This Wednesday night (June 4) at 7:30pm, Kohei Hattori, of the up-and-coming Japanese anime rock band The Asterplace, will be performing and competing live at Amateur Night at the world-famous Apollo Theater.
A skilled vocalist and guitarist, Kohei has been passionate about music and social justice from very young. Below is an excerpt of an interview I was honored to conduct with him regarding his history and what he hopes to do as a musician. Come out and support this inspirational musician–you can buy tickets here, starting from $20.00.
“After high school I went to music school to learn how guitar–after graduating, I join a band and worked with a music company. I always wanted to talk to the audience about more than just superficial things, but it was very difficult to do in Japan, because Japanese music companies don’t want political messages or any serious things. People are spoiled in Japan–they just want to have fun, with light-hearted music. I understand that, but sometimes you need to understand and care about your society. The suicide rate in Japan is really high–every year, over 30,000 people commit suicide. This is old news, but people don’t want to talk about it.
I felt like I should do something, so I started working with a non profit organization, picking up garbage off the streets of Tokyo. This is a message for people who litter on the street–Tokyo is clean compared to other major cities, but I still see tobacco and trash on the street. I also conducted workshops in schools to teach kids about social justice issues like hunger, poverty, racism, sexism, bullying at school, suicide, and sex education … I had the opportunity to both teach and hang out with kids, which was an amazing experience.
This was all back in 2009, but soon after, I decided I wanted to be a singer or MC so that I can say anything I want and I can spread my message about what I believe is important. In 2010, I decided for certain to become a singer, but the journey was really hard–I had to learn everything from scratch, because singing and playing guitar are totally different. 2010 was a big turning point in my life. I travelled to London, Paris, Singapore, Korea, Indonesia and NYC. When I went back to Japan, I had made up my mind that NYC is the right place for me. Here, music is so active and dynamic, and so many great musicians are in NYC. For the next year, all I could think about was coming back. It was not easy, but I made it back finally in 2011. Since I came to NYC, I have learned so many things from some inspirational musicians and singers. Actually, I auditioned for Apollo back in 2012, and even in 2013. I didn’t make it either of those years, but I finally made it this year, in 2014. It’s such a gratifying experience to know that I’m still growing. I feel like this place makes me stronger and better, and I really want to be a part of this society as an artist.”