Interview with Hideaki Nakama

interview - 10.03.2006 23:00

Metal guitarist Hideaki Nakama spoke to us about Hell’n’Back during an exclusive interview in Japan

To any fan of Japanese metal bands, the name Hideaki Nakama should sound familiar. In the late 80's he was in the band HURRY SQUARY and had his own solo works. He played with Anthem as well, and now he's working in the USA with American musicians on his newest band Hell’n’ Back.

JaME had an exclusive interview with Hideaki Nakama to ask him everything about Hell’n’ Back and his former activities.


It seems Hell’n’ Back is considered as Western music in Japan. Are you intending to make this kind of music?

Hideaki: Yes! I have been playing this music style ever since I started playing guitar!

Are you and the other band members currently in Japan? Do you mainly want to play outside of Japan?

Hideaki: I’m living in Japan but the other members are in the U.S.A, in Orlando and Las Vegas. We want to play overseas, but we will play anywhere!

Where did you record this album? And would you tell me about the creation and recording of the songs? Was there any difference between recording in Japan and recording overseas?

Hideaki: We recorded the basic tracks in the studio of Dan’s house in Oakland, where band’s instruments are set up, and we were able to try recording whenever we wanted. That was the difference from recording in Japan; except we did some dubbing and mixing in Japan.

You have successfully kept to the western ‘hard rock’ style since you started to play guitar, and finally you have gotten your ideal band style. Vocalist, Dan Bryant is living in Oakland, CA, and drummer, Jimmy Wells and bassist, Jim Ward are living in Las Vegas now, aren’t they?

Hideaki: Recently Dan moved to Las Vegas, but the other members are living in Bay Area.

When I looked at your profile on your website, I couldn’t find the name of keyboardist, David Swendig. Is he a support member of Hell’n’ Back?

Hideaki: Yes! He is a good friend, and our support member. He has been playing with Dan before forming Hell’n’ Back, and collaborating with us since we started the band.

Mr. Nakama, you released your debut album [BREAK IT UP] with HURRY SCUARY in 1988, which was the sound track of the movie [TOP DOG]. Since your debut, your music is of very high quality. Why did you write all lyrics of this album in English?

Hideaki: I have always liked Western music so it seemed natural to write the lyrics in English. In addition, this album was the sound track of a movie. The record company and the producer of the movie agreed with the English lyrics. At that time most Japanese metal rock bands wrote lyrics in Japanese. I had really important experiences of making and releasing this album. I thank many people, especially Paul Raymond of UFO, for their help with making this excellent album.

You released the solo album [Point of No Return] in 1989, a year after your debut album. This album seemed to be different from HURRY SCUARY’s. Did you make these songs in your solo album during the same period of HURRY SCUARY?

Hideaki: Since the release of HURRY SCUARY’s album, I shaped my ideas during the live tour. The title song was made the same time, which included many ideas expressed by my guitar. But the song [2004~] was based on a guitar riff I wrote when I was about 20 years old, and some other songs I had already played on the stage with HURRY SCUARY, so I can’t say all the songs were new. During the live tour, I went back and forth between many regional lives and recording in Tokyo, finally finishing the recording at the end of 1988.

You are a very talented guitar player being able to play many styles, such as hard rock and classic. How did you learn to play the guitar? When and why did you start to play guitar?

Hideaki: I remember my first motive was watching the live of KISS on TV around 1977. I also watched Rainbow, UFO, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent and Judas Priest. It was around this time that I started playing guitar. I copied western albums by myself. I have never learnt to play guitar through teachers, but many excellent guitarists were my good teachers at that time.

On your solo album [Point of No Return], there is a classical acoustic guitar song [EL GIZA]. Did you learn this acoustic style all by yourself?

Hideaki: The song [EL GIZA] was one of the styles that I really wanted to play on my solo album; it’s similar to the music played by Paco de Lucia who is a master of Flamenco, and Al di Meola who is a fusion guitarist. I was shocked when I first listened to their music at the beginning of my guitarist career, and they became my favourites. I’m usually more nervous playing an acoustic style, but basically in the same way. As for classical music, the 8th song of the album was actually played with 22 string players in the recording. Playing a melody line with a base line at once is commonly present in old classical guitar music, which was started by guitarists such as Ritchie Blakemore and Randy Rhoads. I used to listen to baroque music, and all I do in my way.

Surely there were many guitar heroes in 1970’s to 1980’s. Could you tell me your favourite guitarists who are your models?

Hideaki: My most favourite guitarists were Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth. I listened to their music again and again, and copied them. I also listened to Ritchie Blakemore and Gary Moore as well. It was so impressive that each guitarist had beautiful melodies and aggressive guitar riffs, so I was very happy to hear from a person listening to my album that I’m a guitarist who has both beautiful feminine solos and strong aggressive riffs in my music.

There are some people who collaborate with foreign musicians, but not so many of them will make a band. You went overseas alone, and made the band, Hell’n’ Back. Did your eagerness to play with foreign musicians drive you to do so?

Hideaki: I went to the U.S.A. to find my ideal singer, one who could spoke English and who could be my long-term partner, such as Page and Plant (note: , Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant) or Taylor and Perry (note: Steve Tyler und Joe Perry, Aerosmith) , or to find a vocalist having an overwhelming existence such as Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson. Another reason was to find my ideal drummer who could keep the speedy and loud kick that corresponds to the modern heavy metal sound, because I was absorbed in drum sounds at that time and I thought there were many drummers like that in the U.S.A. Those were the reasons why I left Japan for the U.S.A!

On your homepage there is a brief introduction with details of how you met Dan through an agency and made Hell’n’ Back together. Did you have any troubles during your first experience of living in the U.S.A all by yourself?

Hideaki: I really don’t know if I can say anything about that, because I’m a man who is only doing only what I want to do. Well, as for difficulties of language, it was almost the same as in Japan, because I only talked out of need in conversations. If I had to say there was any difference, I would say that it is that American people have freer and easier nature compared to me, so they can keep a more wholesome relationship with music than the Japanese. There was an interesting episode that helped me by chance. A college student studying abroad from Japan brought my CD and let American musicians and guitarists listen to it, so they knew me well before I saw them.

In Europe, Japanese music is becoming more popular in accordance with the Japanese animation and manga boom. We also dream that Japanese music will spread beyond all borders to every part of the world. Hideaki, you are Japanese and made a rock band with American musicians. How much of European music and Japanese music do you see in the U.S.A.

Hideaki: In the U.S.A, I don’t often hear new European heavy metal bands except for the famous bands and past works. I often hear American new heavy rock, which seems almost the same music because they have mainly rhythm guitar without a guitar solo. In comparison, European bands are rather orthodox, a seemingly past music style for Americans, I think. As for Japanese music, I don’t really know, and don’t really like listening to it.

Could you tell me about the new album [Sacred wind] released on December 7th 2005?

Hideaki: [Sacred wind] is a very heavy and melodic piece of work. Sometimes we have to sacrifice either one or the other, but I was able to mix both elements well without any compromise. I think that I have been able to create a new band sound with both orthodox and current American trends throughout.

Could you tell me what activities you plan to do from now?

Hideaki: This year I want to do many lives in various places, domestic or overseas, and I want to release the video of the promotional lives from last year.

Please give your message to foreign fans.

Hideaki: Thank you very much for supporting me always. I’m planning activities overseas, so please look out for me. I hope you’ll like my new album as much as my past ones!


Interviewer: Non-Non


Special thanks to DANGER CRUE for the interview and to Toshikazu Oguruma for offering the photograph.
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