“Shogun of the blues”
__ Clint Eastwood at Kennedy Center Honors
“Shun Kikuta becomes world ambassador of the blues”
__ Daily Herald (U.S.A)
“Shun is a blues giant in Asia“
__ Tom Colvin, Blues Asia Network (Manila, Philippines)
＊From birth to Utsunomiya era
Born in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture in Japan at 11:30 am on September 8, 1966. Shun was a big baby weighing 3750 grams (8.26 ponds). Since his father was a hobbyist who is familiar with classical guitar and organ performances, Shun quickly awakened to music, and when he was in the second year of elementary school, he was impressed by hearing Mozart’s Turkish March in a music class, and begged his parents to buy a record for the first time. Fourth grader started playing his father’s classical guitar. Learn the position of Doremi and practice simple practice songs by himself. Shun was in sixth grade when he was able to play the classic “Romance”.
“At that time, the fingering on my right hand, which I remembered and could only play slowly at first, was surprised that I could play much faster the next day after sleeping overnight. After that, I rarely had such an experience. I now think that being young is amazing. “(Orange is Shun’s own comment)
When Shun entered Miyanohara Junior High School, he became absorbed in folk music in parallel with classical music, and from the latter half of junior high school, he began to play fusion and then in high school, devoting himself to hard rock. The first electric guitar he got was Japanese Greco’s Strat type, which he bought for 37,000 yen (equal to US $150). Greatly influenced by Eddie Van Halen, Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, Steve Lukather, Randy Rhoads, Masayoshi Takanaka, Larry Carlton and more.
”When I got home from club activities (I was in a baseball club), I ate dinner, took a bath, went to bed immediately, got up around 4 o’clock in the morning, and practiced the guitar until school time.”
It was in Shun’s freshman year of Utsunomiya High School that he decided to become a professional musician. One day in his senior year of high school, he told Mr. Akihiko Kuroko, homeroom teacher that he wanted to become a musician at career guidance. The teacher was quite surprised, but he seriously listened that Shun really wanted to go on the musical path and that he liked American music. After thinking for a while, Mr. Kuroko recommended Shun to study music in the United States, if his parents agree. Shun was only vaguely thinking about what happened after graduation, but after that he began to seriously search for the United States. His mother, who was against it at first, allowed him to go to the United States because of his father who understood it first would persuade her, and Shun was able to study abroad in the United States.
“Mr. Kuroko recommended me to study in the United States, which set my future direction. If I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t be myself now. When I think about it, I’m grateful. “
＊Study abroad at Berklee College of Music, encounter with blues
In May 1986, Shun enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Majored in Professional Music at Berklee. At first, he could hardly understand English and could not understand what the teacher was saying, but with the help of Jeff who became a roommate in the dormitory and several classmates, he managed to take classes.
“Berklee, where students gather from all over the world, is of a high level, and some students are picked up by the teacher’s band to participate in tours and recordings, so I was often worried about the difference between them and my level. “
When Shun was approaching the latter half of the freshman year, his friend recommended him to listen to “Live at the Regal” by B.B.King. Encounter with this album changed the life after that.
“The raw emotions of sadness, joy, anger, and compassion were transmitted to me, and I was deeply moved. BB’s singings and playing the guitar are overwhelming. The band is wonderful. After listening to this, I became more and more addicted to the blues. The blues that are simple and directly appeal to the emotions are amazing. Especially when playing the guitar, I intuitively felt that the blues was much cooler than jazz.”
At that time, there were several second-hand record stores around Berkee. Shun randomly bought jazz and blues albums, listened to them devouringly. He watched live performances of hundreds of jazz and blues artists such as Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Joe Pass, B.B.King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Winter and Etta James. It was a great asset to be able to see them live. Shun also encountered future jazz stars and had jammed with them at Berklee such as Mark Turner, Mark Whitfield, Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart, Masahiko Osaka, Junko Onishi.
Before graduating, in 1989, visited Chicago, the home of the blues. Shun watched Buddy Guys’s live performance at his club “Legends”, and many blues bands played every night at the blues clubs in the city.
“Buddy’s show was really amazing. The environment was full of blues in the town, and when I entered the store, the clerk said hi then asked me How am I doing? I like that friendly atmosphere, and after graduation I decided to move to Chicago. “
＊Moving to Chicago and pay his dues as a blues musician
Graduated from Berklee College of Music in May 1990. Received a diploma from George Benson, who attended the graduation ceremony as a guest.
