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
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
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
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
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
me! Well, he was a real good player. Without him, we could not have made a
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
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
For example, a sax player likes O.Coleman, a drummer likes funk music very
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
(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
(VM) Thanks again for an interview and all the best wishes in the future.