Justin’s Japan: Interview with Tak Matsumoto and Koshi Inaba of B’z on the Live-Gym 2012 Tour

Tak Matsumoto, left: “This tour is going to be the fourth tour in the U.S. for B’z. I always love to play in the U.S., and I felt we should release English songs for the American audiences. The show will be a mix of both Japanese and English.” (Vermillion)

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02) for Examiner.com. Visit his Japanese culture page here for related stories.

The most successful group in Japanese history, B’z have sold 80 million records since their 1988 debut, and also have released a staggering 46 consecutive number one singles. Comprised of Grammy-winning guitarist Tak Matsumoto and ace vocalist Koshi Inaba, the rock duo has flirted with American success in the past, launching three of their Live-Gym West Coast tours in the last decade.

Now, B’z is ready for a full-scale American invasion, launching their first-ever national tour beginning in San Francisco Sept. 17 and hitting New York’s Best Buy Theater Sept. 30. At the same time, the band is promoting its debut English-language digital EP entitled B’z, which features five of the stadium act’s biggest hits made for a whole new audience.

In this exclusive interview, I caught up with Tak and Koshi on why the band waited until now to do a coast-to-coast tour, their experience working with other rock luminaries like Aerosmith and Linkin Park, and the plans in motion for the band’s 25th anniversary next year.

Let’s start with the basics. How did the band get its name?

Tak: I don’t remember exactly. We probably thought we needed to have a simple name that was easy to memorize.

Koshi: We wanted a short name—like a code. At first, it was AZ, which came from an A to Z kind of meaning, but we didn’t like how it was pronounced. Then we changed it to B to Z, and liked how it sounded.

Why has B’z decided to finally play New York now?

Tak: I don’t know exactly why it took so long, but I’ve been waiting to perform there. I’m really looking forward to it.

Koshi: When we started performing in the U.S., most of our dates were on the West Coast. We weren’t familiar enough with New York to have a show there.

Tell us about the other musicians you’re performing with on this tour.

Tak: Takanobu Masuda is on keyboards. He’s my old friend, and has been performing with B’z for 20 years. Shane Gaalaas is on drums. He’s played with Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen and many others. He also has his own band, Cosmosquad. Barry Sparks is on bass. He also played with Michael and Yngwie, along with Ted Nugent, UFO and the Scorpions as well. Yoshinobu Ohga is on guitar. He was on our last tour of the U.S. I’m supported by his perfect harmony.

Koshi: Ohga joined last year. Everyone else has been touring with B’z for a long time, and they’re all great.

What can we look forward to at these shows?

Tak: We are going to the East Coast for the first time, but this tour is going to be the fourth tour in the U.S. for B’z. I always love to play in the U.S., and I felt we should release English songs for the American audiences. The show will be a mix of both Japanese and English.

Koshi: We’re looking forward to the U.S. audience hearing our new English songs. You might sweat a lot at our show, but you’ll enjoy it!

Is this new EP part of a plan to release a full English-language album in the future?

Tak: I hope so.

For the complete interview, click here.