“The four years of Berklee’s life was successfully completed and the graduation ceremony was celebrated. George Benson, who was a guest, handed me the diploma directly. Say” Congratulations Shun-Sookie “and we shook hands. It was a nice surprise because I never thought I could meet George Benson.”
A few days after the graduation ceremony, Shun packed his second-hand Subaru and moved to Chicago. Rent a Jewish-owned condominium for $200 and start a part-time job at a Japanese restaurant. In the evening, he go out to jam sessions at Rosa’s Lounge, Wise Fool’s Pub, Blues etc to participate in jams, and even at clubs with bands, he talks to the leader and let him to sit in one or two songs every day. However, about two months later, he got fired from a Japanese restaurant. When he was in trouble, Mike, a bassist he met at Jam, asked Shun to play together on the street. Mike taught him to go to the city hall and pay $25 to get a one-year street performance certificate. For street performances, Shun needed a small amp that could produce sound from batteries, but he didn’t have the money. So, of the two guitars he had at that time, he had his first memorable Greco guitar traded at a music store and got an amp. Take the remaining Gibson ES345 and battery amp and play on State Street in downtown or on the premises of Washington Station.
“Just before Christmas, we made about $150 in chips just by playing for a few hours. I thought it would be better than work part-time at Japanese restaurant, but the reality is not that sweet. When Christmas is over, money dried out that even playing for a few hours made only a couple of dollars. I used to eat only a slice of pizza for the dinner. “
About two months later, Chicago’s first gig finally came. Rosa’s Lounge owner Tony Mangiullo encouraged Shun to join the band of Chicago blues tycoon guitarist Louis Myers. As soon as the performance started on the day, Louis approached and yelled out loud, saying that he wouldn’t do it, and started playing the basic rhythm pattern “Lamp and Lamp”. The customer sitting in front giggled.
“I was embarrassed so much man. I wondered how terrible it was. But I was immature at the time because I couldn’t play the orthodox Chicago style properly. I think Louis was sick of having an Asian kid who couldn’t play such blues properly (laughs). “
It was a tough first gig, but the warmth of Louis and Tony didn’t get Shun fired, and he played with Louis every Sunday to gain experience. After a few months, Louis became familiar with him and taught him how to play chords in the song. One day, Louis’s old friend and harmonica legend Junior Wells came to the gig. Junior who suddenly sat in playing harmonica when he went up to the stage and took out the microphone. Shortly after the performance was over and Shun got to the table, Junior passed by.
“Junior interrupted my words when I thought I had to say something because my eyes met, and grinned, ‘Don’t call me Mr. Wells. Call me Motherfucker.'” I was so surprised that I could roll off my chair, and I laughed and fell in love with Junior all at once. There is no other person like him (laughs). “
Junior continued to say, “Oh, don’t play for yourself. Play with the band and the audience. Then you’ll be okay.” Since then, Shun has made this words his belief as a musician.
＊Album Debut with King Records
Within several months, gigs started coming in. Since the Louis Meyers band, Shun had been active in bands such as Johnny Little John, Lurrie Bell, Tommy McCracken, and Big Time Sarah. Participated in the 1991 CD “CHICAGO BLUES NIGHT” (GBW). In 1992, he went on a one-month Italian tour with CHICAGO BLUES NIGHT BAND. This band opened up for B.B.King at the Rossy Rossi Festival in Sardinia. In 1994, he joined the band of JW Williams and The Chi-Town Hustlers made regular appearances at Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S. on Halstead Street. He did spend 5 to 6 days a week playing.
In 1994, Shun was getting an offer of album producing from King Records in Japan, and he made his album debut with “Funky Blues”. As a member of the Frank Collier Band, he also worked on guitar and production. Junior Wells participated as a guest. In the same year, “Tribute to Magic Sam” dedicated to the genius bluesman, Magic Sam, who passed away at the age of 32, was released by King, and Shun participated in the guitar and worked on the album production. This album was released in U.S by Evidence Records in 1997.
“I was lucky to have a debut album from the major King on Funky Blues. A few months later, I joined Tribute to magic Sam with guitar and producing. These two albums greatly expand the range of activities in Chicago and Japan. “
In 1995, King released Shun’s first leader album “THEY CALL ME SHUN” and the highly respected Otis Rush participated as a guest with Junior Wells. It became a big topic among the blues fans.
