By John Katic
In 1988, guitarist Tak Matsumoto and vocalist Koshi Inaba formed the rock duo B’z.
Over the next 24 years, B’z released 18 albums and 50 singles, 46 of which debuted at No. 1 on Japan’s Oricon singles chart. B’z have sold more than 80 million CDs in Japan alone, making them the best-selling artists in that country's history.
Gibson recently made a signature-model guitar for Matsumoto, which means he has joined Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Ace Frehley, Slash and other legends on a short list. Check out Gibson's Tak Matsumoto Doublecut Custom Ebony.
B’z first English-language EP, B'z, was released July 25 and is available through iTunes. The EP includes the band's new single, “Into Free-Dangan-," which also is featured in the Dragon’s Dogma video game.
I recently had the chance to chat with Matsumoto, who is about to embark on a U.S. tour in support of the EP.
“This will be our fourth U.S. tour," Matsumoto says. "We love playing for American audiences and are excited to share our first English-language release with our fans.”
Check out the interview and tour dates below.
GUITAR AFICIONADO: You grew up in Japan in the 1960s and '70s. What attracted you to the guitar?
I listened to The Beatles song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" for the first time when I was 13. I was really attracted to the guitar solo by Eric Clapton. (To tell the truth, I believed the solo was played by George Harrison.) The vibrato sounded just like crying. I still love to hear that song.
You've crossed paths with Steve Vai many times throughout your career. How did that relationship come about?
I met him when he was recording his album Ultra Zone. We wrote a song and had a nice Indian dinner together at his studio, which was really fun. I believe Mr. Steve Vai is definitely one of the most legendary guitar players.
You've played with the likes of Larry Carlton, Billy Sheehan, Jack Blades and many others. Was there one player you were most intimidated by?
I'm very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given to perform with great players. To be honest, during the Take Your Pick Tour, I felt a little nervous playing "Room 335" with Mr. Larry Carlton every night.
B'z recently released a self-titled EP, which is your first English-only offering. After 24 years, what led you in that direction?
I always love to play in the U.S., and I felt we should release English songs for the American audiences.
Even in the era of digital downloads and declining record sales across the industry, B'z continue to enjoy tremendous sales. Can you share secret?
We just keep creating and doing what we do best. Being a member of B'z motivates me to work hard and keep on going.
We hear many artists talk from the perspective of a Western musician touring in Japan. What's it like for you to come to the U.S.? How do the audiences compare to those in Asia?
I think American audiences respond more directly than Japanese. I love all audiences.
Do you anticipate spending more time in the U.S. touring for this new EP?
I would love to do that! We're planning to tour all over Japan next year because it’s the 25th anniversary of B'z, but we'll be back in the U.S.!
Your taste in guitars seems to gravitate to the classics. Gibson Custom now offers the elegant Tak Matsumoto Doublecut Custon Ebony. Can you talk about your role in its design?
My most important order was to make a double-cutaway guitar for playing in the high position easier, and I chose the beautiful quilted maple. Though Gibson is the greatest guitar company, as everyone knows, they always try to create something new. I really respect them and am proud to be a signature artist.
Your latest solo release, Strings of My Soul, is available in the U.S. Can you compare/contrast your solo material with B'z for those who are unfamiliar?
My solo album is basically instrumental. Compared to B'z, it's a lot more bluesy and mellow.
B’z North American Tour Dates:
9/17 San Francisco, CA @The Warfield
9/19 Seattle, WA @The Showbox SODO
9/20 Vancouver BC @Orpheum Theatre
9/26 Toronto, ON @Sound Academy
9/28 Silver Spring, MD @The Fillmore
9/30 New York, NY @Best Buy Theater
10/7 Los Angeles, CA @Gibson Amphitheatre
For more information visit the band's official website.