Interview by Luc Brunot.
Original version of the interview published in Bands Of Dixie #67 (March - April 2009)
Japanese artists seem particularly been outstanding by the Allman Brothers. At Bands Of Dixie, We well know Savoy Truffle, now Bluestone Company. The name of Kunio Kishida, currently less familiar, is also becoming more and more heard in our magazine. A guitarist who has been recording with the best of Capricorn staff! The release of his new opus, "slideaway" was of course the golden opportunity to meet Kunio.
When and where were you born?
I was born September 29, 1952 in Nagoya, Japan.
I was told you have a guitar shop. Is it your regular job?
Yes it is. I am also doing artist business now, along with the guitar shop.
What was your musical education? What were your influences, your models?
I was overwhelmed by British Rock of the 1960's. The Beatles and Cream mostly influenced me.
How did you learn music? Did you play in some bands before you started playing solo with your own band ?
I studied music by myself. The Beatles and the Cream were my Bible. I learned how to play the guitar with an older brother. I joined a southern rock band "The Rice field" back in 1974. This band broke up in 1979. I usually played the guitar for recording sessions in a studio. I played slide guitar for TV shows , radio commercial and young blues bands album. Nobody knows most of my studio work.
Could you tell us about your meeting with the Allman Brothers? When was it?
When they performed in Japan in 1990 and 1991. We became close friends
Could you tell us a little more? How did it happen? With whom in the Allman Brothers did you have relations particularly?
When they first came over to Japan in 1990, there were a lot of lucky things.
1) Allen Woody having been a friend when he had worked for vintage guitar shop in Nashville TN USA since 1979.
2) the ABB knew me by a Japanese player magazine and said that they wanted to see me.
3) Promoter and I had acquaintances, they let me hear flexibility in various ways
At first I made friends with Gregg and then with Dickey, Warren and historian Kirk West afterwards. I became friend with Kirk and He invited me to all the performances. At the time of the second visit to Japan, Gregg, Allen and Dickey came over to my store Nancy guitars. Gregg sang "Rain" and "Black Bird" of the Beatles songs for me. I was excited. nd Dickey was interested in Japanese archery, an older brother taught a way in archery ground. I took care of them.
When Gregg came in Japan for his solo concert in 1998, he introduced me his Washburn Gregg Allman model guitar#14. I was surprised! I was excited! I was so happy!
At first, you where influenced by the Beatles and Cream but when you met des Allman Brothers what was their influence on you?
I had been influenced by the Allman Brothers since 1969. When I first met them in Tokyo in 1990, I thought I must play the guitar more powerfully. I thought I can't get old.
Was "Swamp Waters", made in 2002, your first album?
Yes. I became a solo artist with this album.
The disc was produced by the legendary Johnny Sandlin with the participation of people like Paul Hornsby, Jimmy Johnson, Bonnie Bramlett or Scott Boyer. Is it you who chose to work with them?
No. Jerry asked the producer, who introduced Johnny. Johnny then called out everybody.
Could you tell us on the other musicians like bassist Wasley Jr. or the keyboard player "Samurai" Taylor, also found on your new disc "Slideaway"? Are they players with whom do you play usually?
We are old friends since the 1970's. Jerry played in the backup band for Brenda Lee. Sam Taylor is a great pianist and both were producers in Dallas, Texas. He produced the Kings X and many Texan bands. We often play together in Japan and in the USA
Could you tell us about these sessions? How did it go? It must have been a dream, no?
All the recording is analog-style. I formed the band, wrote the songs, recorded the guitar parts and completed the overdubbing all in three days. It was an unbelievable event. It felt like a dream to play with famous southern rock musicians and have it produced by the Allman Brothers producer.
All the tunes were penned by you. When did you write it?
Yes. I wrote all the music. I wrote them during between 1990 and 2002.
Didn't you want to do some covers? Especially from the Allman Brothers?
Yes, but Dickey Betts said, "Kunio, you should play the original music," in my car in 1991. Because of what he said, I did not do any covers. But, I want to do a cover sometimes soon.
In 2003, you released a four songs CD with two songs from "Swamp Water" and two live tunes recorded in Tokyo. Why this curious object?
Record fans "started the sound source that made an analog sound." The reason is because it was requested. In fact, I wanted to make it with old style recording techniques. It was a bonus track that came from one live recording take.
You returned to Muscle Shoals in 2005 for "Alabama Boy", still produced by Johnny Sandlin with well known musicians among which some former Capricorn fellows: Chuck Leavell, Paul Hornsby, Bobby Whitlock, Bonnie Bramlett. How was it?
I signed a contrast with King Records Japan and went to record "Alabama Boy". It was great! I was pleasantly surprised that Chuck Leavell and Bobby Whitlock participated, as well as the former members.
I've seen on CD Baby a 2006 two tunes album "Statesboro Blues" / "C Blues (Blues For Duane)" with the same musicians. Why to offer it separately?
After the album recording was over, these two pieces were recorded as bonus tracks. After talking with King Records, I decided to make the album using only the original piece of music.
In 2006, you proposed "Kunio Kishida Plays The Allman Brothers Band". Could you tell us about this project?
This is a project of the Japanese record company. For their demand, I played both guitars of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. I was very happy. But I did not get the approval of the two people. Hahaha [Editor's note: there are six songs in two versions. One with the two guitars, the other one with one of the guitar lacking... to practice]
Did you record something more before "Slideaway"?
No. I toured all the time.
Did you sell well all these discs?
"Swamp Waters" sold well. The second piece "Alabama Boy" is pretty good.