“For blues musicians, Otis is like Everest. It’s an honor to have him as a guest on the album. I clearly remember when we were in the studio, as soon as he started singing the visual of a long train was running slowly on the flat land of Mississippi popped up in my head. It was so real. Otis used to encourage me to do my best and I’m grateful to Mr. and Mrs Rush for being kind both publicly and privately. “
In 1996, the second leader album “CHICAGO MIDNIGHT” was released. “Queen of the Blues” Koko Taylor participated as a guest.
“Bruce Iglauer, a president of Alligator Records, helped me to have Koko’s guest appearance. When Koko appeared in the studio, was like a kind black aunt, and was having Kentucky Fried Chicken. But when the recording started, a thick and powerful voice echoed from the headphones. “
In 1996, Shun performed at the Park Tower Blues Festival in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and played with JW Williams, Makoto Ayukawa, and Fumio Ishikawa. In 1997, King released Park Tower live recording as “LIVE !! THE 3RD PARK TOWER BLUES FESTIVAL ’96”.
“I appeared at the Park Tower Blues Festival, and the live recording was released as the first live CD. Makoto Ayukawa of Sheena & The Rokkets and Fumio Ishikawa participated as guests, and me with JW, Johnny Iguana, Jerry Porter. It was a really good band. “
＊Junior Wells US and Canada tours
Junior Wells asked Shun to join his US and Canada tours in 1995. One particular tour from Midwest to the West Coast lasted for a month and a half. He has appeared in famous clubs in each city, including House Of Blues, and met Dan Aykroyd of The Blues Brothers and Lee Oskar of War. It was a memorable tour where he experienced scenes other than Chicago and reaffirmed the greatness of Junior Wells.
“It was my first major US and Canada tours and I realized the size of the country. Texas didn’t pass through the state even if we ran at high speed for about 10 hours (laughs). One night at the dressing room in Vegas, Junior encouraged me to sing but I told him not sure since I was a young Japanese kid who didn’t even speak English well. But he said “I don’t speak well, either but I can sing the blues, man” Then he sang a chorus part of Little By Little and I followed. Since then I started to sing and I’m really glad that he forced me to do it. When my first baby was born, Junior said, “I’m her Godfather. Don’t forget,” and gave her a middle name, Wells. Now I realize how lucky I was to be a part of Junior’s band”.
＊Otis Clay’s Japan tour
In the summer of 1999, Shun participated in a Japan tour of soul singer Otis Clay. Performed in Tokyo, Sapporo, Sendai, Osaka and Fukuoka. After returning to the United States, he also participated in the Mississippi tour.
“From the tour with soul legend Otis, I learned the importance of rhythm guitar play, so-called pocket play. Timing was everything, Otis always said. Even a little out of tune. “Check the tuning” and the instruction flies. He had great ears. It was a great memory to be able to go to Sapporo, Sendai and Fukuoka for the first time, and he also took me to The delta in Mississippi. “
＊”HEART AND SOUL” and Japan Blues Carnival
In 2000, Shun made a CD with Nellie “Tiger” Travis “HEART AND SOUL” (M & I Company) . They appeared in the Japan Blues Carnival with album members. Appeared in Hibiya Yaon, Osaka Castle Hall, Nagoya Tokuzo, etc.
“I loved Nellie sings, both blues and soul, so I was happy to release an album together. Nellie is my soul sister in Chicago who calls my full name Shunsuke Kikuta. The flight was delayed due to bad weather in Chicago, and we headed directly from the airport to the venue, Osaka Castle Hall. It was a little late, but we managed to make it a short set. We toured with Buddy Guy and Carl Weathersby, all Chicago people. It was fun.”
＊Koko Taylor’s Blues Machine
One Summer night in 2000, when Shun was playing at Kingston Mines, a club in Chicago, Koko Taylor came in and sat in the front seat. After the set was over, Shun went down and say hello to her. It was the first reunion in four years since the recording of “CHICAGO MIDNIGHT”. Koko seems to have forgotten about the recording four years ago and greeted “Nice to meet you” as if she had met for the first time. When he gave her his business card at the time of parting, she said, “OK, I’ll call you, remember me,” and went home with a smile. About three months later, he got a call from Koko one morning, and she asked him to play two shows substituting her guitarist.
” I was overwhelmed by the power of her voice as if a log was flying from the monitor. She’s such a terrific singer, but when the show was over, she asked me, “Did you enjoy working with me?” I was too nervous to enjoy it, but when I said “Yes, I enjoyed it.” “I’m glad, I’ll call you again. I enjoyed playing with you, “she said, and I was relieved.”
