This month Martin Cooper checks out the in­flu­en­tial style of iconic Ja­panese blues-rock gui­tarist and com­poser, To­mosayu Hotei.

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Martin Cooper checks out the in­flu­en­tial sound of Ja­panese blues rock gui­tarist and com­poser To­mosayu Hotei

To­moy­asu Hotei is a leg­end in his home­land of Ja­pan, hav­ing sold over 40 mil­lion albums dur­ing a 30-year ca­reer, as well as hav­ing fea­tured songs in movies such as Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. His song Bat­tle With­out Honor Or Hu­man­ity from the Kill Bill sound­track has ap­peared in nu­mer­ous TV com­mer­cials, video games and other films. If you write even one song that gets as much trac­tion as Bat­tle With­out Honor Or Hu­man­ity, you’re likely to keep the wolf from the door for some while!

Hotei was born from par­ents of Korean and Ja­panese/Rus­sian de­scent, and be­gan play­ing gui­tar at the age of 14, af­ter be­ing in­spired by Marc Bolan of T Rex. His high school band came run­ners-up in the school Bat­tle Of The Bands con­test, but Hotei was ex­pelled be­fore grad­u­a­tion. He is a mul­ti­in­stru­men­tal­ist, com­poser and pro­ducer and has col­lab­o­rated with nu­mer­ous high-pro­file mu­si­cians such as Hugh Cornwell from The Stran­glers, David Bowie and Andy Mackay of Roxy Mu­sic. His record­ings of­ten fea­ture elec­tronic and dance in­flu­ences. He played on­stage with The Rolling Stones in 2014 be­fore a crowd of 53,000, and at the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the ’96 Sum­mer Olympics.

Hotei’s play­ing style is based on clas­sic rock and blues, and he also man­ages to blend all his in­flu­ences to­gether in a very ac­ces­si­ble way, cre­at­ing grooves and melodies that weave their way through his songs ef­fort­lessly. The track is in the key of A mi­nor, and is largely driven by pow­er­chords in the rhythm part, and an A Natural mi­nor (A-B-C-D-EF-G) and A mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic (A-B-C-D-E-G) lead part. There’s an F# note in the first half of the solo, which lends a Do­rian sound, be­ing b6th the ma­jor 6th (A Mi­nor has a - F).

hotei blends his in­flu­ences in a very ac­ces­si­ble way, with grooves that weave ef­fort­lessly through his songs

There are sev­eral other in­stru­ments on the record­ing this month; in ad­di­tion to the usual bass and drums you’ll hear an EDM-style synth bass and a key­board synth part, which un­der­lines the fact that even though Hotei is the main fo­cus in his band, he never takes over the en­sem­ble – the gui­tar is just one fo­cal point, al­ways play­ing the right thing at the right time. The re­verb on the track also helps to sit the gui­tar back a lit­tle in the mix, so as to work bet­ter with the rhythm track and synths.

Check out the play­ing tips and Get The Tone box for more in­for­ma­tion.

To­mosayu Hotei: one of Ja­pan’s most fa­mous rock stars

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