"Slideaway" was released last October. It still sells well.
Do you sell exclusively in Japan?
No, CaneHadge Records sells them at cdbaby.com an American web site.
Do you have some statistics on the sales repartition between Japan, USA and Europe?
If there is a person listening to my music, a CD may be popular in any country
And artistically, what do you think about these different albums?
The 1st album "Swamp Waters" showed respect for southern Rock music. In the 2nd album "Alabama Boy", I wanted to express my own music. In the 3rd album "Slideaway" I wanted to make an album as the guitarist. In other words, each one has a separate purpose.
When "Slideaway", your new project, was it recorded?
We recorded it at Palmyra Studios - Palmer Texas in October 2006 and April 2007.
Why did you choose to go to record this time in Texas with Sam Taylor as the producer?
The reason is simple. When we performed a few gigs in Texas in October 2006, Jerry recommend we should record a few songs. It was great. Then we recorded the other 8 songs in 2007 and did a full album.
The album is totally instrumental. Why do you not sing this time?
I wanted to make a guitar album this time.
The disc is more rock. Are you tired of the Capricorn sound?
Well. I do a hard performance this time. This will be because Sam produced it. Sam produces Kings X and a lot of Texas hard rock bands. In addition, I think that it is the influence that it played in Dallas Texas. The Capricorn sound is still my most favorite sound. In addition, I want to go in Alabama and in Georgia for recording if there is an opportunity.
The disc title is "Slideaway" but it doesn't seem to me that you use all the time a slide guitar. Why this title?
At first "Slideaway" is just a title of the song. I made it an album title because I recorded this song.
How could you define the musical style of this new album?
The concept of this album wanted to pursue possibility as the slide guitarist. I wanted to suggest the future of the slide guitar.
How do you choose the titles of your instrumental songs? For example, what is the link between the "Oriental Rose" title and its music?
I always compose by means of the music image it suggests me. In "The Oriental rose" I imagined the Oriental gigolette with the raven-black hair that danced at a disco in the 1960's, in was beautiful and I wrote a song about it.
Why this "Song For Dickey"?
In 1991, I talked with Dickey and that started my writing and when I think of that I want to give thanks to the artist.
What would you want to add on this disc?
I would like you to hear slide guitar sounds.
Let's talk about the live performances. Do you play I suppose in Japan. Do you play too in the US?
I do many live performances all over Japan. In U.S.A., I play around Dallas twice a year.
And elsewhere? Europe, Australia, I don't know where?
I have not yet played in other countries.
What is your current set list? I suppose you're mixing songs from your different albums but are you also doing some covers?
Yes. I make a list of sets from three of albums and maxi singles. For example, this is the order of music that I play at this time.
1STAGE : S1 Slide Away - S2 Oriental Rose - S3 Stomp House - S4 Pass Me By - s5 Witch Face - s6 What A Fool - s7 Long Time No See - s8 Helpin' Hand - S9 Wet- S10 Two Circles
2STAGE: a11 Sendai - a12 Celebration/Sadness - a13 What Will Be Will Be - m14 Mike's Shuffle - s15 I Got Sick? - s16 At Midnight - s17 Elvis-A-Go-Go Blues - a18 Alabama Boy - S19 Drivin' Me Crazy
Encore: m20 Statesboro Blues
(S: "Slideaway" s: "Swamp Waters" - a: "Alabama Boy - m: Maxi Single)
Are the Allman Brothers renowned in Japan?
Of course. But I think that the Allman Brothers are not more famous here than in the U.S.A.
The Allman Brothers Band and Capricorn Records created a style that permitted the Southern rock emergence. Is this style popular in your country?
It is popular with the older people, but I think that the young persons do not know it. Therefore I play it so that the people of the next generation know a good example of this music.
Are there some bands that are playing it?
Only a few bands
Do you know the ex-Savoy Truffle, now Bluestone Company and what do you think of them?
Yes. We knew each other since 2005. We are good friends. When I played concert in their home town, we played together a few times. I think the Bluestone is great. They are similar of the new Allman Brothers. They are supporting Chris Duarte now.
How are the shapes of the rock and of the blued in Japan?
Older Japanese people love the blues Rock and the blues. Because we started to listen Elvis, Beatles and 60's British blues rock. We love Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. They taught us the traditional blues. Eric played here last month. He has big success since 1974. I went to his concert 4 times. But Japanese young kids love Rap music. I hope young kids love the blues.
What are your favorite Southern rock albums?
It is the "Allman Brothers Band Live At Fillmore East" and "Brothers & Sisters".
Except the Allman Brothers?
Of course, I love the Cow Boy first, "Delaney and Bonnie On Tour", Derek and the Dominos Layla album, Lynyrd Skynyrd's second and many many.
"Swamp Waters", "Alabama Boy", "Statesboro Blues", "Slideaway" are available on CD Baby. If someone is interested by others projects, is it possible to buy it somewhere?
Please go to Amazon.com Japan. You can buy "Kunio Kishida plays the Allman Brothers".
What are the projects for the future?
I recorded my slide guitar playing for Japanese slide guitar guide book "Slide Bible" now. I played slide guitar for sample CD. I played slide guitar which are all of Duane Allman's style, Elmore James's, Eric Clapton's and my own style. I talked how to play slide guitar. It's a brand new book. The Shinko music publishing company said "This book will be coming out April 27 2009". I hope I will help every one who wants to play slide guitar.
I'm ready making my 4th album. I wrote several songs. I wish I can record it within the end of this year. I'm gonna make more natural Southern rock music.
My pleasure. I enjoyed very much.