About two months after the show, Koko contacted Shun again and asked him to officially become a member of her band, Blues Machine, and began working with her for about nine years. By joining Koko’s band, the activity spread all over the world at once. Chicago Blues Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Notodden Blues Festival (Norway), Vitoria Jazz & Blues Festival (Spain), Air Jamaica Music Festival (Jamaica), Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise (Bahama, Mexico), House of Blues (Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles) , B.B.King’s Blues Club (New York, Memphis) and many other major festivals and clubs. The tour extended to North America, Latin America and Europe.
＊An evening with B.B.King
October 23, 2003 became one of the most exciting days in Shun’s musical life. A TV program (PBS series) called “An Evening with B.B.King” that featured the life of BB King was planned, and Shun received an offer to appear as a band leader playing there. The show proceeded with host Isaac Hayes interviewing BB, and the screen showed the stage of BB in the early 70’s singing “The thrill is gone”. When Isaac asked BB, “I think everyone who gathered here wants to hear your play, how about it?”, BB said “Well, Okay” and Shun passed him his signature guitar, Lucille. B.B and band jammed “The thrill is gone”. In the dressing room after the performance, BB called Shun to the next seat and held his hand, saying, “You know BB King very well. You are a very good guitar player. Light (light skin) BB King.” He said and smiled.
“BB King isn’t just the king of the blues, he’s the first special person to teach me how great blues was, and the benefactor who inspired me to play blues in Chicago. Meeting him, playing together was a dream of dream that might not come true. It actually came true. “
”It was definitely one of the best days in my musical life. I clearly remember the words that Mr. King said and the warmth of his hands. He was a warm and big person. Being encouraged by appearing TV show with Mr. King and being in Koko’s band for nine years gave me great confidence in being recognized by the King and Queen of the Blues. I’m just grateful. “
＊THE BLUES Movie Project
The biggest blues document movie “THE BLUES Movie Project” made by seven film directors such as Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of blues became a big topic among blues fans around the world. Shun appeared with Koko Taylor in the sixth episode “Godfather and Sons”.
”When I went to Koko’s club, Celebrity, without being informed of the filming, the TV crew was already there and the lighting and camera settings were almost done. The inside of the club was full of enthusiasm with movie, music people and blues fans who couldn’t fit in. It was first aired on TV a few months later, but when I saw myself on the TV screen during the tour, I knew for the first time that it was the filming of this movie. “
＊Tours with James Cotton
In 2006, Shun joined in the Japan, USA, and Canada tours of James Cotton, also known as “Super Harp”. In Japan, they performed at the Cotton Club in Tokyo for a week. In the United States, at the Pocono Blues Festival and clubs, and at the Mont Tremblant Music Festival in Canada.
”James played great and I really enjoyed working with him. Junior Wells had been passed and James was one of the few blues harpists of his generation still active. In 2006 I was working with both Koko and James. But one day, two live shows were booked on the same day and I prioritized Koko’s work that I had been doing for many years. I talked to James and gave up on the band. I wish I had two bodies (laughs). James had a good personality and I had a wonderful time with him. “
＊Koko Taylor’s Grammy nominated “Old School”
Shun had played on Koko Taylor’s last studio album “Old School” released by Alligator Records in 2007. The album was nominated for the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues.
“Koko’s nephew Chris Johnson has been playing the guitar and arranging for many years on Koko’s albums, so I was wondering if I had a chance. Alligator president Mr. Iglauer gave me an opportunity, talked to me and gave me detailed instructions on how to play. Koko was the label’s signature singer, so it was amazing to put his effort into it. I was really happy to be able to participate especially it was her last album and nominated for Grammy.”
＊Car accident during the tour
In August 2008, during a tour of Koko Taylor, they had a major accident in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Shun was thrown out of a tour van that crashed into a concrete wall at a speed of 75 miles, and suffered a serious injury that broke the left half of his face in four places and dislocated the base of his right foot, but miraculously saved his life. He returned two months after undergoing plastic surgery and rehabilitation on the right foot. It was a big event that changed his outlook on life. Koko wasn’t on board, so she was safe, but all the band members were seriously injured.
