This year I had the privilege to attend the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, California. I met a lot of cool people and saw a lot of awesome electronics, amps and gadgets, as well
as the most beautiful instruments I have ever laid eyes on.
As I stopped from booth to booth at this event I met one interesting person after another. So many great conversations. I went around handing out Demo CD’s of my own band
(whenever it seemed appropriate) because after all, everyone is really there to make connections and promote their stuff and I was no exception.
There was only one person who offered me a CD at the event. I didn’t have much of a conversation with him, but at least I had the mindfulness to have him autograph the CD
cover for me, because you never know…Once I arrived back home in upstate New York, I was finally able to give this disc a listen. All I can say is, this CD kicks ass. It’s a 5 song
EP and by the time it was over, I found myself disappointed because I didn’t want it to be over yet. So I let it play over again, and again, and again.
Well, to get to my point, I ended up interviewing the man responsible for this music.
His name is Masaki Murashita. He has some of the biggest names in metal on his disc and he is one cool dude. His music can be found on here on iTunes (http://apple.
co/1Xo7mZ6) and BandCamp (https://murashita.bandcamp.com/).
I picked up a guitar/bass first back when I was about 10 years old and played in a kids band in Japan. I played for a couple of
years, then quit until I turned 15 and picked up an acoustic guitar. I started listening to punk rock then heavier stuff like old
Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Ozzy, etc and started copying their songs on guitar/bass.
Then I joined a cover band with friends in high school in Canada and played bass. It was nothing serious, just for fun. That was
the beginning. Since I was born in Japan and didn't speak much English at the time, as well as many cultural differences, I had
a hard time making friends and expressing myself. As soon as I started playing with people, it made much easier to make
friends and I realized the power of music. We all had a different culture and background, but we listened to the same music
which helped me learning English too.
Can you tell us about your early beginnings? When you realized you
wanted to be a guitarist, especially when you decided to be a metal
musician? Was there a moment that you can recall when it just came to you
that this is what you want to do?
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At that point, I wanted to move to the U.S., after high school and decided to
move to Seattle. It wasn't too far from where I was and I thought the town was
known for music. More specifically, Grunge. I didn't get to do much while I was
there. Actually, I was not serious yet and didn't really try to do anything.
A few days later, I walked into his studio and was blown away with his work and attitude towards his work.
I realized it takes a serious effort to achieve success with a passion, and I stopped partying and drinking from then on. I became his assistant
and learned a lot not only about recording, but also work ethic,the industry, mentality, etc. I probably wouldn't have become a musician if I
didn't meet Ryan that night. It definitely changed my life and now he is not only my mentor, but one of my best friends now.
Things changed when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona. I started Hemoptysis, but I didn't think I
would be making records and do touring at the time. The moment that I remember
everything changing for me was the time I met my mentor Producer Ryan Greene
(Megadeth, NOFX) at the club. I went to see F5, David Ellefson's band at the time. He was
out of Megadeth, and Steve Conley (Flotsam and Jetsam) introduced me to him. I grew up
listening to Ryan's records and I had an opportunity to observe his session.
I was fortunate to have so many great people with talent around me then and they inspired me to work harder and harder.
I started from nothing and tried to learn everything from them. It took a while to have a consistent line up, but the more we played, the more it became fun and time went by so
fast! It was a natural progress that we did records and touring. I had a blast!
Who was your biggest influence coming up as a musician?
The Big 4 would be the biggest influence, more particularly, Megadeth and old Metallica.
The aggression, shredding and atmosphere they had back in the day totally got me into Metal and inspired me to start playing.
Dave Mustaine inspired me to pick up a V shaped guitar. As a kid, I've always wanted to get his Jackson King V that were hanging at the local Guitar Store and it was the dream
guitar for me. Another influence would be Randy Rhoads! Every note he plays has something to say whether it's a fast shredding lead, or simple big chord. I've always wanted to
be a guitarist who has his own sound and tone rather than how many notes you can play in every second. The lead has to be memorable and be a part of the song like Marty
Friedman's solo for the song, Tornado of the Souls. Also, songwriting is crucial to me. All great classic Rock/Metal songs are timeless and still sound fresh to this day with great
riffs. As a songwriter, riffs are super important and again, the Big 4 and other legends had that! I actually just played Hit The Light's intro riff while I was dialing the tone for a
project and man, it's fun playing and exciting! I love playing riffs that excite me and make me want to headbang and play more!
