RockOm’s Interview with Grammy-award winning composer, Kitaro

“A Much Happy Man”
RockOm’s Interview with Grammy-award winning composer, Kitaro
By Tom Crenshaw, tom@RockOm.net
RockOm: What was your initial response when you were approached to compose the music for the Toyo’s Camera documentary?
Kitaro: It was an honor. This was a very important time in the history of Japanese Americans. The fact that they selected my music to represent these people in this important film is quite humbling. Most of the tracks are from previous works of mine. I am also an avid photographer so, of course that aspect of things made it especially interesting to me, but mostly the history is what is important to me about this film.
RockOm: You collaborated with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda on the music for Toyo’s Camera. Had you two worked together before?
Kitaro: They utilized one of Mike’s songs for the film – but we just missed recording together. We did try to work together for a special track, but Mike’s band mate hurt his back in China of all places, so I think the schedules suddenly changed and we weren’t able to do it in the end. But I know we did what we could to make it happen. Maybe next time; it would be great.
RockOm: What do you enjoy most about collaborating? Tell us about your experiences working with Mickey Hart and the essence of collaborating. Do you see a day when you will collaborate again on projects?
Kitaro: Again, funny you ask. We’re talking to Mickey Hart about maybe doing something again (that might be a scoop). The collaborative process is always interesting because it takes you out of your comfort zone and you end up making different decisions during the actual recording. It’s often refreshing. It allows you to go places musically you don’t normally go.
RockOm: You’re quoted as saying, “I never had education in music; I just learned to trust my ears and my feelings.” You’ve also stated, ‘Whose song is this?’ I write my songs, but they are not my songs.” Where does music come from?
Kitaro: It’s all about nature and mother earth for me. I learned playing the guitar and now perform more with keyboards, so that allows me to think about music from two varying sides of creation. We must respect the earth. That’s the inspiration for me, always.
RockOm: Is all music essentially spiritual?
Kitaro: For me, absolutely.
RockOm: You infuse Indian, Chinese and European music into your own unique sound; but initially you were inspired by R&B. How important is having a passion for diversity to a musician’s evolution into developing their own style or sound?
Kitaro: The rhythms emanating from R&B music are so different from eastern music. I think that’s why the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Elvis always were inspired by [R&B].
RockOm: How long do you intend to observe the August full moon at Mt. Fuji with your annual concert?
Kitaro: As long as my schedule permits. It’s quite amazing.
RockOm: How do you see music, in general, evolving in the next five to 10 years?
Kitaro: I hope the CD business stays alive. Downloading music is cool – one song at a time – but many of my projects have a common theme, so it isn’t always about a hit single for me and others like me in the world music arena. I even see vinyl making a comeback with some artists, which I love because again, digital is cool, but sometimes you get more warmth with vacuum tubes instead of chips.
RockOm: If you couldn’t play music any longer what do you think you would spend your time doing?
Kitaro: Photography is my second love; definitely photography.
RockOm: The great jazz musician Sun Ra is quoted as saying, “The planet is asleep and it’s the fault of musicians who are untrue to themselves.” Do you believe this?
Kitaro: I think most musicians try to remain true to themselves. I think some people on the planet may be sleepwalking sometimes, but the beauty of the planet is ever-changing, never sleeping and always glorious.
RockOm: Your Japanese nickname translates to “a much happy man”. Are you truly a happy man and are you content with your life?
Kitaro: So lucky, so peaceful, so busy… so happy!
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