“I hit my face hard enough to break the bones and pulled my right leg to the point where it could slip out of the base, but the injury healed without any damage to my brain, neck or nerves. I felt like I was protected by something. In this way, I was able to return playing again, and I had a very second life. Koko died the following year, but by then the two members hadn’t been able to come back, and there wasn’t a chance for all the members to play live together. “
＊Gospel and Mount Moriah Church
A black gentleman spoke to Shun when he played at the opening ceremony at Gary Airport, Indiana. “Do you like gospel music?” he wasn’t sure about gospel music at the time, but when he answered, “Yes, I like it,” gentleman asked, “Why don’t you come to my church and play the guitar when you have time?” Then a few weeks later Shun visited the church, Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Gary, the gentleman was Pastor Marion J Johnson. During the two-hour service, he played several tunes with a band and choir. This led him to play gospel as a band member of Mt Moriah Church. Blues and gospel, one sings about the love of men and women and the way of life of human beings, and the other sings about God and Jesus. Even though the expressions were different, the origin of black music was flowing at the bottom, and there were many things in common musically. It was a familiar and inspiring experience to touch a new side.
”At the first service, I improvised to the band and choir without knowing the songs, and after the service, Rev. Hall, the organ player said, “If you rate the musician on a 10-point scale, Shun is 12 (Laughs).” Then I was hired to become a band member. At the time of the accident, Pastor Johnson called me from time to time and I heard that the members always prayed for me. I was baptized when I was discharged and first visited the church. Pastor Johnson is my spiritual father. “
＊Kennedy Center Honors and Shogun of the blues
In December 2008, Shun appeared at the Kennedy Center Honors, a big event at the end of the year, which is described as “the money of New York, the power of Washington, and the charm of Hollywood have become one”. Participants include President and Mrs. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other government leaders, as well as actors and musicians such as Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Clint Eastwood, and Denzel Washington. The big names in the movie world lined up in a row. Shun has been selected as a guitarist and bandleader for a mixed band of the legendary bluesmen and women such as Koko Taylor, Honeyboy Edwards, Pinetop Perkins, and Willie Big Eye Smith. Clint Eastwood who was MC that night introduced the band members one by one through a microphone. “Shun Kiku-ta, the Shogun of the blues, who continues to perform around the world,” he introduced Shun.
”Mr. Eastwood has a deep knowledge of jazz and blues and also makes music films. It’s a real honor to be introduced by him as such a wonderful actor and film director as the Shogun of the blues. Since then, I’ve been using Shogun of the blues as my stage nickname. “
＊Koko Taylor’s passing
Early in the morning of June 3, 2009, Koko Taylor’s daughter Cookie contacted Shun to come to the hospital as soon as possible since Koko was in critical condition. Went straight to Northwestern Hospital and see off Koko with family and band members the same afternoon. Koko was 80-year old. Shun felt that one door was closed when Koko, who was like the mother of the blues world who worked together for nearly 10 years, died. In addition, Shun’s eyes gradually began to turn outside Chicago.
”For the last few years, I called her Mama and she called me My Shun, and It was like a mother and son. After nearly 10 years of Blues Machine, my memories are endless. Koko often said, “Treat people the way you wanna be treated”. She wasn’t highly educated, but she had a lot of wisdom from her experience. I think she was the victor of life, loved by her family, surroundings and fans. I miss her a lot.”
After the death of Koko Taylor, Shun began to seek opportunities in Asia. With the cooperation of Douglas Rapier of the Taiwan Blues Society and Dafu who is active locally as a drummer, Shun has appeared in Taiwan Blues Bash since 2005, and at the recommendation of Tom Corvin, who organizes the Blues Asia Network, Jakarta Blues Festival and CCP Jazz Festival in Manila, in the 2010s, festivals and long-established live venues in various parts of Asia such as Japan Blues Festival, Sakai Blues Festival, Beijing Blues Festival, Bangkok Saxophone Pub, Shanghai Chair Club, Tianjin Pai Live House, Suzhou Wave, Hong Kong The Wanch, Jakarta Jaya Pub, Manila The Roadhouse, Makati Strumm’s.
”Having appeared in Taiwan Blues Bash since 2005, I was gradually fascinated by the charm of Asia. Having lived in the United States nearly three decades, I’ve been to North America, Europe, and Central America quite a bit, but I haven’t had any experience in Asian countries other than Japan and Taiwan. I just felt the Asian blues booming and I thought it would be useful for the Asian music scene to share what I experienced in Chicago. “
＊Solo album “Rising Shun”
In 2007, the first solo album in 7 years “Rising Shun” was released from Utsunomiya-based Yotsuba Records. Guests include Koko Taylor, JW Williams, Billy Branch, Gerald McLendon, Jamsbee, and later Funky Trio, Voices and other Japanese and American artists. Recordings were also held in Chicago and Utsunomiya. Timely this was Koko Taylor’s last recording. In 2018, “Rising Shun Plus”, which is remixed previous songs with 5 new songs added, was released.
