By Yusuke Tsuruta / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterIf you listen to TAKURO’s debut solo album expecting the guitarist to sound like he does with popular rock band GLAY, you have a surprise in store. On “Journey Without a Map,” from the Pony Canyon label, he breaks new ground as a musician by dabbling in instrumental music with strong tints of jazz and blues.
TAKURO said he often listens to blues from the pre-World War II years, as well as such jazz greats as Miles Davis and Kenny Burrell.
“When I removed the GLAY ‘filter,’ the music I wanted to do turned out to be this,” he said. “I didn’t receive a musical education, but I’ve tried to reflect [in the album] the music I’ve been listening to and the way I live.”
Since GLAY made its debut more than two decades ago in 1994, TAKURO has been the band’s leader, lyricist and composer. But with the passage of time, he became able to share those roles with the other members. When he suddenly stopped and took stock of himself, the basic desire to simply play the guitar began stirring inside him.
He consulted with guitarist Takahiro Matsumoto of rock duo B’z, who has a longer career, on his desire to cut a solo album around his 50th birthday, one in which he could look back on his life up to that point. Matsumoto (also known as Tak Matsumoto), responded, “Just do it now.” With that push of encouragement, TAKURO decided to release the album at age 45, and asked Matsumoto to be the producer.
When he tried to compose instrumental music, however, he was not sure how. All Matsumoto would tell him was, “There’s no difference between music with lyrics and just instrumentals.” Progress on the album stalled for a while before he suddenly came up with “Hakodate Biyori.” TAKURO set the feelings he gets when he thinks of his hometown of Hakodate, Hokkaido, to the sounds of the guitar, making the most of the instrument’s characteristics. TAKURO said he developed an understanding for writing instrumentals, although he finds it difficult to explain how he did it.
He completed almost all of the other songs over the next two months.
The album was recorded in Los Angeles. TAKURO said Matsumoto would come up with various suggestions, such as to use a different string for a certain piece or tell him that his timing was off. “He guided me as if I were the most novice musician,” TAKURO recalled with a laugh.
His goal for the album was to generate clean sounds. He opted not to use synthesizers or strings that can overwhelm the work as a whole. He wanted one sound to come out that could be convincing. In the title track, he starts with a note sustained so long it feels like it may run out of breath.
TAKURO intends to continue with solo projects, working around his main activities with GLAY.
“I’ll keep on doing solos for 10, 20 years until I hear people say ‘He’s really doing something,’” he said.
Les Paul, who developed the world-renowned electric guitar bearing his name, continued to perform in clubs until his death at the age of 94.
“Like him, I want to play the guitar until the end of my life,” TAKURO said.