Music June 2014

Electric samurai

Kill Bill guitarist wants to share his music with the world

  • Moved to London in 2012 for increased cultural exposure
  • Tour last autumn included major gigs in London and New York
  • Combines music, art and fashion in performances

As a teenager growing up in Gunma Prefecture in the 1970s, Tomoyasu Hotei was inspired by the bright lights of London and the British music scene.

“Both London and New York have always been especially inspiring for me”, Hotei told BCCJ ACUMEN. “I’m incredibly grateful for a career of more than 30 years in Japan, but at the same time I cannot give up my dream of expanding my work globally”.

A fixture on any of his set lists is “Battle Without Honour or Humanity”. This number is Hotei’s best-known work, and was chosen by Quentin Tarantino as the theme song for the hit cult film Kill Bill.

“It really amazes me how I can travel anywhere in the world, and people know this song”, Hotei said. “It has been used in lots of TV commercials and programmes, in video games, at events, and also as the opening music for football games at UK stadiums.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think many people actually realise this is my original song”, he said. “Given that it’s so recognisable, I think it’s my best weapon for introducing myself as a guitarist and composer to new audiences around the world”.

The guitar legend went on tour last autumn, with gigs including Hotei’s first performance in New York City.

“The show at London’s O2 [Shepherd’s Bush Empire] last November had a really fantastic visual aspect”, he said. “We used a special technique to project images onto a series of screens, to produce a modern and avant-garde expression of classical Japanese art and beauty.

“I also collaborated with Yohji Yamamoto, one of Japan’s top fashion designers, who specially designed my stage attire for that show”, he added. “Going beyond the average rock concert, I really want to create a higher form of entertainment that people can enjoy visually, combining music, art and fashion”.

Hotei moved to Tokyo at the age of 17, and lived here until his move to London in 2012.

“No matter how old you are, you should still chase your dreams”, he said. “I would really like to encourage the younger generation and tell them ‘don’t just be satisfied with your current self’.

“Japan, and Tokyo in particular, is very comfortable and well-organised, but at the same time I also feel sometimes it is lacking slightly in global awareness and an international perspective”, he said. “London has such a mix of cultures and diversity of people, which makes it an exciting and inspiring place for an artist”.

Hotei’s previous collaborators have ranged from David Bowie to Jesus Jones. Composer Michael Kamen even invited Hotei to play at the closing ceremony for the 1996 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Atlanta.

Shortly after the earthquake and tsunami struck north-eastern Japan in March 2011, he performed at a charity concert attended by 100,000 people.

“I really felt blessed to be a part of that and to be together with so many people”, he said.

Since completing his autumn tour, Hotei has been back in the studio working on his new album. He will be playing festival dates this summer, including England’s Cornbury Festival on 6 July and Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival on 11 July.