guitarist / composer
Improvising guitarist, turntablist and composer, Otomo Yoshihide, is one of the most prominent figures in experimental and avant-garde music of his generation. Born 1959 in Yokohama, Japan, Otomo was the son of an engineer, which led to an early interest in building electronic sound-generating devices and collages using open-reel tape recorders. During high school, Otomo performed in a local rock band before moving on to free jazz, influenced primarily by saxophonist Kaoru Abe and guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi. In university, he also became fascinated with folk music, and in 1981 travelled to Hainan, China, to research the area’s musical culture.
Upon returning to Tokyo, Otomo became involved in the free improvisation scene in earnest, leading to the bands No Problem and ORT, and a duo with saxophonist Junji Hirose in the late 1980s. In 1990, Otomo joined bassist Kato Hideki’s group, Player Piano, and also formed his own noise rock group, Ground Zero. A defiantly noisy amalgam of jazz, rock and the avant-garde, the group shattered minds with five groundbreaking albums before disbanding in 1998. Other Otomo-helmed groups of the period included the Double Unit Orchestra, Mosquito Paper and Sampling Virus Project. After Ground Zero, he continued to branch out into a range of diverse projects, such as the minimal sine wave-based explorations of Filament and I.S.O., or a return to jazz with his New Jazz Quintet.
A consummate collaborator, he continued to work with artists such as Christian Marclay, Keith Rowe, John Zorn, Günter Müller, Jon Rose, Sachiko M, Akita Masami and Haino Keiji, among many others. In recent years, he has focused on his “Ensembles”, a series of unique collaborative concerts and musical works.
In addition to his own groups and performance, he continues to make his mark as a highly versatile and in-demand composer for film and television, and has produced more than 70 movie soundtracks to date. He has received numerous awards for his scores, including the Japan Record Award in 2013.
His artistic pursuits have also gained prominence due to his community involvement, which include music workshops for disabled children and his activities following the Great East Japan Earthquake, most notably PROJECT FUKUSHIMA!, for which he received a Minister of Education Award in 2012.