Tom Smith on the London-bound rock god Tomoyasu Hotei
In his home country, he’s the alpha and the omega of guitar. No other solo star has ever come close to touching his career. He’s collaborated with the world’s most influential musical figures, and has had his music featured in some of the last decade’s biggest blockbusters. Some go as far as saying he’s the original driving force in establishing J-rock (and yes, it is a genre). He is Tomoyasu Hotei, and he will be holding a very special live show in London on 18 December 2012.
The chances are that you’re already familiar with one of his songs; “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”. It became the star’s international claim to fame when a director known as Quentin Tarentino used it as the theme to his film Kill Bill Volume One, instantly shooting Hotei back into western pop-culture.
It wasn’t the first time the now iconic track has been used in film. At the turn of the millennium it featured originally in Junji Sakamoto’s yakuza flick Shin Jingi Naki Tatakai (also released as Another Battle), alongside Hotei himself, co-starring with Etsushi Toyokawa (20th Century Boys, Moon Child). This film was a remake of the 1973 film Jingi Naki Tatakai – or directly translated into (American) English; ‘Battle Without Honor or Humanity’, from which the instrumental track received its name.
These weren’t the only films to include the piece. It also appears in Michael Bay’s Transformers during Bumblebee’s transformation sequence. Notice anything familiar about the robot in disguise’s colour scheme? It’s exactly the same yellow as Uma Thurman’s infamous biker suit in Kill Bill – it even has the stripe!
Long before Kill Bill, or even his solo career, Tomoyasu Hotei was part of the pioneering rock act BOØWY during the 80s. The group caused one of the biggest spikes in musical instrument sales that Japan has ever experienced, inspiring a whole generation of music lovers to pick up a guitar of their own, long before Yui and the K-On! crew had girls running to the shops to start bands.
BOØWY even made it to London, with a show at the Marquee Club in 1985. However, by 1988 the band had broken up and Hotei pursued a solo career which led to him collaborating with the likes of Hugh Cornwell from The Stranglers, Andy Mackay of Roxy Music, Jesus Jones, Sugue Sigue Sputnik, Asia, INXS, Joni Mitchell, Ray Cooper, David Sanborn and Chicago. He’s even worked with the Starman himself David Bowie, after whom BOØWY was named.
He also played guitar under the baton of Michael Kamen at the closing ceremony for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and more recently arranged the theme Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. All in all, Hotei is possibly Japan’s most internationally renowned artist, ever. And that’s not even the most exciting news. The star has just relocated to London with his family. The possibilities for his career, which has been going for more than 30 years, are well and truly endless.
Tomoyasu Hotei will perform at the Camden Roundhouse on 18 December. Tickets are on sale now.