Through The Night”. What was it like working with Iggy?
Hotei: Well, I sent two tracks for him to choose from, but he liked both and send me them back with lyrics for both tracks! Happy accident! If Iggy wasn’t up for it, then I would have had to of asked Tom Waits, don’t you think? If you listen to those tracks, they are the world of Iggy. I went to Miami to record his vocals. When he showed up, topless driving a convertible Rolls Royce, I had to scream ‘Oh yeah!’.
NRR: You recently released your new single from the album “Move It” which features Richard Z. Kruspe from Rammstein. Could you tell us a bit about the track and how you connected with Richard?
Hotei: 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 heâ€™s a very down to earth, cool guy. His imagination is very refreshingâ€”I fell in love with him as a human being (smile). Very very respectful guy. We shot a video together in Berlin, and I think the production team were all excited to see two legends with totally different backgrounds. He also managed to spare some time to come see me in Berlin too. I think he enjoyed the show!
NRR: Last year you performed a one-off show in London in support of your new album. How did the show go and do you have any plans to return to the UK anytime soon?
Hotei: Gary Stringer from Reef and Shea Segar joined me as guest vocalists, Noko and Cliff from Apollo 440 backed me with a tight rhythm section and a big audience came to the show. So overall it was very successful. However, I wasnâ€™t happy with my performance because I couldnâ€™t concentrate. Couldâ€™ve been better, Iâ€˜m going to come back with vengeance, but my schedule in Japan is really busy, so it will have to be next year. Hopefully to play in other UK cities next year!
NRR: Having so many guest artists on your album, it must be challenging to perform these tracks live if those artists aren’t available to perform live with you? How do you approach a live show in this situation?
Hotei: Unfortunately, if I was to invite them to my live shows I would go bankrupt! (smile). It will be with a minimal three-piece band, guitar, drums, and bass. It is an electronic, punk and fashionable band and a great tight unit. I will be doing the vocals on some songs and so will Noko on bass. And yes, all the audience are invited to sing along with us too! Because it is a minimal setting at an intimate show, thereâ€™s no place to hide! But it is the best way to engage audience!
NRR: What else do you have in store for the rest of 2016?
Hotei: The year of 2016 is very busy with various activities in Japan to celebrate my 35-year career as well as two US gigs in NYC and LA. I have also worked with Italian legend, Zucchero, and contributed my guitar performance to his album. Iâ€™m inviting him to my Japan show to play together. Thereâ€™s also a discussion about joining him on stage at his shows too. Iâ€™m committed fully to work hard to make new fans and to let people know of my existence! Wish me luck!
Strangers is out now via Spinefarm Records.
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