”In addition to recording in my hometown of Utsunomiya and my blues hometown of Chicago, it was my first solo album in seven years, and it was Koko’s last recording. Also included in this album are the classic original songs from my live set list. It can be said that it was a bridge between Chicago and Asia. “
＊20th anniversary tour
A tour to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Chicago’s debut in 2010 was held in Tokyo, Osaka, and Utsunomiya, with guest appearances by Fusanosuke Kondo, Atsuki Kimura, Makoto Ayukawa, Ko Shimizu, ichiro, Hideki Samejima, Nacomi, Jamsbee and Brown Blessed Voice.
”Many wonderful guest musicians participated in the 20th anniversary tour of my debut, and each venue added a great deal of glamor. And it was a tour that wouldn’t have been possible without the presence of the Shun Kikuta Band and friends who cooperated. I am full of gratitude for the support of so many people. I feel that this tour has pushed activities in Japan and Asia. “
＊Legend of Rockers and Blues Project
In 2013, Mr. Katsumi Omote, who build Shun’s guitar, launched Legend Of Rockers and Blues Project. Theses projects collaborated Shun with Japan’s leading rock, jazz, and pop artists such as Kyoji Yamamoto (BOWWOW), Hideto Kano (Gedo), George Wada (Flower Travelin’ Band), Nobuhiko Shinohara (Flower Travelin’ Band), Ko Shimizu (NANIWA EXPRESS), KEN, ROLLY, Gaku Sawato, Yuichi “AIK” Ikusawa, Marty Bracey, Kuma Harada, Tammy, and Osamu Soda.
“I collaborated with wonderful musicians. Legend of Rockers is a project that challenged rock for the first time as a professional for me. Awakening the spirit and technique of rock that was sleeping in me. “
”Blues Project is Kuma, Tammy, Marty, and Soda and we enjoyed the blues to the fullest, and we were able to tour the country and released an album from my own label. This is a bad ass band. “
＊Blues Company, Funky Trio, and Kikuta Brothers
There was a consultation from the organizer to form a backing band for Jimmy Burns and Catherine Davis, who appeared from Chicago at the 2015 Aomori Japan Blues Festival. Shun selected Marty Bracey, who has a long history of working with major Japanese artists, plays drums, Lee Kanehira, who won the Chicago blues piano contest in 2018, plays keyboards, and multi-talented Atsushi Katano, plays bass. After the show, these four people decided to form a band and the Blues Company was completed. Funky Trio is Atsushi Katano of Blues Company on bass and Yoshikazu Seki, who is well known for his activities with major artists such as Arashi, is on drums. Furthermore, from 2020, the acoustic duo Kikuta Brothers, in which Kikuta’s younger brother Koki entered with a cajon, started playing gigs.
“At the first show, the four of us got together and Marty called me the president, so I called Marty a regular employee. Then we named the band “Blues Company” without any twist (laughs). Since then, we have been touring nationwide and collaborating with domestic and foreign artists such as ROLLY, KONISHIKI, Yoshiro Kanao, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Mike Wheeler, Toronzo Cannon, and Nora Jean. Funky Trio, with the powerful rhythm section of Katano and Seki, I can sing and play freely on top of them and we enjoy free interplay. I had a good feeling with my younger brother Koki when I tried it with cajon and acoustic guitar, so we started talking about doing gigs as Kikuta Brothers. “
＊Rising Shun Records
Launched Shun’s own label, Rising Shun Records, in January 2018. The first label’s title was Blues Company’s debut album “Blues Company”. Then, in 2019, the Blues Project’s “Good Times Roll” was released, and in 2020, the live recordings at the Hall Blues Club in Pelussin on the previous year’s France tour was released as “Live In France”.
”I’ve always wanted to have my own label, so I launched it along with the production of Blues Company. Since then, I’ve released the Blues Project and Live In France along with Blues Company. I’ve been also working on an acoustic album “In a room” that I recorded at my home studio while the COVID-19 pandemic period in 2020, is scheduled to be released in 2021. There are some other works that I want to release, such as instrumental album and original album, so I’d like to put them into shape soon.“
＊France tour as a solo artist
April 2019, Shun had a French tour. Shun has performed in Europe many times with Koko Taylor and other bands, but this was the first European tour as a solo artist. Having shows at 6 venues in 6 cities in France, including the Hall Blues Club in Pelussin and La Mason Du Blues in Château-sur-Sher. Performed with up-and-coming blues band EL JOSE and the Hibbie Blues. The live sound source recorded at Hall Blues Club in Pelussin on the last day of the tour was released as “Live In France” by Rising Shun Records in February, 2020.
