Published 3 months ago on December 7, 2023

By Jonathan Graham

Internet sensation and renowned virtuoso Ichika Nito has captivated music fans and musicians the world over with his unconventional, experimental style and a wholly original musical approach. Although most of his viral YouTube videos come in at under a minute, Ichika's immense talent leaves a lasting impression. Giving his first interview to a British guitar publication, Ichika speaks on tone, technique, composition, his inspirations, and of course, his new signature six-string with Ibanez Guitars.

Guitar Interactive: Congratulations on the release of your very first signature model, the Ibanez Q Series ICHI10. As a player who has used many brands to create music, what was it about Ibanez that convinced you it was the right destination for a signature guitar?

Ichika Nito: The first guitar I bought was an Ibanez 7-string guitar. Since then, Ibanez has been my main gear, and it's an honour to make my signature guitar with Ibanez.

Gi: What were the key fundamentals to crafting the Ibanez ICHI10? Did you always know exactly what you wanted regarding neck shape, tonewoods, pickups etc, and did anything change during the design process?

IN: I believe the more tones a guitar can produce, the better. On the other hand, I also want to give a specific role to a guitar as a specialist of one typical direction. The goal was to create a guitar that could blend and balance those two contradictory thoughts in just the right way. The spec, such as three single coils, is the result of this. We also wanted to make an evolved guitar; this is why we chose the Q headless guitar as the design format.

Gi: With the Ibanez ICHI10, you now have your go-to custom instrument; however, what amplifiers and pedals do you like to plug it into?

IN: I mainly use LINE6 Helix and Kemper Profiler and use effects included in them. I like amp simulators because they offer more flexibility.

Gi: One of your latest tracks, "Awakening," may be your most stunning composition to date. What inspired this track and unique music video?

IN: This song is based on the motif of Swan Lake and Japanese mythology. In the first half of the song, I put a little homage to the chord progression of the famous section of Swan Lake. In the music video, I tried to give the image of mysterious Japanese gods.

Gi: What was it that first inspired you to learn to play the guitar or write music?

IN: I started playing the guitar because of my father. In the beginning, I listened to all the heavy metal CDs in my father's room, such as Iron Maiden, and played them. As I learned to play the guitar more and more, I started to feel wanting to write songs that could be played with just one guitar, like the piano solo songs that I originally liked, and I started composing.

Gi: In those early days when you were developing your skills, what did your average guitar playing day look like?

IN: I carefully delved into various genres one by one, learning and incorporating elements that I could make use of. For instance, I learned how to play mechanical phrases through heavy metal first, then complex chords and rhythms with a clean sound from mass rock, and then jazz.

Gi: Do you remember any specific techniques or songs that were the most challenging for you to master?

IN: Everything. But I think the most difficult technique to learn for me was the octave tapping with the index finger and ring finger of the right hand. The index finger easily taps harder than the ring finger, and it plays the bass note of the octave, so I struggled a lot to balance those two notes.

Gi: You've created some of the most incredible instrumental compositions. What is your process for developing an idea from start to finish, and how do you know when you're on to something good?

IN: I make music in my head every day. And I pick up my favourites among them to make them concrete. In that sense, I can say every song is great in the beginning as a seed of an idea. But, throughout the process of making them into concrete music, playing on guitar and adding arrangements, there are two completely opposite ways for those seeds to bloom or not. When a seed could not bloom, I felt I just didn't have enough playing skill and musical knowledge.

Gi: When you compose a song, how important do you think it is to write for your fanbase? Does that influence your decisions at all?

IN: Frankly speaking, I don't' pay attention to fanbase when I write songs. But when it comes to concrete music, I believe "they're gonna like this".

Gi: How do you know when your song is complete, and it's time to stop revising it?

IN: I feel it's done when I could feel I could give everything I had. I could say writing music is something like a diary.

Gi: Does improvisation play a part in your composing process, or do you prefer another approach?

IN: I use part of improvisations that I like to write a new song, or add them to another song. But I have not released improvisation as a song.

Gi: Whilst performing, there seems to be no limits to where you'll explore musically on the instrument. Scale-wise, how do you visualise the guitar neck, and were there specific methods you used to map the fretboard?

IN: I am not familiar with musical theories that guitarists should know, such as the CAGED system. In other words, I don't have preconceptions. I think it gives me more freedom on the fretboard.

Gi: Do you still have a specific practice schedule? What techniques are you currently working on?

IN: I have tons of short phrases about 30 seconds, but I forget old ones. So I practice those every day. When I play my old pieces, sometimes I find songs "How did I play this!?"

Gi: What is the best piece of advice you ever received regarding your playing development or composition?

IN: This is spiritualism, but you can be anyone you want to be. And you set a time limit when you work on something.

Gi: And what about the worst piece of advice?

IN: When I was a student aspiring to be a guitarist, an acquaintance told me, "You're not suited for music, so quit now and study.

Gi: Do you have any advice for young guitar players and musicians looking to make that same kind of impact you have in such a short time?

IN: Once you have a strong image of what you want to be, think about the path you should take, the specific process you should follow, and the skills you need to acquire. Think really deep as if every single cell in your brain is about to explode. Then, follow the plan you've made and do it honestly and diligently. Often look back at the results and flexibly revise your plan. Then you can become anything you want to be.

Gi:  Do you have any musical guilty pleasures? Would you share some with us, please?

IN: I often start recoding without tuning when I don't' feel strange. (This may be possible because I'm a solo guitarist and not in an ensemble with other instruments.)

Gi: Do you draw inspiration from other mediums outside of music?

IN: I love reading books, watching movies, and playing games. So I use the stories and emotions that impress me to write songs.

Gi:  What can you tell us about your new music coming in 2021? Do you have plans for a full-length album release?

IN: I'm working on a full-length album that will be the culmination of my career. But before that, I'll be releasing a few EPs, so please look forward to them!

Gi: With you now joining the distinguished list of artists on the Ibanez roster, are there other Ibanez artists you'd like to collaborate with musically?

IN: All of the Ibanez signature artists have been my guitar heroes since I was a kid, so it still doesn't feel like I'm joining them, but if I could play with Steve Vai, that would be a dream come true.

For more information on Ichika Nito and to follow him on YouTube, head to: www.youtube.com/channel/UCq3Wpi10SyZkzVeS7vzB5Lw



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