You really made a name for yourself in your time in the
thrash metal band Hemoptysis. What led to your
involvement in that band? Is there a future with that
band, or are simply you moving forward as a solo artist?
As I mentioned, I had great time with the band. It was a great
learning experience. I did everything I could do with that band
and I am moving forward as a solo artist now.
In the meantime, I am a live guitarist for my live bassist,
Rodney McGlothlin's band, "Voice of Dissent".
We are sharing each other's talent and it has been a great experience for me and enjoying playing guitar with
freedom on stage.
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You have a very impressive list of musicians on the EP "Inescapable Damnation" (David Ellefson, Kevin Talley,
Kelly Conlon, Rodney McGlothlin). How did that come to be? How were these guys to work with?
As a Director of Artist Relations at Providence, I get to work with top musicians and see their work including Steve Lukather,
Larry Carlton, Michael Landau, and many others. I was fortunate to be able to see behind the scene like soundcheck, etc and
learned a lot from it. I was jaded and getting burnt out with the band. I felt it reached its limit and I did everything I could do.
Having David Ellefson playing on my song was a dream come true. If I time travel and tell 16 years old of me that David would play on my song, he won't believe it. Hell, who
would, right? Anyways, I thought it was a long shot, but I asked him and he was kind enough to say ok and it was an incredible honor. I was shooting videos for EMGtv at EMG
Pickups on the day he was tracking bass with Randy Walker.
When I got the track, I was like, "HOLY SHIT, It's David Ellefson!!" He has his signature sound, and you can tell that's his playing on the song!
It was such a great experience working with everyone who played on this record and I am very thankful to them!
I am stuck in front of a mic 90% of the time for my band's shows as I sing and play guitar, but with VOD, I am free to move around stage and able to interact with audience more.
I love it! The funny thing is this is what I've always wanted to do, just play guitar, move around the stage, head bang and have a blast.
It wasn't my plan to be a front man/guitarist even with Hemoptysis, but I had no choice! I also do production work including recording, mixing, and producing and I've worked with
Megadeth, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Beasto Blanco, just to name a few.
After seeing these jazz/fusion guys several times, I was able to start thinking outside of the box, and that the
band doesn't have to be the traditional band format having consistent members all the time. Let's say you go
see Landau. He has different drummers and bassists and the band sounds different when they have different
players, but it's still Michael Landau Group. The band has different vibe and sound, but it's part of it! I started to
be curious how my music would sound if I played with different talented musicians. I simply wanted to have fun
playing again and be challenged. Regardless of Hemoptysis' disbanding, I was going to do a solo record, but
the band ended first.
The first song I wrote for the "Inescapable Damnation" EP was Retribution. I contacted Kevin Talley and hired
him to play drums. I was blown away by what he played and I decided to have him play on the whole EP. Super
talented drummer without a doubt!
I talked to Kelly after one of the last Hemoptysis shows and asked him if he would be interested in laying down
bass on the first solo song. Him and I got together and worked on the parts, recorded and it was so much fun!
We both threw out some ideas and I enjoyed every minute of the session.
Rodney and I have known each other for a while since I was in Phoenix. We talked every once in a while and
discussed thoughts about each other's band, exchanged info, etc, and I've always respected him as a musician.
I ended up moving to LA, and I asked him to do a couple of songs.
We got together at my studio and it was fun recording it just like the time with Kelly. I never thought we would be
working together when we first talked or met, and we ended up touring Japan together with my band in 2015!
What was the recording process like for "Inescapable Damnation"?
It was definitely different than previous recording experience.
First, I had full freedom, but it meant I was responsible for everything. There was no one to ask for opinions or
could have any opinions. It can be good and bad.
