Over the course of their 23-year career, leather clad Japanese trio Guitar Wolf have managed to release 23 consistently grimy punk rock albums (including one which claims to be the loudest ever recorded), toured the world 10 times over, and starred in a cult horror film where they battle zombies from outer space. The band plays a unique, over-the-top brand of punk which they call “Jet Rock ‘n’ Roll”, a sound inspired by ’70s power chord punk played at excessively loud volume. Guitar Wolf has a reputation for playing some of the wildest shows in Japan, but now they’re touring North America with a few Canadian dates, playing Toronto and Montreal earlier this week and Vancouver next Wednesday, May 25. Prior to the start of the tour, I was scheduled to catch up with band in Nagoya, Japan, only to have that meeting fall apart following the Great East Japan Earthquake. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was still able to get in touch with Seiji, leader of the pack.
Aleks: How would you describe the music of Guitar Wolf?
Seiji: Motorcycles, leather jackets, space, and SEX.
Aleks: Where have you drawn influence from?
Seiji: Bruce Lee and Elvis. I just wanted to do cool action like them on stage.
Aleks: Were there any bands like Guitar Wolf in Japan when you started out?
Seiji: There was no such band like us!
Aleks: Were you well received by audiences in Japan back when you first began playing?
Seiji: We were too crazy. Not a lot of people came to see us when we started the band.
Aleks: Your first record, Wolf Rock!, is very lo-fi, very raw. I read that it was recorded mostly in a basement with almost no recording equipment. Is that true?
Seiji: It was recorded in a practice studio. Most of the songs were recorded with a 4-track cassette tape and for some songs we even used a Walkman.
Aleks: How did you record your latest album, Uchusenkan Love (Space Battleship Love)? How is it different from Wolf Rock! or Run Wolf Run?
Seiji: I like how Wolf Rock! and Run Wolf Run sound but Space Battleship Love was recorded with engineers. It was helpful because I didn’t need to bother pushing the record button every time we finished playing.
Aleks: You call yourselves the greatest Jet Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the world. What does Jet Rock ‘n’ Roll mean to you guys? Why are you the best?
Seiji: Jet Rock ‘n’ Roll is crazy and cool rock, like a jet plane. Why do we call ourselves the greatest Jet Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the world? Because we are the only one Jet Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the world.
Aleks: I am sorry I couldn’t make it to the first show of your tour in Nagoya. You guys played with the Polysics, who play a very different style of music than you do. How did that show come about?
Seiji: That was someone’s idea. We would like to play with them in Canada if we have a chance.
Aleks: Guitar Wolf has toured North America many times in the past. When did you first come and play in North America and what’s the best part of touring this part of the world?
Seiji: Our very first tour was 1993. We played in Vancouver that year. Since then, we’ve toured North America more than 10 times. What is the best part of touring North America? Well, you know, winking at blonde girls.
Aleks: Back in 2000, you guys starred in a Japanese horror movie entitled Wild Zero, in which you save the planet from zombies from outer space. How did that film come about?
Seiji: We made the movie to let everyone around the world know who is protecting the Earth. Please blow your “OOKAMI whistle” to signal Guitar Wolf for help if you see zombies nearby. But I apologize in advance if a coyote comes and eats you.
Aleks: Are there any Japanese bands out there right now that Westerners should be listening to?
Aleks: What can Canadian fans going to the live shows in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver expect to see from Guitar Wolf? Will there be chaos?
Seiji: Wolves calling wolves. It will be crazy when sleeping wolves come out everywhere in Canada.
Aleks: I’ve heard you developed a reputation for getting banned from venues and clubs in Japan back in the ’90s. How did that happen?
Seiji: Why did it happen? Too many club owners’ girlfriends had crushes on me.
Aleks: You love to jump off of your Marshall stacks at live shows. Those things are like 6 feet tall, have you even been injured?
Seiji: I crashed into a ceiling fan once at a New York gig. My head was severed from my body. My headless body with my guitar landed first and right after that my head landed on my body, so I continued the show. I think some people didn’t realize what had happened.
Aleks: Do you have any last messages to Canadians before we see you in May?
Seiji: I recommend you receive a vaccine against rabies! For the guys, you’d better not take your girlfriends with you. We don’t want to make you unhappy.
Aleks: Arigatoo gozaimasu.
Tags: Guitar Wolf