10 questions for Hotei

Whether you know the name or not, you've definitely heard Hotei. The Japanese guitar superstar's epic instrumental Battle Without Honor Or Humanity provided the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, and has appeared in countless films and TV shows since.

Last year saw the release of star-studded full-length Strangers, with featured a host of guests including Iggy Pop, Bullet For My Valentine's Matt Tuck and Rammstein guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe.

In recent years, Hotei has relocated to London, but before he heads out on high-profile tours in the USA and Japan, he shared his thoughts on who he considers the greatest living guitarist, the right climate for ukulele practice and his search for a different kind of Mini amp…

1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

"One day, when I was 14 years old, a $100 note fell on me and I used it to buy a Stratocaster, which had no name but had an amp to go with it. The next day, my mother asked me if I saw a $100 note, but I said, 'Nope, I haven't seen it!'"

2. The building's burning down - what one guitar do you save?

"Probably my Zemaitis. I think it's the most expensive guitar in my collection. I could sell it and buy three new guitars!"

3. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?

"A Navigator Telecaster with my iconic drawing on it, which I sold for $100 to buy drinks. That guitar should be displayed at the entrance of the Hotei museum when I'm gone. If I could find it, I will buy it back for $200, so please give me a shout!"

4. And what's the next piece of gear you'd like to acquire?

I've possessed over 100 guitars over the years, but realised and regretted that I have not paid much care to them individually

"I've possessed over 100 guitars over the years, but realised and regretted that I have not paid much care to them individually. Now I've let go of about half of what I had, and I would like to 'communicate' with them more in depth, so I'm trying not to think about a new guitar. In fact, it's not a guitar - I'm looking for a small amp for gigs. Small enough to fit in a Mini Cooper."

5. Is there an aspect of guitar playing that you'd like to be better at?

"I'm still a premature guitarist. If I had the chance, I would like to start all over again. Imagine how happy I would be if I could play guitar freely like Jeff Beck and Brian Setzer! Having said that, I am proud of the unique sound only I can create.

"Now I have to believe in my style, and keep brushing up. My focus is more on silhouette over technique. I would like to be a guitarist where the audience can visualise from the sound I create."

6. When did you last practise and what did you play?

"I cried while I played Purple Rain yesterday."

7. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be?

If I had the chance, I would like to start all over again

"Brian Setzer. I think he's the greatest guitarist still alive. When I had a chance to have a drink with Brian and Jeff Beck, Jeff was asking Brian about rockabilly chords very passionately, and I still vividly remember that evening. He's not just a great musician/artist, he's a great human being, too."

8. What item of gear would you take with you to a desert island?

"Since there's no power, I'd have to play acoustic guitar… or maybe I should try ukulele? An island is the best place to practise ukulele! Playing ukulele in winter in London, in front of a fireplace is quite depressing."

9. What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you onstage?

"When the drummer started with the count totally different to what it was supposed to be on the next song! When the bassist kept playing in a key which was a half-note off of what's supposed to be... When a vocalist yelled at me saying my solo was too long (just stretched by eight bars…)"

10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?

"Try to be a unique guitarist who nobody can copy."

Strangers is out now via Spinefarm Records.

Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.