Jiro Okada! Jiro Okada was born in 1967 in Japan. He started studying bass at the age of 12, however he did not take music seriously until he was in his early 20s; he states that he started taking music seriously and performing at a professional level when he was 22.
A couple of years later, in 1994, he started performing with well-known Japanese singer Mariko Takahashi and was a part of Marikos touring band for 15 years. In order to broaden his horizons, in 2001, he became an official member of the renowned awe-inspiring jazz fusion band “Prism”. Together they have released 8 albums and 3 DVD’s!
Since 2009 he joined Japanese pop star Ayaka Hirahara’s touring band, which he is still a member. He is currently teaching at Senzoku University, Jazz course.
What inspired you to start playing bass?
I was in between guitar and bass, however I chose the Bass since it is a lot cooler than guitar! This is the reason why I treat the bass like a guitar sometimes (smile).
Who influenced you the most? Who are your favorite musicians and why?
Very interesting question. It is very appealing to me to understand who helped me evolve musically. I will have to mention: Bobby McFerrin, Tommy Emmanuel, Pat Metheny, Richard Bona, Ayaka Hirahara and Marcus Miller. All of these musicians have a unique “voice”. They are inspiring, lift up your spirits and motivate you!
Which are your favorite: Top 10 Recordings/CDs
Play / Bobby McFerrin & Chick Corea
Center Stage / Tommy Emmanuel (DVD)
Off-ramp / Pat Metheny
Greenhouse / The Yellowjackets
Star / Jan Garbarek with Miroslav Vitous and Peter Erskine
Eyewitness / Steve Khan
For You / Tatsuro Yamashita
Wain no nioi (??????) / Off Course
The Voice / Ayaka Hirahara
American Dreams / Charlie Haden
Which is your favorite bass, as well as piece of gear?
My favorite bass is the Real Bossa Design OBJ 5. For amplification I use Markbass amps and for effects I like the ZOOM B9ut.
Can you tell us any tips for younger musicians?
I believe that many people will listen to your music, regardless of the genre if you put feeling and your heart and soul into your music. If you love what you do then the result will be good.
I know that you are one of the most busy bassists in Japan; you tour a lot! Any touring advice?
Having fun is the most important thing. You have to make it fun and pleasant. Imagine being stuck in a tour bus with musicians that don’t get along with each other. This will affect everyone’s psychology and most importantly it will affect the music.
Any Funny touring moments that you would like to share?
I cannot think of funny moments, however I will tell you what I consider some of the most important moments. The fact that I’ve visited many historical castles in Japan, along with the tour members, makes it a truly imperative experience. Learning more about my culture as well as the history of Japan is imperative.
Any TECHNIQUE tips? I noticed that you use a 4-finger technique, as well as chords etc. Any comments on that?
It’s difficult to play fast when the fingers hit the strings too hard. For that reason I place my ring finger on the rear pickup. That way I can even-out the strength of each finger.
Any Studio advice regarding recording? I know that you worked with many Japanese, as well as international producers.
I just try my best each time, however there’s not as much session work as there use to be; the music business has changed a lot the last few years. Yes, I have worked with many well-known Japanese, as well as international producers. The last couple of years I started working with Neila Productions, which is an LA based production company/label and I am very excited about that. It is good to work with people from diverse backgrounds, as well as different and fresh views regarding music; it is always a learning experience.
What are your plans for the future? Any new recordings/tours coming up?
I will be recording a new album with “PRISM” very soon and I will be touring with Ms. Ayaka Hirahara. I have some new stuff in the works; I will keep you posted as soon as everything is finalized.
Any Solo music plans?
I have some stuff in the works. I will keep you posted very soon! All I can say is that I am very excited and I am looking forward to sharing the news with you.
Videos from YouTube
A big thanks to the people from Neila Productions, neilaproductions.com, firstly because they have brought me in contact with Jiro and secondly for helping me with the translation.