”We played at the club in an old stone building with a long history, and the live performances there had a different tone than in Japan and the United States. I and a young bluesman, El Jose and his Hibbie Blues had toured together and more we played the sound got better and better. “
“So I’m glad we recorded it live on the last day and it became a CD. After Koko died, I went out to the world as a solo artist and worked I’ve always been aiming to do, so I’m glad that it has taken shape in this way, and it was a tour that gave me confidence. “
＊International Blues Summit
In June and September 2019, Shun organized and invited El Jose from France, Dafu from Taiwan, and Bandung Blues Project from Indonesia to perform live performances in Japan entitled “International Blues Summit” at three venues: Blue Mood, Rooster, and Younger Than Yesterday. Shun Kikuta Funky Trio participated from Japan, and collaboration with Yoshiro Kanao’s Music Soul was held in Yokosuka.
”Not only I go to each country and play with local bands, but I also invite them to Japan to collaborate. I was so glad to be able to take the first step. Moreover, musicians from France, Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan made music together, a true international blues live. In this way, we can exchange blues across countries. It is my dream and a project I want to continue. “
＊Acoustic album “In a room”
In 2020, when live activities were restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shun produced his first acoustic solo album “In a room”. It was released as the fourth self-label in March 2021. Since its release, it has received favorable coverage on FM and internet radio stations around the world such country as United States, France, Spain, Thailand, Taiwan, Brazil and Japan.
“In 2020, live activities were restricted due to the COVID-19 disaster. So I decided to make an acoustic album at home. Until then, I think many people had an image of me as an electric guitar player, but with this album, I was able to show an acoustic side of me. I’m glad that this album has expanded the range of my playing and live shows. I’m glad I was able to create something new even in a pandemic.”
＊Activities as a music writer and guitar instructor
As a music writer, Shun has been in charge of regular columns for many years in Guitar Magazine, Blues & Soul Records, Chikyu No Arukikata”Chicago edition”, Q magazine, etc. Published the books “World Blues Yokocho” and “How to get the lively blues sounds” from Rittor Music.
(photo: Shun received a visiting professor certificate from Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology)
As a guitar instructor, in addition to private lessons, he holds blues guitar workshops in various places. He was appointed as a visiting professor by Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology in 2019, and became a guitar instructor at JF Oberlin University from 2020. Starting with the instructional video “Chicago Blues” from Rittor Music in 1999, Chicago Blues (DVD 2002), R & B Guitar Technique (DVD 2004), Blues Guitar Technique (DVD 2005), Blues Guitar Jam Session (w/CD 2005), Blues Guitar Jam Session R- (w/CD 2006), The way of Call & Response (DVD Alpha Note 2014).
＊As a local activist and motivational speaker
In the fall of 2010, he was appointed Governor Tomiichi Fukuda of Tochigi Prefecture and became Tochigi Future Ambassador. Since the business cards made by Tochigi Prefecture are printed with strawberry, which is a specialty, they are often called strawberry ambassadors by those who receive the business cards. At junior high schools, high schools, universities, temples, etc., he regularly gives lectures on topics such as “Let’s draw a big dream” and “Lifestyle”.
