Japan’s music industry lost a legend recently with the passing of Ikutaro Kakehashi. Founder of the Roland company, Kakehashi was a pioneer of electronic music whose impact is still being felt in the music business today.
Much of Roland’s early products were first trialed by technopop outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra. YMO made use of sequencers such as the MC-8 MicroComposer (which was programmed by “fourth” YMO member Hideki Matsutake). YMO also made use of Roland’s VP-330, a vocoder-enhanced synth, which can be heard on the robotic intro to ‘Technopolis’.
Naturally, YMO were one of the first bands to get to try out Roland’s legendary TR-808 Rhythm Composer. Their track ‘1000 Knives’ (actually a re-recorded version of a track that Ryuichi Sakamoto had recorded for his solo album) was the first studio recording to make use of the 808.
Roland kit was also adopted by other bands and artists within Japan’s expanding electronic music scene. Musician and composer Susumu Hirasawa, who achieved recognition in recent times for his contributions to the soundtracks for Satoshi Kon anime titles (such as Paranoia Agent), spent his formative years as part of P-Model. Hirasawa utilised a lot of Roland synths for his music.
Likewise, musical collective Geinoh Yamashirogumi used Roland synths – particularly in the recording of the soundtrack to classic anime Akira. Ghost In The Shell composer Kenji Kawai also favoured Roland’s gear.
Roland products also had a cultural impact. Equipment such as the TB-303 and TR-909 were referenced in the anime series Eureka Seven as the names of the main characters’ Mecha.
Our sister site The Electricity Club has penned a fitting tribute to Roland’s founder: Ikutaro Kakehashi 1930 – 2017