ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages

Interviews of Prog

Hiroyuki Kitada
Hiroyuki Kitada
Interview by Vitaly Menshikov

1. Thank you for doing the interview, Hiroyuki. Before we move onto your latest work "Atlantis" I'd like to talk about your past. Who introduced you to music? Can you tell us of your jazz training and your first steps into Jazz Fusion? Is Group Therapy the very first Jazz Fusion band participated (and leading) by you?

Well, I remember my uncle had many jazz LPs and I listened to them when I was a child, but the first time I played a kind of jazz music was in the mid-80s. When I was a school boy, I took interests in rock music like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin or so, but soon my interest went into progressive rock like King Crimson, Yes, PFM etc when I was a high school student in the late 70s. And I started to play electric guitar as soon as I entered a high school, but was not interested in playing like a hard rock guitar hero. At the same time, I happened to buy Frank Zappa's albums those days, which has influenced me since then. Zappa is one of my most favorite guitarists. Also, in the late 70s and early 80s, jazz-fusion or jazz-rock, which were called Crossover Music here in Japan, became very popular. I usually listened to both progressive rock and jazz-fusion music like Jean-Luc Ponty, Al DiMeola, Weather Report etc. Frankly speaking, I entered jazz through that jazz-rock music. In my university days, I played the guitar with a band playing jazz-fusion influenced by "16 beat disco music". I did not like such disco type music, but as you can imagine, this kind of music was very very popular those days. I soon quitted the band because I really want to play the guitar like Zappa or play the music like Ponty, DiMeola etc.

After graduation from the university, I got a day job and got acquainted with a colleague at the workplace who liked jazz music and could play drums, sax and bass very well. Yeah, he was really a multi-musician and he suggested me to have a jam with his friends. The music played by them was mostly jazz-classics. To be honest with you, it was a very first experience for me to play such kind of music but I think this experience was very important. Well, this band was not a professional one, of course, and all the members had day-jobs and we did not play gigs so often.

And in 1988, I happened to meet a drummer who were very interested in playing free jazz and he was very fond of my playing. He said that he wanted to form a band to play free improvised music without ordinary rules and that asked me to join the band. Yes, this was the beginning of the original Group Therapy. The band started with 4 members - guitar, sax, bass and drums- and started playing very unique music with an influence of free jazz & rock music. A few months later, a trombone player joined us and we had a first gig. At that time we did not have a band name, so I named the band Group Therapy. Soon we found a violin player and played several gigs, but the band had to disband because the bass player left the band because of his day job. We,the original Group Therapy, stopped playing in 1992.

2. Can you explain the name of your band, Group Therapy? And what's the meaning of the cover?

OK, the music played by the original band was exciting but somewhat boring for certain audience at the same time. Please imagine, our music had no beautiful melodies and was full of free improvisation. I think when a man gets tired or bored, he will get into a sleep. At the same time, some people will be interested in a unique music. You know, our music is a kind of a therapy,

I thought, because that we could made the audience have a sleep and that we could also attract the people, who might be strange people. So I called the band Group Therapy.

The meaning of the cover.... well, we imagined what Atlantis was like. For me Atlantis is a mystery and reminds me of a desert, not a place full of beautiful nature. We would like to create something mysterious and a robot which our photographer put seems to be very effective. We really thank for our designer and photographer.

3. Well, "Atlantis". The music I hear on this album is not the usual style of (commercial) "fusion" covers. This is quite serious real Jazz-Rock-Fusion with strong and consummate structures... Please tell us about your personal view on this work and also about recording?

Thank you very much for your kind words, Vitaly. I'm very happy, but I think our music is not so complicated as other jazz-rock music.To be honest with you, we did not take enough time to make a CD because that we were very busy with day jobs and that we could not afford to pay for much expenses. All music was recorded almost live at the recording studio and did a few overdubs only in 8 hours! We went to the studio again to record the flute, ah, the flute player is a beautiful woman and she played as a guest, and to mix tracks. >From my point of view, the CD was better than we had expected. The music you can hear on this CD are our regular repertoires at gigs. I had some more compositions which was more progressive but the time could not allow us to record them.

4. The band Group Therapy was reunited in 1995... Can you introduce its members and tell us a little about them? What's a story of the band?

As I said you before, the original Group Therapy disbanded in 1992. After stopping playing I had been writing many compositions and I wanted to play my music with a band again. Then, in 1995, I decided to reunite a band. The sax and trombone players are original members, and the rhythm section was changed. I found a new drummer and a bassist, and invited a young guitarist to a band. We started rehearsing in May 1995, but the bass player had his own band and soon left the band. We found another bassist and had gigs several times in this new line-up, but once again the bassist had to left the band because he also played with an another band. In the late 1996, we put a want ad for a bassist at instrumental shops, then, to my surprise, a young British called my cellular phone! I never expected that such a guy would call me! Well, he was a real good player. Without him, we could not have made a CD. To our regret he was back to UK in 1998 after recording Atlantis and now we are playing with a Japanese bassist who joined us this March.

5. Back to your "Atlantis" album, can you tell us about its composing? Any major influences?

I usually use the YAMAHA sequencer when composing music. Influence? Well, it's difficult to say. As you know, I'm using the Roland guitar-synthesizer. I do not play solos with this guitar-synthe' so often but like string synthe' sound which we can hear in progressive rock music. I'm not sure what music and who have influenced me a lot, and I think my music is very characteristic. Each members in the band has his own different tastes for music. For example, a sax player likes O.Coleman, a drummer likes funk music very much. These differences makes our music very unique. And you know, most melodies I make are very easy and memorable. >From this point of view, my music could be a kind of POP music. But solo parts are played ad-lib and some compositions are suites. But my music does not have typical way of Jazz-Fusion and Progressive rock. I don't know what I should call my music. What do you think? Is my music categorized among Jazz-Fusion?

(VM) No doubt. A kind of music you play is real Contemporary Jazz Fusion. I can't find in my head another term to describe "Atlantis". This albums contains all the "ingredients" of that genre.

6. What were the general Rock press reactions after hearing the "Atlantis" album? And of the public in general?

We got a favorable review by the "Progression" magazine of US and by a few webzines including you. Thanks Vitaly. And many of the listeners seem to like our music. But our name is not so popular in Japan because we do not promote our music....

7. Do you tour much?

No. Because we have just started rehearsing with a new member. But we will play at "Progressive Hard Night" which is scheduled to be held in Osaka in January 2000. Several well-known local progressive rock and jazz-rock bands participate in it.

8. Final questions: Have you planning to record a new (second) studio album? If so, where? On the same label "Mellow" in San-Remo?

Yes. We are now practicing several songs we did not record in the 1st album. I'm not sure when we can record them, but I'll send a master to Mellow when we finish.

(VM) Thanks again for an interview and all the best wishes in the future.

October 18, 1999.

More about Hiroyuki Kitada/Group Therapy you can find at:
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