INK, PUNK AND GUITARS | TOKYO HIRO

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At this year’s NAMM Show we unveiled a hand painted custom Revstar as part of a collaboration with iconic Tattoo Artist Tokyo Hiro.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Tokyo Hiro yet, settle in. His Japanese origin mixed with Punk Rock LA style is refreshing. When we stumbled across his Instagram feed full of beautifully designed artwork and tattoos, his rock royalty family and subtle evidence of his personal classic cool style with British vibes we were drawn in. We knew this was the right fit.

The Collaboration

You know, as soon as I was offered this opportunity I was like – “I gotta take it! I want it! I wanna do a deal with Yamaha.” So I say – “Yeah man, let’s do it!” Then I realised – ‘Oh my god. What did I do?’
So, I did some research on Yamaha and that was a kind of wake up call. I’m Japanese, you guys are Japanese too, and doing well in the States – so I feel like this is the same vibe we have.
When I came to your place, the custom shop in Burbank, I felt this craftsman vibe, which is a totally different world. I thought ‘I can learn something from you guys, you’re so passionate about building guitars’. Like a craftsman mentality – I feel the same feeling, I respect you guys - so I’m like okay! Let’s do something together!

Heritage & Style

You know I’ve been living in the States for over 20 years and I had this complex; in the tattoo/punk rock/heavy metal industry I’m the only Asian, Japanese guy, I’m different from these other guys. But then I realised that my weak point is a strong point in this industry. I’m like unique - unique Japanese from Tokyo.
But I learnt to tattoo in Hollywood, so the first few years that I started tattooing, people are coming to me like “I want a dragon!”, “I want koi fish!” but I’m like “Hey man, I learnt tattooing in the States! I don’t know how to do those!”. That was a really weird complex; the Japanese guy who knows nothing about Japanese stuff. So I went back to Japan, and I was under the master guy for 3 years to learn how to tattoo the Japanese way.
So when you guys came up at first I thought – maybe I CAN do it because the concept was Japanese, but also kind of like British Motorcycle style too. So I thought, hey maybe I can do a skull with daggers with some motorcycle stuff. But then you guys asked – “maybe you could do some Japanese paintings?” and I’m like “Whaaaaaat?”!

The Guitar

I came up with some ideas – tigers, Japanese evil masks, a phoenix but in the end, 2 choices I got to were a dragon and a phoenix. Then I realised that at first the Yamaha Logo was like a phoenix, so I thought perfect! That’s like my new relationship with Yamaha, that's why I did the Japanese logo for pride, you know?
I’d never painted a tattoo design on a guitar before. I always draw on paper or scan so this was a new thing for me. As soon as I started, I thought – ‘Oh man. Why did I say yes?!’
Then we started talking about – maybe it should start on the back, go round to the front. The first little while I was like “really?”, because like most people tattoo wise you do the main part on the front. Then I started trying to paint it and I’m like “wow this is really cool!”
It was a lot of struggling! I wish I could have filmed it all. That was a great lesson for me in anger management, learning about myself, patience. I started painting and getting into it, going over and over it and then I realise - the paint is all over my arm! And so I had to start over. Let it dry a couple of days and go back to it. But it was fun, it was a good experience!

To learn more & to enter for the chance to win your own custom Tokyo Hiro Revstar, head to www.4wrd.it/TokyoHiroRS
(Competition open to US residents only).

Get lost in Tokyo Hiro’s work on Instagram, and if you’re inspired to get some of his work inked onto your skin, you can inquire about tattoo appointments with him, as well as buy his artwork here: http://tokyohiro.bigcartel.com/

#YamahaGuitars #TokyoHiro