This month Martin Cooper checks out the influential style of iconic Japanese blues-rock guitarist and composer, Tomosayu Hotei.
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.
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Tomosayu Hotei: one of Japan’s most famous rock stars