Photos taken by Faith Orcino

Thanks to organizers at Anime California, I spoke with Kohei Hattori, a Japanese musician that seemed always traveling to many venues to perform around the world. 

Q: Earlier this month you were actually in California for Animanga and now you’re back in the L.A. area for Anime California. You’ve been visiting a lot of places. Do you get tired during the traveling and how do you keep up with going to so many places?
Kohei Hattori: I’m travelling like every week. I’m flying. I was in Chicago last week and I’m in California for the fifth time this year. The first one was in March, second was Anime Expo and I was here in the beginning of this month. Flying from New York to West Coast takes like six hours. Kinda tiring but whenever I have a chance to perform at a convention or concert, those attendees and audience give me energy. Honestly, I actually never get tired of travelling.

Q: How did you start in the music industry?
KH: When I was 13 or 14 years old, I was in Japan. I used to listen to rock music, a band called X-Japan. I got inspired by X-Japan. I loved their music so much then somehow I felt like I wanted to play music. Maybe drums or I don’t know, piano or whatever. I just wanted to play music. Then I asked my mom “Can I buy a drum set?” but she said, “No. The drum is like too big and too loud for small apartment.” Then I asked, “How about guitar?” and she said yes. So he bought me a guitar then I started playing guitar. It was really fun. Everyday, I was playing and practice, practice. I was playing all day. Sometimes I forgot to get sleep. I just realized “Oh! It’s morning now.” You know what I mean? Then after high school, I went to music school. At the time I was learning guitar but really more like jazz and blues music. Then after I graduated, I joined a band as a guitarist and I played for almost five-six years.
I realized that I always had a message to the audience or people. But if you’re the guitarist and not the main persson, sometimes it’s limited. You don’t get the chance to talk. If you’re the singer, the main person, you can talk as long as you want. But I was just the guitarist in the band. I had the chance to talk to audience between songs, but it was limited. I always had a message but sometimes my manager told me my message was too political or too serious. “Kohei, your message is too serious. Those are kids who come to the club to have fun. Nobody wants to hear about social problems.” But I think music is powerful. You can tell anything through the music. I always had a message but my manager kinda asked me to stop doing MC things, so I had to stop. I was like, “If I can’t do my MC things, I don’t have to be there.” I felt like anyone can replace my spot.
Then I quit the band and I was like, “What should I do?” I started doing DJ, then MC, started performing at the nightclubs too. Then I was like “Maybe I should be a singer. then I became a singer. In the beginning, I was doing R&B and hip-hop. Then in 2010, I was travelling like almost ten countries. I want to Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France, London and I came to America too. I was in a stadium in Los Angeles. The last stop was in New York. I stayed there for three month and I had a great time, a great experience there. I went to jam sessions and open mics and then I met so many great singers and musicians there too. Then I realized that this was the place to be, like “I gotta come back here.” I decided to move to New York in 2011.

Kohei Hattori at AC 2019 opening ceremony

Q: Sometimes when you MC, is it different mindset compared to being a singer?
KH: I think some singers don’t like to talk a lot on stage. It’s okay; it’s their style. Do you have to talk on stage? Not really; it’s not necessary. But if you got a message, you gotta talk. You can tell them through the music too but if you’re talking to them directly, you can tell them something. It’s different from singing. To be, MCing is also a part of my entertainment, my performance.

Q: Did you have any notable musicians that played either as a role model or inspiration to you throughout your career as a performer?
KH: I think they’re kinda like my role models. I met these guys in New York. Like those people played for famous singers like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson. I see them on TV too, Alicia Keys, Chris Brown. They play for famous musicians like Rihanna. Those people when they have no gigs, they come to local venues in New York. That’s a good point about living or performing in New York. You can perform with those amazing musicians who play for famous singers.

Q: Do you have a favorite genre to listen either leisurely or when you’re making music?
KH: I think to me genre is genre. I understand people have to categorize music. It’s easy for them because there are so many types of music here. It makes it easy for everybody. “This is rock music. This is punk music. This is like classical.” They’re different. I understand they have to have a genre. They have to categorize music but to me, good music is good. Music is music so sometimes I don’t care. If that music is good, I just listen. I love everything. I love rock music, hip-hop, reggae, punk music classical, bossa nova, whatever. If you listen to different types of music, you can be more open-minded and you music can be more unique.

Message to Fans:
KH: I just want to say that those people who come to anime conventions are amazing. They support Japanese culture and Japanese anime. I can travel because of them. I can go and perform in different countries and states because of them. So I just want to tell them I appreciate their support and just want to say thank you. I love you guys.

For more about Kohei Hattori, visit his website or follow his Instagram account.