Sometimes it was hard because it was hard to decide it's done or make final decisions about the song
structures, riffs, etc.
I played and recorded all guitars by myself which also good and bad. I could spend time as much time as I
wanted, but I could be knit-picking as much as I wanted too. Finding the balance and making a decision was the
most difficult thing during the process of recording this EP. Ryan tracked all vocals. He is a producer/engineer
that I can 100% trust and focus on performance.
Ryan also did amazing job on mixing and so did Gene on mastering. I was so happy that I was able to have
physical copies ready in time for my Japan tour and be able to do an exclusive early sale in my home country.
Is there a message in your songwriting? Looking at the lyrics there seems to be a positive message
of determination or overcoming personal strife. Is that intentional?
Yes. This is a very personal record for me. I was going through some tough times from 2012 to 2015. Many people that I considered to be close friends left, a lot of my plans and
work didn't result in what I had been struggling for, and other basic life struggles . It was also financially difficult time too. I've spent all my time on Hemoptysis for 7 years straight
and it was not an easy decision for me to quit. I was starting out from zero in a new environment in LA, and making this record was sort of revenge for me. It was huge goal to
start fresh. All lyrics were written while I went through it and from my personal experience. We all have emotions as a human being. Sometimes it can be your biggest enemy
depending on how you absorb it. You can put yourself into a self made hell or happy place, it all depends on how you take it. Turning negative things into positive are very
With this record, I didn't want to write cliche topics in Metal such as Satan, murder, and all negative fantasies.
I remember growing up listening to my favorite bands and they gave me motivation and excitement even when I was depressed.
Metal is about fighting and not just sit and complaining. We are strong and bonded by same music worldwide. It's easy to whine and not do anything, but I feel people who are
struggling though working hard to achieve their dream or goal can relate to my songs.
Do you have a particular songwriting process?
I usually start writing riffs, put rough drums part on it, and then add solos and lead guitars.
Most of the time, it just pops into my mind and I record it on Pro Tools and save these riffs.
I don't sit down and try to force writing because it doesn't work for me. It has to be inspired naturally and you
can't force your creativity. Sometimes it's frustrating, but I've accepted it over the years and try to take it easy.
Some songs only take a few hours to write and some take a few months to finish. You never know when it
comes, so I wish I could control it! A lot of times it comes right before I go to bed, like after I've turned off the
lights and am trying to sleep. It's very weird, but I've heard some others have same tendency. Lyrics comes last
for me. I usually set the theme after the music is written. I take notes about the theme of the songs and words
whenever I feel I want to write a song about it.
I really enjoy your guitar leads/solo style. What can you tell me about the process of putting together
a good solo to match (or in some cases create) the mood of the song?
I appreciate it very much! As I mentioned, it is meaningless to have solos if it doesn't have something to say and
sits in the song like vocals. Sometimes one simple note has more meaning than countless notes in few seconds.
I'd rather not play solos if it's not appropriate. Again, it all comes naturally when I write songs. You can't force it!
What can you tell me about the video "Conquer The Foe"? Zombies?
When I make a music video, I usually leave it up to the producer/director about its
direction, concept, story, etc. It's always fun for me to see what they come up with
and I'm totally open minded to their ideas. With the "Conquer The Foe" video, I've
decided to work with Matt Zane (Society 1) and I had a blast working with him. I've
never had as much fun shooting a video as this one. Matt is one of those people
whom you can trust fully, leaving it up to him and just focus on what you need to
do. He is also a musician, so he knows music and has a musicians' perspective.
The Zombie concept came from him and I'm happy with how it turned out.
What are your near future plans as far as touring, recording?
Right now, I have a show at the Viper Room in W. Hollywood on Monday, March
27th and other than that, I'm focusing on writing though I'm open to do more
shows here and there.
Hopefully I can go back and tour in Japan again and Europe soon! In the
meantime, I've been doing many gear demos for instrument manufactures, some
production works, and others to keep my self busy.
Interview by David Henninger