Interview by: Robert Cavuoto
In January 2018, Loudness released their first album in four years, Rise to Glory! The band consisting of Akira Takasaki on guitar, Minoru Niihara on vocals, Masayoshi Yamashita on bass, and Masayuki Suzuki on drums have created a powerful offering from start to finish. There is no shortage of melodic songs with killer riffs and aggressive solos. From the heavy opening track of “Soul on Fire” to the melodically haunting album finale, “Let’s All Rock,” guitarist Akira delivers some supreme guitar-playing proving he is still at the top of its game. His jaw-dropping playing is always rich in technique and tone. Minoru’s powerful vocals add the fuel to the band’s fiery songs. To the excitement of fans this year the band will embark on their biggest tour since the 80s. It’s the beginning of the band’s Rise to Glory.
I was able to catch up with Akira, one of the most influential and gifted guitarists of our time, to talk about the band’s newest release, his quest for the perfect guitar tone and dominating the world with an upcoming tour.
Robert Cavuoto: Loudness continues to deliver fantastic hard rock your new CD Rise to Glory solidifies that. What do you attribute that level of consistent strong songwriting to?
Akira Takasaki: The key is writing songs every day. I listen to different types of music, not just metal. Also cultivating the band’s different musical tastes and trying various arrangements when we are recording the songs to get the best results.
Robert Cavuoto: Rise to Glory is your 27th LP; it’s an amazing accomplishment by any standard. Bands from the US who started at a similar time in the 1980’s don’t have a third of the LP’s Loudness has. How has it been possible to record and release so many LPs?
Akira Takasaki: Loudness never called it a day like so many other bands. Since 1981 we kept releasing albums almost every year even when we were active only in Japan. I think those 27 albums came to fruition because we’ve always had a great staff around us and we have done everything as we like. We’ve always tried to make an album on par with the global standard.
Robert Cavuoto: The guitar tones and distortion on Rise to Glory vary from song to song. For example, “Soul on Fire” and “Rise to Glory” have a different tone than “Go for Broke.” Was that a conscious decision to change the guitar tones and do you spend a lot of time on your quest for tone?
Akira Takasaki: It takes a lot of time to pursue the correct tone which the song requires. I used various guitars and amps for the recording besides my Killer KG- Prime and my ESP Random Star, which are my main guitars. In many instances, I used multiple guitars in the same song. Also, the album was recorded in four different studios over five separate periods of time.
Robert Cavuoto: What were some of the guitars that you used beside your Killer KG- Prime and ESP Random Star guitar?
Akira Takasaki: I always use my Killer KG-Prime, and ESP Random Star but I also used a Stratocaster, Les Paul, and SG. For amps, I used Friedman, Marshall JMP-1, and RM6550 which I always use. I also used an old Marshall 50W as well as various Marshalls, Laneys, and Fender amps
Robert Cavuoto: Most Loudness riffs have a signature sound, something that tells you right away its Loudness. How important are great riffs to Loudness’s success?
Akira Takasaki: Riffs are one of the important elements for rock bands. Of course, it’s an important part of Loudness, too. I’m always writing riffs and stockpiling them, so I’ve never been short of song ideas for albums. I’ve already come up with eight great new riffs this year, so I can say I am full of rock riffs! [Laughing]
Robert Cavuoto: Do you typically improvise your solos or is that something you work on after the song is written?
Akira Takasaki: Sometimes I improvise solos while other times I set the frame first and compose it. I guess the way I did this time was somewhat close to what I had done in the 80s.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me what you think is the difference between being a great guitarist and being a shredder.
Akira Takasaki: A great guitarist is better than a shredder. There are various styles needed to be a great guitarist, and one of them is to shred. But if you cannot do anything but shred, you’re probably not a great guitarist.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the significance of the CD title – Rise to Glory.
Akira Takasaki: With the hope that 2018 will be a year with great progress for Loudness and to pull off a victory!
Robert Cavuoto: After Hurricane Eyes at the height of the hard rock explosion in the United States Loudness seemed to disappear from the US, what happened?
Akira Takasaki: Atlantic Records had some changes in their organization. During that period we had to become less active outside of Japan, but still, we were working on our music at our own pace and making albums like Soldier of Fortune and touring in Japan. The third period of Loudness sold a lot of records in Japan, so we were touring intensively here.
Robert Cavuoto: Early in 2017, there was a US tour scheduled, and then it was canceled. What happened and will there be a tour in 2018?
Akira Takasaki: We were denied entering the US simply because management failed to get the proper Visa. With our newest and best album, we’re 100% ready to come back to the US. We’re looking forward to starting a new tour.