(photo: Shun gives a speech at Yamato junior high school in Ibaragi, Japan)
”I sometimes organize events that combine lectures and live performances. I can convey the wonderfulness and enjoyment of blues and music to various generations, and by sharing my own experiences to young people that there are various ways of life options. “
＊Radio and TV appearances
“For the past few years, I have been regularly appearing on Kawasaki FM Yoshiro Kanao’s” Music Soul “. Kanao and Toshimi Matsushita are DJs and they are really cool friends and true music lovers. I’m also indebted to Mr. Markee of FM COCOLO, and I often appear on the local CRT Tochigi broadcast, local radio and TV stations that I visit on tour. Thanks to them. “
- FM COCOLO 765
- RADIO BERRY FM栃木
- DARAZ FM 79.8
- Channel 11 (U.S.A)
- NBC (U.S.A)
- WGN (U.S.A)
- NBC (U.S.A)
- PBS TV (U.S.A, An evening with B.B.King)
- PBS TV (U.S.A,The Blues Project)
- NHK BS (News, 日本)
- NHK BS (日本)
- フジテレビ (グラと我聞のアメリカ珍道中、日本)
- Rossi Rosi Blues Festival (Italy)
- Kongsberg Jazz Festival (Norway)
- 栃木テレビ (ドキュメント)
- 青森テレビ (Japan Blues Festival, 2010~2019)
- They call me Shun (King Records,1995)
- Chicago Midnight (King Records,1996)
- Me and my guitar (Bluesox,1999)
- Live and kickin'(Bluesox,1999)
- Rising Shun (Yotsuba Records, 2007)
- Best of Shun’s Blues (King Records, 2013)
- Rising Shun Plus (Yotsuba Records, 2018)
- In a room (Rising Shun Records, 2021)
- Funky Blues/Frank Collier Band featuring Junior Wells and Shun Kikuta (King Records,1994)
- Tribute to Magic Sam (King Records,1994)
- Live! The 3rd Park Tower Blues Festival/Shun Kikuta & JWWilliams (King Records,1997)
- Heart and Soul/Shun Kikuta & Nellie”Tiger”Travis (M&I Company,2000)
- GYOZA BLUES / Jamsbee with Shun Kikuta(Yotsuba Records, 2004)
- THE MUSICMANSHIP / Jamsbee with Shun Kikuta (Yotsuba Records, 2005)
- Power In My Arms / Shun Kikuta & Legend Of Rockers (King Records, 2013)
- Blues Company / Blues Company (Rising Shun Records, 2018)
- Good Times Roll / Blues Project (Rising Shun Records, 2019)
- Live In France / SHUN KIKUTA with EL JOSE And the Hibbie Blues (Rising Shun Records, 2020)
Shun is playing on
- CHICAGO BLUES NIGHT / Tommy McCracken and The Force Of Habit Blues Band, Deitra Farr, Katherine Davis, Chicago Beau and Willie Kent (GBW, 1991)
- JUST A LITTLE MORE LOVE IS ALL WE NEED / Queen Ayacodobae (1996)
- EXPLOSION / Kid Dynamite (1999)
- I GOT IT LIKE THAT / Nellie”Tiger”Travis (2001)
- Patrick Doody / Patrick Doody Group (2001)
- RESPECT THE STONES（ジェネオン・エンタテインメント, 2006）
- Old School / Koko Taylor (Alligator, 2007)
- Essencially Yours / Chick Rodgers (Spellbound, 2007)
- Bad Girl / Demetria Taylor (Delmark, 2011)
- 2013 / 荒山亮 (2013)
- 一個人，唱情歌 / Sasha Lee (2013)
- Bad Taboo / Carolyn Fe Blues Collective (2014)
- 美好時刻 / 以莉·高露 (2015)
- 和楽 / 古田佳子 (2015)
- BEAT CLUB ALL STARS 4 (Yotsuba Records, 2015)
- 鳴神 SOUND / 鳴神 (Yotsuba Records, 2019)
- The Chicago Thunders (EL RECORDS, 2019)
- Don’t Mind The Rain / Mike Garner (2020)
- 等待好天 / 荒山亮 (2020)
- Baton / Tammy (2020)
- Black Samurai / Marty Bracey (2020)
- Chicago Blues (VHS Rittor Music 1999)
- Chicago Blues (DVD Rittor Music 2002)
- R&B guitar Technique (DVD Rittor Music 2004)
- Blues Guitar Technique (DVD Rittor Music 2005)
- Blues Guitar Jam Session (本 Rittor Music 2005)
- Blues Guitar Jam Session Rー伝説再臨ー(本 Rittor Music 2006)
- The way of Call & Response (Alpha Note, 2014)
Recorded or jammed with
B.B.King, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Johnny and Shemekia Copeland, Bo Didley, Robert Lockwood Jr, Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton, Tyrone Davis, Willie Clayton, Brian McKnight, Dave and Louise Myers, Irma Thomas, Denise LaSalle, Marva Wright, Roy Hargrove, Mark Turner, Mark Whitfeild, Kenny Wayne Shepperd, Pinetop Perkins, Lonnie Brooks, Eddy Clearwater, Marcia Ball, Kenny Neal, Billy Branch, Dan Aykroyd (Blues Brothers) , Susan Tedeschi and many more….
Shun was on the cover and featured musician of BLUES BLAST MAGAZINE Dec 29th 2011 issue. His latest interview with Chefjimi Patricola was also published on this issue.